Joshi Spotlight: Bat Yoshinaga

Bat Yoshinaga vs Tomoko Watanabe (Clipped) - YouTube

Sometimes I have the work of trying to sum up some of the greatest workers of all time in a handful of paragraphs! Other times I just have to sum up people like this.

JOSHI SPOTLIGHT- BAT YOSHINAGA:
Real Name: Eriko Yoshinaga
Billed Height & Weight: 5’4″ 165 lbs.
Career Length: 1989-94

-Bat Yoshinaga is one of those peculiar oddities where a wrestler is very poorly remembered, but only for their non-worked stuff. She was a perfectly cromulent undercard wrestler for much of her run (with a jobber tag team with stablemate Tomoko Watanabe in the early part, and as a martial arts bruiser for the last year or so), but on many of the most famous Joshi cards of all time (in particular the Dream Slams), she was in the worst matches- most notably, an infamously boring shootfight over her trophy WWWA Martial Arts Title. So this kind of equates “Bat Yoshinaga” with “UGGGGGHHHHH” in the eyes of many joshi fans, and since she was already gone by 1995, this kind of stuck to her.

Bat defended that belt on major shows- these were… well, they were TERRIBLE. While she was apparently legitimately into martial arts, she’s won no other titles I can find, and seemed to be more of a case of “well, I got a black belt, so…” as you can see by most of her shoots that she gets winded quickly and both fighters tend to just throw out garbage and weak shots all match long. Bat typically just wins by decision after god knows how many rounds of boring, inconsequential action, mainly because she’ll throw these big windmill spinkicks that almost sorta connect, and that looks cool and impresses the judges when the other fighter can only throw limp-wristed nothings back. Even MMA fans find this garbage to be terrible.

To be fair, Bat was fine, if limited, when working actual wrestling matches. She was only four years into the business by the time she was done, so she didn’t really have the chance at elevation- she was probably the second best out of her class (Sakie/Ito/Tomoko/Bat) at that point. She threw AMAZING spinning kicks- that rolling kick where the leg windmills out straight and catches the person in the face. The one Mabel used to do (but like… faster than his). As it was one of her only good moves, she’d spam it out like crazy. It makes her matches rather predictable, but pulls out an interesting bit of psychology, as the kicks are so credible and sold so well than the psychology of the match becomes “can the person deal with those spinkicks?”- even big stars like Kyoko Inoue get caught with them, and Aja Kong of all people sold them as potential game-changers.

The rest of Bat’s stuff was mostly simple punches, kicks, and an also-spammed Thesz Press (usually at a high angle, hitting near the face). In most of her tag matches, Tomoko was her subordinate and took most of the offense, leaving Bat the most “legit”, but their team was kinda done by mid-1993, leaving Bat to get a solid push in the Japan Grand Prix– her best match of all time is probably a miracle against Kyoko where Kyoko’s wild selling and match construction puts Bat over really hard- I rated it ***3/4.

CAREER TRAJECTORY:
-Eriko Yoshinaga was a Kyokushin Karate practitioner before applying for AJW- Manjiimmortal explained to me that she got her nickname for kicking a baseball bat in two during her audition. This impressed the recruiters enough to put her in the Class of 1989, alongside Sakie Hasegawa, Kaoru Ito & Tomoko Watanabe. The three latter ones all ended up big stars, and were linked together for much of their careers, so it was a solid bunch of talent. Tomoko & Bat joined Gokumon-To (Bull Nakano’s stable) and formed a tag team, decked out in similar gear like a WWF tag duo. Heavy pointed eyeliner, black shirts and baggy white pants were their typical costume. In most 1992 matches of Bat’s I’ve seen, they’re on the undercard, throwing out kinda-okay but forgettable performances. Bat was usually the superior, as she could throw wicked Wheel Kicks and Thesz Presses, as I mentioned above.

The only major accolade in her career was the WWWA Martial Arts Championship– essentially a trophy belt that was AJW’s hat tossed into the “Shoot Fight Cred” arena- Newborn UWF and other promotions were drawing big business with their pretend shootfights and a few real ones, tying martial arts into pro wrestling, and indie sleaze promotions were dabbling in “wrestling vs martial arts” feuds as well- the Matsunagas in charge of AJW probably wanted a piece of that pie, and Bat was the inaugural champion, defeating Kaoru Ito in March 17, 1991.

In Dec. 1992, she & Tomoko defeat Mariko Yoshida & Takako Inoue for the Japanese Tag Team Titles (the lowest-tier tag belts in AJW), signifying their slow elevation- typically the previous team loses those belts and themselves get elevated to the next tier. They hold the belts for 132 days before losing to their classmates Sakie & Ito. This becomes Bat’s only reign with a worked title. In August’s Midsummer Typhoon she elevates Ito by losing via the Flying Stomp- Ito had been a “barely featured rookie” before that.

One of AJW’s first Interpromotional matches is actually the Bat/Tomoko team going up against FMW’s Crusher Maedomari & Erika Tsuchiya. The match is… a hideous mess, really, as nobody seems to know how to work together, nor want to, but it’s absolutely fascinating and awesome because the crowd heat is INSANE (the only time I’ve ever seen a fan throw a drink at wrestlers in joshi) and it comes off like a legit fight because there’s so little cooperation. They lose via chairshots and an assisted powerbomb, then act as JTTS for most of the next year, losing in big shows to Hotta/Minami and other duos.

Bat went on to defend the WWWA Martial Arts Belt on major shows- most notably the infamous Dream Slam bout with Susan Howard that goes three rounds of nothing consequential happening. Her Dream Slam II match is also mostly forgettable- she & Terri Power (Tori in WWF) wrestled a pretty weak, slow match with LLPW’s Miki Handa & Rumi Kazama. Those two had a **** match with Etsuko Mita & Suzuka Minami on the previous show, so you KNOW they can wrestle well, but this match was kind of a mess thanks to Terri’s arm injury- Bat threw impressive kicks, but that was it. Bat finished Rumi with a lightning-fast rolling kick. But Bat’s elevation seems imminent, as she kicks Mita’s ass on a few tag matches and is on the winning side in a few other tag bouts with other partners (she & Hotta beat Dream Orca in March ’93).

In probably her biggest win ever, Bat scores an upset win over Kyoko Inoue in the 1993 Japan Grand Prix, spamming Wheel Kicks until Kyoko goes down. Bat barely even believes it and Bull Nakano MARKS OUT on commentary in a great bit. The JGP was always good for “elevate a rookie with a fluke win” stuff like that. And a bit later, Aja Kong puts her over great in a bout that’s partially one-sided from Aja, but she generously makes every Bat strike seem like a gamechanger- a “Puncher’s Chance” to bring down the Ace. Aja’s victory is more through smarts (reversing another Wheel Kick to the Uraken). The future seemed bright for Yoshinaga…

Unfortunately, Bat suffered a crippling injury (Japanese Wikipedia says it was a cervical injury- that’s generally REALLY bad; that’s how Misawa died) in an Sept. 1993 match against Mima Shimoda, and this rapidly ended her career- a few more matches and she was gone. Her big retirement ceremony was on Oct. 1994, retiring with the WWWA Title after 1,302 days. She has a one-match comeback against Fumiko Ishimoto, who was the new belt holder in 1995, but loses.

MOVESET:
Punches, Spinkick, Thesz Press, THE CLAW~~ (grabbing the face with an open palm and squeezing), Leg-Assisted Facecrusher (draping the leg over the back of their neck and leaping off the ropes, smashing their face into the mat), Rolling Wheel Kick (often spammed, sometimes a KO), Flying Thesz Press (kinda finisher)

THE MATCHES:
* As with most Joshi who had a short run, I reviewed all of her stuff in my ’92 & on reviews, so these are all re-posts:

TAG LEAGUE THE BEST ’92:
SHARK TSUCHIYA & CRUSHER MAEDOMARI (FMW) vs. GOKUMON-TO (Bat Yoshinaga & Tomoko Watanabe (AJW):
* FMW’s team has their first bout, and it’s against AJW’s bottom-tier tag squad. I can only assume that AJW will “play nice” and let FMW’s team beat some lower ranked squads and earn a fluke here or there. Though the crowd will likely be intense because it’s one of the first Interpromotional matches ever, it’s got what are usually the four worst workers on any ’93 card on it. Though I’ve seen the FMW team have a good one before. Shark is in green, and Crusher’s in orange.

Things get wild immediately as the FMW team assaults Gokumon-To before the bell, tossing them around outside- at which point a fan THROWS A DRINK ON THEM (the most un-Japanese crowd reaction ever), Crusher whips a chair way over his head as he sits down, and a ring girl has to go into the crowd to help whomever it was got hit. Holy Jesus. The crowd is so into the feud that Bat of all people gets a reaction like Hogan at WrestleMania X-8 for throwing some kicks at Shark. It’s a lot of uncoordinated brawling for several minutes, but the people are INTO it. Shark stuffs Bat’s kicks with amateur-style rolling around and FMW dominates for a while (though another reviewer noted cardio issues on their end, and the announcers apparently mention their stamina), but Tomoko draws a ROAR from the crowd with a great Bridging German. Crusher draws near-falls with a chokeslam & backdrop, but Gokumon-To hit a Hart Attack-style Flying Thesz Press- Shark breaks it up, and soon it’s another wild brawl outside. They grind on Tomoko with a chair, drawing blood and huge heat. They sucker Bat into missing with a kick and take her out with a chair, then CRUSH Tomoko with one, and hit an Assisted Powerbomb for the win at (11:33). The crowd is decidedly unimpressed with that bullshittery.

This was the best bad wrestling match over- Shark had some interesting stuff going on with the psychology of “stuffing” Bat’s martial arts by hunkering down and holding her, but mostly it was unco-ordinated brawling with no flow… yet the crowd was so livid with FMW’s bullshit and so excited for the comebacks of AJW’s worst non-jobbers that it was amazing to watch regardless. It had a real In Your House: Canadian Stampede feel to how the rivalry was going, especially as Team FMW embraced the hate and worked heel. This was like one of those 1980s Joshi matches with the Atrocious Alliance- all cheating and one-sided crowds.

Rating: *** (actually it was barely **, but that crowd and the playing up to them was awesome; screw it)

YUMIKO HOTTA & BAT YOSHINAGA vs. DREAM ORCA (Toshiyo Yamada & Etsuko Mita):
(Zenjo is Dream- Last Night’s Explosion, March 20th 1993)
* Really weird match, as Dream Orca hadn’t been a thing for years, and nobody’s with their regular partner- comes off as more of a random arrangement of stars, but 3/4 of this match is Kick Demon. Hotta is the highest-ranked, while Yamada’s the tag champ & Mita’s a midcarder. Bat’s on the lower end but has some real-life credibility. Mita’s back in the “less makeup” look for some reason, and is in the black gear. Yamada’s in a wicked-looking canary yellow shirt & pants combo. Hotta’s in purple & white, and Bat’s in black with yellow stripes on her shirt.

Haha, the gargantuan 5’8″ Mita has to do the “Regal Stoop” to fight the squat Bat- that’s pretty funny. Hotta & Yamada have a good little Mirror Match going, and Yamada kicks the absolute SHIT out of Bat. Bat gets stretched, but comes back on Mita, who sells her ass off. Hotta nails a HUGE kick to the jaw that look like it legit KO’d Mita, who gets to the count of “8” before stumbling up and getting beaten on again. Yamada controls Bat with running kicks and her methodical stuff while her partner sells death on the apron. Two minutes of legwork and Mita wakes up and it’s BLAZING CHOP time! Northern Lights Suplex gets two, but Hotta kicks her around and Yamada has to save again, wiping out Hotta with a series of highly-mobile attacks.

Dream Orca set up the “hold them for the chest-kick” spot, but instead HOTTA kicks Mita by running in, and Bat scores the chest-kick instead. Mita dodges a flying attack and NOW they land that chest kick! Haha, but now Bat grabs Yamada for HOTTA’s chest-kick! Okay, that’s cute. Yamada lands a spin kick on Hotta to come back, spamming Enzuigiris. Mita dropkicks Yamada by mistake, but gets a dive on both opponents, then a Flying Blazing Chop into a shitty German get two on Bat. Hotta interferes, letting Bat’s spin kick get two on Yamada. Everyone interferes, and a Tiger Driver on Mita gets two- Yamada breaks it up. Another Driver is stuffed, but Hotta catches Yamada and tries the Caribbean Splash (Straightjacket Super German), but Mita reverses with the Electric Chair Drop! Hotta ducks and MITA eats the Flying Enzuigiri, though, and that’s the ballgame- Pyramid Driver (straightjacket powerbomb) finishes Mita at (22:26).

Interesting, solid match, seemingly there to elevate Bat once again, as Mita sold like nuts for both her & Hotta, putting over their strikes like crazy. Yamada had to repeatedly come to her rescue, coming off as a speedier kind of fighter who can handle either opponent. Mita’s offense felt like it wasn’t quite there yet, either- too many “Fireman’s Toss” moves (she’d improve her “doing moves from a fireman’s carry” game by the end of the year, though, don’t worry), too much generic punching and slamming, etc. The match went a bit too long and had a lot of dead spots with restholds, but did the mandatory “great final minutes”, with excellent booking with all those “hold for the chest-kick” spots that happen in Kick Demon matches, great reversals, and finishes that kept you guessing until the end.

Rating: ***1/2 (great, stiff contest held back only by some dead spots. Great ending)

AJW GRAND PRIX 1993:
KYOKO INOUE vs. BAT YOSHINAGA:
* The Lower Main-Eventer Kyoko goes up against the highly-credible, slowly-rising Bat. Their tiers here are quite far apart, but Bat’s always in that “would win in a real fight” zone of perma-credibility. Bat has upgraded her gear into something more than “tights + pants”, as she’s now in tights with actual detailing on them- still her signature black & yellow/white. Kyoko’s once again wearing every color ever, plus yellow tassles. And of course the video description spoils the ending, lol.

Bat does her brutal kicks, Kyoko counters with the utterly-pro-wrestling Mongolian Chops, and so Bat counters with THE CLAW, and this is awesome already. Kyoko gobbles up her offense to come back, though, using crabs and such, but Bat fires back with BRUTAL knees and kicks, Kyoko now selling them like nuts. Man, some woman in here is yowling so loud I legitimately thought somebody brought a dog into Korakuen. Bat works crabs & strikes to wear Kyoko down, but a whip is turned into the Slingshot Backsplash. I like how Bat keeps throwing forearms even while hurting, filling empty spaces in the match with SOMETHING- she then reverses a running attack to a powerslam for two. Kyoko counters a second Thesz Press to her own for the same, but gets kicked in the ass on her next Backsplash- nice psychology. She tries a FLYING Thesz Press, but Kyoko just powerbombs her out of that for two. Now THAT’S a counter!

Run-Up Flying Back Elbow gets two as Bat’s in trouble, but she fights out of a Niagara Driver (over-the-shoulder Ligerbomb) and wipes Kyoko the fuck out with her spinning heel kick. Kyoko bails, but eats a Thesz Press off the apron! She keeps going for more heel kicks but misses, but kicks Kyoko out of a comeback and hits a knee-assisted facecrusher off the top for two! Then she pulls up the mats and does the same move from the apron to the floor! Wheel Kick- two!! Two more! Another two! Kyoko’s flopping all over the place as Bat gets two. That’s gotta be all Bat has, I’m thinking, and sure enough- Kyoko slingshots off the middle rope with a dropkick to come back. She keeps going for the Niagara Driver and can’t get it, but smashes Bat down with an elbow for two. Another try fails, but a great Bridging German gets two. Kyoko tries the Driver AGAIN, and Bat spin-kicks out… Wheel Kick! One… two… THREE!!! BAT YOSHINAGA BEATS KYOKO INOUE (16:14)!! Holy shit, what an upset! Bat is stunned and doesn’t even buy it for several moments, and Bull Nakano marks out on commentary.

Okay, this has to be Bat’s best match ever- Kyoko sold a TON for her, and Bat’s offense looked amazing and scaled up as the match went on, looking more and more credible each time. Kyoko’s dead-fish flopping all over the mat every time she took that wicked Wheel Kick is some of the best “ping-pong ball” selling you’ll see this side of Shawn Michaels, and you even bought the finish- Kyoko outranks Bat by so much that she just gets arrogant going for her finisher again and again, and one of those damn kicks finally puts her down. Shit, even I want to see a big midcard push for Bat after seeing this. Kyoko definitely carried a lot of the day, but Bat’s offense was KILLER here.

Rating: ***3/4 (really awesome come from behind victory, making the most out of Bat’s limited moveset thanks to Kyoko’s selling)

AJA KONG vs. BAT YOSHINAGA:
(AJW TV, Aug. 5th 1993)
* So the WWWA Champion and Ace faces one of Bull’s subordinates in another Monster vs. Rookie match. Bat scored a huge upset over Kyoko Inoue weeks earlier, and has gained some real momentum this past year, being put in a lot of prominent bouts and made to look legitimate and very strong.

Really fun brawl to start, as Bat counters a running lariat with a leg-sweep and they trade strikes, and Aja has to rely on headbutts and a Vader Attack to take control and not get face-kicked anymore. She’s really good at that “win out, but in a way that puts over the other person” stuff. Aja uses chops and choking, but Bat finally unleashes some more kicks, and holds her down with The Claw, treated here more like a resthold. A nasty-looking facelock adds to the punishment, and Bat stuffs all of Aja’s comebacks with strikes! Aja has to rely on her metal box and an outside brawl to finally get the advantage back. That goes on for a crazy two straight minutes, and Aja finally goes through the usual- piledrivers & the corner avalanche. Man, one fan’s high-pitched whoop is getting really annoying here. Bat ducks an Uraken, Aja ducks the Wheel Kick, and Bat reverses a charge to a powerslam all in succession, but Bat misses a Flying Thesz Press and now SHE gets snap-powerslammed! Cute. Second-rope splash, but Bat’s Wheel Kick gets two! That was sold as really frenetic and close. Another one misses, and Aja misses an Uraken, but finally lands one when Bat charges in for another kick- Backdrop Driver finishes at (13:02).

Interesting little match, as much as it was methodical and obvious “filler” for parts of it. Aja put over Bat’s strikes as game-changers that could reverse the momentum instantly, but only once looked sorta-vulnerable (the crowd seemed to buy that near-fall with the kick), but eventually just catches her with the Uraken and finishes with a head-drop.

Rating: **3/4 (perfectly fine undercard match-up)