Joshi Spotlight: GAEA Japan’s First Show!

The first two matches of the show.

(April 15th 1995)

* HERE COMES A NEW CHALLENGER! So sometime in 1994, Chigusa Nagayo, having come out of retirement the previous year and wrestled the occasional match for JWP Project (curiously, rarely at her former company, AJW), announced that she had formed a new Joshi promotion called GAEA Japan, with some different backers. Given that Joshi was still going through a Golden Age of sorts, this seemed like someone was trying to capitalize on a hot product, and Chigusa could control things in a way she liked. I dunno what the general impression was with the public at the time, but Chigusa was still the biggest star in Joshi history, even though her peak was ages ago (it would be like Hulk Hogan backing a promotion in 2001… wait, didn’t that actually happen?).

This ends up throwing a spanner into the works of Joshi promotions as a whole, as there were only four promotions really doing it (and FMW only did it as a small division of their shows). GAEA adds a fifth, though the star power isn’t huge at first- Chigusa poaches Kaoru Maeda (herself barely used by AJW) and the two train the entire first class by themselves, including names like Meiko Satomura, Sonoka Kato & Toshiyo Uemura. JWP still seems on friendly terms with her, too, judging by their usage on this show. I often wonder what would have happened if cooler heads had prevailed and the companies would just merge and be stronger- a combined LLPW & JWP would make for a much stronger company, y’know? And imagine GAEA attaching to THAT. But I guess people had to hate each other and try their own thing.

This ends up having major repercussions for the business, though- through a variety of business, economy-related and star-power concerns, Joshi goes through a major flux in the next couple of years, producing even MORE promotions as things splinter in a way that the business never recovers from… and GAEA Japan will one day sit at the top of it, getting its own reputation for good and ill (“The Joshi Retirement Home”, never mind Chigusa’s manner of booking herself). But for now it’s just one star, one minor star, and a bunch of rookies!

“TL;DR- Why Should I Watch This?”: Most of the matches here are super-green rookies debuting against each other, but the last two matches are legitimately fantastic ****-ish affairs, and are one-time only Dream Matches. Also this is the very first match of the legendary Meiko Satomura.

* Chikayo, in a yellow & black singlet, takes on Uematsu, in a green Jobber Singlet. Both sport pretty severe Rookie Hair, though Chikayo seems like she’s at least trying to keep it styled. Chikayo is actually a major star in joshi history, being a huge GAEA wrestler (future Ace, here!) and a founding member of Oz Academy. Uematsu is a highly-decorated tag wrestler and the first WCW Women’s Cruiserweight Champion, thanks to joshi entering WCW for a while!

Both girls tear around the ring at 100mph to start, Chikayo doing a forward roll over Uematsu only to eat a dropkick in the kind of stuff that AJW’s girls weren’t doing until Year Three, which looks crazy advanced. Uematsu does a ton of dropkicks and controls with basic stuff after a Chikayo comeback. There’s about 15 billion dropkicks in here, every Chikayo comeback being halted very quickly with one, as Uematsu dominates. FINALLY Chikayo gets something good, as she dodges a cross-body and hits a jumping headscissors, milking that. But she gets slammed on a monkey flip attempt and now SHE eats a headscissors, but she gets out of a wristlock via an “Owen Hart Sequence” and the fans are slack-jawed over how good this rookie is! Chikayo tosses Uematsu around, but eats a camel clutch. Uematsu throws MORE dropkicks, but finally takes that monkey flip, a rolling push, then a dropkick off the second rope. Both trade crab-holds as the match counts down, and Uematsu hits a Flying Cross-Body for two as time expires at (15:00).

But apparently that’s not good enough, because we get an overtime period! Chikayo mostly dominates, hitting her monkey flip again, but it’s another Time Over at (3:00). And one more OT! Chikayo does four rolling pushes for two, then Uematsu throws back elbows for the same. More slams & stuff, then another Flying Cross-Body hits for two as time expires again (3:00) and we’re done.

So going into Double Overtime in a Double-Debut Rookie Match is not something most promotions would do to start their run, but I can see a point here- these two were obviously legit good even at this point (both are actually better than Chikako Shiratori in AJW, who had been wrestling for YEARS as of 1995), and in going this long at this pace, this is a big klaxon going “SEE? Stick around- if they’re this good in their FIRST match, imagine how good they’re going to be later!”. This is honestly a huge advertisement for the quality of the promotion’s training school. But holy shit it’s 20 minutes of basics.

Rating: *1/4 (I mean… it’s 20 minutes of dropkicks and Rookie Offense. But some of it was quite good! But way too long!)

* So this is a big one- the very first match of one Meiko Satomura, who runs Sendai Girls these days, and is still one of the best workers in the world, looking like a bodybuilder did the Fusion Dance with a soccer mom. Here she’s a baby (15 years old!) rookie with a bowl cut and a Chigusa-inspired red singlet that comes off like supreme ass-kissing (but is probably just Chigusa’s idea). Even Kato (in blue, to represent Lioness Asuka I think) still wrestles to this day, so you KNOW this training class kicked some ass.

Baby Meiko shrieks her bloody head off right from the beginning, actually drawing a “LOL!” from a lady in the stands, and gets a pop for halting an Irish whip and blasting Sonoko down. She tries the “Billion Rookie Dropkicks” thing, but Sonoko dropkicks her simultaneously and hits a running bulldog (hey!! These are ROOKIES! Keep it to bodyslams, dammit!). Another gets two. Cross-armbreaker attempts, but Meiko squirms out of them and hits Shoulderblock Spam (15 years old and 90 lbs. and already looks more devastating than Edge’s Spear finisher)- Sonoko dodges one and dropkicks her in the head, but Meiko does a roll-up from the mat and hits a Cross-Armbreaker… for the tap (2:30)! Wow, unexpected.

Rating: * (very basic, short rookie match. They’re a lot more tolerable at 3 minutes)

* More debuts- Maiko disappeared within a few months for reasons that are unknown, but “Sugar Sato” made a career of it. Sato’s in a white Rookie Swimsuit, Maiko’s in pink.

Maiko controls with a headlock for a couple minutes, but Sato starts throwing her around and using snapmares, then dominates with a headscissors. Maiko does a Fujiwara armbar to force a rope-break, then works heel, grinding the arm with her elbow and pulling hair. Maiko does the “Ken/Ryu rolling back throw” several times in a row to a running Sato for two, but takes a facecrusher for the same. Maiko hits a powerslam for two, then a RUNNING one! Sato manages to reverse a whip, and hits two spinning neckbreakers in a row for three (8:28).

Again, I’m impressed by the rookies- most at this stage wouldn’t know how to sell so well, nor work heel. There’s also a “story” in that they use different holds for control, fighting with it for a minute or two at a time instead of just lying around in a single move (like, the headlock was repeatedly twisted, altered, reversed, etc.).

Rating: ** (pretty wild that rookies can hit a solid, constantly well-paced match)

At some point, Bomber Hikaru defeats JWP rookie Sumio Toyama (JWP) in 14:20.

* Wonder of wonders, we get LLPW on the same show as rival JWP, with Yasha Kurenai, stick-wielding psycho brawler, taking on GAEA’s #2 wrestler, KAORU. KAORU’s in a white singlet, while Yasha’s in white and her purple pants.

Yasha responds to a handshake attempt with a Slap of Disrespect, and the two take turns slapping each other until KAORU chokeslams her and follows her outside with a dive… only to run into Yasha’s chair! HAH! Then Yasha chokeslams her out there, ON THE CHAIR, then sits her on it and boots her in the fuckin’ face in the ring! Yasha X-Factors her, stands on her hands, and continues the assault, choking the shit out of KAORU and milking every count. Yasha continues to fight like a royal dick, but KAORU high Thesz presses her and pays back the choking with her own, then the hand stuff AND the biting. She wisely slows it down with restholds, letting the match breathe a bit, hitting a great bridging deathlock to keep it interesting. She keeps on the assault, finally dragging Yasha into the crowd and smashing her head into a wall, then triumphantly sitting down in the same chair Yasha used earlier, in the middle of the ring, looking all “… well, are you coming?” about it. Fantastic. KAORU uses the chair a couple times, but Yasha catches her chairing and garrotes her on the top rope, then casually kicks her ass with charging kicks, ending with a Hangman’s Choke in the corner for two.

KAORU gets an Oklahoma roll & gourdbuster, but Yasha hits her with a front electric chair drop and a release front butterfly suplex as they’re apparently just dumping each other on their faces now. Yasha CALLS FOR THE STICK, but KAORU ducks it and takes a Babe Ruth swing of her own, only to miss and start taking stick shots to the back. Yasha shoves the ref and keeps on her, but gets dumped and KAORU hits a mother of a springboard pescado to the floor! KAORU still sells the ribs from that and tries a springboard splash in the ring… but lands on Yasha’s knees! Shit, they’re working the ribs tonight for sure! Yasha chokeslams her for two to a great reaction, but KAORU counters the second to La Majistral for two. KAORU follows with a Hurricanrana for two, but Yasha reverses the pin, then hits an Exploder of all things for two. Legdrop off the middle of the second rope gets two, but she charges into a German, and KAORU follows with a Moonsault- she lands on her feet when Yasha dodges, and meets her charge with a powerslam for two! Yasha throws her off the top, but misses a springboard legdrop and gets Straightjacket German’d for two! And then KAORU hits a PERFECT Springboard Moonsault, wowing the crowd, and gets right back up to hit a Springboard Senton for the three (15:54)!

Man, that was friggin’ FANTASTIC! Yasha gets a bad rap by Mike Lorefice and others, but she’s actually very great in these matches, having a great character and fun moves. KAORU was just dead-on precise with everything and had a great match- payback spots, cheating, great flow- everything worked. KAORU slowed it down with holds after the hot start (charging into the chairshot was a great “early match move”), but after that it was all good stuff- crowd-brawling into a snotty “sit in the chair” bit, weapon shots, KAORU springboarding everywhere to show off, and more. They even kept doing front-suplex-type things to one-up each other, then Yasha goes for her own springboard move (walking up the ropes instead of jumping up- she’s a tiny woman), and it misses so KAORU just up-ends her with three big moves in a row for the win.

Rating: ****1/4 (possibly Yasha’s best match ever, and a great showcase of how good KAORU is. Amazing pacing and fun character stuff)

* Now THAT’S a Main Event! The three biggest stars of JWP come and Chigusa teams up with the Ace against the two most vicious fighters in that promotion. Chigusa’s in this red & gold baggy gear, while Kansai’s in green, yellow & black. Ozaki’s in street clothes and Devil’s in all-black shirt & pants with her “Super Heel” facepaint on, making this really come off differently. Devil’s Undertaker knock-off thing makes for some odd matches sometimes, so let’s see how weird it gets.

Kansai & Ozaki go, but Chigusa tags herself in against Devil and the fans erupt. Kansai lariats Devil from behind into Chigusa’s belly-to-belly, they they hit a Crush Gals Sandwich Lariat! But their kicks lead to Devil doing a Taker Sit-Up out of a pin, to Chigusa’s shock. But they beat the snot out of Ozaki until Devil comes in and plasters Chigusa with her methodical zombie stuff, just bludgeoning her into a pile. Ozaki brings in a chain and we’re at “Full Chigusa” with Korakuen cheering as she gets defiantly choked out. Kansai gets the same as the heels pull the chain on two sides, but Chigusa comes in with a chair and lights everyone up. Backdrop Driver to Ozaki! Chigusa hits her Sleeper (an actual major hold for her, remember) and Kansai blocks interference- Chigusa demands the ref count Ozaki’s unconscious body down, but Devil just drags her to the corner and is now legal. They butt heads (literally- with Kansai helping!), but Chigusa hits that Sleeper again! But Oz springs to life and stomps away, saving Devil and hitting her hooking clothesline. They’re scrapping like it’s a legit fight here, just stuffing moves and choking each other. Kansai’s in but gets kicked in the face and her lariat’s turned to an armbar. Clipping sees Devil hit Chigusa while Ozaki cannonballs Kansai on the floor.

The faces take a mega-beating outside with chains and chairs while Devil does a slasher smile and sure enough, Chigusa’s puffing her cheeks out while her face is bloodied. Devil, a pro, drags her into the ring by a chain so Korakuen can see the fruits of her labor, and a chain-lariat gets two while Chigusa looks to be dying. The crowd chants “CHI-GU-SA!” and Devil knows just what to do- a sleeperhold to get them REALLY desperate. Literal drool comes down Chigusa’s face as she pushes Devil to the corner, where a bloody Kansai bails her out. But Ozaki responds to that triple-sleeper by choking Kansai and perfectly-timing her “HEY HOW ‘BOUT IT?” cheer to the audience. She charges in like a shit but Chigusa hits a massive tilt-a-whirl powerbomb to fold her in half, and signals the end with a tag- Flying Headbutt by Kansai to Devi– nope, she missed! Devil hits a powerbomb for two as Kansai looks dead- she climbs up after Devil, but eats a super leg-driver (like an inverted fameasser)- Chigusa saves. Devil hits a sleeper, but Kansai slaps herself awake and trips up Devil- she & Chigusa throw head-kicks for two- Taker Sit-Up! Ozaki stops Splash Mountain and runs in with kicks, but eats a Backdrop Driver- she signals Splash again but Oz just runs behind her with the chain- stop doing that pose, Kansai!

Best hot tag ever as Ozaki’s literally pulling her by the throat with that chain, but Kansai buckles up and makes it, only for a re-strangulation outside the ring on both faces. But Devil & Chigusa get into an awesome TRIPLE double-lariat spot, finally bringing each other down. Devil beats her ass some MORE, but Ozaki gets cute by yanking the chain and Chigusa surprises her by using that momentum for a lariat, then tries a Gutwrench Powerbomb on a table, only to be rana’d off. Tequila Sunrise- two! Ozaki flattens the table and they hit a Powerbomb/Guillotine Legdrop onto it! Kansai saves and beats the fuck out of Devil on the floor, but Ozaki tears the top rope down like a crazy person, using a ring-building tool to take off the metal post holding the turnbuckle on, using it as a weapon on Chigusa! Chigusa actually deflects it away with a kick, and FINISHER SWIPE! Tequila Sunrise gets two. Assisted Powerbomb- Devil saves with a chair. Kansai murders Oz with kicks and hits Splash Mountain as the second rope is now down, but Devil annihilates the faces with a cane! Kansai finally pulls her away while Chigusa hits her Tilt-A-Whirl Powerbomb… but Devil jabs her again from the floor! Chigusa tries a friggin’ Running Razor’s Edge to toss Oz into Masami, but AGAIN a cane jabs her, this time halting her momentum, and Ozaki sunset flips her with a jackknife hold for the pin (26:27 of 29:07 shown)!

Very long match built around simple offense, in a way- half the moves were sleepers, lariats or chain-shots but it all WORKED- everyone knows match construction so they can go to a violent brawl easily. Well-built around hope spots from all those sleeperholds (especially since we know Chigusa can end matches with them, so it’s not some bullshit resthold to the fans). And eventually we hit the “Bloody, Dead-Eyed Mess” Chigusa, which gets all the fans into her endless comebacks. Like, nobody can go from “I’m gonna win this!” to “Nope- I am dead. This is the end of me” like Chigusa Nagayo, and she can do it in seconds. Her selling of a cane shot was epic, taking it in the side, pausing, spitting dramatically, then slowly collapsing while grimacing and holding her side. And then clever Ozaki does one of those things that instantly makes a match memorable, bringing the top rope down and leaving us with a sumo ring. And using a potential weapon to get an even BIGGER weapon is just such an Ozaki move to make.

Rating: **** (kinda TOO long and simple in parts, but ends in a crazy 10 minutes of non-stop brawling. Almost like a ****1/2 match disguised as a **** one. I think GAEA eventually sorta condensed these matches into featuring JUST the back half, having watched just a bit of their stuff)

Chigusa, still bloody, thanks LLPW & JWP and bows to Kansai like an equal, while talking shit on Super Heel Devil, who’s just standing stalk-still surrounded by ring girls. And hey- the ring girls have less work to do- the ring’s already half-down!

Well that was a hell of a first show- give the fans the most advanced “first-match” rookies they’ve ever seen, then culminate the show with two ****1/4 interpromotional matches that were one-time only. So it looks like Chigusa’s a hell of a booker, and smart enough to do the job on her own first show, if only to MOUNTAINS of heel cheating. Interesting to see LLPW & JWP fill out the show with “Dream Matches”, which I think continues until the rookies are ready.