Joshi Spotlight: Sapporo Best*One (Manami vs. Aja- WWWA Title)

The Main Event. Great thumbnail.


-Coming from Sapporo is this two-match tape featuring Las Cachorras Orientales reuniting- Akira Hokuto rejoins Mita & Shimoda to put the trio back together, and they’re out to murder a randomly thrown-together trio! And also, more importantly, the WWWA World Title is on the line once again, as Manami Toyota defends against the previous champion, Aja Kong- champ rematches seem like a rarity (Bull never got one, but she was stepping back). A now-retired Suzuka Minami joins the crew at the beginning of the TV show. And also we see clips of Kensuke Sasaki & Akira Hokuto announcing their engagement! Seeing Hokuto as a reserved bride-lady is really different. Sasaki cracks up EVERYONE at the press conference with whatever he said, too.

The Japanese commercials are back, though! There’s apparently a Japanese version of “Stand By Me”! They advertise a “Born To Be Wild” movie with a guy in a gorilla suit- never heard of that one.

The matches not shown:
Nobue Endo d. Yoko Takahashi (6:03): Rookie mayhem! I bet a bodyslam was the finish!
AJW Junior Title Tournament: Yoshiko Tamura d. Misae Watanabe (10:05): A new Top Rookie!


This has most of the card, but clips the Main Event- the full one is above.

* Kind of a mismatch- Kumiko is well below Tomoko on the pecking order at this point, and both have a rookie partner. Fukuwa actually gets pretty good in ARSION by the late ’90s, while Shiina had a long career but not a lot of gold, mostly wrestling for NEO once AJW went bankrupt in 1997. Tomoko’s in all white (covered in tassels), Fukuwa’s in white and blue, Kumiko’s in a blue sports bra & long shorts, and Shiina’s in a red & black jobber swimsuit.

Jobber-Fu to start, but Kumiko handily controls Fukuwa until she escapes and Tomoko kicks her ass with some really tight stuff- she’s definitely improved a lot. Even her slingshot move didn’t look bad! Shiina lays the boots to Tomoko while she holds a sharpshooter, leading to her just getting increasingly irritated until she draws a big pop for smashing the kid into the corner- hah. More rookie stuff until Kumiko comes in with a huge face-kick on Fukuwa for two (Tomoko’s late on the break). Kumiko’s Argentine backbreaker hits hard, but the kid escapes- Tomoko beats up Shiina, but Fukuwa gets beaten up until she reverses Kumiko’s bodyslam and escapes. Kumiko lands a bicycle kick on Tomoko, but eats a Thesz Press- a flying one is dodged and a kick gets two. The rookies try a double-team, but Tomoko hits a slingshot cross-body onto both of them, then flattens Kumiko with a short-arm lariat, pinning her with the ol’ knee to the chest at (9:27).

Not great unless Tomoko was in there- her stuff was tight and looked strong without being overly-stiff. Kumiko’s “elevation” was shown with her kicks being treated as serious moves, but Tomoko just laughed her off for the most part and handily defeated her.

Rating: * (okay with Tomoko; bad with the rookies, who got a lot of focus here)

* The Tag Team Champions take on a randomly thrown-together duo of elite Hotta and jobber Rie. Weird duo. Takako’s in black leather Idol Gear (tights, cut-out bits & skirt), while Kyoko’s in a strange leather-ish red outfit with silver strips on it. Rie, meanwhile, has FINALLY upgraded out of Jobber Gear, now wearing a red outfit with white flare on it. Hotta’s in new gear, too, sporting a black outfit with white & grey “blocks” on it.

Rie actually uses speed to harry Takako, then tags in Hotta for her back elbow thing and kicks- Rie tries again, but eats a DDT and Kyoko’s in, bowling Rie over and Giant Swinging her for a full 30 seconds. Takako adds some crabs, making sure to leap ass-first each time so they hurt more, but Rie hits her spinning cross-body and Hotta’s in. In a cute bit, Takako hits her ridiculous MMA stance, and when Hotta laughs her off and tries kicks, Takako does some of her own, then just cheats by yanking the hair so she can drag Hotta over to Kyoko. Kyoko hits her corner DDT, and the Inoues do their “Alternating DDTs” spot, then a clutch & surfboard. Hotta counters with her corner rolling kicks, but Kyoko fights out of the Tiger Driver and scores a big lariat- Niagara Driver is countered with Hotta’s Owenzuigiri, but Rie misses a cross-body.

Rie tries a superplex to counter Kyoko’s climbing, but only eats the Super Powerslam… for two! Hotta saved! Hotta buys Rie time, but they take the Slingshot Backsplash. Rie gets applause for kicking out of Takako’s Aurora Special. Rie flips out of another backdrop, but Kyoko charges in and whips Hotta off the top rope, and Takako scores a Tombstone for 2.5 on Rie. Rie counters another Special for two, but Takako backslides Hotta for two, only for Hotta to hit a double-facecrusher on the Inoues. Tiger Driver gets two- Kyoko saves. Takako counters the Caribbean Splash (super straightjacket german), but misses the Flying Knee, only to dodge a shot and hit her Backdrop Hold for two. Rie blocks their tag finisher, then Hotta blasts Takako in mid-air with a kick. But that just leaves Rie, and she gets tossed off the top and Backdrop Holded for two-counts, then another Backdrop Hold- Hotta saves, but is tossed and they kill Rie dead with the Super Chokeslam/Niagara Driver at (13:24). Wow, that was some overkill.

Hey, shockingly decent match given how Rie had NO chance in there. AJW does a fun thing with power imbalances in matches like this, where the dominant wrestler can control but gets into trouble when relying on the rookie, who usually gets some great hope-spots and good kickout or two, but ends up getting annihilated by too much force. But Rie looked good in there, being elevated through losing.

Rating: ***1/4 (actually a very good TV match)

* Hokuto is back! After skipping out on the Dome stuff AJW was involved with (but making North Korea), she’s with her LCO partners up against a randomly put-together squad. Lots of new gear tonight: Reggie’s in a Bret Hart-looking bit of gear- an amateur-style singlet but in black & pink, Ito’s in a blue leotard with one shoulder strap, and Yoshida’s white one has a sun logo on it. Akira’s in lime green, Shimoda’s in standard red & gold, and Mita’s in something I’ve never seen before- a blue & white two-piece with an interconnecting strap thing.

LCO charge Reggie to start, tripping her when she catches Akira on a flying cross-body. They can’t get her into position right, but soon… Triple Bitch Pose! They’re back, baby! Reggie soon bowls over Shimoda, and her team tees off on her for a bit. Mita hits Blazing Chops on Yoshida for two, and Akira runs through her early match routine (roundhouse, piledriver, sharpshooter). Shimoda adds a flying hook-clothesline, but Yoshida gets her sunset flip and Reggie adds a monster side slam. Next attempt has Shimoda headscissor her for a good reaction, but Reggie avalanches her and tags out, only for Shimoda’s flying headscissors & falling clotheslines to get two on Ito. Mita adds an electric chair drop & Akira adds a flying splash for two! Akira rolling attacks Reggie to the floor and soon LCO hit the Assisted Splash/Dive combo onto their opponents (kinda telegraphed that one- Ito just strolled out into the pile). Akira flies out with the Tope Con Hilo but only hits her partners! Then they drag Akira out and bury her under a truly ludicrous mountain of chairs, posing and clapping on a three feet of it! Akira, now bloody as hell, is FURIOUS and ready for murder, but actually sells the exhaustion and impact by taking a knee smash and getting grabbed.

Akira avoids a triple-dropkick and they disjointedly brawl for a bit, Shimoda hitting three piledrivers on Ito for two, but LCO get dumped and Yoshida run-up planchas them, Ito cannonballs off, and her Flying Stomp gets two- the fans don’t bite on the close call. Shimoda clotheslines Ito & Yoshida, bringing in Mita- she follows Yoshida’s run up the ropes for a Super Electric Chair drop for two, but Yoshida avoids the next one, hitting a sunset flip for two. Reggie misses a clothesline and falls to a Blazing Chop, and Akira gets a good reaction coming in- Reggie misses a double-lariat, but suplexes Akira & Mita simultaneously. She misses a 2nd-rope Splash and takes a BIG German for two, and the fans are kinda back. Reggie tilt-a-whirls Shimoda, and NOW that Splash hits- Akira saves. Shimoda counters Yoshida with a Tiger Suplex for two, and Akira’s in- Northern Lights Bomb is reversed to a Perfect Plex for two, then a cartwheel back elbow hits, but another run-up move eats a boot, and Akira FUCKING ANNIHILATES her with the most lethal Northern Lights Bomb I’ve ever seen, just spiking Yoshida right on her head. That gets the easy pin at (15:19). Post-match, Akira rips into Mita & Shimoda over the mic, leaving them a bit stunned and blank-faced as their boss storms off- the end of the stable?

Pretty fun match to start, with LCO dominating and running through all their stuff on the trio. And an unusual case of a “chairpile” spot actually being treated like it would hurt, as Akira was flummoxed and agonized- most joshi just kinda treat that as a humiliation thing. Though what followed was REALLY bad, as they were all stumbling around out of position for a while and lost the fans as a result (Reggie acts like Akira’s dumping her but they redirect into a standard Irish whip; Shimoda gets in early and is in the way; etc.). They brought it back by the end, mostly with Mita & Akira trying to center things on Yoshida, as this wasn’t Reggie’s night and she appeared to have communication issues (the teamwork-heavy trios matches probably don’t help a foreigner). And holy shit that finish.

Rating: ***1/2 (started out great, got bad, and then got good again by the end, with an awesome finish)

Manami defiantly holding the title up to taunt Aja is great.

* And now the big one- Manami won the title at Wrestling Queendom in the first quarter of the year, and her only defense thus far is the draw against Kyoko Inoue. Long title reigns are the rule of AJW and have been for a decade- most previous winners since the ’80s have held for either a year or several (Bull & Aja). But a dethroned Champion coming back for another shot is pretty unprecedented. And given how these two have hit ***** twice in the past year against each other, there’s some high expectations for this one. Aja’s all business as she comes down in her black bathrobe, while Manami holds the title high during her entire entrance, wearing a white robe that puts anything Flair’s ever worn to shame. And Aja tries to stare her down, so Manami holds that belt RIGHT up where she can see it- making one of those “Yeah, this is what you want, but I beat you for it- bring it” statements. And she even shoves her and mimics Aja’s “one hand raised” pose before the bell! She will not back down!

Aja does a “slit throat” gesture right before the bell, provoking Manami into a charge- Bridging German at the bell for two! Aja climbs the ropes after her, but gets shoved off, only to dodge a missile kick- and AJA gets one! Corner clothesline hits, but Manami reverses the next only to charge into a boot, then ducks another one and hits a Manami Roll for two. She actually pulls an “Aja” and works crab-holds, but Aja quickly fights up and plasters her leg and back with kicks, and we’re back to how things should be. Manami tries a great “Bitch, you can’t hurt me!” no-sell, but Aja just powers through it until the possibility of no-selling is gone. And Aja’s merciless, dropping her full weight on Manami with elbows, headbutting her when he tries to talk shit (“Bakayero!”), etc. LONG sleeper spot, but Manami cat-scratches out, only for Aja to gut her comeback with a one-hander. Again more sleeper stuff as we hit ten minutes with not too much of substance.

Manami takes a beating on the floor as Aja finally sets off something different- this goes on a few minutes, with chairs and a piece of guardrail being used. Manami’s back is FUCKED, but… Bam! Running No-Hands Springboard Cross-Body off a whip! Missile Dropkick Spam! But then Aja stuffs a German and hits a positively brutal powerbomb for two. Second-rope splash gets a “fuck YOU!” bridge, as does a superplex. Toyota tries another Manami Roll off a whip, but eats a HUGE Sit-Out Powerbomb for two! Backdrop Driver gets two, and Manami reverses a Super Mountain Bomb to the Sunset Flip Powerbomb, as always, for two. Moonsault… misses! She reverses another Driver for two, but eats a backdrop superplex for the same. The crowd gets way into a Toyota comeback, and we tease the finish to their last bout (Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex when Aja’s on the second rope), but Aja stuffs it this time. So Manami kicks her ass (literally) to the floor and hits another Running No-Hands move… but leaps backwards when Aja moves, dropkicks her down, then flies off the top… into a kick on the floor. Good reversal sequence.

The crowd boos Aja as she hits her mega-finisher, the Super Mountain Bomb… and Manami “Fuck YOU!” bridges out! Manami looks white as a ghost as Aja preps the Uraken backfist- blocked!- and into a Double-Hammerlock Suplex for two! They do the “All Japan Sell” until Aja climbs, but gets caught with another Sunset Flip Powerbomb- her foot barely hits the ropes before “3”. Aja bails… Running No-Hands Springboard Tope Con Hilo from Manami! Manami hauls Aja in for the Japanese Ocean Cyclone- Aja reverses to a backdrop but Manami lands on her feet… and an Uraken cathes her! But only for two! Aja hits the Falcon Arrow that beat Manami at Big Egg… for two! That’s all her shit! The crowd roars for a “To-Yo-Ta!” comeback as Aja gears up another Uraken, and we’re all set… but nope- Uraken hits and gets the three at (22:45). Very unexpected, especially with the crowd so geared up.

The early goings were interesting, as you got the sense that Manami had now “leveled up”- she was getting the early advantage and doing the legwork… but Aja’s suddenly all “not yet” and stands up and proceeds to methodically tear her apart. But then that bit just goes on far too long for my tastes- almost seven minutes in variations of the “camel clutch to bending chinlock to sleeper” as it’s mostly Aja holding Manami down. I’m not sure if they just forgot what they were gonna do or Aja didn’t know a gameplan for a new Toyota match or what. And then they just hit “go” 14 minutes in and Manami’s flying around like crazy and Aja suddenly hits the REAL offense. And once they hit that stage, few are better, so the match becomes awesome again. And they give’r with all their best stuff, Manami hitting three No-Hands Springboards, Aja doing all her finishers (backdrop, uraken, mountain bomb, falcon arrow), and Manami seeming like she had more in the tank (no JOCS nor Victory Star Drop- it looked like the second Sunset Bomb was supposed to be one, but Manami corrected to something easier to hit), but then it’s one more Uraken and we’re done. I felt like one more minute and we’d hit ****1/2. I dunno what Meltzer was thinking giving this *****.

Rating: **** (so yeah, where else but here do you moan about “only” getting ****?)

So yeah, a highly unusual event- Manami Toyota is dethroned after only 93 days as champion- the shortest since La Galactica in 1983. This is pretty mind-blowing, especially since Aja’s a preceding champion, making her the first person to repeat the belt in eleven years. So we’re in a new era, and it’s just gonna get more interesting, since obviously Manami’s coronation was a bit too soon. Aja triumphantly wins back her beloved title, cradling it like a lost infant, and then DYNAMITE KANSAI shows up, calling out Aja Kong! And there’s our next WWWA Title Match- Aja vs. Kansai in the ultimate AJW/JWP interpromotional battle. And THAT gets a lot more interesting, too.

Overall, a pretty great show- three good-to-great matches in a row. The final two feel “less” than what the people could have performed, especially the Main, but everything was good.