Joshi Spotlight: GAEA Second Battle & Champ Forum

* More GAEA Japan goodness, as Chigusa does a tag match alongside her Mini-Me, Meiko Satomura, against some LLPW invaders on one show, and then two months later, we check out the match everyone wanted to see- a Dream Slam rematch between ’80s icons Chigusa & Devil! Plus more from the Angry Teenager Division!

I wasn’t sure if I should split this into two reviews (1500-ish words each) or one big one, so let me know which y’all would prefer.

* So this is six rookies piled into one match, with two GAEA girls joined by a JWP girl each, and we’re joined in progress, so I miss announcements and thus have to use process of elimination here. Uematsu’s in green & Kato’s in blue, so Yasuko is in black/blue. Meiko’s in red & Sato’s in white, which makes Kuzumi the black/pink one. Okay, so the JWP girls are in near-exact gear- suuuuuuuuuure makes things easier.

Guys, this is gonna shock you, but this match is like entirely running attacks from everyone. Meiko & Sato COMPLETELY dominate, Sato hitting a facecrusher on Kato. But her swinging neckbreaker is turned into a running bulldog, and another one gets two on her. Sato bridges out, but takes Uematsu’s flying cross-body for two. Sato lands that neckbreaker and escapes, but Kuzumi stumbles through a sequence and avoids a triple-dropkick. Meiko’s team all dropkick their opponents, but Uematsu & Kuzumi just trade rollups. Meiko nails her partner by mistake, but still beats up the opposing team, setting off a schmozz. She tries a running attack, but Yasuko boots her in the spine from the apron- Meiko sells this like dynamite, leading to the others working her over and Uematsu’s next flying cross-body getting her at (5:36 shown of 14:44)- Toshie’s team wins.

Rating: * (perfectly fine “running rookie stuff” with revenge spots and people trading offense. At least it was quick)

* Another interpromotional match, featuring LLPW’s third-tier Handa with a lower-end wrestler against KAORU and a rookie. KAORU’s in white & Kato’s in blue, while Handa’s in a black & yellow leather outfit with one bare leg (looking enough like Cutie Suzuki I actually had to check), and Michiko in an odd look- a black singlet with baggy white jeans.

Team LLPW cleans house outside the ring to start and murders Kato, even doing the LCO Bitch Pose! They work an oddly “Western”-style tag match, cutting off tags and comebacks all over, until 4 minutes passes and there’s an oddly antiseptic hot tag to KAORU (Michiko just kinda fought Kato until she hit that side of the ring and tagged out). KAORU throws LLPW around and uses basic stretching until Kato recovers enough to hit rookie dropkick spam, and they double-teaming KAORU now. She finally fights back and Team GAEA double-teams Handa into a KAORU springboard splash and double-flip-off Michiko! Kato soon gets beat up again, but KAORU stops Michiko’s dive with a missile kick. Everyone starts grabbing at each other and it’s a brawl on the floor, LLPW using chairs and bloodying poor Kato while KAORU’s way up in the concessions. LLPW bludgeon Kato half to death in the ring, Michiko just stomping her face into the mat, and yup- this rookie’s got the Chigusa-style selling, too.

KAORU finally gets back in, but they double-team HER until Kato finally dodges a double-team and hits her running bulldogs on Michiko to a big reaction. Michiko gets her foot on the ropes, and kicks out of KAORU’s Moonsault. She misses another, but lands on her feet- Handa canes her in the back. But she flip-dodges out of Michiko’s cane shot and hits a Fujiwara armbar- Handa saves, but misses a flying shot and takes La Majistral for two. But they use the cane again and Kato comes in and now SHE takes it. But when Michiko goes for another swing on KAORU, Kato GRABS IT to a huge pop and hands it to KAORU, who annihilates Team LLPW, even no-selling Handa’s chairshot in the beatdown. But they finally bring her down and it’s Outside Beating #2. Kato gets killed up in the stands while Michiko splashes KAORU off the stage through a table. A pair of missile kicks flatten Kato in the ring, but Michiko pulls her up, backdrops her, and finishes with a Flying Senton to Kato’s corpse at (19:34) to thunderous boos.

Really, this was just an “Atrocious Alliance vs. Crush Gals” template match in the modern era, but with a Rookie/Veteran vibe on the babyfaces and the heels being attractive instead of ugly gluttons. Interesting match, but way too long- they had to pad it out with all this simple stuff for the rookies’ benefit and it was 90% Team LLPW, who barely hit a single move a rookie couldn’t do on either wrestler. The two-minute crowd brawl and beating on Kato were great, though, and overall this match puts her over as a “never say die” rookie who’s already at a 2nd-year level, easily. Handa & Michiko came off like giant shit-pieces, too, so it was effective as a story.

Rating: **1/4 (a good story, but way too long and kept so simple… but now I wanna pay to see KAORU murder both opponents, so hey- it’s a success!)

* An interesting Interpromotional Match, as Eagle Sawai comes to GAEA with an LLPW rookie in tow (Keiko doesn’t seem to properly debut for LLPW until 1996, but had a LONG-ASS career, lasting until 2018, switching to JWP around 2003 or so). Chigusa’s in red & gold baggy bodysuit, while Meiko is this hilarious Mini-Chigusa with her Rookie Bowl Cut and red singlet. Eagle’s in pink, black & red, while Keiko’s in black & yellow.

Eagle hits an avalanche on both GAEA girls before the bell, but Chigusa shrugs off a Vader Attack to a big “WOAHHHHH” and hits a spinkick. Double-clothesline, but neither will go down- a second one puts them both on the mat! Kinda weird to see Chigusa suddenly able to trade power with Joshi’s Glamor-Hoss. Meiko drags Chigusa to the corner but Keiko can’t budge Eagle in a hilarious bit, but it doesn’t matter- Eagle just contemptuously stares at Meiko’s weak-ass offense and nearly garrotes her on the top rope using an Irish whip (Meiko is SHORT). Meiko takes a beating but immediately comes back on Keiko, just SCREAMING with every shot- yeah, this is why people say “she had it from the very beginning”. The rookies exchange forearms on the mat in a fun bit (Eagle refuses to tag in- she’s like “No- you do more”).

A billion shoulderblocks get two on Keiko, and now Chigusa is refusing tags from the junior, Meiko going all “hai!” and re-attacking. FINALLY Chigusa comes in, but Keiko tries to beat respect into her. She actually gets a two-count, but Chigusa rips her head off with a kick when she charges in, then commands her to rise, and throws a ton more. Keiko still manages to kick out of stuff (even bridging at one point), and Chigusa tosses her to Eagle, and then backdrops out of Eagle’s powerbomb attempt. Meiko throws a ton of shots to Eagle’s arm until she has to start selling it, but her submission attempts are laughed off. Chigusa screaming insistent stuff at Meiko on the apron while she keeps having to try offense on a woman who’s not interested in selling it is amazing. Keiko finally comes in and slugs Meiko around, hits the Rookie Bodyslam of Death, but Meiko not only bridges out, but snaps on a Cross-Armbreaker, and it’s over at (9:35)! Chigusa is straight-up amused on the apron, like “haha, that rookie actually did it? Hilarious!”

Okay, this is the best use of vets & rookies- bullying vets demanding more of the juniors and the kids having to try and beat each other with their rookie bullshit, all throwing out shoulderblocks and forearms. Came off more like a vicious form of boot camp than a real match, especially as the vets had like one minute against each other. Eagle & Chigusa’s glares and demands from the apron were great, even if all the rookie offense was basic.

Rating: ** (hard to hate a match under ten minutes that tells a good story, even if it’s just 90 shoulderblocks in a row)

Overall this is a pretty weird, short show with relatively poor matches. One is too short and avoids the big stars colliding while the other is too long and boring, but ultimately I’m getting the impression that early GAEA is “Dream Match Midcard Bout with KAORU/Main Event with Chigusa/Lotsa Rookie Matches”.

GAEA CHAMP FORUM (June 18th, 1995):
* So here’s a collection of stuff from the “Champ Forum” TV show (a wrestling program that occasionally shows clips from disparate promotions). These matches take place around June 1995.

* The top rookies fight, with Meiko in red & Uematsu in green.

We’re Joined in Progress with rookie-fu- you can tell they’re good because filler spots like Boston crabs are turned into dramatic, screaming struggles with Uematsu trying to bite her way out and getting headbutted by an angry Meiko for it. Uematsu fires back with some dramatic back elbows, dropkicks Meiko to the floor, and misses a charge off the apron. They forearm the shit out of each other until Meiko throws shoulderblock spam, but Uematsu hits a sunset flip for two. She throws elbow spam, but gets Flair Tossed off the top and smashed around the ring a while, and more rookie-fu for two-counts leads to Meiko hitting a Frog Splash for two. But Meiko hits a cross-armbreaker and it’s a Time Over at (8:05 of 15:00) shown! But then we get an overtime period, at Meiko pounces on that arm again, Uematsu selling it like the damn thing is coming off. She desperately makes the ropes twice, but then gets behind Meiko and swings her back- Japanese leg roll clutch gets the come-from-behind win at (1:07)! A furious Meiko, with tears in her eyes like she just saw a Bret Hart match, scraps with her after the bell but has to sit there and take it.

This was just ten minutes of angry teenagers beating the shit out of each other. Merciless pace as nearly everything was a running attack, too. What I’m struck by is how they add a bit to everything- there’s a term in Disney Imagineering (the theme parks division) called “plussing”- find a way to improve EVERYTHING. And these girls “plussed” the hell out of their stuff- every move had a bit more flourish, the restholds had an extra swat to the head, and at one point Meiko had Uematsu down and forearmed her repeatedly before going for the pin. So even though the match was just “they run at each other until one person wins” you could really see their talent, and what was clearly good coaching.

Rating: **1/4 (these bouts can run into each other, especially as neither really has finishers and they just charge around until someone drops, but it’s pretty fun at times)

* Oh geez I’m at a complete loss here, haha. It’s two of GAEA’s lowest-ranked rookies and FMW rookies, split up and sent against each other! Narita’s (pink) the kid that didn’t last long. Yukari (blue & green) lasted a couple of years in FMW, retiring in 1996. Toshie (white) is “Sugar Sato” and did okay. Kaori (red & black) is TINY, but lasted a long time- going two years past the end of FMW as a freelancer.

Joined in progress with one team doing joint attacks and slapping forearms in triumph, then the other team doing it. The GAEA girls do a solid chain-wrestling thing (cross-armbreaker threaded into a leglock for the other girl), then the FMW girls do a similar bit (but into a grittier, more realistic-looking push & pull). Kaori does pretty bad cartwheel elbows to Maiko, but takes Sato’s missile kick by mistake off a double-team attempt. The other team do the same double-team, but hit it, just to rub it in. Kaori escapes and Sato spams running moves on Yukari for two, but gets Flair Tossed and a flying sunset flip gets two- Yukari’s stuff seems pretty good. Maiko hits those running Ken/Ryu flips for two, but eats facecrusher spam and that assisted-missile kick from Sato hits her. Double-teams are stopped and Maiko hits an airplane spin, dropping Kaori on Sato. Yukari hits a flying crossbody & butterfly suplexes for two, but misses a second crossbody and everyone does nearfalls until Maiko hits the OKLAHOMA STAMPEDE on Sato. haha, jesus. Now Sato gets one, but Yukari flies off onto Maiko by mistake. Double-suplex and that “Jack Evans flip” standing assisted moonsault get two, and Sato takes a TON of time readying herself up top, coming off with a Flying Back Elbow on Yukari for the three (10:50 of 14:50 shown).

Quite the little rookie match once again, as everyone has a lot of spunk and energy, but they’re still not much into the “storytelling” phase so much as “hit stuff until someone goes down”, though we get a lot of Revenge Spots and “The second try fails” stuff, which is good to the fundamentals of joshi. Sato kinda seemed the best, though Yukari was the flashiest. Maiko seems pretty good, too- it’s too bad she was done early.

Rating: **1/4 (just a bunch of stuff and then one team won, but a good pace and they worked hard)

* So this is 3 JWP stars and one GAEA one, as Bomber has a bit more experience than the true rookies and so gets slotted into “Dream Matches” more. I’ve actually never seen her wrestle yet, but given how good Oz & Yagi are, this should be okay at minimum. Oz is in black & red, Yagi’s in black & pink, Bomber’s in every fluorescent color ever, and Toyama’s in black & orange. Bomber looks like she could be Toyama’s older sister with that gear and buzzcut. Oz naturally acts like a shit already, teasing the ref during the pat-down, while Yagi tries not to laugh.

Oh god, Yagi’s channeling Oz- she can’t find any hair to pull on Toyama, so she grabs her by the friggin’ ears and snapmares her across the ring. They bully the crap out of Toyama, so Bomber yanks Ozaki’s ears, and then Yagi yanks HERS, which is a new one for me. She then CHOP Toyama’s ears, so we’re well into “make the fans happy” comedy heeling. Bomber comes in as poor Toyama has to sell her ears on the apron- Bomber uses belly bashes (she’s more stocky than fat, but okay) for two and brings Toyama in for some payback double-teaming. But then Oz chops HER ears, then gets Toyama again when she mocks Oz from the apron. FLYING EAR CHOP from Yagi! Two more minutes of ear stuff and Oz misses a cannonball. Bomber knocks Yagi around, but Sumio just takes more and more offense, then everyone’s tricked into hitting their own partners repeatedly and Yagi targets Bomber’s ass when she misses a butt-drop, only for Bomber’s ass to be JUST TOO HARD and Yagi bounces off on a dropkick. Yup.

Samoan drop & double-press slam work over Yagi as Bomber FINALLY gets consistent offense, but her toss of Toyama just hits mat. They manage some headbutts, but accidentally headbutt each other, leading to some hurt feelings before Ozaki flies in with a clothesline to both of them. She climbs up, but Bomber catches her with a super powerslam for two- Toyama adds a super chokeslam (!), but Yagi saves. Ozaki easily avoids Stereo Flying Headbutts, and Yagi hits a missile kick and sunset flip bomb on Toyama and goes to the knee, but Toyama escapes. Bomber hits an overthrow powerbomb, but they mess up a reversal of another one (Yagi faceplants before hitting a weak clutch for two). Bomber hits a Blue Thunder Bomb (backdrop to powerbomb) for two- Ozaki saves. Bomber hits a second rope splash for another Oz save, then eats a judo flip and Ozaki’s cannonball. Ozaki ends up in Bomber’s powerbomb, but avoids a top-rope Vader Bomb… only to miss another cannonball. Team JWP spams Germans, Oz repeating a bridging one after the first bridge fails, getting two. Yagi deals with Toyama so Oz can hit a powerbomb for two, and a Ligerbomb finishes Bomber at (19:13).

Okay, a match with ten minutes of EAR-BASED stuff. That’s new. Pretty good comedy (and keeps the opening minutes from being too boring), but that got a bit old when it’s half the match. Though that covers Bomber’s limitations- she seems like she’s attempting to be a Hoss Wrestler when she’s just kinda stocky and not that big. Most of the rest is okay, but largely inconsequential- potential big moves are done halfway through to start the “serious stuff”, with partners breaking up pins, and finally they single out Bomber.

Rating: **1/2 (comes and goes- funny but too long, then hard-hitting but kind of sparing)

* And just like that, the two biggest solo acts of 1980s Joshi meet up once again. They had a **** match at Dream Slam 1 (made all the more impressive by Chigusa having been retired for years beforehand), and now they’re headlining a GAEA show. Devil’s in purple & black, and Chigusa’s in her red & gold GAEA gear.

Devil smirks as she headbutts Chigusa to the mat, but gets backdropped out of a powerbomb, only to hit a lariat. She misses her cannonball senton and takes the Owenzuigiri, but takes a payback backdrop out of a piledriver, too. Chigusa grabs her sleeper (I think we’re clipped already), then throws a lot of strikes and a jump off the apron. They smash each other back & forth on the floor, Chigusa booting Devil off a table, and ending up eating an ax kick on the apron when she tries another sloppy kick. Not learning her lesson, she tries one on the top rope, and Devil hooks her leg around Chigusa’s and slams her to the mat like that, getting two. Powerbomb gets two. Chigusa tries kicks, but sells that leg-based move like it’s killing her to do so- Devil tries to Guillotine Legdrop the leg, but misses. Long sleeper spot leads to an “8” count, and Chigusa keeps doing running head kicks to keep her back down. Devil’s selling is tremendous, just going rubber-legged like she got KTFO’d and trying to slap feeling back into her legs. She lands on her feet from a powerbomb attempt but gets wiped out AGAIN. But Chigusa goes for the kick way too many times and now SHE gets sleeper’d, and both are dying. After a minute, Devil has a powerbomb reversed, but nets a Ligerbomb for two- pin’s reversed for two. Weak ThunderFire Powerbomb gets two for Chigusa. They both miss shots, but Devil’s kick is hung in the ropes and Chigusa lights her up with one, then puts her up top- running ThunderFire Powerbomb from there gets the three (14:05 of 26:08 shown)! Chigusa beats Devil!

A very sloppy, scrappy fight between two women now kinda booked as equals. Chigusa kept throwing this ultra-loose kicks almost like her UWF days but kinda floppy and weird, so Devil kept having to counter her, then has to fight from beneath when she takes too high a risk and Chigusa keeps aiming for knockouts. While that told a legit story, it ended up being pretty same-y with every move being either a head-kick or powerbomb, with a lot of teased KOs, ending with Chigusa just calling out JWP and hitting a bigger one.

Rating: *** (alright and good in parts, but not outstanding. Obviously it’s missing ten minutes, too)

All in all, a pretty typical GAEA Japan show- unusually-good rookies and Chigusa in a “Dream Match” that’s mostly pretty good. Her going over another company’s top-tier star is a bit of a prelude to her booking, I fear.

So, uh, yeah! GAEA Japan is definitely providing a unique show in the glut of mid-90s joshi promotions!