Starting off with Takako/Bison.
AJW JAPAN GRAND PRIX ’95 (FINAL):
(Sept. 3rd 1995)
* So we’ve hit the finals of the Japan Grand Prix for 1995, with the World Title shot at stake! Unfortunately I only have two matches from this show, with the Takako/Bison match being clipped a bit. This Round Robin was a bit strange, with some flat-out odd results. You’ve got All-Pacific Champion Toshiyo Yamada tying with Shimoda, Reggie and even Kaoru Ito (!), Chaparrita ASARI getting no wins at all (with Rie Tamada above her!). Then Block B is oddly weak, with the bizarre result of TAKAKO Inoue surpassing KYOKO Inoue in the blocks. This might be because Takako scored some flukes and Kyoko jobbed to Mita and drew with Takako, I dunno. Look at poor Mita struggling in the back end of the block, though… and even Sakie Hasegawa only gets a middling rank, which is shocking given how 1995 is “The Year of Sakie’s Push”.
So here’s what we miss:
NOBUE ENDO & YUMI KUSAGO d. YUKA SHIINA & YUMI FUKAWA (10:23): … okay I don’t know Kusago. Is this her debut? She doesn’t even have a Cagematch page, so she probably didn’t last long.
AJW TAG TITLES: CHAPARRITA ASARI & KUMIKO MAEKAWA d. MISAE WATANABE & YOSHIKO TAMURA (12:50): The rookie Tag Titles are successfully defended against an obvious jobber duo.
TWO ON ONE MIDGET HANDICAP MATCH: LITTLE FRANKIE & MR. BUDDHAMAN d. TIGER JEET SINGH JR. (5:55): Unsurprisingly Midget Ace Frankie teams with the fat guy to defeat the Singh-lookalike. Tiger apparently gets hung over the Korakuen balcony and rolled up in a gym mat so the other two can flying body press him.
SURVIVOR SERIES MATCH: REGGIE BENNETT, SAKIE HASEGAWA, MARIKO YOSHIDA & KAORU ITO d. LAS CACHORRAS ORIENTALES, TOSHIYO YAMADA & RIE TAMADA (18:57): Good old “Pair the Spares” booking here, with your classic SS-style booking, including people jobbing in six minutes to shit that’d take 18 minutes to work in a normal match. The order of elimination: Yamada d. Yoshida (5:42), Bennett d. Mita (8:19- poor Mita!), Ito d. Yamada (8:55- shocker!), Sakie d. Rie (10:49), Shimoda d. Sakie (12:06), then Ito d. Shimoda (18:57). So yeah, Mima Shimoda works EIGHT MINUTES by herself against Reggie, Ito & Sakie, managing to pin Sakie but jobbing against two women. More proof of her being pushed to the next level.
“AJA KONG TENTH ANNIVERSARY MATCH” AJA KONG & REGGIE BENNETT d. KYOKO INOUE & TOMOKO WATANABE (15:52): Reggie works twice. Apparently there were a lot of botches according to Mike Lorefice- “they tried a lot of things”. Aja was honored by her 1986 classmates like Miori Kamiya, Reibun Amada, & Megumi Kudo, along with Bison.
JAPAN GRAND PRIX 1995 THIRD PLACE MATCH:
BISON KIMURA vs. TAKAKO INOUE:
* Surprising booking here, as Bison got to look strong in a ton of house show matches, but has notably lost almost all her TV bouts (I don’t think that was a mistake), while Takako actually moves ahead of Kyoko. The JGP has a lot of flukes, but even then that’s a shocker. This one is thus kind of up in the air- both are on a similar tier, especially as Takako’s the tag champion. Takako’s in her “Black Idol” look, showing skin in a frilly black dress, while Bison’s in reddish gear, but is wearing a white shirt to cover up a shoulder injury. Well good thing Takako is too honorable and moral to take advantage of such a thing, right?
Takako just walks up and slaps her when the bell rings, forgetting that Bison used to team with AJA KONG, so of course gets Bison Chopped in the chest for it. She dodges two more and hauls her down with a wakigatame (which I guess is different than a Fujiwara armbar? This one’s a legit judo hold- the arm is bent instead of straight)- Bison makes the ropes and stuffs her, beating some ass. She treats Takako very casually, just choking, chinlocking and hitting a head & leg hold, then starts working a taped-up knee to wear her down. And then we’re clipped to Bison repeatedly hauling Takako up for Bison Chops, but Takako lands the wakigatame again, Bison quickly making the ropes. Backdrop Suplex Hold is reversed to Chops between the shoulder blades, and a T-Bone/Perfect Plex kinda thing gets two. Flying Headbutt misses and Takako immediately hits the Backdrop Hold for two. She goes up to finish, but Bison Chops her right in the knee on the Flying Knee attempt! That murders Bison’s arm, so Takako manages to limp over desperately, but just eats Chop spam until a proper Bison Chop gets a VERY close near-fall! Bison loads up a Chop from Bret’s rope, but that’s a HUGE mistake- Takako lands the wakigatame again! And just CRANKS on it, Bison desperately fighting before finally making the ropes. Her arm hangs dead, and Takako hits the motherfucking Flying Knee TO THE SHOULDER, then hauls her down from a Chop attempt with another wakigatame, and Bison immediately gives up- Takako wins at (7:09 of 9:02)!
See, this is a great example of how you can have a fun match with a great story without going the “full 18-minute AJW Match”, as the injuries were worked very well and the characters were on point. Bison looks tough for fighting through the pain, while Takako looks crafty for always focusing on the shoulder, and even gets the surprising-ish win over her rival. And now Takako is third in the JGP rankings, which is a sign they want to elevate her, as well.
Rating: ***1/4 (one of the best matches you’re ever likely to see with that match time. It was even clipped!)
AJW JAPAN GRAND PRIX 1995 FINAL:
YUMIKO HOTTA vs. MANAMI TOYOTA:
* These two always felt like diametric opposites, with Toyota as the glamorous, long-haired high-flier, while Hotta was short-haired, tough and a fighter. Toyota’s more famous rivalries are with Yamada (a similar style to Hotta’s) and Aja Kong, but there’s a bunch of Hotta matches in there, too. And to make them look even more different, Hotta’s in all white, with joint pads and kickpads to contrast Manami’s standard black gear. The winner of this bout gets the WWWA Title Shot against Dynamite Kansai, who took it to the rival promotion, JWP, so these are big, big stakes. Meltzer rated this one *****.
Hotta jumps Toyota before the bell and kicks away in the corner, so Manami grabs a leg and dumps her, then hits a Missile Dropkick to the outside! Then ties her up in the ropes and kicks HER in the head a bunch- haha! But getting into a strike war with Hotta proves to be a very bad idea, and soon she’s being wiped all over the mat, and takes a few HARD shots to the back. Hotta yuks it up and gives Toyota time to recover, but eats a ton of wrestling-style boots right to the face, contrasting Hotta’s karate kicks. Hotta fires back with a backdrop driver, but Toyota slingshots off the ropes to knock her down (was probably supposed to be off the top one, but they improvised) and Missile Dropkicks get two, but Hotta soon takes over with stretching. I love her weird crab variant, doing the “Jericho Arrogant Pose” while still bending the back. Manami’s shoved into the Tree of Woe and kicked a few times, and then Hotta fucking GANSO BOMBS HER to the horror of the crowd and commentators. Jesus- Manami barely slides over after two. Her bendiness made that look like a deathblow. Hotta uses a resthold, sensing more weakening is required.
Manami pops the crowd with her dropkick reversal, but Hotta IMMEDIATELY drills her in the head to put a stop to that. She laughs off Toyota’s weak strikes and piefaces her repeatedly before dumping her. Interesting how Hotta’s using a lot of time to recover between moves- like she realizes that cardio is an advantage of Toyota’s, so she’s conserving her strength (or Hotta is legitimately concerned about her own and is using it as cover, but I choose the way that makes the match better, lol). She kicks Toyota in the face during a test of strength, but FINALLY Toyota manages a comeback with a Rolling Cradle, getting two off that… but Hotta immediately dodges the Moonsault and kills her with a Rolling Kick into the corner. Manami dodges the second one and fires off a Missile Dropkick for two, but gets Powerbombed out of a Manami Roll! She backslides out of a Tiger Driver for a VERY close count, but of course eats a leg to the chest trying a flying thing, and THEN takes a full Tiger Driver- a great one, too. Shockingly, Hotta actually pushes her over after two, demanding another one. A second one folds Manami… but she kicks out! Manami reverses a backdrop superplex and tries a Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex (Straightjacket Electric Chair Drop w/ Bridge) while Hotta’s on the top, but has to give up and just kicks out out of the ring instead, and… RUNNING NO-HANDS SPRINGBOARD TOPE CON HILO! Twenty minutes in! Still badly hurt, she sets up a table to follow up… but Hotta boots her as she comes off the top! She drags Toyota in by her hair, then kills her with a Straightjacket German SUPERPLEX… but Manami kicks out!
A flurry of kicks leads to Toyota’s first “Fuck YOU!” bridge of the night, too! A frustrated Hotta then puts Manami up top and comes off with ANOTHER Straightjacket Superplex, this time standing right on the top rope! That’s an INSANE bump to take unprotected (even though you could see Manami deliberately put her arms across her chest in “position” first). Manami still kicks out! Hotta can’t believe this shit, and the pretty-noisy crowd is now blaring out “TO-YO-TA!” repeatedly in awe of Manami’s durability. Hotta calls for her finisher, but Manami rolls over and tries ther Japanese Ocean (Double-Hammerlock) Suplex, but Hotta sits down and head-kicks her. Another Powerbomb is reversed to the Manami Roll, and a whip results in Manami just leaping straight onto the top rope… readying herself… and launching off with a sunset flip for two! J.O.C.S. is stuffed, so Manami settles for a bridging German for two. Hotta almost tilt-a-whirls her into a Pyramid Driver, but Manami slides up and finally hits the Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex- but loses the arms! That lets Hotta kick out at two! The crowd’s on HER side now, but the Pyramid Driver only gets two! It was more of a “lift & drop” instead of the high-angle version it usually is, so maybe that’s why. Hotta can’t believe this again, so she attempts a last-ditch THIRD Straightjacket Super… but Toyota actually BACKFLIPS OFF behind her, and when Hotta climbs… she gets caught in the Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex again! Bridge right off the top rope, and she’s done (23:40)!! Manami wins! In the post-match festitivites, Hotta shakes a crying Toyota’s hand, imploring her to bring back the Big Red Belt to AJW. Tremendous stuff.
Hotta can dish it out to anybody, and Manami can TAKE it from anybody, so these two are a very natural pairing- Hotta dominating virtually the entire match, almost to the point where you can’t believe Manami can come back. It’s less flashy than a Yamada/Toyota bout, and not as “Dragon-Slaying” as a Kong/Toyota match (Aja’s slower so eats a lot of offense), but definitely it’s own deal. I mean, she didn’t have more than two moves in succession for twenty minutes! Hotta was a great shitpile in here, too, frequently making faces, dragging Manami around by her hair (literally wrapping it around her hand a few times to help), and more. But then Manami FINALLY gets a series of big moves in the end after repeatedly attempting her finisher, and finally Hotta can’t kick out. This came off like both had “upgraded” so far that even two Germans off the TOP couldn’t finish one, and Manami’s finisher needed to be done perfectly to finish the other (Japan is big on proper technique- Hotta unfolding the arms probably makes it worse or whatever). Ultimately I didn’t QUITE feel the full five stars (not quite as uber-stiff and felt a bit TOO one-sided for most of it), but it’s as close as you can get- it never slowed down and the crowd went nuts by the end of it. It’s either the worst ***** match ever, or the best ****3/4 one. I dunno, what do you think?
Rating: ****3/4 (… though really it’s just because I didn’t like it QUITE as much as all the other matches I’ve rated five, so this is arbitrarily 1/4* lower)