Joshi Spotlight: The JWP Title Tournament & JWP Tag Titles!

* A double-whammy tonight, as I review both a fantastic JWP Tag Titles match from December, but the two final matches of the JWP Openweight Title Tournament! My memory’s so bad I was about to review the Ozaki/Cutie match because I just happened to find in on YouTube, but then I looked up the rest of the tournament and realized I’d already reviewed it! Which saves me some time- hooray! So this is half-repost, but I have another review coming this Friday, anyhow.

(15.10.1995, Korakuen Hall)
* So JWP’s top title had been vacant for a year, right during the Interpromotional Era for some reason, and here’s the semi-final match in the tournament to decide the winner. Cutie’s hair is now MUCH longer, while Ozaki has her signature red gear, covered in ribbons and cut-out bits. Her curly hair, dyed somewhat red, indicates a hooligan/heel nature if I know my 1990s manga.

Big staredown to begin, and they do some dramatic, growling reversals, with Ozaki’s pint-sized brawler act winning out. She’s such a great shitheel, digging her foot into Cutie’s head during a submission attempt. Cutie gets a DDT to come back, stretching Ozaki and getting revenge by tangling her in the ropes, yanking on the hair and doing a dragon sleeper over them, with Ozaki just smirking and snarling. They keep it steady with some choking, running attacks, and reversals, but Ozaki plants Cutie with a Ligerbomb to take the lead. She goes for the Tequila Sunrise (half-nelson/hammerlock suplex), but Cutie grabs the ropes and eventually hauls her over with a bodyscissors. Ozaki takes her out there, though, smashing her around and hitting her Cannonball off the apron, then hitting a Powerbomb and Turning Splash back in the ring for two! Damn, she’s dominating- Cutie tries some Dragon Suplexes to come back but gets a Stone Cold Stunner for her troubles. That gets two, but she brings Ozaki off the top with an electric chair drop, then fires off THREE Flying Double-Foot Stomps and a missile dropkick- oh, joshi.

Straightjacket German gets two, then Cutie knocks Ozaki out of the ring with a knee and flies off the top onto her! Cutie gets even with chair-swinging on the outside (Ozaki punches her own back to sell the injury, which is great), too, then tosses Ozaki with a trio of Dragon Suplexes! She gets cute celebrating, though, so Ozaki drags her to the mat with a vicious armbar, then JUMPS OFF THE TOP onto the arm- jeeeeeeeeeeeezus. How do you even fake that? Another armhold and a Tiger Suplex get two, but she tries a Super Thesz Press slam and Cutie spins her around for a goddamn SUPERBOMB! Now THAT’s a comeback! Cutie, still selling the arm, runs in but gets Ligerbombed for two. She manages a knee out of the corner and hits the Flying Knee Smash, but a second gets her swatted down for two. Tequila Sunrise! That gets two, and Ozaki looks to finish- she drags Cutie up top for some weird thing (a neckbreaker?), but Cutie grapples out of it and hits a Super Victory Roll (sounds better than it looked)… and manages to hold her down for the three (17:29)! Cutie beats Ozaki!! A big shock even for the time, I bet. I’d imagine tape-traders at the time used this to add to their “Cutie was over-pushed” complaints.

This is one of those matches that really showcases how good Ozaki really is- with a sinister charisma, she comes off as conniving, awful and cruel despite being smaller than all her opponents. Her selling has this annoyed-looking quality to it as if she’s offended at being hurt, and her sneering presence adds a lot to even simple stuff like kick exchanges or running attacks. Cutie sold the arm stuff like dynamite, getting this great agonized look on her face, and made it seem crippling. This match was great, albeit with the “eats several huge moves, but starts a comeback with a series of huge moves” syndrome that affects a lot of joshi, but at least Cutie kept selling during her offensive comebacks, like she wasn’t at 100%. So it ended up being kind of a MOVEZ match, but with way better selling than normal. The finish wasn’t pretty, but was set up by all the comebacks Cutie was making.

Rating: **** (elevated a lot by the selling of both women, and there were some awesome moves and comebacks)

(15.10.1995, Korakuen Hall)
* And now we’re right into the final match in the JWP Title tournament. Cutie has her “serious face” on during introductions, staring down Kansai despite wearing a lil’ frilly white balerina outfit, while Kansai’s in her TMNT Super-Villain gear covered in tubes. Notably, Kansai is currently the WWWA World Champion, holding AJW’s title as well.

Cutie attacks before the bell and fires off five Release Germans in a row for two, then an Octopus Stretch, but Kansai lands a backdrop that has Cutie selling it like a fatal blow. The usual Kansai stuff (kicks, backdrops, sharpshooter) lends to a big heat sequence, but a nice kick-reversal bit sees Cutie hit a DDT and Dragon Suplex for two. Cutie gets caught on a dive to the outside and is TKO’d to hell with a kick… but gets off a snap German reversal on the floor! This buys her some time, and they brawl on the floor for a while. Kansai slooowwwwwwlllly dismantles her with kicks & stuff, Cutie WAILING as she’s lifted into a backdrop for two. Interesting spot as Kansai signals Splash Mountain, Cutie struggles out and hits the corner, Kansai tries it off the TOP, but Cutie turns around for a Dragon Sleeper and drags Kansai off the top and to the outside! Plancha off the top out there, then THREE Flying Knee Smashes put Kansai on the ropes… except she kicks out at ONE and does her “power-up” no-sell, then gets immediately dropkicked to shit. Cutie eats a lariat but fights out of Splash Mountain with a Dragon Sleeper & Suplex, but a final Flying Knee gets her kicked in the gut. Kansai confidently wipes her out with the mother of all kicks to the face, and sets of Splash Mountain for the emphatic three (11:07). Kansai is now a Double-World Champion! I think maybe the only one of the Interpromotional Era!

Interesting bout, with a LOT of filler added in the end, there, but it fit the story of Cutie and her never-ending attempts at a comeback. Also, she just wrestled earlier. The dynamic here is so strongly in favor of Kansai that these bouts have little drama to them, though. Especially once Kansai decides to power up and no-sell three flying knees to the head, then casually reverse a shot and slowly walk about and land a few kicks before her finisher. Granted, these women are on two very different “tiers” and a champ has to be credible, but… don’t put Cutie in the finals, I guess?

Rating: ***1/4 (a bit more fun than their 1992 bout, but some random Kansai no-selling and filler hold it back)

(Dec. 9th 1995)
* A bizarre interpromotional match is set up here, as the Tag Champions (Ace Kansai and upper-midcard Cutie) have an odd set of challenges, KAORU from GAEA Japan teaming up with JWP’s own Hikari Fukuoka! Hikari’s a rising star and still getting the “high potential” push, and is a former Tag Champion, and GAEA has friendly relations with JWP, so we’ll see what comes of this. Kansai has lost the WWWA World Title to Manami Toyota literally five days earlier, so I can’t imagine that’s improving her mood any. Everyone gets solo introductions- Hikari’s in white leopard-print, KAORU’s in a silver version of her usual gear (with a bit of leopard print to mimic Hikari), Cutie’s in white & Kansai’s in lime green with her amazing Doctor Octopus cosplay.

Kansai talks mad shit to start, drawing Hikari in with KAORU, but then Cutie stalks in for a stand-off- the Champs dodge dropkicks and Kansai just KTFOs KAORU right then and there, earning a “9” count. Funny bit as Kansai avoids a double-team and Cutie walks in & falls for the exact same moves, and Hikari hits a ridiculously long Rolling Cradle for two. Kansai just runs in and bootswipes KAORU (still recovering on the mat) and SPLATTERS Hikari with a backdrop, just being totally dominant. Cutie does a Takako-lite heel routine to little reaction, but hilariously flies back when Kansai kicks Hikari in Cutie’s clutch hold- like the kick was SO POWERFUL it made Cutie sell, too. Kansai slows it down with methodical stuff on Hikari, no-selling her comeback and even Samoa Joe-ing a running dropkick by casually moving out of the way. Cutie adds more slow punishment until Hikari finally dropkicks away- KAORU has a go, but also gets caught in the clutch/kick move and is sharpshootered for a while as this is definitely going long.

KAORU finally hits an Oklahoma stampede of all things to come back- Hikari gets kneed, but does her Moonsault dodge, Kansai nails KAORU, but then Hikari ducks and CUTIE takes a kick, and finally Kansai eats a German into a series of dropkicks from all sides! Kansai avoids stereo flying headbutts (Hikari is WAY late), but eats a 2nd-rope dropkick, then a flying one to the BACK of the head by KAORU… and NOW the stereo headbutts hit! They do a half-hearted cartwheel handspring elbow/running knee/corner DDT thing, but KAORU wows ’em with a springboard double-stomp for two. KAORU tries a Manami Roll of all things, getting powerbombed to death for two, but she catches Cutie charging in and goes for another springboard… and Dynamite kicks her right out of her leap. Cutie tries to keep her down, but her kicks look straight-up wimpy- she avoids a backdrop & gets a German and Dragon Suplex for two- Hikari saves. Cutie readies her Flying Stomp, and then KANSAI does one, again wowing the fans. And then they do a DOUBLE-TEAM Flying Stomp! Hikari so clearly is able to break it up that the fans don’t pop for the near-fall. Kansai friggin’ Razor’s Edges Cutie right onto KAORU, again getting two as Hikari saves. Well that’s a new one.

Kansai has Cutie run interference while she hits the Backdrop Driver… “Fuck YOU!” bridge by KAORU! See, NOW the fans are into it- Hikari couldn’t get in and they knew it. KAORU avoids Splash Mountain, but stumbles on the landing so Kansai just wipes her out with a kick. Kansai gets all confident, hitting the “Splash Mountain Set-Up Pose” and HAHAHAHAHA RIDER KICK TO THE BACK OF THE FUCKING HEAD! Great camera angle made that one a surprise! Kansai is so floored by that move (a somersault missile kick) she’s easily Moonsaulted- Cutie breaks up the pin. Moonsault STOMP! Cutie saves again, to a chorus of boos. Hikari hits ANOTHER Moonsault, then KAORU does one, then it’s ANOTHER Moonsault Stomp… but Cutie gets past KAORU and breaks it up! Hikari’s out of shit, so KAORU comes in and hauls Kansai up for one hell of a Brainbuster- Cutie saves AGAIN. KAORU tries her Springboard Moonsault, landing on knees. Kansai finally escapes when Cutie lands a Flying Knee for two, giving the boss a reprieve and some rib-tape on the floor. KAORU gets help in armdragging Cutie off the top, and Hikari tries a Tiger Driver (!) for two. Cutie gets a surprise Straightjacket German for two, then latches on a Dragon Sleeper- Hikari sells this as a deadly choke but the crowd just deflates from it.

Kansai’s finally recovered, but misses a flying headbutt, but when Hikari moves to capitalize, in comes Cutie again with another Flying Knee. KAORU charges, but gets launched over the top trying her Thesz Press, then Cutie Flying Knees her to the floor! Kansai wipes out Hikari with another kick, and a Backdrop gets two. KAORU reverses Splash Mountain, so Cutie deals with her while Kansai lands a KO kick that kills Hikari until the count of “9”. Hikari’s staggering around so Kansai hits ANOTHER Backdrop for two, and Splash Mountain… is reversed to a rana for two! Damn, nearly twice in a week that got her. Cutie tags in, hitting a Dragon Suplex for two, but gets tossed off the top by KAORU- this brings Kansai in to try SUPER Splash Mountain… but KAORU flips up for a rana, assisted by Hikari, who Rider Kicks Kansai to finisher her threat, KAORU moonsaulting off the apron to keep her down while Cutie plans to pounce on an exhausted Hikari in the ring- Flying Knee! 1…2… kickout! Cutie, desperate, tries a Dragon SUPERPLEX, but KAORU pulls her off- Doomsday Device Moonsault! For two! Okay wow, thought that was it for sure. This allows Kansai to recover, but Hikari knocks her off the apron and KAORU hits a fantastic tope suicida to put a stop to that, and Hikari flies off the top for a sunset flip on Cutie, and THAT finally gets the three at (26:21)! New Tag Team Champions!!

This is one of those “UGH this is gonna go so long” matches that was like *** at best and then just got better and better because joshi likes to subvert my expectations halfway through, haha. So the first part of the match had all the resting, with methodical beating and some decent enough heel stuff from Cutie, but was mostly Kansai being dominant. Honestly, Cutie’s offense looked as loose and weak as ever, to the point where it hurt her parts of the match, so the whole story became “Kansai reasserts her dominance by brutalizing the pretty girls” and only tagging Cutie in for “filler”. They were noticeably going long for a good while, as even the big spots seemed to be hit at half-speed, which I think was affecting the crowd response, as you’d think things like Stereo Double Stomps and a Razor’s Edge Your Partner would draw a big reaction for the kickouts, but nope- they knew that wasn’t gonna be it only 15 minutes in.

But that crazy bit 20 minutes in where it’s all Rider Kick/Moonsault/Moonsault Stomp/Moonsault/Moonsault/Moonsault Stomp was EXCELLENT, and set the stage for Cutie to heel it up with endless kickouts- the crowd wanted that to be it so it was a heartbreaker. And MAN that Rider Kick out of nowhere just ruled the world. What a total game-changer. And that nearly kills off Kansai, thus putting her on an equal level with the others, so in the proper endgame, everyone’s tied up and the faces are able to reverse Splash Mountain again and again so they can stay alive. And of course while KAORU does cool stuff, this whole match is screaming out “HIKARI IS ELEVATED NOW!” because she is able to do tons of damage to Kansai, then finish off Cutie with a ton of moves. And jesus- how do you accurately Moonsault someone off of another person’s shoulders? Hikari’s pinpoint shit with those moonsaults is crazy.

Rating: ****1/4 (a flawed, yet very excellent match- lots of boring bits and a weird flow, and possibly TOO many Finisher Kickouts by the end, but they EARNED that win)