Joshi Spotlight: Akira Hokuto vs. Bull Nakano & the Manami Toyota Gauntlet

So this is a bit of a double-whammy, as I find the last two things on the unusually-packed December 1995 for Joshi- a big final battle between Akira Hokuto & Bull Nakano, as they pull out ALL the stops against each other, and the Manami Toyota Gauntlet I reviewed a couple of years ago! That one’s a re-post, but otherwise this review would only be 650 words long- and hey, it fits the schedule!

(Dec. 30th 1995)
* A weird random match from December sees Bull (who’d recently lost to Kyoko Inoue, passing the torch to her former subordinate) taking on Akira in what seems like the end of an era for them- Bull’s career is slowly ending while Akira is still going strong, and they were old rivals back in the day. Bull’s in black with white lightning all over it, while Akira’s in red & gold.

Bull gets a backdrop suplex immediately, but takes a bridging German for two- Akira avoids a lariat to cheers, but Bull turns a test of strength into another one. Bull is noticeably limping with every step but manages two more lariats for two, then kicks her ass for a bit until Akira drags her outside to toss her around some, then powerbombs her onto a goddamn table while’s she’s STANDING ON IT, causing her to fly backwards head-first into the table beside them when it collapses! Jesus Christ what an insane woman. Akira manages to get back into the ring, nodding at Bull for some reason, then of course stops her entry with a Tope Con Hilo to the floor! She telegraphs a missile kick back in the ring and misses, but locks Bull in a leghold when she pounces- she switches to Stranglehold Gamma when Bull makes the ropes, drawing a big pop for using her husband’s move. Bull kinda treats it as a “weakly struggle to the ropes” move, then reverses another to an inverted DDT for two.

Guillotine Legdrop! That gets two as well, drawing a pop. Somersault Guillotine Legdrop! Again two! She goes for some kinda top-rope move (super stone cold stunner? She’s got an underhook on the chin there), but Akira turns it into a Super Victory Roll for two! Dangerous Queen Bomb gets two as well! Then Akira hits a release German, but flies out to the floor and misses Bull, so Bull slams her, climbs to the second rope, and prays before hitting a Guillotine Legdrop out there! Bull is looking like every bone in her body is in agony as she gets back in the ring, while Hokuto milks the count to “19” before getting in. Poor Bull can barely hit a f------ bodyslam, climbing up and trying her MDK- the Moonsault- and eats the mat. Akira roars to life and hits the Fisherman’s Buster- two! Akira tries a piledriver, but Bull reverses- BULL’S POSEIDON!! Akira’s head crushes into the mat, and Bull gets the three at (11:54), thank christ. Poor woman is dying out there.

Okay, this was kinda funny- like it was “BULL vs. AKIRA”, but like… the “Greatest Hits” version of that match. Where they start right out with crazy stuff and never let up, having a match that’s only 12 minutes but contains all the stuff they’d normally do in 20, so it has almost no restholds or much “story” beyond “hit all your s--- until they die”. Which seems nicer to Bull’s dying body, but HOLY S--- those bumps were killing her even worse than the earlier Kyoko match and you can tell. The Guillotine to the floor looked like it broke her damn hip and she could barely do anything after. That gave the final minutes a nice desperation when both were dying.

Rating: **** (kinda hard to rate it when it’s largely a spotfest of killer moves when both are dying on their feet so their technique is falling apart, but HOLY S--- those bumps and moves)

The Manami Gauntlet from Dec. 25th as well!:

(Christmas Day, 1995)

-So Manjiimortal shared this with the Joshi Boyz one day, and despite it being a bit out of the timeline, I figured I’d review it now since it’s kind of a funny anomaly.

So Manami Toyota is the newly-crowned WWWA World Champion of All Japan Women’s Pro Wrestling, having defeated Dynamite Kansai to win her second title. And then they do this random thing where she has to wrestle a thirty-minute bout, but against TWENTY PEOPLE! AJW’s Jobbers and Main Eventers alike come out, and will alternate 1-minute matches against the Champion- if someone is pinned, they are immediately replaced. Since there’s 30 bouts and 20 wrestlers, some will get a second shot!

The Opponents:
Jobbers (ie. “Young Lionesses” with only a year or so in the business): Kayo Noumi, Mari Mogami, Mina Taniyama (the future Tanny Mouse), Yoshiko Tamura, Yuka Shiina, Yumi Fukawa
Up & Comers (lacking credibility, but are clearly improving): Misae Genki, Kumiko Maekawa (legit martial arts; future Ace of AJW), Chaparita ASARI (high-flying popular midcarder)
Midcarders: Tomoko Watanabe (having gained a lot of weight and fighting like a power-brawler), Kaoru Ito (part of Toyota’s stable- high flyer), Sakie Hasegawa (potential Future Ace, but got hurt and retired young), Mariko Yoshida (semi-recently injured and climbing back up the card)
Upper-Midcarders: Takako Inoue (Idol Wrestler and very credible upper-midcarder), Etsuko Mita (mostly a tag wrestler, but a credible midcarder), Mima Shimoda (scrappy insane heel circa her singles push)
Main Eventers (ones with a real chance to beat Manami in solo matches): Toshiyo Yamada (Toyota’s former tag partner and best friend/rival), Kyoko Inoue (Main Eventer; dresses like Ultimate Warrior but with All Japan moves), Yumiko Hotta (highly-credible brutish martial artist), Aja Kong (Former Ace and destructive Monster)

1) Sakie Hasegawa- Unusual shorts & belly shirt look for Sakie, as we finally reach the mid-90s in fashion. Manami dodges her friend’s Savate Kick, dropkicks her to the floor, and hits her No-Hands Running Springboard Plancha. Hitting a death-defying move in the opening minutes of a 30-minute bout is SO Manami.
2) Kayo Noumi- Manami destroys the white-clad rookie immediately, ANNIHILATING her with a dropkick for the win. Using your “opening seconds” moves to pin a rookie is such an Ace move.
3) Mari Mogami- The purple-clad rookie attacks right away and gets a rollup for two, but Manami splats her with a dropkick out of the corner and pins her. Hahahaha Manami Toyota of all people making like Bill Goldberg is amazing. I keep waiting for Heenan to scream “SNAP!”.
4) Mina Taniyama- Tanny Mouse attacks with a dropkick, but gets a shove and a Missile Dropkick, Manami landing on her for the win.
5) Misae Genki- The tall & lanky martial artist uses elbows and an atomic drop, but Manami backdrops out of another one and hits a Bridging German for the win.

6) Yoshiko Tamura- A tiny red-clad jobber uses two crowd-pleasing “leg-cradle” flips to start, but Manami reverses a whip with a slingshot cross-body for three. You can tell she’s flagging because that was supposed to be another No-Hands move, but she had to use the middle rope AND one of her hands for the jump.
7) Yuka Shiina- Another diminutive kid hammers her with dropkicks, but gets booted and caught with the Double-Overhook Bridging Suplex for the pin. It’s so funny watching Manami against average-sized Japanese women, because she usually wrestles people her size or bigger- you forget that she’s actually quite tall.
8) Yumi Fukawa- Our last real jobber comes in with machine-gun slaps all full of herself, but the exhausted Champ ain’t having that- she absolutely TRUCKS Fukawa with a right hand, and finishes with the Moonsault.
9) Kumiko Maekawa- Manami pounces the martial artist and uses the JB Angel Corner Armdrag, but Maekawa nails a BRUTAL jumping high kick, a wicked superkick, and some chest kicks to harry the champ. Time is over at (1:00).
10) Chaparita ASARI- The 5’6″ Toyota is a full head taller than ASARI. The kid hits the handspring Mule Kick in the corner, but gets kicked in the butt on the second one. Toyota aims for a Superplex, but ASARI falls on her, then hits a Plancha Suicida for the (1:00) time limit.

11) Tomoko Watanabe- Now as stocky as Silver King (but not deceptive about it), Tomoko beats the s--- out of Manami outside the ring, then hits Lariat Spam and a Flying Thesz Press at (1:00).
12) Kaoru Ito- Ito throws a stomp off the apron and ANOTHER outside ass-kicking, tossing chairs, and Toyota only gets a German out of the corner at (1:00). These are the champ’s “Rest Periods”, by the by- as much as getting offense spammed on you is rest.
13) Mariko Yoshida- Yoshida hits her sunset flip spot, but Manami Planchas her and hits a bridging suplex. Yoshida gets her Run-Up Flying Cross-Body reversal at (1:00).
14) Takako Inoue- Oh, lordy. Just the person you want to fight when you’re tired. Takako, in her All-Black Max Evil gear, DDTs Manami twice and levels her with the “walk around and knee them in the face” Tombstone. Manami reverses out of an Aurora Special (shoulder-seated backdrop) for two. Takako nails the Super Armdrag (screaming “Bakayero!”) at (1:00).
15) Etsuko Mita- Good God. Mita, in all-red, uses a Superplex and three Blazing Chops, but can’t hit the Death Valley Driver by (1:00).

16) Toshiyo Yamada- Yamada nails an Enzuigiri and kicks Manami coming off the top rope, but the Finisher That Never Hits fails twice by (1:00).
17) Mima Shimoda- The evil Shimoda milks the moment while the crowd chants for Manami, but the champ takes two Germans and a Tiger Suplex, getting her own German by (1:00). Of course she gets in an extra stomp at the end.
18) Yumiko Hotta- The brute takes her time with kicks, throwing to Rolling Corner Kicks before (1:00).
19) Aja Kong- OH GOD. Aja, calm as she can, just hits five Backdrop Drivers right onto Manami’s neck until (1:00) elapses.
20) Kyoko Inoue- AND IT’S A GIANT SWING WHY NOT?? Kyoko finishers her with the Niagara Driver (over-the-shoulder Ligerbomb), getting the first pin on the champ.

21) Kyoko Inoue (2)- Kyoko gets another shot! She goes for the Niagara Driver again, but it’s a MANAMI ROLL! … for the three!! Haha, paid THAT one back.
22) Kyoko Inoue (3)- sure, why not? Crowd boos the lack of sportsmanship from Kyoko- one of the first times she gets booed! Kyoko gets a Powerbomb out of another Manami Roll, and catches her with a Super Powerslam for two. Manami gets a German as (1:00) goes by.
23) Mari Mogami (2)- PURPLE JOBBER IS BACK!! Manami actually has to sell Jobber Offense, and her corner dropkick and bridging vertical only get TWO-COUNTS because she’s so dead. PSYCHOLOGY! Flying Splash gets the three.
24) Yuka Shiina (2)- Spamming running attacks actually has Toyota on the ropes, and she can’t get a pin before (1:00). Fun use of the rookies.
25) Sakie Hasegawa (2)- Savate Kick Spam puts Manami down, but the Uranage is reversed and she takes a BRUTAL Powerbomb trying a jumping Rana as (1:00) hits.

26) Mariko Yoshida (2)- Yoshida hits knees on a Flying Splash, but gets a Plancha to the outside- Manami sells an injury as (1:00) passes.
27) Kaoru Ito (2)- Ito spams Stomps, but misses her Flying one… but gets a sunset flip for the pin! Our first “lower rank beats higher rank” pin!
28) Mima Shimoda (2)- Shimoda pounces, but gets dumped and eats a Missile Dropkick to the outside! But then a Moonsault hits knees, and Shimoda MURDERS her with the Death Lake Driver (a goddamn TIGER SUPERPLEX), spiking her for the three-count.
29) Aja Kong (2)- Yeah, that’s who I wanna fight after taking a Tiger Suplex off the top rope. Manami manages some (slow-motion) reversals of the Uraken & Backdrop. Some ugly reversals see Manami eat a weak Uraken for two. Piledriver hits as (1:00) elapses.
30) Yumiko Hotta (2)- Hotta bludgeons Toyota to start, but the champ fires back- HEADBUTT CONTEST!! Back and forth that goes until (1:00) goes by, and Hotta disrespectfully latches on for more of a beating and the they have to be pulled apart!

FINAL SCORE: Manami 9 – 3 (18 draws)

Well that was a fun little side-contest! About thirty minutes go by, all in all, and there were a ton of neat “little things” and good psychology. You could see Manami wipe out seven rookies in a row to establish the difference between the Ace and the jobbers, but then the up & comers could hold her off. Then the midcarders (11-15) take their turn and each do a little bit of damage as Manami largely rests and takes their s---- you can see her cardio understandably flag here. The Main Eventers, in turn, completely truck her until Kyoko Inoue (#20) wipes out the exhausted Champ with only two moves (Giant Swing – Niagara Driver). But even THEN Manami looks strong, because she gets a flash pin on Kyoko to pay her back, then time goes over on their third attempt. Finally she’s re-established by squashing a rookie again, but the NEXT time, she can’t even put Shiina away with the same move as their last bit.

The next three midcarders push Toyota to the limit and add more punishment, and then ITO of all people gets a pin- a flash pin late in the match, but still. Shimoda actually gets a three-count too, setting up Aja & Hotta to kill her. Curiously, Toyota’s only beaten thrice and only once to a main star, actually keeping pretty strong and thus setting up some future matches and bragging rights, while “saving face” because, well, she’s fighting 19-30 fresh opponents in a row before she finally starts getting pinned by stuff, and STILL manages to score one once in a while. And now we have definite matches against Kyoko, Ito, Shimoda and especially the nasty Hotta, who is first up on the docket for the new year!

Rating: ***1/2 (fun use of time)