Joshi Spotlight: GAEA’s First Anniversary Show!

(April 29th 1996)
* GAEA Japan is now one full year old! With the greatest inaugural rookie class ever but shows still dependent on other companies to fill out the card, it’s maturing quickly. This set of matches is all clipped, but it’s got the final ten minutes of a BIG one- LLPW’s most credible wrestler, SHINOBU KANDORI (aka the woman who fought two classics with Akira Hokuto) comes calling, bringing rookie (and future terror) Michiko Omukai up against the biggest women’s star in history- Chigusa Nagayo and her own rookie, Sugar Sato. The match proves fun mostly for Kandori’s antics as an elitist shooter- she’s a truly underrated character.

The GAEAISM channel is missing a few matches:
HIKARU FUKUOKA (JWP) d. BOMBER HIKARU (GAEA) (15:45): this seems oddly padded and kinda long for Bomber to last, but that’s the style of both companies at this point.
WONDERFUL FREE: KAORU d. Carol Midori (10:52)

* Holy s---, NEW wrestlers! This is the first I’ve seen of either one, and is Rina’s debut. She lasts two years and Maiko three, so they’re not GREAT successes but at least stuck around a bit. They have to pick unique colors, as enough of the early crew are still around in their Arena swimsuits- Maiko’s in an ugly brown one, and Rina’s in a light… puce? Salmon? Google says that’s “coral”, I guess. It’s pink, I dunno. Rina is TINY and super-thin, probably around 5 feet tall, and Maiko is comparatively bigger and thicker.

Maiko dropkicks Rina face-first into the corner before the bell, but Rina forward-flips away and does dropkicks of her own. The fans applaud a simple sequence where one resists a body slam and the other a leg roll clutch, then Maiko just tosses Rina around a bunch. Rina comes back with Thesz Presses, but gets launched up out of one, but reverses a whip into a cartwheel handspring ass slam (Maiko came too far out of the corner). They scrap a bunch more, fighting for pins- Rina actually does the Jaguar Yokota bridge-out of a pin, but Maiko hits a back elbow, kicks her out of a charge, and hits a Saito Suplex for the pin (4:10 of 11:29 shown). Not as good as the first class of rookies was in their debut- there was a lot of uncoordinated charging around and bumping into each other out there. Neither seemed to develop any “unique offense” yet, but they’re still new.

Rating: DUD (more or less two people learning to work in front of an audience- the crowd was appreciative of some stuff but it was clipped AND pretty clumsy)

* Oh god who the hell are these people, lol. Sato (in white) is GAEA, and Aiki (in purple) is an FMW girl. Chihiro and Makie are… hey, these are GAEA girls who debuted last year! But I haven’t reviewed any of their stuff (save Chihiro in a trios match), as they’re mostly not on the YouTube channel. Chihiro’s in a black Arena swimsuit and Numao’s in an all-black shirt & tights with kickpads- unusual for a GAEA rookie. Chihiro only stuck with GAEA for a couple years before leaving for elsewhere, and Numao lasted until 1999.

Chihiro hits a flying kneedrop on Aiki for two, but Aiki chops her down and hits a body attack- this is all looking kinda uncoordinated, like people are bumping into each other and not sure where they need to be, just like last match. Aiki hits Mongolian chops but gets booted by Numao, and Chihiro kinda stumbles aimlessly. She & Sato trade anklelocks, and Numao kicks the snot out of Sato & uses a dragon sleeper in a close call. Aiki stumbles in again and launches Numao in a fireman’s carry toss right in the corner- Numao gets her foot on the ropes. Flying back elbows from Sato gets two-counts, but Chihiro keeps saving, then Numao slides out of a slam and kicks Sato in the back of the head. Now AIKI saves, and Numao whips Sato off the ropes, but Sato catches a kick and throws on an ankle lock for the submission (5:55 of 18:15).

This was REALLY bad- only Sato was any good, and even her flying elbows looked way off (she kind had to swing her arm out and hope for the best). Numao was hesitant but at least had kicks, Chihiro was BRUTALLY clumsy and didn’t know where to be, and Aiki was plodding and uncoordinated.

Rating: DUD (I fear what the full match would have looked like)

* Midcarder Candy takes on rookie Toshie in what’ll probably be one-sided. Toshie’s in green & Candy’s in her army-print gear.

Candy tries to overpower Toshie to start, but gets rolled up a lot and missile kicked in the head. Candy finally comes back with a kick to the head and scores a missile kick & DDT, then a funny headstand on the top rope into a Vader Bomb- “F*ck YOU!” bridge from Toshie! Candy misses another missile kick but gets a German, but Toshie rolls her up again. When that doesn’t work, she basically collapses- Candy easily hits Rolling Germans, then hits a submission just to be a butthole about it- a weird figure four gets the win at (4:25 of 10:57 shown).

Rating: * (very little to rate- mostly the veteran giving the rookie lots of rollups and reversals, but handily squashing her in the end)

* This is the final match of GAEA’s “rookie tournament”, I think. Chikayo’s in yellow & black, and Kato’s in blue, again with her arm all taped up.

Chikayo hits a rana to start, Kato responds with a bulldog, and they both throw forearms- Chikayo wins a face-kicking contest and works a double-chickenwing for a couple minutes- Kato finally comes back and does her own stretching. Chikayo does rolling shoves and a rana out of the corner, and when Kato reverses another, Chikayo reverses back for a sunset flip, getting a close two. Missile kick gets two, but a second misses and Kato cranks on a sleeper- she tries another but Chikayo armbars her to reverse, trying to destroy that arm for good. Kato fights with her free arm, and the two end up rolling around the mat yanking each other’s hair to show just how nasty it’s getting, and Kato tries to fire herself up, only to get rolled up for close-calls until Chikayo hits another Rana, this one getting the three at (9:01 of 19:21 shown). Chikayo wins the tournament!

Strong psychology and good emotion for a rookie bout- what we got was still mostly just lying around in holds and working Kato’s arm, but it’s obvious they’re light-years beyond most first-years. Kato was great as the mega-babyface getting frustrated and fighting through her arm being worked, but Chikayo was just too quick and athletic, always catching her until Kato finally couldn’t get out.

Rating: ** (your everyday GAEA rookie bout, but with better psychology. Half-clipped, though)

* Holy crapbuckets- BATTLE OF THE CHIGUSA CLONES!! So Yamada was one of many “Chigusa Clones” (so much she even sounded like her, apparently), while Meiko is the big GAEA rookie, so this might be fun. Yamada’s in black & silver, while Meiko’s in red.

Of course Meiko starts it off at 120 mph and is flailing around with cross-armbreakers, so Yamada kind of has to weather the storm as best she can. She gets a lariat but Meiko drags her off the top for ANOTHER cross-armbreaker until Yamada finally settles things down and hits her snap suplex & a sleeper. Meiko keeps trying to rev up, but Yamada’s hauling her down repeatedly, bloodying her lip and such- Meiko tries her windmill-punch thing but Yamada just hauls off and DECKS her with a slap, stunning the kid. Meiko rapid-fire slaps once she’s up, but Yamada hits a great belly-to-belly for two. LONNNNNNNNNNGGG headlock bit keeps it on the mat, then Yamada hits a rolling kick off the top for two. Backdrop & lariat keep it up after more Windmill shots from Meiko, but Meiko rolls through a cross-body for two. Yamada finally puts on her big stuff, though, hitting a kick & German for two. Meiko tries one last cross-armbreaker, but Yamada keeps rolling through and then puts on her OWN, and that’s it at (10:13). Clever move, using the rookie’s own spammed move against her.

Meiko vs. Veteran matches always have this similar kind of energy, where she’s got so much “go” in her but they’re just eventually able to stuff her. Like she has more energy than skill at this point, making her annoying for vets, but not exactly a threat. I did like how Yamada just schooled her with the same move Meiko had been trying all match- truly establishing a veteran’s position.

Rating: *3/4 (fine enough, but a bit long for what is essentially Meiko spazzing out and Yamada trying to hold her down in sleepers)

* A hell of a main event here, as both companies bring out their top stars, plus a rookie. Expect lots of arrogant behavior from Kandori, smug as ever and self-assured she’s better than everyone else put together. She’s got bleach-blonde hair and a wild purple & yellow “Ugly LLPW Singlet” going on. Omukai is a very tall, lanky Idol-type in shiny silver & pastel green with a skirt- she later becomes a big part of ARSION and other joshi companies in the early 2000s before she fades away, but here is an LLPW nobody. Sato’s in white & Chigusa’s in mostly black leather at this point, and with orange hair.

We’re JIP with Kandori just shoving Sato over to Chigusa, bringing the applause as the two titans square off. Chigusa actually looks nervous, but uses the fans to build herself up, scoring a sneaky kick out of a lock up, but both smash into each other with clotheslines and we’re back to square one. Chigusa actually takes Kandori down and slides into the sharpshooter… but in a FANTASTIC bit, Kandori won’t go over all the way and sneaks into a grapple on the planted leg, and the crowd is like “OHHHHHHH SH*T!” and Chigusa freaks and desperately grabs the ropes. Sadly we’re clipped to Omukai missing a cross-body but actually getting a German on Chigusa. Kandori hits a big wind-up headbutt and perfectly just looks at the crowd and holds one finger up (“one more?”), then blasts her again. But she whips her off the ropes and eats the roundhouse kick to the face! Lariat gets two but Kandori locks on a sleeper, saved by Sato. Kandori just points at her for intimidation, then shrugs off her armbar attempt by pawing her down like a grizzly and doing the “wipe it off” motion, haha. Hilariously, Chigusa just smokes Kandori to allow Sato to apply another armbar all the way- Kandori actually gets held down for a bit, but easily judos out and just cranks on Sato’s head, taunting Chigusa as she does so, daring her to come back in.

Kandori kind of toys with a struggling Sato, but Chigusa breaks up the Fujiwara armbar (which’d actually get the win easily)… and then Kandori’s all up in her face, so SATO gets a sleeper, and Chigusa just laughs and is like “hahah YEAH, you get that sleeper!” with her body language. Kandori just judo flips her out with ease, but when she gets cocky, Sato hits a DRAGON SCREW and the crowd roars! LOL and Kandori’s just like “God D*MN it…” because this is more annoying than dangerous. OMG and now she’s actually trying to coach Sato on how to actually do the move properly! Finally she just steps up and slaps her- Omukai’s flying stomp gets two on Sato. Northern Lights Suplex gets two, and Chigusa saves Sato from a Samoan drop and the vets keep interfering, so Sato tags out at last- Chigusa backdrops Omukai for two, but Kandori aides her in hitting a flying knee smash for the same. Chigusa wipes out Kandori but Omukai AGAIN kicks out of a backdrop suplex, and even a DRAGON suplex doesn’t work- Omukai just flops over. But then Kandori just leaves the area like a doofus to fight Sato and Chigusa hits a Death Valley Driver for the academic win at (8:33 of 11:46 shown).

Great stuff between the vets- Kandori is still such a fantastic character, showing all this bravado and bullying, but selling it perfectly when someone drills her with a surprise shot. I loved that whole thing with the sleepers and then Kandori laughing off all Sato’s submission attempts (even correcting her application once she realizes it’s off). So we had great fun even though the vets are barely giving a maximum effort in a short match.

Rating: **3/4 (like the in-ring work is barely **-worthy, but Chigusa & Kandori are just THE BEST at character work)

So all in all, it’s a bit too short on each match to rate properly, but provides a look at the advancing of the first generation (they’re all good!) and a look at the newest kids (they are NOT!). Kandori is a wonderful character and Rookie/Vet matches are still fun, but it can be a slog to get through the rookie stuff.

* So GAEA Japan’s inaugural rookie class is one of the greatest of all time- future megastars Meiko Satomura & Chikayo Nagashima, along with Sonoka Kato- all three still wrestle today! Everyone after them… is much iffier. Assessing all the rookies individually, with their color coding:

Meiko Satomura (red): Try-hard mega-rookie. SUPER young but goes all-out with every effort… almost to a cartoonish extent, like she’s “Look at ME! I’m trying SOOOOOOOO hard!” and going over the top. Her windmill arm-swings into a charging forearm in hilarious.
Chikayo Nagashima (yellow & black): The most slender of the rookies (and the only one to avoid the single-color Arena swimsuit), she’s also the most athletic & acrobatic, now hitting ranas and stuff regularly. Looking at her here, I’d suggest she was gonna turn into a high-flier or the “Manami Toyota”-style worker of the crew.
Sonoko Kato (blue): Kind of the “Old Dependable” worker- not as flashy as Meiko, but maybe more well-rounded and average, being bigger. Uses the bulldog as a recurring move. Good body language and character work- might actually be the best overall, but a “sleeper” choice.
Sugar Sato (white): Sort of like a smaller version of Kato. Well-rounded but doesn’t stand out yet.
Toshie Uematsu (green): Quite good, but TEENY-TINY and slender.

(the next generation)
Maiko Narita (pink): Showed early promise, but disappeared a few months in for reasons that are unknown and mysterious. She would not be the first GAEA rookie to do that.
Chihiro Nakano (black): God as my witness I forgot this one existed. Ah, I’ve only reviewed a single match so far- she is mostly absent from the GAEA YouTube channel. Seems generic and not too great so far- seems like she doesn’t know what her next move is.
Makie Numao (black with kickpads): I haven’t seen anything but this one match. Didn’t look great, didn’t look too bad. Made out to be more credible than the other rookies.
Rina Ishii (salmon/pink): VERY tiny and quick. Not good yet.
Maiko Matsumoto (brown): Hideous gear; not good yet.