Joshi Spotlight: Megumi Kudo vs. Combat Toyoda- Exploding Barbed Wire Deathmatch!

(Kawasaki Stadium, May 5th 1996)
* And here’s one of the biggest joshi shows in FMW history, as we get not only Chigusa Nagayo vs. Shark Tsuchiya in a rematch of their miscarriage of justice from late ’95 (when Shark won only because it was basically a 3-on-1 handicap match thanks to her subordinates), but it’s MEGUMI KUDO vs. COMBAT TOYODA, the top two women in FMW history, in Combat’s retirement match! And it’s one of the best women’s singles matches ever, to boot! And probably the best Barbed Wire Deathmatch there ever was, making maximum use of the gimmick!

CHIGUSA NAGAYO (GAEA Japan) vs. SHARK TSUCHIYA (FMW, w/ Miwa Sato & Bad Nurse Nakamura):
* And here it finally is! So late in 1995, Shark was one of many wrestlers to visit GAEA from other promotions, but unlike most of them… she actually DEFEATED Chigusa! But it was in the most BS way imaginable, via having her goons Bad Nurse & Sato repeatedly interfere and beat on the GAEA boss until she finally couldn’t answer the count and was K.O.’d. It was the most unfair loss EVER, and so egregious that even my cynical, smart mark self got into the story and desperately wanted a rematch so Chigusa could teach these wannabe Dump Matsumotos some lessons. This stuff is straight out of 1980s AJW- virtuous, rules-following babyfaces going up against cheating heels who constantly interfere and get tainted wins. Both are in their street clothes here, to show how serious and not like a normal match this is going to be.

We start off with Chigusa talking smack on the mic and Shark IMMEDIATELY moves in to decapitate her with a frickin’ flaming kendo stick wrapped in barbed wire! And Chigusa takes a shot straight in the back and she’s already lying on the ground, writhing in agony. Shark, damage done, tosses the stick and grabs a KUSARI-GAMA (a sickle at the end of a chain), shoving that into the wound while her seconds hold Chigusa down. Shark aims for a Greco-Roman breathing fire move, but Chigusa kicks the lighter out of her hand and whups on her outside, smashes her with a chair, and piledrives her through a table- in the first two minutes! Even ECW would be like “Hey, hold back on that, would you?”. Both sell death, Chigusa almost getting up but collapsing (it almost looks like she realized she had to sell this, lol). Chigusa chairs Shark, but still hunches over to sell the back repeatedly after that flourish, and now has a messed-up leg. The horrified crowd sees Shark stalk Chigusa on the way to the ring with that damn Kusari-Gama again, sawing at Chigusa’s knee like a crazy person.

Back in the ring, Chigusa gets whipped to the ropes but comes back with her roundhouse kick, landing on her back and immediately selling it. She manages to grab a giant rope and puts her whole body into beaning Shark with it- Rope vs. Kusari-Gama! The sickle slices the rope when Chigusa tries to block with it, blowing the crowd’s minds, and one of Chigusa’s seconds runs in to save her mentor! Chigusa manages to convince her to get out, but turns her back and gets sickled for it. Her knee and forehead get gouged as we take a look at a concerned Sakie Hasegawa in the stands for some reason, and finally Chigusa’s hauled up via the hooked blade for the big shot of her yelling in agony with blood streaming down her face. Chigusa finally kicks her away and stumbles forward, looking dazed, but Shark easily dumps her and the seconds come in to pounce on her broken body. When they finally leave her alone, she stumbles up, puffy and bloody, looking like she’s about to puke… and she opts to just kick Shark down and open-hand strangle her like Frankenstein, making sure everyone can see her screaming face while she does it. Then she just hits a chokehold to put Shark down, then armbars the sh*t out of her until the ref jumps in and calls for the bell (10:55 of 13:02 shown)- Shark has officially been beaten unconscious.

Then, in a glorious bit of psychotic revenge, Chigusa just SHREDS the arm, tearing into it with armbars while the FMW goons come in to try and stop her- she flings all of them off, and then does so to the GAEA girls when they run in as well! The last close-up is of Chigusa’s stunned face, like she’s not all there and is running on fury & instinct.

This is… one of those matches that ends up with someone just lying on someone else while holding a pointed object against their body for half the match, so it’s tough to really rate. You can’t ask for a better seller than Chigusa, but the sickle isn’t even rotated back & forth when Shark uses it (possibly because it might be real)- she just presses it against something and holds it there unmoving for a minute at a time. Granted that’s an AWESOME weapon. But what we end up having is nothing but weapon spots from beginning till end and then interference from the goons. So that’s all held together by Chigusa’s storytelling ability and Shark being an vicious heel- granted both are fantastic at that (Chigusa is an S-tier seller, for instance), so it brings the match out of “Mere Garbage Wrestling” territory. I didn’t really like the comeback in the end, though- all that stuff Shark does and Chigusa just kicks her in the gut and chokes her and that’s it? At least the post-match arm-wrenching was suitably vicious and made her look crazy.

Rating: **3/4 (great selling and some GREAT weapons, but mostly “stand around and hit weapon shots and then a short comeback”. +1/4* for the sickle slicing the rope spot, though)

* So this is it- Combat finally calls it quits after generously doing jobs for half a year to a ton of names. Atsushi Onita had barely retired a short while before this, too. This was Combat’s tenth year in the business, and she’d been dominant in FMW, and is currently the champion. Kudo does an interview beforehand, talking about how she usually fights Deathmatches with a lot of anger or hate, “but there’s none of that today”- simply a desire to both use all their experience and have a match they’ll remember forever. Combat cuts a simple babyface interview about wanting to give one hundred percent in her last match, which “I can’t lose”. She tells younger fans & wrestlers that she hopes they can feel her spirit and learn from it. Kudo comes down to some heavy metal in a nice robe, while Combat has her eyes closed in thought as her theme starts up… and then SWITCHES TO “WILD THING” HELL YES! Live for Onita’s spirit! What an epic tribute. Combat can barely hold it together as she walks down the aisle one last time.

Standard deathmatch psychology here as they repeatedly tease shoving people into the wire to get the fans into the notion of it and build anticipation- Kudo tries strikes but gets pummeled, and nearly gets chucked into the wire. They work a bloody HEADLOCK and get it over, because every reversal attempt nearly puts Kudo into danger, and the fans bite on it every single time. Kudo throws running kicks, each threatening to push Combat into the wire, but she positions herself away every time. Nobody can get the advantage (Kudo has speed, but Combat can shrug off the shots more easily) and Combat hits a powerslam reversal for two. Kudo avoids getting slugged into the wire by blocking a shot and dodging… but Combat charges and DROPKICKS her into the other side! BOOM! Even Combat and the ref roll away from the “force” of the explosion! Combat finally hauls Kudo up for the one-handed powerbomb for two, then keeps on the back with a spinning inverted torture rack into a drop-down, then slams the back with headbutts and surfboards her.

Kudo reverses another powerbomb with an armdrag, dodges a move, but THIS time she avoids Combat’s charge, and COMBAT goes into the wire for an explosion! BOOM! Caught the crowd with that one! Combat writhes in agony while we get a close-up of Onita himself with tears in his eyes like he’s watching Bret Hart in there- Kudo brings Combat down with a sleeper as both bleed from the arms. Enzuigiri & dragon sleeper keep it up, and Combat sells so hard she collapses on a whip, avoiding the wire because she’s already too dead. But she backdrops out of a Tiger Driver attempt and lariats Kudo into the wire! No explosions, but Kudo sells the stabbiness of the wire well enough, pulling off each arm one at a time- Combat drags her off, and Kudo takes a swing, ending up in a Bridging German reversal for two! Kudo lands on her feet from a powerbomb and DDTs Combat for two, then reverses a lariat for a Northern Lights suplex for the same. Kudo takes ANOTHER passionate wild swing and ends up backdrop drivered onto her head! Two! Huge Ligerbomb- 2.8! Combat’s exhausted disbelief and eye-roll as she pushes Kudo out of the pinning hold is great. ThunderFire Powerbomb (kneeling tiger driver) and she STILL can’t pin her!

Both sell like nuts, Combat trying to find her spirit so she can forge on, and she hits ANOTHER ThunderFire Powerbomb… for two! Crowd totally bought that- Kudo finally reverses out of another attempt for two, then both are down. Combat roars to life again, but nearly goes into the wire, and Kudo tries to GERMAN her into it, but Combat reverses, only for Kudo to run off, charge back in, and COMBAT CATCHES HER AND SMASHES BOTH OF THEM INTO THE EXPLOSION HOLY JESUS! BOOM! Kudo went in butt-first like she usually does, but Combat snagged her in a waistlock on the follow-through and practically shoved her neck-first into the explosives. That looked absolutely VICIOUS. Both women are absolutely DEAD as Onita buries his head in his hands- Kudo is glassy-eyed and both can only barely stumble up after two full minutes of selling, which is exactly how you handle that bump. They even use each other as braces to stand up (oh man, I love that sh*t), and Kudo slaps her into the Tiger Driver… and Combat kicks out! Kudo manages to do a waistlock version, but spikes Combat absolutely plumb the f*ck on her head in a TERRIFYING bump. And STILL she kicks out. I’m shocked she can even move. But that’s all her fight gone, and Kudo finally ends things with the Kudome Valentine (Vertebreaker) at (21:26), ending Combat’s career for good.

Combat gives a one-armed “good job, kid” pat, and Kudo gets her arm raised in victory, only to flat-back, completely spent. Onita himself drags Kudo, crying, over to Combat, and the two hold hands as they lie there selling death. Onita tosses some Phoenix Downs or some sh*t on them, Kudo gets stretchered out, and Onita (who is being a real attention whore here, I gotta say) carries Combat out so she can salute the fans from another position. The wrestlers, lying in agony in the back, finally congratulate each other, crying together to end the thing in a sign of ultimate respect.

These matches are a fascinating display- the first eight minutes would be NOTHING in any other kind of match, but here they serve the story and put over the match- nobody wants to go into the explosions, so everyone is super-careful and tries every advantage to put the other into the wire without taking too big a risk themselves. So all the headlocks and basic “do a strike then reposition” stuff sells it completely- like a battle royal where you’re TERRIFIED to take the big bumps- putting over the fear hardcore. And then Kudo finally hits the wire and it’s a huge game-changer- Combat works the back until Kudo’s speed puts COMBAT into the wire. Combat herself reverses after Kudo tries to wear her down and puts Kudo into the wire, then they trade bigger and bigger moves to try and score legit pins as the contest wears on, eventually just throwing out huge bombs like the backdrop driver & Ligerbomb into her ThunderFire finisher. A bit of the “Endless Kickout” stuff that fit the joshi style of the time, but more EARNED because it’s Combat’s final match and everyone was giving it their all, and earning the big bumps and kickouts. In the end the barbed wire bump just killed Combat too much to continue- Kudo could barely stand herself, but got up after 2 minutes and hit three big moves in a row, and that was that. And Combat becomes one of very few wrestlers to have wrestled their best-ever match in their swan song.

Rating: ****3/4 (an absolute classic and probably the best Deathmatch ever)

So suffice to say, FMW has a major banger of a show here, and a legendary all-time match to boot! Alas, it’s a Phyrric victory, as Combat bows out of the business at the same time, leaving FMW far worse off.