Joshi Spotlight: Double Inoue vs. Manami Toyota & Mima Shimoda (3WA Tag Titles)

* Now we finally hit the mid-point of the year (though I really haven’t seen a lot of AJW stuff on YouTube from earlier in the year), and we have the big World Tag Title match- Manami & Shimoda vs. Kyoko & Takako! I’ll also run notes on what happened at Wrestlemarinepiad 1996 (spoiler alert: Not Much!).

AJW actually ran an interpromotional “All Rookies” show May 1996, which is the most promotion-packed show I’ve seen in ages! Nothing appears online, the show was mainly clipped on the VHS release, and the results are mostly “Rookie A beats Rookie B”, but there’s a few notes:

A “Woman’s Graduation Tournament” has Semi-Finals & Finals here- Sugar Sato d. Aki Kambayashi (7:54), Misae Genki d. Kiyoko Ichiki (9:38), then Genki wins the tournament, beating Sato at (6:56). JWP’s Hiromi Yagi & Kaori Nakayama defeat JWP’s Kanako Motoya & AJW’s Yumi Fukawa (11:18). Yoshiko Tamura defends her AJW Title, beating JWP’s Tomoko Kuzumi (11:15). GAEA’s Chikayo Nagashima & Sonoko Kato fight AJW’s Kumiko Maekawa & Tanny Mouse to a (20:00) Time Limit Draw (OH GOD A TWENTY MINUTE TANNY MOUSE MATCH!). In the biggest bout, Chaparrita ASARI wins a vanity-belt, the WWWA Super Lightweight Title, in a match against GAEA’s Toshie Uematsu (14:35). Finally, a 4-way interpromotional match, as Chikako Shiratori (JD’) & Michiko Omukai (LLPW) beat Rie Tamada (AJW) & Meiko Satomura (GAEA) in (20:50).

They ran an All Pacific Crown “Decision Tournament” to decide the vacant White Belt on the same night as the following Tag Title match.

KAORU ITO d. TOMOKO WATANABE (12:49)- Mike Lorefice points out something I’ve always remembered him saying- “Probably the worst thing about Watanabe & Ito forming a team in 1997 is their matches against each other tended to be among their more impressive.”. He gave it ***1/2.
REGGIE BENNETT d. MARIKO YOSHIDA (10:24)- Said to be a “glorified squash”.
WWWA WORLD SUPER LIGHTWEIGHT TITLE: CHAPARRITA ASARI d. RIE TAMADA (12:09)- Said to be pretty decent- ASARI was iffy but she was still doing stuff nobody else could do.
REGGIE BENNETT d. KAORU ITO (9:56)- Reggie dispatched her pretty quickly, but Ito was said to look good all night.

So AJW’s YouTube presence has gone to s--- in 1996 and I can’t find much. GAEA, of course, uploads tons to THEIR channel, so my Spotlights are probably mostly coming from there. But I’ll make some summations of what’s going on, plus talk about Wrestlemarinepiad 1996.

There’s an AJW Champions 1996 show that’s missing on YouTube- looks like most of it is in “highlights only” form, but the last two matches get a ton of time. The company’s eight rookies are in an 8-Woman Tag and go to a (20:00) broadway, Yumiko Hotta beats Etsuko Mita in only (9:28), and Mariko Yoshida actually pulls one out against Toshiyo Yamada in (13:44). This is a major upset and a sure sign that Yamada is now in a “Suzuka Minami” role of being a gatekeeper to rising stars, as they FINALLY start elevating Yoshida to where she should be.

Aja Kong & Mima Shimoda beat Manami Toyota & Kaoru Ito in a huge (29:46), which is crazy. And the 3WA Tag Champs, Double Inoue, beat the weirdo mish-mash team of Reggie Bennett & Tomoko Watanabe in (30:99). Reggie actually scores the first pin on Takako in (11:31), meaning the champs have to actually work for their win in some decent booking- Kyoko beats Tomoko in (7:07) and Takako beats her in (12:01). That is a serious match-time for Reggie in particular. I can’t imagine a lot of fans thought they had a shot to win the gold, so this is an odd one.

There’s a shocking result shortly after where Yumiko Hotta defeats Reggie in only (6:52), retaining her All Pacific Title- was Reggie hurt? That’s super-quick. She works the next two nights in tags, then misses two months… where she actually WINS the All Pacific Title in a one-night tournament! Hotta dropped the belt to do her “Shooter” gimmick.

They run the G*Top “One Day Tag Tournament” in May, which features the gimmick of Veterans teaming with Rookies. This sets the stage for a lot of flukes, as you see the champ Manami go out in the first round to an Ito/Shiina team of all things:

Kyoko Inoue/Tanny Mouse d. Toshiyo Yamada/Misae Genki (7:29).
Mima Shimoda/Chaparrita ASARI d. Yumiko Hotta/Kumiko Maekawa (13:10).
Mariko Yoshida/Rie Tamada vs. Takako Inoue/Yumi Fukawa (10:43).
Kaoru Ito/Yuka Shiina vs. Manami Toyota/Yoshika Tamura (11:41).

Kyoko/Tanny d. Shimoda/ASARI (11:06).
Yoshida/Tamada d. Ito/Shiina (4:24).

Kyoko/Tanny d. Yoshida/Tamada (12:15).

(May 11th 1996)
* This show features a very odd, disappointing theme- Veterans murdering Rookies in one-sided matches. I have no idea why AJW figured it’d be a good gimmick to showcase their company this way, as the subordinates just get crushed in match after match. Most of this is not on YouTube, including the main event, which is apparently a major banger between Double Inoue & the Tokyo Sweethearts (Manami Toyota & Mima Shimoda).

KAORU ITO d. YUKA SHIINA (3:52): Oddly, Ito takes on her G*Top Tag Tournament partner.
TOMOKO WATANABE d. YOSHIKO TAMURA (1:33): Man, who’d Tamura piss off?
KUMIKO MAEKAWA & TANNY MOUSE (AJW) d. CHIKAKO SHIRATORI & FLOR METALICA (JD’) (12:26): A rare interpromotional match. Kind of surprising Chikako can’t even get a win over these two.
* Only thing on WMP ’96 I could find. Yoshida was still finding her place on the card after her injury, and Fukuwa was a newer girl (debuted in 1994). She’d have a pretty forgettable run, I think, retiring in 2001 with only a single Tag Title anywhere on her resume- she bailed for Arsion in 1997 with numerous other girls, but never won gold there. Yoshida’s wearing a beautifully-hideous yellow jacket with a big yellow fez on her head, and a yellow leotard. Fukuwa’s got a black leotard with cut-outs, and some giant ribbon sewn onto it, going all over the place.

Fukuwa wisely hits a Flying Splash to the outside immediately and takes over, but Yoshida quickly takes the lead with a vicious dropkick and a Cartwheel Back Elbow. She dismantles the rookie with simple offense, but wows the crowd with a vicious backdrop right onto her neck. Fukuwa actually rolls through a Springboard Cross-Body with a count so close even I was fooled, and I KNOW who wins this! Yoshida is temporarily befuddled, but soon comes back with her signature Cartwheel Evasion and wipes Fukuwa out with Missile Dropkicks and a DDT of the second rope for the win (6:45).

Rating: *1/2 (basically just a squash, though Yoshida’s stuff always looks great)

BISON KIMURA & CHIQUITA AZTECA (JD’) d. CHAPARRITA ASARI & TOSHIYO YAMADA (AJW) (15:24): AJW takes a loss, but of course it’s two people they’re not serious about pushing anyway. Azteca apparently challenges ASARI to a Mask vs. Hair Match after the bout.
AJA KONG d. RIE TAMADA (14:19): !!!! Wow, that is LONG. I mean, Aja apparently crushes her and never once looks in danger, but that’s kind of a “push” for Rie (who has been the most advanced & pushed of the rookie generation for years now).

DOUBLE INOUE d. MANAMI TOYOTA & MIMA SHIMODA (52:15): Okay, now THAT’s a long match! Seems like they were teasing a Time Limit Draw (as Manami/Kyoko did in ’95), only to sneak a win out in the end. Mike Lorefice’s review indicates that the drawn-out nature means it couldn’t be in Toyota’s “Workrate Style”, so she didn’t stand out as much as Takako & Shimoda, who do better character stuff. But Manami crushed Takako’s back during the match, kneeing her in the spine coming off the apron, then flipped off the crowd while the doctors looked at her foe. She continued to heel it up, hitting a camel clutch on Takako and waving Takako’s arm at Kyoko for a taunt. The Inoues tortured Shimoda in revenge. Apparently these injuries all happened late, as the early half of the match was just “time-wasting”. Shimoda was driven off in an ambulance after the match. He rated it ****. I’d like to see it, but long match-times make for awful recapping experiences, lol.

And now finally the match up at the top of this article!

(June 22nd 1996)
* So this one has a few balls in the air- Double Inoue have been Tag Champs for about half a year, having defeated Akira Hokuto & Mima Shimoda (a team that seems partly to keep Hokuto in a prominent position, while also elevating Shimoda), and Toyota & Kyoko are of course longtime rivals (with Kyoko almost never beating Manami in any of their spot-filled matches). But now Manami and SHIMODA are partners, which is actually how they started (as the Tokyo Sweethearts in the late ’80s). As Manami is also the current World Champion, this would be quite the win. The Sweethearts are wearing their typical solo gear- Manami’s black leotard (though with a lot of white lines on it now) and Mima’s tasseled two-piece. Takako’s wearing some weird latex/ribbon thing out of Mayumi Ozaki’s closet, while Kyoko has combined Macho Man & Ultimate Warrior’s “Mega Maniacs” gear together into one look.

FALL ONE: Takako & Shimoda start, Takako quickly hitting the Aurora Special (shoulder-mounted backdrop suplex), making sure to point it right at Manami’s face so she can see it. But Shimoda lures the Inoues into Manami’s missile kick, then holds them… but Manami boches her Running Springboard thing and tumbles to the floor! But it’s impossible to tell with her- it weaves right into the story of the match, as Double Inoue dominate on the outside. I swear they just pre-plan for “okay, just in case I slip on the ropes this time…” or something. Shimoda takes some damage, but avoids Kyoko’s Run-Up Belly-To-Belly and flies off for her sweet Flying Headscissors takeover for two. Manami misses a dropkick and eats a Giant Swing, but D.I. tosses her into the ropes… and she springboards off right into a sunset flip on Takako for the first fall (3:30)! Clever! Set up the botch first so that we don’t see it the second time! Or they just screwed up and then recovered quickly, haha. Takako looks annoyed and hurt while Manami rakes in the applause.

FALL TWO: You don’t need to ASK Takako to be a psychopath, so she’s out for blood in this fall, scrambling all over Manami. Double DDT from the Inoues, then Kyoko’s fireman’s toss & a VICIOUS inverted fireman’s carry into a backbreaker. Then it’s “Fold Manami in Twain” time. Takako keeps doing a fun thing where she keeps repeating a Boston crab, slamming down on Manami’s ass every time because that part hurts the most. An STF puts on the pressure, and Takako must be delivering some epic smack talk, because the crowd is going “OOOHHHHH!” and clapping every time she does it. We get the wimpiest-looking “clubbering!” spot of all time, but Kyoko whips Manami to the ropes and eats a perfect Manami Roll for the crowd-popping comeback! Shimoda tries stuff but takes a perfect plex, but she soon catches Takako & hits a piledriver. Rolling Cradle gets two for Manami. MAN this crowd is hot!

Manami gets cocky in the corner, and Takako catches her with a powerbomb for two, gets a Backdrop Hold reversed, but reverses a charge to the Backdrop Hold for two. Takako*Panic (flying knee) misses and Shimoda missiles in with a dropkick in a funny bit, but Manami tries a Moonsault and hits feet! Takako even hits an incredible Backdrop Driver on her after, then CRUSHES her with Takako*Panic for two. Shimoda is really selling Kyoko holding her back to make these seem more dramatic. The Niagara Driver/Super Chokeslam is avoided and Shimoda dives in, so Manami charges up to Takako, who spikes Manami with the Super Chokeslam anyways, splaying out on her upside-down body for two! Kyoko’s Niagara Driver fails, but Manami tries another Manami Roll and gets MURDERED with a powerbomb- Jeeeeeeeeeesus, those bumps. Manami rules. Great last-second kickout. Kyoko tries another but NOW gets Manami Rolled for two, but Manami climbs up and now eats the Run-Up Belly-To-Belly Superplex!! For two! Kyoko brutalizes her with a pair of lariats into the ropes, but misses a third, only to absolutely 1.5 Jannetty her with another (Manami literally flipping backwards from a standing position), and that gets the three at (15:28). Yikes- Manami was a bump machine beyond measure in there.

FALL THREE: Crowd chants for the charismatic “KYO-ko!” on cue, but Kyoko actually taunts Manami by getting a “To-yo-ta!” chant going, goading her into trying more. Manami, to be fair, is selling REALLY well, just hanging over the ropes. She gets stretched for a while, but dropkicks out on Takako to FINALLY bring Shimoda in. She figure-fours Takako, who shoots Manami an absolute death-glare when she climbs the ropes, talks sh*t, and then flies off with the most beautiful Superfly Splash I’ve ever seen. Tremendous. LONG bunch of Figure-Fours from Mima, who shows some fantastic facial expressions (a combination of desperation/hate/taunting) while Takako wails in an almost uncomfortably realistic way, clutching a taped up leg. Kyoko gets so disgusted she bowls over both Sweethearts, but Shimoda just shoves her back and stands between the Inoues, throwing more stomps and kicks to the knee. Finally she misses a move, and Takako’s so pissed she just hits huge machine-gun-slaps and pummels away instead of tagging.

Kyoko finally gets in, hits an All Japan-esque Release German & her corner DDT, and then stretches Mima with her surfboard. Interesting how the third fall is the one with all the stretching. Aurora Special is countered for two, but Takako follows her up top with a super armdrag. Shimoda counters the Inoues with a double hooking clothesline and the Sweethearts take the offensive- Shimoda hits a dive and Toyota does a Running No-Hands Springboard Tope Con Hilo (taking a second try to get it). Stereo Flying Headbutts miss Kyoko. Mima still hits a Butterfly Superduperplex, then stops Kyoko’s Run-Up Flying Back Elbow… with the Death Lake Driver (tiger superplex)!! Kyoko BARELY gets her shoulder up after 2. Damn, her kickouts are good.

Tiger Suplex gets 2- Takako saves and tries to jostle Kyoko to life. She saves Kyoko from the Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex, but Manami avoids an Aurora Special tandem move, only to climb the ropes… and end up reversed into a Super Powerslam! But she manages the “F--- YOU!” Bridge! I loved the crowd’s roar as soon as Kyoko flipped her into the proper grip- fantastic timing. Kyoko tries a whip, but Manami reverses to the Japanese Ocean (double-hammerlock) Suplex for two. Takako stops a follow-up, and Kyoko gets a Lariat for two (alas, not enough “oomph” to make it a replay of last fall). Niagara Driver (over-the-shoulder ligerbomb) gets two! Niagara Driver/Super Chokeslam MDK Finisher- Mima saves! The Sweethearts come back… and it’s a Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex!! But Kyoko kicks out! Holy s---! The timing on that was beyond great- Kyoko hitting one last burst of energy to pump an arm out. Assisted Japanese O.C. Suplex… and Takako saves! Manami tries to finish with the Japanese Ocean Bomb (her new mega-finisher), but the application sucks and so it only gets two. Mima & Takako brawl outside, and an exhausted Manami can only heft Kyoko onto the top rope… allowing her to get in an easier (ie. non-lifting) position for one last Cyclone Suplex, and THAT finally gets the pin at (17:32).

Jesus- I saw the participants and figured it’d be good, but I wasn’t expecting to watch Manami get murdered for fifteen minutes, then THREE Ocean Cyclone Suplexes in the Escalating Finishers portion! The bumping by Toyota and her incredible moves were pretty much the showcase here, though Takako had great character bits, and Kyoko’s All Japan offense was on great display (Lariats, Powerslams, Release Germans, etc.). Turned into a hell of a match immediately and only got slow in the third fall’s first half (the leg stuff was very well done, but meant nothing because Takako’s leg was fine later). The timing on some of the spots was great- especially Kyoko’s deft reversal of the superplex to the Super Powerslam.

This was all greatly enhanced by a MEGA-hot crowd who absolutely loved everything they were being shown. They popped at exactly the right times (Kyoko’s powerslam off the top and ESPECIALLY her Cyclone Suplex kickout). The only things holding it back were some fairly loose, weak offense by Shimoda (who is GREAT, but can’t match the move application of the others and a lot of her stuff looked “light” as a result, some timing issues getting into some spots, and a lot of Doomsday Device-style moves that felt like the top person just lazily flopping off the top rope to grab the other’s hair instead of a proper clothesline. Also I would bet money the Ocean Bomb was supposed to finish, but Manami lost her grip or Kyoko’s weight and it ended up being a “drop while she’s already hunched over” move instead of a proper powerbomb, so they improvised a new finish (Kyoko says something as soon as Toyota went for the pin, probably like “Don’t f*cking pin me- that sucked”.

Rating: ****1/2 (a classic tag team match and total war; only thing keeping it back was some slow stuff that went nowhere and loose application)