Joshi Spotlight: GAEA Ring on the Beat

(July 20th, 1996)
* Back to Korakuen Hall for more GAEA! More mix & match stuff as we get a GAEA trios match, featuring the first actual heel turn of the promotion, as Mayumi Ozaki of JWP comes recruiting for her heel stable! And holy crap would THAT group stick around- Manjiimortal notes that this may be the most influential/important show in GAEA history, just for that! Then it’s a very interesting solo match, as AJW’s Toshiyo Yamada takes on the #2-3 rookie in GAEA, Sonoko Kato, in a long singles match!

* A basic GAEA trios match, albeit with the two leaders of the promotion on one side, making this a total uneven contest. Chigusa’s in red/yellow/black, KAORU’s in silver, Toshie’s in green, Bomber’s in blue, Chikayo’s in yellow & Sato’s in white.

A screaming Toshie spams good back elbows & Sato and stretches her out, but Bomber tosses KAORU with overthrow powerbombs- people keep running in to interfere, too. This sets up KAORU’s Thesz press, then a leapfrog stomp off Toshie, into KAORU’s senton for two. Toshie headscissors Bomber but gets cute and is Samoan dropped, but manages a victory roll. She does her backflip kick on Sato as this is increasingly a “Toshie Showcase”, but Sato hits an Oklahoma Stampede of all things for two. KAORU missile kicks them over when she tries another, then Sugar takes on Chigusa herself, who no-sells and annihilates her with a spinkick. But the boss gets too cocky and tries too many and gets dragon screwed, leading right into Chikayo getting tossed onto her and running stomp spam! Chikayo faceplants trying the “wheelbarrow bulldog” thing, and Chigusa airplane spins her from that position, holding her legs.

Chikayo uses speed to harry Chigusa and get a two-count, but Chigusa catches her and incredibly hits a powerbomb/Double Doomsday Device with her partners springboarding in, only for the other team to pile on and knock the ref off-course. Everyone tags out and KAORU gets powerbombed by Bomber but quickly hits a backdrop driver and does a Doomsday Device cross-body with Toshie flying in. Brainbuster gets two- Chikayo saves. But then Chigusa flies off the top and brains KAORU by accident, sending everyone scrambling and Bomber splashes for two after her team knocks KAORU off the top. Bomber fails a Tiger suplex, but lariats KAORU from behind and then completes it for two- Chikayo adds a missile kick and the Backdrop-to-Powerbomb gets two. Double suplex into a flying stomp… and she bridges out! Bomber puts her up top, and then dodges Chigusa’s interference attempt, resulting in KAORU getting stunned again, and Bomber hits a backdrop lift into a SUPERBOMB to score the pin at (10:50 of 20:52) shown! Bomber beats KAORU! Okay, I was expecting a squash, so this is definitely a surprise.

And then, in a move that would have ramifications for Joshi promotions to this very day, JWP’s Mayumi Ozaki of all people shows up to talk some smack, sending KAORU into a frenzy, but Oz has come to recruit Sugar Sato to a new stable she calls OZ Academy… and Sugar accepts! So one of wrestling’s longest-running heel stables gets its start right here in a minor GAEA show.

An interesting match, seemingly focused on showcasing Toshie’s speed and moves to start, then Sato gets some shine on Chigusa. Then everyone trades off and they do AJW-style “Finisher Escalation” with Doomsday Devices suddenly popping up out of nowhere and KAORU no-selling a powerbomb, only for the team to hit her with move after move until she can’t recover. So in the end, BOMBER gets elevated because she actually pins the trainer/upperclasswoman. The in-ring stuff was quite good, with few screwups, and with a 20-minute match time I can buy the sudden finisher stuff more than the 10:00 it really looked like with this clipped version.

Rating: *** (I dunno- seemed pretty good and moderately MOVEZ-heavy, to the point of being a rare early GAEA match that was like that)

* Yamada takes on another of GAEA’s hottest prospects, as Kato takes a shot. Kato’s body looks almost exactly like Meiko’s at this point, which actually had me checking the match description in Google Translate, lol. Kato has upgraded from a blue swimsuit to kickpads & a singlet with a silver shirt underneath, looking much more modern and “legit” and less jobbery. Yamada’s in black & white gear.

Kato attacks before the bell and Yamada has this great “ow, that actually hurt…” reaction, grabbing her face and trying to shove the kid off to get a breather, finally just jump-kicking her in the face to stop the onslaught. Yamada eggs on dropkicks but clotheslines her and hits the snap suplex, then we get a very interesting portion where she easily takes Kato down and uses simple headlocks & leglocks and the occasional kick to wear her down and essentially establish dominance. Kato finally gets out of it with a front facelock and throws a million kicks, more or less holding Yamada off via persistence over power. Yamada finally ducks a shot and hits a belly-to-belly suplex, but Kato keeps yanking on her and gets her bulldog. She tries more, but Yamada avoids the Tornado Bulldog, then kicks her coming off the top. The crowd seems to be watching this intently- they’re not reacting much, but it doesn’t seem like they’re bored, I guess?

Yamada doesn’t follow up on the move and instead takes a breather, but misses a lariat and Kato fights her into a rolling fireman’s carry for two. Yamada snapmares out of one sleeper, gets locked in another one, and finally beans Kato with a huge kick to the face. She waits it out while Kato is stunned, getting “8” on the ref’s count, then cracks Kato in the back of the head to get another one. Kato finally catches a kick, but Yamada handily reverses to a backdrop suplex for two. Another, bigger one gets two and Kato bridges out, and THAT gives us our first big crowd pop! Yamada gets cocky and misses a spinkick, getting rolled up for two, but climbs up and has to fight an inanely-persistent rookie until she FINALLY gets a cross-body… and Kato rolls through for two! And NOW Yamada really has something to prove, as that was close, so she hits her spinkick, yanks Kato up from the pin, then does the same after a big German. Kato kicks out of a side slam, and Yamada smiles, impressed, then holy sh*t- actually USES HER FINISHER, and the Reverse Gory Bomb pins handily at (15:34).

Naturally, Yamada cuts a promo telling the kid she did great- and though I don’t speak Japanese, I’m quite sure she was SO impressed she just asked Kato to be her partner for the upcoming Rookie/Veteran “Discover New Heroine” Tag Tournament.

This one had an interesting, simple story- Yamada was too good to lose to Kato, and easily dominated at first, but Kato was so persistent and tried so hard that Yamada couldn’t really maintain that much of an advantage. She mostly had to wait for opportunities to reverse on her. So like, at no point was I all “wow, this is amazing” and there weren’t a lot of eye-popping spots, but it was just this very basic, easy to understand tale that goes on for fifteen minutes (probably too long), and gets pretty good in the last few minutes, as Yamada’s trying to end it but Kato’s acting like she can steal one. Good cardio and selling from Kato, who has a fantastic “Oh wow, I’m KTFO’d in here…” sell already at this stage of her career. And Yamada was good as a controlling veteran who wasn’t like… a complete monster about it or anything. Like there was none of Aja’s brutality or Hotta’s arrogance. She just confidently and knowingly wrecked Kato in there… until she got really angry and started the “pulling them up” thing after hitting the LEGIT offense- like the rookie-slaying stuff that once it hits, they’re done. And actually having to use her true-blue finisher to end this kid was as good of a “putting them over through defeat” as you’re gonna get- I mean, this is a 2nd year wrestler and Yamada comes off like she had to make this emphatic.

Rating: **3/4 (like, the actual wrestling isn’t outstanding and the moves were more “scrappy” than good at points, but the story told was super-interesting and I was kind of marking out for THAT over the actual grappling)

There’s actually some stuff missing from YouTube right now, which is rare for GAEA’s channel. Yamada later teams up with Kato to defeat Chigusa & Meiko in only (8:30), which is kind of surprising. The new OZ Academy (Mayumi Ozaki, Rieko Amano & Sugar Sato) beat Chikayo Nagashima, KAORU & Toshie Uematsu in a crazy (34:37) result, too- half of it made TV. This establishes that stable, and given how it’s STILL FRIGGIN’ AROUND, you could say this is quite important, haha. Chikayo apparently turned heel as well during the match, kicking KAORU to save Sato. Said to be really good with a strong storyline.