Joshi Spotlight: AJW Grand Prix ’92 (Part Two)

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Ever wanna go on a backstage tour of Korakuen Hall? This show lets you do that!  By proxy of an Attitude Era-style brawl!

AJW JAPAN GRAND PRIX ’92 (Part Two)- BOMB BLAST FEVER POINT

(07.05.1992, Tokyo Korakuen Hall)

-The second of three tapes devoted to the AJW Grand Prix, which lasted for three months and had a bunch of tapes between it. The last tape is only from the week before, so most of these people are well-travelled already. This is one of the lowest-rent of the tapes, though, as many of the matches are cut down by half.

“TL;DR- Why Should I Watch This?”: Ever wanna go on a backstage tour of Korakuen Hall? This show lets you see it! Via Aja Kong & Manami Toyota inventing the Attitude Era Main Event Style! The early matches are clipped to death and not very good, but the latter bunch are great, though not the classics we’re used to seeing weekly at this point. Also, a joshi handicap match, further proof that great things were expected of Mariko Yoshida, and more!

Read moreJoshi Spotlight: AJW Grand Prix ’92 (Part Two)

Joshi Spotlight: AJW Beat Power Oh-Mi-Yah!

AJW BEAT POWER OH-MI-YAH!
(27/06/92; Omiya Skate Center)

-Time for another full AJW show- this one 2:30:00, and hailing from the… Omiya Skate Center? That’s apparently in Saitama, Japan. The arena is dark and the sound blows on this tape, too. We’re right in the middle of the AJW Grand Prix (with a few matches tonight), Las Cachorras Orientales has formed, and Toshiyo Yamada just defeated her partner & friend, Manami Toyota, in a big part of their long rivalry. And part of what makes that interesting is tonight… they defend their WWWA Tag Titles against two of AJW’s top wrestlers- Akira Hokuto & Kyoko Inoue! THAT’S gotta be awkward. Meanwhile, it’s another shot in the Aja/Bull feud (they’re in a 6-Woman Tag), Mariko Yoshida defending the “Rookie Belt”, and tag partners Sakie & Debbie fighting on the lower card! Actually, it’s a lot of interesting match-ups tonight.

LOL and the video’s opening straight-up gives away the finish of the Main Event. This is like those anime episodes where it’s like Dragon Ball Z: Cell Kills Android 18 And Takes His Final Form, And Also Yaumcha Dies! This country doesn’t appear to have much of a thing about spoilers.

Read moreJoshi Spotlight: AJW Beat Power Oh-Mi-Yah!

Joshi Spotlight: Yumiko Hotta

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JOSHI SPOTLIGHT- YUMIKO HOTTA:
Statistics:
Billed Height & Weight: 5’6″ 159 lbs.
Trained By: AJW Dojo
Career: 1985-today (still active!)

-One of the longest-serving Joshi still active, Yumiko Hotta was a great worker and a tough, credible name for decades, but is far less well-known than most wrestlers at her level, especially in the West. My best guesses as to why:

1) Spent most of 1992-1995 (generally considered the “Peak of Joshi” by most, including Dave Meltzer) as the lowest-tier Main Eventer around. So if she was in the Main Event, she was losing and “Looked good in defeat”. So she wasn’t as memorable as her contemporaries.
2) Didn’t get a true World Title run until 1997, after Joshi had fallen into a backslide, and was the Ace of a gutted AJW with a diminished roster. This hurt her credibility as a top name.
3) Was “skipped over” for a mega-push compared to many later talents (Aja Kong, Akira Hokuto, Manami Toyota, etc.).
4) Not as charismatic as her contemporaries.
5) A penchant towards no-selling and booking herself as dominant, making her a prominent case of the “Elder Joshi were Selfish” stereotype that plagued the industry.
6) A tendency to join companies just as they were dying.
7) Her overall milieu (a short-haired, powerful wrestler with lethal kicks, a martial arts background, and a Powerbomb finisher) was identical to that of her contemporary, Dynamite Kansai… who was better than Hotta in every possible way.

Read moreJoshi Spotlight: Yumiko Hotta

Joshi Spotlight: AJW Grand Prix (Part One)

ALL JAPAN WOMEN’S GRAND PRIX ’92- PART ONE:
(21.06.1992)

-AJW, much like All Japan & New Japan, has a yearly thing where their top stars wrestle in a Round Robin-style deal. In this case, as with most years (others have been one-block round-robins or a standard tournament), it’s two “Blocks” of wrestlers doing so, with the winner of each block wrestling in the final match. Most of the matches weren’t televised or taped from what I can see. But these shows are a BIG DEAL in AJW, as we’ll see- every time I’ve seen a Grand Prix VHS release, it’s been absolutely stuffed with ****+ dream matches and people working their hardest- this is no “House Show Mode” release.

“TL;DR- Why Should I Watch This?”: Spoiler Alert- this ends with four matches in a row at **** or above, and one all-time classic. Also, Debbie Malenko talks with one of the commentators in English, giving us insight into early ’90s Puro we’d NEVER get otherwise.

Read moreJoshi Spotlight: AJW Grand Prix (Part One)

Joshi Spotlight: The Dawn of Las Cachorras

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I had to start with Las Cachorras Orientales reuniting in late 2019. I just had to. It’s too adorbz.

AJW SUPER CHARGE:
(24.05.1992)

-This is another AJW event at Korakuen Hall, about a month after the previous “Funto” show. It’s ALSO named “Super Charge”, like a prior show in 1992. The main focus here is actually on some returning wrestlers- Akira Hokuto, Etsuko Mita, Mima Shimoda and some others ended up on a trip to Mexico, where many puro stars go for extra training and character revamps (they’re still doing this; Naito gained his modern persona there, for instance). This was in part to gain some lucha experience and shake things up in AJW (newcomer Cintia Moreno is actually trained in the style, and worked a tour here as well), though few of the wrestlers really copied much of it.

This is mainly important because Hokuto & Mita came back with entirely new visual “looks” and personalities. Yes, this is the origin of Las Cachorras Orientales, which literally means “The Oriental Bitches” in Spanish. Shimoda would later join the group, but for now they merely have dyed hair, Atrocious Alliance facepaint, and other heel trappings.

“TL;DR: Why Should I Watch This?”: At least one match over ****, the debut of LCO in their “first form” against AJW’s current top heels, and a great Bull/Yamada match

Read moreJoshi Spotlight: The Dawn of Las Cachorras

Joshi Spotlight: JWP Super Major Queens FLASH!

JWP SUPER MAJOR QUEENS- FLASH!:
(22.05.94)

-Right in the midst of the Interpromotional Era comes this show- a JWP event with almost every match featuring an AJW invader, capped off by an Ace (vs) Ace bout- Dynamite Kansasi fighting the WWWA Champion, Aja Kong! Also wrestling is Kyoko Inoue against an up & comer, the legendary Chigusa Nagayo (on her JWP run to regather her strength) against Mayumi Ozaki, and an Idol (vs) Idol match- Takako Inoue & Cutie Suzuki! This is thus JWP’s biggest show ever up until this point, with major stars all over the place and a great Main Event. Weirdly, there’s no commentary at all for this show, giving it an odd feel… provided you notice it (I was 3/4 the way through Takako/Cutie before I realized “Hey, nobody’s talking here”).

“TL;DR- Why Should I Watch This?”: Standard-issue Joshi excellence, in that four matches hit around ****, and some rare “Dream Matches” you’ll literally never see again. The stars of  yesterday versus the stars of tomorrow is particularly excellent.

Read moreJoshi Spotlight: JWP Super Major Queens FLASH!

Joshi Spotlight: Dynamite Kansai

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JOSHI SPOTLIGHT- DYNAMITE KANSAI:
Stats:
Real Name: Chieko Suzuki
Billed Height & Weight: 5’8″, 205 lbs. (varied significantly)
Career Length: 1986-2016
Trained By: JWP Training

-Among the bigger stand-outs when watching Joshi cards in the mid-90s is the Ace of JWP, Dynamite Kansai. Probably the most underrated of the top-rated workers in Joshi, she’s been in a shitload of ***** matches (including the set of three with Mayumi Ozaki as her partner, against Manami Toyota & Toshiyo Yamada), has wrestled in two matches at ****1/2 in one night (in the TOKYO DOME, no less!), and more, yet is far, far less known than Toyota, Aja Kong or Akira Hokuto at the top of the mountain. Why? Probably because she was the Ace of the smaller promotion.

Read moreJoshi Spotlight: Dynamite Kansai

Joshi Spotlight: AJW St. Battle Day & Funto! (Hard Struggle!)

ST. BATTLE DAY:
(20.03.1992)
-This is a taped show at Korakuen Hall, largely centered around the Main Event. I’ll combine this with the following “Funto” event, since I only have the one match. These are largely intermediate cards of AJW, featuring their top-flight workers in major bouts, including the culmination of their Yamada/Toyota team’s push.

“TL;DR- Why Should I Watch?”: Most of these women are already at the point where they’re having **** matches in their sleep, and these cards do a good job of setting up what the peak of the Interpromotional Era will look like- Manami in particular is the worker of the future, with many wrestlers now openly mimicking her style, and this first bout is a major one for her career. Also, you can see just HOW GOOD Mariko Yoshida was until an injury derailed her career, and how good Sakie Hasegawa was at her “Plucky Rookie” style, which AJW shows by having her get murdered on every show.

2/3 FALLS MATCH:
WWWA WORLD TAG TITLES & UWA TAG TITLES:
JUNGLE JACK (Aja Kong & Bison Kimura) vs. MANAMI TOYOTA & TOSHIYO YAMADA:

Read moreJoshi Spotlight: AJW St. Battle Day & Funto! (Hard Struggle!)

Joshi Spotlight: Korakuen Super Charge

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Manami Toyota- Not just Meltzer Hype. She actually IS that good.

AJW KORAKUEN SUPER CHARGE:
(04.01.1992)

-Going back to the early days of AJW’s mega-cards, I figured this’d be a good place to start if I’m going to review the rest of AJW’s stuff (that I can find online, anyways). This one seems to have the theme of the stars of the future wrestling each other- the top acts aren’t here, but the #3-10 ones seem to be. Manami Toyota & Toshiyo Yamada keep their rivalry going, and Akira Hokuto tries to prove again that she’s one of the best in the world against Kyoko Inoue.

Unfortunately, a large chunk of the card is un-findable on YouTube (even translating the names into Japanese and searching THAT gets nothing), but the final two matches are the real stand-outs anyways. So instead I found the only match I could find from ANOTHER show and threw that one in. This is an interesting time, as the “Interpromotional Era” hasn’t started yet, and Aja’s still rising up the card, so people are kind of… jostling for position. Manami’s also using the offense she’d soon drop, as I see that odd Butterfly Lock/Leg-Trap move all the time.

“TL;DR- Why Should I Watch This?”: Three matches, all at **** or better. Meltzer rated one at *****, too!

Read moreJoshi Spotlight: Korakuen Super Charge

Joshi Spotlight: Devil Masami

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“I imagine she wouldn’t smell bad but she’d smell…weird. Like her hair would have the faint aroma of the ocean or something.

She seems like a goddamn mythological witch sent to the world because she can’t stand the thought of little girls being happy.”
-Phrederic, during a live-watch, about Devil Masami

JOSHI SPOTLIGHT- DEVIL MASAMI:
Stats:
Other Name: Super Heel Devil Masami
Real Name: Masami Yoshida
Billed Height & Weight: 5’6″ 154-198 lbs.
Career: 1978-2008 (30 years!!)
Trained By: AJW Dojo

-Having written a bio on Bull Nakano and showcased her ***** match with Devil Masami (Meltzer agreed, which is proof I’m right!), I figured I would write one for Masami herself next. Masami is probably one of the most underrated Joshi by Westerners owing to her tremendous obscurity- of the biggest Joshi shows of all, she’s in very few of them, and often in diminished roles; I’ve only seen a handful of her performances there. Never mind that her career peak was in the 1980s, which is ages before most wrestling fans would have ever heard of her.

Read moreJoshi Spotlight: Devil Masami

Joshi Spotlight: AJW Wrestling Queendom 1997

The main event, between Kyoko Inoue & Aja Kong. All the bouts are on this channel- just type in “Unified” or find out the names in Japanese and search that way.

AJW WRESTLING QUEENDOM 1997:
(23.03.1997)

-Aaaaaaaaaaaaand now we’re into the depressing year. 1997 is where it all fully went wrong for Joshi as a whole, but AJW wasn’t quite bankrupt here. What we now had was a very different company in a changing business, though, as the Joshi boom had hit big and then just DIED by this point. Admittedly it was kind of a “fad” thing and fads die out, but various other factors played into things. Kyoko Inoue was now the WWWA Champion, having defeated Manami Toyota to become the new top star… and sadly her reign was a complete box office failure. Perhaps because of that, this show is doing an interpromotional thing with Chigusa Nagayo’s GAEA Japan, but only with her rookies. So a lot of the undercard has GAEA girls on it. Otherwise, much of the card has people rapidly being pushed on it- the 3WA Tag Champs are Tomoko Watanabe and KUMIKO MAEKAWA of all people- a midcarder and a rookie as of last year! Kaoru Ito’s getting shoved into the Main Event spot, too- it’s like even with most of the old guard still around, they were desperate for people to fill the top spots.

“TL;DR- Why Should I Watch This?”: If you’re gonna love something, you should be there when it dies (ugh, I just compared a wrestling show to a dog being put down). And this is like watching the last hurrah of a company as it slowly falters and takes an eight-year lurch towards the grave. Okay, and the final three matches are all around ****.

Read moreJoshi Spotlight: AJW Wrestling Queendom 1997

Joshi Spotlight: AJW Wrestling Queendom- HIGHEST WARS

Another of those annoying ones- this channel has it all, but split up into multiple portions under 10 minutes. Look up “Highest Wars” to find the matches.

WRESTLING QUEENDOM 1996- HIGHEST WARS:
(31.03.1996)

-Joshi had changed tremendously in 1995- the Interpromotional Wars have largely subsided, leaving the companies mostly on their own (with cards looking somewhat… diminished, as a result). Manami Toyota won, then lost, then won the WWWA Title again! She currently stands as the promotion’s top star, but career-long rival Kyoko Inoue has risen up just behind her, and challenges her tonight- it’s their first match in years. Takako Inoue & Mima Shimoda are getting upper-midcard pushes, too, and everyone’s kind of… jostling for place, in this new era, now that Aja Kong has been unseated and they can’t just sit there in stasis while feuding with JWP or whomever. Unfortunately, business as a whole is down owing to multiple factors- the Japanese economy is faltering, the wrestling boom has faded a bit, and the aforementioned card-diminishment. However, tickets were apparently much better for this Queendom than ’95’s, probably owing to the strong Kyoko push and some interpromotional stuff tonight.

“TL; DR- Why Should I Watch This?”: Well, the last match is one of those bouts where you put two of the best workers on Earth and let them go crazy for 20+ minutes.

Read moreJoshi Spotlight: AJW Wrestling Queendom- HIGHEST WARS

Joshi Spotlight: Sakie Hasegawa

I love that stuff like this is part of Joshi, lol. It looks like something out of Tiger Beat.

JOSHI SPOTLIGHT: SAKIE HASEGAWA
Stats:
Billed Height & Weight: 5’7″ 154 lbs.
Career Length: 1989-1996
Trained By: Jaguar Yokota

-I find that for most Joshi reviewers, one of the big stand-outs on any AJW card you watch during 1992-1996 is Sakie Hasegawa. Debuting in only 1989, she was in the “plucky rookie” position during that peak era of Joshi, but she was so far beyond most of the people on her same level that it’s impossible not to notice her and be impressed- she had “Future Ace” written all over her, and the push she got indicated that in every way. Her Class of ’89 team included Kaoru Ito & Tomoko Watanabe, who both maxed out at “pretty good” in the same era, so Sakie going out there and having ***-**** matches was seriously impressive- like she wasn’t a “MOVEZ” wrestler, but a “little things” one- almost a proto-Chigusa Nagayo. And it was all the worse that she retired young, never having really attained her full potential.

Read moreJoshi Spotlight: Sakie Hasegawa

Joshi Spotlight- AJW Wrestling Queendom- VICTORY

Bull Nakano & Kyoko Inoue in the best match ever wrestled for the WWF Women’s Title.

AJW WRESTLING QUEENDOM- VICTORY (1995):
(26.03.1995)

-Four months after the biggest show in Joshi history, Big Egg Wrestling Universe, comes the next Wrestling Queendom event- Akira Hokuto was triumphant at Big Egg, but kind of went to Mexico for a while and kinda/maybe won’t come back. But that’s okay, because Manami Toyota, the flashiest worker in wrestling, is being elevated, and is now in our Main Event, taking on the Ace of AJW, Aja Kong! Bull Nakano is still WWF Women’s Champion, and is defending tonight. Plus we have a bunch of wrestlers who came out of retirement between 1993 and here, taking up spots on the card. And a few wrestlers are being elevated up the card, while others are sort of in interesting positions- Takako, Yamada, Bennett and others are floating around the upper-midcard, and who knows where they’ll land? So there’s a lot of drama and mystery about tonight’s big card.

“TL; DR- Why Should I Watch This?”: This show contains, I swear to God, FIVE matches at **** or higher, with one of the craziest MMA-style fights I’ve ever seen in a wrestling ring, the best WWF Women’s Title Match ever, and a Main Event that’s even better than THAT.

Read moreJoshi Spotlight- AJW Wrestling Queendom- VICTORY

Joshi Spotlight: AJW Wrestling Queendom- SUCCESS

The first part of the Main Event. Searching this is a bit of a pain- type in “Success” in this guy’s channel and you’ll find the matches, but all split up because it’s from ten years ago, before YouTube allowed longer videos.

AJW WRESTLING QUEENDOM- SUCCESS (1995):
* Four months after the biggest show in Joshi history, Big Egg Wrestling Universe, comes what is actually a PAIR of Wrestling Queendoms- SUCCESS and VICTORY. This show is a bit unusual in that it’s built entirely around a one-night tournament for the WWWA Tag Team Titles- the 99th champions, Double Inoue, willingly vacated the Titles, hoping to become the 100th champions as well! Which is kind of funny, but also TOTALLY BOSS, because they’re so confident that they can win that they’d do such a thing. This is an 8-Team Tournament, which is crazy considering how much damage it usually takes to finish off one of these wrestlers- tag bouts in Joshi are LONG. So we get this interesting thing, where most of tonight’s matches are 13-16 minutes long, but the losing team carries most of the offense so as to not look weak.

“TL; DR- Why Should I Care?”: It’s a really kickass tag tournament. And a good example of how to shake things up when the same bunch of people are fighting all night long. There’s a Super-Team, a Veteran/Rookie team, a Kicker Team, and the heelish delights known as LCO!

Read moreJoshi Spotlight: AJW Wrestling Queendom- SUCCESS

Joshi Spotlight: AJW Wrestling Queendom 1994

AJW WRESTLING QUEENDOM 1994:
(27.03.1994)

-So with the rousing success of the first Wrestling Queendom event in Nov. 1993… comes a SECOND WQ show only five months later! The timing on AJW events is always so weird for that. This time, they’re hailing from the big Yokohama Arena, drawing 16,500 apparently! Generally, the same sort of stuff is going on- AJW is feuding with JWP and LLPW separately, there’s occasionally some FMW stuff, and people are trading titles between promotions. AJW finally won back their WWWA Tag belts from JWP, but lost the Japanese Tag belts in the interim, for example. Akira Hokuto finally traded her win back to Shinobu Kandori to “end” their epic feud, but now she’s… TEAMING UP WITH HER?!? Good lord this show is crazy.

“TL; DR- Why Should I Watch This?”- Two matches hover around the “Perfect Match” level, and that’s not even including the Manami Toyota bout. Lots of great interpromotional hate, big moments, and the Main Event has a ton of character and huge moves. Plus there’s a great Rookie/Ace contest.

Read moreJoshi Spotlight: AJW Wrestling Queendom 1994

Joshi Spotlight: AJW Wrestling Queendom I

AJW WRESTLING QUEENDOM I:
(28.11.1993)

Wrestling Queendom is the name of the new “biggest show in Joshi”, effectively replacing Wrestlemarinepiad after a point as the top-tier AJW event. At this point, however, it seems to mostly be standard-issue “Dream Bouts” and not “Main Eventer vs. Main Eventer” stuff.

“TL;DR- Why Should I Watch It?”: This is a FANTASTIC night of wrestling, with several matches at ***3/4 or better, one of the greatest Survivor-type bouts ever, and most importantly, every match feels completely different from every other match- a Big vs. Little bout, a Power Match, a Toyota-Style MOVEZ Match, Rookie Mayhem, two hateful tag bouts (one of which is an Attitude Era brawl), and more.

Read moreJoshi Spotlight: AJW Wrestling Queendom I

Joshi Spotlight: Suzuka Minami

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A wrestler so underrated even Google Image Search produces only 5-6 things.

JOSHI SPOTLIGHT- SUZUKA MINAMI:
Stats:
Real Name: Mika Suzuki
Billed Height & Weight: 5’8″ 136 lbs.
Career Length: 1985-1995
Trained By: Unknown (I forgot to ask Manjiimortal)

Bolt Statement: Suzuka Minami is the most underrated wrestler ever. I mean, there’s others who deserve more attention, sure- but NOBODY is as good, and as little-known, as poor Minami here! She doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page, despite multiple title runs! It takes a lot to be so underrated people barely even talk about how underrated you are!

Read moreJoshi Spotlight: Suzuka Minami

Joshi Spotlight: Big Egg Wrestling Universe (Part Two)

BIG EGG WRESTLING UNIVERSE:
(“AJW Doumu Super Woman Great War”)
(Tokyo Dome- 20.11.1994)

-And now it’s the second part of this quick, breezy 10-hour wrestling show! At least this time, I’ve reviewed two of the matches already, so I don’t need to re-post them!

TL; DR- Why Should I Watch This?: Well, one of the greatest matches in history is fought tonight. Also, Aja Kong surpasses Bret Hart’s “Three good matches in one night” achievement in terms of quality, several people put on AMAZING performances, and you see Joshi in its biggest spectacle in history- something women’s wrestling has never matched since.

Read moreJoshi Spotlight: Big Egg Wrestling Universe (Part Two)