Manami Toyota vs. Akira Hokuto
September 2, 1995

Joining the VOW Secret Santa for a second year, I was intrigued by what I would be presented with this time around. And to my surprise, I received a match I actually watched for the first time a few months back so I was happy to see it. Manami Toyota and Akira Hokuto going to war for 20 or so minutes is something I’ll never say no to. Many old-school Joshi fans and many fans overall like to call Toyota the greatest women’s wrestler of all time and while she very well may be for some, I’ve always preferred Hokuto. Getting the chance to see them go head to head when they’re at their very best made it all the better.

The lovely gruesomeness that came with AJW matches back in the day can easily bring any sort of wrestling fan in and leave them amazed. This match did the same. The brutality these two went through and the craziness they had to try some of the things they did is why they’re legends, why they’re all-time greats. What makes this match special is that it didn’t feel like a match but rather a fight. A struggle from start to finish. It embodied what I think Hokuto did so well in her matches and that’s make you feel her pain and her opponent’s pain also.

Toyota, on the other hand, did things that few wrestlers can do even in today’s day in age. Watching her leap to the top rope to hit a Springboard Crossbody on Hokuto is one of those moves I go back to time and time again just to see the elegance and beauty of it. The viciousness of both wrestlers made this feel as big as it should feel as they’d switch from submissions to hitting each other as humanly possible within seconds. That’s class.

The crowd only enhanced this match to the next degree as they understandably bought in on every moment — maybe the best being Hokuto kicking out of the Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex.

What happened outside of the ring made it all the more insane as Toyota’s splash down to Hokuto onto the table was painful but Toyota following it up with a missed plancha to the outside made it all the more brutal. Hokuto coming back minutes later with a short Powerbomb onto the same table met with a Diving Senton from the top rope down to Toyota made you feel the disgusting pain they must’ve been feeling.

The match ending with Toyota hitting Hokuto with her own Northern Lights Bomb not once but twice to get the win was the “chef’s kiss” to end the brilliant battle.

A must-watch for anyone who wants to get into Joshi, loves what they see from Joshi now, or just enjoys pro wrestling. ****½