Getting Into Classic Joshi

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Frank Olson
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Getting Into Classic Joshi

Post by Frank Olson » Sun Mar 24, 2019 8:11 pm

Over the years I've heard a lot of praise for current and classic Joshi, but outside of checking out a handful of Io Shirai matches or a few classic Bull Nakano or Aja Kong matches here and there I've never really dived into the style. Based on what I'd read online it seemed like one of the best entryways to classic Joshi might be the highly praised DREAM SLAM I show from 4/2/93. For those who don't know it was a show that the All Japan Women's Pro Wrestling promotion put on where their wrestlers had dream matches against competitors from rival women's promotions JWP and LLPW, as well as competitors from FMW and EMLL. Here's what I thought...

Plum Mariko and Hikari Fukuoka (JWP) vs. Sakie Hasegawa and Kaoru Ito (AJW)
An incredibly exciting opener that starts at a hyper pace and never lets up. It’s a bit sloppy at times but in the good way that makes this feel like an out of control fight. Toward the end the action gets so ferocious that Hasegawa’s eye gets bruised up and puffy. Ito is dressed liked Peter Pan and at one point she does about a million jumping foot stomps in a row to a chorus of boos. I’m not sure if Hasegawa and Ito were normally heels or even normally a team, but the crowd seemed to be 100% behind the JWP team in this match. I found myself much more impressed by the AJW team, but really everybody came out of this looking good. This doesn’t seem to be one of the more acclaimed matches from this show, but when all was said and done I think this was my second or third favorite match on the card. In fact I’d go so far as to say that it’s one of the very best opening matches I’ve seen on any wrestling show ever.
GREAT

Shark Tsuchiya and Crusher Maedomari (FMW) vs. Saemi Numata and Terri Powers (AJW)
Prior to watching this show I was not aware that FMW had a women’s division. After watching this match I understand why that side of their business was not more famous. Both members of the FMW team seem very green and/or untalented, and the AJW team don’t seem to be up to the task of carrying them through much more than some basic power spots. This is a very slow and plodding bout, especially when compared to the lightning fast pace of the opener. It definitely feels like this could have been cut from this very long show.
BAD

KAORU and Ultima Tigrita (EMLL) vs. Mima Shimoda and Tomoko Watanabe (AJW)
I spent the first few minutes of this match trying to remember where I’d seen Shimoda before, until realizing that she is of course Okumura’s valet from CMLL. This stands out from the many other tag matches on the show by being wrestled in a lucha style. It isn’t an ideal example of that genre of wrestling, though, as none of the spots are particularly spectacular. The teams don’t gel well enough to give the match the high pace that this style demands. This feels a little more worthwhile than the previous match simply because it’s the only match of this style on the show, but it’s ultimately pretty unremarkable.
MEDIOCRE

Miki Handa and Rumi Kazama (LLPW) vs. Etsuko Mita and Suzuka Minami (AJW)
Etsuko Mita is the immediate standout in this match, with the coolest look, the highest energy and the most charisma. The other three competitors didn’t leave much of an impression on me, but there’s some solid action sprinkled through this bout. The match would probably be better overall if it were 5-10 minutes shorter, since the competitors seem to run out of steam and start noticeably blowing some spots in the closing stretch. Still, this is a clear step up from the previous two matches and is worth a watch.
GOOD

I did not watch the next match, which is a shoot fight for the WWWA Martial Arts Championship, between Bat Yoshinaga and Susan Howard. I’ve never liked the idea of a shoot match being included as part of a pro wrestling show, because if that’s the “real fight,” then what does that say about the rest of the matches on the show?

Devil Masami (JWP) vs. Chigusa Nagayo (AJW)
This is a “Memorial Superfight,” with Nagayo coming out of retirement to face an old rival. However if I hadn’t read about this being a return match I never would have guessed that Nagayo hadn’t been in the ring for four years. This is not by any means a boring nostalgia match between two old people past their primes, and in fact both performers look fairly young. Nagayo immediately shows great presence and fire as she refuses a handshake from Masami. Masami is imposingly tall (at least next to Nagayo) and delivers some great looking powerbombs and suplexes. If this is merely the “greatest hits” version of this rivalry, then I’d love to see some of the actual classic matches, because this is pretty great in its own right.
VERY GOOD

Cuty Suzuki and Mayumi Ozaki (JWP) vs. Takako Inoue and Kyoko Inoue (AJW)
This match really encapsulates all of the things that people praise about joshi. It’s relentlessly paced and hard hitting, with lots of dazzling spots being flawlessly executed by colorful characters. There’s a great sense of urgency, as it feels like all four competitors are trying to end the match with practically every move. Ozaki and Kyoko are the two standouts (especially as the match comes down to its frantic closing stretch), but Suzuki and Takako more than hold their own as well, despite having more bland, idol looks to them. My favorite moments sees the JWP team taking turns repeatedly jumping off the top rope and onto Kyoko’s chest and stomach, which looks incredibly painful. The counters and reversals between Ozaki and Kyoko during the closing sequence are really impressive, and reminded me a bit of some of the recent matches between Hiromu and Will Ospreay. This match really wouldn’t feel out of place on any modern wrestling show, and in fact would probably steal the show in most cases.
OUTSTANDING

Harley Saito and Eagle Sawai (LLPW) vs. Bull Nakano and Aja Kong (AJW)
Just looking at the competitors during the introductions it’s clear that Saito, who is by far the smallest and most unassuming of the four, is going to be taking the fall. The ultimate result is as expected, but as the match goes on it becomes clear that this was set up as a star making performance for Saito, as she repeatedly catches her very famous opponents offguard with her wild spin kicks and enziguris. At one point Saito even takes Nakano’s nunchucks and shows off some skills with them, to the crowd’s delight. I don’t know if Saito ever became a big joshi star (she and her partner certainly don’t jump off the screen the way that Nakano and Kong do), but she certainly gives a standout performance here, and Nakano really selflessly gives Saito a lot here. If there’s one thing you could criticize this match for, it’s that it feels a bit like two singles matches (with Nakano being surprised and overwhelmed by Saito for a lot of the match, and Kong and Sawai occasionally breaking that up with their hoss battle), but in the context of this show that actually works in the match’s favor, as it makes it stand out from the many other tag matches. There is one very cool moment of tag team offense, when Nakano holds the ropes open for a scary looking dive by Kong.
VERY GOOD

Dynamite Kansai (JWP) vs. Yumiko Hotta (AJW)
This is the match on this show for people who love KENTA or Shibata or Akira Maeda or super-stiff, hard hitting shoot fight-style wrestling in general. I’m not always the hugest fan of that style, as I find that it can sometimes be a little one-dimensional, but it works very well in the context of this show as it’s the only match of its type on the card. Kansai immediately made a big impression on me just because of her imposing look. She reminded me of Brienne of Tarth from “Game of Thrones.” Hotta doesn’t stand out as much (really this is the only match on the show where I thought that an outside competitor had noticeably superior presence compared to their AJW opponent) but she certainly proves equally capable of both dishing out and receiving punishment. This is just a brutal display of two people absolutely kicking the shit out of each other. It starts intense and stays there the whole way, but ends in a display of mutual respect.
VERY GOOD

Shinobu Kandori (LLPW) vs. Akira Hokuto (AJW)
This is another intense match, but in a very different way than the previous match. Hokuto blindsides Kandori with a forearm to start the match, and then takes the mic to talk some shit. But Kandori quickly fires up and strikes back, locking in an armbar that sends Hokuto scurrying out of the ring. Hokuto lays outside the ring for a long time, really selling the danger of Kandori’s submissions. At some point there is a brawl on the outside that results in Kandori hitting Hokuto with a brutal tombstone piledriver on a table (there is a neat little moment where the cameraman pans down to give a quick shot of the head dent in the unbroken table) and this leads to Hokuto bleeding profusely for the rest of the match. Kandori also gets busted open at some point, but Hokuto’s face is just soaking in blood. At times the match almost feels like a horror movie. It’s the most deliberately paced match on the show, but in a way that effectively sells the punishment that the competitors are taking. Although we do get a decisive finish, the winner is so completely beaten up that she just lays there for a long time and seems completely out of it when the match is over.
GREAT

WWWA World Tag Team Championship: Manami Toyota and Toshiyo Yamada (AJW) defend vs. Combat Toyoda and Megumi Kudo (FMW)
This match isn’t bad, but it’s a pretty underwhelming way to end a legendary show, especially coming after the brutal spectacle of the previous two matches. Things start off a bit rough with Toyota going for some sort of springboard spot and just awkwardly falling to the mat as her opponents were apparently out of position. Eventually the two teams get it together and manage to put on a solid bout, but one that has far fewer memorable moments than many of the other tag matches on this show.
GOOD

Overall I’d say that Dream Slam I is a fantastic show that lives up to its reputation. For the most part the wrestling doesn’t feel even a bit dated, and this worked very well as a gateway into joshi for me. It does have some of the flaws you’d expect from a big supercard (it’s overlong and there’s some filler on the first half of the show) but there’s much more good than bad here. There’s also a lot of variety in match styles (despite the large number of two-on-two tag matches), so there’s a little something for everybody here.

My plan is to next check out the Dream Slam II show, and then proceed from there by following the Matchguide for AJW, LLLPW, and JWP on Cagematch and just watch as much as I can in chronological order.

But I have some questions for any seasoned joshi watchers who might be reading this…

What other big joshi shows of the ‘80s, ‘90s and ‘00s should I seek out?

Which wrestlers who don’t appear on this show should I make sure to check out?

What feuds should I make sure to check out?

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Frank Olson
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Re: Getting Into Classic Joshi

Post by Frank Olson » Fri Apr 05, 2019 12:11 pm

DREAM SLAM II
April 11th 1993
Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium

Sakie Hasegawa (AJW) vs. Hikari Fukuoka (JWP)
This is a rematch of sorts featuring two of the competitors from the awesome opening tag match from Dream Slam I. It’s unclear at what point in the match on the first show Hasegawa’s eye got fucked up, but I assume that Fukuoka was responsible, because Hasegawa lunges at her immediately upon entering the ring. The action then somewhat awkwardly stops so that they can do ring introductions. The rest of the match isn’t wrestled at quite the relentless pace of the match that these two were involved with on the previous show (understandable, since they don’t have the option of tagging out this time) but it’s still exciting. The coolest part of the match comes when Hasegawa responds to Fukuoka’s lengthy rolling cradle spot with a series of uninterrupted and really crisp looking double underhook suplexes.

Hasegawa has quickly become one of my favorite joshi wrestlers. With her amateur wrestling-style singlet and array of vicious suplexes she reminds me of early-‘90s Steiner Brothers. Fukuoka really impressed here as well and was able to stand out a little more than she did in the tag match on the first show. I don’t speak Japanese and have no idea what she was saying in her post-match promo, but she showed great intensity and I have the impression that this feud must continue despite the competitors wrestling for different promotions.
VERY GOOD

Kauro Ito, Saemi Numata, & Tomoko Watanabe (AJW) vs. Michiko Futagami, Miho Kitamura & Takako Kuzumi (LLPW)
Ito is the only competitor in this match who appeared on the first Dream Slam show (in the same tag match as the women from the previous match) and I had the impression that this was intended as a showcase for some less seasoned roster members of AJW and LLPW. The match is wrestled with a lot of energy and there are a lot of good individual moments (including the return of Ito’s jumping foot stomps) but there isn’t any structure to hold it together.
DECENT

Bat Yoshinaga & Terri Powers (AJW) vs. Rumi Kazama & Miki Handa (LLPW)
This was my first time seeing WWWA Martial Arts Champion Bat Yoshinaga (since I skipped her shoot fight on the first Dream Slam show) and she definitely came off as the star of this bout. The LLPW team didn’t leave much of an impression on me on the first show and I wasn’t overly impressed with them here either. Kazama’s kicks looked very tepid and weak compared to Yoshinaga’s. Powers’ mobility is limited (as it was on the first show) by what appears to be a legitimately broken arm. Overall this is a pretty unremarkable match.
MEDIOCRE

Etsuko Mita & Mima Shimoda (AJW) vs. Combat Toyoda & Megumi Kudo (FMW)
A boring tag team match full of rest holds and sloppy spots. Shimoda at this point of her career has to be one of the least graceful high flyers I’ve ever seen. I looked her up on Wikipedia expecting to find that she was fairly new to wrestling in 1993, but it turns out that she’d already been wrestling for six years at this point. Thoroughly skippable.
BAD

Kyoko Inoue, Takako Inoue & Yumiko Hotta (AJW) vs. Cutie Suzuki, Plum Mariko & Bolshoi Kid (JWP)
This is a fun and eclectic mix of 3 out of the 4 people from the best match on the first Dream Slam alongside Plum Mariko, vicious striker Yumiko Hotta, and comedy wrestler Bolshoi Kid (who literally wrestles as a circus clown). Viewers who don’t like comedy in their wrestling might be put off by Bolshoi’s antics, but those same people might enjoy Hotta brutally kicking the shit out of her. The Inoues and Suzuki pick up right where they left off at the first show with exciting fast-paced high flying action, and Mariko fits in seamlessly with what they are doing. One funny moment sees a series of dives to the outside that even includes a tope from Hotta (which I gather was not in her usual repertoire of moves). Hotta also does a cool move that I don’t know the name for where it looks like she is going for a powerbomb but instead drops to her back and sends one of her opponents face first into the mat. This probably would’ve been better served by running 10-15 minutes instead of 22, and there are a few noticeable blown spots, but it was nice to get something fun after several boring matches in a row.
GOOD

Suzuka Minami (AJW) vs. Harley Saito (LLPW)
The crowd, which is hot for every other match on the show, is a little quiet for this one, and I can’t say that I blame them as it never seems to quite get out of first gear. There’s nothing really noticeably wrong with the wrestling, but it just never gets particularly intense or spectacular and the match doesn’t leave much of a lasting impression.
DECENT

Bull Nakano (AJW) vs. Chigusa Nagayo (AJW)
Nakano and Nagayo were two of the standout performers from the first Dream Slam show, but they seemed to treat their match together as an opportunity to coast on their undeniable charisma. I guess I can’t criticize them too much for that, as the crowd gasps at practically every little thing that each of the competitors does. For longtime fans I’m sure that this first-time battle between a then-current top draw and an all-time legend must have been thrilling, but for someone like me who has limited context for either woman’s career there just isn’t much to see here. It’s the type of match where the opening staredown and the walk and brawl segment in the crowd are legitimately more exciting than anything that actually happens in the ring.
DECENT

Aja Kong & Akira Hokuto (AJW) vs. Eagle Sawai & Shinobu Kandori (LLPW)
This is sort of a double rematch from Dream Slam I, with Hokuto and Kandori continuing to beat the shit out of each other while Kong and Sawai once again have a series of hoss collisions. The actual wrestling here is very good (despite a few awkward moments such as Kong tripping on an attempted dive to the outside), but what makes this match really pop is the convincing sense of hatred between the competitors. There’s a lot of screaming going on, but it never feels try-hard. One thing that these Dream Slam shows successfully conveyed to me is that Kandori has the most deadly armbar in wrestling, which plays into the exciting finishing sequence. The post-match seems to set up a Kong vs. Kandori match somewhere down the line, which I am very much interested in seeing (assuming that it did in fact happen).
VERY GOOD

WWWA World Tag Team Championship (2/3 Falls): Manami Toyota & Toshiyo Yamada (AJW, champions) vs. Dynamite Kansai & Mayumi Ozaki (JWP)
Kansai and Ozaki were the two non-AJW standouts from the first Dream Slam show, so it’s cool to see them tagging together here. Apparently they were a regular team, because this is actually a rematch from 1992, and these two teams would also later meet again in December ’93. I’m definitely looking forward to watching those other matches sometime in the near future, because this is a barn burner and probably the best match on either Dream Slam show. I can definitely see why it was the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Match of 1993.

The intensity starts immediately as Kansai quickly picks up the first fall with a roundhouse kick to Yamada’s head followed by a particularly devastating Splash Mountain. Yamada brilliantly sells her disorientation to start the second fall, but she and Toyota are able to rally and make a comeback. Toyota’s high flying during this segment feels more spastic than graceful (at one point she does a top rope moonsault to the outside and lands face first on the ring apron), but it’s sloppy in a way that adds to the match’s sense of urgency. This fall isn’t just fast paced and full of high flying, it’s also brutal. At one point Kansai is struggling to get Yamada rolled over for a Sharpshooter, so stomps on her head to force the move in. The last fall keeps up the hard hitting pace, and ends with two very harsh-looking Doomsday Device variations. As far as 2/3 Falls matches go I think this is definitely on the same level as Flair/Steamboat or Okada/Omega.
OUTSTANDING

Dream Slam II has more filler than the first show, but the main event is famous for a reason and a true must see for any wrestling fan. The opening match and the semi-main are very worthwhile as well. Now that I’m familiar with some of these performers my plan is to go through Cagematch’s recommended matches for AJW, JWP, and LLPW and watch as many of those as I can find in chronological order.

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Frank Olson
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Re: Getting Into Classic Joshi

Post by Frank Olson » Sun May 05, 2019 2:00 pm

Before I comment on this next set of matches I just want to throw out a few caveats about why I’m probably incapable of giving these the full respect they deserve. I was only able to find these in grainy quality on Veoh (the first three matches) or Dailymotion (the last match) so they weren’t the easiest to sit through. Plus as someone watching these matches over three decades later with little to no knowledge of the storylines leading to the matches (and in most cases without even knowing the competitors’ signature spots) I’m obviously going to be missing a lot of the nuances and lacking the investment that contemporary viewers would’ve had. Clearly AJW was doing something right with these matches, as the crowd is going absolutely insane from start to finish on all of them. So while I didn’t come away from any of these feeling like they are all time great matches, I can imagine why they did connect with people and have been so highly praised over the years.

All Japan Women
Summer Night Festival in Budokan
August 22nd 1985
All Pacific Title: Devil Masami (c) vs. Chigusa Nagayo

From what I understand the All Pacific Title was basically the “1B” title in All Japan, roughly equivalent to the IWGP Intercontinental Title. This one starts off slow with some fairly basic grappling and kicking, but there is a palpable intensity to this rivalry that keeps the more methodical moments from feeling dull, and the action does steadily ramp up in a way that ensures that the opening doesn’t just feel like padding out the time. The last 15 minutes or so seem to be building up to something really intense, but unfortunately the match peters out with a lame non-finish. I’m sure that a joshi expert would hate to see me write this, but I actually prefer their more compact legends match from the first Dream Slam show to this one.
GOOD

All Japan Women
Summer Night Festival in Budokan
August 22nd 1985
WWWA World Title: Jaguar Yokota (c) vs. Lioness Asuka

This match is really the epitome of the “nothing happens in the first 20 minutes and then there is a hot closing stretch” match format that puro is often criticized for. The crowd is super hyped even for the early slow-paced grappling, but as someone with no context for the story I have to say that I was pretty bored and looking at my phone through a lot of the first half of this match. That finishing stretch though, well not connecting in any clear way to the opening grappling portion, is REALLY nuts, and features a totally insane spot where Asuka has Yokota halfway up for a suplex but then just winds up chucking her over the top rope and out of the ring. So this is well worth watching even though I’d say you wouldn’t be missing anything by fast-forwarding through the entire first half of the match.
GOOD

All Japan Women
February 26th 1987
#1 Contender for the WWWA World Title: Chigusa Nagayo vs. Lioness Asuka

Nagayo and Asuka had a hugely popular tag team called The Crush Gals, and here they were facing each other for the right to challenge then-WWWA Champion Yukari Omori. Unlike the previous two matches this does not have a slow start and feels very heated and competitive throughout. This really has the feel of a legit athletic contest, with both women doing whatever they can to get the upper hand on their opponent. The thing that’s frustrating about this match though is that it seems like they each go for a pinfall after every other move, and I kept thinking “yeah, that shoulder tackle probably isn’t gonna get it done.” It’s sort of like the modern trope in “I Quit” matches where the referee is constantly asking the competitors if they are going to quit after each clothesline. This also has a bit of a weird finish as it goes to a time limit draw followed by an overtime where one competitor is apparently awarded the victory via referee’s decision, but as I understand it this led to a major money-drawing feud between Nagayo and Asuka so at least there was a reason for the finish to be somewhat clunky.
GOOD

All Japan Women
December 6th 1987
Elimination Match: Chigusa Nagayo, Mika Suzuki, Mika Takahashi, Yachiya Hirata, Yumiko Hotta & Yumi Ogura vs. Lioness Asuka, Etsuko Mita, Kazue Nagahori, Mika Komatsu, Mitsuko Nishiwaki & Sachiko Nakamura

Of these four matches I think this is the one that suffered the most from me not watching it under ideal conditions. The video on Dailymotion is pretty blurry and makes it tough to distinguish who is who (especially for someone like me who has only seen a handful of these 12 women wrestle before). Also this is taken from a TV broadcast and appears to be clipped, so you don’t see all of the eliminations and the women who are eliminated continue to stand on the apron, so it’s a very confusing viewing experience. That said, the action is relentless, exciting and chaotic, so I’m sure I would have loved this if I could have told what the hell was going on.
GOOD

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Joe Lanza
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Re: Getting Into Classic Joshi

Post by Joe Lanza » Sun May 05, 2019 3:11 pm

Good thread here

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Re: Getting Into Classic Joshi

Post by NiagaraDriver93 » Sat May 25, 2019 4:29 am

Just now saw this... Classic Joshi is what got me into Japanese wrestling back in the tape trading days. Like you, I started on Dreamslam and worked to other events. Until this current era of NJPW, I would have argued AJW in the mid 90s was as good of a promotion top to bottom that has ever existed. I'd still put Dreamslam as one of the top cards of all time with the possible exception of a few of NJPW's biggest shows this decade.

You're in luck for recommendations, I recently finished a Recommended Viewing Guide for Joshi from 92-96: docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1uJ6cFxqg-A24q2GFb59KL8ic3vV-dBAn7cB7OJ8-rK0/edit?usp=sharing
Just click the "90s Joshi Puroresu" tab at the bottom.

Those Toyota/Yamada vs Kansai/Ozaki tags are still some of my favorite matches to this day. Their first match in November '92 was the first major joshi interpromotional match, and they absolutely knocked it out of the park in front of a white hot crowd. Can't recommend it enough.

Hope to see more reviews from you, it's cool to see this stuff from a new set of eyes and think back to when I discovered it about 15 years ago. I might have to chime in with some rewatches too.

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Frank Olson
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Re: Getting Into Classic Joshi

Post by Frank Olson » Sat May 25, 2019 3:55 pm

NiagaraDriver93 wrote:
Sat May 25, 2019 4:29 am
Just now saw this... Classic Joshi is what got me into Japanese wrestling back in the tape trading days. Like you, I started on Dreamslam and worked to other events. Until this current era of NJPW, I would have argued AJW in the mid 90s was as good of a promotion top to bottom that has ever existed. I'd still put Dreamslam as one of the top cards of all time with the possible exception of a few of NJPW's biggest shows this decade.

You're in luck for recommendations, I recently finished a Recommended Viewing Guide for Joshi from 92-96: docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1uJ6cFxqg-A24q2GFb59KL8ic3vV-dBAn7cB7OJ8-rK0/edit?usp=sharing
Just click the "90s Joshi Puroresu" tab at the bottom.

Those Toyota/Yamada vs Kansai/Ozaki tags are still some of my favorite matches to this day. Their first match in November '92 was the first major joshi interpromotional match, and they absolutely knocked it out of the park in front of a white hot crowd. Can't recommend it enough.

Hope to see more reviews from you, it's cool to see this stuff from a new set of eyes and think back to when I discovered it about 15 years ago. I might have to chime in with some rewatches too.
Awesome, thank you! This will be really helpful.

I haven't been great at consistently updating this but I'm still gradually watching some stuff. My wife and I recently adopted a newborn and my wrestling-watching time lately has pretty much all gone to the Best of the Super Juniors, but I'm hoping to watch a few more Joshi matches and post some reviews at some point during this long weekend.

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Frank Olson
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Re: Getting Into Classic Joshi

Post by Frank Olson » Thu May 30, 2019 3:27 am

All Japan Women
March 19th 1989
Chigusa Nagayo vs. Akira Hokuto

Nagayo enters holding the IWA World Women’s Championship, although as far as I can tell this is a non-title match. Hokuto looks very different than she did a few years later in her “Dangerous Queen” persona and would be almost unrecognizable if it weren’t for her distinctive scream. (The aesthetics of Joshi clearly improved a lot at some point in the ‘90s. Everyone in these ‘80s matches looks like they should be entering a high diving competition or a gymnastics contest rather than a fight).

The story here is the younger Hokuto (who debuted about five years after Nagayo, and about four years prior to this match) giving the fight of her life against the much bigger star, and initially overwhelming her with a surprising flurry of offense. Hokuto delivers a series of German suplexes immediately after the bell and keeps up a ferocious attack, though it’s clear that she isn’t quite good enough yet (in kayfabe) to put Nagayo away. At one point Nagayo has enough of this shit and puts Hokuto in her place by delivering a vicious full force kick to the back of her opponent’s neck. Hokuto remains tenacious and eventually switches up her strategy by going for some higher risk top rope offense, but in the end Nagayo is just too good.

This is a fantastic match for anyone who enjoys the hierarchical structure that Japanese promotions tend to do such a great job establishing. I love matches where younger wrestlers give it their all against more famous opponents who they aren’t good enough to beat yet, especially when they are in front of a hot crowd like the Korakuen Hall faithful who gathered for this one.
GREAT


All Japan Women
December 9th 1989
IWA World Title Match: Manami Toyota (c) vs. Toshiyo Yamada

Interesting to see these two embroiled in a heated feud considering that my previous exposure to them was seeing them tag together on the Dream Slam shows. No lockup to start, as Toyota rushes Yamada before even removing her belt. The match pretty much sustains that intensity throughout, although it feels like there isn’t enough variety of moves or a dynamic enough in-ring story (at least for someone like me with no knowledge of the build to this match) to fill the lengthy runtime. The YouTube video I found for this match opens with Toyota and Yamada accepting some sort of Match of the Year award, but I was more entertained by the previous match.
GOOD


Although none of the matches from the first Wrestlemarinepiad event (from May 6th 1989) are listed on the Cagematch matchguide, it seems like a historically significant event and is available in full on YouTube, so I will plan to watch that for the next update to this thread.

In the meantime I was trying to find some of the matches listed for 1990 and not having much luck. So if anyone is aware of where I might be able to watch the following matches, please let me know…

9/1/90 Akira Hokuto, Mika Takahashi and Suzuka Minami vs. Madusa Micheli, Mitsuko Nishiwaki and Yumiko Hotta

9/1/90 Kyoko Inoue vs. Manami Toyota

10/7/90 Aja Kong and Kyoko Inoue vs. Akira Hokuto and Suzuka Minami

10/7/90 Bison Kimura vs. Manami Toyota

10/7/90 Bull Nakano and Grizzly Iwamoto vs. Mika Takahashi and Noriyo Tateno

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Frank Olson
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Re: Getting Into Classic Joshi

Post by Frank Olson » Sat Jun 22, 2019 12:55 pm

Wrestlemarinepiad I
All Japan Women
May 6th 1989
Yokohama Arena


From what I gather the Wrestlemarinepiad events were essentially AJW’s attempt to do Wrestlemania-style supershows. Although none of the matches are acclaimed enough to appear on Cagematch’s Matchguide, it still seemed like a historically significant enough show to make time for.

The first thing that jumps out at me before the first match even begins is that this is one of those gimmicky shows with a double ring setup. The side by side ring setup usually seems pretty silly and pointless, so we’ll see how it plays into the matches.

Tokyo Sweetheart (Manami Toyota & Mima Shimoda) vs. The Dream Orca (Toshiyo Yamada & Etsuko Mita)
The show kicks off with this rather nondescript tag match. The work isn’t exactly bad, but it does feel pretty lifeless and uninspired, especially considering some of the names involved. This goes just over 10 minutes but feels at least twice as long as that.
BELOW AVERAGE

Kaoru Maeda & Mika Takahashi vs. Texas & Tiffany (GLOW)
The wacky pre-match promos from the members of the GLOW import team are way more entertaining than the actual match, which is incredibly sloppy despite the wrestlers not attempting anything that looks remotely difficult.
BAD

Simultaneous Fights: Noriyo Tateno vs. Itsuki Yamazaki and Bull Nakano vs. Yumi Ogura
This is the first match on the show to utilize the double ring setup, as two different singles matches take place simultaneously in different rings. As you might guess, it’s basically impossible to follow what’s going on in two matches at the same time, and this is really just a mess. They try to create some drama by making the Nakano and Ogura match a wild brawl, with the former getting busted open by her own nunchucks, but the camera doesn’t even catch the moment when this happens as the focus is on the other ring at that time. Meanwhile the other, seemingly more traditional match between Tateno and Yamazaki leaves no impression at all. One of the dumbest gimmick matches I’ve ever seen.
BAD

Reibun Amada, Suzuka Minami & Yumiko Hotta vs. Big Bad Mama, Beastie the Road Warrior (GLOW) and Leilani Kai (WWF)
This is another sloppy match between uncoordinated gaijin guest stars and All Japan Women midcarders. This one at least boasts a certain sense of structure and storytelling, as the home team use a series of double- and triple-team maneuvers to try to take down their much larger opponents. So while the actual execution of the moves leaves a lot to be desired there is at least some focus here, which is a relief after the previous match.
BELOW AVERAGE

Chigusa Nagayo Retirement Match Series
(contains: Chigusa Nagayo & Lioness Asuka vs. Akira Hokuto & Mitsuko Nishiwaki; Chigusa Nagayo & Lioness Asuka vs. Yumiko Hotta & Suzuka Minami; Chigusa Nagayo & Lioness Asuka vs. Itsuki Yamazaki & Norio Tateno; Chigusa Nagayo & Lioness Asuka vs. Bull Nakano & Yumi Agura; and Chigusa Nagayo vs. Lioness Asuka)

At this time All Japan Women had a weird policy where their performers had to retire at the age of 26. From what I understand the idea behind this was that these women were expected to settle down and start a family by around that age…which is pretty fucked up. So I assume that Nagayo’s retirement here (prior to returning several years later for the Dream Slam shows, and then later starting her own promotion called GAEA) was basically against her will.

This is a gauntlet-style series of matches, most of which find Nagayo and her Crush Gals partner Lioness Asuka tagging against a series of other teams, before they briefly face each other at the end. The whole thing is very confusingly structured. The opening match against Akira Hokuto and Mitsuko Nishiwaki is basically a full tag match, running just under 10 minutes, but then the other tag matches and the final singles match each only run a minute or two. Also some of these matches find Nagayo suffering a quick pinfall to one member of an opposing team and then also getting pinned by the other member of the team before the next team comes in. I guess the idea was to have Nagayo put over as many people as possible on her way out, but it seems like it would have been better to have her put one person over strong in a more conventional match. Despite the confusing and awkward format this gauntlet does contain the best in-ring action of anything on the show up to this point. The tag match against Yumiko Hotta and Suzuka Minami in particular has a great sense of urgency, and is pretty impressive for a match that literally only lasts a minute or two.
MEDIOCRE

26-Woman International Battle Royal
Usually the reason to put a battle royal on these big supershows is to get as many roster members on the show as possible. So it’s odd that this battle royal mostly consists of performers who had already wrestled on the show. There are even some, like Bull Nakano, who are pulling triple duty by appearing in this match. Maybe the company just wanted another match to justify the stupid two-ring setup, since this is the only match on the show other than the simultaneous fight that utilizes the double rings.

The match is really just a basic battle royal, with eliminations occurring via pinfall as well as over the top rope elimination. The match is really unspectacular and drags on for an eternity. I’ll admit that I fast-forwarded through a few chunks of it. I probably should’ve just skipped the whole thing.
BAD

3WA Championship: Lioness Asuka (c) vs. Madusa Miceli (AWA)
Special Guest Referee: Nick Bockwinkel

This is the sole title match on the show, and the only one with a big fight feel. Bockwinkel gives a speech in the ring beforehand, and both competitors come out flanked by entourages, so the pageantry is here in a way that it really hasn’t been for any of the other matches on the show. Unfortunately the match isn’t anything special. Madusa is a more competent worker than the other gaijin on the show, but other than a nice looking German suplex toward the end of the match she really doesn’t do anything spectacular, and she immediately grinds the match to a halt with some generic heel stalling tactics. Asuka doesn’t really show much here either. The match really never picks up, and even the closing stretch feels like it’s in first gear.
MEDIOCRE

I didn’t have high expectations for Wrestlemarinepiad, since I haven’t been overly impressed by most of the ‘80s AJW matches I’ve seen and since none of the matches on this show appear on the Cagematch match guide. But I had no idea that this show would be so awful. It took me a couple of weeks to actually get through the whole thing, and I had to go match by match because the wrestling was too boring to take in more than that in any one sitting. For the most part the wrestling is sloppy and slow-paced, and the goofy gimmicks and confusing rules added to a few of the matches definitely don’t help. The show is also really oddly booked, with a small roster of talent often being asked to wrestle two or three times. Don’t waste your time with this show.

Next I’m going to try to make it through Wrestlemarinepiad II, which contains the only AJW matches from 1990 that I seem to be able to find online. I’ve actually already seen the cage match main event between Bull Nakano and Aja Kong, so I at least know that there is one great match on that show. But if the undercard is anywhere near as boring as it was for the first Wrestlemarinepiad I may have to fast forward through a lot of it.

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Frank Olson
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Re: Getting Into Classic Joshi

Post by Frank Olson » Sat Jul 27, 2019 12:32 pm

Wrestlemarinepiad II
All Japan Women
November 14th, 1990
Yokohama Arena


All Japan Women Tag Team Titles: Honey Wings (Kaoru Maeda & Mika Takahashi) (c) vs. Etsuko Mita & Mima Shimoda
Despite the name, the All Japan Women Tag Team Titles were actually the secondary tag belts in AJW, behind the WWWA Tag Team Titles. This fast-paced bout starts the show off on a good note, as it’s simultaneously faster paced and more polished than anything on the previous year’s Wrestlemarinepiad show. There’s a lot of cool double team moves here, particularly from the defending champions, whose tandem offense frequently combines a submission stretch from one partner with a strike from the other. Shimoda spends most of her time in the match selling for the other team, which is a good thing in my book as I’ve yet to be impressed by her offense in the other matches I’ve seen. Mita carries most of the load for her team offensively, and shows great fire any time she’s in the ring. There’s not a ton of structure to the match, but the action is exciting and it’s a strong opener.
VERY GOOD

Next is a shoot fight between Bat Yoshinaga and Kaoru Ito. As soon as I saw the karate gis they were wearing in the pre-match promos I reflexively hit the fast-forward button.

Elimination Match: Miori Kamiya, Mayumi Yamamoto, Hyper Cat & La Diabolica vs. Takako Inoue, Noriyo Tateno, Esther Moreno & Xochitl Hamada
I generally like elimination matches although they can be tricky to follow when you aren’t familiar with most of the competitors. Each team features a mixture of All Japan Women talent and luchadoras, who definitely bring a higher quality of work to the table than the American wrestlers did on the previous year’s Wrestlemarinepiad. The work is fast paced and exciting, but it’s tough to get invested in for someone like me who is unfamiliar with most of the performers and whatever storyline they may have had going into this match. The eliminations come pretty quickly and without much fanfare, including a nonsensical moment where the referee simultaneously counts pinfalls for members of each team even though the four people involved in the pinfalls surely can’t all be the legal women. The closing stretch between the final surviving members of each team is very good and more focused than the rest of the match, but leading up to that point the match mostly feels like an inconsequential spotfest.
DECENT

Madusa Micelli & Bison Kimura vs. Mariko Yoshida & Yumiko Hotta
Madusa has a very different look here than she did on the previous year’s Wrestlemarinepiad, and now seems to be doing some sort of crazy American brawler gimmick, sort of similar to Lance Archer in modern NJPW. She’s thankfully also working a lot more aggressively than in the somewhat lackluster main event of Wrestlemarinepiad I, and doesn’t seem at all out of place with the three women she’s in the ring with. The match is solid but a little nondescript, with a greater emphasis on brawling than the previous matches on the show. There’s nothing really wrong with the work but the match feels somewhat skippable.
DECENT

Next, inexplicably, is a UWA offer match, as Los Brazos defend the UWA Trios Titles against Gran Hamada, Kendo, and Yoshihiro Asai (the man who would later be known as Ultimo Dragon, who appears here without a mask and looks older than I would have expected). I have no idea what this men’s lucha match is doing on this show, but it’s a very good match, with the Japanese team doing some really impressively athletic stuff.

2/3 Falls for the WWWA Tag Team Titles: Akira Hokuto & Suzuka Minami (c) vs. Manami Toyota & Kyoke Inoue
The story here is that the champions are a well-oiled machine, while the challengers can’t seem to get on the same page as each other. Toyota and Inoue spend a lot of the match missing their opponents and accidentally hitting each other instead. After they drop one of the falls the duo even get heated with each other and have a brief fight before they turn their attention back to their opponents. It’s a simple but effective story that I assume must have led to a singles feud between Toyota and Inoue. On top of the storytelling there’s some nice fast-paced action, including some really wild high speed grappling between Hokuto and Inoue in the opening moments. My complaint with the match is that the ending of all three falls feel a little flat. They kind of come out of nowhere and usually after moves that don’t seem like they’d end a regular match.
VERY GOOD

Steel Cage Match for the WWWA Title: Bull Nakano (c) vs. Aja Kong
This is one of the few joshi matches that I’d seen prior to starting this thread. There isn’t a lot of finesse to the work in this match, but these two monsters bring an appropriate sense of chaos and intensity to their brawling. Kong sets the tone by attacking Nakano with a pair of scissors before they even get in the cage, and throughout the match each woman’s seconds try to help them out by throwing various other weapons over the cage and into the ring. While the action is probably fairly tame compared to a modern day Big Japan or GCW death match it’s certainly pretty wild compared to most major promotion cage matches. I’m not really a big cage match fan, but this match gives you everything you’d want from the stipulation, from blood to weapon use to a crazy leap off the top of the cage. The only thing I don’t like is that they are wrestling under escape the cage rules, but they work it smartly by only attempting to escape after they’ve convincingly worn down their opponent, and the match doesn’t end until one of the competitors hits a big move that looks like it would have led to a pinfall anyway. Definitely a suitable big show main event. It’s hard to imagine anything following this.
GREAT

Wrestlemarinepiad II is a far superior show to the first edition in every way. The show does have some weird filler in the undercard with the shoot match and the inexplicable inclusion of the men’s trios match (which is actually the second best match on the show, but just does not seem like it belongs on this card), but the three title matches all delivered and the main event in particular has a true big fight feel.

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Frank Olson
Posts: 561
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Re: Getting Into Classic Joshi

Post by Frank Olson » Mon Sep 02, 2019 1:02 pm

All Japan Women TV Documentary
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0hZDuYwoGTw&t=14s
Before I get to the matches from 1991 I want to highlight this very interesting French TV documentary, available on YouTube with English subtitles, from a news show called LE MAGAZINE DU GRAND REPORTAGE. It’s likely the only documentary about pro wrestling that opens with a quote from Voltaire. It follows the All Japan Women roster as they tour around Japan and details the company’s working conditions, their audition process (we even briefly see future stars Takao Inoue and Sakie Hasegawa during their tryouts), get brief glimpses of the private lives of some of the top stars, and even get some surprisingly specific (and surely partially kayfabed) info about their wages. It’s really disarming to see larger-than-life figures like Bull Nakano and Aja Kong going about their days as regular women. This may be the only place to see Nakano play SUPER MARIO WORLD in a hotel room, and later blow off her mom’s worries about a forehead cut during a family dinner. The documentary is really well put together and I definitely recommend checking it out.

All Japan Women
January 4th 1991
WWWA World Title: Bull Nakano (c) vs. Akira Hokuto

This has a very similar structure to the match that Hokuto had with Chigusa Nagayo a few years earlier, with fiery babyface Hokuto again working underneath and occasionally getting some big hope spots against a more established opponent. Overall I preferred the work in the Nagayo/Hokuto match to this one, but it’s still a strong match. It ends in brutal fashion with a second rope Tombstone Piledriver.
VERY GOOD

All Japan Women
April 29th 1991
2/3 Falls for the WWWA Tag Team Titles: Jungle Jack (Aja Kong & Bison Kimura) (c) vs. Manami Toyota & Esther Moreno

This has an incredible atmosphere even during the ring entrances, as Kimura enters with Road Warriors-esque spikes and Kong is carried to the ring on a platform as she psychotically clatters together those metal box things she always has with her. The heel champions’ moves look absolutely devastating. Kong stands on Toyota’s arms and hands, hits jumping piledrivers on both opponents, body checks her opponents into Kimura’s elevated knees, and just generally comes off as the best monster heel in the history of wrestling. For her part Kimura adjusts mid-air on a frog splash (turning 180 degrees before landing) in a very cool ending to one of the falls. By comparison the babyface team’s offense looks a little weak, but their selling is phenomenal, and they take an impressive amount of abuse, with Moreno eventually wearing a Muta-level crimson mask. The pacing of the match is relentless and it’s very exciting.
GREAT

All Japan Women
May 26th 1991
Manami Toyota vs. Aja Kong

This winds up going to a 30-minute draw, but you’d never guess that from the lightning-fast pace that is established early on. The action only slows down for big, seemingly out of control spots, like when Kong does a dropkick from the apron to the outside, landing her tailbone on the hardwood floor. Toyota comes off very reckless (in a good way) as well, as she twice hits Straightjacket German Suplexes where Kong’s back lands on Toyota’s face. My one nitpick here is that I’m not a fan of the dramatic arching of the back to kick out that Toyota keeps doing, as that seems like it would take way more effort than a typical shoulder-up kick out, but I guess that’s just an aspect of the style that I have to adjust to.
GREAT

All Japan Women
May 26th 1991
2/3 Falls: Bull Nakano & Bat Yoshinaga vs. Akira Hokuto & Sakie Hasegawa

AJW really knew how to effectively mix up the structures of these 2/3 Falls matches. The first fall here is hilarious, as dominant WWWA Champion/company Ace Nakano shuts down an attempt at a fiery at-the-bell attack from rookie Hasegawa by immediately pinning with her with a powerbomb. Nakano, who appears here in a ripped up Grateful Dead T-shirt, looks like her heart pace didn’t even raise during this fall. Undeterred, Hokuto picks up a quick fall in the second round on Yoshinaga with a vicious-looking brainbuster variant. Nakano and Hokuto picking up such quick falls in the early goings makes the third-fall showdown between the big stars all the more dramatic. It’s clear that Yoshinaga and Hasegawa (who looks so tiny here) were pretty inexperienced at this point, but I really like the way that this match was structured and laid out.
VERY GOOD

All Japan Women
Wrestlemarinepiad III
November 21st 1991
Manami Toyota & Akira Hokuto vs. Toshiyo Yamada & Kyoko Inoue

I can’t seem to find the full WRESTLEMARINEPIAD III show anywhere, but a couple of the matches are on YouTube. I’m curious what the build for this match was, and if any of that backstory would explain why Yamada and Inoue enter wearing sombreros and panchos. There are some cool spots here, like when Inoue sprinboards off of Yamada’s back before hitting a dropkick on one of her opponents, but there isn’t much in the way of structure, and the match runs way too long for something without a clear hook. Disappointing considering the names involved.
DECENT

All Japan Women
Wrestlemarinepiad III
November 21st 1991
Steel Cage Texas Death Match: Bull Nakano & Monster Ripper vs. Jungle Jack (Aja Kong & Bison Kimura)

Jungle Jack were still in the middle of their epic WWWA Tag Title reign here, but this match was not for the titles for whatever reason. Monster Ripper is Rhonda Singh, who judging by this match was a fairly typical Moolah-style gaijin brawler. For the most part this is an unremarkable brawl, especially compared to the wild cage match that ended the previous year’s Wrestlemarinepiad. There is an absolutely insane spot where Kong dives from the top of the cage and winds up belly flopping on the mat as Nakano moves, which leads to a bunch of medical staff coming out and eventually forcibly removing her from the match. Before Kong’s out of the cage Ripper keeps doing some cheap-shot attacks to her, causing some tension with Nakano, which leads into the next apparently impromptu match…
DECENT

All Japan Women
Wrestlemarinepiad III
November 21st 1991
Steel Cage Match: Bull Nakano vs. Monster Ripper

Cagematch states that this is for the WWWA Title, but I don’t believe that that is actually the case. Regardless it’s ultimately more of a post-match angle than it is a match in its own right. It’s a plodding brawl that’s limited by Ripper’s dull GLOW-level wrestling. It does have a very cool spot at the end, as Nakano delivers a leg drop off the top of the cage to knock Ripper out for a 10-count, but you can really just fast-forward to that moment and skip the match itself. Ripper takes the mic afterwards and inexplicably demands a title rematch (despite taking a definitive loss here), but if that match ever happened I don’t think it’s one that I need to watch.
MEDIOCRE

One last thing I want to link to is an article I found on Scott's Blog of Doom with a very interesting overview of the history of All Japan Women. It's very helpful if you are someone like me who is new to this stuff and trying to figure out what's going on.
https://blogofdoom.com/index.php/2019/0 ... ry-of-ajw/

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Frank Olson
Posts: 561
Joined: Sat Dec 26, 2015 1:42 am
Location: Milwaukee WI

Re: Getting Into Classic Joshi

Post by Frank Olson » Tue Oct 08, 2019 1:28 am

I've reached the point in joshi history where I can use Niagradriver 93's very helpful Joshi Puroresu Recommended Viewing List, which can be found at this link and which contains YouTube links to each of the following matches. I'll still be checking out some matches off of the list here and there if I come across something that looks interesting or if I'm watching a full show, but this list is a tremendous resource.

All Japan Women
Super Charge
January 4th 1992
Manami Toyota vs. Toshiyo Yamada

This match seems to have been designed to show Toyota and Yamada as equals. It goes to a 30 minute draw, and includes two 5 minute overtimes, but no winner is determined and neither competitor is ever really in control of the match for very long at a time. It’s a good story, but the way that they go about telling it is a little strange. Perhaps I’m just too used to the modern New Japan style where they might tell this type of story by having two wrestlers strike each other over and over again with neither competitor giving their opponent the satisfaction of seeing them flinch, but here Toyota and Yamada do a lot of trading of submissions that don’t seem to have much effect on each other, and I found that less compelling. There are still some very cool moments – Yamada carrying around Toyota in a sort of inverted torture rack before dropping her like a sack of potatoes, Yamada doing her awesome flying spinning kick off of the top rope, Toyota missing a moonsault to the outside and wiping out on the floor – but ultimately I came away from this match thinking that I prefer both of these wrestlers as a team than as opponents.
GOOD

All Japan Women
Super Charge
January 4th 1992
IWA Championship: Kyoko Inoue (c) vs. Akira Hokuto

Kyoko must have had a Mexican excursion at some point in 1991, because she came out at Wrestlemarinepiad III in a poncho and sombrero, and in this match she is sporting some lucha-inspired gear. She even starts the match with some wacky lucha flipping, including a very unique looking hurricanrana. Unfortunately this early display of athleticism precedes a surprisingly slow-paced match that doesn’t have enough action to justify its length. As with the previous match from the same show there are some neat moments, like Hokuto dropkicking Inoue’s back as the champion is midair on a springboard senton attempt, or Inoue busting out a crazy Texas Cloverleaf variation of her trademark big swing, but these cool spots are too few and far between.
GOOD

All Japan Women
March 7th 1992
UWA Tag Team Championship: Manami Toyota & Toshiyo Yamada (c) vs. Yumiko Hotta & Suzuka Minami

Hotta is about the same height and only slightly more bulky than her opponents, but she’s such a stiff hitter that she easily comes off as the most intimidating of the four women in this match. This one follows a pretty basic tag team match structure of the champions getting isolated and beaten down by their more vicious challengers, before miraculously escaping and making the hot tag to their fresher partner. It’s formulaic but effective. Minami doesn’t do much to stand out (which, come to think of it, is true of most of the matches I’ve seen her in) but the match is a strong showcase for the Toyota/Yamada team and for Hotta’s vicious style.
VERY GOOD

All Japan Women
St Battle Day
March 20th 1992
2/3 Falls for the WWWA Tag Team Championship: Jungle Jack (Aja Kong & Bison Kimura) (c) vs. Manami Toyota & Toshiyo Yamada

Going into this match Jungle Jack had held the WWWA Tag Team Titles since December 1990 (with a brief break in early ’91 where the titles were vacated, before Jungle Jack won the vacant titles back). So it’s only fitting that this match where they finally actually lose the titles comes in the form of an epic 2/3 falls contest.

Despite the suitably lengthy match time, this one starts off fast and furious with Toyota immediately blindsiding Kong with a slap and hitting her with a German suplex for a nearfall. Kong pays Toyota back a bit later on by tossing her around by her hair. Eventually Toyota wins the fall for her team by hitting Kimura with the Ocean Cyclone suplex. Kong isn’t pleased with this, and quickly turns the second fall into a wild Korakuen Hall crowd brawl. She looks like a kaiju as she throws tables, chairs, and her trademark metal boxes while audience members scatter around her like pedestrians fleeing from buildings being crushed. It becomes a little awkward when Kong takes this style back into the ring and uses a bunch of weapons right in front of the referee, but she really does come off as a beast, so I guess the gap in logic with regards to the rules is ultimately worth it. This fall is basically an extended squash, with Kong ultimately making it 1-1 with a brutal-looking middle rope powerbomb. The last fall is a lot of back and forth spots, with Toyota and Yamada finally conquering the dominant champions with a double team top rope backdrop on Kong.

This match is suitably dramatic, but it feels like it could’ve used some tightening up, and perhaps a more defined story or a more focused style to really put it over the top. The first and third falls in particular feel unnecessarily drawn out. They are too fast paced to be boring, but there are long stretches that don’t feel as urgent as you’d like them to be under the circumstances.
VERY GOOD

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