It’s time to revisit another joshi wrestling classic.
If the Wrestling Observer is to be believed, then the joshi wrestling of the late 1980s and 1990s was the best women’s wrestling ever. So far in this series, the women’s matches of that era that I’ve reviewed corroborate that claim. Those 1990s women put on some of the most dazzling, mind-blowing displays of athleticism, endurance and technique in wrestling history.
Most of them have centered on a handful of specific wrestlers (Manami Toyota, Aja Kong, Mayumi Ozaki, etc.). Now, we’re going to look at someone else. It’s a wrestling match from JWP Joshi Puroresu between Devil Masami and someone many older fans might recognize from the 1990s, Bull Nakano.
As a reminder, I am reviewing Five Star and almost-Five Star wrestling matches as rated by Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer. It goes back to the 1980s and I’m going to pick different matches from different eras to see how they look today. Check out previous entries in my 5 Star Match Reviews series right here.
This is a random singles match between two women from JWP Joshi Puroresu, Bull Nakano and Devil Masami. Their wrestling names followed a classic trope of taking a person’s real name and putting an intimidating word in place of their first or last name. So Masami Yoshida became Devil Masami and Keiko Nakano became Bull Nakano. This was done to make the wrestler seem larger-than-life without giving them an overly-cartoonish gimmick. Hercules Hernandez was a great example during the 1980s and 1990s, and Thunder Rosa in NWA and AEW is a great modern example.
Appearance-wise, it’s pretty easy to tell Masami from Nakano. Masami’s dressed in all purple and looks like a generic joshi wrestler of her day. Nakano, meanwhile, looks like a beast with her weird make-up and hair standing straight up. Nakano’s supposed to have this incredible aura of badassery from what I’ve heard and read, so let’s see if that shines through in this match.
This match took place on April 18th, 1993.
The match starts off with both women landing hard clotheslines on each other. Both women smash each other into various turnbuckles and trade head-butts. Masami applies a sleeperhold then transitions into a cross armbreaker. Nakano tries to pin but only gets two and Masami returns to the armbreaker. Nakano reverses into an armbreaker of her own, which Masami reverses into a single leg crab.
Masami goes for a Romero special but screws something up, so she transitions into a pendulum hold. She lands a leg drop for a quick two-count as Nakano gets her foot on the rope. Masami lands a few awkward punches then chokes Nakano with her foot. Nakano reverses a vertical suplex into her own and locks in her Bull’s Angelito (Scorpion Crosslock) submission hold. That hold falls apart so she locks in a chinlock then drops Masami ass-first on the mat. This has been very slow and plodding so far.
Another chinlock by Nakano, which Masami escapes by biting the hand. Nakano responds with an abdominal stretch then switches into an arm scissor. She stomps on Masami’s arm, but Masami somehow gets to her feet and starts kicking Nakano’s leg. Masami continues with running kicks to Nakano’s face, but loses control of the match after Nakano clotheslines her on the ropes. She follows with a running lariat off the apron that sense Masami outside.
Nakano pursues her and whips her into the steel ring barricade, but Masami blocks a running kick and slams Nakano onto the floor. Powerbomb on the ringside mats by Masami. Finally, some actual tension in the match.
Masami goes for a second powerbomb but Nakano counters. She slams Masami on the mats and lands a diving stomp to the stomach. Ouch, that looked rough. Masami reverses a whip into the barricade and both women go over it with a clothesline. In the ring, Masami nails a folding powerbomb for a two-count, then applies a dragon sleeper. Nakano kicks out of it and gets clotheslined in the back of the head. A superplex by Masami gets her a two-count.
Masami whips Nakano but she counters into a bridging northern lights suplex, only for Masami to get her foot on the rope. Nakano whips Masami into a corner and walks over, but Masami gets her feet up. Nakano obviously sees this and tosses Masami down to the mat. Nakano goes for a dive but Masami cuts her off and German suplexes her across the ring. That looked cool.
Masami lands a sloppy-looking diving dropkick for another two-count and applies a camel clutch. That doesn’t lead to anything, so Masami whips Nakano into the steel barricade again. This is apparently cause for concern for the badass Nakano, as some ringside aides bring her some water to drink.
After a LOOOONG time, Nakano returns to the ring and they do an impromptu test of strength. Nakano takes Masami down and busts out some nunchakus.
Yes, NUNCHAKUS. The audience boos, Masami plays to the crowd, and Nakano looks like she stopped giving a shit about this match ages ago.
Then Masami throws the nunchakus at Nakano and dares her to use them. After a long tease, Nakano grants her wish and hits her with the nunchakus three times, then slams her and lands a Moonsault for a two-count. Wow, all that build up and that’s the payoff? Oh, and Masami doesn’t just kick out but bridges out. So much for the pain to her abdomen from those nunchaku shots.
Nakano continues with a leglock in the middle of the ring. She tries different variations of a leglock until Masami reaches the ropes, which Nakano answers with a Sharpshooter. Then she shifts once more by appearing to try and pull Masami’s leg out of its socket. And yet, Masami still kicks out at two after all that work. Nakano drags Masami ringside and goes to throw her into the barricade but somehow Masami escapes and hits Nakano with a steel chair.
That appears to piss Nakano off as she launches Masami into the barricade and starts smashing her into any metal object in the crowd that she can find. Masami eats a chairshot to the head and gets thrown into a row of empty seats. Now it’s Masami’s turn to have some water to drink. In the middle of a wrestling match.
Back in the ring, Masami lands an arm throw followed by a reverse Tombstone for a two-count. Nakano reverses an Irish whip and lands a back body drop, only to walk into a lariat. Masami misses a swanton so she nails another lariat. If this play-by-play comes across as bland and not exciting, that’s because the match itself is unfolding like that.
Nakano ducks a clothesline and lands an enzuigiri. She follows with a powerbomb and a diving guillotine leg drop for another two-count. She goes for a springboard kick but Masami counters into an STF, then into a dragon sleeper. Masami kicks Nakano out of the ring then lands a diving plancha onto her from the top rope.
Ringside, Nakano counters Masami’s whip by smashing her face-first into the steel ringpost. She places Masami on a table by the barricade but Masami gets off, so Nakano lands a suicide splash dive. She slams Masami in the ring and goes for another guillotine leg drop but Masami dodges. Bridging German suplex. Nakano kicks out. Masami lands her own diving guillotine leg drop but Nakano kicks out of that. Another clothesline to the back of the head.
Nakano dodges a diving dropkick and lands two big lariats for another two-count. A kneeling powerbomb gets Nakano another two-count. She lands the same move a second time for another two-count, but Masami reverses her pin mid-count. Nakano kicks out at two. Lariat bit Masami. Folding powerbomb for another two-count. Ligerbomb. Nakano kicks out and reverses the pin. Masami kicks out. Masami tries to land a move from the top rope but Nakano kicks her away. Superplex by Masami, no, Nakano reverses into a midair pin. Masami kicks out at two. Guillotine leg drop. Masami kicks out. Rolling guillotine leg drop from the top rope. Nakano pins. One, two three! Mercifully, this match is over.
Winner after 36:37: Bull Nakano
Oh my God, that was PAINFUL. That was such a tough match to sit through. It was just so BORING. Those thirty-five minutes felt more like an hour. It reminded me of Triple H vs. Randy Orton at WrestleMania XXV. It wasn’t necessarily a bad match, but it had perhaps the worst pacing for a main-event wrestling contest that I’ve ever seen.
Everything happened at such a glacial pace here. The actual wrestling was okay but happened without any sense of urgency or excitement. It was as if they were putting on a long match just for the sake of showing everyone that they could.
And while that can be justified in some cases (any big Four Pillars match or Okada/Omega, for example), that wasn’t the case here. There wasn’t anything done that justified going thirty-five minutes. If they stripped away all the stalling, taunting, water drinking and senseless rest holds, and picked up the pace even slightly, this match would’ve gone maybe twelve minutes and would’ve been a perfectly passable little sprint.
Worse, there was no inner story or logical flow in this match. Instead of opening with a hot, exciting exchange, they went straight to submission holds. And none of those moves made an impact later on in the match. Neither woman sold their arms following armbreakers and Masami was able to run and dive like normal despite Nakano nearly ripping one of her legs off. And the middle portion of the match featured a lame nunchaku spot that had such a weak payoff for such a big setup. It looked for all the world that these two women were just pretending to be wrestlers instead of actually being wrestlers.
Final Rating: **1/2
The wrestling itself was decent, the big moves were cool, and the match really picked up in the last five minutes. But the problem was everything that took place during the preceding half hour. They tried their best to make this into an epic war but they failed because they couldn’t pace the match properly.
The best wrestling matches have their share of peaks and valleys to take the viewer on a ride. This match only knew one speed: neutral. Because of that, it was hard to really stay invested or excited in the action as it unfolded. And the stuff they did do didn’t have that ‘oomph’ of other big matches. The commentary worsened the situation as they appeared to laugh at each other’s jokes instead of calling big spots and selling the severity of the impact these women were supposed to be taking.
All in all, it’s better to pass on watching this match. It’s painfully slow and even though they do land some impressive moves, nothing feels really important. This match proves that putting a good wrestling match together is harder than most people might think. Not only do you have to take the maneuvers and flow of the match into consideration, but you must also consider pacing. Without proper pacing, a match will just fall flat and disappoint the audience. This match is proof of that in action.
Check out previous entries in my 5 Star Match Reviews series right here. Thanks for reading