It’s time for some more of the peak of women’s wrestling.
All Japan Women’s Pro-Wrestling (AJW) was home of the best women’s wrestlers on the planet. From 1986 to 1995, put on women’s wrestling clinics that put today’s women’s wrestling scene to shame. These women’s (joshi) wrestlers weren’t just innovators in the sport of professional wrestling. They were amazing grapplers that, in some respects, outdid their male counterparts in terms of what they could do in the ring.
Today we revisit one of the classics from the peak era of women’s pro wrestling: an inter-promotional tag team match between, Manami Toyota & Toshiyo Yamada and Dynamite Kansai and Mayumi Ozaki.
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.
The story of this match has more to do with the politics of the wrestling promotions than the wrestlers themselves. AJW was the first women’s wrestling promotion in Japan and had been in operation since 1968. It held a monopoly on women’s pro wrestling until 1986. Many women had grown tired of AJW’s strict rules governing wrestlers’ behavior (no drinking, no smoking, no boys, mandatory retirement at age 25, among others).
Thus, in 1986, some of these disgruntled women separated to form their own company, Japan Women’s Pro-Wrestling (the Original JWP). That company lasted until 1992 and then fell apart following a major internal schism. The original JWP roster split into two camps, the ‘shooters’ and the ‘entertainers’. The former, composed mostly of hardnosed strikers and more MMA-inspired athletes, left to form Ladies Legend Pro-Wrestling. Meanwhile, the latter group created JWP Project, later known as JWP Joshi Puroresu.
The latter group’s goal was to compete with industry juggernaut AJW. But instead of trying to crush this new opponent as soon as they entered the market, AJW decided to help them grow to create healthy competition. To that end, AJW lent two of its top athletes to compete against two of JWP’s top athletes in an inter-promotional tag team match for AJW’s WWWA Tag Team titles.
This match is two-out-of-three falls with a 60-minute time limit and is for the WWWA Tag Team Titles. It originally took place on April 11th, 1993. It’s also another interpromotional match between All Japan Women’s Pro-Wrestling (AJW) and JWP Joshi Puroresu (JWP). Not only was this match rated 5-stars but was also voted 1993’s Match of the Year by the Wrestling Observer’s readers. That is major praise given how many great matches took place during that year.
Toyota is the one dressed in blue with a white outline. Yamada is also in blue but is wearing long blue karate pants. Ozaki is in all red, while Dynamite is in bright yellow attire.
As the bell rings, Dynamite lands a high kick to Yamada’s head and Ozaki whips Toyota into her corner. Dynamite hoists Yamada over her head and lands a massive Splash Mountain powerbomb (Niagara Driver used by Roman Reigns). The referee counts one, two, three! There’s the first fall after 12 seconds.
Winners of the first fall: Dynamite Kansai & Mayumi Ozaki
Toyota and a bunch of rookies all rush to Yamada, who hasn’t moved after taking that Splash Mountain. She gets up slowly as Dynamite chomps at the bit to start the next round. The moment she gets to her feet, the bell rings and Dynamite rushes her and then drops her with another high kick. Dynamite goes for a diving back elbow, but Yamada dodges and makes a desperation tag to Toyota.
Toyota flies in like a bat out of hell and lands multiple running shotgun dropkicks to Dynamite, followed by a diving one for good measure. She goes for a moonsault and Dynamite dodges, but Yamada comes in to slam her into place so that Toyota’s second moonsault lands perfectly. She pins Dynamite, but Ozaki breaks it up at two.
Dynamite reverses an Irish whip on Toyota, but Toyota reverses into a unique submission hold apparently called ‘ride the wings’. She transitions into another clever hold before Dynamite breaks out and applies a leglock. Toyota reaches the ropes, so Dynamite kicks her and tags in Ozaki.
Ozaki whips Toyota and lands a snap DDT for two, then applies a dragon sleeper. Then Ozaki lands some sort of faceplant move and applies a camel clutch. This gives Dynamite an opening as she charges in and punts Toyota hard in the upper chest. Ouch, that looked painful.
Ozaki lands a vertical suplex and tags in Dynamite. Dynamite lands a big slam and an elbow drop for a tow-count, and Toyota bridges out. In response, Dynamite applies a sleeper with bodyscissors, then transitions into a dragon sleeper of her own as Toyota tries to escape. Dynamite holds Toyota in place as Ozaki lands a diving senton onto her. Ozaki’s the legal wrestler as she whips Toyota, but Toyota reverses Ozaki’s pop-up into a dropkick. She tags in Yamada and they hit a double-team clothesline on Ozaki. Now it’s time for Toyota’s revenge as she camel clutches Ozaki and Yamada karate kicks Ozaki in the chest.
Yamada’s in control as she snap suplexes Ozaki and lands several hard martial arts kicks. Dynamite can take no more of this and she comes in. we get a standoff between the two short-haired strikers. Dynamite wins the kick exchange and drops Yamada. She keeps kicking her until Yamada grabs Dynamite’s leg to prevent further kicks. That doesn’t last long as Dynamite blasts Yamada with a kick right to the face. The referee makes Dynamite back off to check to see if Yamada’s even conscious.
Dynamite charges in once more with kicks, but Yamada gets a second wind and fires back with kicks of her own. Yamada whips Dynamite and drops her with another huge kick then applies a single leg crab. But that doesn’t last long as Ozaki kicks Yamada to break it up.
Yamada reaches her corner and tags Toyota, who lands a diving headbutt to a standing Dynamite. Ozaki comes in and reverses Toyota’s Irish whip with a trio of running neckbreaker drops for a two-count. Ozaki applies a single leg crab then an STF. Great psychology as she weakens Toyota’s legs, which are central to Toyota’s offensive strategy. Then she adds a dragon sleeper element to the STF to put even more pressure on Toyota’s body.
Ozaki hits a few running strikes, but Toyota absorbs them and fires back with some of her own and gets a two-count. She lands a bridging vertical suplex but Dynamite breaks it up. Toyota tags Yamada, who applies a Stretch Muffler-type submission hold to Ozaki’s leg. But that doesn’t last long because Dynamite comes in and kicks the crap out of Yamada’s face.
Dynamite tags in and lands a piledriver on Yamada for another two-count. Then she applies a sharpshooter on Yamada, but not before stomping on Yamada’s head for extra damage. Then, Ozaki comes in and applies a camel clutch on Yamada. Two submission holds at once. Fantastic tag team logic.
Yamada reaches the ropes, so Dynamite punts her head again and tags in Ozaki. Ozaki lands a jumping attack and a bridging back suplex for a two-count. Yamada reverses an Irish whip and lands a hip toss for a two-count of her own, followed by a bridging back suplex for another two-count. She tags in Toyota, who applies another unique submission hold. This one looks like a cross between a butterfly lock and a martial arts guard. Toyota whips Ozaki into a corner and charges, but Ozaki ducks and Dynamite charges in and smashes Toyota with a clothesline of her own. Meanwhile, Yamada comes in, only to eat a back suplex from Ozaki. Both Dynamite and Ozaki dive out of the ring and onto their respective opponents. Crazy move.
Back in the ring, Dynamite slams Toyota hard onto the mat. Then both she and Ozaki hit diving head-butts in stereo onto Toyota. Ozaki pins but Toyota kicks out at 2.5. Dynamite whips Toyota into her corner, but Toyota dropkicks Ozaki away. Then she ducks a clothesline from Dynamite and hits a freaking sweet Asai moonsault onto Ozaki outside as Yamada kicks Dynamite in the face in the ring.
In the ring, Toyota and Yamada double team Ozaki with a two-woman sidewalk slam and prepare another double team move as Dynamite charges in. She knocks Yamada off the turnbuckle as Toyota and Ozaki keep exchanging waistlocks. Dynamite kicks Toyota hard, which allows Ozaki to lands a bridging German suplex. The referee counts one, two, thr—no, Toyota kicks out at 2.9. Great near-fall.
Ozaki tags in dynamite who charges with a clothesline, but Toyota reverses it into a picture-perfect Bridging German suplex of her own. She pins, but Dynamite kicks out at 2.75. Yamada tags in and tries a martial arts kick, but dynamite reverses that into yet another bridging German suplex that also gets a two-count. Dynamite tags Ozaki and they go for a double-team clothesline, but Yamada dodges and tries a German on Dynamite, and Ozaki breaks that up too. Dynamite goes for a powerbomb and ducks a charging Toyota’s clothesline. Ozaki holds Toyota against the ropes as Yamada escapes the powerbomb and lands a bridging German suplex for a count of 2.85. Another great near-fall.
Toyota tags in and she and Yamada somehow manage to land a double-team powerbomb on the much heavier Dynamite. That was really impressive. The referee counts one, two, no, Dynamite kicks out at 2.9. But Toyota’s not done. Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex. She just dropped Dynamite with her strongest finisher. The referee counts one, two, and three! There’s the second fall.
Winners of the second fall: Manami Toyota and Toshiyo Yamada
The teams are tied 1-1 as the third round begins after about a minute’s reprieve. The bell rings and Toyota lands a bridging German suplex right away for a 2.5-count. Yamada tags in and whips Dynamite, who reverses it, only to eat a flying kick from Yamada. Yamada lands multiple running kicks to Dynamite and a diving elbow smash. She pins, but Ozaki breaks it up. Yamada applies the stretch muffler again to weaken Dynamite’s kicking as Dynamite tries to inch closer to Ozaki to tag her in. Ozaki’s literally fingertips away but can’t reach her partner. Then Yamada shows impressive strength by lifting Dynamite off the ground by her leg. Damn, that’s crazy.
Toyota tags in and starts landing shotgun dropkicks on Dynamite. She prepares for a diving one but Ozaki cuts her off. The action spills to the outside as Dynamite and Ozaki start throwing their opponents around the ringside area and into the crowd.
Back in the ring, Dynamite superplexes Toyota and pins, but somehow Toyota manages to bridge out at two, despite all the damage she’s taken. Ozaki tags in and lands a Twisted Bliss-style splash which also gets a two-count. Ozaki whips Toyota, but Toyota jumps onto the ropes and lands a flying crossbody. What an amazing counter. She pins Ozaki, but Ozaki kicks out at two.
Toyota applies an octopus stretch and transitions into a crucifix pin for a two-count. Yamada tags in and lands a hard chop to the head and a sidewalks slam for a two-count. She goes to pick Ozaki up, but Ozaki does an amazing reversal into a victory roll for two. Yamada tries to maintain control over Ozaki, but Ozaki reaches her corner allowing Dynamite to tag in. Dynamite fires away with kicks on Yamada, having recovered from the latter’s earlier leg work. She lands a backdrop suplex for two, followed by a bridging Northern Lights suplex for another two-count.
Ozaki tags in and locks in an STF, but Yamada soon reaches the ropes. But that doesn’t stop Dynamite from kicking her very hard as the hold is broken. Ozaki slams Yamada and applies a legbar of sorts, but again Yamada reaches the ropes. Ozaki lands a Cesaro-style Neutralizer and tags in Dynamite, who lands a painful-looking vertical suplex for a two-count. Then she applies a dragon sleeper, but again Yamada shows great ring awareness by reaching the ropes. So Dynamite punches her with more hard kicks and tags in Ozaki.
Ozaki Irish whips Yamada, but Yamada retaliates with a boot to the face. She whips Ozaki into the corner and lands more hard martial arts kicks followed by a snap butterfly suplex. Then she lands one more such suplex and tags in Toyota. Toyota comes charging in with dropkicks and diving crossbody presses, but again Ozaki kicks out at two. A bridging double-wrist suplex by Toyota also gets her a two-count. Toyota goes for a German suplex but Ozaki resists, so Toyota rolls her up instead. But Ozaki reverses that by trapping Toyota’s arm and crawling to her corner to tag in Dynamite. Great logic there.
Dynamite whips Toyota and lands a pop-up Powerbomb of sorts into a Boston crab. She sits as far back as she can, but Yamada kicks her hard in the back. Undeterred, Dynamite cinches the same hold in a second time, then goes to Irish whip Toyota into a corner. But Toyota reverses this into a DDT on Dynamite. Ozaki comes in to try and double-team Toyota, but Toyota ducks a clothesline from Dynamite which ends up hitting Ozaki instead. Yamada takes advantage of this by hitting Dynamite with a German suplex, and then Toyota drops her with a quebrada for a two-count.
Yamada tags in and lands multiple kicks to Dynamite for another two-count. She holds dynamite in place as Toyota lands a diving dropkick, but Dynamite fights out of Yamada’s attempt at a follow-up German suplex. But she can’t escape the second as Yamada lands it and bridges, only for Ozaki to save her partner.
Yamada lands a top-rope diving kick then goes for the Vertebreaker but Ozaki makes the save once more. She tries for the same move a second time but Dynamite powers out and tags in Ozaki. Ozaki lands a few kicks of her own and blocks Yamada’s attempt at a high kick to the head and reverses into a leglock. Great counter.
Ozaki maintains control with a folding powerbomb and gets another two-count. She goes for a diving rolling senton but Yamada rolls out of the way. Again Yamada goes for the Vertebreaker but Dynamite interferes this time. This allows Ozaki to reverse the hold into a victory roll, but Yamada kicks out at 2.75. Ozaki grabs Yamada and goes to her corner, but doesn’t notice Toyota charging in to dropkick Dynamite off the apron. Yamada and Toyota land a double-team suplex of sorts to send Ozaki crashing back down to the mat. Yamada goes for a pin but once more Ozaki kicks out. Yamada slams Ozaki and she and Toyota hit stereo diving headbutts, for yet another two-count. Toyota and Yamada whip Ozaki into a corner and prepare a double-team corner move, but Dynamite wraps her arms around Ozaki to save her. Excellent tag team work there.
Dynamite tries to hold them both in place as Ozaki dives off the top rope, but they move and Ozaki hits Dynamite instead. The blue team succeeds in double-teaming Ozaki and drops her with a back suplex from the second rope. Toyota maintains control and lands a Japanese Ocean suplex (double-wrist-lock bridging German suplex) but Dynamite breaks it up. Toyota goes for the rolling cradle as Dynamite whips Yamada into the steel barricade at ringside. Ozaki kicks out of Toyota’s pin as Yamada holds Dynamite on the apron, preventing her from getting into the ring. Toyota lands another JOS but Ozaki kicks out at 2.8.
Toyota goes for the same move again but Dynamite charges in and clotheslines her in the back of the head. Dynamite tags in and kicks Toyota in the head some more. Then she goes for her signature Splash Mountain powerbomb. She goes for a second one, Yamada interrupts and whips her into a corner, but Dynamite dodges her and lariats Toyota hard. Then she lariats Yamada for good measure and tags in Ozaki. Doomsday Device! But that’s not enough. Ozaki climbs the turnbuckle again as Dynamite hoists Toyota back onto her shoulders. Doomsday Razor’s Edge! What a crazy move! That has to be the most insane double-team wrestling move I’ve ever seen!
Ozaki goes for the cover. One, two, three! There’s the match!
Winners and NEW WWWA Tag Team Champions after 31:11: Dynamite Kansai & Mayumi Ozaki
Amazing! Fantastic! Mind-blowing! This is what women’s tag team wrestling should be. This was a spectacular wrestling match from start to finish. To this very day I have not seen a 2-on-2 women’s tag team wrestling match this great. It isn’t an exaggeration to say that this was a revolutionary match. These four women were so far ahead of their time. This is why AJW was and still is the standard bearer for women’s pro wrestling.
There was something to love for everyone in this match. If sheer nonstop athleticism is your thing, then you got that too courtesy of Manami Toyota. She was on fire here, running on overdrive with unmatched speed and agility. She was able to show basically everything from incredible speed and agility, to perfect timing, to technical precision, to amazing strength by lifting an opponent much bigger than herself onto her shoulders like she was weightless. Throughout this match, Toyota was able to do things that very few wrestlers – male or female – could do. Her skillset as a wrestler was put on full display here. She showed why she’s not just the best women’s wrestler ever, but, according to Dave Meltzer himself, ‘one of the greatest wrestlers of all-time, regardless of gender.’
If easy-to-follow storytelling strikes your fancy, you’ve got that here too. Dynamite Kansai bullied the hell out of both her opponents, especially Toshiyo Yamada. She kicked the hell out of both of them on several occasions, and did so with a monstrous, almost-inhuman expression on her face. Because of this work, it gave a purpose to both Toyota’s and Yamada’s attacks on her. This in turn rewards the viewer because you get to see the payoff in the form of Toyota and Yamada fighting back against Kansai in some truly exciting sequences. It’s always satisfying to see a bully get their comeuppance, and Kansai played that role perfectly. Even if she (the villainess) won the match, her sequences with Yamada were awesome because she was so convincing in her dastardly role and went out of her way to make Yamada look like a heroine fighting from underneath against her.
If pure grappling skill and technical reversals is your favorite thing, then you got that too courtesy of Mayumi Ozaki. Ozaki was able to transition from move to move seamlessly while infusing a focused logic into her actions. Her counters were both incredibly creative and simplistic at the same time. She knew how to make the most out of every move she made. She has this uncanny ability to land moves so gracefully. And whenever she’d lock in a submission hold, she’d do these small movements to make them look more painful and legitimate than they really are. That’s the mark of a real pro right there.
And if you’re the type that likes their wrestling brutal, then you get that from all four wrestlers involved. Virtually all the big moves in this match looked unbelievably brutal. The hard martial arts-inspired kicks, the high-angle suplexes, the realistic submission holds, the slams and powerbombs, all of it. Not only did these four women tell a great story, but they did so while taking an insane amount of physical punishment. I just don’t think you’d see something like this in today’s North American women’s wrestling landscape, which is a shame. These women put themselves through the same kinds of hell as the best male wrestlers of their day and earned your respect for taking the same kinds of bumps, and in some cases more extreme ones (see that final Doomsday Razor’s Edge, for example).
Final Rating: *****
This match had everything you could possibly ask for. There was incredible athleticism, fantastic near-falls, daredevil acrobatics, brutal high-angle suplexes, high-impact maneuvers, a simple-yet-believable underdog story, lots of tension, a great inner story, unpredictable action, and lots of twists and turns. While there was definitely a lack of selling in terms of pain, I’ve come to understand that’s part of the joshi style.
You’re not doing to find lots of scientific grappling and deep storytelling through limbwork here. Instead, what you’ll find is nonstop athleticism and lots of can-you-top-this insanity. And while there’s been a lot of that demonstrated in recent years courtesy of NJPW, PWG and the indy scene, there’s a uniqueness about this match and the women of its day that separates it from those other companies. This match is bound to surprise some people because of how brutal it is, regardless of whether the participants are male or female. The pacing is so lightning-fast it would make Rey Mysterio take a breather. The technical reversals remind of Owen Hart matches. And the crisp, smooth execution of crazy suplexes reminds me of the best matches from AJPW.
If anything, this match – and indeed, the 1990’s joshi style- feels like a combination of the best elements of various pro wrestling styles. It takes the incredible speed and pacing, daredevil acrobatics, and lightning-quick reversals of lucha libre and combines them with the technical precision and high-risk style of AJPW’s Ring’s Road and adds some elements of southern, NWA-style storytelling. This hodgepodge of wrestling styles makes for a very entertaining viewing experience, one you’re not likely to get anywhere or anytime else.
Check out previous entries in my 5 Star Match Reviews series right here. Thanks for reading.