5-Star Match Reviews: Double Inoue vs. Manami Toyota & Sakie Hasegawa – AJW August 30th, 1995

manami toyota red

Anytime you want to see insane, limit-breaking wrestling action, it’s best to turn the clock back to the 1990s. There was something about that decade that saw a huge spike in the quality of in-ring wrestling around the world.

But nowhere was it more obvious than in Japan, which has long been the trend-setter in terms of what goes on between the ropes. And who better to show us this mindset in action than the women of All Japan Women (AJW). As we’ve seen before in this series, the joshis of AJW were so ahead of their game that few have managed to meet or surpass them. It took almost thirty years for another women’s match anywhere to achieve 5-Star status. And today we revisit another classic from that golden decade to see how well it holds up.

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

AJW, like its male counterpart AJPW, didn’t really do angles. Wrestling matches were all about competition, skill, talent, and prestige. As such, title matches were rare and taken VERY seriously. Even though most people knew wrestling was phony, AJW and its women went the extra mile to convince viewers otherwise. As such, the four women in this match were going to push themselves and each other to their absolute limits to prove that they were the best.

This match was for the WWWA World Tag Team Championships. The champions were Takako Inoue and Kyoko Inoue, who weren’t related at all. It was one big coincidence that they happened to have identical last names and wrestled for the same company. Kind of like AEW’s “Hangman” Adam Page and Ethan Page. The challengers were Manami Toyota and Sakie Hasegawa. Toyota in her prime was widely considered the best women’s wrestler on the entire planet. To this day she boasts an extensive catalog of some of the best matches ever and was front and centre in AJW’s boundary-pushing style. Though she was a star on her own, Toyota cycled through tag partners to have big matches with. By 1995 she was teaming with Hasegawa, who was lower-carder in AJW. I’ll be honest, I don’t know much about her, though it seems like her biggest claims to fame are her appearances in multi-woman matches. She had a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance at the 1995 Survivor Series PPV in which she got absolutely mauled by Aja Kong. But her other, more important tag appearance was in that absolutely insane 60-minute Thunder Queen Battle in 1993.

There’s been plenty of praise thrown around these old joshi matches, mostly for good reason. In fact, another two-out-of-three falls tag matches featuring Toyota is, in my opinion, the greatest women’s wrestling match of all time. But will this match that took place two years later hold up just as well?

The match

This match took place on August 30th, 1995. It’s a two-out-of-three falls match for Double Inoue’s WWWA World Tag Team Championships.

The bell rings and Kyoko gets double dropkicked by both opponents. They hit a few more double-team moves but then Kyoko dodges a double diving splash combo. Then both Inoues DDT each of their opponents and Kyoko drops Hasegawa with a clothesline and an overhead suplex. Takako tags in and spikes Hasegawa with two Tombstones, but not before driving her knee into Hasegawa’s face first. Each one gets Takako a two-count so she applies a dragon sleeper. Hasegawa fights out of that as well so Kyoko tags in and hits a running corner DDT. Hasegawa starts fighting back with chops but Kyoko hulks up and clotheslines Hasegawa and locks in a painful-looking camel clutch. Hasegawa blocks a few more moves and a pin so Takako tags in.

Takako goes after Hasegawa’s leg but Hasegawa hits back with a running bulldog and tags Toyota. Toyota ducks a clothesline and lands an infinite rolling cradle for a two-count. Piledriver by Toyota. Two-count. Then Toyota lands two shotgun dropkicks into a corner but misses a third. Tombstone by Takako for another two-count and Kyoko tags in. Kyoko hits some Mongolian chops and then turns a Toyota dropkick into a giant swing. Takako stomp on Toyota’s head to keep her from escaping the submission hold Kyoko’s setting up. Then Kyoko locks in what looks like an elevated Figure-4 leglock mixed with a double arm pull. These women really were great at coming up with stuff that was both creative and effective.

Kyoko switches to a camel clutch to further target Toyota’s back and then arches backwards to stretch Toyota in other ways than how God intended. Hasegawa tries saving Toyota by stomping on Kyoko but Ktoko tanks those strikes like they’re nothing until Takako takes Hasegawa out. Toyota eventually escapes but Kyoko clotheslines Hasegawa to block a tag and then tags Takako. Takako applies both an STF and a torture crab but Toyota resists both so she tags Kyoko back in. Kyoko hits a torture rack into a single knee backbreaker and nearly bends Toyota in half. She applies her own torture crab on Toyota and it looks like she’s stretching Toyota for real and not just sitting down like in a standard Boston crab. Toyota gets a ropebreak and then wipes both Inoues out with a counter springboard crossbody press…which she accomplishes by jumping onto the top rope and balancing herself enough to twist backwards and dive off. Toyota’s timing is simply insane.

Hasegawa tags in and tries to do a similar double-team move on Kyoko but Kyoko copies Toyota and hits a springboard back elbow. Kyoko and Hasegawa collide and then Kyoko drops her with a clothesline. She tries again but Hasegawa hits a spinkick and covers for a two-count. Hasegawa goes for an uranage but Kyoko blocks it. then Kyoko charges for another clothesline but Hasegawa blocks that and connects with not one but three uranages for another two-count. she tries another uranage but Takako saves her partner. Double Inoue send Hasegawa into the ropes but Toyota tags in hits a missile dropkick on both of them to save her partner. Both Inoues bail to the floor. Hasegawa holds them in place for Toyota, who jumps onto the top rope and lands a corkscrew senton onto both of them.

Back in the ring, Toyota misses a moonsault and Kyoko goes for her own top-rope dive. Toyota tries a superplex but Kyoko overpowers her and lifts her up into a diving powerslam. one, two, Toyota bridges out. That bridge is always impressive. Kyoko goes for a Niagara Driver. Toyota escapes and teases a German suplex. Takako stops her but gets knocked aside by Hasegawa. Toyota slams Kyoko and hits stereo diving splashes alongside Hasegawa. Hasegawa holds Takako against the ropes as the referee counts one, two, and – kick-out. Kyoko escapes a slam from Hasegawa and stops Toyota from diving again. Takako tries stopping Toyota but she herself gets knocked away. That allows Toyota to block another charge from Kyoko and drop Kyoko with a diving sunset flip powerbomb. One, two…and three! The first fall goes to the challengers!

Winners of the first fall after 14:11: Manami Toyota & Sakie Hasegawa

Double Inoue = 0; Toyota & Hasegawa = 1

The second fall begins after about a minute. Toyota rushes Kyoko and goes for her ultimate finisher, the Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex (bridging straightjacked electric chair suplex) but Kyoko lands behind her and drops her with a German. Hasegawa tags in and goes for an uranage. Kyoko fights out and lands a lariat followed by a Niagara Driver. One, two, three! There’s the second fall!

Winners of the second fall after 14:36: Double Inoue

Double Inoue = 1; Toyota & Hasegawa = 1

The third fall begins with Kyoko hitting several running lariats on Hasegawa as she’s draped against the ropes. Hasegawa eventually collapses but still manages to kick out at two. Takako tags in and Hasegawa hits some weak punches to her stomach for no effect. Takako follows with three Backdrop suplexes for yet another two-count and then chokes Hasegawa through the ropes. Then Takako kicks the daylight out of Hasegawa but Hasegawa follows Toyota’s lead and bridges out of the next pin.

Kyoko tags in and hits another clothesline for a two-count. She charges again but runs into an uranage. Hasegawa staggers over for a tag but Kyoko trips her up and drags her to her corner. Takako tags in and teases a JOCS of her own. But Hasegawa escapes and lands a spinkick. Hot tag to Toyota. Toyota lands two diving dropkicks for a two-count. That’s followed by a bridging German suplex for yet another two-count. Takako resists another German attempt but Hasegawa knees her in the face. That allows Toyota to connect with a second German for two once more. Takako reverses an Irish whip. Toyota counters with her patented Manami Roll/Yoshi tonic counter pin. One, two, Takako kicks out at 2.9.

Hasegawa tags in and hits a corner elbow and locks in an abdominal stretch. Toyota uses that moment to get some free kicks on Takako but Takako breaks away and is PISSED OFF. She walks over and smashes Toyota’s face into a turnbuckle, then ducks a spinkick from Hasegawa and drops her with a chokeslam. Takako goes for a dive but Toyota knocks her off the turnbuckle. Hasegawa goes for a dive of her own. Kyoko goes after her and hits a high-angle German suplex off the top rope.

The camera pans to Takako, who returns to the ring after apparently having smashed Toyota through a Japanese table (which, ICYDK, aren’t gimmicked to break). Takako lands a bridging Backdrop suplex for yet another two-count and then lands what looks like an electric chair suplex for the same result. Kyoko tags in and both Inoues hit a Razor’s Edge/diviing chokeslam combination. One, two, and th – Toyota makes the save. Kyoko dumps Toyota to ringside and Takako lands a diving knee to Hasegawa’s head. Another cover and another two-count. Takako dives again but this time she misses. Hasegawa lands another spinkick and tags Toyota. Toyota dives but Takako kicks her in midair. Takako goes for a dive and Toyota boots her to the floor and then dives onto her on the floor.

Back in the ring Toyota lands a Japanese Ocean Suplex (bridging armtrap German) for another close two-count. She goes for a moonsault but both Inoues cut her off. Takako chokeslams Toyota from the top rope and gets yet another two-count. Two more chokeslams from Takako and two more two-counts. In comes Kyoko with a big lariat…but it’s not enough for the three-count. Kyoko slams Toyota and goes for a diving back elbow. Hasegawa holds her in place on the top rope. Doomsday diving dropkick by the challengers. One, two, Kyoko kicks out. Finally Toyota connects with her moonsault…but only gets a two-count. Kyoko escapes a JOCS, tries a lariat, misses, and gets kicked by Hasegawa. JOCS connects! Toyota lands her super-finisher. One…two…and thr – NO, Kyoko survives!

Toyota goes for another moonsault bot Takako cuts her off. She blocks a superplex attempt from Kyoko and lands another diving dropkick. Then she tries the moonsault once more but Takako chokeslams her from the top rope yet again. Kyoko gets up and knocks Hasegawa down, leading to all four women being on the mat. Kyoko fires up and spikes Toyota with a Niagara Driver. One…two…and – no, Toyota kicks out of Kyoko’s finisher.

Both Inoues go for the Razor’s Edge/chokeslam combo but Hasegawa cuts Takako off. That allows Toyota to hit her Manami roll to counter the powerbomb for a two-count. Toyota goes for another diving dropkick. Kyoko jumps up and suplexes her from the top rope. Double Inoue hit a double diving DDT on Toyota. Takako holds Hasegawa on the ropes as Kyoko covers for still yet another two-count. Double Inoue tease their combo finisher again. And once again Hasegawa goes after Takako. But this time Takako chokeslams Hasegawa as Kyoko hits another Niagara Driver by herself. One, two, Toyota kicks out. Then the champs complete their combo and spike Toyota with that same combo move. Takako holds Hasegawa at bay as Kyoko covers Toyota. One, two, and three! There’s the match! The champions retain!

Winners of the match and STILL WWWA World Tag Team Champions after 28:45: Double Inoue (Takako Inoue & Kyoko Inoue)


That was wild. It was another thirty-minute rollercoaster ride that just flew by without ever getting boring. These women really were on another level in terms of athleticism, speed, and setting new standards. It was definitely an exciting match…but not something truly out of this world. By most women’s wrestling standards it was incredible; but by 1990s AJW standards…it was a largely middling affair.

Compared to other matches from the same era, this match falls a bit flat in a few areas. It lacked the intensity and heat of the AJW vs. JWP feud that lit the joshi world on fire between 1991 and 1995. Toyota and Hasegawa were great as a team but not as complementary to each other as Toyota and Toshiyo Yamada, with whom Toyota wrestled and teamed many times before. Double Inoue were a much stronger team and it showed in how they wrestled and their superior sense of timing throughout the match. And strangely, this match was also hindered by poor camera work, which happened partly because the wrestlers moved so quickly that not even the most trigger-happy production goon could cut to different cameras fast enough. Stuff happened so quickly that the cameras couldn’t keep up. There were several tags and big moves that took place out of shot. I had to rewind the video to see when someone tagged in and to understand why the match’s plot had suddenly taken a surprise turn. That’s both a blessing and a curse; the frenetic nature of the match makes it exciting but going too fast or doing too much can exhaust one’s audience and make them feel overwhelmed.

In a way, this match reminded me of modern AEW tag matches. As we’ve seen many times before (and as my friend John has noted countless times in his reviews), AEW tag matches send to be hit and miss when it comes to enforcing rules and maintain order. I’m starting to think that whoever books the AEW tag division got their ideas from these old joshi matches. Tropes that we see today – tags being ignored or not seen, constant interference, and seemingly incompetent referees – are problems that persist in AEW and sometimes elsewhere as well. It’s important because these things can act as barriers in creating new viewers. If someone were to tune in and see action like this on any wrestling show, they might not tune in again because it might be hard for them to follow along. Yes, wrestling tends to be ridiculous and sometimes over-the-top. BUT there should be some consistent rules that apply to everyone to create an order or a foundation on which viewers can understand how and why things happen.

This match, much like its modern equivalents, was more about chaos and surprise than it was about consistent flow. The first two falls started off so wild and full of interference and double-teaming that the match might as well have been under tornado rules.

That’s not to say the match was bad; rather, it’s far from flawless. The match was still outstanding by most standards and definitely checking out at least once. As I mentioned earlier, the action was outstanding and far and above most of what’s seen today. This match has plenty of novelty about it, just like many other matches of its day. These women did so many crazy moves, many of which have not been done anywhere else before or since. They created an almost 100% truly unique style of match that was equal parts daring and bedazzling and equal parts brutal and believable. The counters were insane. The double-team moves and interference spots – when caught on camera – showed just how well both teams worked together. Both sides did a great job of isolating one partner from either side to build heat for the eventual hot tag. And of course, the submission holds looked as close to real as it gets in wrestling.

I’ve seen so many wrestlers put on popular holds – camel clutches, Boston crabs, STFs, and the like. But few wrestlers were actually able to make those moves look painful and believable as these women. Maybe they were actually cranking those holds in for real; or maybe they were just so good that the fake moves they did only looked real. Part if this match’s charm is guessing for yourself which of those two sides were shown here.

Final Rating: ****1/2

I liked this match and I think you will too. It’s intense, wild, frenetic, and explosive. A lot happens in thirty minutes and each sequence leaves the viewer guessing what’s going to happen next. There’s absolutely no way to predict or telegraph anything here. That’s the beauty of some of these older matches; they occurred at a time and in a place whereby even the smartest or most jaded of viewer couldn’t guess how things would happen with 100% accuracy.

At the end of the day, wrestling fans want to be not just surprised but pleasantly surprised. Thankfully this match delivers that sort of surprise in spades.

Thanks for reading. You can email me with any questions or comments, and be sure to check out my 5-Star and Almost 5-Star Match Reviews series here.