AJW All-Star Dream Slam I 04/02/93 Review (The Greatest Women’s Wrestling Show Ever)
I’m fairly confident that this is the greatest women’s wrestling show of all time. Some time ago, WWE tried to ‘make history’ with what they called the first-ever Women’s-only PPV “Evolution.”
They hyped it up as something unique, special, historic, all that marketing mumbo-jumbo. But all that talk didn’t really translate into good business for WWE’s bottom line. Despite getting pretty good reviews, the show was a commercial flop. That hasn’t stopped several people, including some within WWE to this day, from campaigning for another women’s-only WWE show.
Naturally, as someone that has seen a ton of wrestling outside of WWE and AEW, that got me thinking about how well some of the older women’s stuff did. I’ve reviewed many 1990s joshi matches before but most of those have been scattered on random shows over the years. I have yet to review a major joshi wrestling show, and I decided to look for one to find.
So what better show to look at than the 25th-anniversary show of the oldest women’s wrestling company in Japan?
This show took place almost thirty years ago yet many fans today still praise it as one of the best wrestling shows ever, period. It was voted Best Major Wrestling Show of 1993 by the Wrestling Observer’s readers and featured some of the best in-ring wrestling produced that entire year.
But how well does it hold up now? Let’s find out.
All Japan Women’s Pro-Wrestling (AJW) 25th Anniversary Show, a.k.a. All-Star Dream Slam I
April 2nd, 1993
Yokohama Arena, Yokohama, Japan
The show begins with a big pyro display and then all the women come down to the ring for an opening ceremony. This show includes wrestlers not just from AJW, but from other companies as well. The other companies represented here include Ladies Legend Pro-Wrestling (LLPW, a more MMA-inspired company), JWP Joshi Puroresu (the WCW/AEW to AJW’s WWE) and Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling (FMW), Japan’s version of ECW. The owners of all four companies stand in the ring with their wrestlers and the owner of AJW cuts a promo hyping up the night’s matches, which leads to loud cheering and applause. That’s followed by a run-down of each match with camera close-ups of the wrestlers involved for each match so that viewers can tell them apart. The crowd goes especially nuts for the exhibition match involving Chigusa Nagayo (not surprising since she’s one of the top women’s wrestlers of the 1980s in Japan), a match involving two beasts (Aja Kong and Bull Nakano teaming together) and a singles match involving Akira Hokuto (you’ll understand why later). Finally, one woman from each of the four companies cuts a promo to thank the crowd and continue supporting them.
Match #1: Kaoru Ito & Sakie Hasegawa (AJW) vs. Hikari Fukuoka & Plum Mariko (JWP)
Background: All four women cut pre-match interviews telling viewers they understand the pressure of being first to wrestle but they vow to do their best and bring out the best in each other. I don’t know much about these wrestlers, to be honest. Hasegawa and Fukuoka would face each other three months later in the legendary Thunder Queen Battle in Yokohama.
Meanwhile, Plum Mariko has two opposing career distinctions to her name. On one hand, she invented the Stretch Plum submission hold, which would go one to be popularized by AJPW legend Toshiaki Kawada and is now used by AEW wrestler Eddie Kingston. On the other hand, she holds the dubious distinction of being the first Japanese wrestler to die in the ring (and unfortunately not the last). Years of head injuries caught up to her in August 1997 when she didn’t kick out of a Ligerbomb like she was supposed to and she died of head injuries and a brain abscess.
The match: The bell rings and Ito & Hasegawa rush Fukuoka with tandem dropkicks and a top-rope bulldog. They hit some more tandem moves but Fukuoka counters an abdominal stretch with a sunset flip for a one-count. Mariko tags in, counters an Irish whip, and hits a back elbow. Mariko gets a one-count off a suplex and tags Fukuoka, who hits a running strike combo. Fukuoka kicks her away and tags Ito, who lands four running dropkicks and stomps Fukuoka in a corner. Ito tags in and applies an abdominal stretch; and when Hasegawa tries to escape she hits a pumphandle drop. Hasegawa gets a one-count off a double-arm suplex and tags Ito, but Fukuoka dodges a corner clothesline and hits a running bulldog. Mariko tags in and hits a dropkick/back suplex combo for a one-count and rolls through into a kneebar but Hasegawa kicks her to break it. But Mariko’s tougher than that and locks it in anyway but Ito toughs it out, so Fukuoka tags in and attacks that same leg of Ito’s.
The two wrestle on the mat until Mariko tags back in and hits a dropkick so hard it sends Ito careening into the opposite corner, allowing Hasegawa to tag in. Hasegawa blocks a kick and hits a facecrusher but her next Irish whip is countered into a Stretch Plum. Ito breaks it up with a kick so Mariko goes for a grounded dragon sleeper but Hasegawa counters into an armbar. The two women exchange different holds, including a camel clutch and a Bryan Danielson Cattle Mutilation. Well, now we know where he got that hold. Fukuoka breaks it up so Hasegawa tags Ito and hits some flying butt bumps for a two-count, followed by a springboard second-rope senton splash. Mariko kicks out so Ito goes back to working the bad leg with a Boston crab. Mariko gets a ropebreak so Hasegawa tags in and hits five rolling butterfly suplexes. Fukuoka tags in and wins a strike exchange with Hasegawa. Hasegawa hits some strange move off an Irish whip that looks botched and Fukuoka transitions into a Boston crab of her own. That leads to the simultaneous heel hook spot but Hasegawa wrestles out. She sends Fukuoka into the ropes but Fukuoka counters with two flying headscissor takedowns for a one-count.
Mariko tags in and hits a flying crossbody for a one-count. she and Hasegawa do some more mat wrestling and hold exchanges until Ito tags in and stomps Mariko’s back. Mariko fires back with some running Thesz presses and tags Fukuoka off a snap suplex. Ito hits more running attacks for a one-count and tags Hasegawa, who lands a top-rope crossbody for a two-count. She whips Fukuoka into a corner but Fukuoka counters with a springboard sunset flip for another two-count. Mariko tags in and hits a German suplex for two and then rolls into another kneebar but Ito breaks this one as well. Fukuoka escapes a back suplex and attacks Ito but Hasegawa attacks with a bridging German suplex for a two-count. Mariko escapes a tandem back suplex and holds Hasegawa in place for Fukuoka to hit a diving dropkick. But Hasegawa dodges and Fukuoka dropkicks Mariko instead. Hasegawa goes to whip Mariko but Mariko reverses and then gets slingshotted into Hasegawa by Fukuoka. Frankensteiner by Mariko. Hasegawa kicks out. Fukuoka tags in and lands a moonsault. Ito breaks up the pin. Rolling cradle. Hasegawa gets a ropebreak, ducks a clothesline and hits a butt bump of her own. Ito tags in and misses a diving foot stomp. The action spills to ringside as all four women fight outside the ring. Ito lands a foot stomp from the apron to the floor as Mariko gets whipped into the barricade. Back in the ring, Ito connects with a diving foot stomp. One, two, thr – no, Mariko makes the save.
Ito goes for another dive but Mariko holds her on the top rope for Fukuoka. Fukuoka takes advantage with an avalanche T-bone suplex for another close two-count. Mariko tags in. Ito goes for a running crossbody but Mariko counters into a bridging fallaway slam. Ito counters into a roll-up but Mariko gets a ropebreak. Mariko charges for a Thesz press. Ito counters with a nasty powerbomb and then hits six running foot stomps to Mariko’s belly. One, two, Mariko bridges out. After all that, she bridges out. Hasegawa tags in and hits consecutive running spinkicks, followed by an uranage. One, two, Fukuoka saves her partner.
Hasegawa goes for another spinkick but Mariko ducks and tries a German. Hasegawa counters the waistlock and tries her own but Mariko holds firm. Fukuoka goes to lariat Hasegawa but both Mariko and Hasegawa duck the move and Fukuoka goes careening into the opposite corner where Ito holds her in place. Mariko counters into a roll-up but only gets two. Ito and Fukuoka brawl at ringside as Mariko and Hasegawa fight on the top turnbuckle. Mariko gets control and hits a Super Frankensteiner. The same finish from the Eddy/Rey match from Halloween Havoc 1997. One, two, and three! There’s the match!
Winners after 16:32: Hikari Fukuoka & Plum Mariko (JWP)
Review: That was a great way to open the show. It was a hot match filled with blistering speed and blink-and-you’ll-miss-it counters and reversals. This set the tone for what to expect for the rest of the show: the wrestling style was all one speed, which was fast forward, and never slowed down. But that was by design. The whole point of the joshi style was to start at 10 and not slow down so that the finish would be hard to predict. That’s exactly what happened here. Despite all the quick pins, counters, submission holds and tandem moves, the finish was very much out of nowhere yet it was also built to in a believable way. The frequent hot tags were well worked, as were the interference spots. It was a bit hard to follow at times (which would end up being a common theme through most of the show). Then again, I don’t think having the most coherent match was the point here. They were trying to show how clever and tough they were as athletes; and despite going a bit overboard, they succeeded in that endeavor. Also, special consideration goes to Mariko for getting belly-stomped at least six times in a row with minimal protection and to Hasegawa for wrestling with a nasty gash that caused her eye to swell shut and bleed.
Final Rating: ****
Match #2: Eriko “Shark” Tsuchiya & Yoshika “Crusher” Maedomari (FMW) vs. Sakechi Nobue/Saemi Numata* & Terri Powers (AJW)
*Different sources list this wrestler’s name differently. I’m just putting both for historical accuracy.
Background: I have no idea who any of the Japanese women in this match are so I’m seeing them for the first time here. Terri Powers would later become known as Tori during her run in WWF/E from 1998 to 2000 (I’ll be calling her Tori here). This was her last match before that WWE debut and here she’s representing AJW in a match against two women from FMW. Also, Tori had a dislocated shoulder going into this match, but in her pre-match promo she vows that it won’t be a burden on the match.
The match: The FMW girls rush their opponents before the bell rings. Once it does, Tsuchiya attacks Tori’s taped up right arm. She holds Tori in place as Maedomari tags in and kicks Tori’s dislocated shoulder. Tori tries firing back with chops from her free arm but Maedomari overpowers her easily. Tori applies a headlock but Maedomari maneuvers her towards Tsuchiya, who chokes her from the apron. Tsuchiya tags in and sends Tori into the ropes but tori bounces out and hits some left-arm clotheslines. Numata tags in and hits some running attacks but Tsuchiya overpowers her and chokes her. Numata counters a scoop slam with a small package but Tsuchiya escapes. Numata hits many running attacks and then lands an aided big boot alongside Tori. Then she manages to slam the much-larger Tsuchiya and Tori holds her in place as Numata lands a top-rope splash for a two-count. Numata tries a backpack sleeper but Tsuchiya backs into a corner to knock her off. A dive is botched and Tori tags in but she’s quickly subdued as Maeodmari tags in and targets her bad arm again. Tori hits back with free arm strikes and then Numata tags in to do the Greco-Roman test of strength. Maedomari cheap-shots her and hits both a lariat and a shoulderblock for two. She gets two off another suplex and tags Tsuchiya who hits a Jeff Hardy-style powerbomb lift facebuster for another two-count. Tori breaks up another pin following a sidewalk slam so Maedomari tags in and hits an Implant Buster for another close two-count. Tori drags Tsuchiya to ringside as Numata hits a corner lariat. She lands a second followed by a running facecrusher, Maedomari powers out of a headlock with a Backdrop suplex and pins but Tori makes the save. Tsuchiya tags in and lands an aided running lariat followed by a diving Hart Attack for another two-count. Tsuchiya followed with a powerbomb and gets the pin and the win.
Winners after 7:41: Eriko “Shark” Tsuchiya & Yoshika “Crusher” Maedomari (FMW)
Review: This was solid though a bit clunky. There was a straightforward story of Tori getting easily overpowered since she only had one usable arm. The FMW women were smart to exploit this injury and were booed accordingly as clear villains for doing the dishonorable thing. Tori knew she had limitations so she let Numata do most of the heavy lifting for her. But Numata was obviously less experienced than everyone else here and it showed with some blown spots during her control segment. She did a good job selling for the FMW girls but just wasn’t that good on offense. The crowd was largely disinterested in the match, save for when Tori was being overpowered and when Numata kicked out of a diving Hart Attack.
Final Rating: **1/2
Match #3: Mima Shimoda & Tomoko Watanabe (AJW) vs. Esther Moreno/Ultima Tigureta & KAORU (EMLL)
Background: This match is billed as a more lucha-style match. Shimoda wrestled in Mexico and one of her early tag teams was called Las Cachorras Orientales, which means “The Oriental Bitches”. Shimoda is the only one here not wearing a mask but comes out looking smoking hot in her geisha outfit. It makes sense as a bait-and-switch get-up; she comes out dressed as this typical delicate Japanese woman only for viewers to see that she can seriously kick ass. Meanwhile, Watanabe used to be a clear-cut judo fighter but she’s debuting a new look and style in this upcoming match. Their opponents are from EMLL and Tigureta (“The Last Little Tigress”) only speaks Spanish so she cuts a promo about being the best high-flyer in this match.
The match: The AJW girls kick the EMLL girls on a handshake. Tigureta avoids a double dropkick and she & KAORU go for double irish whips. Both get countered but both Tigureta and KAORU his counter wheelbarrow armdrags. The AJW women get kicked to the floor and the EMLL women do some flips to pop the crowd. Watanabe and KAORU enter as the legal women and Watanabe avoids a dropkick. KAORU kicks out of a corner and flips over Watanabe to disorient her and then hits some Thesz presses. Shimoda tags in and hits a running neckbreaker. Tigureta counters a corner whip and hits a diving lucha arm drag but then runs into a big boot. Shimoda charges but Tigureta counters with a headscissor takedown. Shimoda escapes to ringside but Tigureta dives onto her from the apron and then holds her in place for KAORU to hit another Thesz press.
Watanabe tags back in and locks in an armbar. KAORU gets a ropebreak so Watanabe applies an Indian deathlock/armbar combo but lets go in anticipation of an attack by Tigureta. KAORU lands two hip tosses followed by a Perfect-plex for a two-count then tags Shimoda, who it’s a top-rope crossbody for another two-count. Shimoda shows some aggressiveness as she tries ripping off KAORU’s mask and even bites her forearm. She applies an armlock and Watanabe helps her stretch KAORU’s arm in an unnatural way. KAORU tries a rebound clothesline following an irish whip but Shimoda ducks, climbs the top turnbuckle, and hits a diving headscissor. She tags Watanabe, who lands a diving elbow and locks in a Stretch Plum. Tigureta kicks her but Watanabe doesn’t let go right away. Chaos ensues as all four women brawl around the ring. KAORU gets suplexed onto the ringside mats as Watanabe chokes Tigureta with electric cables.
Back in the ring, Shimoda applies a Romero stretch on KAORU and then tags Watanabe. The AJW women hit some tandem moves for a two-count and then KAORU blocks another one, sending Shimoda to the floor in the process. Tigureta dropkicks Wanabe from behind, allowing KAORU to hit a moonsault for another two-count. Watanabe ducks a clothesline and boots Tigureta off the apron as Shimoda does the same to KAORU. Shimoda follows with a plancha to the floor as KAORU suplexes Tigureta on the ringside mats.
Wanatabe tries to suplex KAORU into the ring but KAORU lands behind her. Watanabe lands behind her off a back suplex and lands a bridging German suplex for a two-count and Watanabe tags Shimoda while KAORU tags Tigureta Shimoda dodges a dropkick and sends Tigureta into the ropes ubt Tigureta counters a clothesline with a victory roll for a two-count. Shimoda with a roll-up. Two-count. Scoop slam/elbow drop combo. Two-count. Perfect-plex. Two-count again. Watanabe tags in and lands a hip toss into a kimura lock. KAORU kicks her back but Watanabe doesn’t let go. Shimoda tries attacking KAORU but KAORU out-strikes her. Then KAORU applies a Figure-4 neck lock onto Watanabe while Watanabe switches to a cross armbreaker on Tigureta. And then, Shimoda applies her own Figure-4 onto KAORU. The two illegal women are forced to let go but Watanabe keeps hers locked in. They double-team Tigureta and go for a tandem slingshot suplex but Tigureta counters with a double armdrag. KAORU and Tigureta hit simultaneous dropkicks and moonsault presses to the floor.
Back in the ring, Shimoda whips Tigureta into the ropes but Tigureta counters with a moonsault block for a two-count. KAORU takes Watanabe out and goes to the top rope as Tigureta holds Shimoda in place. KAORU lands a diving Thesz press…onto her partner. Watanabe tags in and dodges a moonsault from KAORU. Watanabe and Shimoda attempt another tandem move but Tigureta drags Shimoda out of the ring. KAORU lands another great Frankensteiner for a very close two-count. KAORU avoids a counter quebrada and does a majistral cradle. One, two, three! There’s the match!
Winners after 14:42: Esther Moreno/Ultima Tigureta & KAORU (EMLL)
Review: Solid match that was a bit hard to follow but had more of that intense high-speed craziness joshi wrestling was famous for. It was easily the ‘spottiest’ match so far with lots of choreographed and artistic lucha straight out of Mexico. There were plenty of cool dives all over the place and three of the four women involved seemed comfortable doing a more spot-oriented style of wrestling (I don’t know how that was even possible given the already-spot-rich nature of 1990s joshi). KAORU in particular looked great showing off the style she learned in Mexico and used it to confound her opponents but also the referee since there was so much chaos that pins were missed quite a few times in the match. Furthermore, one of the three women wearing a lucha mask seemed completely lost in the lucha match and that was Watanabe. She relied on simple snapmares and judo throws and seemed to lack a proper answer for Tigureta in particular. Also, we were only three matches into the show and by this point the ringside chaos was already wearing thin. Fans weren’t reacting to any of the brawling or supposedly-extra-dangerous stuff happening outside the ring, which rendered most of it pointless. At least the finish was logical with Watanabe being pinned right after her own missed crossbody.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Match #4: Etsuko Mita & Suzuka Minami (AJW) vs. Miki Handa & Rumi Kazama (LLPW)
Background: Once again, I have no idea who most of these women are, so at least we’ll have a first impression of three of them. All I know about Mita is that she’s the wrestler that created the Death Valley Bomb/Driver, which is one of the most popular finishers in wrestling history.
The match: Handa and Mita start things off with some brawling. Handa avoids a clothesline and hits a dropkick. Lots of blocking and dodging of moves early on. Handa lands a crossbody for a one-count and Mita reverses an Irish whip, which leads to an early stalemate.
Kazama tags in and demands that Minami tag in, which she does. They do the test of strength spot until Kazama kicks Minami. After one kick too many, Minami takes her down and starts working her leg. Mita tags in and tags and hits a diving ax handle and a piledriver for a two-count. Mita throws her around and claws at her eyes and then hits a diving slam combo alongside Minami for another two-count. Minami tags in and misses a corner clothesline which allows Handa to tag in and land a top-rope crossbody for two. Handa hits a delayed butterfly suplex for two and locks in a double-arm stretch before tagging Kazama back in. Kazama works over Minami’s arm and Minami tries to get a ropebreak with her foot but Handa pushes her foot off the ropes with her own foot. Kazama lands multiple kicks to Minami’s chest and tags Handa, but Minami counters an Irish whip and lands a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker. Mita tags in and lands an airplace spin into a slam followed by a vertical suplex but Kazama breaks it up.
Handa tries kicking her way out of a chinlock but Mita traps her leg and chokes her with her free hand. Mita follows with a reverse AA slam and pins but Handa bridges out so Mita locks in a Boston crab until Kazama kicks Mita in the head. Minami tags in and does a cool butterfly backbreaker and pins for a two-count. Handa fights basck with running ncekbreakers and pins but this time minami bridges out.
The two LLPW women hit tandem clotheslines on Minami and Kazama, now legal, pins for a one-count. Minami kicks out again following a martial arts rush so Kazama wrestles her into various holds until Mita breaks it up. Handa tags in and goes after Minami’s arm and then takes time letting go on a ropebreak. Kazama tags in after another two-count off a suplex but falls into a roll-up that gets another two-count. Mita tags in again and hits some stiff double ax handles and then hits an aided second-rope electric chair but Handa breaks up her pin. Some brief ringside brawling ensues and then Kazama counters an irish whip in the ring with a back kick.
Handa tags in and counters a fireman’s carry with a kneebar. Mita gets a ropebreak so Handa kocks in a Figure-4 leglock. Kazama kicks Mita’s back, which allows Handa to reverse the Figure-4 onto Mita. Mita rolsl to the ropes and tags Minami, who stomps on Handa as she’s still trapped in the Figure-4. Both Mita and Kazama stomp on their respective opponents as the two legal women trade leglocks on the mat. Minami hits an atomic drop into another leglock. Minami follows with a superplex that gets a very close two-count and goes for a double-team move but Handa dodges so Mita hits Minami instead. Got tag to Kazama. She counters a roll-up into her own but only gets a one-count. Minami ducks a double clothesline but eats some running spinkicks for a two-count. Handa tags in and goes for a clothesline. Minami counters into a German su – no, Handa counters into a victory roll for a two-count. Minami lands a counter tilt-a-whirl backbreaker and tags Mita. Mita hits another electric chair suplex followed by a diving splash from Minami for a two-count as Handa bridges out. Kazama knocks Minami to the floor to block another tandem move as Handa counters into a bridging German suplex. Mita kicks out at two as Kazama dives onto Minami on the floor. Handa does the same to Mita and then lands a back suplex/Perfect-plex combo in the ring for another near-fall.
Kazama tags in and kicks both opponents but Minami lands a back suplex for a two-count. Kneeling powerbomb by Minami. Handa makes the save. A second powerbomb gets botched and Kazama avoids a diving dropkick. Diving dropkick/bridging German combo by Handa and Kazama. Minami narrowly kicks out. Diving back elbow. Mita braks up another pin. Handa tags in but Minami counters an Irish whip with a clothesline and tags Mita. Handa does the Misawa back suplex crossbody pin counter but Mita kicks out. Kazama saves Handa from a fisherman suplex and Handa lands a running neckbreaker for two. Handa counters a double clothesline from Mita and Minami with one on each of them. she tries a German suplex but Mita ducks and Minami lariats Handa. Powerbomb into double diving dropkicks from Mita and Minami. Kazama breaks up yet another pin.
Mita goes for a Death Valley Bomb but Kazama blocks and hits an aided DDT on Mita but Minami breaks up the pin. Kazama tags in and lands a diving senton and goes for a single leg crab but Minami kicks her and clotheslines Handa. Arm-trap German suplex. Mita kicks out. Another botched powerbomb leads to yet another two-count. Bridging German suplex. Minami saves her partner again. Mita tries to whip Kazama into Minami but Kazama hits first and then ducks a Mita clothesline and lands another bridging German. One, two, and three! There’s the match!
Winners after 22:25: Miki Handa & Rumi Kazama (LLPW)
Review: If I could use one word to describe this match it would be “meh”. Pretty much everything showcased here had already been done in some form or another in earlier matches. The constant running attacks, the messed up double-team moves, the frequent interference, all of it started to wear thin during the first half of the match. Especially since there seemed to be no structure to the match, just constant move spam without much in the way of rhyme or reason that made the match drag on for quite a bit. But then things changed during the second half. Things got significantly better (comparably) after the long legwork segment that saw Mita selling like she was about to become a one-legged woman. Mita was the standout here as she not only sold like she was in immense pain but she did a great job fighting through it and looking like a badass. I think the LLPW women were a bit behind their AJW counterparts, especially with quite a few sloppy moments and botched maneuvers during the match’s dramatic peak.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Match #5: Bat Yoshinaga vs. Susan Howard (WWWA Martial Arts Title Match)
Background: There used to be this trend whereby wrestlers would replace their first names with an intimidating-sounding noun or famous figure to make themselves sound larger than life. Hercules Hernandes. Mammoth Sasaki. Bull Nakano. Samson Fuyuki. Blizzard Yuki. Bat Yoshinaga is another such a case.
This is a kickboxing match with five three-minute rounds. Both women are wearing thick gloves and there are judges at ringside to decide the winner of each round.
Review: I can’t really review this because it’s not wrestling. It’s a pure fight with lots of strikes, misses, ducking, and for some reason, spinning backfists. Nothing of note happened for the first two rounds and then Yoshinaga knocked Howard down in the third round. By the fourth round, the two women started almost locking up and getting close, forcing the referee to separate them. Howard got many direct shots to Yoshinaga’s head throughout all five rounds and things got pretty close towards the end. Once the fifth round ended, the ringside judges gave their scorecards and each woman was given a total score for each round. Yoshinaga got more point in three rounds, which was enough to determine a winner.
Winner by referee’s decision and STILL WWWA Martial Arts Champion: Bat Yoshinaga
Final Rating: NR
There’s a long procession of many women who’ve been wrestling and working for AJW since it first opened in 1968. There’s about sixteen of them in the ring along with the interviewer and the chairman of AJW. Included among them are Dump Matsumoto and Jaguar Yokata, two of the first women to really make it big in women’s wrestling. Each woman is given a gift to commemorate AJW’s 25th anniversary and then the president of AJW, Mach Fumiake, gives another rousing speech thanking the fans once again. Fumiake then jokes about having one more match after being retired for 17 years, but then gets serious and says that she and the other retirees have to hand their mantles off to the current crop of stars.
The top wrestlers from the past humbly declining another 15 minutes of fame so that the spotlight can shine on the current crop of stars. Imagine that.
Match #6: Chigusa Nagayo (past AJW) vs. Devil Masami (present AJW)
Background: Words cannot do justice how important and popular Chigusa was during her prime. She was part of the famous Crush Gals tag team that achieved insane and widespread popularity all throughout Japan in the 1980s. Chigusa was so popular that her matches regularly drew 12.0 TV ratings (higher than anything WWE has ever gotten) and she had to changes addresses several times since she would be swarmed by fans waiting outside her door after shows. She initially retired in 1989 but then decided to return four years later…in this match. This is Chigusa’s first match since her initial retirement and she’s facing off against Masami, one of AJW’s current stars. If I had to find a comparable North American match to this, it would be ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin vs. Kevin Owens from WrestleMania 38. Furthermore, in this match, Masami is Chigusa’s protégé, much like how Owens emulated Austin for a long time and looked up to him as his favorite wrestler.
The match: Chigusa refuses a handshake as the bell rings. The crowd is overwhelmingly behind Chigusa as Chigusa blocks both a lariat and a waistlock and lands a belly-to-belly suplex. Masami avoids two running lariats as well and has this ‘that was close’ look on her face. They do the Greco-Roman knuckle lock and Chigusa lands a bridging double-wrist suplex for a one-count. Masami powers Chigusa into a backbreaker stretch, leading to another stalemate.
Chigusa wrestles Masami to the mat and applies an armlock but Masami counter-wrestles and hits a mini-piledriver to stop a headstand escape. Chigusa no-sells and applies a headlock but Masami powers through and hits a vertical suplex followed by a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker for a two-count. Masami plays to the crowd and locks in a grounded dragon sleeper into a face crank as the crowd remains behind Chigusa. She mocks their support as she grinds her elbow into Chigusa’s cheek and then lands a clothesline. But then Chigusa fires up. Masami lands another clothesline but Chigusa dares her to hit her again. Masami tanks two clotheslines from Chigusa like a boss and then the two women double-clothesline each other. Masami pins but only gets two.
Masami goes for an Irish whip, Chigusa counters, Masami ducks a kick and eats an enzuigiri. Masami fights through the pain and applies a leglock. Chigusa escapes and lands a crossbody to Masami from the apron to the floor. Masami tries to catch her breath at ringside but when she re-enters the ring Chigusa lands multiple high kicks to her head. Chigusa gets a two-count and locks in a sharpshooter and then switches to a Romero special. Masami fights out so Chigusa applies a camel clutch but Masami resists and ends up in an octopus hold. Both of them roll to the ropes and Chigusa rolls to ringside.
Chigusa returns but Masami nails her with a bridging German suplex for two. She kicks out of another pin moments later and hits an enzuigiri out of a corner. Then she ducks down on an Irish whip but Masami double stomps on her belly. The fans chant for Chigusa as Masami lands a suplex but misses a follow-up senton bomb. Chigusa fires back with a nasty wheel kick and sends Masami into a corner but Masami dodges a follow-up lariat. Chigusa rolls to the floor. Masami dives onto her from the top rope and takes out some trainees in the process. Masami follows with a powerbomb on the ringside mats.
Chigusa gets to the apron but Masami clotheslines her down. She tries again and counters a spear with a slingshot sunset flip for two and then lands two of her own bridging Germans for more two-counts. Masami avoids a diving back elbow and goes for a northern lights suplex but Chigusa counters with a DDT. Masami knocks Chigusa off the top rope and lands a corner clothesline followed by a Folding powerbomb for another two-count. That’s followed by a second Folding powerbomb for yet another close two-count. Then a third one. But Chigusa keeps kicking out. So Masami puts her on the top turnbuckle…and lands an avalanche northern lights suplex. One, two, three! Masami beats the legendary Chigusa Nagayo!
Winner after 17:27: Devil Masami
Review: This is a past-vs-present match done right. The crowd’s overwhelming love for Chigusa forced Masami to earn their respect and admiration, which she did. Masami dominated for the most part and actually mocked the crowd for favoring Chigusa over her. It was interesting because Masami was the underdog in terms of fan favor but had the advantage by virtue of being still active while Chigusa was the overwhelming fan favorite yet was the underdog because she hadn’t wrestled in four years. And yet, Chigusa had no ring rust. She kept up with the pace Masami set and didn’t look out of place for a second. She hits all her big moves and wrestled in lockstep with Masami from bell to bell. But above all else, Chigusa showed heart. She refused to give up no matter how many times Masami smashed her onto the exceptionally hard AJW ring canvas. Masami won in the end but damn if Chigusa didn’t make her earn that victory. Masami’s star status was solidified and the fans got a special treat in a Chigusa coming out of retirement for (at the time) one last match. Everyone won in the end.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Match #7: Double Inoue (Kyoko Inoue & Takako Inoue) [AJW] vs. Cutie Suzuki & Mayumi Ozaki (JWP)
Background: Kyoko and Takako were two unrelated women that just happened to have the same last name, kind of like Adam Page and Ethan Page. Meanwhile, Cutie Suzuki was a wrestler that very much lived up to her name yet could also wrestle very well, but she was very much a support player behind Ozaki, who is one of the best wrestlers of this era. That’s saying a lot given how white-hot joshi wrestling was in 1993. Also, this was one of the many joshi matches that Dave Meltzer rated 5-Stars, so let’s see how well it holds up after almost three full decades.
The match: Ozaki and Takako start off with some stiff slaps and lightning-fast Irish whip reversals. Takako hits one arm drag but Ozaki blocks the second, leading to a standoff by the ropes. The two women trade kicks to the face until Takako drops Ozaki and tags Kyoko. A dropkick sends Ozaki into her corner and she tags Suzuki. Kyoko hits some stiff elbows and then lands a 38-revolution giant swing and the crowd goes nuts. Kyoko follows with a torture rack toss and tags Takako, who throws Suzuki around the ring until Suzuki tries to counter into a roll-up but fails. Takako misses a corner clothesline which allows Suzuki to land a German suplex and tag Ozaki. Ozaki lands an Irish whip into a DDT, followed by a faceplant into a camel clutch/dragon sleeper combo. She switches into a regular dragon sleeper soon after, then chokes her through the ropes before tagging Suzuki. Suzuki lands a running dropkick and locks in her own dragon sleeper and then tags Ozaki back in. Ozaki hits a clothesline and then goes for another but Takako counters with a springboard armdrag.
Kyoko tags in and teases a Greco-Roman knuckle lock but then kicks Ozaki and hits Mongolian chops. She sends Ozaki into the ropes but Ozaki counters with a sick wheelbarrow victory roll for a two-count. Kyoko out-powers Ozaki and locks in a pendulum stretch and then tags Takako, who locks in a Boston crab. Ozaki escapes and then hits a counter clothesline at the same time as Takako clotheslines her. Suzuki tags and starts getting near-falls. Running crossbody press. Two-count. bridging fallaway slam. Two-count. Aided double clothesline by Suzuki and Ozaki. Kyoko and Takako take her and Ozaki off the top ropes before they can land a tandem move. Takako takes advantage with a diving overhead suplex for another two-count. Takako goes for an electric chair. Suzuki counters into a victory roll but only gets two. Irish whip by Suzuki, countered by Takako into a back suplex for a two-count. Kyoko tags in but Suzuki counters a slam and goes for another German. Kyoko charges but Ozaki pulls her by the apron to stop her in her tracks. The two JWP women go for a tandem attack but Kyoko hits a springboard double back elbow. Kyoko goes for her own diving back elbow but Ozaki knocks her to the floor and then does the same to Takako. Double quebradas to the floor.
Some light ringside brawling takes place until Kyoko and Suzuki return to the ring. Kyoko tries to resist a dragon suplex but Ozaki kicks her allowing Suzuki to land the move for a 2.5-count. Suzuki lands a diving double foot stomp and tags Ozaki who lands the same move. Ozaki and Suzuki take turns diving feet-first onto Kyoko’s belly until Takako breaks up a pin. Ozaki goes for a dragon suplex but Takako stops her. Kyoko goes for another back elbow but Suzuki holds her on the ropes. That allows Ozaki to hit a high angle German followed by a Twisted Bliss-style press. One, two, Kyoko kicks out. Ozaki goes for a Manami roll. Kyoko smashes her with a powerbomb and pins but Suzuki saves her partner. Takako tags in and lands a bridging back suplex but again Suzuki makes the save. Takako tries a kneebar. Suzuki comes in again but this time Kyoko throws her out. Ozaki gets a ropebreak to stop another kneebar and then escapes another back suplex. Takako blocks another dragon and goes for a clothesline. Ozaki counters with a bridging half-and-half suplex. One, two, Kyoko saves her partner. Ozaki tries another such suplex. Takako counters into a roll-up for two. Kyoko tags in and hits a top-rope back elbow. One, two, th – Ozaki kicks out. Kyoko tries a powerbomb but Suzuki stops her and tries to land a German but Takako attacks Suzuki. Ozaki counters another powerbomb with a Manami roll. One, two, and thr – no, Kyoko kicks out.
Suzuki and Takako brawl ringside as Kyoko tries again. Niagara Driver countered into an arm drag. Ozaki follows with a picture-perfect Frankensteiner. one, two, thre – Kyoko survives again. Kyoko counters an Irish whip with a springboard dropkick and lands a Niagara Driver. One, two, Suzuki makes the save. Suzuki stops another powerbomb and brawls with Kyoko in one corner as the now-legal Takako drags Ozaki to the top rope. Diving chokeslam by Takako. She pins but Suzuki makes another save. Kyoko elbows Suzuki to the floor. Aided Niagara Driver. One, two, three! The Inoues win!
Winners after 16:44: Double Inoue (Kyoko Inoue & Takako Inoue) [AJW]
Review: While I wouldn’t go so far as to rate this 5-Stars, it’s still a pretty damn great match almost three decades later. This was meant as more of an entertaining spot-fest than it was some deep grudge match. The crowd adored Kyoko, especially as she landed one of the most dizzying giant swings ever. Even though Kyoko was much bigger than everyone else she still moved at the same speed, which was really impressive. Suzuki and Takako had a nice rivalry going while Ozaki brought the craziest moves and the coolest counters. The near-falls during the last five minutes or so were fantastic. There was no way of predicting what would happen, especially with all the interference, both successful and blocked. The match built and built until the closing minute which had truly edge-of-your-seat action. There was a bit of repetition from earlier matches that made some stuff in the middle come across as inconsequential, but otherwise this is a terrific middle-of-the-card tag match.
Final Rating: ****1/2
Match #8: Team Mega Monster (Aja Kong & Bull Nakano) [AJW] vs. Eagle Sawai & Harley Saito (LLPW)
Background: This match is a foregone conclusion just from the names involved. On one side we have both Bull Nakano and Aja Kong, two of the biggest (literally) badasses in women’s wrestling. Both of them are known for being monsters in terms of size and brutality. Pre-match, the interviewer asks Kong and Nakano what they think of their opponents. Nakano doesn’t say much but Kong is vocally disappointed with the quality of her challengers. Meanwhile, Sawai is actually fairly close to Kong’s size but Saito is much, much smaller. They say some generic things about how they’ll use technique to overcome their larger opponents.
The match: Kong and Sawai start. Sawai breaks some early lock-ups and goes for a shoulder tackle but Kong brushes her off. They run into each other a few more times until Sawai ducks a clothesline and lands a back suplex. But Kong jumps back up and hits a Backdrop suplex. Both women tag out and Nakano clothesline Saito. Saito counters a second Irish whip with an enzuigiri and goes for a suplex. Nakano overpowers her and counters but Saito lands behind her and nails a wheel kick. Saito hits some stiff kicks and tags Sawai but Nakano counters an Irish whip and hits a clothesline. Kong tags in and goes for a body block but Sawai clotheslines her first. Then she tries a body block but Kong knocks her down. Kong follows with some stiff shots and a clothesline, and then goes for an armbar but Sawai escapes. Saito tags in and hits multiple kicks to Kong’s head to bring her down. Kong kicks out of a pin at one and then lands a snapmare/spine punt combo. Nakano tags in and hits a throwing back suplex but Saito counters a follow-up headlock with a back suplex of her own. Sawai tags in and lands a double-underhook backbreaker for a two-count. Saito tags in and rushes Nakano but Nakano ducks and sends Saito to the floor. The two women fake each other out until Saito lands a springboard splash, knocking Nakano to the floor. Frustrated, Nakano pulls out some nunchakus to use as a weapon. No disqualifications, I guess. In the ring, Saito blocks an attack with those nunchakus with a high kick and an enzuigiri. She steals the nunchakus and hits Nakano with them but then Nakano catches them and hits back. Both of them do cool weapon displays that get loud applause from the audience.
Kong helps Nakano hit a double shoulder tackle and Nakano DDTs Saito for a two-count. Kong comes in and hits both Saito and Sawai over the head with a metal object but then Sawai gets it and hits both her and Nakano. But Kong no-sells (because, Aja Kong) and hits herself with the same object to show how useless it is. Nakano also hits Sawai and Kong follows with a piledriver for a two-count. Sawai reverses an Irish whip into a Russian leg sweep followed by a corner enzui lariat and a half-nelson slam. A diving dropkick gets Sawai a two-count and then both Saito and Nakano tag in. Saito hits a dropkick and a reversal corner wheel kick. She follows with an aided flapjack alongside Sawai and sends Nakano into the ropes again. But this time Nakano reverses with a double snapmare roll and then holds the ropes open. Kong rushes in and lands a suicide dive through the ropes to the floor! And then Nakano does the same!
Back in the ring, the two giants hit a Doomsday Device for a two-count. they try again but this time Sawai knocks Kong down and Saito counters with a sunset flip pin for a two-count. Nakano whips Saito but Saito hits another wheel kick followed by a back suplex. Nakano hits back with a scorpion death drop for two. She goes to tag Kong while pulling Saito but Saito counters with a bridging Tiger suplex for her own two-count. Saito slams Nakano and tags Sawai who lands a Vaderbomb press for yet another to-count. Sawai hits a tilt-a-whirl slam and Saito lands a slingshot body press. Powerbomb by Sawai. Saito tags in and lands a diving head-butt. Kong breaks up the pin. Nakano escapes a headlock via bridging Backdrop suplex but Saito kicks out.
Kong tags in and goes for an Irish whip but Sawai holds her from the ropes. Kong knocks Sawai down as Saito gets a roll-up for two. Saito bounces out of a corner onto Kong’s shoulders and lands a Frankensteiner for another two-count. Saito tries that same move again. Kong slingshots her off into a reverse powerbomb for a two-count. Kong teases the end and hits her Uraken spinning backfist. Then she goes for another. Saito lands a pre-emptive kick but Kong blocks and lands a second Uraken. Then she tags Nakano who goes to the top rope. Diving guillotine leg drop. One, two, Sawai makes the save. Kong drags Sawai away as Nakano tries again. This time Nakano hits a rolling senton leg drop instead. One, two, and three! The two monsters win!
Winners after 14:08: Team Mega Monster (Aja Kong & Bull Nakano) [AJW]
Post-match, Nakano and Kong help Sawai and Saito to their feet. Nakano gives Sawai her nunchakus as a show of respect and Kong cuts a promo telling Sawai and Saito that they did better than expected and she’ll see Sawai again in Osaka. She smiles as the crowd applauds loudly at her professionalism. Post-match, Sawai answers interviewers’ questions alone unlike the earlier matches since Saito had to be carried back to the locker room.
Review: It’s hard to follow a match as good as the previous one but these four women tried and did pretty well. It was a lot more competitive than I was expecting. There were a few overlapping stories here that made it an entertaining match. Kong and Sawai had a little feud over who was the tougher monster (it shouldn’t be hard to guess who won). Saito had the most to prove as the smaller wrestler surrounded by three beasts. And Nakano…underdelivered. For someone that was apparently central to the show’s promotion, Nakano didn’t do that much outside of the finish and the nunchaku spot. I don’t know why that weapon and the other metal object were legal, but I guess there’s no point in questioning it now. Especially since Kong lived up to reputation by no-selling metal object shots to the head like a boss. It may not have been the most technically-sound match but it was the most story-driven thanks to the David vs. Goliath dynamic.
Final Rating: ***3/4
Match #9: Dynamite Kansai (JWP) vs. Yumiko Hotta (AJW)
Background: Kansai is arguably the face of JWP that acts like a perpetually-angry Shayna Baszler while Hotta is a fiery local star in AJW. Also, this is a match/fight that has been eight years in the making.
The match: Things start off more like a kickboxing contest with some early low kicks. Kansai overpowers Hotta on a test of strength and start kicking the crap out of her. Kansai locks in a chickenwing and then a camel clutch but Hotta counters into a high-angle Back suplex and then kicks back. Kansai takes her down and applies a Boston crab. She kicks Hotta’s back but Hotta fights back and kicks Kansai to the apron. Kansai gets back in but Hotta returns the favor and hits some STIFF kicks to Kansai’s face. Kansai goes to ringside again to recover but Hotta rushes her on her re-entry again. Hotta goes to the second rope for a dive but Kansai kicks her in midair. Kansai gets some revenge by throwing Hotta into the barricade and then hits Bryan Danielson-style kicks…to the head. Then she does more of the same by the ropes. Hotta goes limp and the ref slaps her to check if she’s still conscious. He starts counting and Hotta has till 10 to get up. Fans start screaming and Hotta’s AJW colleagues will her on from ringside. She gets to her knees at eight then falls back down. She tries to get up a second later…and eats more stiff kicks from Kansai. Kansai brutalizes Hotta and Hotta falls back to the floor. The AJW rookies give her some water to help her recover and this time Kansai lets her get into the ring.
At which point Kansai goes back on the attack.
Kansai kicks Hotta’s leg and lands a piledriver for a two-count. she follows with elbows to the crown of the head and a sleeper hold. Hotta starts fading a bit. Kansai piledrives her a second time but she still kicks out. Sharpshooter by Kansai. Hotta survives and then counters a corner Irish whip and hits a spinning wheel kick. Hotta attempts a comeback but Kansai clotheslines her in a corner and lands a third piledriver. Hotta kicks out at two and then avoids a diving head-butt. She can’t avoid Kansai’s follow-up lariat but she does manage to kick out yet again. Kansai applies another sleeper and sends Hotta into a corner. The two women bounce off each other, Hotta ducks a clothesline, and lands a back suplex. Hotta lands more kicks of her own followed by a Tiger Driver for another two-count. Kansai avoids a diving wheel kick and goes back to the head kicks. Hotta cuts her off from diving and Kansai ends up hanging upside down from the top turnbuckle. Hotta uses this opportunity to kick Kansai’s head and then lands another Tiger Driver for a very close two-count. more kicks to the head cause Kansai to collapse. The ref checks on her and starts the ten-count. Kansai gets up at eight but eats more kicks from Hotta. Hotta follows with an avalanche arm-trap German suplex. Wow, what a move. One, two, no, Kansai kicks out. Hotta responds with an arm-trap powerbomb and pins but Kansai gets a ropebreak. Hotta lands more kicks. But she goes for one too many as Kansai ducks one and lands a Splash Mountain/Niagara Driver. One, two, and…three! Three? Wait, didn’t Hotta kick out? It looks like she kicked out. But apparently the referee decides that it was three, so there you go.
Winner after 16:43: Dynamite Kansai (JWP)
Post-match, Kansai cuts a promo thanking Hotta for the match. Hotta responds in kind and the two women bow to each other in a show of deep respect and admiration.
Review: For those that wanted less ‘spotty’ matches and more ‘Japanese stiffness’, this is the match for you. This was easily the most brutal match of the night. These two women wrecked each other with countless stiff kicks to the head, face, spine, ribs, knee, everywhere. It was more psychology-driven with the focus being on how much punishment could each woman withstand. It appealed to the more brutal side of joshi wrestling by being as realistic as possible. This isn’t for everyone, though, these two women act like they’re genuinely out for blood and are trying to concuss one another. So if full-contact striking makes you uneasy, you’re better off skipping this.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Match #10: Akira Hokuto (AJW) vs. Shinobu Kandori (LLPW)
Background: This match took place around the time when Hokuto really took off and started becoming a legend in joshi circles. She liked to talk trash but she backed that up by hitting hard and by being notoriously hard to keep down. And at some point before this show, Hokuto talked trash about Kandori and her claim of being the best women’s grappler. She continues that here in a pre-match interview vowing to “blow Kandori’s cover”. Meanwhile, Kandori vows to make sure Hokuto never talks trash again. The interviewer asks her what will happen in the match and Kandori answers saying she doesn’t know how far she’ll go and some people might say “stop! That’s too much”. In other words, get ready for even more brutality.
I’ve already reviewed this match as part of my 5-Star Match Reviews series, so I’ll give my condensed thought for this review. You can read my detailed review of this match here.
I thought this match was outstanding. Not only is it one of the best women’s matches ever, it’s also one of the best wrestling matches in general of all time. It’s an absolutely must-watch contest. Not only does it have some incredible wrestling and storytelling for its era, but it’s also one of the most brutal contests ever. It’s incredibly rare for women’s wrestlers to bleed, even now, so these two went out of their way to put on a clash for the ages.
It was an interesting clash between Hokuto ‘the wrestler’ and Kandori ‘the fighter’. There was this perception that Kandori and the other LLPW women were tougher by virtue of being ‘shootflighters’ so Hokuto sought to prove that she was on their level by nearly breaking Kandori’s jaw with an elbow. But that only angered Kandori to the point of nearly destroying Hokuto’s shoulder. From there it was on. Hokuto had to fight from underneath with one bad arm against a smart technician that kept going back to that weakened arm throughout the match. Even though Kandori’s attacking that arm wasn’t as overt and relentless as in other smart wrestling bouts, she did do enough damage to keep both Hokuto and the audience worried. She didn’t need to slap on armbar after armbar because Hokuto adapted quickly and escaped any attempt to work that arm, which in turn forced Kandori to find other avenues to success. And yet, from the way she wrestled, Kandori knew that she could keep tying Hokuto in knots and go back to the arm when Hokuto’s guard was exposed. And when that didn’t work, Kandori simply switched into another submission hold, all of which were believable and could credibly end the match since she was such a proven submission specialist.
Scientific grappling aside, this match showcased plenty of toughness and grit, especially from Hokuto. She took a huge Tombstone onto the announce table and within a few minutes her face was as crimson as Ric Flair’s from his heyday. It made for an awesome visual and underscored how much suffering Hokuto was willing to endure to win. Not only that, but she was so desperate to find something, anything, to get the advantage that she resorted to high-risk dives to the floor. But when those proved useless, and after both women kicked out of insane spike Brainbusters, they resorted to throwing hands. All the scientific grappling and high-spots were thrown out the window in favor of a straight-up hardnosed fight. It came down to a simplistic tough-woman contest and somehow, after all that brutality, Hokuto won. Both women punched each other simultaneously, but Hokuto had just enough power in her to get the three-count.
And yet it wasn’t that decisive a victory. Hokuto barely survived here and Kandori recovered soon afterwards. But neither woman looked weak; instead, both of them left this match looking way better than when they entered. Kandori left with her reputation more or less intact and looked great because Hokuto had to almost kill her to win. And Hokuto came out of this looking even tougher than when she entered, as if that were even possible. She fought for thirty minutes against one of the most feared women’s grapplers in the country for thirty minutes, nearly had her shoulder torn from its socket, got spiked onto an announce table, bled like a stuck pig, could barely defend herself against a dangerous opponent, yet still came out on top. If that isn’t a surefire method of making someone into a top star, I don’t know what is.
Final Rating: ****3/4
Match #11: Manami Toyota & Toshiyo Yamada (AJW) vs. Combat Toyoda & Megumi Kudo (FMW)
Background: Toyota and Yamada were once rivals that formed quite possibly the best tag team in AJW history. Here they defend their company’s tag titles against two outsiders. One is ToyoDA (I’ll refer to her as “Combat” to avoid confusion here), a mainstay of FMW, and the other is Kudo, who is quite possibly the craziest women’s wrestler ever. I’ve read tons of stories about her over the years, about how she was so hardcore that women from other companies (including the AJW women here) were genuinely afraid of her. That shouldn’t be a surprise, though; Kudo could take a savage beating and regularly put herself through the same ultraviolent hardcore stuff as guys like Atsushi Onita and Terry Funk. Oh, and she’s the one who created the Kudome Valentine, a.k.a. the Vertebreaker. You know, that absolutely nuts back-to-back piledriver used by guys like Homicide and Gregory Helms.
The match: Toyota and Yamada rush their opponents but get knocked down. Kudo lands a crossbody and then exchanges strikes and quick takedowns with Yamada. Combat holds Yamada in place for Kudo to strike her and then tags in and lands a body block. Toyota tags in and hits a flurry of slaps but Combat no-sells and pushes her back. Combat easily overpowers Toyota and tags Kudo who lands another crossbody. Toyota goes to counter an Irish whip with her patented rope-jump body press but misses and the two women trade pins. Yamada tags in and kicks Kudo right under the chin. She unloads more kicks but Kudo starts hulking up but Yamada answers with a DDT and a Backdrop suplex. Yamada follows with a Stretch Muffler-type hold and switches to a modified giant swing, followed by a leg drop for a two-count. Toyota tags in and lands a dropkick followed by a butterfly suplex for two. Kudo counters an Irish whip with a perfect Frankensteiner for her own two-count and then tags Combat. Combat stomps on Toyota and works over her back. She locks in a torture rack and then spins into a facebuster and pins but Toyota bridges out. Kudo tags in and locks in a Romero special (with Combat’s help) into a dragon sleeper as Combat stomps on Toyota’s out-stretched midsection. She kicks Toyota some more and then lands a reverse victory roll into an inverted torso stretch. I’ve never seen such a move before. Kudo’s literally bending Toyota’s spine in an unnatural way but Toyota keeps fighting, only to end up in a double-arm stretch with a boot in her back.
Kudo locks in a Walls of Jericho and then tags Combat, who lands a diving elbow drop for a two-count. She sends Toyota into the ropes but Toyota lands a Manami Roll for a two-count of her own and tags Yamada. Yamada hits martial arts kicks, followed by a corner clothesline and a DDT for two. Combat fights out with a claw hold and a corner body block and then knocks Yamada ringside. Toyota tries kicking Combat from the apron but Kudo goes after her as Combat slams Yamada on the floor. Chaos ensues as all four women throw each other around ringside and in the stands. After a standoff, Toyota tags in and hits several running and diving dropkicks for another two-count. Toyota struggles to hit some pins and a suplex as Kudo tags in and locks in another double-arm stretch. Kudo lands a diving elbow followed by an aided double-underhook piledriver for a two-count. Combat tags in and hits a powerslam but Toyota bridges out again. She follows with her own aided piledriver but this time Yamada makes the save. Combat goes for a top-rope back suplex but Toyota counters with a midair press for two and locks in a camel clutch. Yamada goes to kick Combat’s collar but Kudo stops her, but only briefly. Yamada tags in and hits several kicks to Combat’s head. That’s followed by some awkward slams by Yamada so Toyota tags in, only to run into a brick wall courtesy of Combat. Combat walks into her and then falls on her with all her weight, but Toyota still bridges out of a pin.
Toyota lands a counter dropkick and two diving crossbody presses for another two-count. Yamada tags in and lands a tandem sidewalk slam followed by stereo splashes for yet another two-count. Toyota dropkicks Combat to setup a German for Yamada but Kudo hits Yamada from behind. Yamada overcomes both Combat and Kudo and lands a sloppy German suplex for another two-count. Kudo cheap-shots Yamada again and Combat goes for a powerbomb but Yamada counters with a Thesz press for a two-count. Yamada goes for a Kudo’s finisher but Kudo cuts her off. Combat follows with a nasty powerbomb but only gets two. She goes for a one-shoulder powerbomb but Yamada counters into a backslide, only for Kudo to break it up. Toyota comes in and goes for a Manami Roll but Combat counters with yet another powerbomb and tags Kudo. Toyota escapes a German suplex and charges for a dropkick but Kudo sidesteps and Toyota falls to the floor. Kudo dives onto her and Yamada dives onto Kudo. Toyota goes for a quebrada but Combat cuts her off and then dives onto all of them. Then Toyota fires up and lands her quebrada/moonsault splash.
Back in the ring, Toyota goes for a snap moonsault but Kudo rolls out of range. The two trade waistlocks until Kudo lands a bridging German suplex. One, two, Toyota kicks out. Combat tags in and lands a nasty lariat that sends Toyota flipping end over end. She tags Kudo and they land a double gutbuster but Toyota bridges out of a pin yet again. Kudo and Toyota reverse each other’s Irish whips until Toyota ends up in the corner. Combat holds her in place as Kudo sets her up in her shoulders. Doomsday Device! Yamada breaks up a pin. Combat tags in and Kudo goes to the top rope. Razor’s Edge/diving neckbreaker combo. One, two, Toyota gets a ropebreak. Kudo tags in and goes for a diving splash. Toyota dodges and tags Yamada. Yamada lands several kicks and goes for a dragon suplex but Combat lariats her first. Combat and Kudo go for a double lariat but Yamada ducks. Yamada and Toyota German suplex each opponent. Kudo kicks out of another pin. Yamada slams Kudo and tags Toyota. Toyota lands a snap moonsault and pins. Combat makes the save. Toyota holds Kudo in place for a diving kick from Yamada but Kudo sidesteps and Yamada kicks Toyota instead. Kudo goes to capitalize. Toyota tries countering her. But Kudo counters Toyota into a bridging northern lights suplex. One, two, Yamada breaks Kudo’s bridge. Kudo whips Toyota into Combat in the corner but Toyota dropkicks Combat to the floor. Toyota and Yamada go for a double avalanche back suplex. Combat throws both of them down. Kudo goes for a diving press but hits Combat instead. Toyota and Yamada spike Kudo on her head with that double avalanche back suplex! Damn, what a nasty landing. Toyota goes for the Japanese Ocean Suplex but Combat breaks it up. Yamada tries to block Combat as Toyota tries again. Combat slips past and goes for a boot. But Toyota ducks and Combat books Kudo instead. Toyota lands the Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex as Yamada takes Combat down. One, two, and three! There’s the match!
Winners after 28:13: Manami Toyota & Toshiyo Yamada
Post-match, Toyota and Yamada are confronted by Dynamite Kansai and Mayumi Ozaki. The two JWP women want a title shot at the next big show in Osaka and the champions accept. The four of them would end up wrestling in what I consider the greatest two-on-two women’s tag match in wrestling history.
After that, Combat refuses to speak to the press in the typical post-match interview and Kudo is visibly upset. But they’re not alone. For whatever reason, Toyota is also emotional despite winning and refuses to answer any questions.
Review: Solid for the main-event though not as good as the match before it. This was more pure chaos with the token lightning quickness of Toyota and Yamada. Even though it had all the hallmarks of peak 90s joshi – blistering speed, clever counters, nonstop action, superhuman endurance and conditioning, and brutal and creative maneuvers – it still felt a tad underwhelming. There were some obvious chemistry issues which, again, was to be expected. And yet they were more noticeable here than, say, the Hokuto/Kandori match. Combat and Kudo sold inconsistently and Combat seemed a step or two behind everyone else. The middle of the match was largely forgettable to the point that it seemed to just drag on. It did pick up in the final five minutes, but by that point the damage was largely done. It’s still impressive, though not as good as other matches that preceded it.
Final Rating: ****1/4
The event had a total runtime of 5:20:10. That includes all matches, pre-and post-match interviews, the opening and legends ceremonies, the closing credits, and some final comments from the commentators and a few others thanking fans for attending/watching.
Five stars of the show:
- Akira Hokuto – she did a great job at both hyping up her match and fighting for her love of wrestling. She bled more than any woman I’ve ever seen in wrestling out of dedication for her craft. You gotta admire that level of commitment.
- Megumi Kudo – she did some of the most unique and punishing moves I’ve ever seen to Toyota and came across as a legit threat
- Manami Toyota – she’s legendary for a reason. She was the poster child of a never-say-die babyface and did some crazy high-octane stuff in the ring and above it
- Shinobu Kandori – she was the more straightlaced fighter to Hokuto’s more showmanship-driven approach. But even though she was more of a shootfighter and not a wrestler per se, she still went to war with Hokuto. She proved that being simplistic and not flashy’ can be entertaining.
- Aja Kong – she was a bit better than Nakano at being the monster. She was a more convincing immovable object, told a better story, and hit harder than anyone else in her match.
Best match of the show: Akira Hokuto vs. Shinobu Kandori (****3/4)
Worst wrestling match on the show: Eriko Tsuchiya & Yoshika Maedomari vs. Sakechi Nobue & Terri Powers (**1/2)
Show rating (out of 10): 9.75
In terms of delivering a historic show, this one threw it out of the park. The wrestling and athleticism displayed on this show was amazing. There was not a single wrestling match below **1/2 quality and four of them were **** or higher. Sure, some matches were a bit sloppy or botched, but that’s to be expected when you have matches in which wrestlers haven’t fought each other before. Even with that, all the matches were taken seriously and the show was treated as much as a combat sports competition as possible. There was no comedy or silliness. All the interviews were serious and the losers of the matches sold losing like it was a big deal. As if that wasn’t enough, each winner/winning team got huge trophies to commemorate the show. That’s a great way to sell the historic importance of an event.
So why doesn’t the show get a perfect 10/10? Well, it depends on how you look at the show from top to bottom.
If you look at each match on its own in a vacuum and judge the show by its atomized parts, this show is simply phenomenal. There isn’t a single outwardly bad wrestling match; in fact, several of them are very, very good and hold up well to this day. The Hokuto/Kandori match in particular is exceptional and one of the best women’s wrestling matches I have ever seen.
The other way is if you look at the show as a whole. By that metric the show is…ridiculously repetitive. Yes, all the matches are still solid by athletic and credibility standpoints. And yet, so many of the matches are so similar to each other. There were so many of the same moves done by different wrestlers in different matches. I lost count how many dropkicks, wheel kicks, Frankensteiners, piledrivers, suplexes, and moonsaults were landed all throughout the show. Seriously, there were so many Boston crabs on this show the women could’ve all retired and opened a chowder joint. On one hand that shows how skilled everyone from the curtain-jerkers to the main-eventers is. On the other hand, the repetition throughout the show makes stuff that happened later feel less special.
Maybe they all wrestled under this ‘win by any means necessary’ mentality. But because the earlier matches threw so much into their match, and later matches repeated similar things, moves and spots that were supposed to be special…weren’t. Athletically-speaking, yes, this was head and shoulders above any other women’s-only major wrestling show I have ever seen. But the repetition throughout the show also made it a slog to get through. I know I’ve written so much about this show because I wanted to capture as many details as possible to show just how athletic, insane, and creative these women were in their prime. But that was both a blessing and a curse.
All of that being said, this show highlighted women’s wrestling done right. It was treated as legitimate and everyone was focused on two things: taking the competition seriously and delivering great matches for the fans. AJW might not be in business anymore, but they earned a spot in the history books with this great show.
You can watch it in its entirety using the link below. Oh, and as an added bonus, all the interviews and any wrestler trash-talk during matches includes English translations. And not the bad auto-generated YouTube subtitles, but correctly-translated Japanese-to-English subtitles. So for anyone that says they can’t watch shows like this because of the language barrier, that barrier doesn’t exist here. Plus, unlike so many previously-reviewed joshi matches, this show has fantastic video quality.
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.