And we’re back to another Wrestlemarinepiad! Unfortunately, nobody can seem to find 1991’s show, but it looks pretty good. Bull Nakano fought Monster Ripper (Rhonda Sing/Bertha Faye) in the main event after teaming up against Aja Kong & Bison Kimura in a Steel Cage match, Kyoko Inoue & Toshiyo Yamada took on Akira Hokuto & Manami Toyota, and more. I’ll see if that ever turns up.
“TL;DR- Why Should I Watch It?”- This show features the Toyota/Inoue match that Dave Meltzer rated “*****+++”, which may in fact be the first time he broke the ***** scale- not a New Japan or NXT bout. And IT’S NOT BULLSHIT! The rest of the worked matches are at least good.
Yumiko Hotta, pictured here in the “Terrifying Murder Granny” phase of her career.
SUZUKA MINAMI, MIMA SHIMODA & YUMIKO HOTTA vs. MIORI KAMIYA, KAORU ITO & TOMOKO WATANABE:
* Okay, so some interesting stuff with people moving around in the company. And some horribly-ugly costumes. Minami is credible and a made star, though not really popular. She’s wearing a hilariously goofy uniform here- a yellow & orange leotard with a frilly thing that looks like a… (checks Google) epaulette on one shoulder. Shimoda is typically with Etusko Mita, but isn’t tonight- it’s weird seeing her as “generically peppy” when she would later get known for what looks to be obviously-superficial politeness with a murderer’s spirit- she’s wearing a pink leotard with black linings, looking way younger and more innocent than I’m used to. Hotta is credible and moving up the company, but still in the midcard here- she’s wearing a bright blue singlet with yellow & white triangles on it. Ito & Watanabe are JTTS types who typically lose on EVERY show, even in 1993 & ’94, taking a while to gain credibility. Fittingly, Jobber Ito is the only Ito that dresses nicely, wearing a white singlet with ’90s-looking yellow & orange coloring on the top. Tomoko’s wearing a black shirt and baggy white pants. Kamiya is a six-year vet by this point, wrestling until 2000, and typically went by “Cooga” or “Lady Cooga”- she won a pair of tag team titles, ten years apart. I’ve never heard of her before. She’s wearing a Jobber Singlet with yellow trim and boots. They skip announcing the second team, meaning I’m left guessing for a while as to who is whom, as they’re all in non-standard gear and the tape transfer is awful- thankfully, Ito USES THE ASS and Miori has her name on her back, so I figure it out after six minutes.
Everyone exchanges Jobber Offense to start, with Shimoda getting her ass kicked a lot. I mean, literally her ass is being kicked repeatedly by her opponents. Such a weird body part to target. It’s not like there’s a lot of submissions to use on it. Hotta & Minami are more “complete” wrestlers, and so have better stuff to utilize, like a “throw them over your back” version of the Powerbomb, and a Powerslam out of the corner, respectively. Ito spams Ass Attacks while Miori apparently fights like a slender “martial artist”, posing all karate-style. There’s some good double-teams and “blocking” going on, too, with a clothesline to prevent a Powerbomb, a Flying Stomp from Ito, and then a Minami/Hotta Powerbomb/Flying Elbow! Oh, that last one actually gets the pin (7:37). Jeez, I THOUGHT they started pulling out those double-teams a bit early.
Actually a good little match, though way too short to be great or anything. I felt like Shimoda seemed “unready” for some reason. The double-teams were well done and it felt tightly “agented” if that was a thing back then- like they knew they were getting eight minutes, and so they made them count without wasting any time.
Rating: *** (actually a good little short match. One of those “aw, I wanted it to be longer” ones)
WWWA MARTIAL ARTS TITLE:
BAT YOSHINAGA (c) vs. AKEMI TORISU
* OH GOODY ANOTHER ONE OF THESE. Bat is in a ton of these bouts- a short, squat girl with dyed blonde hair. Akemi I’ve never heard of, but is much taller and has the strangest head shape I’ve ever seen- cheekbones so wide that it alters her head shape.
Akemi lumbers forward with these big, obvious, swooping roundhouses punches in slow-motion, but Bat scores all the good stuff, as you can see by Akemi’s bloodied face by round two. Bat actually lands a SPIN KICK, but shows you why you don’t try moves that drop you to the ground in a real fight, as Akemi doesn’t fall over and instead gets a bunch of free shots, but they’re so weak that Bat isn’t hurt. Nobody even has a guard up here- they’re just throwing weak shit at each other and standing there. Bat wins a decision after five rounds of awful.
Rating: DUD (oh god just kill me)
The lesser-known Steiner Sisters maintained some degree of success.
ALL JAPAN WOMEN TAG TITLES:
DEBBIE MALENKO & SAKIE HASEGAWA (c) vs. MARIKO YOSHIDA & TAKAKO INOUE:
* Oh hey, first time seeing Sakie in these. And there’s Debbie Malenko, whose name keeps popping up in title lineages, even though I’ve never seen her! Sakie was of course the “Heir Apparent” who slowly rose up through the ranks for 5-6 years before retiring without seeing her potential fulfilled. Here she’s a mere baby, wearing a white Jobber Singlet. Debbie Drake took the name of her trainer, Boris Malenko (father of Dean), and is a woman with blonde ’80s hair, having raided Rick Steiner’s closet to get a singlet with TV-static on the front and back. She peaked as AJW Champion but left wrestling after only three years. Takako is the “Idol Wrestler” of AJW (translation: also does modeling), and slowly moving up the ranks here. Yoshida had been around for four years by this point, and was beginning to get pushed, but a neck injury put her out for a couple of years, missing the peak of business. She had a lucha-inspired offense, first with high-flying, then with technical stuff, and became a super-respected name in the 2000s or all time periods. The challengers are wearing matching orange and yellow hideous leotards with red armbands.
The AJW Tag Titles are sort of the “Rookie Tag Titles”. Haha, the challengers just divebomb the champions to start, with Takako showing that “secretly crazy” fire I’m recognizing more and more, screaming while beating on Sakie. They tear her up for a while, but Debbie comes in with an Ace Crusher and a bunch of slick submissions work. Sakie gets tortured again (methinks they want to showcase her sympathetic selling), then Debbie does the same to Mariko. Takako oddly has more luck with crazy slapping and a simple chinlock, and the challengers exhibit some… solid double-teams. I mean, they’re not very smooth or coordinated yet, but it’s a lot of double-elbows and double-dropkicks. But Sakie tags in and it’s SPINNING HEEL KICK SPAM! One off the second rope! Debbie misses a Flying Elbow, but hits a crazy Overhead Belly-To-Belly Superplex to Takako, who barely gets saved.
They do a lot of good near-falls- it’s interesting how they’re a bit uncoordinated and nervous compared to even one year later- Takako feels like an entirely different worker. Fun bits with the teams blocking interference, then having to switch holder/hold-ee when the rollup is reversed. And then it’s a LOT of double-team nearfalls, as we got a Double Ace Crusher (sounds better than it looked) from the champs, then Stereo 2nd-Rope Dropkicks, Stereo Topes, a a Double Super DDT (looked more suplex-y, but the guy said “DDT!”) from the challengers, until finally they dump Debbie and Takako hits her Aurora Special (Waistlock Backdrop Suplex Hold) for the three (18:15)!! New champions! Takako’s celebration, complete with hugging the ref, then doing unsportsmanlike swiping kicks as the ex-champs try to congratulate them, helps showcase why she was a much bigger star the very next year.
Wow- they really booked a hell of a match, here. Great planning and timing on everything, with the challengers throwing all sorts of Escalating Finishers to try and put Sakie down, and they finally dumped Debbie and got it done. Debbie actually looked the most “solid” in the ring, with great application and everything (though she was barely in the ring for more than a few minutes- this was the Sakie Show)- everyone else kind of looked a bit hesitant/nervous/sloppy at times, which prevented the match from hitting the upper tier of great stuff.
Rating: ***3/4 (a bit more experience/proper application and this breaks four easily- well-booked match!)
Manami Toyota- top-tier ring gear, every time.
KYOKO INOUE (c) vs. MANAMI TOYOTA:
* Kyoko, the ultimate super-babyface of AJW, looks more like herself here, being thicker and sporting the facepaint she’d pretty much always wear after this. Spunky and excitable, she gets cheered against EVERYONE- even Toyota! She’s got a neon yellow top and purple pants with yellow tassles, looking like the Ultimate Warrior merged with Kona Crush. Toyota is clearly a future superstar here, though a ways away from her eventual push- she’s wearing a black leotard I’ve never seen before- covering her entire upper body except her face and just her shoulders. It’s got spackled silver stuff on the front.
This is the match Meltzer said was “*****++++”, saying they were ten years ahead of everyone else in the world, so let’s see if he was right. They start out lightning-fast to start, chasing each other around and doing splashes- Manami already monkey flips Kyoko out and does a No-Hands Springboard Splash to the outside! And then it’s some state-of-the-art matwork, with Manami throwing out a flying armscissors and a Rolling Hammerlock (like her Rolling Cradle!), while Kyoko surfboards her and puts her in a backbreaker rack before throwing her out of it. Then throws on a Sharpshooter/Bow & Arrow Hold and that “Rock the Cradle” submission (which the crowd responds to like they’ve never seen it before). Oh yeah, this is INSANE for 1992. I mean, twenty days before this, Hulk Hogan fought Sid Justice in the main event of WrestleMania.
Toyota does her “dropkick herself out of the ring” spot, and wow, the close camera angle makes it clear how that’s controlled- fascinating and insanely-difficult-looking to pull off (she grabs the top rope, lands on the middle one, and controls her descent, landing on her feet). Kyoko hits an Asai Ass Attack that slams her head into the steel guardrail! Kyoko gets a Helicopter Slam & a Perfect Plex, but Manami uses Dropkick Spam to come back, hitting a crazy number of Running & Missile Dropkicks to excite the crowd. Flying thing & Butterfly Suplex Hold, but Kyoko hits the Springboard Backsplash. Kyoko wears her down with Boston Crabs (in a clever bit, Manami tries a dropkick from an Irish Whip, putting her right back into another Crab), but Manami dropkicks her off the top, Planchas her to the outside… but eats a Springboard Backsplash from the GUARD RAIL, which I’ve literally never seen before.
Manami then walks up the ropes to backflip out of a backdrop, hitting a Rolling Cradle. In 1992. FOUR Missile Dropkicks, but Kyoko blocks the fifth and stretches her again, as this is the only way to slow Manami down. But then Manami pokes her way out of one, hits a German, then a Tope! And a Plancha Suicida. And a “Walk Up The Ropes” Asai Moonsault. SHOW-OFF. Tiger Suplex gets two, but a Moonsault misses. Kyoko attempts a desperation Surfboard, but can’t keep Manami held up, and a Flying Back Elbow… gets two! She goes for a Niagara Driver (Over-The-Shoulder Powerbomb), but Manami rolls her up! Overhead Belly-To-Belly Superplex… MANAMI BRIDGES OUT! Niagara Driver… TWO! Manami reverses an Irish Whip with a Japanese Ocean Suplex (Bridging Double-Hammerlock German) for two! Kyoko reverses a running move with a throw-down Chokeslam! She picks Manami up, but Manami gets behind her and crosses the arms! She sticks her head under Kyoko’s legs for an Electric Chair Drop! Lifts her… struggles to hold her… BRIDGING PIN! It’s the first-ever JAPANESE OCEAN CYCLONE SUPLEX!!! Manami wins (24:38)!!!
Holy shit, what an absolute classic. The entire story came down to Kyoko’s superior submissions and strength, up against Manami’s sheer speed and crazy ability to pull moves out of EVERYWHERE, innovating stuff on the fly and being impossible to keep down. Kyoko kept going to the crab and other stretches just to slow her down and negate the flying, and pummeled Manami’s spine, but it just wasn’t enough- Manami kept reversing stuff to both Japanese Ocean Suplexes, and the Future Ace finishes with the first-ever use of her MDK move. It was like… practicality versus MOVEZ, but Manami had one more big move than Kyoko did, and that was that. AMAZING match, like you could see them blowing the crowd’s minds further and further the more stuff they pulled off. I was worried this wouldn’t live up to Meltzer’s insane Toyota Fanboyism and hype… but fuck me, it’s THAT GOOD. They were years ahead of everyone else, creating the future of wrestling right here.
Rating: ***** (what watching someone invent pro wrestling feels like)
Not what I imagined someone named “Bison Kimura” would look like.
ALL PACIFIC TITLE:
BISON KIMURA (c) vs. TOSHIYO YAMADA:
* This bout is for AJW’s secondary Title, and features Bison in a MUCH more glamorous look than last time, with the makeup style that Etsuko Mita would later copy entirely, and an athletic body type. It’s so weird- I read “Bison Kimura” and I’m thinking Aja Kong’s bigger, uglier sister, and they give us the Japanese Molly Holly? She wears full armor, a horned helmet, and a furry cape to the ring, just to be EXTRA-awesome; she looks like she should be fighting Conan the Barbarian out here. Her wrestling gear is a red singlet, leg & glove with black buffalo-head designs on them. Yamada is an up & comer, doing well for herself, wearing an all-blue outfit- a tight shirt and baggy martial arts pants.
They play it “deliberate brawler” versus “speedy striker” to start with. Yamada gets some great kicks (overriding a chop with one), but another one gets her trapped in a great-looking STF. Yamada pulls out a Stretch Muffler after being Surfboarded (called a “Romero Special” in Japan), but eats a pair of “Bison Chops” (screaming overhand chop), reversing a Flying Bison Chop to a cool Cross-Armbreaker that goes from “looks arm-ripping” to “resthold” pretty quickly. This is actually almost ALL stretching, which is interesting, as it’s well-applied stuff that moves around a bit, so doesn’t feel too long or boring. Once they hit the later stretch, Bison’s repeated Chop attempts bite her in the ass, as a Spinning Heel Kick and German Suplex do damage as reversals. Flying Enzuigiri is blocked with the Chop, and then Bison Chops… and Chops… and Chops… okay, so she doesn’t have a varied offense, I see. Flying Spinning Splash ends it at (18:32).
Not a bad little match, with some REALLY good submissions wrestling (none of which was anything more than a Toughness Drain, of course), but Bison’s Chop Spam got tired after a point, as it became clear neither girl had a ton of moves to fall back on just yet. The match was a bit too long if they were gonna run out of moves twelve minutes in.
Rating: ***1/4 (for the good stuff we saw)
Why one does not fuck with Aja Kong.
WWWA WOMEN’S TITLE:
BULL NAKANO (c) vs. AJA KONG:
* The never-ending feud continues!! Both are in what would be recognized as their eventual forms, here. Bull has the 12″ high blue hair again, with more intense mascara this time, and of course a Megadeth t-shirt over a black singlet. She’s probably the biggest I’ve ever seen her here. Kong is fatter than before (about her normal ’90s look) and with more regular hair instead of the red mohawk. She’s got a purple shirt & baggy white pants, and is carrying those omnipresent metal boxes. Aja talks shit on the mic before the bout, but Bull just stonefaces her.
Shock of shocks, it’s a huge brawl to start, with Aja no-selling headbutts and going to work. Bull’s hair is flattened (NO!) by headbutts, and she’s dragged outside and beaten up in the stands, having rows of chairs thrown on her. For such a monster, she was really good at selling vulnerability- she comes back holding a bloodied eye, which Aja works over. And then she LICKS HER HAND TO TASTE THE BLOOD- extra 1/4* just for that. Bull takes a LONG heat segment with tons of sleeper/camel clutch, piledriver and “random battering” stuff before finally coming back- this seems typical for these two. Aja’s ferocity and hate wins out at first, but Bull perseveres and finds openings. Bull finally comes back, and then throws Aja outside, battering her with chairs, sending her crawling back with a gory bladejob, which then gets worked over along with restholds- mirroring the first ten minutes. Aja howling in pain after a side variant of the X-Factor is pretty amazing selling for a Monster Heel.
Aja comes back with a kick from a straightjacket hold, then goes to work with her metal box. Aja keeps throwing out Urakens, but her patented spinning backfist either hasn’t been “legitimized” yet, or isn’t hitting flush, because it’s treat more as a highly-painful strike instead of death. Aja’s selling is so good for her size, though- she’s kind of stumbling around out of hate as much as anything, as the accumulated damage hampers her, and her stamina has flagged- she’s fueled by evil. So you can see her losing more and more of herself with each Uraken, flopping over when they fail to score the pin. This is paid off when Bull reverses the Irish Whip Of Transition into a lariat to the back of the head, a German, and a Guillotine Legdrop. Somersault Legdrop misses! Aja’s German gets two because she can’t hold the bridge. Aja pulls off a FLYING PLANCHA to the outside, but then the damage starts causing them to “botch” moves- they just start slumping over in them. Bull hits a Tope and her Somersault Double Guillotine Legdrop, but gets an amazing “WTF?” face when Aja kicks out. Like, she absolutely can’t believe this. And so she slams her and pulls out a FRIGGIN’ MOONSAULT to finally score the pin (21:42).
Very cool brawl- more of a war of attrition than anything, with Aja throwing bombs, then Bull throwing them, then their comebacks taking more and more out of them until finally one of them can’t go any longer. I was all “meh, don’t really like brawls” for the first 15-ish minutes as it’s JUST PUNCHING and restholds, with each dominating for a huge stretch, but once they knock that off and just start throwing out their top stuff, it gets really awesome. GREAT “accumulated damage” selling from Aja, looking dominant yet like she can barely stand at the same time. And Bull comes out on top again- a true Ace who seems unbreakable, yet vulnerable.
Rating: ****1/4 (and if you like Hoss-like brawls, it’s probably WAY better)
Your weekly reminder of what Bull Nakano looks like now. Plus Medusa!
Minami/Shimoda/Hotta vs. Kamiya/Ito/Watanabe: ***
Bat Yoshinaga vs. Akemi Toriso: DUD
Malenko/Hasegawa vs. Yoshida/Takako: ***3/4
Kyoko Inoue vs. Manami Toyota: *****
Bison Kimura vs. Toshiyo Yamada: ***1/4
Bull Nakano vs. Aja Kong: ****1/4
-Overall, it was the best Wrestlemarinepiad yet, with one of my favorite all-time matches between Manami & Kyoko, an epic brawl in the Main Event, and every worked match was at least “good”. Toyota/Inoue is a must-see to absolutely everyone, but the whole show was good except for the dumb Bat fight. Definitely recommended.