JOSHI SPOTLIGHT- JUMPING BOMB ANGELS & CRUSH GALS:
* Okay, for this Spotlight, I figured I’d do something a little different- just gather some random Gals & Angels matches I found and make a dual Spotlight between the two teams, whom I’ve already done bios for.
What’s Awesome Here: Two ’80s matches (one okay, one REALLY good), a fricking fantastic “War of the Gods” tag match that’s a total classic, a *WCW* Joshi bout from 1991, and then a look at a late-stage JB Angel.
Chigusa Nagayo: Sporty-looking tomboy who turns into a pure ass-kicker. Always wears read. Total icon in Japan, and heroine to schoolgirls of the ’80s.
Lioness Asuka: Fights & dresses like Chigusa, but in blue. A better worker, but didn’t have as much of the “It” Factor; Still a huge star.
Noriyo Tateno: “Pretty Girl” wrestler turned ridiculously innovative in the ring, inspiring a generation of stunt-workers. Went on to LLPW post-1990 and became a big solo wrestler there.
Itsuki Yamazaki: Quicker, more slender high-flyer. Inspired Manami Toyota. Retired in 1991, pretty much for good.
AJW JUNIOR TITLE:
NORIYO TATENO vs. CHIGUSA NAGAYO:
* This is sometime in 1984, with pre-Crush Gals Nagayo up against a rookie Tateno doing a “Pretty Girl” act. These weren’t quite “Idols” as far as I can tell (at least not in the modern or ’90s sense), and might not have been their to lure in the “Dad Crowd”, but they were around, usually as babyfaces. Chigusa lost the title to Tateno, and is fighting to get it back. Tateno gets a smattering of light applause, while the crowd just ERUPTS for Chigusa- yeah, she has “it”; no question about it. Both are… wearing swimsuits. No other way to put it. Chigusa’s already in red at this point, and I think Tateno’s is pink (this is a VHS transfer; it’s hard to tell).
They do basic chain-wrestling for a couple of minutes, and Tateno makes the ropes from a bodyscissors and stomps away, then works the back. Tateno actually bails from some basic stuff, then blocks an Enuigiri and nails her pair of jumping knee smashes. Chigusa won’t even stay down for a one-count, so Tateno works the leg and holds the same damn thing for two minutes until Chigusa makes the ropes. Indian Deathlock & Bow & Arrow continue the attack as little girls cheer for their heroine, but it’s not 1985 yet and so I still have my hearing. Chigusa fires back and hits the sharpshooter for a minute or two, but Tateno reconfigures herself after losing a slugfest and lands a vertical suplex. Chigusa misses a 2nd-rope leap and Tateno’s flying clothesline hits- Tateno tries to grind out a pin, but Chigusa still won’t stay down. Flying Elbow misses and Tateno eats two spin-kicks and a release Northern Lights Suplex, then a Front-Facelock Bridging Northern Lights Suplex (13:00)- Chigusa wins the Junior Title! The match was two REALLY long holds puncuated by some solid stuff, at least, but a little old-school for my tastes.
Rating: **3/4 (not really my favorite kind of wrestling, but good enough)
Yes, they describe the finish in the name of the video.
AJW ALL-PACIFIC TITLE:
CHIGUSA NAGAYO vs. NORIYO TATENO:
* Chigusa is defending the All-Pacific Title here, but actually holds both top titles in AJW at the time. Both are in swimsuits again, with Chigusa in a black & red one with lots of line details, and Tateno’s in a white & pink one, and has more hair than last time.
You can tell it’s later in the decade because they’re doing the opening at 50mph, throwing out a ton of running moves before Tateno dropkicks Chigusa off the apron. Tateno jumps her on the way back in and hits the two Running Knees, but Chigusa wrestles out and they chain-wrestle for a bit, Chigusa hitting a Northern Lights-ish suplex out of a lockup. The technical stuff here is MUCH better than the last match, with them fighting for every move and doing very realistic stuff, Tateno’s great front-facelock w/ bodyscissors leads to Chigusa in control from a top mount, grinding elbows. Tateno fights out of a crab and gets blasted with an Owen-style leg lariat, but BITES her way out of a chinlock and spams out big lariats to keep Chigusa down! Flying Kneedrop gets two, but Chigusa trips her and hits the Sharpshooter. Tateno makes the ropes after exactly a minute, so Chigusa locks on another crab, but Tateno stiffly kicks her like 30 times (actually, literally 29) to break it up, but Chigusa twists her back into it.
Chigusa throws TKO-level kicks and demands the ref count, so she can go into the corner and sell those shots- great bit. And when Tateno gets up, Chigusa blasts her again so she can buy more time to recover! Finally, she lands a bunch of head kicks, another leg lariat and a FLYING leg lariat… but Tateno “Fuck YOU!” bridges out! Chigusa’s next leg lariat gets caught, and Tateno PLANTS her with a German, then kicks her over and does ANOTHER ONE, realizing more work is needed. However, when she grabs for a third, Chigusa snaps around and locks on a deadly Sleeperhold, Tateno flopping into the ropes. Chigusa German looks to finish, but Tateno rolls forward and traps her with the legs for a good two-count. Pissed, she fires off a dropkick, but Chigusa just dives in and grabs another Sleeper! Tateno doesn’t even struggle- she just sells it like it was an instant-kill, ashen and immobile, the ref calling for the bell after 40 seconds of that (12:52). Yikes.
Damn, that second German had the best technique I’ve ever seen- just a perfect, flowing, slow-motion arc into the drop. But this match was awesome- I’m a sucker for counter-wrestling (as opposed to restholds, filler & “slap on a submission out of nowhere”), and this match was almost all that, but added in some good kicks and suplexes to shake it up. Chigusa’s sleeper reversals looked devastating, Tateno selling them as lethal and dangerous, with that last one being very dramatic as a result.
Rating: ***3/4 (very good use of the “little things” and ’80s chain-wrestling, with an out-of-nowhere finish)
THE CRUSH GALS vs. AJA KONG & DYNAMITE KANSAI:
(15.09.2000, GAEA Japan)
* !!!!! This was shown in one of those selfish night-time livewatches, and everyone was impressed. This bout takes place in Chigusa’s GAEA Japan- the “Rest Home For Joshi” as it was called back then. But this was an enormous piece of business, as her old partner Asuka had come to GAEA and fought Chigusa in a great feud… and then REUNITED, drawing legit mainstream press in Japan, as the Crush Gals were a phenomenon in their prime. And so who can challenge them? Oh, AJA KONG shows up with JWP’s former Ace, Dynamite Kansai- the two most dominant wrestlers of the Interpromotional Era, their three-match rivalry has now turned into a mutual respect, as tends to happen in Joshi (Defeat = Respect & Friendship is a very Japanese trope). The month earlier, Chigusa defeated Kansai with a kick, but Aja pinned Asuka following her Uraken (Spinning Backfist), thus setting up a Contest of the Gods- pro wrestling in its ultimate form.
The Crush Gals show up to one of their ’80s pop hits, flanked by all of Chigusa’s young trainees doing their “Crush Gals Hand Signal” along with them, which is epic… but the heel entrance has to be seen to be believed: they show up with Aja in a huge robe with a leopard-print lining, and Kansai in a high-collared armored monstrosity out of Fist of the North Star. “They look like they’re gonna ruin the Ninja Turtles’ fucking lives” is the quote from the livewatch. This is COMPLETELY EPIC, especially once the ring fills with color-coded streamers for all the wrestlers.
Everyone in here is a ways out of their athletic prime, so this will be interesting. And they go for the jugular immediately, Aja plastering Asuka with an Uraken and Chigusa tossing Kansai onto the pile to break up the pin. Then the heels hit a Sandwich Lariat (an old Gals spot from the ’80s) and Aja adds a Brainbuster for two. Okay, so we’re going right to murder, then. Kansai accidentally kicks Aja, who takes a spinning heel kick for two, but she lariats the Gals down. Chigusa eats lariats and Aja’s backdrop when she tries a comeback. Kansai tries a Gals Sharpshooter but Asuka comes flying off the top to nail her, then Aja runs in but it’s STEREO SHARPSHOOTERS for the heels! The Gals do their hand symbol to the cheering crowd to maximize the moment- total veteran move. They add a Spike Piledriver to Kansai for two, then each team does a “partner on the apron cheats with a lariat” spot, but Asuka misses another and gets backdropped. Kansai does THE CLAW of all things, but Chigusa kicks the hand away, Kansai clobbers her, then uses the OTHER hand to re-start the Claw- this match is awesome.
Aja comes in and gets backdropped, but no-sells and lariats Asuka down for two, then ducks Chigusa’s kick of interference so it hits Asuka. Kansai adds a flying double-foot stomp (OW), but Aja’s Back Elbow attempt ends up with her backdropped off the top for two. Chigusa in, and the Gals hit an interfering Kansai with a double-gut punch (another ’80s spot) so Chigusa can hit Aja with a DEATH VALLEY DRIVER for two. Chigusa adds ANOTHER one, and Aja still kicks out. Running Kneelift (that beat Kansai last month), but Kansai breaks up the pin. Aja stumbles into a tag, but Kansai’s Splash Mountain attempt is turned to a pin, then the Running Kneelift connects and now AJA has to save. Chigusa climbs, so Aja uses her metal can on both Gals and Kansai hits a release SPLASH MOUNTAIN from there (so, a Razor’s Edge), then Aja adds the Flying Back Elbow and Kansai lands the proper sit-out Splash Mountain- Asuka does a GREAT desperation save there. Chigusa looks dead, so Kansai plans a SUPER Splash Mountain, but Asuka runs in and hits the Iconoclasm of all things from there (that sit-out double-arm thing) and Chigusa does an Orange Cassidy-esque “I’m dead” flop onto her for two.
Chigusa, selling the shoulder like death, tags out to Asuka, who dodges Kansai’s kick and spinning heel kicks her in one move for a crowd pop, but Aja Urakens her when she goes for a Powerbomb, so Kansai hits Splash Mountain and Chigusa shoves Aja into them to save. Aja slaps Asuka awake, but misses the Uraken and gets double-teamed for two. Aja uses the metal can and an Uraken, but Asuka kicks out! Asuka blocks one Uraken, so Aja spins the other way, hits her, then hits the proper one (love that spot), then gets another for two. Aja goes for the Super Mountain Bomb, but Chigusa uses the Owen Enzuigiri on Kansai and blocks it, allowing Asuka to hit a Torture Rack Powerbomb for two! Damn, Asuka is STRONG! Aja eats the Sandwich Lariat (hah!) for two, then the DOOMSDAY DEVICE of all things, but Kansai saves. Everyone struggles to their feet, and Aja’s Uraken gets two. Desperate and furious, she rips the GLOVES OFF, preparing a barehanded Uraken, but Asuka ducks, Chigusa kicks Aja, and Asuka lands the Michinoku Driver for the three (14:24)- Gals win!!
This was an utter spotfest, but one of those ones where they replace all the flippy-flop and death-defying moves with murder. Straight away they’re going for finishers and copycat spots, with everything designed to either impress or pop the crowd. Kick out of two DVDs? Why not- it’s early! Get hit by a finisher? Nah, do another big move 30 seconds later- it’s fine! ’80s Callback Spots lead to MDKs, though at least usually interference was required to kick out. This is so full of MOVEZ I had to do three paragraphs to recap a 15-minute bout. Selling was either “we’re dying” or “we can hit our moves fine”, but that’ll happen with this type of bout. One of the best matches on the tail ends of the career peaks of these women (they wrestled for longer, but peaked years before this), and one designed around giving the crowd their money’s worth. They just added a ton of cool spots in there, with the Claw reversal, multiple finishers, interference, ’80s callbacks and revenge spots.
Rating: ****1/2 (probably the best match any of these women could have had at that point- a Spotfest of Big Moves, nothing more)
WCW WRESTLEWAR ’91:
ITSUKI YAMAZAKI & MAMI KITAMURA vs. MISS A & MIKI HANDA:
* Yeah, I was pretty mind-blown when I first heard about this. WCW inexplicably threw in some stars from JWP on one of their Pay-Per-Views in 1991? And it’s got Dynamite Kansai of all people, in her first identity (“Miss A”, whom Dusty Rhodes immediately declares his his favorite, admitting it’s because her name is the only one he can pronounce), shown here wearing a bodysuit made out of neon static. Her partner is Miki Handa, who can most expertly be described as “Not Bad; Mostly Filler”, as that’s her job on most LLPW stuff I’ve seen (she split from JWP during their big break). She’s wearing a black singlet with a big green “F” on it. Yamazaki is of course one half of the Jumping Bomb Angels, and draws whistles for her floral-print 1950s swimsuit. Kitamura only had a four-year career, moving on to LLPW. She’s wearing orange & black here.
Jim Ross, in his classic “Jim Ross Diplomacy” way, manages to say “Yeah, I know women’s wrestling is totally bullshit over here, but these are legitimately very well-trained wrestlers” without being nasty. Immediately we get the doe-si-doe dropkicks, and Yamazaki hits her Flying Armdrag on Miss A, then uses a Rope-Walk Sunset Flip for two. In 1991. Miss A no-sells some shots from Kitamura and then kicks her RIGHT IN THE FUCKING HEAD, flooring the audience, who has no idea what to make of this. I mean, they’re more used to Susan Sexton & Bambi matches, and Miss A’s playing Mirko Cro Cop. Miki & Mami do some generic basics, and Miss A gets some interest for a simple vertical suplex (the crowd’s so used to crap women’s wrestling that the skillful move application of ANYTHING impresses them), but Mami PLANTS her with a back elbow out of the corner, again impressing the fans.
Yamazaki hits a butterfly suplex on the third try with some great theatrics to win over the fans, and Handa does some more generic shit, so Kitamura dropkicks her and hits a running bulldog. But poor Yamazaki gets the ever-loving shit kicked out of her in the corner, Miss A pasting her face and chest with boots as the crowd’s “oooohhhhh!”s along to the JB Angel ragdolling around. Yamazaki scores a sunset flip out of a test of strength, but eats a Northern Lights Suplex as Dusty keeps marking out over how strong and tough Miss A is- it’s adorable. Handa hits a Perfect Plex but Kitamura’s in and she takes a double-shoulderblock… but tags out after a double-suplex and Yamazaki flies in with a DOUBLE Missile Dropkick to both opponents and the crowd freaks! Sunset flip out of the corner, assisted by Kitamura’s flying clothesline, nearly gets Miss A, who has to get her foot up in the corner, then fires back with a lariat for two. Yamazaki gets her foot in the ropes, then reverses a whip to the Joshi Jumping Rollup for two (6:47). Aw, poor Miss A- she got the best reactions but had to drop the fall.
Crazy match to watch, as these total nobodies go out there in front of an Arizona crowd that’s never seen them before, and within thirty seconds they’re into the match. What’s funny is that it wasn’t Yamazaki’s high-flying that impressed them (as I would have expected), but Proto-Kansai throwing out the insane kinds of kicks people just weren’t seeing in the West at that point. All that stiff, hard-hitting action really went over well, while Yamazaki had to work to get her charisma over with the crowd, finally pulling it off with her butterfly suplex (it was neat how she played to the crowd and re-planted her feet to hit in on the third attempt- veteran move) and that Double-Missile Dropkick.
Rating: ***1/4 (About as good as you’re gonna get with a match this short- literally all action and some fun spots)
ITSUKI YAMAZAKI vs. MISS A:
(06.01.1991; JWP Women’s Pro Wrestling)
* Miss A makes my week by coming out to motherfucking GLORIA ESTEFAN’S “CONGA” as her entrance theme. Yamazaki was nearing the end of her run in wrestling here, while Miss A was a rising star.
Miss A attacks before the bell, but Yamazaki grabs her leg and slams it into the POST on the outside. She takes over in the ring with leg stuff (the opposite leg, but it’s treated as the same one), and few things are weirder to me than seeing the future Ace of JWP being dominated by a Bomb Angel. Yamazaki stuffs every comeback and totally eats her alive with stretching, but Miss A FINALLY gets a Northern Lights Suplex & Sharpshooter to take over. The ref keeps kicking hands away during rope breaks for some reason, but Miss A finally lands a storm of kicks, then absolutely MURDERS Yamazaki with one to the face, and she does the “falls over like a dead tree” sell- damn, she’s good at that. A few more kicks and she’s in trouble, but she fires off a missile dropkick & cross-body off the top for two. Flying Headbutt, and still a kickout- the crowd is impressed. They reverse pins and it’s getting closer, but Yamazaki’s caught off the ropes with a Tombstone, and then Miss A’s own Flying Headbutt misses! Yamazaki prepares her own attack, but gets caught with a surprise lariat, and THAT gets the pin (16:46), as she struggles but can’t get up.
An interesting little match, as it was played up that the faster, smarter veteran completely owned the bigger, stronger girl- a dynamic you don’t usually see. It was literally 10 minutes of Yamazaki dominating with leg stuff, then Miss A taking over with her own, so it’s not exactly a nail-biter, but well-wrestled, and they at least bothered to sell and work a single limb instead of “whatever, this is just filler”- Miss A even kept selling the leg the whole match! And then all of a sudden they’re in “serious match mode” and it gets really good with a lot of counters! So overall it was “Yamazaki is smarter, but Miss A is too strong and tough in the end”, as the younger wrestler beats the veteran. These “good story, but mostly really slow until they reved it up” matches are hard for me to rate, though- how much do you penalize early stuff that goes on for too long?
Rating: *** (fairly non-dynamic bout to start, but got really good in the end)