AJW TV (June 10th, 1994):
* Today’s Spotlight takes a look at a big Summer 1994 TV show featuring the WWWA Tag Champs defending their gold, and the monster duo of Aja & Bull fighting midcard crazies LCO. Curiously, AJW seems to release only a single VHS tape each month of the summer of 1994, meaning that this thing is a LOT more sparse and it’s trickier to get a feel for the stories. The Budokan Retsuden is the next show in this series, for example, and is in AUGUST. Therefore, we don’t see any of the build for it- all the matches kinda seem out of nowhere.
And we’ve already reached time for a new Japan Grand Prix! This year’s tournament only takes place across two main tapes instead of four, though a few intermediate shows have JGP matches as well. This year? They reduce the number of wrestlers GREATLY, and drop having two blocks, nor are their any wrestlers from other promotions, as AJW runs it solo. So we have only ten women present, and only a couple of big stars are in this year- Hotta, Manami, Yamada… and that’s about it- it’s just LCO, Minami, Sakie & midcard jobbers after that. No Kyoko, even!
Unfortunately, only the second half of the JGP is available on YouTube, but I found some of an intermediate TV show instead. Here’s what we missed on AJW GRAND PRIX 1994- PART ONE:
Chaparita Asari defeats Kumiko Maekawa (12:27)
EXPLODING DEATH MIDGET MATCH (!!!)
TOMEZO TSUNOKAKE d. MR. BUDDHA MAN (6:19)
TAKAKO INOUE d. SUZUKA MINAMI (21:50)- This seems like AGES for Takako, but her beating Minami actually means something, as Minami’s a real “Gatekeeper” (she put over Mita last year, for example), but also kind of cements Minami’s falling status.
YUMIKO HOTTA d. TOSHIYO YAMADA (20:18): Mike Lorefice of Quebrada calls this a “stiff as hell kickfest” and gives it ****1/2, so I wish I could find this one.
BULL NAKANO, KYOKO INOUE & TOMOKO WATANABE d. AJA KONG, KAORU ITO & RIE TAMADA (23:17): Aja unsurprisingly can’t carry TWO lower-ranked wrestlers to victory against Bull & Kyoko plus a rookie.
SAKIE HASEGAWA d. MANAMI TOYOTA (20:12): !!!!! Well yeah, there you go. The JGP always features one or two flukes or surprise victories, and since Sakie is getting the big push this year, she gets one over TOYOTA, who has a lot of name value and is nearly always a runner-up in these.
JWP TAG TITLES:
LAS CACHORRAS ORIENTALES (Etsuko Mita & Mima Shimoda) d. HIKARI FUKUOKA & CANDY OKUTSU (19:17): And a new big story-arc for the year begins, as JWP ultra-loyalist Hikari desperately tries to win back the JWP Tag Titles from the nasty, shrewish LCO, who openly disrespect the promotion, its wrestlers, and its president. Her first step is of course to bring a rookie with no chance to try and take them back, failing. She would try repeatedly throughout the year.
And now on to this actual show!
AJW GRAND PRIX ’94:
YUMIKO HOTTA vs. SUZUKA MINAMI:
* Hotta, in purple & black, outranks Minami, in tie-dye everything, by a ways by now, but these tourneys are MADE for upsets, and AJW seems to like keeping Minami just credible enough to pull out wins. These two were a tag team for much of 1992.
They trade very basic stuff for a couple minutes, but Hotta lands a BRUTAL kick to the back, and the Rolling Kick gets two. They fight over a superplex, Minami dropkicking her off and hitting a suicide dive, and we’ve probably skipped a TON of the match by now. She misses her Flying Senton, but a backslide gets two, and she reverses the Tiger Driver & hits a Kneeling Powerbomb for the same. Two missile kicks get two, but Hotta gets a back elbow (literally the Judas Effect) for two, then gets the Caribbean Splash (straightjacket superplex) reversed- she kicks Minami when she tries to jump on her, though- Tiger Driver gets two. Minami ducks a Flying Rolling Kick and Germans her for two, then climbs- NOW Hotta hits that Caribbean Splash, getting two. Pyramid Driver & back elbow are countered- another German gets two. Minami charges in, but in a weird finish, Hotta tilt-a-whirls her up, slowwwwwwly crosses the arms, and hits a Pyramid Driver from there for the three (7:01 of 16:18 shown).
Obviously abridged, but they had a good series of reversals going, with both knowing each other’s shit and knowing how to counter it. Minami kept seeming like she had a BIT of a chance, but Hotta just has too many killer moves by this point, and overwhelmed her.
Rating: **3/4 (the full match is probably ***1/2 or so- good run of reversals)
LAS CACHORRAS ORIENTALES (Etsuko Mita & Mima Shimoda) vs. AJA KONG & BULL NAKANO:
* This is an AMAZING dream match on paper, as AJW’s reigning monsters, who pretty much NEVER lose, take on LCO, who are having the run of a lifetime in 1994, taking the WWWA Champs to the limit and winning the JWP Tag Titles, too. Aja’s in purple & white, Bull’s in the fire shirt, and LCO are in awesome matching red & gold outfits. Even coming down the AISLE is wild, as people mob the kaiju, but Aja straight-up grabs chairs and launches them INTO THE STANDS so people give them some space. Then Shimoda gets on the mic and talks some shit that wows the crowd and causes Aja to smack her butt in Shimoda’s general direction.
LCO pounce immediately and toss the monsters outside, but oh god that turns against them immediately, and they’re wiped out by chairs. LCO double-teams Aja back in the ring to bash her head into all the turnbuckles, but she no-sells and cracks theirs together. Machine-gun slaps & lariat kill Shimoda, then Bull flips off Mita & hits Bull’s Angelito. Shimoda comes back with falling clotheslines and Mita hits an impressive airplane spin with some good torque, then bites the foot and does a figure-four. Shimoda even adds a splash and knocks Aja off the apron, as LCO are showing some SERIOUS fire right now, but Aja pays them back by splashing Mita. Bull hits a facecrusher and a huge draping DDT- Shimoda saves. Shimoda hits a pair of missile kicks, misses a third, then dodges Aja’s ass-drop reversal of a sunset flip, tagging out in a great sequence. Mita eats a Vader Attack and chairshots outside, then a piledriver & double-avalanche (“MI-TAAAAAAAAAAA!!!”), and LCO are getting their ASSES kicked.
Suplexes & Kneeling Powerbomb get two and the crowd is impressed with Mita’s resilience- she counters a lariat for two but LCO eat a DOUBLE one and Bull gets the NUNCHUCKS! Shimoda takes that, but Mita stalls Bull so the Guillotine Legdrop misses. LCO counter a bunch of lariats but Bull suplexes both of them, yet LCO manages to dump them and hit the Assisted Splash/Dive combo! Shimoda actually hits a Tiger Suplex on Aja with a good bridge for two- Mita flies off into a foot but hits an electric chair drop for two. Aja reverses the DVD, but Mita ducks the Uraken & Blazing Chops her down, but Aja knocks LCO over and a splash gets two. Mita gets clobbered by Bull but dodges a shot from the can, Bull taking it, but she still lariats Shimoda for two. They do the “Sunset Powerbomb Reversal” of Aja’s Super Mountain Bomb for two, but Shimoda charges in like an idiot and the Uraken kills her. Backdrop Driver makes it academic at (13:35 of 18:02).
Pretty wild, fast-paced match, with some obvious “crowd-brawling” spots to take up some time, and we missed a bit, but overall really fun. Curious to see LCO take such a HUGE beating while being reigning double-champions, but that’s Aja & Bull for you. Mita’s fire and selling was off the chain here, as she screams through everything, sells moves like death, and more- this came off like a star-making performance and a “Push MEEEEEEEEEE” situation. Some really intricately-laid out spots as well, with a lot of precise timing and good reversals. Alas, Aja mopped them up really easily in the end, giving them a handful of hope spots here and there.
Rating: ***1/2 (fun while it lasted, but would have been MUCH better if it wasn’t so one-sided)
BEST 2 OF 3 FALLS:
WWWA TAG TEAM TITLES:
MANAMI TOYOTA & TOSHIYO YAMADA vs. SAKIE HASEGAWA & KAORU ITO:
* This is a pretty odd one, as Ito & Sakie barely ever team, and now suddenly they’re taking on the World Tag champs for the gold? Sakie had a Tag Title shot earlier in the year, in a failed attempt with Aja Kong, but Ito seems like a poor replacement. Manami’s in black, Yamada’s in white & silver, Sakie’s in the splatterpaint singlet and Ito’s a yellow Peter Pan again.
FALL ONE: Ito gets her ass KICKED to start, taking two solid minutes of offense- Sakie even flies right into a kick while trying to help. She finally reverses a double-team for two, then holds the champs for Sakie to fly out onto them. Toyota stalls Ito up top and she takes a super armdrag for two. Sakie runs in with a Savate Kick, but Toyota stops the running stomps promptly- she eats Yamada’s kick by accident, but Yamada recovers with a spinkick for two. Dragon Suplex finishes at (4:27 of 10:34 shown)! Wow, that was fast! Tons of clipping.
FALL TWO: Yamada beats on Ito with kicks, then snap & belly-to-belly suplexes, but Ito reverses Toyota’s dropkicks with her own, but Toyota uses the momentum of bouncing off the ropes to kick her in the ass and do more of her own. Ito takes the octopus stretch & stump puller, but finally escapes and Sakie hits clotheslines and missile kicks on Yamada with a ton of fire, then hits her choke-sleeper for a dramatic hold! That’s a callback to her stuff against Kansai & Yamada this year, where she nearly toppled the titans with that sneaky move. She deflects a kick and hits another one! They get into a slapfest over Sakie’s continued assault, but Yamada finally plants her with a kick and escapes. Ito uses Ass Attacks and her corner senton on Toyota, who “Fuck YOU!” bridges out. She fires back with a dropkick out of the corner, but Yamada takes a superplex and running stomp spam.
Flying Stomp misses and she takes Enzuigiri Spam, and the champs boot them down. Toyota splashes onto Sakie’s feet, though, and they hit Rolling Butterfly Suplexes with a stomp after each one! Flying Stomp! Uranage! Yamada barely saves at two. They attempt an Uranage/Flying Stomp combo, but Toyota rolls Sakie up for two and then a Manami Roll gets the same. She slips on the Running No-Hands Springboard reversal, but they recover with random shots- Yamada’s kick & flying elbow smash get two. The champs ready a finisher- a Doomsday Reverse Gory Bomb/Cross-Body, but Sakie rolls Yamada up for two. Yamada reverses both Sakie’s finishers and hits a backdrop for two… and takes the Savate Kick for three (10:59 of 13:32)!! Sakie scores another big one! But holy shit her team looks exhausted.
FALL THREE: The champs, now unable to make a mistake, just destroy Sakie to start- she uses FIGHTING SPIRIT to fight up, drawing a good reaction, but Manami just trucks her again. Sakie finally escapes and Manami hits the Rolling Cradle on Ito for two, then a Swinging Stump Puller from Yamada! Sakie suckers the champs with a cross-body and they hit stereo superplexes, and Ito comes off the apron with a Stomp to both! Ito AND Sakie do Flying Stomps to Yamada- Manami saves. Now MANAMI hits a double-move off the top, dropkicking both, then it’s a Running No-Hands Springboard Cross-Body Suicida onto the rookies! Stereo Flying Headbutts to Sakie- Ito saves. Moonsault- Sakie kicks out! Toyota aims for the Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex, but Sakie slips out and hits a last desperation Savate Kick for two. Another try and it’s a victory roll for two. Sakie climbs, but gets caught- the champs hit their Double Flipover Backdrop in a TERRIFYING bump (Sakie must have tucked her head at the last possible second or she’d have died)- Ito saves again. Toyota’s just like “ugh- FINE” and hits the Ocean Cyclone Suplex at last while Yamada deals with Ito, scoring the three (8:47). The champs hug and congratulate the rookies at the end for taking them to 32 minutes.
Interesting match construction, as the champs EASILY defeated their rookie opponents in the first fall, countering all of their double-teams and hitting their own comebacks with ease. Fall Two has some great double-teams and shots by the rookies, as they plow Toyota over in particular (love that Butterfly Suplex/Stomp spamming spot), but look to be finished off… but Sakie makes her own comebacks, takes out Yamada’s big stuff, and hits a lucky Savate Kick for the win- a great indicator of what AJW thinks of her. The next just saw the champs regain some credibility by destroying them, however- almost more for the sake of their pushes. Like “yeah, it’s better if we’re even-stevens the whole way, but we’re the CHAMPS and these are ROOKIES”, so they eat them up like Aja & Bull did to LCO. I mean, the final eight minutes was maybe 2-3 moves for the kids, and the champs hitting finisher after finisher while Ito could only break up the pins. Though the fact that Sakie & Ito seemed BAGGED might have had something to do with it- they were just sweaty piles of dead 22 minutes into it, leaving them easy prey.
Rating: ***1/2 (very good match with some great spots, but again a very one-sided one for the most part)
Two ***1/2 matches in about an hour of TV is a pretty good deal- this show establishes both Aja & Bull and Toyota & Yamada as top stars not to be trifled with, I think.