Joshi Spotlight: Eagle Sawai
By Jabroniville on 24th May 2021
Eagle Sawai in one of her more conservative outfits.
JOSHI SPOTLIGHT- EAGLE SAWAI:
Real Name: Tomoko Sawai
Billed Height & Weight: 5’7″ 242 lbs.
Career Length: 1986-2007
-And now we come to an odd woman out in a lot of Joshi- the easy #2 wrestler in LLPW during the Interpromotional Era, but one that never got a lot of credit, respect, or big matches… despite being one of the more protected people on the cards. Fighting using a heavyweight power style despite dressing like the Queen of Hearts, she definitely stood out from the crowd, especially with LLPW’s lower-budget gear. She isn’t considered one of the top workers of her era, but at the same point isn’t derided as over-pushed, either. I mean, LLPW was a pretty small company with not a lot of stars- she’s probably as good a #2 as they were gonna get. And if put against a top-flight worker, she didn’t look out of place or embarrassingly-slow- she was a good, solid “Big Woman Worker”. Her “Vader Attacks” looked LEGIT, and she was believable pinning people with simple lariats and powerbombs- her stuff hit and hit hard.
Eagle is… all in all, pretty okay. Not great, but pretty good. Sometimes. Her career highlight is probably a ****-ish match with Akira Hokuto at Big Egg Wrestling Universe, where Eagle is LLPW’s entrant into the V*Top tournament, losing in the first round. Naturally, most joshi had their best matches with Hokuto, and this is the only time I think I’ve seen Eagle hit that high. But as LLPW was a very small company (a card with 5-6 matches typically involved the entire roster!), she wouldn’t have had as many opportunities. Her ring gear is TREMENDOUS, though- these huge, ostentatious mega-gowns and flowing robes make her look like a Disney Villain, and her “pretty face, but a BBW” thing makes her seem even prouder about it. Like “Yeah, I have 110 lbs. on Takako Inoue but I’m still FINE”.
Typically she was thrown into tag matches (often with other Main Event workers who were better- Aja, Bull, etc. are real superstars) or midcard bouts netting her easy wins over, say, Etsuko Mita. In those, she didn’t really stand out much- as a “Hoss” wrestler, her job was to look big and strong, resist the moves of the other, no-sell the occasional thing, and hit a couple power moves for the win. That style has aged better over the years (it’s led to renaissances of respect for workers like Barbarian & Earthquake) but leads to a lot of Big vs. Small bouts in joshi, where wrestlers typically don’t hit 200+ lbs., and those can be a mixed bag in the midcard. Joshi is high-impact and suplex-heavy, so having a big girl in there resisting such moves can lead to the famed “Workrate Style” we’ve come to expect being dulled down, hurting the matches.
That said, at St. Battle Final 1993, she’s in a 6-woman match and just gets LAUNCHED all over the ring, taking numerous All Japan-style neck bumps as she flies around for Kyoko Inoue & Yumiko Hotta. So Eagle could definitely work.
Eagle dwarfing even 5’8″ giantess Etsuko Mita in size.
-Eagle debuted for Joshi Women’s Pro Wrestling in 1986 according to Cagematch, but bouts aren’t listed until 1990- maybe it just took that long to complete training? I dunno. In any case, she quickly won the UWA International Women’s Title, beating Miss A (the future Dynamite Kanasai) in mid-1989, holding it for 116 days until losing to Mariko Tsurugi. Japanese Wikipedia says she was planned to be an “Idol” but got too big for it, but I dunno. During the ugly split when JWP Project springs off of the original JWP, and the “wrestlers” form Ladies Legend Pro Wrestling, Eagle goes with the wrestlers, being the flashiest dressed person in the company. The reasons I’m unclear on, but she becomes the very obvious #2, so that might be it.
During the Interpromotional Era, Eagle was in a curious position- Shinobu Kandori was the only SUPER-protected wrestler, and so she only had to do one job. Eagle, however, was deemed the only other LLPW wrestler worth protecting. Harley Saito was booked strong sometimes, but would fight mid-tier opponents to draws, and never scored big wins, so was obviously not on that level. So Eagle was often on the cards, but usually in “throwaway” bouts, because she wasn’t going to lose but AJW wasn’t about to sacrifice a top star to her. At Dream Slam I & II in early 1993, she is in a pair of tag matches against top AJW stars, with her team with Harley Saito getting crushed by Aja Kong & Bull Nakano in week one, but teaming with Kandori, who wins against Akira Hokuto & Aja by ref-stoppage. In both matches, Eagle is the least-notable wrestler, but there’s a fun bit where Aja is delighted to face an opponent who can match her power and not get bowled over.
She engages in multi-person tags against AJW stars for much of that year- she is part of a team that loses to Hokuto’s squad in the prelude to Dream Slam, but is one of two survivors to a Survivor Series-style match at a strange AJW/LLPW show. She even looks good in another bout with the same rules, but falls to Bull Nakano in the end. Both matches had bits where the LLPW job squad would go down quickly, but Eagle would go on a tear and crush multiple AJW midcarders in a row in a huge surge. Aja still pins her decisively. At St. Battle Final, she is in another six-woman match, taking a ton of All Japan-style head bumps as Double Inoue & Yumiko Hotta beat her team. Later that November, she faces Aja Kong in a singles match at the first Wrestlemarinepiad, in a fairly slow match that nonetheless put over Eagle’s resiliency, as she takes multiple Urakens and won’t go down. She and Yasha Kurenai enter Tag League THE BEST 1993, beating Las Cachorras Orientales and a team with Bull Nakano on it, which is a pretty solid push, too.
Eagle is actually LLPW’s most-decorated wrestler from what I can see, winning most of their belts repeatedly. When Shinobu Kandori shockingly lost the LLPW Title to Noriyo Tateno (formerly of the Jumping Bomb Angels), it was EAGLE that defeated Tateno for the title in March 1995, holding it for 241 days before losing to Karula (Harley Saito). Eagle would only win the LLPW Title back a year later on Oct. 1996, holding it for 346 days before losing it to Kandori. She teamed with Michiko Nagashima & Shark Tsuchiya to win the LLPW Six-Man Tag Titles (yes it’s actually called that on Cagematch- apparently a translation from “Person”, though) from Carol Midori, Mikiko Futagami & Yasha Kurenai in Oct. 1996 as well, holding them for 276 days before losing them back.
In 1996, she formed a heel stable in LLPW, and even allied with the stables of FMW & Jd’, with Shark Tsuchiya & Lioness Asuka, the queens of those companies’ heel stables, as her allies! This mega-stable of heels at one point held the major titles in all three promotions!
Eagle won the LLPW Six-Man Tag Titles back with Shark & Lioness Asuka, holding them for 119 days (Aug-Dec. 1997), losing to Tateno, Yasha & Rumi Kazama. Her team won them back next September, holding them for 222 days before losing to Harley Saito, Keiko Aono & Tateno. Then, in Jan. 2000, she teamed with Carol & Rumi to win them AGAIN, vacating them after 106 days. Finally, she formed a trio with Takako Inoue & Rumi Kazama, calling themselves “Black Joker”, winning the LLPW Six-Man Tag Titles back for her fifth run in Sept. 2000, holding them for 651 days (!!)- a truly dominant run. Harley would unseat Kandori for the LLPW Title one last time in the meantime, and it was Eagle that defeated her in Aug. 2000 for her third reign with the LLPW Title, holding it for 331 days until Carol Midori defeated her. Finally, Black Joker lost the Six-Man Tag Titles to Keiko Aono, Mizuki Endo & Reiko Amano.
Her fourth and final LLPW Title run came at the expense of Rumi Kazama in March 2003, holding it for 151 days until the end of this incarnation of LLPW, dropping it to Mako Ogawa, who had a one-day run on the final show, becoming the last champion. Oh, but wait! She’s not done holding LLPW Titles! For whatever reason, their Tag Titles outlive the promotion as it becomes an independent office of travelling shows instead of this concrete promotion, and Eagle teams up with Amazing Kong (Awesome Kong) for the LLPW Tag Titles in Dec. 2003, holding them for 53 days before dropping them to Shinobu Kandori & Takako Inoue (who run LLPW together). Aiger & Sayuri Okino defeat them, and Eagle teams up with Tateno (still kicking!) to defeat them in Dec. 2005 for one last LLPW Tag Title reign, holding them for 530 days until they are vacated when she retires.
In her final match, she teamed with Mayumi Ozaki in a loss to Dynamite Kansai & Harley Saito… a match that actually crosses the boundaries of the JWP/LLPW split, in a nice retirement. Though company lines had been a lot more blurred by that point, I find that snippet interesting.
Running Lariat, Corner Avalanche, Vader Attack, Missile Dropkick (yes, really), Vader Bomb (Backwards Splash off the Middle Rope), Powerbomb, Thunder Fire Powerbomb (Over-The-Shoulder Powerbomb), Eagle Cannon Bomb
* Two of these I’ve reviewed before, but the last one is a Manami Toyota match from the 2000s!
YUMIKO HOTTA & DOUBLE INOUE (AJW) vs. EAGLE SAWAI, HARLEY SAITO & RUMI KAZAMA (LLPW):
(ST. BATTLE FINAL 1993)
* Jesus, this show just keeps on rocking. Interestingly, this is set up as “Elite Powerhouse, Kicker & Pretty Idol” on both sides. Harley & Yumiko even have the same mushroom cut. Hotta’s in white, Kyoko’s wearing a bright pink outfit covered in tassels and ALL THE COLORS as trim, while Takako has on something I’ve never seen before- a blue & light blue-colored two-piece connected at the waist by some randomly-placed strips of fabric… and puffy sleeves. Oh, that’s not good. Eagle’s wearing some outlandish Queen of Hearts gear. Harley’s in a GIANT-shouldered, pastel blue outfit with green rhinestones all over it. Haha, OMG Rumi’s ring gear is insane- a Kato mask, Nazi officer’s hat, and glittering red jacket. Though her wrestling gear is EPIC- a hyper-detailed, hot pink/purple & black combo, looking like Bret Hart as an S&M Power Ranger. Or Rey Mysterio’s “bodysuit” look. With Freddie Mercury’s epaulettes on the shoulders, and her hair now in a buzzcut thanks to losing to Akira Hokuto in a Hair (vs) Hair Match a while before.
Team AJW beats on Eagle to start, hitting three corner attacks in a row, but she DDTs Double Inoue simultaneously and then Team LLPW dives in on Kyoko in the same manner. Takako sells for Rumi’s kicks and submissions, but Hotta ignores them and hits some “head kicks” that clearly miss on the hard camera. But then everyone starts throwing out signature stuff (Takako’s Tombstones, Eagle’s Body Attacks, Kyoko’s 30+ Revolution Giant Swing), and Hotta wows the crowd by hitting a Tiger Driver on Eagle that nearly turns into a head-spike variant. Takako hits her Waist-Hold Backdrop Suplex to Saito outside the ring while Hotta flattens Kazama with a FLYING Rolling Kick, then hits the goddamn Straightjacket SUPERPLEX, dropping her right on the back of her neck from the top rope! Jesus, Hotta!
Kazama manages a miracle reversal into a German on Takako, then does a great “stumble tag” to Saito, who wipes AJW’s idol out with a Roundhouse Kick. A few more kicks and she makes the fatal mistake of attempting a Superplex, forgetting that Takako’s got a SUPER Chokeslam, which wipes Saito into the mat. She of course throws a fit when Saito kicks out, then takes a Roundhouse- Eagle then flattens Kyoko and hits a Super Vader Bomb for two, then a big Powerbomb. And then Kyoko reverses to a friggin’ All Japan-esque head-drop Release German on Eagle! JESUS. Saito in for a Tiger Suplex on Kyoko, but she takes the Pop-Up Flying Back Elbow in turn. Niagara Driver (Sit-Out Over-The-Shoulder Powerbomb) FINALLY ends that massacre at (15:37). Kyoko rocking out to her own theme song cracks up the audience, and of course Takako… who then swats at Eagle like a bitch and hides behind Hotta. Damn, Takako, you crazy.
Holy GOD. This was like the opposite of the other 6-Women matches all show, where they attempted a match flow with great double-teams. This was more in the “MOVEZ” variety, where they started off throwing bombs at each other, and just relentlessly dogpiled them on all match, figuring that they’re all top acts and that the nature of multi-person matches means they can kick out more handily. Though I’m a fan of AJW’s girls & Saito, I was never much taken with Eagle, but her bumping here was extraordinary, taking head-drops and spikes that should kill most people. Kazama’s stuff looked good, but oddly she barely factored into the second half of the match, with Eagle & Saito doing all of the work. Just as impressive as the prior matches, though it was more one-sided in favor of AJW, and more based around death moves than match flow.
Rating: ****1/4 (almost a spotfest in terms of people just trying to kill each other right away, but in multi-person matches, that’s more acceptable, and most of the moves flowed well from one thing to the next)
AKIRA HOKUTO (AJW) vs. EAGLE SAWAI (LLPW):
(Big Egg Wrestling Universe, V*Top Tournament Quarter-Final, Nov. 1994)
* The outcome here wouldn’t seem to be in doubt, as this is Akira’s big return from getting married in Mexico. I’m loving Eagle’s garish sparkle-cape with leopard print, and her feathered headress. Akira’s all in blue, but Eagle’s in this bisected black & red thing with extra bits randomly stapled on and a rainbow on her ass- just crazy.
Akira totally turns her back on Eagle’s taunt to start, so Eagle immediately levels her with the Thunder Fire Powerbomb, beats the shit out of her, then hits a SUPER URANAGE!! Haha- BEST! So now Akira has to fight from beneath, taking six minutes of offense before Eagle goes up for a Super Vader Bomb and misses, allowing Akira to land two spin-kicks and a plancha. Fun bit as they fight for a solid minute over a superplex (Eagle’s too big to haul up there, so Hokuto fights like crazy, pulls hair and armlocks her, but still gets tossed off), but Eagle hits a 2nd-rope dropkick when Akira hides in the ropes, then hits feet on a second Bomb attempt, and misses a Senton after. Akira chokes away and has to improvise some offense to get past Eagle’s weight advantage, like going for lower-angle Germans and doing dropkicks. Eagle reverses a Dangerous Queen Bomb into an armbar, stifling Akira, but a second Thunder Fire Powerbomb is reversed to one! VERY low elevation, though, and Akira can’t get the pin. Northern Lights Bomb (Head-Drop Side Powerslam)! Eagle kicks out, and a second one is reversed to a small package. Akira gets up and plants her with another Northern Lights Bomb for the three (11:07).
Good, smartly-wrestled match- Eagle’s “less good” than the other top-level Joshi I’ve seen, but Akira’s super good at this wrestling thing, it turns out, and makes her look strong and devastating, taking a bunch of offense and making sure all her surges come from comebacks and reversals. She even makes sure to put over Eagle’s size (or… is just really, really sloppy) to hit a superplex & some Germans. She’s legit not strong enough to land great versions of her moves on the larger LLPW star, but the match kind of took that into account, and it worked.
Rating: ***3/4 (smart match- good Big versus Little thing going on, Akira winning through scrappiness)
WWWA WORLD TITLE:
MANAMI TOYOTA (AJW) vs. EAGLE SAWAI (LLPW, w/ Takako Inoue & Rumi Kazama):
* This one just barely got uploaded to YouTube, and looks to be one of Eagle’s most top-tier matches, so let’s take a look! This is when Manami was WWWA Champ again, now wearing red and being a fair bit stronger-looking than the slender gymnast she was in the mid-90s. Eagle, in orange & black, is a member of the evil Black Joker stable with Takako Inoue & Rumi Kazama, and pinned Manami in a 6-woman tag using her Thunder Fire Powerbomb, setting up this title shot. We see clips of Manami beating others (including Takako) earlier in the year as well. Eagle’s big firebird robe on the way to the ring sure is something, though. This has that odd arena set-up I see in AJW shows from the 2000s, where there’s a big light fixture set up all around the ring in a much smaller stage. And also the world’s craziest wind machine (edit: they’re on the Fuji TV rooftop in Odaiba Island! That’s real wind!).
Eagle dominates to start, hitting an avalanche and body attack off the apron after charging through Manami’s attempt at her “corner dropkick” reversal. They go on a tour of ringside, Manami smashed into the commentary table (this big metal thing built right into a platform), but gets the world’s worst Rolling Cradle in the ring (Eagle is, um, not properly shaped for that anymore). She yanks the hair and dropkicks Eagle in the spine after tying her in the ropes, but gets caught with some body attacks. Eagle chokes away and hits backbreakers, but Manami finally gets a proper comeback with that corner dropkick and stretches Eagle out, making sure to taunt Black Joker with a hip swivel during a deathlock move. A slapfight leads to Eagle just dominating with physicality again, hitting a mega-lariat running all the way down the (short) ramp. But she misses an attack off the platform and Manami climbs way up the entrance structure to hit a MASSIVE dive- like holy shit, that is a legit 18 feet or so. And then she Tope Con Hilos off a lighting column like a crazy person, too.
Back in the ring, Manami reverses a whip to a big German, but Eagle slides over at one. Moonsault misses and Manami lands on her feet from a Thunder Fire Powerbomb attempt, getting a Straightjacket German- she can’t hold the bridge as Eagle lands on her shoulder. Big missile dropkick PLASTERS Eagle in the spine for two. Black Joker interferes, letting Eagle whip Manami off the top for two- Manami Kidmans out of one powerbomb, but tries a Manami Roll and eats a weak second powerbomb for two. Eagle hits a big lariat, sending Manami rolling back… and into a standing taunt, as she completely no-sells it and hits a release German. A weird cross-armed under-the-leg German gets no elevation, and the ref is pulled out by Takako after hitting two. Eagle hits a MONSTER lariat, Jannettying Toyota this time, getting two.
Manami does a HUGE sell of a 2nd-rope dropkick, and the Thunder Fire Powerbomb gets two! That probably didn’t get the pop they were hoping for, but Eagle climbs and gets caught- the Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex from that position (the standard lift for “big girls”) gets two. Rumi comes in with a chairshot, but climbs up and hits Eagle by mistake- Manami grabs the chair and hits a MOONSAULT with it, getting only two. Manami climbs again, but is caught! Thunder Fire Powerbomb AGAIN gets two! Eagle goes up and misses a flying thing, so tries again, but now Manami’s the one to catch her- she climbs up and hits her Super MDK, the ultimate “Holy Shitballs” move- the Victory Star Drop… but Eagle’s only on the bottom rope so it’s like 1/8th as devastating as when Aja takes it. But that gets the three at (19:14)- Toyota wins!
Watching “Later Eagle & Manami” is interesting because they both had to slow down their styles, but you can see Manami doing it for Eagle’s benefit here. Some odd bits as Manami tries to match power (she got a bit “stronger” as she got older, to make up for lost speed), not really pulling off the Big/Little battle you’d expect, but then she starts jumping off of giant fixtures to make something out of the match. This ended up being “Manami Doing Stuff” as a match, as Eagle just kinda stumbled around and into things, having lost a lot of her relative agility from her youth. She only went up right for one German out of four, even the JOCS didn’t really hit flush, and her powerbomb reversal was weaksauce, just kinda dropping Manami from a short height. Then you get into the never-ending kickouts of this period, where former finishers don’t work and a Chairsault, which would have been a great ironic ending, only gets two. I did like the progressive of Eagle hitting another finisher but taking too many risks repeatedly because she can’t put Toyota away. The Victory Star Drop finish is a solid idea in theory, but it’s basically a sunset flip flash-pin from this position, not the “How did either of them survive that?” killshot of matches past.
Rating: ***1/2 (All in all, it’s still a good, solid match thanks to the big stuff and the story told, but way subpar for a “Manami World Title Defense”)