JOSHI SPOTLIGHT- MIKI HANDA:
Billed Height & Weight: 5’3″ 132 lbs.
And now we come to Miki Handa, who is interestingly forgettable given how she’s been in some incredible matches here and there. I mean, I kinda love doing Spotlights on lesser names as there’s often a lot more to discover than in an obviously famous wrestler’s case, but here I couldn’t find squat!
I sorta chalk it up to Handa being like plain bread- no taste on its own, but it soaks up the flavors of stuff around it, so it can’t hurt anything. In a sense, Miki is herself not that notable, but you can slot her in with three great workers and have a great match that she doesn’t detract from in the slightest. Not the most GLOWING of praise… but keep in mind how many potentially good or great matches are wrecked by one sub-par worker. In this sense, Miki works to the level of her opponent, and thus you’ll find a surprising number of ***1/2-**** matches from her if her opponents are good enough.
Her move application was very solid, her selling was fine, and she had no issue going up for anyone’s moves- effectively the perfect wrestler to be carried, even if her own offense was pretty plain (her one big move seems to be a German Suplex, one of the most universal parts of Joshi offense).
Handa was mostly part of LLPW, but was a midcard star there, often getting trotted out as a “filler” wrestler on most shows I’ve seen. Which is kind of shocking, as I realize from some pictures that she looks almost exactly like Cutie Suzuki, who was a major star and an Idol Wrestler. Which makes me wonder what on Earth was holding Miki back from becoming a bigger name!
-Handa debuted for the original Joshi Women’s Pro Wrestling in 1987, splitting off with LLPW circa 1992. I find that she’s often in “filler” matches- either as part of a tag team match with random opponents, or as the LLPW equivalent of a Jobber To The Stars. For example, 1993 has her losing to Shinobu Kandori, Harley Saito & Eagle Sawai of LLPW, and Aja Kong of AJW. The only time she wins a solo match according to CageMatch is against Mima Shimoda. She is part of a LLPW team that loses to AJW’s Las Cachorras Orientales in the early part of the Interpromotional Era, too.
At the Dream Slam show, she wrestles in one of her best matches ever, teaming with Rumi Kazama against Etsuko Mita & Suzuka Minami- a “filler” entrant into a **** tag team match. I remember little of her in the bout, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as all I remember of Kazama here was her repeatedly botching moves because she was so much shorter than her 5’8″ opponents. They win this match, but lose on next week’s show to Terri Powers & Bat Yoshinaga. That September, Handa & Harley team up to lose to Manami Toyota & Toshiyo Yamada in a pretty one-sided match.
In mid-1993, she won her only belt ever- the Japanese Tag Team Titles of rival AJW, teaming with Yasha Kurenai to defeat Sakie Hasegawa & Kaoru Ito. They would hold the belts nearly a year (295 days), dropping them to Carol Midori & Michiko Omukai, also LLPW wrestlers, in Sept. 1994. Near as I can tell, they only defended the belts once, against Kaoru Ito & Tomoko Watanabe. In 1994, she starts beating some minor LLPW stars (Midori, Omukai, Utako Hozumi, Mizuki Endo), and even wrestles Mima Shimoda in a pretty great match (***1/2) for the AJW Title, which she loses despite some German Suplex-based hope spots. That and a squash loss to Aja Kong are honest to god the only singles matches by Handa I can even find on YouTube! If that’s not the indication that she’s a minor-level star that isn’t focused on, I don’t know what is. She still is in that “win some/lose some” area.
Most sites I can find indicate her career ended in 2005, but given how all her matches seem to dry up around 1995, I think that’s when she was done. WrestlingData more or less confirms that, with a single bout in August 1995 being the end of her run: Yasha Kurenai & Mizuki Endo beat Michiko Nagashima & Miki.
Butterfly Suplex, Plancha, Flying Back Elbowdrop, German Suplex (seems to be a borderline finisher/spammed move), all her other stuff is kind of “Standard Joshi Offense”
(around an hour in)
AJW TAG TITLES:
SAKIE HASEGAWA & KAORU ITO (AJW) vs YASHA KURENAI & MIKI HANDA (LLPW):
(AJW St. Battle Final, Sept. 1993)
* ROOKIEMANIA CONTINUES!!! Okay, so AJW’s team are the “These are the girls who are going to be pushed in the future” pair, and both have put up solid showings against mid-level competition. Ito continues her “Hideous Gear” reputation with a one-shouldered baggy toga thing. Sakie’s in her usual singlet style, this one being tie-dyed. Yasha Kurenai debuted in 1989 and retired in 1999, winning only the All Pacific Title (AJW’s #2 belt) as singles gold in 1998 aside from some tag stuff- she’s wearing a white shirt and baggy red pants, looking like something out of the Attitude Era… five years early. Her whole thing is that she’s this nasty weapon-using trashy girl, wearing too much makeup and acting tough while brawling. Her shoulder is really wrapped up here. Miki Handa barely has any gold at all through her career- she looks like the typical “everyday girl” sort… but oh my god, her outfit matches Ito’s in ugliness. It’s a black one-legged singlet with yellow, red & blue floral print and road signs all over it- like your mom’s wallpaper and the “Black Hart” Owen Hart. SO BAD.
HAH! The AJW girls divebomb Kurenai right while she’s doing her bows in the introductions. Everyone pairs off in succession (Handa & Sakie engage in an NJPW-like chop-fest to start) until they work over Kurenai with crab-holds and back stuff instead of arm stuff- the arm must legitimately be hurt. She comes back with an X-Factor and a hanging choke on Ito in the corner- I love that in Joshi. They trade a lot of basic, but appropriate stuff, not hanging onto any one hold for too long. Handa’s stuff looks fine- she seems very “Generic Joshi”, which means capable of all things and very quick. There’s a neat Solebutt/X-Factor/Solebutt reversal exchange before everyone misses stuff and Sakie comes flying in with a Bodypress to both opponents.
Looks like they really put this together well, because another bunch of reversals (Kaoru REALLY likes the Victory Roll/Flipover Rollup concept) leads to a Doomsday Device Chokeslam from Team LLPW. Kurenai attempts a regular Chokeslam, but Sakie Solebutts her RIGHT in the fuckin’ head. SOLEBUTT SPAM! Then Rolling Butterfly Suplexes while Ito stomps with each revolution. Uranage/Flying Stomp combo, but they don’t go for the pin- Kurenai rolls Sakie up when she goes for another Uranage. Handa runs in with a German (assisted by Kurenai’s kick), a Flying Thing and another German, and a Chokeslam/German Suplex combo finally pins Sakie at (15:27)! LLPW wins AJW’s Tag Titles!!
Hey, good match! It was feeling “Fine, But Generic- ***” until they started doing all these cool, choreographed double-teams, largely with AJW’s team whupping on Kurenai (Handa came off like a much more green rookie, barely in the match)- I liked the bit where all their cool stuff availed them not, and Handa interfering turned the tide.
Rating: ***1/2 (very good little tag team match! Best performance I’ve seen from Kurenai, too) (note: obviously reviewed before her **** match with KAORU)
UWA WOMEN’S TAG TITLES:
TAKAKO INOUE & YUMIKO HOTTA (AJW) vs. MIKI HANDA & SHINOBU KANDORI (LLPW):
(Wrestling Queendom I, Nov. 1993)
* Oh Jesus, now it’s LLPW’s Ace teaming with a midcarder up against the upper-midcard due of Takako & Hotta. Takako’s brawled with Kandori off and on on a few shows, watching Sakie get killed by her in a tag match elsewhere, and getting into it with Kandori after she beat Hotta at Nagoya Super Storm a couple months before this one. Kandori’s been on the warpath ever since she lost to Akira Hokuto at the Dream Slam, so there’s some hype here, with actual gold on the line. Interestingly, Kandori is by far the most “elite” person here, but Handa is the lowest, creating a lot of potential situations. Kandori’s in rare all-white gear, while Handa’s in purple & black. Takako’s got blue & light blue on, and Hotta’s in white. Aja Kong is on commentary.
Everyone lips each other off to start, and Kandori grabs one of the tag belts from the ref and tosses it aside like a piece of garbage- oh my god I love this angle so much. An ugly brawl breaks out while they’re all still in their ring gear, and Takako uses Hotta’s kicks to lock on a leghold, requring a shitload of ring girls to pull them apart- now HANDA is pissed off, and she attacks Takako as the bell finally rings. Kandori’s all like “Nah, I don’t even want to wrestle you” and throws Takako to Hotta’s corner for a tag, then beats her up when she comes back in. Everyone brawls WAY into the stands, and for several minutes you can’t see shit but two douchebag fans disco-dancing on camera. Kandori drags a bloodied Takako in by her hair and starts her “disrespectful ass” thing, casually shoving her around with her feet. Her taunting the crowd from the apron is more entertaining than Handa’s generic chinlockery inside, as they work the idol over- Takako’s selling is so great, flopping around like a dying fish and howling in pain. The LLPW team taunt Hotta repeatedly, but Takako finally rushes over for the tag when a double-team goes wrong. Hotta beats the shit out of Handa and taunts Kandori, and Takako’s in after a couple minutes for some revenge beating, smashing Handa’s face into the apron about thirty times then doing ANOTHER brawl outside, grinding Handa’s face into a table for several minutes. Hotta being able to counter Kandori’s raw “end this is seconds because she’s IRL tougher” factor makes this much more interesting.
After an eternity of torturing Handa (now also bleeding), Takako misses the Takako*Panic (Flying Knee) and eats a pair of Germans as Handa comes back. She stupidly doesn’t tag out and gets killed again before FINALLY bringing in Kandori, who fails to get much momentum until another scrap leads to a Folding Powerbomb for two. More uncoordinated brawling leads to Takako armdragging Handa off the top, but Hotta gets German’d and now she & Kandori are fighting for their Powerbomb finishers. Rolling Koppou Kick by Hotta! Kandori comes back, but it’s a Takako*Panic sneak-job and Hotta Tiger Drivers her for two! Flying Koppou Kick is BLOCKED, and Kandori slaps on the leglock that beat Hotta in Nagoya! The crowd goes nuts, but Takako immediately saves. Handa’s ready to be killed, but she keeps getting miracle roll-ups for close calls until Hotta SPIKES her with a Straightjacket Superplex onto her shoulder. LAST second save from Kandori, and so Takako hits another Takako*Panic and Hotta actually traps her in the TREE OF WOE, setting up a final neckbreaking Pyramid Driver (Straightjacket Ligerbomb) with an assisting shot from a flying Takako for the win (21:47)!! Jesus, they KILLED poor Handa out there! That was such a high angle that they had to adjust her into a pinning combination! Aja lost her shit on commentary, too (“AAAAAAAAHHHHH!”). Kandori stomps off in disgust while the UWA Tag Champs get their ceremony.
This was barely even a match- it was a FIGHT. And while brawling isn’t my favorite style, the angle and all the clear hatred going on here made it a lot of fun, even though 1/3 of the match took place in Attitude Era-style crowd brawls. All that time-wasting led to some fairly uncoordinated stuff and a few too many minutes of “they kick and stomp Handa”, but the final surge of big moves made up for it, as the two legit martial artists had largely sat on the apron all match, and so were fresh and could kill each other. Ultimately, Handa was the weak link, as expected, and Kandori couldn’t save her- Handa’s stuff was fine, but hopelessly generic (I think her only actual wrestling moves were roll-ups and Germans). She bumped for a dozen, though, with Hotta’s two Straightjacket moves at the end there looking fatal.
Rating: ***1/2 (probably TOO much brawling, and the top stars left a lot in the tank, but it was still a lot of fun)
MIMA SHIMODA (AJW) vs. MIKI HANDA (LLPW):
(AJW Super Hurricane, April 1994)
* Handa is often “another warm body” in LLPW interpromotional apperances, having some credibility but neither adding nor detracting to the festivities. She can hang, at least. This is interesting because it’s kinda anyone’s ballgame- Shimoda’s not that top-tier as a singles, and the AJW Title is on the line and that would add drama to these shows if an LLPW girl won it. But as the next two Interpromotional bouts look like LLPW victories, maybe not. Handa’s wearing a bizarre leotard with black straps surrounding a field of orange & yellow flowers, while Shimoda’s in black & gold with tassles.
Shimoda attacks to start like a good demon, but Handa reverses to a bridging German immediately, for two. They tear about the ring, stymying each other’s stuff, but Shimoda slows it down and stomps the hands. She works the hair, the throat, and the arm, then stomps away, stopping to pose like “is that it, then?”, so Handa hops up and slugs it out with her. Running attacks and Moolah Whips away, then a bridging fallaway slam gets two. Handa’s crab & bow and arrow lead to repeating Shimoda’s nasty shit back on her for revenge for a few minutes, hitting a Perfect Plex for two. Shimoda comes back with like seven piledrivers in a row, getting two Because Joshi. Sleepers & another piledriver get two, but Handa comes back with clotheslines before getting hooked with one of Shimoda’s. Another and a Flying version get two. Another choke, but Shimoda eats a German for two. Flying Back Elbow, but Shimoda gets the feet up and hits a suicide dive and missile dropkick for two.
Handa avoids a Tiger Suplex, dumps her, and hits a plancha- Shimoda yanks away at her and climbs, but a Butterfly Superplex hits her for two. Shimoda gets a rollup, but eats another German for two. She attempts a suplex but Handa reverses and hits a release German, but misses a missile kick and the two reverse pins on each other. Shimoda’s flying splash hits feet and a FOURTH Bridging German gets two. Shimoda spikes her with a German in return, reversing a lariat- Butterfly Superduperplex gets two! She tries a whip, but Handa swipes the Tiger Suplex- two! CLOSE one and the fans definitely reacted. Handa climbs, and Shimoda tries for the Death Lake Driver (Tiger Superplex), but Handa knocks her off and tries that Flying Back Elbow again- in misses! Tiger Suplex gets two! That puts the fight out of Handa, and she’s done- an ugly-ass Death Lake Driver (more like pulling her off the top rope onto her side) gets the three at (19:37). Big reaction for that.
This ended up being a pretty solid scrap, with a bit of miscommunication-looking stuff in the first half, but with Shimoda matches that just kind of makes them look more vicious. They fought over EVERYTHING, with nobody getting much of a sequence with the other person halting them and trying to reverse or just pull the hair or whatever. There was a bunch of resting, but enough revenge spots and that crazy “piledrivers don’t mean shit in joshi” bit to pull things out. Handa seemed to base most of her late-game offense off of German Suplexes, leading to a lot of same-y moves instead of more varied stuff, but the finish built particularly well, with Shimoda taking more and more punishment until fans were buying a title change. Swiping each other’s moves was a pretty cool way to lead to the finish, but the finale looked pretty weak and ineffectual (though really, how do you TIGER SUPERPLEX someone without killing them half the time?).
Rating: ***1/2 (was looking “pretty decent” then kinda “sloppy” and cycled all the way back to “kick-ass match” in the end- filling 19 minutes with two midcard wrestlers would normally be a rest-fest, but these two are the real deal)