AJW TV (Feb. 1996):
* Aaaaaand everyone who saw me about to enter 1996 AJW warned me “I hope you like rookie matches”, so here’s one of those dreaded bouts. And also Tomoko Watanabe’s education continues, as she takes on the World Champ, Manami Toyota! That one’s not bad!
YUMI FUKAWA, MISAE WATANABE & MARI MOGAMI vs. NOBUE ENDO, KAYO NOUMI & MINA TANIYAMA:
* Rookie mayhem! AJW tries to push up some of their kids with another trios match, with established Fukawa on one team and bottom-tier Mogami & Kayo on opposite sides. Kayo’s in white, Mina’s in blue, Endo’s in black/red, Mogami’s in blue, Misae’s in black/white (and is the tall, gangly one), and Fukawa’s in blue/white. I think Fukawa’s the only success story of this bunch, unless you’re a huge Tanny Mouse (Taniyama) mark. My apologies to her legions of fans. (Edit- according to Manji they ALL did pretty well! Except Mogami, who quit right away)
Everyone beats up on Kayo the newbie for a while, then Yumi takes shots from Endo. They hit a triple-dropkick on her, but she headscissors Tanny and tags Mogami… who just eats a lot of Boston crabs. They do an obvious clip and then Fukawa takes a MONSTER bump off an Endo back-body drop that’s more of a release DVD- jesus christ that was probably a miscommunication, lol. Nope, same move happens again! That’s just a thing! Fukawa tries to come back on Tanny but misses and oh god she USES THE TANNY BUTT!! She does her goofy running headbutt drops for two until Fukawa comes back. Mogami hits a bodyslam but dropkicks Fukawa by mistake, and poor Yumi takes ANOTHER Tanny Butt, but Tanny gets the “dumb rookie” spot of trying one off the SECOND rope, which Yumi dodges, then finishes her with a flying splash at (9:36 shown). SIGH… so Tanny is slowly becoming the next-generation Numacchi. Just accept it.
Rating: 1/2* (A lot of generic rookie-fu, plus Yumi in the meat of the match to bump and hit some actually competent offense. Really only getting above a DUD because of her bumping off the backdrops)
MANAMI TOYOTA vs. TOMOKO WATANABE:
* An odd random bout here sees the WWWA Champion go up against rising star Tomoko- I assume the plan here is to let Manami establish how far Tomoko’s come by giving her some good offense and kickouts before the inevitable victory. Tomoko’s in white gear with tons of orange tassels, and the champ is in black & gold.
Tomoko starts hot, but shows experience in avoiding running into a boot- she hits a lariat, slingshot elbow & legdrop for two, but whips Manami right into her Running No-Hands Springboard Cross-Body, then takes the JB Angels armdrag. Manami throws on restholds until Tomoko powers out- she hits her judo flip, but tries another and takes the Rolling Cradle for 2. Tomoko scores some Thesz presses, including one of the TOP, getting two, then whips the champ onto the commentary table, which collapses under them when they try something. Manami looks murderous after Tomoko slams her on it and then heads back to the ring, then actually SPITS WATER at her and tosses out Dropkick Spam for two, but cancels the Manami Roll and even messes up the Mulkey Bump, horrifically snapping her body when she hits the ropes- yowch. Tomoko Thesz presses her off the apron, but misses a flying one, only to hit her Rana for two.
Funny bit as Tomoko gets kicked off the top, but runs away from a follow-up plancha & Manami chases after her and slams her to hit another. Moonsault “misses” in the ring (Tomoko was slow to roll away and Manami hit her legs), and Manami takes a VICIOUS dragon screw to set up the figure-four with a panicked sell by Manami, who slaps away and desperately claws to the ropes. Two lariats flatten her, but she hits the Manami Roll for two- Tomoko gets another lariat, but Manami missile kicks her in the back of the head. Straightjacket German & Moonsault both get 2, then another try hits knees and Manami takes the Screwdriver (backdrop to one-armed powerbomb)! Two! Crowd bit on that, too. Tomoko is so outraged she gets caught with a desperation German, but is up first… but Manami reverses a whip to a Japanese Ocean (double-hammerlock) Suplex… for the three at (15:34). Huh- a typical set-up move gets the win.
This felt kinda like a “House Show/Bret Hart’s Weekly Opponent” match, Manami being generous in selling but not trying TOO hard. Tomoko put in some work and got over, though- the Thesz Presses (something KAORU does, but she’s gone) were new, and the lariats were sold as a big deal- this is kind of a good look at the “next level” Tomoko, despite losing handily here. It was also interesting to see “World Champ Manami” as she can’t be a dominant monster the way other champs have been, so ends up being a more generous seller while being deadly on reversals. In fact, most of her stuff here comes from her “NOPE!”-ing out of everything Tomoko tries, as if the danger of Manami is not from power moves and murder (like Aja & Bull), but the fact that you can’t get away with anything on her and she’ll capitalize with her counter game. Good stuff from Tomoko just givin’ ‘er trying everything she can to win, so we got a good match out of it in the end.
Rating: ***1/4 (seemed a bit janky in parts, but the “Revved-Up Rookie Trying Everything to Win” story is always good, and Manami was interesting in how she was a dominant reversal machine)
Around the same time, we get AJW HIGHEST ’96, which I can’t find on YouTube- this one features a bunch of multi-person throwaway bouts, but the last big Sakie Hasegawa match, as she is said to throw everything she had left into one big match with Manami Toyota. It’s an astonishing (31:33), said to be a “glorious mess” by Mike Lorefice as they just throw out non-stop highspots the entire time. So Manami honors her buddy by wrestling her favorite kind of match while Sakie’s like “Well I’m retiring anyways, so might as well die in a last one”.
ALSO, in March 31st, we get Wrestling Queendom 1996- HIGHEST WARS. A banger of a show that nonetheless features lower star ratings across the board compared to last year’s show, as the interpromotional era subsides. However, ticket sales were good! Manami & Kyoko prove to be a draw on top… for now! Also we get some rookie stuff from various companies, including an appearance by JD’. AND the Class of ’86 has an amazing Trios match- Aja Kong, Megumi Kudo, Miroyi Kamiya, Bison Kimura, Combat Toyoda & KAORU!! Four companies’ wrestlers in one match!
This show ends up being a bit of a big note in company history: it’s the last really huge-drawing show AJW ever did. Everything else kinda draws “okay” but this is the last peak the company ever reaches, and it’s sadly all downhill from here.
My full review of the show.
WRESTLING QUEENDOM 1996- HIGHEST WARS:
TOMOKO KUZUMI, TOMOKO MIYAGUCHI & YUKI MIYAZAKI (JWP) d. MISAE GENKI, SAYA ENDO & YOSHIKO TAMURA (AJW) (11:39): JWP’s team picks up a win when Miyaguchi (Ran YuYu) somehow botches a fireman’s carry, then picks up Genki again, hitting an Airplane Spin. High-tempo rookie match, but way too many running dropkicks. **
CHIKAKO SHIRATORI, BLOODY PHOENIX & FLOR METALLICA (JD’) d. KUMIKO MAEKAWA, TANNY MOUSE & YUKA SHIINA (AJW) (12:56): Shiratori hits a bridging german on Shiina for the win. This is a bit too much of a rookie-filled show so far. I said “the ending was like watching Stephanie McMahon try to smile for four minutes straight”. That means it was awkward as hell. *3/4
TOSHIYO YAMADA d. ETSUKO MITA (10:27): Yamada EASILY demolishes her ex-partner with the Reverse Gory Bomb. This broke my heart, lol- poor Mita shoved out there to job in only ten minutes? AJW used to routinely have 15-18 minute matches at this level! Okay stuff, but both clearly didn’t give that much of a shit and it was too short. **3/4
JAPANESE TAG TEAM TITLES:
RIE TAMADA & YUMI FUKAWA (AJW) vs. HIROMI YAGI & KANAKO MOTOYA (JWP) (12:07): Tamada blocks a lariat with the Dragon Suplex on Motoya for the pin. A try-hard rookie bout, with jobber offense but a lot of effort. Yagi & Tamada in particular looked good. **3/4
SAKIE HASEGAWA RETIREMENT MATCH:
MICHIKO NAGASHIMA, KAORU ITO & TOMOKO WATANABE vs. SAKIE HASEGAWA (14:25): Sakie finally hangs it up, as it’s a very weird match where the Class of ’89 (including Nagashima, who was in JWP’s class) beat the ever-loving shit out of her for nearly 15 minutes, but Sakie whips out a bunch of Uranages in the end because hey- when’s she ever gonna throw another one? All of AJW comes out to see her off- Sakie “ugly cries” for Takako of all people, and also bawls for Aja & Manami, too. ***
WWWA MARTIAL ARTS TITLE:
FUMIKO ISHIMOTO d. BAT YOSHINAGA by Decision: Okay, so THIS is weird- Ishimoto is the woman given the 3WA Martial Arts Title once Bat retired a couple years back, but now Bat makes a one-night return. These were usually the worst matches on each card anyhow, but Bat kept it going- Ishimoto appears to be less popular, as this is the only time I’ve ever seen her, and Bat gets a noticeably larger reaction. They trade a lot of punches for a while, but by the end of the first round they’re tossing out garbage because they’re wiped. The rest of the fight is just wimpy punches and clinching, though Ishimoto lands a couple good shots, which is probably why she wins by decision.
CHIQUITA AZTECA & REGGIE BENNETT d. CHAPARITA ASARI & MARIKO YOSHIDA (13:58): A fascinating “Dream Match”, as Reggie vs. ASARI is a horrifying size mismatch, and they do the one spot I remember most out of this entire show, with Reggie hitting the mother of all running splashes on the 98-lb. kid, so hard it nearly pops her head off and sends it flying across the ring. Reggie even hits a dive! Great fun, but very disjointed (the Sky Twister Press hits mid-match, THEN everyone does their dives). ***1/4
IWA WORLD TITLE:
TAKAKO INOUE d. MIMA SHIMODA (13:35): Great finish, as Takako hits Takako*Panic (the flying knee), but misses another, Shimoda dives in, but Takako reverses to her own Tiger Suplex (a great one), then hits another Takako*Panic for the win. Gives her some credibility (though really, they should be building Shimoda as well, so it’s tough). Takako dominated the whole first half, seeming almost selfish, but gave the entire back half to Shimoda. ***1/4
TEN YEAR ANNIVERSARY (AJW’S CLASS OF 1986):
AJA KONG (AJW), COMBAT TOYODA (FMW) & COOGA (Jd’) d. BISON KIMURA (Jd’), KAORU (GAEA) & MEGUMI KUDO (FMW) (23:05): Aja Urakens Bison into Cooga’s straightjacket suplex in a very good match where all the Class of ’86 vets go all-out and do a lot of complicated spots and sequences. This started out kinda in “House Show Mode” but they were hammering away with finishers in the end. Everyone does a group hug in the end. ****
VALE TUDO MATCH:
YUMIKO HOTTA d. ANGEL OLINCI (9:15): Hotta starts her infamous “Super-Shooter” gimmick here. Both get blown up good & early (Olinci also has a terrible guard and so gets punched a lot) and the ref has to stand them up. Hotta hits a Jujigatame out of a “lazy tangle” and the ref immediately jumps in.
WWWA WORLD TITLE:
MANAMI TOYOTA d. KYOKO INOUE (21:23): LOL okay this is weirding me out. I rated this five stars and I COMPLETELY forgot it existed! How the hell is that even possible? This was really different than their usual stuff- the MOVEZiest of Joshi’s wrestlers actually doing the “slow & steady build” instead of tossing everything they could at each other right away. So we had submissions & stuff for eight minutes until we saw some crazy bumps, then some “quick recovery” stuff until the impact of those moves hit them, and then they were actually doing extended selling rather than just getting their shit in, making every move COUNT. Each reversing finishers, then reversing moves that’d worked earlier, painted them as learning equals. Copying each other’s moves and kicking out of each other’s biggest stuff like a true Main Event, as well- and here we see a reflection of the Bull/Aja feud, where the finishers fail, requiring a BIGGER move to finally end things- a sign of how impressive Kyoko has become, and how much tougher the next match will be. And the kickouts never quite felt excessive- each kicked out of exactly one full finisher (the first JOCS was a weaker one), and Manami’s finisher led right into the match-ending Powerbomb- she again uses that weird underhook powerbomb, revealing it as her Super MDK- the Japanese Ocean Bomb. *****