BUDOKAN MIDSUMMER NIGHT- DISCOVER NEW HEROINE (Day One):
(Aug. 12th 1996):
* Welcome back to AJW, as they release this MONSTER interpromotional show in mid-1996, at the Budokan Hall! It’s just like the old days- AJW! FMW! JWP! JD’! GAEA Japan! Holy crap! It sounds like the biggest show in Joshi history… except it’s this weirdo “Veteran + Rookie” Tag Team Tournament so every match has amateurs in it, AND there’s also the U*Top Shoot Fight tournament on the same show, lol. MoskowDiskow, who regularly posts here, says this is one of those “the Matsunagas were losing their shirts so they let Rossy Ogawa book a show, and he did some weird Gimmick Show” situations.
Cagematch says this drew 4,500 to the Budokan, which is pretty crazy, but might be a lie… and also 4,500 is like 1/3 full, so if that’s papered/lying then HOLY CRAP. So this show is largely seen as a disaster. This show is also apparently quite infamous for injuries, but only on Day Two. So come see future stars and washouts give some decidedly iffy performances and take easy falls to veterans! And the “Joshi Style” wrestled in 5-8 minute matches instead of 16-minute wars!
DISCOVER NEW HEROINE TAG TOURNAMENT ROUND ONE:
AJA KONG & YOSHIKO TAMURA (AJW) vs. CHIGUSA NAGAYO & SAKURA HIROTA (GAEA Japan):
* Okay, so Aja/Chigusa is a huge “get” for a match, as their eras only barely overlap, and Aja was very young when Chigusa retired. I’m like “who the frig is Sakura Hirota?” but it turns out she’s making her DEBUT here, and is a new GAEA trainee to join the other recent ones this year. She’s actually still wrestling, making this a NON-washout GAEA hire! She’s a long-haired rookie in a pink Arena swimsuit (which was worn by Mariko Narita before her, but Narita vanished from the biz). Aja’s still a big, pushed star, and Yoshiko is a rookie getting a very sudden lot of emphasis. Aja is giving Chigusa the death glare to end all death glares, here- like I’m watching this on YouTube and even I’m kinda scared.
Great bit to start as Tamura BEGS Aja to let her in first, and Aja eventually complies, egging the kid on as she slaps Chigusa around, then reverses a powerbomb to a Northern Lights suplex all ugly and awkwardly. But Chigusa All Japans her onto her head via a German, then brains her with a kick, getting an “8” count from the ref. Chigusa tosses her over to Aja… who demands HIROTA. Oh jesus. Hirota gets defiant and uses a million dropkicks, finally bringing a taunting Aja down and punching her- Aja demands to be hit HARDER, and finally just laughs her off, belly-bouncing her over to Chigusa. They make like Hogan/Warrior to start, nearly getting their signature strikes, Aja backdropping Chigusa out of the GAEA MDK Sleeper, then copying Manami’s Rolling Cradle of all things. A hideous one, too, haha. Chigusa scores a few kicks then manages her OWN Cradle, but Tamura flies in with a missile kick and the rookies fight. Hirota actually decides to punch AJA, then runs into a 2nd-rope dropkick for two. Running & flying stuff have Hirota repeatedly doing the “F*ck YOU!” bridge-out… and finally she does it from Aja’s second rope splash! The crowd ROARS at that, as this is unheard-of for a first-match wrestler. A wheelbarrow German gets the same result, so an annoyed Aja just taunts Chigusa and hits the Uraken for the easy pin at (9:14)- Chigusa doesn’t even try to save. Tamura cradles Hirota’s dead body to congratulate her, and even Aja raises her arm in respect.
Kind of a funny one, as they don’t bother to do big Chigusa/Aja bits in a match this small so instead it’s vets taking on rookies then some borderline comedy bits with the awful Rolling Cradles. Once again Tamura gets a big “looks okay against veterans” showcase, as Chigusa sells big for her, then it’s goofy stuff and Sakura failing to do much damage.
Rating: ** (mostly fine, but more a couple of interesting “segments” over a complete match)
Eventual star Yuko Kusugi’s early years are as a terrible rookie in JD’.
JAGUAR YOKOTA & YUKO KUSUGI (JD’) vs. MEGUMI KUDO & KAORI NAKAYAMA (FMW):
* Oh wow, we get some KUDO here, too! An extra wrinkle is that Jaguar trained her, and I think this might be their first meeting since Kudo left AJW. Jaguar looks funny with her SUPER-dark tan, two-piece suit and doo-rag, with her arm around an orange-clad Kosugi. Kudo teases a SHRIMPY Kaori in the pre-match.
Team FMW double-teams Jaguar immediately, Nakayama hitting a cartwheel back-attack in the corner- Kudo misses her ass attack, but bounces back with a bulldog. Jaguar comes out of the corner onto both of them, then CRUSHES Nakayama with a stiff lariat and tombstones her for two. Yuko stinks up the joint with some really awkward-looking rookie offense, then gets beat up. Jaguar’s Vertical-Drop Pedigree is reversed to Kudo’s backslide for two. Kudo hits the Tiger Driver, but Yuko saves. Jaguar reverses another and tries her own move, but Nakayama stops it- Jaguar bridges out of the pin and SPIKES Kudo with the Pedigree. Nakayama stops the pin and Kudo snags a sleeperhold, sold desperately by Jaguar, who gets DDT’d. Nakayama is swiftly reversed via the flip-dodge, and Jaguar knocks Kudo off the apron on the follow-through and hits the Straightjacket Suplex… but Kudo saves! Great timing, there. Jaguar sets up a Doomsday Device, but Nakayama rolls through, then dives onto both JD’ athletes. This sets up FMW’s own Device, and Kudo does a tope suicida to hold off Jaguar, letting Nakayama finish Yuko with a clumsy Moonsault at (5:58).
Too short to really be anything, but Jaguar’s bits were very tightly-coordinated. I liked her dodge into taking out both wrestlers- that would have been a solid ending by itself. They actually packed a fair bit of stuff into that, though- I did a double-take at the match time.
Rating: *1/2 (better than most matches this short with rookies making up most of the ring-time tend to be)
The Tomoko/Kumiko duo has some amazing matches in them as soon as next year- this is largely where they get their start.
SHARK TSUCHIYA & MISS MONGOL (FMW) vs. TOMOKO WATANABE & KUMIKO MAEKAWA (AJW):
* No idea who Miss Mongol is, but Shark is FMW’s resident bullying heel and a cheating psycho. Mongol is dressed just like Shark, but with purple instead of green highlights, and corpses as she tries to “bite” the microphone, which isn’t exactly threatening. She’s Aki Kambayashi, and holy buckets- she’s STILL WRESTLING! The AJW team is interesting, because a) Tomoko is way lower-tier than most of the “Veteran” wrestlers on this show, and b) Kumiko is WAY higher-tier than most of the rookies! So they kind of even out and are actually a dark horse threat to run the gauntlet, as they have no real weak link! Tomoko’s sky-blue/white tasseled monstrosity is AMAZING, while Kumiko’s in the neon-yellow sports bra/shorts combo.
Miss Mongol does Mongolian chops (why was I surprised?) and throws her weight around on Kumiko to start, but the kid throws a kick to avoid a leglock and the crowd actually pops for it. Mongol gets Moolah whipped around, but Shark saves her from Tomoko’s slingshot move and the FMW subordinates beat on the faces outside, then Shark gets out the goldurned SICKLE and starts shredding Tomoko’s forehead like a crazy person! Damn, even in the first round! This is actually a prediction to how “Nabe” would end up getting super-over- her “wailing in agony” face is A-tier and gives so much heat to the heels. Shark wears her down for two-counts while Mongol & Kumiko fight on the floor for ages, and some FMW cheater comes in for an Assisted Powerbomb on Tomoko- Kumiko saves! Mongol runs in, but Tomoko crushes her with a lariat for two, and the Screwdriver (backdrop to Ligerbomb) gets three (5:00)! Tomoko wins!
You know what? This was brutally simple and more “holding a sickle against someone’s head for 3 minutes” instead of wrestling but I didn’t hate it! I mean, it’s 5 minutes on the button and it tells a good story of the heels cheating, it being 4 on 2, and Tomoko still fighting through it and scoring an underdog win as soon as a weaker wrestler was in the ring.
Rating: *1/2 (a nice little story! Still barely a match, but it did what it was meant to do!)
Kato is the #2 or #3 rookie in GAEA Japan at the moment, and is given the big push in the tournament here. A good #2 to Meiko in the long run, she still has a far smaller, though long, career.
TOSHIYO YAMADA (AJW) & SONOKO KATO (GAEA Japan) vs. ETSUKO MITA & MISAE GENKI (AJW):
* Another interesting one! A month before, Yamada had a very good match involving Kato getting murdered by her, then using sheer perseverance to hold her off, until Yamada FINALLY got some momentum again and emphatically crushed her. And Yamada was so impressed that she asked Kato to be her partner for this thing! Just a great way of getting a rookie over. Meanwhile, poor Mita is tumbling down the ranks of AJW (she lost to friggin’ *ASARI* in the Grand Prix!) and teaming up with Genki, who’s just kinda been “the gawky rookie” for like 2 years. I swear the commentator just called them the “Twin Towers”- Mita’s dressed like a nerdy marching band member with arm ribbons, and Genki’s in a lengthy white singlet, really showing off her gangly frame.
Genki plays it perfectly to start, deliberately looming over the dwarfish Kato, then the former Dream Orca come in to play chicken using their partners (hilariously, Mita & Genki combine to now be a full head taller than Yamada/Kato). Kato/Genki rookie it up with charging attacks and taunting until the giantesses double-press slam Kato. Genki backflips Kato off the top, but tries it again and Yamada grabs her for an Aichi Prefecture Jam with Yamada holding her for two. Genki whips Yamada off the ropes but gets her face kicked off- Mita saves- then Genki rolls through a flying crossbody for two. Mita/Yamada go at it- the Blazing Chop misses and Yamada scores a kick, but takes the Super Electric Chair Drop for two. Mita gets kicked in the head, but catches Yamada building her SmackDown! meter and Blazing Chops her in the back, but another attempt sees Yamada spinkick her! Mita reverses the finisher but gets rolled up for two, then is Germaned twice over while Kato deals with Genki… and Yamada hits the Reverse Gory Bomb for three (4:57)! Wow, Mita does the clean job in minutes!
Another short, sweet deal- Genki/Kato were barely in the ring, allowing the vets to do the mini-match they could probably do in their sleep with all their usual spots and reversals- as former tag partners, this was a low-effort day. Mita again just takes a bunch of moves and loses- one of the few times the vet eats the pin.
Rating: ** (another quick one, with the usual sharp wrestling from Mita & Yamada)
Chikako is in that interesting zone of “Sucks, but is REALLY TRYING” and makes for some fascinating performances.
MIMA SHIMODA (AJW) & CHIKAKO SHIRATORI (JD’) vs. BISON KIMURA & YUKI LEE (JD’):
* Another mixed one, as Shimoda teams up with Chikako (the two had teamed up in JD’ a little prior to this as well), while Bison, JD’s big star, teams up with the “hot prospect” Yuki Lee. The JD’ wrestlers have interesting gear, with the same “blue singlet with a yellow/white comet trail” on it, but Bison’s is much more elaborate, marking her as the non-jobber. Shimoda seems to be glamming it up as if to match her idol partner, too- both are in red & gold.
Bison knocks around Chikako to start, everyone brawling to the floor for a while, then a Bison Chop in the ring gets two. Chikako catches her with a DDT and Shimoda adds a double-one, but Bison Chops them both down at once. Shimoda sneaks in so Chikako can hit a backdrop hold for two (man, is this show using AEW’s cameramen or what?). Shimoda accidentally missile kicks Chikako, but manages to dump Bison and dive onto both opponents, only for Chikako to fly off the top and hit her instead. They brawl even MORE out there, at half-speed, ending with Shimoda flying off the top onto Bison’s feet in the ring. The Mandatory 1996 German off the Middle Rope puts Shimoda back on the attack, then she superplexes Chikako’s legs right onto Bison’s face! Shimoda ducks a Chop and hits the Kick of Fear, then tricks Bison into chopping Yuki, but gets caught with three Powerbombs in a row- Chikako saves! Bison Chops her out of the ring and finishes Shimoda with a Super Chokeslam (??) at (5:44).
A pretty half-effort match compared to others, with Bison using her very basic stuff for 90% of the offense and an outside brawl taking up most of the match. Like with Mita, it’s super-weird watching established veterans pinned by finishers after only 3 minutes of offense. Like, it’s a weird deal regarding kayfabe when you have to end matches sooner, but flukes tend to be better than just flat-out beating someone with a finisher in that short a time.
Rating: *1/4 (pretty slow-paced and half-effort for most of it)
I’ve been doing this for 2-3 years now and have never heard of Ichiki before, lol.
TAKAKO INOUE (AJW) & KYOKO ICHIKI (IWA Japan) vs. DYNAMITE KANSAI & TOMOKO KUZUMI (JWP):
* An interesting one, as AJW’s top idol & elite midcarder Takako teams up with Ichiki, the only representative from IWA Japan. She was one of apparently only two women in the company, as it’s her vs. Emi Motokawa for the entirety of 1996, but she moves to Big Japan after then, and wrestled until 2014. Here she seems idol-adjacent, in a yellow & silver skirt outfit, kinda matching Takako’s. Kuzumi is the future Azumi Hyuga and gonna be JWP’s top star some day, but is here just a black-clad jobber next to the Ace of JWP. Kansai’s in white & green- not her usual yellow.
Kansai just no-sells Ichiki to start, then the rookies go- Ichiki actually getting a slingshot cross-body, Kuzumi bridging out and nailing her, then baiting Ichiki into hitting Takako and then Kansai clotheslines both opponents out so Kuzumi can hit a slingshot plancha! Well then! Takako repays them and Ichiki throws her own plancha, then does a slick corner-dodge on Kuzumi and tags out. Kansai kicks & backdrop drivers Takako, but the idols kick her a billion times, but Kansai just rips Takako’s head off with a lariat. The rookies throw dropkick spam, then avoid suplexes, then Kansai’s in- Takako prevents Splash Mountain, then Ichiki sunset flips out of the next one and Takako flies in with Takako*Panic (flying knee)! They take turns working the back of her neck (yikes), but now KUZUMI flies in! Takako charges right into a huge Ligerbomb for two- Splash Mountain is set up, but AGAIN averted- Ichiki kicks Kansai, who just gets infuriated and backdrop drivers her in a big crowd-pleaser, then Takako earns one! That gets two, and Kansai’s like “okay, this time for real” again and again, doing her pose, and FINALLY hits Splash Mountain for… Ichiki revives and pushes her over at “2”! Great timing! So Kansai has Kuzumi sit on the kid, then hits SUPER Splash Mountain on Takako for the three (9:08).
Haha holy crap, I was not expecting THIS- both rookies did an exceptional job being little flippy spot-monkeys, playing well against the veterans. Kansai repeatedly going for the early win kept costing her as everyone interferes (including Takako with some great timing). Her reaction to Ichiki ruining her big pinfall was priceless.
Rating: *** (very good considering two people were pretty new and limited- just a fun little story)
I’ve seen some REALLY good Carlos Amano stuff in 1997-98, so she definitely gets good.
MANAMI TOYOTA & RIE TAMADA (AJW) vs. HIKARI FUKUOKA & RIEKO AMANO (JWP):
* Oh snap, speaking of Toyota-Lite, here’s her JWP equivalent, future Ace Hikari teaming with the future Carlos Amano (a really good technical star in a year or two), vs. Manami and Rie, who has been elevated a lot in the past year. Manami/Hikari matches always seem to have some extra fire, as Manami does NOT like this copycat stuff (possibly in real life, either) and puts some extra STANK on her offense as a result. Manami’s in black, Rie’s in white, Hikari’s in leopard-print & Amano’s in a white/blue jobber singlet.
JWP attacks with double rollups into armbreakers to start, but Manami missile-kicks them both in the vertebrae. Rie & Manami take turns dropkicking Amano to death, but she catches Manami coming off the top with an armbar! Everyone does random running stuff until Hikari gets the POPEYE PUNCH~~ for two, then some more stuff into Manami doing another double-kick off the top. Hikari Moonsault Dodges but eats the rolling cradle for two, then Manami Moonsaults RIGHT onto her outstretched legs and Hikari hits a pair of perfect ones for two. Doomsday Device gets two! Amano tries to finish but gets reversed to the Japanese Ocean (double-hammerlock) Suplex for two. Manami deals with Hikari so Rie hits a German for… okay that was clearly three but they botched the kickout. Rie tries a Dragon Suplex, but Hikari flies in with the RYDER KICK (somersault missile kick), getting two! No idea how- the ref’s butt was in the camera shot. Team JWP whip Manami to the ropes, but of course she flies off with the Running No-Hands Springboard Cross-Body to both, then dumps them and hits the same thing as a Tope Con Hilo! Damn show-off, lol. Rie comes off with her own dive, and they try to finish with a Missile Dropkick Sandwich on Amano, getting two (Manami missed anyways). Amano kicks out after ANOTHER Rie German, and Rie finally finishes her with a bottom-grip Double-Arm Suplex with a bridge for the pin at (9:07).
A bit of an uncoordinated, non-story brawl- Rie worked hard to begin with and Manami had a fun bit crushing Amano, but then everything descended into “grab the person and run or hit a running kick” stuff with no rhyme or reason. Manami came in to show off and raise the rating a bit, then Hikari hit her moonsaults and the Ryder Kick, but there were a lot of weird kickouts, like people were “off” on the saves and the ref was just stopping before three. The story seems to hold, though- Rie is quite strong for a rookie, and Amano is more durable than one with her experience level usually would be. But she didn’t have the “FIGHTING SPIRIT” stuff that often denotes such things, so it fell flatter.
Rating: **1/2 (Manami in particular is good enough to have a good rating just with her flashy stuff, and Hikari hit some good things, but it was mostly awkward-looking)
Ran Yu-Yu, another longtime star, is a rookie on Team JWP here.
KYOKO INOUE & CHAPARRITA ASARI (AJW) vs. DEVIL MASAMI & TOMOKO MIYAGUCHI (JWP):
* Another interesting one, as Kyoko teams up with a repushed ASARI, and they’re up against JWP’s #2 and the future Ran Yu-Yu. Kyoko & Devil had a REALLY fun Veteran/Rising Star match a couple years before this that was over **** easy, with Devil losing and putting over Kyoko really well before and after. Kyoko’s wearing that HORRIFYING yellow & red pinstriped suit, but switches to a bright yellow & black thing with full legs I’ve never seen before. ASARI’s in the same colors.
Kyoko/Devil start, Devil sarcastically clapping along with the “Kyo-Ko!” chants because she’s AWESOME. She even gets a brief “De-vil CLAPCLAPCLAP!” going, then cheers on Miyaguchi when she attacks Kyoko from behind. Kyoko lures them into ASARI, who gets caught in Devil’s wheelbarrow airplane spin. ASARI quickly one-ups Miyaguchi, then Kyoko gobbles up the kid and airplane spins her, selling nothing- she escapes and Devil starts paying it back by no-selling ASARI, headbutting her down after ignoring a cross-body entirely. Kyoko hits the Slinghost Backsplash on both opponents, then ASARI hits the Cartwheel Handspring Mule Kick into Kyoko’s charging lariat, and an awful flying rana gets two for ASARI- Devil’s good enough to sell it but ASARI’s legs were splayed way out and she almost fell.
Devil gets an overthrow powerbomb but gets missile kicked by her own partner, who gets lariated by Kyoko, but then Devil does the same to ASARI and takes out Kyoko, but ASARI reverses a Doomsday Device. ASARI jumps up on Miyaguchi and Devil turns that into an assisted powerbomb- Kyoko breaks up the pin and everyone fights, ASARI hitting a tope con hilo onto Kyoko by mistake. Miyaguchi tries to finish with an airplane spin, but goes up and Kyoko runs up and launches her off by the hair. Devil lariats & Ligerbombs Kyoko while Miyaguchi hits a Super Samoan Drop… for two! Devil tries another double-team, but Kyoko fends her off and ASARI hits a slow-motion Frankensteiner off the top on Miyaguchi for the win at (10:00).
All kinds of sloppy and disjointed, like they weren’t on the same page at all. ASARI was meant to do the eye-popping flippy stuff but her application was poor and Devil had to save her repeatedly. Even Kyoko wasn’t quite as sharp as usual.
Rating: ** (pretty weak for a ten minutes match featuring at least three good workers)
So for the next round, we have Aja’s, Kudo’s, Tomoko’s, Yamada’s, Bison’s, Kansai’s, Manami’s & Kyoko’s teams survive. As expected, AJW does the best, as it’s five AJW squads, while JWP, JD’ & FMW get one each, with GAEA’s Kato shoring up Yamada’s team.
* Yes… it’s time for SHOOT-FIGHTING. Bat Yoshinaga retired ages ago, sparing us from sloppy, ugly MMA on these shows for ages, but now we’re back. Thankfully this bit only appears to be a half hour at the end of the tape. Each match is cleverly set up with an actual wrestler fighting an unknown martial artist. The women are barefoot and wear a puffier version of today’s MMA gloves- no rope-breaks and it seems to be submission or ref-stop only. And I think this is worked fights but they’re so bad you can’t tell.
YOKO TAKAHASHI (JD’) vs. ELINA RODINA:
* Tall & lanky Japanese girl vs. a bulky Russian. Elina takes her down after some stand-up, but Yoko’s too squirmy to hold. Yoko throws a ton of wimpy overhand shots until Elina finally bends her arm enough to get the win as they’re about to fall out of the ring (4:45).
REGGIE BENNETT (AJW) vs. ELMA WAYHOFF:
* AJW’s Reggie is in this as well, which is interesting- I’m not aware of any MMA career of hers. Elma looks a bit like Susan Powter and is Eastern European. Reggie actually throws her weight around pretty well, getting under Elma and taking her down into a ground & pound, though she’s not really accurate and ends up laying on her to conserve energy a bunch. For ages. Reggie nearly gets a few good shots in and tries to bend the arm, but neither has much energy left, and Reggie FINALLY gets an overhand kimura-like wristlock for the win (9:00). That was ugly as hell, with Reggie’s “boring, but practical” way carrying the day- she’s just way too big for the skinnier Wayhoff to get off of her, and she won by attrition.
LIONESS ASUKA (Free Agent) vs. MARGOT NEYHOFT:
* Asuka, mainly wrestling in JD’ here and in the future, takes on another European, who’s like “So I heard about this three days ago, and I don’t know my opponent, but it looks like it’ll be a good match”. Lol, did someone bail on them? Both are clearly better than the other fighters so far, as they have proper grappling defense and Margot clinches Asuka easily when they do go down, then does it again. Asuka tries a Kimura on the left arm, but Margot stretches it out, then they lie there for a while, but Asuka gets in on the RIGHT arm and bends it pretty badly backwards- Lioness wins (7:28)!
YUMIKO HOTTA (AJW) vs. VALERIE WITT:
* Hey look- another clinch on the mat! Hotta tries the move of the night, but Witt avoids her kimura and keeps getting a legscissors around from behind. But Hotta manages to catch her with… something, and she wins at (6:31).
Wow these were dumb. Nobody has good stand-up, and it ends up in a parody of UFC’s “Lay & Pray”. But wrestlers won 3/4 of the matches, so AJW must have been happy.