AJW REAL EARNEST:
(Dec. 8th 1996)
* And so we reach the end of the year for AJW, as the company seems to be falling apart creatively, and then Manami Toyota’s disappointing year as Champion culminates with a match against her longtime rival, Kyoko Inoue. This arena is blacked out all to hell, which really makes it look bad. I mean, how bad DID this draw?
Though to be fair, this card seems INCREDIBLY dire. Chaparrita ASARI defends her Super Lightweight Title against low-ass JWP wrestler Fusayo Nouchi? AJW feeds their lowest-end jobbers to JWP & JD’ teams? Rie Tamada vs. Chikako Shiratori in a singles match? What IS this?
PS here’s a list of my full Joshi Spotlight archives: https://www.echoesofthemultiverse.com/viewtopic.php?t=2086
The Skipped Matches:
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR MATCH:
MOMOE NAKANISHI d. MIHO WAKIZAWA (5:06): Momoe becomes a big star in the 2000s so it’s nice to see she wins this one.
EMI MOTOKAWA & TOMOKO KUZUMI (JWP) d. MISAE GENKI & TANNY MOUSE (AJW) (15:38): A horrifyingly long match for people this green, but JWP’s team gets the lowest-tier jobbers fed to them.
BLOODY PHOENIX, CHIQUITA AZTECA & PEQUENA AZTECA (JD’) d. YOSHIKO TAMURA, YUKA SHIINA (AJW) (13:31): Once again, AJW jobs its greenest rookies to another company. Pequena is Cynthia Moreno, and way above everyone else here, though Tamura is the hottest rookie AJW has right now.
AJW JUNIOR TITLE:
RIE TAMADA (AJW) d. CHIKAKO SHIRATORI (10:27): Kept about as short as it should be, as Rie defeats her old Class of 1991 classmate.
WWWA WORLD SUPER LIGHTWEIGHT TITLE:
CHAPARRITA ASARI (AJW) vs. FUSAYO NOUCHI (JWP):
* Oh, THIS is where that damn match goes, lol. I found it in an old recap and the original video of the full match is gone. The tiny ASARI defends her trophy belt against the rival promotion’s tiny Nouchi. All we get is the last 4 minutes, which really come off well as it’s the classic “try anything you can to win” AJW style.
Then things get even more horrifying, as they do SHOOT FIGHTS!! Thankfully YouTube is missing almost all of these.
YOKO TAKAHASHI d. SAYA ENDO (3 round decision): Endo is one of AJW’s rookies.
AYA MITSUI d. KUMIKO MAEKAWA (5 round decision): Kumiko is highly thought of, so her losing isn’t great.
KAORU ITO d. MALIKA (0:52): Not gonna pretend I know who Malika is, lol.
ELINA ROSINA d. YUMIKO HOTTA (4:31): This is a rematch from Discover New Heroine, Hotta attempting to avenge her loss against the U*Top Tournament winner. She fails in 1/3 the time. Yes, Yumiko Hotta: Badass AJW Shooter, still managers to lose in these.
REGGIE BENNETT, TOMOKO WATANABE & MOMOE NAKANISHI d. MIMA SHIMODA, ETSUKO MITA & TOSHIYO YAMADA (18:46): Yeah, this is just a random “pair the spares” match, with Shimoda & Mita teaming up again and Reggie & Tomoko working with the rookie from earlier in the show. Tomoko’s increase push makes this a nice surprise, though it’s also a sign of how little is thought of Mita & Yamada. At least Shimoda is still a tag champion.
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAND this is the very last match Reggie Bennett appears in with AJW. Until 2000! So say goodbye to her for three years (she reappears with ARSION in 1998 and gets a good push). So the victory here seems even stranger.
AJA KONG & DYNAMITE KANSAI vs. TAKAKO INOUE & MARIKO YOSHIDA:
* WTF? The two titans of AJW & JWP team up against AJW’s midcard squad? I know I’ve seen Takako/Yoshida matches after this, so they make a regular go of it as Double Inoue appears to be… diminished as a duo (they fight only 11 matches in 1997 and none in ’98- though Kyoko’s gone by then). They’re mashing up their themes in a way that really doesn’t work- Yoshida’s action platformer theme song and Takako’s goofy love ballad don’t fit together. Aja & Kansai get the same treatment. Yoshida’s in white (showing a lot more skin in the back and a Vulcan hairstyle), Takako’s in her black leather queen outfit, Aja’s in pink & black and Kansai’s in green & white.
Fun bit to start as Kansai throws a leg-kick, but Yoshida throws a million in return and her & Takako take turns beaning Kansai in the head with them- Aja appears to do nothing until just bursting in and nailing them both with the oil can. Kansai double-lariats them and kicks Yoshida to death- she escapes and Takako avoids Aja’s ass but misses a Flying Knee and Kansai drive-bys her with a lariat. Takako armdrags Aja off the top for two, but Aja cross-bodies both girls, only to get dumped off the top and it’s stereo dives from Takako & Yoshida, diving on each side of the post! Takako gets cocky and charges right into Aja’s Brainbuster for two- Yoshida saves, and the girls use a backdrop suplex/Super Chokeslam to stop an Avalanche Waterwheel Drop, getting two. Aja gets her feet up on Yoshida’s flying splash, but Yoshida dodges a splash of her own and tries La Majistral, Aja just shoving her over for two- Yoshida botches a run-up sunset flip a tad but they fight into it for two, then they fight Aja into Yoshida’s running sunset flip for two after dodging another double cross-body attempt. Kansai stops a double-team and Aja hits that splash on Yoshida for two, but Aja’s next Brainbuster fails, but she & Kansai dump their opponents to set up AJA’s dive.
Yoshida does her cartwheel dodge on the monsters, but Aja stuffs her sunset flip, only for Yoshida to finally get La Majistral for two, then another Aja Brainbuster gets two- Takako saves. Then in a nice bit, Takako dumps Kansai and blasts Aja with the Flying Knee when she tries an Uraken, Yoshida La Majistral-ling for two- Kansai has to save! Pretty slick double-team there, though Aja had to ignore Takako climbing up right behind her. Yoshida tries the Air Raid Crash (cradle inverted ddt) but Aja backdrop drivers out and has to tag away in a daze- but then Kansai tries her own driver and SHE gets Air Raid Crashed! Dang I didn’t realize you could thread a reversal in like that. That gets two, and Takako charges in, luring Kansai into clotheslining Aja and hitting a clumsy Flying Knee (just landing on Kansai’s back) while Yoshida flies out onto Aja, getting two. But then Aja stops her climb and Kansai MURDERS Takako with kicks, leading to a Razor’s Edge/Flying Back Elbow combo… Yoshida saves! Takako impresses by kicking out after a backdrop driver from Kansai, then Yoshida missile kicks in before getting kicked by both monsters. Splash Mountain (sit-out razor’s edge) to Takako… Yoshida again pushes it over! Aja finally just TKOs Yoshida with the Uraken and plants a foot on her while Splash Mountain finishes Takako at (11:45 of 19:15 shown).
This was likely a forgone conclusion, but managed a couple of “hey, maybe” chances from the smaller wrestlers- Yoshida kept interfering and using speed to protect her partner and harry the superstars, so the psychology was there. The move application kinda wasn’t, as repeatedly Yoshida managed to slip and stumble off the top and even Takako did, so some of those false finishes didn’t quite “take” as well as they’d hoped. We also missed like seven minutes of stuff, so who knows how frantic it was otherwise?
Rating: ***1/2 (pretty good for the most part, but fairly one-sided and not the most smoothly-wrestled)
WWWA WORLD TITLE:
MANAMI TOYOTA vs. KYOKO INOUE:
* And so Manami faces Kyoko for the second time in 1996! They had a great match at Wrestling Queendom ’96, so it’s kinda weird that they have yet another bout here, essentially confessing they’d run out of top contenders. Kyoko’s gear is AMAZING- some horrifying rainbow rubber suit with a pink top and tassels everywhere. Manami’s in the usual black/gold and… boy, that is a VERY serious expression coming down the aisle. Not the most obvious “Jobbing Face” ever but she’s dead serious and looks nervous or saddened. Reactions for both are pretty even (surprising, given how over Kyoko usually is), but decidedly quieter than in past shows. This is clipped, shaving off about nine minutes from the bout, which is quite a lot. Meltzer rated it ****3/4.
Kyoko gets her “Kyo-Ko!” chant started up immediately, but Toyota hits the JB Angels armdrag- Kyoko sandbags the rolling one, only to eat the dropkick reversal. Both do their whip reversals (Backsplash; Running No-Hands Cross-Body), then it’s the old standby of “Toyota missile kick reversed to a Giant Swing & crab”. Kyoko gets a snap fallaway slam (hurting her eye somehow) & DDT, then bends Manami backwards but takes the Rolling Cradle, only to land the Mandatory 1996 German off the Middle Rope. Manami boots Kyoko off the top, but climbs herself and gets Flair Tossed to the floor, then clotheslined over the railing. She gets a Manami Roll inside for two, but Moonsaults onto Kyoko’s knees like a dumbass. She dumps her and tries another No-Hands move, but slips off the springboard and overshoots as a result, both ending up selling. Now looking a wreck (the clips probably all happened by now), she grabs a table to little reaction, sets Kyoko on it… then bungles the No-Hands move again, clipping the ropes and landing in a way that should have ripped both her shoulders out, but she quickly recovers and does an ugly one, tripping again but managing a forward flip into smashing Kyoko ass-first. Well the crowd dug it, and the ass to the stomach looked like it HURT.
Kyoko is selling death and deliberately holds her arms back for the Japanese Ocean (double-hammerlock) Suplex, but resists it and 3-4 more whip reversals see Manami land it for two. Kyoko manages her flying headscissors reversal for two, but tries her Run-Up Back Elbow, and Manami catches her… slowly turning around and doing a CODE RED from the top! Huh- she musta retired the Victory Star Drop. She freaks when Kyoko kicks out at the last second, and hits the Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex… for two! She tries it again but Kyoko get that great rapid-fire lariat into a two-count that always looks so sudden. Manami ducks another but gets powerbombed out of a Manami Roll for a big two. Niagara Driver- two! Kyoko tries another, but Manami does her Roll right into a great near-fall as Kyoko BARELY scrambles out. She climbs, but Kyoko does her run-up reversal, flinging her off for two. Manami climbs to the top after her next, and everyone knows what’s coming… but when Kyoko does her Super Powerslam reversal, Manami actually rolls THROUGH it, getting two! Okay that was less predictable.
Manami tries another Cyclone Suplex, but Kyoko lariats her twice, Manami countering the last to a German for two. Kyoko gets wide-eyed and fires up, but Manami hits two more bridging Germans for two to put the fight out of her, but Kyoko manages to annihilate her into a 2.0 Jannetty bump off a lariat! That get two, and another Niagara Driver gets two. Kyoko is just hunched over with nothing left, but manages to try another, but Manami resists, Kyoko avoids her weird double-arm suplex, but Manami hits another JOCS for two! They do a double-down off that, and Kyoko avoids the corner JOCS, but Manami just kicks her in the face and tries another- Kyoko gets out of that with a snap German for two, then another Niagara Driver for two! Kyoko is left with one thing- a SUPER MDK finisher. Sadly she drops Manami head-first trying it, but manages a second one- the Victoria Driver (inverted flat-back death valley driver)- and she gets the pin at (16:01 of 24:52 shown)- KYOKO IS THE NEW 3WA WORLD CHAMPION!!!
Kyoko is crying appropriately with both joy and exhaustion, and is held up by her pal Tomoko Watanabe for the Championship award ceremony. She actually stalls it so she can shake Manami’s hand and Toyota takes a bow to applause. The Toyota era is done and she won’t hold that belt for YEARS- the Kyoko As Ace era has begun! Sadly in a greatly diminished era with way fewer fans and quieter reactions.
This was… I really wanted to like it given I’m a fan of both, but it looked like two beaten-down people who’d wrestled each other a billion times kinda going through the motions for a while. I suppose I’m spoiled because I’ve seen them so much but each one doing the “reverses the next move” thing for several minutes to start came off more “SEEN IT” to me. Then we get a bunch of clipping probably, leading to both selling death 8 minutes in and the move application starts to suffer a lot. But then they hit that “Final Stretch” and it’s hard to find two better people at it given how they “MOVEZ!” the crap out of each other. Though I’ve seen them so much now it’s rather predictable and I can guess a move ahead- that’s why I dug the reversal of the telegraphed Super Powerslam- THAT came out of nowhere! Also as a big fan of their finishers watching them kill the moves by hitting them so many times was kinda sad. And it kind of makes the finale just a series of big moves and “shock” kickouts, with you knowing none of that’s gonna end it because nobody’s unlocked their big moves yet- Manami added a new finisher or two- why not try THOSE in this big defense?
Rating: ***3/4 (okay, around a third of it was cut out, leading to an odd “they’re exhausted now” bit, they got sloppy a few times, and it ended up just being a series of huge moves, so I can’t rate it too highly. But they still hit some of the most impressive offense out there)
All in all, it’s a pretty sad show- AJW taking up a darkened arena and crowning a new Champion just as business is REALLY taking a beating. This casts a pall over Kyoko’s reign as Ace, and even worse times are ahead. Manami’s reign was honestly not that impressive, despite a few good matches- there was a weak botchy one with Hotta, a great one with Kyoko, an Aja one, and now this. Her tag stuff was actually the most impressive, but even then, you can tell people just aren’t giving the same effort of old. They’re a bit older and more beaten-up, and the famed “AJW Pace” is slower. And hey- with business falling and pay probably doing so as well, can you blame them for slacking off a bit?
Thankfully we have 1997’s rise of Las Cachorras Orientales to look forward to!