JWP- LIFE IN THE BATTLE (April 8th, 1997):
* Here it comes- a major JWP show! Their online content is not up to snuff from 1995-97 sadly, so I feel like there’s a LOT of stuff I’ve missed out on. For example, even the disparate stuff that’s shown up on Rico Kasai’s YouTube channel has been very sparing for Hikari Fukuoka’s matches, and they’ve been building her up into a credible World Title challenger all this time! And here it is- the show where the colossal Hikari vs. Kansai match takes place for the JWP Openweight Title! An absolute banger and one of the best joshi matches from this time period!
Matches We Miss:
Tomoko Miyaguchi d. Sari Osumi (9:47): Osumi only lasts a year in the business.
Command Bolshoi, Devil Masami & Plum Mariko d. Candy Okutsu, Tomoko Kuzumi & Tomoko Miyaguchi (20:47): … man, they saddled Candy with two green rookies against Devil & Plum’s team? Crazy. And 20 minutes!
CUTIE SUZUKI vs. KANAKO MOTOYA:
* Motoya, still pretty green, gets to be demolished by Cutie Suzuki, who at this point is kind of just in the “still kicking” phase of her career. She still lasts until late ’98, but I’m to understand that she was half-assing it until then, her push long since over. Motoya’s in pink & white, looking like a Megumi Kudo clone, while Cutie’s in white ruffles. Cutie has this Takako Inoue-like “How DARE you try to be as pretty as me in my ring?” look to her, so if she leans into that, this could be fun.
Cutie grinds at her rookie opponent with a headlock and a leghold pulling her arms back- Motoya comes back with a 1-minute headscissors & dropkick, then mixes in jobber-fu with actual impressive stuff, like doing a Boston crab while grappling the arms and swinging Cutie back and forth, but then just doing running shoves. Cutie dodges a missile kick and DDTs her on the floor, but back in the ring she misses a thing and Motoya gets that kick. They attempted some kind of wheelbarrow German spot but hoo boy does THAT not go right (Cutie just grabs her in mid-jump, hesitates, then flops backwards). Sure ’nuff, a regular bridging one gets two. Cutie scores two Flying Stomps, smiling with delight as Motoya tries to stop the second but fails. She’s upset at the 2-count, but throws casual stomps and misses a missile kick.
Motoya hasn’t recovered yet, but manages some basic stuff, but Cutie snags her off the top and hits a Straightjacket German for two. She takes forever with a superduper-something but Motoya lands on her for two, then hits a good Flying Senton and a rollup for two. The fans are getting into her chances a bit, but Cutie just bails and they do a weird thing with a missed plancha and random kicking as they miss the peak, and then Motoya misses a flying Somersault Senton, only to try her rollup again when Cutie misses her Flying Knee and Cutie wheelbarrows her into the Dragon Suplex for three (12:38).
This was effectively Cutie’s version of the “Mean veteran kills the rookie” template, as Motoya fights hard but Cutie slowly dismantles her, only occasionally getting reversed on. It’s just so CASUAL, though, with Cutie barely putting in any effort at all, and not even reveling in the torment like Takako or Ozaki would. She just sneers and does the “stomp and then walk around for a bit, then stomp again” thing. They get a good thing going with Motoya nearly tags her with the Senton/rollup thing, but then suddenly Cutie bails and they screw around slowly for a bit (cardio issues?) and only THEN do we get the finish- missing the peak in the name of extending the match-time.
Rating: ** (some good bits, but a bit too slack from Cutie in particular, then had a weird flow)
DRESS UP WILD FIGHT:
OZ ACADEMY (Mayumi Ozaki & Rieko Amano) (JWP) vs. MEGUMI KUDO & RIE (FMW):
* Yes, it’s another DRESS UP WILD FIGHT, this time as a friggin’ tag team match, pitting Ozaki and her JWP goon (Amano) against FMW’s lady Ace, Kudo! And… Bad Nurse Nakamura, but now as the babyface “RIE”. Kudo’s in black (with a… bejeweled shirt with a kitty on the front- the mark of a true bad-ass) with her side taped up, while RIE’s in normal clothes- jean shorts and a white t-shirt. Ozaki’s in a black shirt & torn jeans, and Amano’s in khaki pants and a black shirt with no sleeves. Only the JWP team looks like they’re here to fight, with a baseball bat (Amano) and chain (Oz).
The kids fight before the bell, scrapping to the floor, and Kudo ignores Ozaki’s handshake and gets slugged in the face by the chain- Kudo gets tossed around via the chain, but dodges Amano’s bat, which hits Ozaki. RIE works Oz over with a clothesline & flying facecrusher, and Kudo uses a chair & backdrop superplex. Amano gets beaned with a chair repeatedly while RIE looks kinda lost several times, just going back & forth, and finally Amano’s busted open and Kudo works her over with a chain. Amano gets absolutely tortured as Team FMW seem to be made out like heels, but they don’t draw boos as Ozaki is obviously still a bad guy. Amano finally comes to life and flails around while Ozaki backfists Kudo down and now it’s RIE’s turn to be beaten up- she’s bloodied by a chair and Ligerbombed on an unbreakable table while Kudo is easily held off by Amano using a bat on her. Powerbomb on a flattened table gets two for Ozaki. FINALLY, Kudo smashes her with a bat from the floor and Oz gets choked out with it- this goes on for minutes while RIE tosses chairs into the ring (… is Amano dead? What happened to her?).
Finally Kudo goes backwards into a chair mountain, then Ozaki cannonballs into them via a miss- Kudo pounces, but Amano stops the Kudo Driver (vertebreaker) in the crowd’s favorite spot all match. Tequila Sunrise to chokeslam to OZAKI chokeslam- into the chairs! That gets two, and Oz powerbombs Kudo on the BAT for two. Kudo avoids a double-backdrop onto the chain, but charges in and IMMEDIATELY gets her neck wrapped up in it as Team OZ strangles her! Kudo gets tied to the post and beaten to hell, but Ozaki cheers herself on and gets drilled by a flying RIE, who then hits the two worst rolling cradles in wrestling history, first just slowly falling onto her butt, and then getting caught up on debris. She ducks a backfist and lands a facecrusher which she can at least do because those are hard to bugger up, but then she just holds Oz up… and looks at her? Then takes a backfist like a person in their first match. Powerbomb on the chairs gets two, and Oz gives her another until Kudo comes in and tiger drivers her on the chairs, then repays her for the chain business by hanging her over the ropes. Amano gets involved and eats a swinging sleeper and a vicious backdrop suplex for it- FANTASTIC bump and sell-job- for two.
Kudo’s perfect plex on the chairs gets two for a big reaction, and Amano finally starts coming back with clotheslines- Kudo grabs her up top, but Oz tosses a bat and Amano flies off with a weak shot to the back with that for two. It’s chain-time again as Oz goes for a walk dragging Kudo, but in the ring Amano collapses off of RIE’s slap, though manages to spring up and dropkick the bat out of her hands and go to town with it. But she climbs and Kudo brains her with a chair and hits a Super Frankensteiner- Oz saves. Kudo eats a super DDT for two, but RIE comes in and they hit a Doomsday Device- Amano saves. RIE gets a powerbomb & Kudo a backdrop hold for two while Amano tapes the bat to her forearm, and uses THAT for their own Doomday Device- on the CHAIR- for two! Oh come the fuck on! Tequila Sunrise gets two, but Kudo reverses another to a tiger suplex for the same- it’s chair vs. chain and Kudo wins, hitting a Spinning Fisherman’s Buster for two. Kudo with a Razor’s Edge and RIE tapes the bat to her LEG for a flying knee to the head- Amano saves. A furious Kudo pulls her outside for an ass-kicking, but that’s her big tactical mistake, as Ozaki throws her horrible backfists into RIE, wraps the chain around her hand, and finishes her with that at (27:26), smirking at Kudo as she arrives too late to stop it. OZ Academy wins!
Oh man, I hate these Dress Up Wild Fights sometimes, lol. You can always tell when you see the match length is like 22+ minutes that it’s gonna be a shit-show, and this one had ALL THE PADDING- extended spots where the elite star tortures the subordinate on the other side- first Amano gets it, then RIE does it. That’s fine and a good story… but for five minutes apiece? While the other star is magically unable to enter the ring? And then you get the weird comebacks where all that torture happens and then Amano is easily able to handle Kudo outside the ring, and then a bloody RIE casually tosses chairs all over the place immediately following her beating. Why do the massive table powerbombs in the opening TEN MINUTES when you’re going that much longer? The never-ending bat spots are a bit ridiculous, since that shatters all illusion of kayfabe- we know chairshots hurt, but bat-shots would be FATAL and here they’re hitting dozens of them or doing the dumb “gut poke” thing. Just don’t use them if you’re gonna do stupid shit with them! And yet the final few minutes are this good, hard-fought win so you know they CAN work- they’re just gonna make you wait 25 minutes or so. But then they just start doing the “Finisher Beamspam” but can kick outta everything so even these BAT-ASSISTED DOOMSDAY DEVICE can’t score the pin.
RIE continues to be weird, where she hits moves perfectly fine and sells okay, but then looks like she isn’t even trained, just flopping down in humiliating fashion trying a simple cradle. The only one who really impressed me was Amano, who’s a baby, yet is able to do the “collapsing death sell” with the arched back like rigor mortis has already set in and get really spirted comebacks that aren’t filled with jobber-fu.
Rating: ** (ridiculously padded and with garbage match construction, doing huge moves way too early so the endgame moves feel weaker, and poorly wrestled by RIA. Amano was good and some of the bumps in the endgame were awesome. But man, no hardcore match should ever be over 20 minutes)
JWP OPENWEIGHT TITLE:
DYNAMITE KANSAI vs. HIKARI FUKUOKA:
* IT’S HERE!! So Kansai has been the largely-unopposed Ace of JWP since its inception, beating all comers- only Devil Masami was on her level, and Mayumi Ozaki could squeak out the occasional win. But with JWP putting years and years of work into the pretty Idol Wrestler, Hikari Fukuoka, it’s her time! Kansai is suffering from an illness behind the scenes (“collagen illness”, which affects joints) and Hikari is set. Kansai’s in bright-ass lime green/black and has her hair bleached blonde while wearing a Doctor Octopus jacket, while Hikari’s got some truly unique gear on- a white tiger-striped leotard with bright blue trunks. They could not look more different- short-haired Kick Demon vs. Pretty Long-Haired Idol. But still, they clasp hands before the bell in a show of respect.
Kansai powers Hikari around for a while, booting her after a Moonsault Dodge, too. She throws some nasty-ass kicks on the floor that nearly push Hikari over the guardrail, then grinds away at her with stretching for a good, long while, dominating like Aja Kong would. Five minutes gone and Fukuoka ain’t done SHIT… and then she headscissors out after a whip and uses technique to hold Kansai at bay, only to try her Cartwheel Handspring Elbow and Kansai just latches onto her and waistlocks her over the top. This leads to a bunch of tosses into guardrails, but Hikari flips out of a Backdrop Driver attempt and turns the tables on the Ace, paying her back. Missile dropkick sets up the big comeback with Hikari’s specialty, high-flying… but she wastes time playing to the crowd and eats the Razor’s Edge! Kansai stalks around, still selling that dropkick, looking like she’s trying to avoid showing how much it hurt, and throws some more slow and steady kicks, really controlling the pace. A violent face-kick earns a count- Hikari barely struggles up at “8”, only to eat a Backdrop Driver for two.
Kansai signals Splash Mountain, but it’s too early- Hikari Manami Rolls out for two, but HOLY SHIT she still has a “Deer in Headlights” look, as if she’s just running on autopilot at this point. But she ducks under another kick and sweeps the leg! Two Germans get two. Another one keeps Kansai down, and the Moonsault gets two. Kansai reverses a whip but eats a rolling double-leg kick that’s treated like a big deal, but she’s slow to hit the top, and misses the Rider Kick. Kansai tries the Driver again, but Hikari elbows free… only to run into a lariat, doing a Full Toyota (ie. 1.2 Jannetty) bump off of it. That gets 2.8, and Kansai calmly lariats her down again. Another gets two- “Fuck YOU!” bridge! An annoyed Kansai just hits a dropkick of the second rope, aims for Splash Mountain, settles for another Driver when that fails, and BAM! Splash Mountain… for two! All that build-up and it can’t get the win. Kansai aims for SUPER Splash Mountain to really end it, but Hikari knocks her down and hits a Moonsault to the floor!
Both actually do the All Japan Sell on the floor- it’s a full minute before Hikari puts Kansai back in the ring- RIDER KICK TO THE BACK! Hikari takes a HHH-like time to cover, so it only gets two. Another Rider Kick, but again only two and Hikari’s in agony over it. She puts all over her energy into another Moonsault, but Kansai rolls out- Hikari lands on her feet, but does it with such force she collapses, actually working in the context of the match- she’s just dying. Kansai throws kicks of increasing brutality, slowly getting her strength back, and a big one puts Hikari on her back. Long count as Kansai waves off her chances, and when Hikari stumbles up at “9” she just eats another big kick to the face… for two! Splash Mountain looks to finish- Hurricanrana reversal for two! Kansai goes back to the lariat, but gets caught in a Fisherman’s buster (… sorta- not much elevation) for two. Moonsault Stomp! 2.9!! The crowd senses it’s close… Hikari goes up for a second as Kansai writhes and heaves in agony- MOONSAULT STOMP #2 GETS THE PIN (20:26)! Hikari Fukuoka is the new JWP Champion! The Ace is Dead- Love Live The Ace!
Some primo ’80s rock plays as Kansai grabs the trophy, staggers over to Hikari, and hands the bawling new champion her award and embraces her.
Really awesome match with some very good psychology. Kansai is the dominant, stronger wrestler, so she dictates the pace to start, keeping everything nice and slow- she powers around Hikari, putting all her weight on the smaller Idol, and throws those slow, steady kicks that put her down. Every time Hikari tries to rev up the match, Kansai tries to slow it down, and whenever Hikari can get some steam or a good reversal, she pulls ahead with a ton of stuff (sweep-kick reversal, Manami Roll, etc.). And since Kansai’s big stuff always requires some big set-up, it lets Hikari pull out those “stick and move” things that keep her at bay. I liked how they kept building up the big spots, making each time a finisher connect REALLY matter.
This also avoided the “Beamspam” problem Joshi can sometimes get into, as each sold all the big moves and let everything breathe. Manami would have hit that Moonsault to the floor and followed up with two MORE flying moves, but Hikari & Kansai sell that like it killed the both of them, which set up the end-game of finisher attempts. Two Rider Kicks can’t bring Kansai down, and Kansai finally makes another comeback with those kicks, already set up from before as big killers that Hikari can’t match. But then Hikari reverses Splash Mountain again, Kansai gets too reliant on the lariat, and she’s snapped into a reversal, setting up Hikari hitting her finisher, failing to get the three, and finishing Kansai off with another shot. Kansai’s selling there was PERFECT- you could hear her agonized heaving after the first one, making it seem deadly.
Rating: ****1/4 (very good “slow & steady” match, building to a great ending)