Oh fart- they deleted the video before I could post the review! You’ll just have to take my word for it then!
AJW TV (May 11th 1997):
* It’s finally time more more AJW stuff! This time we get a 1:22:00 TV show. This show is a really interesting one from a booking perspective, as MANAMI TOYOTA AND TOSHIYO YAMADA team up again, as the former champs for a huge chunk of 1992-95 come calling for the current champs, Tomoko & Kumiko! Though it’s non-title. I don’t know how much drama this would have had at the time (Yamada is donezo as a threat) but it’s super-interesting for me. Also the WWWA Champion Kyoko Inoue takes on Kaoru Ito, in what’s likely a match to establish just how high-tier Ito is with her new push- she tied with Aja and BEAT Manami Toyota, so in a sense she’s a worthy challenger… as much as she has a snowball’s chance in hell with this one.
Also, we get the return of JUNGLE JACK, as Aja Kong & Bison Kimura re-team to take on another old-school team, Takako Inoue & Yumiko Hotta. They’re in the Nagoya Arena, which has blackened out nearly EVERYTHING- the signs of a really dying fanbase.
We start with a goofy pair of TV hosts taking us to an AJW arena show. The guy ogles Yumi Fukawa’s new bikini photobook while she does the “hide her mouth” shy laugh (they were selling Fukawa photobooks and not MITA photobooks? No wonder they went bankrupt in 1997!), then knock on a door and Aja Kong comes up behind them and starts swatting the dude with papers, then the photobook.
Miho Wakizawa d. Miyuki Fujii (2:24) with the amateur-pin of death.
Japan Grand Prix 1997 Participation Selection League Match- Saya Endo & Tanny Mouse wrestle to a (20:00) draw (JESUS CHRIST).
Las Cachorras Orientales d. Misae Genki & Yuka Shiina (7:44) w/ Shimoda’s Tiger Superplex (Death Lake Driver) on Shiina. One of LCO’s first big matches back.
Mariko Yoshida & Nanae Takahashi d. Rie Tamada & Yoshiko Tamura (16:27) w/ Yoshida’s La Majistral Cradle on Rie.
ALL JAPAN JUNIOR TITLE:
MOMOE NAKANISHI (AJW) vs. YUKO KOSUGI (Jd’):
* The future Ace of All Japan here defends her rookie title against Kosugi from JD’. Kosugi’s in weird white shorts with bands for one leg and a technicolor sports bra, while Momoe’s in an aquamarine & white lined swimsuit that looks like one of those LLPW outfits.
Kosugi starts off with some bad stuff (what IS that leaping attack? An elbow?), running stomps and a Vader Bomb-style pump stomp while JD’s top-tier Bison Kimura looks on. Momoe comes back with dropkicks and it’s immediately apparent she’s a THOUSAND times better than her flaily opponent, and the Rookie Bodyslam of Death finishes at (3:22 of 9:35 shown). Wow, that was quick- good editing as I didn’t even see it.
Rating: DUD (Kosugi was SO BAD, with this Erik Watts-like “uh, what?” stance and hesitate before everything- Momoe’s stuff was tight but she had one comeback and the match was over)
Oh man, it’s HISTORY TIME! We’re back to 1990 where Jungle Jack beats the Marine Wolves for the WWWA Tag Titles via Aja’s avalanche powerslam on Suzuka Minami, then 1991 when Bull Nakano & Kyoko Inoue beat them in a Hair vs. Hair Match, giving us the famous clip of Aja commanding a bawling Bison to “stop crying!” and accept their punishment while Aja seethes with the fury that made her a World Champion. Later on that year, Aja misses a huge flying splash from the top of a cage, injuring herself and being taken out of the match.
JUNGLE JACK (Aja Kong & Bison Kimura) vs. YUMIKO HOTTA & TAKAKO INOUE:
* It’s throwback time! Aja & Bison are finally reunited (after spending much of the past few years doing this thing where Aja would blow off Bison’s challenges and Bison would get increasingly enraged- they had a great short bloodbath match a year or so before this), and it’s against another throwback team, as Hotta & Takako were AJW defenders during the 1993 period where JWP invaders kept coming at them. Bison’s in white tiger-print and Aja’s in white & black to match her, while Takako’s in a white ruffled Idol skirt and Hotta’s in all black.
Jungle Jack haven’t forgotten their old ways, as they jump their opponents and drag them into the stands for a beating. Hotta gets worked over (“HOT-TAAAAAAAAAA!” *clothesline*). Hotta kicks free on Bison and Takako’s in with her DDT, but gets chokeslammed down, clubbered, body attacked & piledriven for two. Hotta scores an enzuigiri but Aja resists her kicks and chops her down and it’s Bison Chops abound, but Hotta casually comes back. Takako tricks Aja into eating the Super Chokeslam, but gets booted out of the Flying Knee and Bison flying headbutts her for two. Hotta sneaks in with a rolling kick but Aja pays her back with an oil can to the head, netting Bison two with a Chop on Takako. Takako manages the Aurora Special (shoulder-mounted backdrop) when Bison climbs, but misses another Knee and gets tonfa-rodded repeatedly, and a weak Moonsault gets two- Hotta saves. Takako DDTs out of another Chop for two, but Hotta’s Tiger Driver is reversed with a dragon screw & STF. Hotta facecrushers Jungle Jack, but tries a Tiger Driver and takes the can to the head, but dodges another Moonsault and hits the Driver- Aja saves. Bison spams Chops to reverse and Aja 2nd-rope splashes Hotta, but Hotta hits the Super Rolling Kick for two. Hotta ducks an Uraken but her enzuigiri misses this time, and Aja backdrop drivers her for two- Hotta keeps reversing stuff to her Super-Shooter Cross-Armbreaker, but Aja gets the Brainbuster- Takako saves, so Bison drags her off and the Uraken finishes at (15:06 of 23:12 shown).
Man, this coulda been exciting, but I feel like everyone’s slowed down a lot and the effort just wasn’t there for a top-tier match. It was 5 minutes of filler, then throwing out their mid-range offense in pretty basic fashion without a lot of “this has GOT to end it!” force. Not a lot of double teams and not even much of a story developing- just “people doing stuff” until Aja finally finishes after hitting enough things.
Rating: **1/2 (has to be a disappointment given the match length and the people involved)
TOMOKO WATANABE & KUMIKO MAEKAWA vs. MANAMI TOYOTA & TOSHIYO YAMADA:
* So it’s the iconic Tag Champs of 1992-94, Toyota & Yamada, reuniting the old team to take on the new champs who unseated Manami’s last squad, but in a non-title match for some reason. Yamada’s in red/black and Manami’s in black, while Kumiko’s in blue/white and Tomoko IS DRESSED LIKE THE SHREDDER HOLY SHIT HAHAHA and reveals her normal tasselly black/white gear. Everyone gets only kinda polite reactions by the crowd, Manami maybe getting the best but not by much.
Yamada schools her fellow kick demon to start, then the ex-champs double-team Kumiko and Manami gets a reaction for her deathlock-bodylock. Yamada/Tomoko have a good exchange, Tomoko hitting a running facecrusher and the champs double-teaming, but Yamada hits the face kick, fails her finisher, but gets an enzuigiri for two. Manami scores a pair of missile kicks to keep on them and Moonsaults Tomoko, but another hits knees- a Flying Thesz Press misses but she clotheslines everyone down for two. A Manami Roll is reversed to a Ligerbomb for two, and Kumiko scores some kicks but gets dumped into Manami’s Running Springboard Tope Con Hilo onto the champs. Their old finish, the Stereo Flying Headbutts… misses!
Kumiko dives in with an Ax Kick to Manami that looks great, and Yamada saves- Kumiko gets caught in the Japanese Ocean (double-hammerlock) Suplex for two, but Tomoko stops the other old finisher (the Double Flipover Backdrop Superplex) but takes an All Japan-tier bump on her head from a grounded version, then hit the Super version on Kumiko! For TWO! Manami can’t believe this shit (“THREEEEE!”) but Tomoko stops her finisher with the Screwdriver (one-armed yeeting onto the head) and they hit the Doomsday Device Whoopie Cushion- Yamada saves! And the vets hit their MDK super-finisher, a Doomsday Device Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex/Flying Spinkick. Tomoko saves, and the crowd doesn’t even make a sound- she was so close for the move that there was no drama. Or they don’t care. And Manami just finishes with the JOCS while Yamada holds Tomoko down helplessly for the win (10:21 of 18:48 shown)- the ex-champs beat the current champs! Manami & Yamada shake hands and hug one last time and enjoy a decent crowd reaction.
Man, what was THAT? Adequately wrestled and most looked pretty solid, but it was so short on TV and made the champs look weak. Sure it’s a veteran squad but I’m never a fan of the champs getting killed in a non-title match like that. It’s pretty wild that a super-finisher like the JOCS/Spinkick would draw no reaction at all. Tomoko being right there probably didn’t help, but then the finish was weird, as they do the classic “MDK Fails, so a regular finisher gets them this time” thing, but with Tomoko just kinda… lying down and taking it? These usually look a LOT more manic and dramatic, with someone thrashing around and desperately trying to help their partner, but this time it’s just Tomoko being held down.
The match itself was fine- mostly a Moveblitz, but at 10 minutes that’s probably better than “screwing around, then revving up for 2 minutes”. Nobody was swinging for the fences but they were running around and trying hard, and nobody was messing stuff up (though Manami has now switched to “springboarding by hitting her shin on the ropes and using her hands to guide herself off” instead of no-handing it).
Rating: *** (just fine in an interesting kind of AJW match- all Move Beamspam from the get-go after only a minute’s warm-up)
TRIPLE CROWN (WWWA, All Pacific & IWA) TITLE:
KYOKO INOUE vs. KAORU ITO:
* So the Ace of AJW, Kyoko, gets a new challenger in Kaoru Ito, who’s spent 1997 suddenly getting elevated to the next level via a draw against Aja and a win against Manami. There is zero drama here as to the challenger winning, much like the last Title defense, which isn’t for the BEST, but this will no double be a good way to establish Ito’s current level of credibility, especially if they go full “elevation through a loss” like Japan sometimes does. Ito’s in a pretty great white unitard with red fire across it, and Kyoko’s in the rainbow tasselled gear.
They open strongly, with both trading strikes and whips to establish dominance (Kyoko’s), then Kyoko works through her early-match spots at a middling pace, milking the hell out of a surfboard but Ito USES THE ASS at a breakneck pace to wake people up. Ito hits her favorite time-waster- the half-crab- and we’re back from commercial with a tired Kyoko with no facepaint left getting backdropped out and tope’d. Ito hits stomps off a table and off the top for two. Ito works the ribs and Kyoko rolls out to buy herself some time, but that’s a dumbass move because Ito does the SUICIDE STOMP from the top to the floor! Kyoko’s wails of pain are quite convincing here, and Ito hits three flying ones in a row for two! Kyoko has to use the rope to break, but Ito takes too long setting up a superplex and gets shoved off & missile kicked. She’s still up first, but Kyoko finally lariats her down- Ito tries to catch her up top, but eats the Avalanche Powerslam for two.
Ito cuts off even THIS comeback, but gets caught and thown with the run-up Super Belly-To-Belly- Kyoko with the Bowl-Over Lariat for two! Kyoko tries the Niagara Driver, but Ito escapes and… leg-work? NOW? They get into a great slapfest, made better by Kyoko’s exhausted expression and body language, but Ito’s back to the leg- Kyoko gets infuriated by this and smashes her into a table like a dozen times, then Germans her on the FLOOR. Ito won’t get powerbombed but takes another Lariat for two. Kyoko tries another, but Ito reverses to the uranage & Flying Stomp! Ito FINNNNNNNNNNNALLY scores that superplex she’s been fighting for but that’s a weak move and Kyoko makes the ropes and hits another Lariat for another kickout by Invincible Ito. She hits another but Ito then gets a figure-four, dropkicks to the knee and another leg-humping lock, but Kyoko finally gets another lariat, THREE Germans, and the Niagara Driver… for two on Invincible Ito! Ito backslides out of another and tries another flash-pin for close-calls, but Kyoko scores a fifth Lariat… and it’s Time Over at (24:13 of 60:00 shown).
Okay, I’m impressed. Cutting out god knows what turned this into an incredible show of fortitude, with Kyoko’s “OMG I’m dying” selling being totally justified (and much more well done that earlier in the year), and Ito looking like a relentless opponent, using her greater speed and invincibility to harry the Champion. Though I’ve seen enough of Ito’s later stuff to know that “She Who Cannot Be Pinned” is one of the great cliches of her work at the high level, so I’m a bit “….” and her endless ability to kick out of ANYTHING, especially when the year before she was just a midcarder. Never mind her going to stupid legwork with 12 minutes left in a 60:00 draw. That’s clearly “Oh shit I need a rest” stuff from SOMEONE, but then Ito keeps coming back to it because I dunno, she doesn’t have enough cool late-match stuff? Still, her stuff looked really tight for what was obviously late in the game (Kyoko looked like she was DYING and I’m not sure that was all selling), and Kyoko herself just kept spamming increasingly-unconvincing Lariats after a point.
Rating: ***1/2 (impressive showing in a lot of ways but maddening in others- the Kyoko and Ito specialties. God knows what I would have thought with the other 35:00 shown)
Kyoko, post-match, cuts a promo more or less announcing her disappointment with the result, and so she VACATES THE TRIPLE CROWN, deciding that she needs to win the right to deserve it again! This permanently separates the white All Pacific Title from the others and puts it back in contention, while the purple IWA Title disappears forever- never more than a vanity upper-mid belt. Things would be back to normal in the promotion in a month, however. I can imagine this might have been done to juice more houses, as Kyoko’s run wasn’t setting the world on fire and they needed some drama.
So overall, it’s yet another “AJW’s Few Credible Stars thrown together in a new way” shows. Plenty of good enough matches but not a lot of exceptional ones, which continues to be an issue for a promotion that was once a ****+ factory. Jungle Jack’s reunion was a dud, and the Tag Champions losing to yet another squad of bigger names is a problem I would think, and the WORLD CHAMPION being unable to beat Kaoru Ito seems like another thing to make a belt-holder look on the weaker side.