JWP IN MAY 1997:
* So “1997- The Year Joshi Was Cursed” is assuredly a thing, as not only does AJW go bankrupt, but JWP becomes one of the only companies to have an active wrestler die of an injury in the ring. This is three matches featuring what was going on in Japan Women’s Pro-Wrestling in 1997! All with the standard “gotta go to 20+ minutes” JWP effect, but there’s good effort throughout, including a big Dream Match as Jaguar Yokota & Devil Masami form an ’80s Superteam up against Dynamite Kansai & Candy Okutsu!
Also, tragically, this is the last Plum Mariko match ever recorded, as she wrestles in a very good tag match alongside Cutie Suzuki against the JWP Tag Champions, Hikari Fukuoka & Devil.
And AEW fans might get a kick out of seeing AEW star Emi Sakura in her rookie years as she joins a trios match!
DYNAMITE KANSAI, SARI OSUMI & EMI MOTOKAWA (IWA Japan) vs. CANDY OKUTSU, COMMAND BOLSHOI & TOMOKO MIYAGUCHI:
(May 10th 1997)
* It’s an interesting trios match, with the former Ace teaming with two barely-trained jobbers against Candy & Bolshoi, who are way beneath Kansai but far above the jobbers, and Miyaguchi (the future Ran Yu-Yu, which I keep having to remind myself). Also Emi, currently a second-year, is the future “Emi Sakura” and is currently an IWA-Japan wrestler. The psychology here will be interesting, as Kansai can annihilate anyone here, but her partners are weaksauce and can easily be beaten by any of the three opponents. Kansai’s in black w/ neon yellow, Sari’s in a jobber swimsuit with green leaves on dark green, Emi’s in black & orange (with a sorta-skirt), Candy’s in black, Bolshoi’s in an extremely elaborate pink/blue/black bodysuit & Miyaguchi’s in white with red.
Team DK jumps the others to start, Kansai booting Miyaguchi in Emi’s clutch, but Candy comes in with the Kick of Fear on the rookie and the vets beat Emi up a bit to set up Miyaguchi’s jobber-fu. Funny bit as Kansai demands Osumi help out Emi, and Osumi immediately runs from Bolshoi’s reprisal. Emi hits a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker (!) on Bolshoi and Osumi hits goofy body attacks while swinging her arms up. She quickly takes a beating however (nice improv when Candy overshoots a sunset flip- sitting out and clapping to set up Candy completing it), and then Kansai ragdolls Bolshoi with her kicks. She refuses to sell the interfering kicks of the small opposition when she sharpshooters the clown, then directs the babies to fire feather-light kicks into Bolshoi in the ropes. She scores her own big one, then there’s a funny bit as Osumi keeps having to reposition Bolshoi so Emi can hit her (she’s a MILE away at first, then pointing the wrong direction the second)- and Emi still misses. Osumi takes another beating, then Kansai beats up Bolshoi but Candy cuts her off with a springboard dropkick in a great bit, but Kansai takes back over quickly as everyone hits the ring.
Backdrop Driver hits and Kansai signals Splash Mountain, but the rookies suddenly BEG for tags and of course Emi pays for it and eats an airplane spin from Miyaguchi and the rookies are trading stuff again, breaking up potential finishers. Kansai gets the best reaction for imitating Osumi’s “run them into my ass” spot, but otherwise it’s like four extra minutes of extraneous, unnecessary stuff, ending with Candy missile kicking Emi and Kansai coming in to beat her up. Candy Manami Rolls out of Splash Mountain for two. A TRIPLE missile dropkick gets two, but she manages a lariat & Backdrop Driver on Bolshoi for two. Candy & Miyaguchi stop Splash Mountain so Kansai just tags Osumi, who then DOES THE SPLASH MOUNTAIN START-UP POSE, but can’t lift Bolshoi’s dead body, everyone runs in again, and then Osumi whips her off the ropes and eats a swinging double-fist (what is this, Star Trek?) and THAT gets the pin at (19:05). Good lord what a finish, lol.
Okay, this had some good comedy and psychology in it, though still has the “going too long” JWP problem. Pretty standard dynamic in these sorts of matches- Kansai has an easy time of it, directing traffic and getting her wimpy rookies to interfere and attack on her behalf, while the rookies get killed by Candy/Bolshoi, who have to help out Miyaguchi. It leads to some fun spots and character stuff which is FAR BETTER than the usual JWP “Sitting on Butts” time-wasting. It’s hilarious how feather-light the rookies’ offense is, though- probably safer than Kansai bludgeoning the shit out of them but I think Giant Baba hits with more force. But my god, it’s fun and I want to give it a high rating and then FOR GOD’S SAKE it was time to hit the go-home and attempt finishes and now we’re back to Osumi & Miyaguchi trading shit as they add an extra five unnecessary minutes to the bout. Kansai & Candy were obviously taking it easy, too- probably too banged-up to give their really hard stuff.
Rating: ** (it was aiming for *** or so and then we added ANOTHER bunch of rookie stuff and then the finish is some random thing)
DEVIL MASAMI (JWP) & JAGUAR YOKOTA (JD’) vs. DYNAMITE KANSAI & CANDY OKUTSU (JWP):
* Dang, WHAT?? It’s the two biggest pre-Chigusa stars of 1980s joshi, each now in a different company (Devil as the great destroyer in JWP; Jaguar as the top trainer & high-end workrate star of JD’), and they’re taking on Kansai, the dethroned Ace, and Candy, a midcard star. Sadly there’s a Devil/Chigusa/Meiko/Miyaguchi vs. Ozaki/Reiko/Sugar/Chikayo match that Mike Lorefice rates ****1/4 that I can’t find on YouTube. Jaguar’s in black leather (with a tummy cut-out), Devil’s in black with purple hip-boots, Kansai’s in neon yellow and ORANGE (wtf?) & Candy’s in black with little gold epaulettes.
Funny bit as Devil & Jaguar fight over who goes first, Devil getting the fans to chant for Jag- Kansai bows out to make Candy fight her, refusing a call-out for later. Jag/Candy go lightning-fast, Jaguar doing her front-flip dodge, sweeping Candy’s leg, bridging-out after a run-up crossbody and hitting a 2nd-rope moonsault in 20 seconds. Devil hits a powerbomb but misses a flying senton and Candy lands a running no-hands cross-body and tags out- Kansai throws lariats & Candy flies onto the veterans. Things go south and Kansai eats flying footstomps from both (Devil’s looks like it’d HURT), but she walks to the corner while in Jag’s octopus stretch and Candy throws a missile kick. She ends up with her arm worked (Devil Samoa Joe-ing away from a missile kick), and Kansai finally gets a piece of Jaguar, bludgeoning her with kicks. Candy keeps helping during a sharpshooter and they do the assisted-chest kick- some basics from Candy sets up Devil overthrow powerbombing & surfboarding her- Jaguar adds kicks & a Vertical-Drop Pedigree for two- Kansai saves.
Jaguar hits a package front piledriver (!), but stops when Kansai teases coming in, lets her tag, then actually does the “Look behind you!” thing and the vets beat up Kansai! Candy helps out with a German but the monsters lariat each other and Jag missile kicks in to assist as well, and a BIG lariat gets two for Devil. Jag accidentally missiles Devil, but catches Candy with her leg-trap backdrop hold for two. Devil & Candy reverse on each other (Candy not looking very sharp). Kansai teases Splash Mountain (razor’s edge ligerbomb) after kicking a flying Jaguar but gets German’d out of her set-up pose for two. Candy helps Kansai’s comeback and a backdrop driver hits, but Splash Mountain gets two when Devil saves. Candy flies off onto Jaguar’s feet, but a bad wheelbarrow German & Rolling Germans get two. Both miss flying moves but Devil sets up a flipover backdrop superplex that looked to the crowd like a head-drop (actually a VERY quick flip from Candy on the landing)- Kansai saves, then lariats Devil and ducks a counter lariat so JAGUAR takes it, and Devil eats a mother of a knockout kick to set up Candy… but she just runs into a big Ligerbomb & Kansai has to save again. Kansai sweep-kicks her out of the second of a Triple Powerbomb, but another Ligerbomb… gets two! Jaguar finally deals with the Ace and the hugest Tiger Driver ever (like, nearly a vertical bump) gets the three at (22:20).
Jaguar was SO GOOD during this- I hate seeing her fight newbies when she hangs with the veterans like this. Check her realize Candy’s too far away for a whip so she sweep-kicks her THEN whips her, then notices Candy slipping so rushes under her so the flying move can still hit. When locked in a BS sleeper, she does a dramatic flourish, ass-hopping to the ropes. Candy’s boston crab also leads to Jag resisting it for a while, hooking the legs, and when she holds a headscissors, she repeatedly pulls and pushes to lock it in- it’s a mere resthold but she turns it into a THING. After a really good start, they “settled” a bit, filling some time- there’d be the occasional peak as Jaguar throws out her set-up finishers in the middle, but then they’d do cute spots or slow it down. Devil & Candy weren’t looking very good, alas- both are hurt and Devil is cooked as a worker around this time. Even Kansai wasn’t as tight as she usually was. The ending was a lot of Powerbomb Spam (Devil matches are getting bad for that- any one of those hits like a finisher should) but strong psychology as Candy had to be saved… until she kicked out legit one time, but then the next move ends it.
Rating: ***1/2 (good, solid work the whole way through, with a smart finish, but it never REALLY hit that final gear, which is too bad- I feel these four easily could hit ****)
JWP TAG TEAM TITLES:
HIKARI FUKUOKA & DEVIL MASAMI vs. CUTIE SUZUKI & PLUM MARIKO:
* It’s a JWP Tag Title match! Devil/Hikari is a real main event squad at this point (the current and former Champion!), so Cutie (who has been falling down the card for 1-2 years) and Plum have got their work cut out for them. I see Plum has retained her fashion sense through her injuries- she’s now wearing red & white ruffles over top of a blue “lingerie, but tights” outfit, while Cutie’s in white. Devil’s in black/silver & Hikari’s in zebra stripes and blue. Devil gets the biggest reaction, Hikari second. Everyone but Cutie (who has her solid intense stare again) looks kind of depressed- not quite “X-Pac Jobbing Face” but close, lol.
Hikari acts arrogant and heelish to start, taunting Cutie while standing on her fingers, but Cutie dodges her twice and pays her back by winning a slapfest and hitting a release German. But she also misses a finger-stomp and gets DDT’d- Devil immediately charges in with a lariat AND a folding powerbomb for two. That’s late-game offense! Cutie escapes after an overthrow powerbomb but now Plum eats a powerbomb, then Hikari’s double-arm release powerbomb- they’re really milking the underdogs’ selling here. Plum gets her leg worked as the champs have sufficiently pounded them down, but Plum surprises Devil with a cross-armbreaker out of a resthold and Cutie octopus stretches her. The contenders work over Hikari with holds of their own and DDTs, but Hikari cartwheel dodges Plum and hits the Kick of Fear. Plum reverses to a missile kick on Devil and dodges her lariat, but Hikari missiles her in the back of the neck when she tries a German- Devil hits Cutie but eats Plum’s rana and Cutie flies off into her for two. Hikari’s in but misses a moonsault and nails Devil doing her cartwheel elbow and the champs stop a Doomsday Device but Hikari eats another missile kick and Cutie’s Bridging German gets 2.7.
Hikari escapes the Dragon Suplex but takes some armwork- Plum flying stomps it and then Devil accidentally legdrops it! Plum works holds for a while but Devil keeps interfering and gets the tag, only to get shamed into trying a lariat and HERSELF being taken down in the Fujiwara armbar! Rolling legbar! Devil dodges a flying Cutie but accidentally lariats Hikari, and they hit four German Suplexes in a row on Devil until she lariats Cutie and Hikari cartwheel elbows Plum in a great bit of timing. Triple Powerbomb on Cuti-no, Plum trips Devil on the second one for two. They do a double-down, then Hikari flies onto Cutie’s feet and the Dragon Suplex gets two on her. Plum straightjacket Germans Devil to get her out of the way and they finally get that Doomsday Device Thesz Press for two. Plum tries her Super Frankensteiner, but Devil interferes and it’s a backdrop/superduper chokeslam for two! Devil with the Triple Powerbomb- Cutie saves! Devil deals with Cutie but that lets Plum recover enough to try her Super Rana again, but she slides right off to the apron & floor. oh, that looked accidental. Cutie dives in to check on her and Devil just stomps her off the apron, then hits a Superduperplex & Fisherman’s Buster, then a Ligerbomb for the pin as Cutie can’t escape Hikari (20:07)- the champs retain. Cutie does the post-match interview alone- a bad sign for poor Plum.
Really good little match- none of the usual “JWP Time-Wasting” as instead the champs went all-out with finisher-tier moves in the opening minutes and THEN settled into limbwork so it felt a bit more “earned” and that they’d shot their shot for a while and needed to wear them down once they got this opening. Then Plum/Cutie went for the comebacks and did some solid work making even Devil look vulnerable. Devil’s lost a step since 1993-95, even with the character stuff, but she was game. Watching Plum take three huge head-bumps in a row from the Triple Powerbomb is pretty greebly now, of course. Her falling off Devil’s shoulders on the Super Frankensteiner attempt probably wasn’t planned but they put it right into the match, though might have made them go home early, considering Devil hits three unanswered killshots in a row and that almost NEVER happens in joshi. I mean, Hikari barely even used any of her moves!
Rating: ***1/2 (very good but doesn’t quiiiiiiiiiiite hit that upper tier- the Champs were just a tad too dominant with unanswered killer moves)
So after this May 10th show, Plum appears in an 8-person tag in July with only one minute taped, and that’s it for her recorded matches. Per Wikipedia:
During her career, Mariko received many ring injuries which eventually resulted in a brain abscess. She had previously suffered several concussions, but continued to wrestle. On August 15, 1997 she teamed with Command Bolshoi against Mayumi Ozaki and Rieko Amano at the Hiroshima Sun Plaza, Hiroshima. At the matches conclusion, Ozaki used one of her regular moves, the Ligerbomb, to pin Mariko. The move was executed just as usual, but appeared to have triggered a pre-existing problem. Since other wrestlers on the card had sold their finishes that night, the fans in the arena didn’t immediately realize there was a problem. It seems that this spot may not have been the planned finish of the match.
In any case, Mariko was knocked out from the Ligerbomb and didn’t kick out. After the match, Ozaki and the other wrestlers saw Mariko, who still hadn’t budged, snoring, which was a sign that her brain was bleeding. Mariko died a few hours later on August 16, 1997. No postmortem was performed on her at the request of her father. Despite this, Mariko was said to have had head injuries and an abscess on her brain which may have contributed to the head trauma that killed her. An annual memorial show was held in her honor from 1997 to 1998. Both JWP and Mayumi Ozaki’s Oz Academy have held annual memorial shows since. Mariko was posthumously inducted into the All Japan Women’s Hall of Fame on November 29, 1998.
Plum is thus the first person to die of an in-ring injury in pro wrestling. It would be years before a more famous example would be provided to us, with legend Mitsuharu Misawa dying the same way- taking a routine bump and then never getting up again.