Joshi Spotlight: GAEA Japan in May-June 1997
By Jabroniville on 3rd April 2023
GAEA JAPAN- PERFECT GAME:
(May 5th 1997)
* It’s another GAEA Japan show from the Champ Forum TV show, but only two matches from it ended up on their YouTube channel. We miss what’s apparently a pretty good Akira Hokuto vs. KAORU match, possibly ending their feud that was materializing earlier in the year. Mike Lorefice says it was Hokuto’s best match of the year, even though “KAORU is just a spot machine”.
Following that, it’s some stuff from early July, though the next review later this week will sport the full July 19th show- a pretty big one for GAEA.
CHIGUSA NAGAYO vs. KAORU:
* The two top originals in GAEA fight once again! Actually they were hesitant to run this for a while at first because they were the only two actual stars there, but now that Hokuto is here it’s probably fine. Chigusa appears to have more professionally-made gear than her kinda messy usual- more streamlined tonight with the black & red and the gold stars. KAORU’s in white.
Chigusa swipes at KAORU with kicks before the bell, but clumsily gets dragged into a cross-armbreaker and KAORU hits her springboard missile kick & high Thesz press- Chigusa chokeslams the hell out of her when she tries a slingshot move, though, and does her own cross-armbreaker. I find it funny how this move is sometimes a mega-devastating “gotta scramble to the ropes!” move and sometimes just kinda sucks to be in, like here. KAORU catches her in a sleeper and won’t let go, hanging on repeatedly, but Chigusa finally breaks- KAORU reverses a backdrop to two of her own and THREE moonsaults, then hooks on a keylock/headscissors instead of going to the pin as they’re clearly trying something here. KAORU ducks a wheel kick but misses her own springboard moonsault and they trade pin attempts until Chigusa crossfaces her, then hits a powerbomb into a leglock. She hits the walking Razor’s Edge but KAORU just slaps on a triangle choke via the old “No-Sell into a Submission” trick, then hits two brainbusters and works the leg- Chigusa can barely make the ropes and is struggling when KAORU hits her Michinoku Driver, but Chigusa surprises her attempting a leghold and twists the ankle until KAORU taps at (8:46).
They talk on the mic after and KAORU bows to Chigusa, then cries as she’s awarded some Chigusa-themed kickpads- this is actually for a later match where KAORU takes on the “new hotness” of GAEA in Toshiyo Yamada in a “Shoot-Style” rules match. The conversation here is probably something like “Don’t forget ME- I was the first veteran to join GAEA!”.
Interesting little “they’re trying something” match, as Chigusa & KAORU suddenly just do holds, almost making it a pride as they’re skipping pin attempts and just slapping on more holds. Like “I GOTTA get the win this way!” once they’d started doing them. There were some pretty good reversals into holds but it was largely just “do a half-decent sell until you make the ropes”. But man that GAEA “ignore a huge move and then immediately slap on a submission” thing pops the crowd but I hate it.
Rating: **1/2 (more “interesting” than “great”, as neither is a submission expert and they were mostly ignoring the elite head-smashing moves like they weren’t there, but it was fun seeing them ignore obvious pin attempts to stretch more limbs- just chasing that submission victory)
Excitement abounds as Toshiyo Yamada, about to be drummed out of AJW due to age/not advancing and hitting that tier where wrestlers get forgotten about and jobbed to the lower generations, instead moves to GAEA Japan, where she’ll be #3-4 in the pecking order and get to help out a better generation of rookies instead! She sticks with GAEA essentially until retirement 4 years later, so it’s a good move for her.
I joke that wrestlers just don’t want to be the one who ends up jobbing to Rie Tamada by the end of the year… but funnily enough they’d all have been spared that anyways, as she herself is gone from AJW by December!
AKIRA HOKUTO, TOSHIE UEMATSU & MAIKO MATSUMOTO vs. TOSHIYO YAMADA, MEIKO SATOMURA & SONOKO KATO:
* A trios match featuring the two biggest non-Chigusa stars in GAEA teaming up with rookies- Yamada has the two best Chigusa loyalists, while Akira gets the fastest (Toshie) and the best of the second generation so far (Maiko). Akira’s in lavender of all things, Toshie’s green, Maiko’s yellow/black, Yamada’s in black/blue, Meiko’s red & Kato’s blue.
Meiko gets double-teamed by rookies, then Toshie gets the same treatment, then Akira spikes Meiko RIGHT on her head with an All Japan-tier backdrop suplex! Holy SHIT- Akira taunts and tortures away while Meiko and the Champ Forum hosts joke on commentary, and Meiko’s taped-up arm gets worked. They even get a pop for a triple-submission, but the joshi style doesn’t really allow for “Ricky Morton”-style stuff and Meiko just casually escapes after like 6 minutes of this. Yamada with the Kick of Fear & snap suplex on Toshie, and leads a three-way beating on her, with some repeat spots from before (like “legdropping someone in a submission hold” stuff). We get a Meiko/Maiko showdown and Meiko hams it up, taking shots at everyone, but ends up in a double-cross-armbreaker and Akira finally demands Yamada so the vets can fight. They scrap over stuff and won’t go for each other’s moves until Yamada boots Hokuto into the ring and hits the Flying Enzuigiri- her spinkick misses but she reverses a triple-team by dragging them into Meiko’s flying crossbody on all three!
But Akira beats on Kato and has Matsumoto mimic her suplex, then stops a superplex and Yamada flies off and smashes Meiko by mistake. Yamada enzuigiris Matsumoto to set up Kato’s bulldogs for two, and Kato avoids the Northern Lights Bomb and Hokuto avoids Yamada’s Reverse Gory Bomb. Toshie gets her leg ripped up- she collapses on a whip so Hokuto can fly in and missile kick all three opponents, then hit a plancha to the floor. Matsumoto hits a gutwrench powerslam on Meiko in the ring to set up Toshie, and a Northern Lights suplex gets two- Kato saves and sets up Meiko’s Death Valley Driver, but Hokuto saves. All three kick the crap out of Hokuto, then we get a slick ending as Toshie tries the bridging leg-roll clutch on Meiko, but Kato swings her up and off the ropes so Meiko can catch her for a second DVD and the pin at (18:13). Meiko sells it like the most triumphant, tears-inducing victory ever which is kinda funny- it’s just a random trios match! Even if Yamada is acting as the Proud Joshi Mom to her! But HOLY CRAP this is the first time I’ve heard “Rock Your Life Away!” used as her theme song! WOO A FIRST!
A very, VERY long “veterans direct the rookies’ attacks” match, with Yamada & Hokuto getting the kids to run in, shouting tactics from the apron, etc. Fine enough idea, but the extended match length was a bit much, especially as people didn’t really go all-out or put the “snap” into things. The match “story” was pretty basic, too- 5 minutes on Meiko, a few minutes on Toshie with repeat spots, then they all just kinda run around doing stuff for another 10 and then it’s the finish. I will say that Toshie’s selling of the leg was good.
Rating: **1/2 (mostly pretty good and fine but no real story beyond the vets leading the charge)
AKIRA HOKUTO & MAIKO MATSUMOTO vs. SAKURA HIROTA & HIROMI KATO:
(June 19th 1997)
* Another “Hokuto Demolishes Jobbers” match, with her teaming with GAEA 2nd Generation kid Maiko against Sakura & Kato, who both joined OZ Academy months ago. Hokuto’s in red, Maiko’s in yellow/black, Sakura’s in pink & Kato’s in black. This is in a really puny gymnasium with everything super lit up, so it’s “house show” city here.
The rookies double-team Maiko to start, sandwiching her between them and doing jobber-fu, but eventually Akira’s in with her spinkick and sharpshooter, just casually taking Kato apart. Sakura runs in and boots and bites at her while she’s torturing Kato, but Hokuto defiantly taunts her and no-sells it. Maiko in with more generic stuff after Hokuto takes out both girls, and after ages of basic stretching, Sakura tags in and does much better with running stuff. Hokuto back in with a huge backdrop suplex, then steps off her at “2” to whip her around into guardrails and such. Maiko with the atomic drop, but Sakura lands on her for two off the second thanks to Kato’s trip. Akira directs traffic but missile kicks her own partner, then Kato actually snags her with her Torture Rack, then Sakura sails out with the FLYING ASS~~, knocking Hokuto over! Akira clotheslines them both over but actually has to tag out, and they wisely work over Sakura’s ass to take away her greatest weapon, and Maiko pins her with the Gutwrench Suplex at (11:17 shown).
Rating: *1/2 (very basic, “Lazy House Show Match” with some fun bits of Hokuto crushing weaklings and Sakura USING THE ASS)
CHIGUSA NAGAYO vs. RINA ISHII:
(July 7th 1997)
* The boss takes on the orange-clad rookie with the “sporty top & shorts” look with frilly trim. Ishii only lasts a couple years and is just starting her second year. Chigusa’s gear is more silver than normal, with rose gold instead of red.
Standard “rookie is defiant but is crushed” stuff, with Chigusa delighted when Rina “Fuck YOU!” bridges after a mother of a clothesline. So of course she slaps on a full Liontamer, then slowly works at taking Rina apart and bludgeoning her to death. Rina uses JOBBER TENACITY~~ to fight back, Chigusa mostly tolerating it then fighting back at will. Chigusa demands the kid amateur wrestle her, but Rina just dropkicks her in the face instead, so the boss smokes her and does more stretching. Ishii actually bridges up after a big wheel kick and grounds her by rolling up Chigusa’s body and just hauling her down, then throws more stuff until Chigusa no-sells kick-spam and a missile dropkick. Backdrop driver- bridge-out! Rina keeps dodging out of finishing moves, but tries another roll up Chigusa’s body and the boss just slams her with the Dominator for the pin at (9:28).
Rating: * (bog-standard “Chigusa tests/stretches the rookie” match, meant to give them some match time while also letting the trainer test the student. Good character stuff and effort from the 2nd-year)
So that’s more of what GAEA’s been up to for 1997- Yamada joins the company to shore up the upper-midcard and more rookies (Maiko & Rina, the second generation) are entering the “next level” where they get TV focus and the occasional “good showings” against the first generation.
As this was a shorter one, I’ll have another Spotlight on Friday- this one focusing on Utako Hozumi of LLPW!