AJW (Aug. 8th 1997):
And now it’s time for a throwback- the very first column I posted to this site was a review of this match. I e-mailed this review to Scott, figuring if he didn’t want a Joshi column I’d just ship it to 411 or whatever, and he approved it (I’m 99% sure he just did it without checking, lol). And so now I’ve finally reached the point in my timeline where this match sits, so I can re-post it.
So come and read the recap of maybe the wildest and greatest of all the garbage brawls in history! This time with less ALL CAPS BECAUSE OF HUGE MOVES OMG YOU GUYS!
This also features a Semi-Final for the Japan Grand Prix 1997 (mostly unavailable on YouTube- a big channels I pull from got deleted so I don’t have much else)- Manami Toyota vs. Kaoru Ito in another great performance!
JAPAN GRAND PRIX (Semi-Finals):
MANAMI TOYOTA vs. KAORU ITO:
* It’s a big one! Ito has been getting the “Jesus Push” all year, proving nigh-unpinnable all of a sudden as AJW does the classic “OH SHIT- We forgot to push anyone to the next level!” thing (or this is just how they naturally do business every January) and then Ito is randomly impossible to hurt and beating Main Eventers. She drew with Aja, and then pinned Manami (who had only lost the 3WA Title a month or so before)! Then she went to a 60-minute broadway with Kyoko Inoue, who vacated the belt and beat Ito for it in a title match. So now this one has real drama and an “either can win” atmosphere. Manami’s in black with white fringe and Ito’s in the white with black & orange fire.
Ito tries a snap-German before the bell, but Manami reverses only to be taken down into an armbar. Running No-Hands Springboard Cross-Body from Manami! But Ito charges into her and does her beloved half-crabs and stomps the back. Manami gets a Rolling Cradle out of a charge and nets a missile kick for two, but Ito snaps on an armbar and we’re at a stalemate- Manami taunts her by pointing out their height difference on a test of strength. Crowd gets a kick out of that, but Ito USES THE ASS for two and hits her corner senton and another armbar. Ito blows a minute stretching the back again, but a Manami Roll gets two on her and Manami hits a dropkick into an armbar that Ito gets out of easily and uses her own. I kinda love how Manami’s submission wrestling is so bad, haha- like she WANTS to hurt the other person but just kinda grabs the arm and can’t scissor it properly so she just starts kicking Ito’s head and shoulder to stretch the arm out. Manami literally claws out of a figure-four and does her own, then ties Ito in the ropes for the spinal dropkick and dodges the corner ass attack counter.
Ito avoids a German and clobbers Manami again, hitting the stomps & senton for two, and misses the Flying Stomp but hits her release uranage, but tries to fly again and Manami boots her to the floor and hits the Suicide Missile Dropkick! But she misses the Moonsault and takes the Flying Stomp for two, but elbows free from another uranage, gets pushed into the corner, but backdrops Ito over and hits a Running No-Hands Springboard Plancha into the table! Ito AND a rookie die from this, and Manami sets her up on the table for the deathblow… but lands chest-first on knees! Ito’s like “Ya THINK so, huh?!” and does the Flying Stomp right to the floor on an agonized Manami’s ribs! Manami looks to be literally crying in pain as she clutches her chest, and when she tries a Manami Roll reversal, Ito just powerbombs her and folds her over… two! Crowd bought that. Ito puts her up top, but gets shoved off and missile kicked in the back of the head for two.
Manami tries the Japanese Ocean Cyclone, but Ito gets out and Manami has to reverse a whip to hit the J. Ocean (double-wristlock) Suplex for two. Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex- two! Their wrists de-clutched on the landing. Moonsault (with a knee RIGHT into Ito’s face- that had to be fun), but another eats feet and Ito Flying Stomps her right on the tailbone as a receipt! A regular one… earns the “Fuck YOU!” bridge, and when she tries another, Manami dodges, then catches her trying another corner senton and goes for the Ocean Cyclone again- Ito fights free and they land in a standard electric chair, only for Ito to just grab an armbar and Manami scrambles for the ropes! Super Fisherman’s Buster gets two, and Ito snaps right into her MDK, but Manami reverses to an All Japan-esque German. Ito chases her up top but eats the Sunset Flip Powerbomb for 2.9! Manami invents a bizarre pumphandle/straightjacket German suplex, making Ito’s arms into a “4” and bridges- for the three!! Manami wins at (16:58)! Manami does a short victory lap before collapsing in the corner, weeping and hugging the turnbuckle pad as the crowd chants “To-Yo-Ta!”. She like, laughs at the ref when he acknowledges her victory, does this “omg, YAYYYYYYYYYY!” reaction to the crowd, then immediately re-collapses holding her head- haha that’s adorbz.
Really good match, with Ito dominating with power and ring-smarts, and Toyota only managing ANYTHING due to her reversals (to the point where Manami looked weak because Ito was so dominant). You had the usual “Ito Sitting on Butts” big match stuff, but it was only in the first half when you expect weardown holds, and Manami was clearly FEELING IT in this one because she’d largely toned down her Springboards in 1997 before this, using her shins or hands to guide the leap- but here she was flying like a banshee. Great selling in this one, too- she looked to be in horrible pain during even the stretching, and the sell-job of the plancha onto Ito’s knees had her do this great “Oh GOD!” look caught by the camera as her ribs are crushed, putting over Ito’s crazy Flying Stomp to the floor. Of course as soon as she reverses another move and she never touches the ribs again, lol. But at least she kept looking more and more bedraggled as things go on- few people sell the toll a match takes like Manami (though that might be a shoot, because she always looks so discombobulated by the end!). The Finisher Trading was getting great- Manami’s execution started getting sloppier as the match goes on (the second moonsault was gonna be a faceplant regardless), but they just kept GOING, and did all sorts of cool and unique reversals, like the corner senton to the Corner JOCS into an armbar.
Rating: ****1/4 (one of the best singles matches in joshi all year- played up Ito’s overwhelming power and precision while Toyota just kept reversing on her until something stuck)
The 1997 Japan Grand Prix results as follows:
KAORU ITO —————— (18 points)
MANAMI TOYOTA ———- (17)
KUMIKO MAEKAWA ——- (16)
ETSUKO MITA ————— (15)
MIMA SHIMODA ———— (15)
TOMOKO WATANABE —— (15)
RIE TAMADA —————– (10-ish)
SAYA ENDO ——————- (7)
MISAE GENKI —————- (5-ish)
TANNY MOUSE ————– (4-ish)
YOSHIKO TAMURA ——— (4-ish)
MARIKO YOSHIDA ———- (2)
* So some shockers here. LCO, typically the “lower third” wrestlers who job up and down the card and even drop some surprise falls to lesser wrestlers, are now in the top standing! Kaoru Ito wins to cement her as “The Next One”, but only barely. Manami runs second, but KUMIKO of all people suddenly shoots up to hit #3, which is a big shocker as she’s still in that barely-above-junior “gets her ass kicked” phase.
And to show you just how bad things are for AJW, they have JOBBERS in the running this time! Endo, Genki, TANNY MOUSE of all people, and Yoshiko Tamura. All are undercard wrestlers just barely beginning to earn credibility. Any other tournament would have only one of these wrestlers, and they’d job to everyone and get maybe one miracle win. And records are so bad around this time that the actual final standing of the later wrestlers is unknown. Mariko Yoshida, whose push this year has been akin to “the next White Belt holder”, was injured and thus hit rock bottom that way.
AJA KONG & KYOKO INOUE vs. LAS CACHORRAS ORIENTALES (Mima Shimoda & Etsuko Mita):
* So the deal with this one is that LCO have been the hugest bitches in the entire universe (I mean, it’s literally in the name), and suddenly the fading tag star Shimoda (on two past Tag Championship squads with legends as her partners, while she was the weaker one who ate pins) and fading nobody Mita (who was faltering so badly in 1996 it looked like her career was doomed) suddenly renew their old team and turn heel… and suddenly Joshi has its new main event squad.
This was rather unprecedented- tags were often main eventing in joshi, but Mita & Shimoda turned this into a near-permanent act for years, and would even ship the “dominate everyone with insanity and chairshots, then drop a big match to the local talent” thing to a bunch of different promotions. And it ALWAYS WORKED.
So at this point LCO are the 3WA Tag Team Champions, and the two dominant Main Eventers of AJW have joined forces to teach them a lesson in humility. Oh, and nobody has been paid since March but they’re still gonna go all-out and swing for the fences because they’re insane.
LCO starts the match carrying chairs, aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand they’re already outside the ring, using chairs as projectile weapons. And Shimoda throws a table at Kyoko’s ass. Then a chair. She even goes over to beat Aja into a dazed stupor, launching about a dozen chairs into her head, and Shimoda & Kyoko hit the ring, squaring off with chairs. Amazingly, Shimoda is convinced to finally put her chair away to start properly, and then KYOKO charges in with hers! Kyoko’s rampage is quickly halted with a simple kick and Mita helicopters her around the ring by the hair and does a great one-handed choke while Aja hits the corner with a SERIOUSLY angry look on her face. LCO hits the Bitch Pose and Aja just strolls in and merks them both with headbutts (while still selling, because she’s awesome) and when she sells the impact, Shimoda swats her down with another kick just to be a pill.
LCO’s subordinate Saya Endo helps them cheat but Kyoko just wipes her out with a lariat to rapturous applause, and Kyoko & Shimoda just start biting each other. Shimoda has the BEST “Psychotic Heel Face”- full of absolute glee at the pain she’s inflicting (a wide-mouthed, grinning stare), but Kyoko’s one of the best Fired-Up Babyfaces ever. Shimoda eats the corner DDT and soon Aja comes in and is kicking Shimoda so hard she’s literally scooting across the ring on her ass. LCO’s selling is perfect heel selling- whiny screaming that won’t build sympathy, almost like they’re offended that people would dare do offense to them. And then they start cheating again, using a towel to strangle a bleeding Aja and then choke out Kyoko for trying to stop them. Aja finally bowls Mita over and pays her back with some exceptional brawling, and Mita takes a HUGE chairshot from Kyoko, collapsing into a wild stare. Kyoko sets up her Dancing Deathlock but Shimoda just rifles a chair at her from behind. Mita with a Blazing Chop, but she gets taking down and Aja runs in and they BOTH do Kyoko’s dance leading to stereo submissions on the heels! So great.
Mita quickly counters Kyoko and LCO are back on offense, Shimoda hitting falling clotheslines for two, but climbs up and Kyoko charges in for the Run-Up Super Belly-T0-Belly! But LCO reverses a double-team and put them on the floor for the Assisted Tope Con Hilo/Dive combo! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaand then it’s a wild brawl outside again. Aja bludgeons Mita with a can of soda, Kyoko gets whipped the length of the arena, and AJA KONG IS TRYING TO THROW ETSUKO MITA OFF THE BALCONY OF KORAKUEN HALL!! The crowd chants and cheers as Aja tries to commit justifiable homicide, then Mita reverses it, then somehow finds a rope and strangles Aja half to death with it, then ties her to the balcony to leave Kyoko alone. This is wild.
The Ring Girls finally put a stop to the attempted murder (trying to commit homicide adds 1/4* to a match instantly- it’s a rule), and LCO double-teams Kyoko and beats on her with a plastic tray… and then a pissed off Aja recovers, brings a fire extinguisher to ringside, and then SPRAYS THE ENTIRE RINGSIDE AREA, sending fans, officials and commentators scrambling all over the place. And then the goddamn smoke alarm goes off in the Hall. The best part is the crowd pops when it happens. Then, as the smoke clears, of course LCO are already tossing chairs- Kyoko gets cranked so freaking hard that the seat comes straight off the chair on impact, leaving the frame draped around her neck. Amazing. And Shimoda, proving more and more to be Best Girl, starts hammering on Kyoko and trying all of her pins in “Casual Glamor Model” poses, smirking the whole way. She missile kicks Kyoko onto an increasingly-huge pile of chairs, but Kyoko double-lariats LCO to death and she & Aja just press-slam both girls onto the pile, Aja murders both with chairs, and then PILEDRIVES SHIMODA THROUGH A TABLE. She somehow kicks out of that under her own power- thank god piledrivers are weak in joshi. Sitout Powerbomb- Mita saves! Aja tries another pin just in case, getting two.
Aja dunks a whole bottle of liquid on Shimoda, just to leave her looking like a drowned rat, then kicks the shit out of her. Kyoko pummels her with lariats, but Shimoda avoids a German and Mita comes in with some huge Blazing Chops that Kyoko takes some BIG back-bumps on, selling them like they came out of a shotgun. That gets two, then Kyoko pulls out the slingshot backsplash, then a Doomsday Device flying back elbow for two! Kyoko tries the Niagara Driver… and Shimoda PULLS OUT THE ASIAN MIST!!! Holy fuck, I didn’t see that coming at all! Kyoko avoids Mita’s electric chair drop and hits a lariat, but Shimoda stops her run-up elbow and Mita hits a SUPER Electric Chair Drop, for two! And Shimoda kicks the referee for not counting three! hahahahahaha!!! Kyoko avoids the DVD and nails Mita, but LCO stymie Aja with chairshots and evasion tactics, and the electric chair/flying splash gets two!
Mita flies of the top rope with a HUGE chairshot that Aja sells with the total “Falling Tree Sell”, going straight backwards for two. Aja resists a Tiger suplex but gets beaned with a chair again, but Shimoda eats the PINK one, and everyone starts trading big moves! Aja hits a 2nd-rope splash for two, but Endo stalls her back elbow so Shimoda tries the Death Lake Driver (tiger superplex) but Kyoko Germans her off the middle rope and Aja nails the Flying Back Elbow for two! Shimoda avoids a Backdrop Driver and hits a bridging German, but Kyoko smashes her knee with Aja’s oil can! Her skulls gets crushed by it when she goes for the Tiger again, and a HUGE scores a nearfall. Shimoda keeps kicking out, which is remarkable durability (she’s taking a TON of punishment), but then Aja gets sick of this shit and starts LOADING the ring with chairs. ohhhhhhhhhh shit. Brainbuster on the chairs! But Mita breaks it up with chairshots and after two tries, hits a DEATH VALLEY DRIVER ON CHAIR MOUNTAIN!! Jesus Christ!! Spot of the match right there!
Everyone’s dead, so Mita dumps Shimoda’s corpse onto Aja, but Kyoko breaks it up. Shimoda’s got answer when Kyoko hits Powerbombs Mita with huge force onto Chair Mountain, knocking her out of the fight. And then, in a brilliant ending, Kyoko grabs Shimoda for Aja… then has to desperately shake the giant awake, begging her to get up… then Aja slowly rises to her feet and gears up for the Uraken, completely removing Shimoda’s head from her shoulders. Aja, still selling like nuts, drops as soon as she hits the move, grabbing Shimoda as she does so that she ends up pinning her. Kyoko dogpiles a scrambling Mita, and LCO can only hold each other’s hands while Aja scores the fall for her team (27:26). KYOKO AND AJA WIN!!!
RATING: ***** (the best garbage brawl in history)
I was a bit hesitant on it at first, but all the crazy brawling, the attempted homicide, the fire extinguisher (and resulting smoke cloud), the escalating finishers, and finally the epic scene of a mountain of chairs in the ring while the girls alternate murdering each other with vicious moves onto it… it’s got to be the full monty. Shimoda was an absolute all-star in this match, acting like a giant crazy, preening psycho and selling every move like screaming death- the final Uraken was sold as if it legitimately knocked her right the fuck out. Kyoko sold everything with aplomb, and Aja reacted perfectly, being slammed with wicked chairshots and really putting over LCO- her dazed sells, showing pure anger but being unable to capitalize or truly finish them until the end really held the match together. An amazing war of a match filled with memorable moments.