Joshi Spotlight: LLPW Live Battle ’97 (JWP Reunion Show)
By Jabroniville on 12th June 2023
LLPW LIVE BATTLE ’97:
* This Joshi Spotlight is a bit of an outlier- yes, this has an actual *JWP vs. LLPW* Main Event- something almost unheard of given the acrimonious split between the wrestlers in 1992, where the roster was cut in half between two different companies owing to political differences. And this is from earlier in 1997, too! And it’s headlined by a mother of a Trios match- mixing up the companies’ stars to put JWP’s Dynamite Kansai & Cutie Suzuki with LLPW’s Harley Saito on one side, and LLPW’s Shinobu Kandori & Rumi Kazama with JWP’s Mayumi Ozaki on the other! So yes, this is the first ever SHINOBU KANDORI vs. DYNAMITE KANSAI showcase of the post-1991 era!
The remainder of the show is taken up by Interpromotional matches as well, first with rookies, then with elders as Takako Inoue vs. Eagle Sawai and Lioness Asuka vs. Noriyo Tateno take up the remainder of the upper card!
YOUNG GENERATION FLYING BATTLE:
MIHO WATABE (LLPW) vs. SACHIE ABE (JD’):
* Rookie mayhem! Sachie’s in red and Miho’s in mint green. Both are super-short and I’ve never heard of them, but they actually both last a really long time, well into the 2000s- rare for rookies of this time period.
Sachie pounces with some leaping stuff, but they cartoonishly run into each other like a couple of doofuses (like, what was THAT?). Sachie with a sunset flip off the second rope, and Miho just runs into her for two, then hits a cross-body, but Sachie catches her with a pretty good Leg-Trap Backdrop Suplex Hold for two to a good reaction. They fight for flash-pins and counters, and run into each other again (okay so they’re doing it on purpose), and Miho lands a pair of missile dropkicks for two. Flying splash- foot on the ropes. Miho finally finishes her with a Flying Cannonball… hitting Sachie’s legs at (4:44 of 10:22 shown). Haha OUCH. Not the best way to finish that, but the rest of it was a rookie-fu master-class, as they were actually well above the “nothing but dropkicks” phase only a year or so in.
Rating: *1/2 (what we got was quite good for a rookie contest, with Miho already being trusted to fly around off the top rope)
KEIKO AONO (LLPW) vs. MOMOE NAKANISHI (AJW):
* AJW’s hottest rookie star takes on Ano from LLPW. Momoe’s in red/white/green with all sorts of colors and swashes on it, and Aono’s in yellow/black, and a lot thicker than her opponent. She has the Mid-Part of Jobberiness, while Momoe has the Bowl Cut of Doom. Both have IMMENSELY long careers, with Keiko only retiring in 2018 having worked for LLPW, JWP & Diana and Momoe eventually being the top star of AJW but pretty much gave up when it did.
Keiko quickly powers Momoe around, but Momoe nails a couple flying moves and even a run-up flying plancha! Keiko gets her knees up on another flying move, but takes a run-up moonsault press for two as Momoe is SHOWIN’ OFF. Keiko gets missile kicked around for two and takes MORE flying moves until finally stuffing Momoe with an ugly grab. They mess up the bridge on Momoe’s German as Keiko is looking a bit lost out there. Running bulldog & electric chair drop keep her alive, and a back elbow off the second rope gets good distance, but Momoe lands on her trying a run-up sunset flip… but finally muscles her over for the three at (5:19 of 10:06 shown). Oh man, that was the FINISH?
Rating: *1/2 (fine but Momoe was pretty much just going “look at all the flying I can do!” then they messed up a lot of stuff)
MIZUKI ENDO (LLPW) vs. EMI MOTOKAWA (IWA JAPAN):
* It’s Emi Sakura again, repping IWA against Endo, a fellow junior. Endo now has wild parachute pants, black with yellow linework and a badass top-knot. Okay, THIS is a good wrestler look. Emi’s just in a pink/black kinda-shorts ensemble.
They do some really good chain-wrestling to start, Endo finally busting Emi down a few times, but she charges into a repeating armbreaker- she moves right to a choke, but actually sells the arm, shaking it off to help the pain in a nice bit. Emi gets caught, but scores a DDT and finally brings Endo down with boots, then flies around but eats a couple of lariats for two. Endo just SPLATTERS her with a super powerslam reversal of a superplex- that was NOT a good lift and she just dropped. They each start reversing to stuff, getting a bit clumsy as Emi slips, but she manages a Super Rana for two. Each takes turns hitting the other with a backdrop driver in a fun bit, but then Endo just catches Emi with a cross-armbreaker to reverse a charge and that’s that at (6:16 of 9:42 shown)- submission for Endo!
Rating: **1/4 (a good, hard-fought match between younger wrestlers- a bit sloppy but the effort was there so it didn’t matter)
ZENJOISM vs. HEISEI GURENTAI HARDCORE WAR:
MICHIKO NAGASHIMA & SAYURI OKINO (LLPW) vs. MANAMI TOYOTA & MIHO WAKIZAWA (AJW):
* Time to see lower-ranked LLPW wrestlers demolished by the former Champion of AJW! Michiko’s in white tiger stripes & Okino’s in black/pink, while Toyota’s in black with white (a look I’ve never seen before!) & Wakizawa’s in a yellow/white Rookie Swimsuit. The heels are in Guren-Tai- Eagle Sawai’s stable.
The heels attack before the bell, and the ref just rings it- Manami quickly comes back with a long rolling cradle, but Michiko just runs in and nails her with a kendo stick to stop it. Wakizawa is of course immediately murdered, the heels enjoying getting to bootscrape the scrub, hitting a dual LCO Bitch Pose, but soon Manami’s back in to lay waste. Michiko gets the dropkick to the spine and Toyota orders the rookie to hit repeating flying splashes while Michiko is figure-four’d. Toyota demolishing and humiliating lower-ranked wrestlers is always great, and the fans seem into the heels getting their comeuppance. But Wakizawa does some rookie-fu with a headscissors and Okino runs in and cheats with a chain- I love heels using weapons on pure jobbers. They bean her with double-teams, and take turns booting her hung in the corner- Wakizawa gets another comeback, but telegraphs a splash and HOLY SHIT Nagashima gets her feet up and just rips her head off. Poor kid’s head cranes back at a horrific angle and she sells a DDT like death, then Michiko grabs the kendo stick and just lights her up, including a shot RIGHT to the face while Toyota rages.
Manami saves the pin from a flying cane shot, then saves from a double-team (with a great sliding dropkick break) and a super armdrag. And so the heels toss her to the floor and handcuff her to her own corner so they can abuse the rookie some more! Wakizawa gets pummeled with a chain and tossed around by it while Toyota loses it and pulls on the cuffs, and the rookie gets applause for kicking out after a Northern Lights suplex. A ring girl with bolt-cutters has come out but is divebombed by a Guren-Tai goon and the flailing, bleeding rookie is double-teamed repeatedly and this is SO unfair I want Toyota to run in and start burying the undercarders already. Backdrop Suplex Hold- two!
And FINALLY… FINALLY… Toyota gets free (after helping the ring girl fight off the heels) and bolts in to stop a pin off a Flying Senton! The heels smirk at her to prep a double-team chain-lariat, but Wakizawa DUCKS! Missile kick to both from Manami! Okino eats two more! But Okino gets a chair and targets Manami’s ass (that’s… unique), deliberately swatting it like four times- double missile kicks set up a Perfect Plex for two, but Toyota dumps them on the floor and holds them for Wakizawa to fly in for revenge, and then it’s the Running Springboard Plancha! But Wakizawa gets dragged out and Okino spits the GREEN MIST so Michiko can land a springboard dive through a table on her. Okino tries to capitalize but Manami’s like “SURPRISE BITCH!” with a water-spew to the face and a German gets two. Okino escapes the Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex, but Michiko flies off the top with the cane and beans her partner right on the head with it, and Manami sets up a Doomsday Device Dropkick for two. But that’s all the fight outta Okino- Michiko is held back and the Ocean Cyclone finishes properly at (16:37). And she flips off Michiko with the smuggest grin ever just to cap it off. She even goes straight for Michiko after and has to be dragged off, before remember to congratulate her half-dead rookie partner, lol.
Okay, watching heels demolish someone who is pretty well a baby is hilarious because it’s so damn mean- some of those shots are VIOLENTLY stiff, too. I mean the boot that snapped her head back might be an accident but god damn a cane shot straight to the cheekbone? And then they handcuff Manami to her corner to make this the most unfair fight ever, and the poor rookie eats so much abuse and double-teams, but gets great reactions for kicking out of what usually slaughters them (a backdrop hold? That’s like a Super Canadian Destroyer in 1997 Joshi!). Angry Mom Manami is always a delight, and her “I WANT TO DO HIGHSPOTS, YOU CUNTS!” outrage is tremendous from the apron, and of course she repays them a ton once she gets free. But the heels keep it up with reversals and counters, clumsy as they sometimes are (that springboard plancha is NOT good), even resorting to heel mist, but then they’re hoist by their own petard and not only get sprayed as well but their own weapon-shot backfires and Manami just wears them down for the win.
Rating: ***3/4 (screw it- I love this. The heels don’t have much advanced offense at all and no great mannerisms but the match was just SO unfair and Toyota raged at the heavens and taught them several lessons in return. Wrestling 101)
YASHA KURENAI vs. CAROL MIDORI:
* This one is just between LLPW originals, with both in red. Yasha’s in her usual long pants but with a matching shirt this time. They slap the hell out of each other before the bell before ending in a mutual handshake- *sniff* I always cry at scenes of good sportsmanship.
Yasha wins a lockup war with a slam, but misses a guillotine legdrop (in the first minute?) and takes a German. Carol adds two more but it’s weird because it’s early and the pace is so muted that nobody’s reacting. She hits a super rana and they reverse on the pin for a bit, then Carol moonsaults onto feet (in theory- that looked bad) and takes a flying stomp. Nothern Lights Superplex gets two for Yasha, but she twice charges into overhead uranages. Carol hits a moonsault for two, but charges into a chokeslam and a guillotine legdrop gets two. She brawls her way into one to the back of the head, then finishes with a shoulder-mounted neck-twist bending the arm at (5:22 of 9:51 shown). Well that was weird. Some of the most bored-looking application of technically-good moves I’ve ever seen. Like, the movsets were TIGHT, with Germans, uranages, flying moves, superplexes, etc., but they were just in this blank-faced “I do some, then you reverse and do some” thing that it came off dreadfully dull in spite of it. Yasha gets on the crowd mic to issue a challenge to JWP Champion Hikari Fukuoka for several months later.
Rating: *1/2 (fine work but boring, heatless and they barely seemed to care)
EAGLE SAWAI (LLPW) vs. TAKAKO INOUE (AJW):
* It’s Eagle vs. Takako! Both take up that kind of “Secondary to the Big Stars” role in their respective companies, though Eagle was often slotted in as the LLPW World Champion. Eagle’s giant red phoenix robe is a thing of beauty and her heel stable are the shitpieces of LLPW at this point- instead of this babyface persona she’s now this big, burly shitkicking mean girl which has a chance to be awesome. Eagle’s in black & white, and Takako’s in white (dressed almost exactly like Cutie Suzuki here). Nearly every Interpromotional Show seemed to have one token “Eagle Sawai beats an AJW upper-carder” moment to keep her looking stronger than she actually was, so… uh, spoiler alert.
Takako slaps away Eagle’s big, sarcastic handshake and rolls her up trying for a quick one, but pinballs off a body attack. Eagle hits lumbering blows, sits on her, and does a butterfly backbreaker for two, but gets caught with a DDT. A big counter-lariat has Takako staring up with dead eyes, getting two. Takako avoids a powerbomb, but Eagle smirks while stuffing a German, only to run into an armbar. Eagle catches her with the tilt-a-whirl slam (they nearly botched it, but slid to the side quickly enough to save it)- they seem to give up on Takako’s Super Chokeslam, but she manages a Backdrop Hold for two to some applause just for lifting Eagle in that. Takako hits the Destiny Hammer (flying knee) to zero heat because nobody thinks that’ll do it, but Eagle’s good enough to just use a rope-break to put it over, then a Guren-Tai goon kendo sticks Takako off the top. She manages a snap-Bridging German for two, but gets caught up top, only to haul Eagle over in an armbar and Takako has to throw around Guren-Tai again, then hits three more Hammers for two- Guren-Tai immediately pounces with weapons. Eagle bludgeons Takako with chain shots and hits a 2nd-rope dropkick for two, but they mess up a powerbomb reversal spot, and Eagle clobbers her and hits a Powerbomb for two. Chokeslam from the corner gets two and another Powerbomb finishes at (7:45 of 10:26 shown).
Eagle always feels like a worker who SHOULD be awesome but just isn’t- joshi seriously needs a burly powerhouse killer in any era, and she’d have been a great secondary Aja Kong with great moves… if she was actually great. But she seemed fine with being “just okay” and hitting the occasional big power move and using her size as a weapon, but doesn’t move like a dangerous monster (Aja) or even particularly seem to enjoy causing mayhem (like Dump Matsumoto, of whom her style here is clearly emulating with all the Guren-Tai cheating). So it leads to a lot of **1/2-*** matches and not many that are higher. This match is fine but not very heated, though the cheating draws decent reactions- it’s just a foregone conclusion and nobody is swinging for the fences (very few flash-pins, even) as they just do house show stuff until some impressive Powerbombs end it.
Rating: **1/2 (totally fine but unimpressive, basic stuff)
BATTLE GENERATION ’97:
NORIYO TATENO (LLPW) vs. LIONESS ASUKA (Free Agent/JD’):
* HELL YES- it’s CRUSH GALS vs. JUMPING BOMB ANGELS!! All 1986 up in this bitch as Asuka, the top-ranking wrestler in JD’ (technically a free agent) takes on her old 1980s rival Tateno. I can’t imagine anyone thinks Asuka is jobbing here, but it’s got some impact because of their past connection. Asuka’s in white/black, and Tateno’s in purple/black. Does Tateno never change her gear?
They do some dramatic lockups to start, then play a reversal game, though it’s a bit clunky as Tateno takes a bit to get into position and Asuka is clearly stalling until she can- Asuka gets a lariat for two, gets rolled up out of a powerbomb attempt, then takes a German. Tateno grunts MIGHTILY in a powerbomb (man, that sounded like she was going through a religious conversion there) but a goon runs in to break up the pin. Asuka gets her knees up on a flying knee and dumps Tateno to get a dive, but misses and Tateno gets one! Tateno takes more gangbeats outside, but I see Mizuki Endo out there helping her as LLPW gets fighty… but Asuka powerbombs Tateno through a table! Must be an American import cuz it broke. Ligerbomb in the ring- two! Asuka gets annoyed and the distraction nets Tateno a small package, but a goon runs in- Asuka brains Tateno with a chair and powerbombs her on a whole damn ROW of chairs, but the ref gets a pop for being like “Fuck you- I ain’t counting that”. Asuka’s just “fine then” and a regular Ligerbomb finishes Tateno at (3:46 of 8:59 shown).
A very smartly-wrestled match by Asuka, who is clearly feeding Tateno’s counters the entire time, deliberately missing things and giving up her back for stuff. And pretty well just wrestles a dummy the entire match just that way, hitting her very precise, deadly-looking offense. Asuka is a very clever worker at this point, because she’s sneakily the best worker in joshi I think, but carefully sets up everything so opponents can be plugged in to her matches and show off enough. Like, Tateno at this point could have been ANYBODY and Asuka’s making her look good by failing to take the pin from Ligerbombs and other big moves, hitting tons of deadly-looking stuff (some set up by cheating so it’s not just a one-sided mismatch) and eating these counters. Asuka having low-key the best offense in joshi at this point is helping, as she has a move for every occasion even though none of it’s unique or overly flashy.
Rating: **1/2 (we only get a bit of it but I’m impressed by Lioness Asuka)
JWP vs. LLPW:
DYNAMITE KANSAI, CUTIE SUZUKI & HARLEY SAITO vs. SHINOBU KANDORI, RUMI KAZAMA & MAYUMI OZAKI:
(May 12th 1997)
* Yes, this is an actual *JWP vs. LLPW match*- something almost unheard of given the acrimonious split in 1992. The teams are made up of a mish-mash of wrestlers from both, with JWP’s Kansai (the former Ace) and Cutie teaming up with Harley Saito (now blonde-haired, and once again in some of the ugliest gear ever), and their opponents being Kandori (LLPW’s kinda/former Ace) & Rumi Kazama, with JWP’s demon heel Ozaki. Kansai’s in black/green/yellow, Cutie’s in white, Harley’s in blue/green, Kandori’s in orange/purple (always with the style, this one), Rumi’s in white tiger-print & Ozaki’s in red/black. This is mainly awesome to me because KANSAI/KANDORI is the ultra-rare Mega-Ace Battle we never got to see, because LLPW & JWP didn’t get along. And of course they get right in each other’s faces before the bell to get the fans into it. Cutie has to push Kansai back… and then SHE charges out to start blasting Kandori in the face!
Kandori no-sells Cutie’s shots and demands another, but is lured into slugging at her, getting caught in the Dragon Suplex for two. Kandori starts no-selling, but tries a choke-sleeper and Harley wheel-kicks her and assists Cutie’s armbar, but Kandori straight-up does the Backlund power-out and drops her. Rumi knocks Cutie around but eats a knee, so Kansai kicks her ass. Rumi soon reverses on Harley and Ozaki cannonballs in for two, but Harley soon reverses on her for a stalemate and WE HAVE KANDORI vs. KANSAI! They do a power-lockup, Kansai drilling her off the break and then beating a running clothesline with her own- Kandori rubs her jaw and is like “COME ON!” and they blast each other to dual staggers. They each counter sleepers & backdrops until Kandori snaps the former on, and Harley has to make the save. That’s all we get, as we trade off with the others. Kansai ignores Rumi’s kicks and tags Cutie, who holds Ozaki for Kansai’s kick, then Harley’s. Cutie revels in heeling it up like Oz usually does, and brings in Kansai for some boots and a backdrop driver for two- Harley comes in for a kick/facecrusher combo and DDT, but Oz hairwhips Cutie and escapes.
Kandori headbutts Cutie to death in a brutish display, but demands Kansai- she eats a lariat but counters another to an armbar, but Harley flies in with an elbowdrop and Cutie missile kicks her! Kansai with the backdrop for two as Cutie accidentally planchas Harley, and this frees Oz/Rumi to stop Splash Mountain with a double-clothesline. But they try another, and Kansai just clobbers them down- Oz has to shitheel her to set up Kandori’s DDT & Rumi’s German. Rumi gets DEFIANT after a lariat, but eats another for two. Cutie gets a NICE arm-trap Bridging German for two, but Rumi gets her own and Kandori hits the Swinging Sleeper for two. Everyone else fights to the floor and Kandori senses the endgame- a big running lariat gets two. Kandori checks everyone’s positions before her powerbomb, getting reversed with a rana for two so her goons come in and they hit a DOUBLE-ASSISTED SUPERBOMB for two- Harley interferes. Oz with her backfist gets two, as does the Ligerbomb and Cutie is barely kicking out and left to die there by her partners. Kansai finally grabs Ozaki on the top rope- she tries a turning super rana but Cutie just drops her with a Superbomb for two. A confident Harley (barely in the match so far, so you know she’s gonna be big in the last bits) throws a wheel kick, side kick and Tiger suplex for two. She misses another wheel kick and takes the Tequila Sunrise (tiger/dragon suplex) for two- Kansai saves.
Harley catches Rumi with a Tiger suplex & Fisherman’s Buster, but Ozaki recovers and saves. Tombstone/Flying Stomp! And KANSAI with a Flying Stomp! Kansai/Cutie set up a double-team that was probably supposed to end with a Rumi rollup but they fumble it and Kansai just tries for a pin. Harley & Kansai both hit backdrop drivers and interference is run so Kansai gets a free chance at Splash Mountain (sit-out razor’s edge)… but Kandori finally breaks free and stops the count, choking Kansai out! Kandori gets the hot tag and is ready to pounce, but Kansai lariats her! Kansai, still selling her throat, kicks the shit out of Kandori, but gears up a third one and Kandori catches it and palm-thrusts her down. This sets up Rumi’s flying wheel kick & Ozaki’s backfist, but Harley stops a powerbomb and Cutie runs in with a German for two. She, Harley & Kansai all bludgeon Kandori with strikes, and everyone just brawls to the floor as they’re losing the lead a bit here, but they bring it back with a Cutie Flying Knee for two, then a Flying Stomp off Kansai’s SHOULDERS, getting two (Oz breaks it up)! But everyone gets shoved to one corner, and that’s the ballgame- Cutie over-relies on the Flying Knee, and Kandori catches it in mid-air to hit an Anklelock for the submission at (19:47), Cutie’s teammates being stuck just a hand’s length away.
This is one of those “Everyone gets their shit in” matches, with nobody having to sell for too long and the tags being so rapid there was never much chance to develop a “flow” until the final 1/4 of the match. Rumi was forgettable as usual, but CUTIE of all people put in this great performance, doing a lot of sudden reversals (many of which were believable) and had way better move application than she’s shown for ages. The Kandori/Kansai bits were pretty good, but lacked the true grandeur you might expect- wear & tear probably factored in, as well as a desire to “save it” for a solo match or something. They still did some good bits, though- I liked Kansai blasting her with the kicks- you don’t often see Kandori so shaken. The match kind of reached a peak and then slowed down again, but they brought it back, and dig some of those moves- TWO Superbombs, plus Kansai sitting on the top rope so Cutie to Flying Stomp off her. That’s how you know this is a big main event.
Rating: ***3/4 (a really good match- one of the better trios bouts of the year, made perhaps more impressive by the fact that it was pretty slow and basic for half of it)