Joshi Spotlight: Hikari Fukuoka’s JWP Title Defenses
By Jabroniville on 19th June 2023
So Hikari Fukuoka defeated Dynamite Kansai to become the Ace of JWP in 1997. More vulnerable and smaller than Kansai, she wrestled a far different style that had a lot of high-flying, death-defying moves in it (a Moonsault STOMP?), and had to make do with lesser competition than Kansai often had. Late 1997 sees a pair of challengers. One match is against Command Bolshoi where the mission is to make it look like the clown has a chance, and the other with an LLPW invader, Yasha Kurenai! In maybe the latter’s best solo match!
JWP OPENWEIGHT TITLE:
HIKARI FUKUOKA vs. COMMAND BOLSHOI:
(Sept. 20th 1997)
* It’s another JWP Title defense, this one Hikari defending against Command Bolshoi of all people- Bolshoi is way subordinate in the hierarchy of JWP even by 1997, so it’s kind of an interesting choice. Given how Hikari is more of an underdog herself, it’s probably a good idea for a lot of lower-ranked wrestlers to take a shot at her when the prior champ Dynamite Kansai would have obviously been too strong. Bolshoi’s in a weird mishmash outfit that’s military fatigue-colored, while Hikari’s in the leopard-print with blue.
Hungry young Bolshoi attacks Hikari as she enters the ring, hitting a quebrada, but then waiting her out in the ring for proper introductions while Hikari just stares her down. Like a coiled spring, Hikari jacks her up at the bell, hitting her cartwheel elbow but Bolshoi slides away from a run-up move to the floor. Hikari with a Northern Lights suplex out of a lockup and a figure-four that sees them roll all the way to the floor- the ref has to break that up and a slapfight raises the emotional stakes, Hikari frequently stunning her smaller brat of an opponent. Hikari works the leg, but Bolshoi keeps dodging her shots and knocks her to the floor, only to get caught trying a baseball slide and eats a Moonsault to the floor. Hikari waits her out for a solid minute, teasing a Space Flying Tiger Drop of all things, but gets tripped and takes a Flying Rana for two. They each dodge strikes until Hikari lands a Kick of Fear, but Bolshoi rolls through a German and hits that palm thrust she was going for, getting two. Hikari beans Bolshoi out of a Tiger suplex and goes up, but a palm thrust/Superduper Rock Bottom gets two- Hikari bridges out. They’re doing solid moves, but they’re really clunkily moving through them, just not looking acrobatic or athletic at all.
Bolshoi, frustrated, actually TAKES OFF HER MASK for the first time ever, which… draws a couple scattered claps. Oh jesus- they were probably hoping for The Japanese “WOOAAAAHHHHHH!” Of Shock. That was NOT what Bolshoi was probably wanting to get. Hikari looks up and flat-backs off a big palm strike for two. Hikari is doing a really good job selling that like a TKO, as she’s dead-weight and has to be dragged up- she tries a reversal but eats a big German for two. She stuffs another and counters another Super Rock Bottom with the Rider Kick (somersault missile kick) for a double-down. Hikari teases a KO but springs to life with a kick, big missile kick & Moonsault for two. Tiger Driver… reversed to a rana for two. So Hikari just dropkicks her in the brain and hits that Tiger Driver, letting go to announce the Moonsault Stomp is forthcoming. But she takes an eternity to set it up, allowing Bolshoi to sneak behind her for the Tiger Suplex, getting the closest two-count thus far. They’re both down, but Bolshoi charges in for a running palm strike, running into Hikari’s knee, and another Tiger Driver gets two. The Moonsault Stomp (checking first to make sure Bolshoi’s down) gets three at (15:05). Replays show that Bolshoi rolls and takes the bump on her ARM, which has to hurt (but appeared deliberate).
Hikari fought this one into *** territory more or less by herself, threading her cool offense in and letting Bolshoi having moments of shine. The move application left something to be desired- the “kick them in the head after dropping down out of a back suplex” spot is old-hat in joshi, but it’s ungainly seeing Hikari drop to her ass, roll back, then awkwardly poke at Bolshoi’s head with her shin. The Superduper Rock Bottom took ages to set up as well. This wouldn’t be the worst thing, but in the early going? And with Bolshoi’s tiny size she really needs athleticism to be HER THING. But Hikari was there selling the stupid palm thrusts like they were killer (ugh we’re entering the “Palm Thrust” Era of puro, where Liger starts using one and a lot of others add these weak-looking strikes to their arsenals as faux-killer moves), getting caught trying moves, barely kicking out after big stuff, and more.
Rating: ***1/4 (on one of the better Bolshoi singles matches I’ve seen, mostly thanks to Hikari going above and beyond the call of duty to act like the shrimpy midcarder had a chance)
JWP OPENWEIGHT TITLE:
HIKARI FUKUOKA (JWP) vs. YASHA KURENAI (LLPW):
* Okay, this is a big one. Hikari is the new Ace of JWP, and Yasha is sent as LLPW’s representative in a “Dream Match”. The two companies split up in 1992 under VERY ugly circumstances, and never wrestled each other even during the “Interpromotional Era”, so this is a pretty big deal. However, it’s been suggested it was a bit of an “insult” by LLPW (then led by Rumi Kazama) to send only a midcarder to take on Hikari instead of one of its top stars (like, say, Kandori, Eagle, or even Harley Saito). The JWP/LLPW split was UGLY, and the wrestlers were long kept apart even as joshi was running wild with “Dream Matches”, so even that seems nuts. But really, if you want to send a wrestler to job to the other’s champion, people like Yasha are perfect.
Yasha’s in the usual, while Hikari has maybe the greatest pre-match ring gear ever- gigantic oversized leather chaps and a leather jacket with blue frill in the front and shitloads of tassels all over it. It’s HORRIFYING. Her wrestling gear is naturally bizarre as well, being like a mix of white tiger-striped bits with bright blue. It looks like two different outfits fighting.
They stare each other down to start, hesitantly getting into a grapple and then just kicking ass, elbowing and booting each other, but Hikari quickly controls with mat stuff. They resists “toss off the ropes” spots until Yasha just hauls off and punches Hikari square in the throat, but the champ hauls her down again with a rear choke, grappling the leg. They get into a kickfight, just charging in with boots to the face, and Yasha takes the lead and just clobbers her- two minutes in and its VERY clear the “Story” is that Yasha can outbrawl Hikari, who needs to actually use wrestling to beat her, but keeps getting goaded into scraps. She manages a Manami-style dropkick, but charges into the corner and Yasha REALLY slickly grabs her stick and bashes away in one fluid motion. She bashes the shit out of Hikari to boos and hits a legdrop off the middle rope for two. Hikari gets some flash-reversals for two-counts and hits a big missile kick to the face, but tries her Moonsault too early and lands on feet. Yasha goes for the stick again, but the ref takes it and thus misses Hikari hitting a Bridging German. The ref is DEAD on the outside as Hikari now dominates, using the cartwheel handspring elbow and Moonsault. Sadly, the crowd is SUPER dead here, not even pissed off or anything- you can just hear random people shouting.
Hikari, infuriated, hauls Yasha to the floor, where incredibly she does the cartwheel handspring right into a CHAIRSHOT, but Yasha tries to tombstone her on the chair and Hikari reverses it! Haha, this is such a great examples of how piledrivers ain’t shit in joshi because this MDK in the West is here just some random bullshit on the outside (actually AEW has now copied this, never mind). Like, Hikari attempts a cannonball off the apron and Yasha AGAIN puts a chair in her path, tosses it at her, then does her Hangman’s Choke in the corner. Yasha climbs, Hikari chasing her up like she forgot her big move is a Super Chokeslam and YUP- down she goes. That gets two, and Yasha hits Chokeslam Spam but misses a guillotine legdrop- Hikari pounces with a flash-pin for two then gets a Tiger Driver stuffed, then a top-rope move, only to retry and hit a Super Powerslam for two. Rana gets two, and Yasha reverses for two, then she gets her own “runs up, gets tossed off, then hits a Super move” as she nails a T-Bone Superplex to Hikari! Sit-out pumphandle slam gets two, and now she gets that Guillotine Legdrop- two! Another one, to the BACK of the head, gets the same and now the crowd’s biting on moves.
Yasha climbs, but Hikari manages a sunset flip powerbomb off the top to reverse for two, and stuffs Yasha’s submission finisher attempt and they both take a long breather- like, in-match this would be a breather, too. Yasha gets dumped and then booted off the top, and Hikari follows with a Moonsault to the floor! Once they’re back in the ring (about a minute later), they resist each other’s moves until Hikari hits a standing enzuigiri and her Tiger Driver for two. Hikari climbs- Rider Kick! Yasha kicks out, so Hikari tries the Moonsault Stomp- Yasha dodges and immediately cranks Hikari on the shin with her stick and latches on her submission finisher! The double-wristlock thing! Hikari makes the ropes and both are dead- like the accumulated damage just got to Yasha. They struggle to their feet and now mimic Akira/Kandori- SLAPS are all they can muster! Both stagger around with each paintbrushing, which should favor Yasha, but ultimately she misses a swing and Hikari blasts her with the enzuigiri again, and THAT puts her down long enough for the Moonsault Stomp to finish at (19:36). Hikari wins!
Excellent, EXCELLENT match that flies in the face of alot of Yasha-bashing, as she easily holds up her end and makes for a really fun match by being this disagreeable asswipe the entire time, talking shit, brawling and using the stick instead of fighting fair. Hikari, meanwhile, was telling this great story of being able to catch Yasha with COUNTER-HOLDS (rollups, powerslam, German, etc.) to reverse stuff, but if she got goaded into throwing hands, she’d get her ass kicked. A downside was a bit of people just popping up and doing stuff immediately after taking a big move- Hikari eats a bunch of chairshots, a Super Chokeslam and 2-3 regular ones and immediately dodges a guillotine and hits a jumping move and she’s right back on offense with huge shit. While “eats a finisher, but dodges the next and hits a big move” is common in joshi, they were both hitting a ton of stuff in a row and bouncing back- actually, this matches the Quebrada review, dismissing it as “You do your spots and I’ll do mine”, though that one was WAY low at **3/4 for this really fun match with all of Hikari’s best stuff on display).
Rating: ****1/4 (a fun match with good storytelling to start, then a fun “can you top this” element to the middle and back thirds)