Joshi Spotlight: GAEA Japan Critical Hit!
By Jabroniville on 17th July 2023
GAEA JAPAN- CRITICAL HIT!:
(Oct. 10th 1997)
* It’s time for more GAEA Japan! I splice two shows together- small spot shows from Oct. 10th and Oct. 13th 1997.
Chigusa Nagayo has just recently lost the AAAW World Title to Devil Masami in a pretty disappointing match (unfortunately, Chigusa was forced to work twice on the show after Akira Hokuto got hurt, necessitating worse work in two matches). But this one half-focuses on Sakura Hirota, the rookie who is paired with Chigusa repeatedly on these shows.
TOSHIYO YAMADA vs. MEIKO SATOMURA:
* Another match of the Chigusa Clones! Meiko is still in the “surprises veterans with her tenacity” zone, with Yamada being good enough to make anyone look decent. Both are in matching black shorts & sports tops, with Yamada in white kickpads and Meiko in red, making this a martial arts contest. You’re allowed two Downs and four Escapes judging by the rules that pop up later.
They trade stiff kicks to the lower body to start, then end up on the mat, looking much more “shoot” than the Yamada/KAORU stuff. Like they’re clearly working hard and Yamada keeps going for the arm, not trade “leg hugs” or whatever. Meiko uses her first break to get out of it, and they square off again, Yamada repeatedly pushing her away. She gets a front facelock and leglock, Meiko breaking again. After more sharp thigh-kicks, Yamada finally takes her head off with a big kick, getting an “8” count. Yamada pounces with a belly-to-belly, but Meiko nearly puts on a cross-armbreaker, necessitating a break- crowd got excited for that one. Yamada catches a kick, but gets turned around and sleeper’d! She struggles a bit (this is where you can easily tell it’s worked because Meiko just lets go as if the struggle was too much). Meiko tries another cross-armbreaker, but Yamada kind of locks her arm around one of Meiko’s crossed ankles and gets the tap-out at (8:48).
Not my style of match, but good cardio and it looked a lot more “real” than other stuff in that style- you could hear them going all-out and huffing & puffing through everything, so it came off legit. I liked Yamada’s little palm-shots pushing Meiko away- stuff like that helps put her over as a smart striker and puts Meiko on the defensive. Yamada dominated the whole thing as she should given their “tiers”, with Meiko getting some hope spots at the end like a good rookie, making you think she could surprise the veteran. But then in a clever move, Yamada counters Meiko’s one “go-to” submission spot by catching her exposed ankle (since the legs are exposed when trying that move).
Rating: ** (yeah, I dunno- Shoot Style! These are mostly just “they scrap for stuff” until someone tries for holds, and the cadence is all weird but the psychology was there)
SUGAR SATO vs. CHIKAYO NAGASHIMA:
* The tag partners fight each other in a singles match, joined in progress. Sugar’s in white & Chikayo’s in yellow/blue.
We start off with a double-down as each dropkick the other, Chikayo doing one before selling Sato’s. Sato tries an Oklahoma Stampede but gets stunnered, and Chikayo gets her dropkick off Sato’s knees for two. Flying Stomp! Sato kicks out with a weak side bridge, then dragon screws the leg to mess up Chikayo’s day. But the run-up flying back elbow misses, and Chikayo SPIKES her with a release German onto her head! But Sato catches her with another dragon screw and bridges for the pin- two-count! They’re both down for a solid minute, really putting over accumulated damage (though Chikayo’s selling is now just doing the “holding the leg and rolling from side to side while remember to grimace”), then Chikayo tries a rollup for two, then her Rana, but Sato rolls through and pins her at (4:28 of 13:23 shown). A crushed Chikayo looks on with disappointment, but the partners hug it out in the end.
This looked like a really hard-fought match, with both selling like nuts- too bad we only catch the tail end of it (though I was expecting an 18-minute marathon- I was surprised by the final time). Both did great with the selling and the “just one more shot!” aspects of the match, and the extended selling works a lot better as padding than restholds and the like. Good moment for the partners and both need to shine as singles on occasion, so it’s a great idea for a match.
Rating: **1/2 (hard fought and well-won by Sugar Sato- good selling throughout and the wear & tear came off well)
CHIGUSA NAGAYO & SAKURA HIROTA vs. MEIKO SATOMURA & SONOKO KATO:
* Another “The Boss fights her 1st trainees” match, this time with Sakura as the partner, so this can be somewhat even- if either can get Sakura alone, she’s toast. Chigusa’s in her weirdest get-up yet, with a black outfit with yellow stripes and lightning all over it. Meiko’s in red, Kato’s in blue & Sakura’s in a pink leotard with short sleeves now. Again we’re JIP.
We start with the 1st gens beating up Sakura- she tries to USE THE ASS, but Meiko catches her in mid-air- Kato calls out Chigusa, but Sakura is like “bitch forgot about me!” and kicks her in the back for it. Sakura gets defiant with her jobber-fu kicks, so Chigusa just runs in and brains Kato with one in a cute bit. They start on Sakura again, but she ducks a kick and Kato gets wiped out, and a slingshot backsplash (sorta) hits. Chigusa mimics Kato’s rapid-fire knees to the head but Meiko slingshots onto her and they hit a fireman’s/splash combo. She tries to ignore their kicks but a double enzuigiri puts her down and they keep on her with double-teams until she sets up Sakura USING THE ASS repeatedly. Meiko catches another slingshot with her cross-armbreaker and Chigusa saves, then everyone kinda fights for a bit and Chigusa saves after Meiko hits a Death Valley Driver (though the camera gets so close you can tell Chigusa didn’t actually touch either of them). Sakura does the “Fuck YOU!” bridge after another fireman’s/splash for our “hey, she’s a strong fighter!” spot of the match, and Chigusa saves after a Dragon Suplex from Kato. But Meiko finally traps the boss in a cross-armbreaker so she can’t save when Kato drapes Sakura over her back, spins around, and drops down in sort of a “behind the back” tombstone (like Bull’s Poseidon), getting the pin at (6:10 of 15:56 shown).
Pretty by-the-numbers match at this point, with the kids just barely being able to bring down Chigusa with double-teams, and her selling “the last kick” pretty well and saving the rookie. Sakura just isn’t impressive yet, though- she’s getting all the attention in these TV tapings and assorted things (but that might be the GAEA YouTube channel just ignoring the stuff from girls who retire early), but she’s not really good at anything yet. And wasn’t she in OZ Academy? Why is she just teaming with the boss all the time?
Rating: ** (filler match and we only get the last third, but fine)
(Oct. 13th 1997)
* Three days later, it’s a house show in a small gym I definitely recognize. I wonder how much that huge-ass GAEA Japan medallion they hang up weighs.
MEIKO SATOMURA vs. SONOKO KATO:
* The two chief babyfaces of GAEA’s first generation face each other yet again- these are always dramatic struggles. They felt on the same level in Year 1-2 of their careers, Kato having more precision but Meiko more effort, but injuries slowed Kato alot and she’s become kinda forgotten to me.
They do a great dramatic lockup to start, Meiko shoving Kato down from the break to set up the emotional stakes, and they do a lot of good squaring off and reversing stuff, booting the hell out of each other. Kato gets a bulldog after reversing a whip and they’re still fighting for everything, quick to trade momentum. Long half-crab spot from Meiko, and we go into restholds until Kato fights out, and they pummel each other with headbutts until Meiko hits a forearm and Kato a big head kick. Kato repeatedly smashes Meiko and headbutts her down, but Meiko drops down and gets an interesting kick from the ground- Kato with the bulldog again and Meiko “fuck YOU!” bridges out. Kato ass-plants trying a 2nd-rope legdrop, but smashes Meiko’s jaw with a huge kick but pulling her up and getting European uppercutted for it, completely faceplanting like she’s dead. That gets an “8” count, and Meiko smokes her again when she gets up but frog splashes onto a shin.
That’s a double-down, Meiko selling like it punctured something, and they do the FIGHT UP FROM THE KNEES HELL YES! Headbutts turn to slaps, but Kato lures Meiko into overextending and tries an armbar, only to get caught in a leg thing. Kato tries a sleeper from behind, then another, even holding it after Meiko judo flips her from it. Meiko avoids the Dragon Suplex & gets an armbar for a near-fall, but climbs up and Kato goes for her Super Fireman’s- Meiko struggles and they both tumble off, then Meiko climbs again and Kato finally gets it for a double-down, as both are beat. Kato finally covers 25 seconds later, but Meiko traps her in a keylock! Kato barely makes the ropes, and they trade blows until Meiko hits a snap Death Valley Driver! But she’s slow to capitalize and Kato boots her from the ground and hits that Spinning Bull’s Poseidon, rolling over after a delay for the pin at (14:18)!
An interesting, gritty, mean, realistic sort of match where it looks like they’re fighting for everything and every move counts. You get the impression that Chigusa told them to work this kind of style in front of a smaller crowd to diversify their skillset with fewer eyeballs- singles matches were rare enough in GAEA that this was still sort of a big deal, but with a small gym there’s no point in really gunning for a **** match or anything, so it’s good learnin’. Though it’s kinda funny how they “fight for everything” and then with 3 minutes to go suddenly it’s Finisher Frenzy Time, but they still did their little kicks and slaps to stall the other’s momentum.
Rating: ***1/4 (a very good little match that’s a bit experimental but still ends in the classic sort of way)
CHIGUSA NAGAYO & SAKURA HIROTA vs. OZ ACADEMY (Chikayo Nagashima & Sugar Sato):
* Another Chigusa/Sakura match, this time against the top heel tag team of GAEA. Expect similar dynamics as the Meiko/Kato one, but this is only 3:30 on YouTube. Sakura’s in purple this time, and Chigusa’s got a black singlet but with yellow “richter scale” lines like Earthquake would. Sugar’s in white & Chikayo’s in blue/yellow.
Sakura is right in with a missile dropkick and USING THE ASS, but flies off onto Chikayo’s knees. Sugar flies in with a missile kick before the tag, and they hit a NASTY Rocket Launcher Somersault Stomp (Sakura making the “WOUMP!” sound of someone with the wind blown out of them). Chigusa saves, so they knock her to the floor and rocket launcher her off the apron, and hit stereo missile kicks to finish Sakura… who “Fuck YOU!” bridges out! Good reaction for that. Chikayo gets her sunset flip, but Chigusa rolls them over for two and dragon screws Sugar to stop her, but Sakura’s slingshot backsplash is caught in mid-air with a German from Chikayo, and that’s all at (2:55 of 12:39). Hot damn, that was slick. The replay shows just how dead-on that precision was, Sakura flying right back into a smooth grab.
Rating: * (not enough to really rate, but some good double-teams and match flow in the end there)
SAKURA HIROTA TOUR DOCUMENTARY:
* I guess the point here is to show Sakura on tour, as she’s the focus of some of this. Some clips from these matches are shown, and we get some backstage interviews where she looks defeated and Chigusa holds her up and smiles while talking to the interviewers and such. Sakura appears to give the opening-show spiel to all the assembled fans before everyone bows. Chigusa & Sakura actually have a solo match, Chigusa giving her a comically vicious powerbomb. Then it’s Yamada/Sakura vs. Sugar/Chikayo and Sakura demands to be tagged in, and Chikayo quickly ends her with a German & Flying Stomp for the pin. Another sees a Sakura/Kato/Meiko team taking on others, but Sakura is singled out by Toshie Uematsu, who finishes her with a Hammerlock Northern Lights Suplex.
So the point here is kind of to emphasize her, while also showing how far she has to go, as she eats the losing fall in every single match. This kind of puts over her fighting spirit, as well as the other wrestlers, showing the power of experience. Though it’s kinda funny again that nothing similar seems to happen for the other GAEA rookies from between her and the originals- WHERE’S THE MAKIE NUMAO LOVE!?
So that’s another GAEA show. Well, two I spliced together cuz I didn’t wanna just post three clipped matches.