NEO JAPAN LADIES PRO WRESTLING- FIRST KISS (Debut Show):
(Jan. 9th, 1998)
* WOO FINALLY! It’s time for a BRAND NEW Joshi promotion to show up in my Spotlights! This one is “Neo Ladies”, a start-up centered around former WWWA Champion and AJW Ace, Kyoko Inoue! This is also where Las Cachorras Orientales end up before their freelancing career really starts up. Aaaaaaaaaaaand then it’s a bunch of scrubs! But some are pretty good! And improving! But really it’s one of three companies that have about “a third of a good roster” after the destruction following AJW’s bankruptcy (AJW, ARSION & Neo). Oh, and both Kyoko & Tanny Mouse are working more than once, which is never a good sign for effort.
Neo Ladies Roster: Kyoko Inoue, Las Cachorras Orientales, Chaparrita ASARI, Yoshiko Tamura, Tanny Mouse, Yuka Shiina, Misae Genki, Saya Endo (hooray, now I might finally start being able to remember which rookies are which on sight!)
All the wrestlers take their bows and do mini-interviews- an emotional Kyoko begins the festivities, thanking the fans for showing up. LCO, acting WWWA Tag Team Champions, brandish their former promotion’s belts as well.
SAYA ENDO vs. YUKA SHIINA vs. TANNY MOUSE:
* Yes, the first ever match of Neo Ladies and it’s got Tanny Mouse in it. You just gotta love Japanese hierarchy-based show booking. So Saya Endo is LCO’s “Third Woman”- a rookie who follows them around. She’s in black & yellow. Shiina’s in white & red athletic gear, and is a very tanned prospect who was just rising in AJW. Tanny is a goofy-looking comedy wrestler with orange hair and another black/yellow outfit. And oh god dammit she’s still got the mouse tail.
We start off with Shiina/Endo, Endo soon getting the best of Shiina with stomping, hairpulling & stretching. A little too much generic rookie-fu- I kind of expect more at this level. Shiina works a figure-four forever, but gets snap-powerslammed for two. Shiina tosses Endo off the top and hits a missile kick for two, then a flying sunset flip. Endo does Shimoda’s hooking clothesline for two, takes two running moves, then kicks Shiina coming off the top and hits a Guillotine Legdrop, PULLING SHIINA UP at “2”, and of course pays for it when Shiina hits a really weak rana for three at (8:54).
Rating: *1/4 (just the barest of rookie-style stuff for several minutes, then a minute or two of hard work)
Tanny starts off right away with a hideous “dings the top rope” tope suicida to start, then hits a 2nd-rope Tanny Butt (falling headbutt) & bridging butterfly suplex for two-counts and ties up the legs and wraps her up for stretching. Some slingshot headbutts work Shiina over, and gets a good reaction for a running European uppercut from the floor while Shiina’s lying on the apron. Shiina with the corner dropkick but misses a flying cross and takes two Tanny Butts for two. Slingshot Tanny Butt hits but Shiina stops another with a mat slam and seems to just get up at “2”, and a flying cross gets two. Tanny with a headbutt & 2nd-rope senton for two, but Shiina All Japan No-Sells out of a German and clobbers her with a big leaping lariat and a Flying Lariat gets three (6:01).
Rating: *3/4 (well that was a lot more hard-fought, with Tanny actually throwing out a bunch of offense on a tired opponent until Shiina started firing back- both had pretty solid move application)
The diminutive ASARI is actually the #4 person in Neo Ladies to start, more or less.
CHAPARRITA ASARI vs. YOSHIKO TAMURA:
* Two of the mid-tier stars of Neo Ladies go next, with Tamura (barely above “Young Lioness” stage but showing ***+ match quality already) takes on ASARI, who spent much of last year injured. ASARI’s always a more questionable star, as she’s incredibly acrobatic but so puny she’s hard to take seriously, and a bit over-reliant on MOVEZ. Tamura’s in black & red, and ASARI’s in white & gold. Both are pretty good looks that say “I’m serious about my career”, but I know I’ve seen ASARI in her Liger-esque gear after this.
ASARI looks good right away with a backflip dodge, rana & backflip cross-body- she’s got her WORKIN’ boots on tonight! But Yoshiko quickly slows the pace with holds, only for ASARI to fire back and dominate for 3-4 minutes with her own. Yoshiko fires back with running stuff but gets wrapped up again and hit with the Cartwheel Handspring Mule Kicks in the corner. Yoshiko rolls forward out of a move and locks on figure-fours for a while, then boots the leg and hits missile dropkicks for two, taking her time. ASARI hits a rana out of the corner for two, but Yoshiko reverses and then hits a Running Ace Crusher (!), but ASARI counters a running bulldog to a cool wrap-up pin for two. She climbs, but Yoshiko brings her down with an AVALANCHE Ace Crusher for two! At a loss, Yoshiko climbs and gets knocked to the floor- big plancha, missile kick & Northern Lights suplex gets two for ASARI. ASARI calls for the finish, but takes the German off the 2nd rope for two, then her own Northern Lights, then an Avalanche version for two. But Yoshiko goes up again and gets brought down with a Super Rana for two, and the Sky Twister Press (to the knees- ouch) finishes at (14:56).
Man that was some TIME-FILLING going on in there. Just “hit a hold and stay there” for 90% of the match, interspersed with ASARI’s crowd-pleasing high-flying stuff. They fought in ’em and sold well, earning a few good reactions from rope-breaks, but geez- neither are submissions people and the leg does NOT feature into the overall story- it’s just stuff to do. You can tell because suddenly it’s “time to do the actual moves” and they just gun for finishes. At least Yoshiko’s found a new way to upgrade her offense- variations of Ace Crushers is a pretty great way to do it (this is around DDP’s big push in WCW, and Johnny Ace popularized the move in Japan). And then she starts whipping out Northern Lights variations near the end to try and REALLY finish it. So overall the match is your typical ASARI fare- plug her high spots in around someone else doing the “meat” of the match, in this case rookie Yoshiko subtly moving up the ranks by nearly getting the tiny elder.
Rating: **1/2 (lots of filler, then plenty of good stuff from Yoshiko until ASARI hits the mandatory comeback)
Genki actually becomes a pretty decent star for Neo/NEO at some point, which I’ve been vaguely aware of while watching her gawky “praying mantis” rookie phase these past few years.
KYOKO INOUE vs. MISAE GENKI:
* So Kyoko’s first match in her own promotion is just her beating up a junior in Genki, who is at the “should be moving into Featured Player” zone. Gawky and awkward-looking for years, Genki has filled out and was showing some improvement in the rare AJW bits I was seeing. This is Kyoko’s first of THREE matches tonight. Genki’s in a velvet-looking red athletic shorts/top, and Kyoko’s in a purply rainbow version of her gear.
They actually get a good reaction out of a LOCKUP of all things, successfully illustrating that Genki is such a physical marvel that she can power back KYOKO all the way across the ring, where she slaps the elder and celebrates. Wrestling 101. They do it again, Genki teasing victory once more, but Kyoko manages to pull her back and offers a clean break… so of course Genki cracks her one and Kyoko goes nuts. Genki next counters a vertical suplex with her own, and when Kyoko charges in, Genki hits a vicious Backdrop Driver and celebrates! Okay, this is different. Kyoko milks that and Genki goes right back to whuppin’ that ass, but Kyoko finally ducks her and hits a big lariat aaaaaaaand now it’s time for the Dancing Deathlock/Surfboard combo. She threads in a dragon sleeper and launches Genki with the snap-fallaway slam, but gets pescado’d, and Genki hits a Norther Lights superplex and an electric chair drop on her third try at it. She also gets a chokeslam out of Kyoko’s flurry, then counters a slingshot with another one. She slowly throws kicks, then fights Kyoko into another backdrop driver, but Kyoko lariats her after another and it’s a double-down. Another lariat gets two, and Genki counters the Niagara Driver for two, but gets caught charging and a lariat/Ligerbomb gets three for Kyoko at (14:08), Genki having made her work for it.
So this was “Establish Genki As Someone to Watch”: The Match, as Kyoko repeatedly put over her junior’s strength and power, suffering reversals instead of just dominating her. Genki kept one-upping her later on, too, and they had a bunch of neat spots where they VERY slowly powered around each other, which is more interesting than restholds and actually makes it look like a contest. While the match wasn’t excellent, it does at least serve a purpose in establishing Genki as a threat, as suddenly the once-gawky jobber is now a physical powerhouse who can dominate people through raw strength. Her moveset is still bits and pieces of others (the second match in a row with an NL superplex, plus she uses Mita’s electric chair), but given how small this company is, it’s integral to build these up & comers and FAST. Though overall what we get here is “Kyoko gets dominated for 90% of it but still wins because she’s Kyoko”. But it’s smart booking because Kyoko still has two (!) more matches to work tonight.
Rating: **3/4 (one-sided beatdown for Genki, with some nice “test of strength” spots, but ultimately Kyoko walks to a victory)
LCO were the best act by far in 1997 Joshi, so Neo is lucky to have been the promotion to get them.
LAS CACHORRAS ORIENTALES (Mima Shimoda & Etsuko Mita) vs. KYOKO INOUE & TANNY MOUSE:
* The WWWA Tag Team Champions are the best “get” of Neo, and they’re up against its Ace and the Comedy Jobber. And OH MY GOD LCO’s ring gear- like Elizabethan royal wear, but made out of reflective gold & silver, while Shimoda has the Statue of Liberty’s crown in gold paper. Their actual wrestling gear is a more subdued purple & neon yellow, with pastel blue (Mita) and pink (Shimoda). Tanny the dumbass is lured into a double-handshake so they beat the shit outta her to start us off. Mita quickly gets “There’s Something About Mary” hair and keeps it for the next two matches.
Tanny gets the usual from LCO, but ducks a pink chair and calls Kyoko in for DOUBLE TANNY-BUTTS, but they miss a charge and LCO hits the Assisted Tope Con Hilo/Dive and it’s crowd brawl time! But Mita piledrives Kyoko on the friggin’ wooden stands, stacks Tanny on her, and Shimoda uses the GUARDRAIL CRUSH off the ledge onto them! Holy shit every part of that was insane- Shimoda had to drop like eight feet and just LAUNCHED the railing at them. Well there’s your highlight reel shot and the spot of the match right there. Kyoko keeps sliding off of stands and ledges to sell and the faces eat chairs, then Tanny is piledriven through a wooden table (but we MISS THE SHOT- they just used a split-screen! How the F did they miss it?). Kyoko roars to a comeback but eats Mita’s piledriver, but clobbers Shimoda only to get bitten. LCO chokes and tortures away, but mess up a surfboard to the laughter of the crowd and Shimoda takes Kyoko’s surfboard until Mita does the mandatory “reverse a submission with a pastel chair”. Kyoko finally scores the corner DDT to reverse and a bleeding Tanny comes in but immediately gets her ass kicked, having headbutted herself out.
Mita does the long-hold piledriver and abuses Tanny, and Shimoda’s in for some choking and torture. Tanny bites free after some weak selling and Kyoko slowly tries some work- Mita with the Blazing Chop and desperation pin, but Kyoko Germans her. Tanny-Butt… hits the corner. Choking, chair, piledriver, etc., but Mita gets knocked down by a Tanny-Butt and takes more… but slides a chair in her path and Tanny eats shit on it. Kyoko saves Tanny from finishers repeatedly and lariats Mita, but Shimoda delays her flying elbow and Mita hits the Avalanche Electric Chair Drop for two. Good bit as Kyoko avoids a tiger suplex, eats a chair, then ducks twin chairs but misses her lariat, but manages a double-DDT on LCO. Run-Up Super Belly-to-Belly gets two on Shimoda, but Kyoko gets chaired. Shimoda flies off the top with one but lands on Kyoko’s knees. Shimoda either no-sells or dodges the flying Tanny-Butt and kicks Tanny’s ass, but Kyoko sets up the …. Doomsday Tanny-Butt (damn the things I have to type) for two (Mita only barely remembering she should try to save. Mita knocks the seat off a blue chair pasting Kyoko with it to allow Shimoda’s butterfly superplex, but Tanny “Fuck YOU!” bridges out! Mita hits a DVD on Kyoko and Shimoda a sloppy Death Lake Driver (tiger superplex)… and Tanny gets her foot on the ropes! But a Powerbomb/Moonsault (!) gets the pin as Kyoko’s too dead to respond (18:18).
A great example of the “LCO Template”, this one against a weaksauce rookie and a tired veteran, and how they can effortlessly plug even these limitations into the formula and make it work. The guardrail spot was an all-time “omg they did THAT?” move, but was oddly located right near the beginning so they could get into the slower weardown stuff, largely dominated by the fresh LCO. Tanny’s poor selling (she doesn’t really scream agonizingly or sell physically so she just kinda hollers while being immobile) really brings it down, though, as it’s almost literally like LCO is beating up a mannequin. And that leads to a lot of drag, as this match felt almost ten minutes longer than it actually was.
Rating: *** (LCO hit some good stuff, but it decelerated quickly after the hot start, as Tanny is no good and the moves got sloppier and sloppier with time)
But then, in an ECW-like twist, Shimoda & Kyoko get to talking and we suddenly have a trios match break out, as other wrestlers hit the ring!
LAS CACHORRAS ORIENTALES (Mima Shimoda, Etsuko Mita & Saya Endo) vs. KYOKO INOUE, CHAPARRITA ASARI & YOSHIKO TAMURA:
* Fittingly, the biggest stars of Neo Ladies fight it out in an impromptu main event, Kyoko’s third match in a row.
LCO immediately win a brawl to start, hitting the three-woman Pose on Kyoko while flipping off the other side. Kyoko gets her backsplash on all three and Mita takes some shots, but reverses on ASARI. Endo works on her & Yoshiko, then Shimoda gets her falling clothesline on Kyoko. ASARI lands her cartwheel cross-body & mule kicks on Endo, then they beat on her in revenge for LCO’s antics. But LCO then triple-team ASARI with some brutality (a crab/clutch with running dropkicking a CHAIR into her face). Mita powerbomb- Kyoko saves. ASARI gets crabbed to hell, clubbered and tossed around, but ranas Shimoda and SHE gets clubbered and everyone fights to the stands! Kyoko runs the full length of Korakuen for a lariat on Endo and everyone fights for a while until Endo powerslams Yoshiko off the top and misses a guillotine legdrop.
Yoshiko works a hold but Shimoda’s chair pops her and an electric chair/splash/guillotine legdrop gets two- ASARI saves and she & Shimoda trade stuff until she gets a super rana- Mita saves with a chair and Shimoda quickly comes back (despite being beaned by Mita, too). ASARI reverses the Death Lake Driver for two, but Kyoko takes loose German & Tiger Suplexes for two. Kyoko manages a double-lariat but Endo & Yoshiko stop finisher attempts, then ASARI hops on Kyoko’s back to prevent Mita lifting her for a DVD (now THAT’S unique!), but LCO come back with the assisted dive combination (Mita hitting a particularly clumsy corkscrew dive over the top- pretty ballsy to do THAT after 30 minutes of wrestling) and they do ANOTHER crowd brawl. Kyoko takes a double-chokeslam of sorts off the top and ASARI gets a good reaction for circling around Shimoda to stop the pin. Mita hits the DVD- two! The crowd does the loudest chant so far and Kyoko Germans out of another and hits a lariat & Ligerbomb- Shimoda saves! And her pink chair sets up two more DVDs, and that’s the three at (21:51).
This was six fairly tired people doing a retread of past stuff with a lot more stretching and some REALLY sloppy application- stuff like Shimoda’s suplexes were more just “fall backwards while holding the person” and once-tight reversals were just “flail yourself in their direction’. They got some good reactions and near-falls by the end at least, but for the most part it was way too much to expect (ASARI & Yoshiko were kind of disappointing- they had a LONG rest and barely even did anything).
Rating: **1/4 (just way too damn long and they were all way too damn tired)
Overall, that was a pretty odd night of wrestling. What happens when you build a company out of NINE PEOPLE and have to fill two hours. So Kyoko works for about an hour of time, which is remarkable but just totally insane, everyone gets tired, etc. At least Kyoko didn’t just rampage to victory (always a danger with these kinds of “one major star” companies), and instead dropped two straight tag matches to LCO, one of which she ate a ton of unanswered moves and got pinned in the end. This sets up LCO as the “Dominant Heels” of Neo and someone to be knocked off. ASARI is the same as always (she honestly hasn’t even improved in four years), Yoshiko & Genki are rapidly improving, and Tanny is actively bad- Endo and Shiina are just “Generic Undercarders” to me still. Not the strongest roster any company’s ever assembled, but this being the home of LCO (the most reliable performers of 1997 by far) shows there’s some promise.