NEO JAPAN LADIES- SEVEN CHOCOLATES GRAND OPENING:
(Feb. 15th 1998)
* Yes we’re already into February for Neo’s second show, as I have nothing for AJW or any other company for January. And we’re already doing interpromotional shit, as Neo’s tiny-ass roster can’t really maintain entire shows by itself without Kyoko working three matches in one hour like LAST month! So we have mixed matches involving Jd’s Chikako Shiratori & Jaguar Yokota and a trio of Neo vs. JWP matches, then ending with ANOTHER one, as it’s two major stars- Kyoko Inoue vs. Hikari Fukuoka- the Ace of JWP! That one actually comes off as quite special and with some real mystique to it, as they haven’t locked up since Hikari was a try-hard up & comer, and never in singles!
The crowd seems decently full for the lower bowl, though you can see some empty seats around. And hey! This is that arena the one AJW/LLPW show happened in! I recognize the whole “the hard camera is a shot of a giant metal sliding door with lil’ staircases to the sides” thing.
Neo Ladies Roster: Kyoko Inoue, Las Cachorras Orientales, Chaparrita ASARI, Yoshiko Tamura, Tanny Mouse, Yuka Shiina, Misae Genki, Saya Endo
SAYA ENDO (Neo) vs. CHIKAKO SHIRATORI (Jd’):
* Chikako quit AJW for greener pastures as one of the big stars of Jd’, but despite her best efforts didn’t turn into much of a worker. But here she’s against the low-end Endo, minion of Las Cachorras Orientales, probably being fed to Chikako. Chikako’s in white frilly idol gear and Endo’s in black & gold, a bit like Kaoru Ito’s look.
Scrappy start with Endo rifling a chair at Chikako LCO-style, but she lets go of it and gets nailed herself, but just kind of seems grumpy over it and kicks Chikako’s butt. Endo hits a superplex & Chikako spams DDTs, then hits a bridging backdrop suplex for two and they both miss second-rope moves and Chikako’s bad Majistral cradle and Endo’s bad powerslam get two-counts. Each gets Germans and Chikako throws missile dropkicks for two, but gets tossed off and Endo hits her Guillotine Legdrop then one assisted by a CHAIR, but immediately after that, the interpromotional heel alliance (Heisei Fear Deadly Poison Guren-tai) of Lioness Asuka, Shark Tsuchiya and others hits the ring and absolutely mugs everyone present, including LCO at ringside- they get cuffed to the corner while Endo is abused (pretty funny since Lioness outranks Endo by a million times but focuses on her). The match is thrown out at (11:43) as yes, it’s FINISH BY nWo RUN-IN, as we are definitely in 1998 here. Endo is bloodied to hell and LCO FINALLY escape the cuffs to get glorious revenge… but Shark was lying in wait and tags both of them with a kendo stick and they get their asses kicked again. This sets up a March 8th Jd’ show, apparently.
Rating: * (very weaksauce match as Chikako half-heartedly did stuff and Endo kinda tried, but it was mostly there for a beatdown and Chikako was wrestling like it)
JWP vs. NEO SERIES:
YUKA SHIINA (Neo) vs. TOMOKO KUZUMI (JWP):
* JWP’s Kuzumi is their best rookie right now, and Shiina is showing some promise. Shiina’s in a white two-piece and Kuzumi’s in a black & white frilly thing with snow leopard print, really going for the whole “Next Generation’s Hikari” well (later renamed to Azumi Hyuga, she’d be just that).
Long stretching spots and lots of effort to start, everyone yelling like good rookies who want pushes. Shiina avoids a boomerang kick and hits a great clothesline, then catches her on a follow-through after missing a second, using practicality over flash. But she gets shoved off trying a flying move, dodges a springboard plancha, but flies off onto feet. Yeah, see, you mess with Kuzumi at her own game you’ll lose. Kuzumi works her over but eats some missile kicks and a weak sunset flip powerbomb from the top gets two. Kuzumi lands sloppy Locomotion German Suplexes (swiping the retired Candy’s spot), but can’t get a good lock on any of them, getting two. Kuzumi lands a Superduperplex after a fight up top for three (9:35 of 13:23 shown). JWP is up (1-0).
Rating: *3/4 (the match was fine, but had way more effort that skill, with both girls having pretty bad execution of stuff and their locks getting sloppier and sloppier as the match went on, as if both were made of wet plastic)
… I’m going to have to review a lot of Tanny Mouse matches this year, aren’t I?
TANNY MOUSE (Neo) vs. KANAKO MOTOYA (JWP):
* Motoya is the JWP rookie I always forget about, but she’s pretty solid. Tanny is… she has a mouse tail and does Tanny Butts (headbutts). Motoya’s in white & Tanny’s in black.
Standard yelling opening bits, with Tanny eventually taking over with her plodding stuff. We go SHOOT-STYLE TANNY as she powers out of a keylock attempt, but Motoya works the arm, pulls the tail and hits running attacks until the fury of the Tanny Butts are too much for her. But she manages Senton Spam and a flying thing, then a German and a Straightjacket Northern Lights for two. Superplex gets two for Tanny, and Motoya misses a flying senton after another attempt and two Germans get two for Tanny. Then she hits a FLYING TANNY BUTT (more like E. Honda’s flying head smash in Street Fighter, right to the gut), then one off the second rope for a close two-count, and a Double-Arm Piledriver (which was probably supposed to be a butterfly suplex) gets the three at (10:26 of 12:28 shown). Oh poor Motoya had to job to TANNY, haha. We’re tied (1-1).
Tanny is just not very good at all- a Comedy Wrestler personified, when asked to actually control offense she can do her goofy headbutts just fine, but then gets into that “Wait, what do I do next?” thing where she walks away for a second, remembers another thing she could do, then turns around and just… hits a stomp or something. Like she never commits to anything. Motoya seemed inoffensive and fine with some decent offense but didn’t have much to work with and I hear (via Mike Lorefice) she was working hurt.
Rating: *1/4 (not the most offensive thing ever but Motoya doesn’t have the ability to raise Tanny much further than this)
MISAE GENKI (Neo) vs. TOMOKO MIYAGUCHI (JWP):
* The future Ran YuYu gets her shot against Neo’s giant mantis-woman. The Maroon Mantis is in her velvety gear again, and Miyaguchi’s in yellow.
Genki shames Miyaguchi’s smaller height by holding her arms WAY up for a knucklelock then sarcastically crouches down for her- they do the mandatory stretching and screaming, Genki using size and Miyaguchi speed. Genki uses Kyoko’s “rock the cradle” hold and drops elbows & stomps, but gets kneed in the chin. Miyaguchi nails a snap German but gets electric chaired and a flying elbow gets two. Genki wins an airplane spin contest and uses a PESCADO of all things (that landing had to hurt), but takes too long following up and gets enzuigiri’d off the apron and plancha’d. Flying Knee gets two for Tomoko and they fight over a German until Miyaguchi finally gets it for two. Genki stuffs a vertical suplex and levels her with a backdrop driver, but a chokeslam is reversed to a Fujiwara armbar and Genki’s right in the ropes. A flying splash misses and NOW the Chokeslam flattens Miyaguchi and she can only weakly lift her shoulder before “3”. Miyaguchi catches her with a Super Samoan Drop, Genki smartly rolling on the sell to get her leg in the ropes on the pin attempt. Genki’s such dead weight that Miyaguchi can’t follow up, and so ANOTHER backdrop hits her, and Genki takes forever to crawl over and gets two. Miyaguchi pops up to climb the ropes, but Genki again catches her, this time hitting a Chokeslam off the second rope for the three at (12:39 of 17:49 shown). Neo Ladies wins (2-1)!
A very solid, hard-fought match making good use of simple offense to put over the effort. Genki’s in an interesting zone where her offense it’s that great, but since she’s so big and keeps it simple she’s a good “heavy”, especially against Littles, and Miyaguchi often used speed and good counters to leave her reeling, and easily set up all her big “heavy toss” counters. I liked how Genki would just lean down to counter lifting moves, leaving Miyaguchi’s suplex attempts all stuffed. Miyaguchi was thus left relying on high-flying moves, but got caught nearly every single time- Genki countering all to suplexes and chokeslam-type stuff. Really Miyaguchi just got eaten alive but fought so hard it still looked good, especially with her big finisher attempt.
Rating: *** (very, very good for their experience level)
A star of the early ’80s, Jaguar was the elder stateswoman of Joshi at this point, but had a reputation for real-life toughness.
CHAPARRITA ASARI (Neo) vs. JAGUAR YOKOTA (Jd’):
* A very interesting one, as Jaguar is one of the tiniest Aces ever, but was a physical marvel (and Bull Nakano asserts that Jaguar was DEFINITELY the scariest person in real life in her era). ASARI is only barely smaller but super-acrobatic, but hasn’t been in a great zone lately. Jaguar’s appropriately in animal-print while ASARI’s upgraded her look to yellow & black.
Jaguar teases copying the Cartwheel Handspring Mule Kick but just decks her, so ASARI does them properly, countering a counter to a pin for two. ASARI with the cartwheel cross-body for two, but Jaguar does her slide-bridge out and cannonballs her off the apron, then stretches her out in the ring. ASARI does her slingshot counter and uses perpetual motion to stay on top, but Jaguar uses positioning so we’re back to square one. Jaguar keeps working her way out of Boston crabs and finally drills ASARI with a tombstone and works her over, then tosses her. ASARI, panting, comes back with a good slingshot headscissors and they do a pretty-okay but not really lightning-fast reversal sequence with a cartwheel from Jaguar, ASARI’s second headscissors and a rana for two. Jaguar counters her with a superplex but her Pedigree is countered for two- a Super Rana gets two, as does a Norther Lights suplex. Jaguar finally lands a double-arm powerbomb for two, but gets dropkicked in the ass to the floor, then follows with a plancha and the Sky Twister Press! Jaguar gets her foot on the ropes, and ASARI, with nothing left, can just try another and splats. Jaguar grabs her with the Straightjacket German for two and a front piledriver, then a backdrop superplex (ASARI landing face-first in a scary last-second spin) and a Moonsault Press finishes at (12:34 of 13:09 shown)- Jaguar wins pretty handily.
This feels kind of like the sort of match meant to elevate and enhance ASARI a lot, but it never quite got there because it never really hit the second gear and was mostly “just a match”. ASARI should have been fighting and clawing her way to near-falls, desperately hitting stuff and DEMANDING respect, but they just never did it, even with ASARI hitting her finisher (normally a mind-blowing spot that’s been popping crowds for 5 years). An issue might be cardio- ASARI was clearly panting through the whole match (though that seems to be an issue this show- the ring is miked to the point where I can hear a lot of that), and her set-ups for all of the match’s final moves took FOREVER. I mean, when you’re so freakin’ small that you have to use “Rey Offense” on everyone, you need to SPEEDBLITZ ’em, not gasp and pant as you slowwwwwllly climb the ropes for a plancha to the floor and then amble into your Sky Twister Press. And so the match is “ASARI slowly goes through her big moves and then Jaguar dodges and hits four unanswered moves for the pin”, which just establishes ASARI as a midcarder.
Rating: *** (totally fine but not mind-blowing or even a particularly great showing for either- if anything ASARI looked weaker than usual despite an A-tier opponent)
HANDICAP ELIMINATION MATCH:
LAS CACHORRAS ORIENTALES (Mima Shimoda & Etsuko Mita, w/ Saya Endo) vs. CHAPARRITA ASARI, YUKA SHIINA, MISAE GENKI & TANNY MOUSE:
* Yes, a strange Handicap Match, with LCO (who’ve previously been beaten up a bit by the heel alliance) take on the four Neo up & comers who’ve wrestled already today. The kids wisely attack LCO in a mad rush before the bell, streamers still filling the ring. Endo, bandage on her forehead, is trying to help her seniors as they get chairs tossed at them.
The bell finally rings and we get stereo biting and the kids DO AN LCO POSE, holding LCO in a double-headlock while ASARI climbs the pile and claps, backflipping off of it so Genki can double-bulldog the vets. See, hit a memorable spot good and early. But Genki tries to throw Mita around and she’s just like “…” and drills her with a Blazing Chop like “You wanna be a heavy? Against ME?”. We’re soon clipped to LCO getting taken down with stereo missile kicks & figure-fours while Genki & Tanny do their signature running spots on them. But LCO dodge double-elbows and we’re back to my happy place- Mita demolishing short people. She no-sells everyone and Moolah Whips ’em around, gleefully ignoring a Tanny Butt and Shimoda just pops Tanny with a blue chair during a running attempt. But the kids fire back and hit STEREO TANNY BUTTS, complete with simultaneous rodent hair-washing poses and I can just hear the 1990s comedy-hatin’ reviewers seethe at this, haha.
Stereo 2nd-rope Tanny Butts get two on Mita, but she just stops selling and beats on Tanny- the kids try another quadruple-team but everyone gets pulled out of the ring until Mita is left alone with Tanny, pinning her after a powerbomb (6:18 of 11:51). Shiina gets a rana but is swatted out of mid-air. Missile dropkicks harry Shimoda but she snaps off a Tiger Suplex- ASARI saves, then Germans Shimoda out of the Death Lake Driver (tiger superplex), forcing Shimoda to throw chairshots to leave Shiina alone- a Powerbomb/Moonsault finishes her at (9:12 of 13:37). We’re now in a tag match and LCO goes on a LONG brawl, wrecking the kids outside the ring as we see the full arena (which actually looks kinda interesting, with a garage-like structure off to one end). Mita goes above and beyond the call of duty in beating down Genki and finally stacks the two so Shimoda can do her insane Guardrail Drop from the ADMIN OFFICE. Okay that’s only like eight feet up because she probably realized the bump was nuts, but still.
MORE beatings ensue, but ASARI dives onto LCO when they screw up a dive and Genki/ASARI do LCO’s electric chair drop/flying splash for two. Mita stops Genki’s Chokeslam twice, once by wrapping a pink chair around her head (great sell by Genki, just flopping) but she finally ducks one and ASARI snaps off a good rana and a sweet flying one that Shimoda had to stop the pin on. Mita tries a powerbomb and counters a counter with another Blazing Chop, but ASARI ranas out of the electric chair. ASARI finally takes that Powerbomb… but kicks out, getting a good reaction! Shimoda tries a cannonball but misses, but counters ASARI’s Super Rana into a flash pin at (16:05 of 25:17). The crowd just goes deathly silent as Genki is left alone, and she hits Chokeslams but gets caught by a chair (lol I love how they cheat to beat ONE person) and hit with the Assisted Tope Con Hilo/Dive (Shimoda essentially hits a springboard powerbomb on herself on the landing- holy SHIT). LCO brutalizes her with a chair, piledrives her through a table, then rips the seat off the pink chair with another chairshot, and the Death Lake Driver and Death Valley Driver combo finishes at (19:01 of 34:43 shown). Hahah, what was THAT? One person against them and they hit the kind of stuff you’d use to kill a main eventer?
Fascinating little match, though it doesn’t really help Neo to have FOUR GIRLS (including #4 ASARI) get demolished against two, even if LCO are dirty cheaters and top stars. Though it’s hard to hate Mita just being the Monster Heel she was supposed to be, simply ignoring offense from short people and swatting them out of the air like biplanes against King Kong. And oh my god that ENDING- who uses two lethal chairshots, an assisted tope/dive, piledriver through a table and two MDK finishers in a row to finish off MISAE GENKI? That’s the most vicious Finisher Beamspam I’ve seen in AGES. LCO must have pretty great cardio to take on four people for 34 minutes, though- they obviously swapped out frequently but that was a LONG match- we miss 15 minutes of it. The worst part is ASARI is high enough ranked to deserve a bit better, and her elimination was kinda fluke-y.
Rating: ***1/2 (a bizarre spectacle of violence, starting with 10 minutes of solid comedy, and ending with 10 minutes of jobber murder. The full match is probably worse- that’s way too long for that finish)
I feel like I’m missing a lot of Fukuoka’s stuff from her JWP Title run, but I think I’ve gotten most of the major defenses.
KYOKO INOUE (Neo) vs. HIKARI FUKUOKA (JWP):
* Our Main Event is actually one that draws REAL interest- it’s the current JWP Champion vs. someone who until recently was AJW’s World Champion. I don’t think I’ve seen these two wrestle since the famous Thunder Queen Battle show, and that was an “up & coming” Hikari who was the distant #4 of her team. As Hikari is the reigning JWP Champion at this point, I can’t imagine she’s dropping a big fall to Neo’s top star, as Kyoko is belt-less, but weirder things have happened and it IS her show. Hikari’s in the blue & leopard-print and Kyoko’s in her rainbow gear.
Kyoko uses power to start, and evades Hikari’s acrobatics for her surfboard, but Hikari rolls forward and gets the crowd WAY into her own (complete with her copying Kyoko’s dance), only to put on a really shitty one that clearly disappoints the fans, lol. See, that spot is actually REALLY HARD which is why the fans always pop for it in joshi. Kyoko fights her into the Dancing Deathlock and it’s chinlocks abound for the first while (often in between bigger moves) and Kyoko clobbers Hikari down after a Mongolian chop-off. Kyoko with her DDT & a proper surfboard, then her backbreaker rack/drop as the pace is still very slow. Hikari reverses an slam to the rolling cradle for two and cannonballs Kyoko off the apron, but Kyoko powers out of a crab and stuffs a Tiger Driver and Hikari has to resort to weak running kicks and some 2nd-rope dropkicks- again no dice on that Driver and Kyoko floors her with Lariats for two. A LONG fight up top sees Hikari front superplexed off and Kyoko waits her out then hits a 2nd-rope dropkick. Kyoko leisurely walks to the other corner and this time a struggles sees Hikari hit a superduperplex, but her OWN leisurely stroll seeks Kyoko haul her off with a Release German Superplex!
Kyoko slowly crawls over and that gets two, but Hikari snags a German and a Moonsault, but Kyoko kicks out at only one! She Hulks Up and no-sells some shots, flattening Hikari with a Lariat for two. Hikari avoids a powerbomb & lariat, but tries a rana and Kyoko just splats her with a Ligerbomb for two. Kyoko tries her Run-Up Back Elbow but is way too slow and gets booted to the floor, where Hikari follows with a Moonsault, then a Moonsault Stomp in the ring- Kyoko rolls onto her belly on the sell, thus protecting the move when she does that “NO!” last-ditch kickout of hers. Hikari misses a second Stomp and Kyoko is doing that “OMG I’m dying!” sell of hers on the ribs, and an exhausted Hikari gives a great look of effort, but whips her to the ropes like a dumbass and gets turned inside-out by a Lariat. Kyoko finally covers for two, and they do a double-down (Hikari getting up and collapsing again) until Kyoko finally tries to get the fans into her comeback and hits another big Lariat for… a “Fuck YOU!” bridge! Kyoko attempts the Ligerbomb to finish, but Hikari gets a (really ugly) counter into a rollup for two. Hikari goes up- RIDER KICK! The somersault missile kick wipes out Kyoko, and Hikari heads up for a second Moonsault Stomp, and THAT’S the pin at (19:18).
Very, very slow pace to start, obviously building to something. Hikari’s offense is the most eye-popping of the era but her “basic match” is not that great and she’s not good at building that Big Match Feel, sadly. So we get ten minutes of “just fuckin’ around” with a small story of Hikari not being able to match Kyoko’s power and having to wear her down (though she gave up that Tiger Driver and instead just went into her other finishers instead, so that story wasn’t really paid off). Then they hit some top-rope stuff but are still being leisurely about it until that release German Superplex changes the course (not that either sell the big moves that follow for long, instead doing the “Fired Up” thing). There’s a lot of things here that are part of the inevitable slowdown as their styles have worn them down, too- what were formerly speedblitz moves are just like “Slowly jog to the corner” spots and it’s hard not to notice when both used to be so lightning-quick. Also for someone with one of the deepest movesets in joshi, it’s weird seeing Kyoko just rely on the Lariat over and over again- it becomes a key part of her offense but is spammed so much it hurts it as a finisher. I’m not as down on this as Mike Lorefice, as they got a good last five minutes out of it and pulled off the exhaustion/desperation well, but this feels like it would be a ****1/2 match in 1993 but in 1998 is just two people who weren’t gelling as well and didn’t put the effort in until the halfway point.
Rating: ***1/2 (a very slow, deliberate match that turned into the usual Finisher Trading)
So with Neo’s second show, we have Kyoko actually dropping a pin in a big Interpromotional Match, in a bout that likely had a lot of politics to it- you can’t just invite JWP to your show and beat then down and pin their Champion, so she took an expected job to establish that she’ll play ball and isn’t just some all-devouring selfish Ace. Makes it more likely you’ll get them for other shows in the future, and maybe get some return jobs. The rest of the show is an interesting mixed bag- ASARI doesn’t show enough as the #4 wrestler on the roster, having a merely “pretty good” match with a great worker. The Neo rookies go from “good” to “Tanny Mouse” and the JWP rookies are noticeably better with pretty equal ringtime (especially Kuzumi). And LCO, as secondary top stars, completely demolish four undercarders and don’t even give up a single fall. But the invasion of the Heel Army in the opening match set up more things for the future- LCO given someone to hate led to a SHITLOAD of ****+ matches in 1997 so that bodes well (even if one enemy is Shark Tsuchiya).