Joshi Spotlight: ARSION’s First Show!
By Jabroniville on 25th September 2023
Unfortunately, the only video I can find of this show on YouTube is totally silent, which kind of wrecks a lot of the impact. I found the opener & Aja/Omukai with sound, at least.
HYPER VISUAL FIGHTING ARSION- VIRGIN:
* And now it’s the start of ANOTHER new promotion, as the other third of the “AJW Split” takes form in Hyper Visual Fighting ARSION, which was formed when AJW office dweeb Rossy Ogawa and Aja Kong got some backers and formed their own company. Along the way, they decided to do something a bit unique, altering the traditional Joshi styles (which was quite varied, but typically went “Shoot-Style”, “Monster”, “Brawler” and “Traditional Style” by this point) into a more grappling-heavy one that was closer to what Mariko Yoshida, who was a rising wrestler in AJW, was doing. Yoshida was thus tapped to be quickly elevated as the new “Ace”, and here we are.
ARSION Roster: Aja Kong, Mariko Yoshida, Rie Tamada, Yumi Fukawa, Michiko Omukai, Reggie Bennett, Jessie Bennett, Mikiko Futagami, Candy Okutsu
(this means that ARSION effectively has only one top wrestler, and it’s the former Ace of AJW, whose own star power has taken a bit of a hit. Reggie was an upper-midcarder in AJW a couple years back, at least. Yoshida was mid-ranked and not even at the 1989 kids’ level, really. Tamada and Candy were at-best “pretty decent” sometimes and Fukawa has potential, but it’s really not a lot of stardom. Futagami & Omukai from LLPW and Candy from JWP, having “retired” months before this)
We get like 15 minutes of interviews, training bits and I think training in Mexico before the show opens, as I struggle to remember what everyone looks like without their gear (not helped by a lack of familiarity with Omukai). Everyone does the “Shield/Moxley” entrances, coming from all parts of the arena in their training gear. Nice to see Reggie Bennett again, and she’s brought a “Clone Buddy” in Jessie Bennett (Bionic-J/Jessica Soto, and no I don’t know who that is). Yoshida is… wow. Aja comes out last and thanks everyone for coming, bowing to all four corners.
A sound version of the match- come see how silent the crowd is for Grapplefuckery in the beginning!
CANDY OKUTSU vs. YUMI FUKAWA:
* We start out with the un-retired Candy (a Rossy favorite) going up against Fukawa, a Rossy fave from AJW. She was merely a JTTS in AJW before quitting, but I’ve heard ARSION gave her more of a shot (but not TOO much of one). Candy’s in black & white like usual, but in different gear (like… lacy thong-lingerie over long black shorts and an athletic top), and Fukawa’s in her blue two-piece again.
They start off perfectly for the new promotion by immediately blitzing each other, Fukawa hitting a headscissors into a cannonball and a JB Angels armdrag! This immediately sets the stakes that the kid is REALLY TRYING and is showing the veteran something. Candy reverses her to a submission and keeps on her, outsmarting the faster kid (like missing a charge but catching her with a dropkick to the knee), then hits a cool figure-four/butterfly-lock as they’re clearly doing lucha stuff. Fukawa can’t get anything going but they eventually start doing a pretty good equivalent of the “fake shoot” style, as they made every move look like it’s fought for and comes from threading yourself through someone’s guard rather than the AJW-style “just slap on a submission and it works immediately”. Though the crowd is deathly silent through all of it. Candy eventually does a REALLY good one-armed lift out of a triangle attempt into a powerbomb. Candy gets into the zone, hitting a missile kick into the Kick of Fear, but gets cocky and now FUKAWA has a hold, rolling her forward for the legbar! Fukawa is incredibly persistent, dragging Candy off the ropes over and over again to apply more stuff.
After several minutes of that (to no reaction save for the clapping at rope-breaks), a limping Candy catches Fukawa and missile kicks her again, then counters a German and finally just forearms the shit out of her. I’m liking how she doesn’t really start winning until she just plows forward on something, up-ending Fukawa’s careful strategy with the direct approach. Fukawa runs right into a Bridging German for two! But when she hauls her up, it’s a cross-armbreaker from Fukawa! Candy clinches to prevent the full move execution, but gets caught in it again! Fukawa roars up and hits a bizarre Lionsault while Candy’s parallel to her running, which ends up mashing Candy right in the face (lol, check the ref doing the “hey, are you dead?”) in a painful-looking spot. Candy gets to shake it off for a while, then immediately counters a whip to a lariat, DDT, Moonsault and Straightjacket German… for two! Candy, fully in the lead, with two missile dropkicks and a Brainbuster… but again it’s two! Even a run-up superplex can’t do it, and time is running down as Fukawa reverses a move to the worst German ever and hits a Moonsault (AGAIN the knees hit the face) for two, then pounces with a cross-armbreaker again! She goes up, but flies right into a Ligerbomb from Candy! But Candy sells arm-death from that, too hurt ot capitalize, and when she finally tries something, Fukawa catches her a FOURTH TIME with that move… and it’s Time Over! Fukawa draws with Candy Okutsu at (15:00)!
This was FANTASTIC- the perfect way to start off an upstart promotion- with two low-tier wrestlers going all-out and having a great match. Fukawa in particular has the best match of her career to this point, and looks so good with this all-out effort and actually using SUBMISSIONS to harry the veteran and stronger wrestler. Candy ends up struggling hard and having to resort to just overpowering the kid and using careful timing. I liked Fukawa going for first the leg stuff, then the arm stuff, just trying to find any way to win. And she keeps going back to it as it’s reliable and she’s fast enough to pull it off, while Candy is slower and has to wait for her chances, going back to her own reliable stuff. Great ending with Fukawa desperately trying everything after eating a score of sure-fire finishers (I mean, almost TOO many for such a low-tier wrestler, but Candy was freshly back and it’s not like she hits MDKs in the first place), her two big moves failing but that arm injury acts up and that’s the ballgame. So it comes off like an upset to be a draw, and a rematch to settle things might be in order. A great match made better by the fact that all the technical stuff seemed to at least have a purpose (though Candy never sold the leg much).
Rating: ***3/4 (absolutely oustanding performance- one of the best matches from either)
JESSIE BENNETT vs. MIKIKO FUTAGAMI:
* An interesting one, as both have something to prove. Jessie is an American trainee of Reggie’s (at least according to Cagematch) and has a similar-ish figure, though not as glamorous (ie. no makeup or, uh, focus on said figure). The two aren’t actually related- Jessie’s in her third year or so by this point. Gami hails from LLPW, where she toiled as this nobody for eons and just up and joined ARSION in hopes of a bigger push. She’s in salmon-colored athletic gear and has her hair bleached blonde, while Jessie’s in black, looking rather blank-faced and ill-at-ease.
Gami immediately pounces with a rolling kick and palm-thrusts Jessie to the ground- Jessie recovers and uses her size with a lariat & sit-out spinebuster for two. Jessie nearly gets leglocked and they both recover, Gami catching her with a Northern Lights suplex for two. Gami keeps striking away but gets caught with an odd go-behind armdrag- Jessie’s submissions keep putting them in the ropes, but she catches Gami with a pretty weak roundhouse kick into Reggie’s Ligerbomb finisher for two. Something like an inverted sit-out spinebuster gets two. Jessie sets up her finisher, the Guillotine Legdrop, but misses and gets leglocked- she is up quickly enough to dodge another rolling kick and hits a Bridging German, but Gami rolls over her for two and slaps on a keylock for the near-instant submission at (4:54).
An interesting little match- not great, but it shows versatility with the company- they have a Big-Size JTTS and an Up & Coming Killer Shooter, both of which are great characters and good “filler” for a company. Way better than the usual “Swimsuit-Wearing Dork”. They appeared to have a few unsteady moments and issues from their different languages (verbal & in-ring) but it was fine for what it was and didn’t overstay its welcome.
Rating: ** (solid little undercard match with different enough styles and some big-ish moves from Jessie)
Oh hey! Another one with sound! Now you can hear how little the fans cared about Omukai!
AJA KONG vs. MICHIKO OMUKAI:
* Hahaha, WTF? Aja’s first match in her new company and it’s her demolishing a nobody. But she probably has some sort of plan here- Omukai is also from LLPW and even lower-level than Gami was- I’ve never even see her be remotely competitive. But as a tall, good-looking girl, she’s gonna get some attention in Rossy’s company. Omukai’s in red with lacy white frill and… big genie pants, while Aja’s in a blue & black version of her regular gear. Omukai takes off the pants to reveal shorts. Man, she is LEAN. A total beanpole next to Aja. But I dig that defiant “no, fuck YOU” look she’s giving the top dog.
Omukai SLAPS Aja and demands a handshake, never wavering, and Aja appears almost amused by this morsel before flipping her off. Omukai dares a martial arts stance and goes for a high kick, mimicked by Aja- ooh, she’s lucky this isn’t 1993 Aja, who would have torn her arms and legs off for that. Omukai evades Aja from underneath on the mat, but pops up and actually catches her running in, nailing her with a kick to the face that Aja sells with that perfect “woah, what?” sell and confusion while Omukai peppers her with more, some REALLY catching her. Aja gets checked by the ref, collapses off a whip, etc.- really selling that big. The ref actually has to protect her at one point to check on her again while Omukai is defiant, so Aja finally just stuffs her to mount a comeback, using weight and force and spreading her guard so a slap can get through. Aja, still selling, splatters Omukai with kicks and the corner lariat. Aja now goes into her “methodical beatdown” phase, just grinding her down, hitting stiff chops and a Vader attack that Omukai sells with aplomb (just collapsing inwards on impact).
Omukai fights for a cross-armbreaker from the guard but Aja just lifts her up and launches her, and Omukai bridges out of the second-rope splash. Aja hits the piledriver for two (great facial reactions from Omukai), but Omukai scoots out of the suplex and pops her with a high kick into a “right on the toes” Bridging German for two! Aja goes for the Uraken early but Omukai hits a Northern Lights suplex, but it’s too close to the ropes and Aja easily makes it. Omukai throws more head-kicks and Aja puts her on the apron, but gets cocky and eats a springboard roundhouse kick that looked wild with those long-ass limbs of Omukai’s. Imagine Stacey Kiebler doing that move. Aja stuffs a tiger suplex but eats more kicks, only to catch the kid running in with a Brainbuster, causing a double-down. Aja finally gears up the Uraken, but Omukai reverses to a flash-pin for two- when Aja gets up, she readies the Uraken but wisely ducks an incoming kick, swats Omukai on the follow-through, and hauls her down and strangles her with a sleeper for the KO at (12:27), barely pulling that one out.
Omukai’s confused expression as she “comes to” after the match, hair in her mouth, while Aja just glowers at her with this “you fuckin’ kid- you had no right taking me that far”), is a star-making moment, it feels like. And then they fight again! Omukai starts slapping her so Aja fires back and locks her back in that choke, leading to the ref and doctor admonishing her while she stomps away with a disgusted look on her face. Aja starts beating on her AGAIN as they finally pull the two apart, Aja posing and reveling in applause, and then Omukai gets her triumphant cheer in the ring before flopping back, unconscious.
A fascinating display by Aja, who is facing a subordinate opponent who has like, ZERO physical credibility being so gangly by comparison in addition to being a rookie, but chooses to sell those long kicks like they were positively lethal, messing her up at every turn. So Aja wisely sells and sells in the beginning to put Omukai over, and only later manages to do “the usual” to her, though Omukai looks less vulnerable than even Main Eventers like Kyoko & Manami have eating the same. Which, well, is just weaker selling, but still. That said, Omukai really throws her body into the sell-jobs, flailing a single leg out every time she takes a major hit in a semi-cartoonish production that actually works, using her body type well. This match was Omukai demanding to be made a STAR and Aja obliging. Funnily enough it almost seems better without sound than with it (I found the “sound” version later and re-watched it) because the crowd obviously doesn’t give a shit about any of the technical stuff and doesn’t buy Omukai’s chances at all.
Rating: ***1/2 (very, very good midcard bout, with Omukai showing some good chops and Aja being her old self)
REGGIE BENNETT vs. RIE TAMADA:
* A foregone conclusion, but an interesting one- Tamada was in the mid-tier in AJW and probably wasn’t going much further there, so has something to prove. Reggie is back in Japan and becomes a regular in ARSION as a top contender- sort of a Lance Archer-type in AEW today where they never win belts but they bring people to the limit and are a different sort of opponent- she was an upper-midcard wrestler in AJW. She’s now wearing a Bam Bam Bigelow-esque fire singlet (but, um, with a different cut) while Rie’s in military fatigue gear now.
They immediately go SHOOT-STYLE, all grappling with each other, which looks kinda funny as Reggie might weigh twice what Tamada does, and picks her up out of the triangle and launches her like Aja did Omukai. Reggie works the back and hits a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker off the ropes, but Rie gets a missile kick. Reggie swats another down and hits a spinning slam, but Rie’s able to armdrag out of another one and goes for a cross-armbreaker a few times. She even gets a springboard rana and immediately tries again, then again after armdragging Reggie when she attempts a Flair Toss off the top. Reggie catches her off the top with a fallaway slam and hits the 2nd-rope Splash for two. Reggie Rack (tilt-a-whirl into a torture rack) is attempted but Rie spins out and NOW can hit the cross-armbreaker! But Reggie makes the ropes quickly, at least putting over the move. Reggie catches her running again and gets the mother of all chokeslams (just BOMBING her and jumping forwards) for two, then a devastating powerbomb. The ref checks for signs of life, stalling Reggie, but she attempts a big finish with another… but Rie ranas out, only to be caught half-way and Reggie just bends her back in the middle from that position, and that’s the submission at (7:25).
This one shows off the “ARSION Style” a bit, but has a bit of weirdness to it, where it’s like half-Shoot Style and then they ignore it completely and just do standard spots- like they pick and choose when they’re using that style because all the usual stuff is threaded into it. In the end it’s just Rie doing running attacks and reversing to the cross-armbreaker, hoping to get it, but Reggie keeps hoping to catch her and often does- this leads right into the ending sequence where she flattens her with the chokeslam and then hits the finishing run.
Rating: **1/2 (good little Big vs. Little match that let Rie be competitive but still an underdog)
Some girls bring out BELTS! That’s right, this spin-off promotion is so rich it has ACTUAL BELTS! The Queen of ARSION Title and the Twin Stars of ARSION Titles. Yes, Rossy was doing funny names for titles even back then.
AJA KONG, MICHIKO OMUKAI & YUMI FUKAWA vs. CANDY OKUTSU, MIKIKO FUTAGAMI & RIE TAMADA:
* Like Neo’s first show, we get a “repeat performance” to end things, with a trios match with people who fought before. Except one crew is clearly a league beyond the others because it has Aja. But interestingly Aja & Omukai just got into a nasty post-match brawl, and they’re on the same side, while the others are a united front, hugging backstage and triple-leaping over the top rope.
Rie immediately charges Fukawa for a quick try and then they hit a Double-Assisted SUPERBOMB, Aja just barely shoving them off the pin- okay, that was a good try. Yumi’s able to get a flying rana on Gami but the other team prevents a tag and the rolling kick splatters her for two. Oh, their teamwork is gonna be a problem. Fukawa avoids a pumphandle slam and Omukai hits the LETHAL HIGH KICK on Gami, but Candy springboard dropkicks her, Aja backdrop drivers HER, but Gami comes in and knocks Aja’s block off with a swinging kick. Fukawa tries a rollup from a German but Gami just holds her mid-roll and tosses her back for two, and then Rie knocks the others off the apron and scoots to the other corner for a run-up superplex, and they do TRIPLE FLYING HEADBUTTS… but Fukawa kicks out under her own power! Aja finally helps Fukawa out, and we get Omukai hitting a skip-up flying armdrag and Aja clotheslining Candy to death (great “dead body bump” by her). Candy uses speed with a rana, and Aja & Gami square off, Aja putting Gami over just by treating her on an even keel. She knocks Gami down but gets swatted in the ear, and Omukai/Gami do a speedy sequence (probably helps they’re from the same place) into Omukai’s release German, but she gets slickly rolled up and Rie’s in- Omukai gets a cutter but runs into a perfect plex for two.
Omukai gets a shitty powerslam reversal and Aja prepares her typical avalanche spot, but Rie pops up and drills her, but Aja catches her off the top with a powerslam & piledriver. Rie uses speed to fling Aja around, and hits a tope con hilo to the floor while Gami cleans house in the ring, but her pescado hits Rie and Fukawa quebradas onto the pile (landing almost vertically), then Omukai hits the wobbliest, most terrified-looking springboard cannonball ever onto Fukawa by mistake. Candy hits a good run-up plancha but splatters her own team and man these people all need glasses. But Aja hits her crowd-pleasing dive onto the trio to cap it all off. Backdrop driver hits Rie, but she avoids the brainbuster with a rollup and Candy Germans Aja out of a lariat for two. A missile dropkick knocks Aja down, but Omukai flies in with a springboard enzuiknee into Aja’s powerbomb into Fukawa’s moonsault into Aja’s 2nd-rope splash while her partners hold off the others… but the pile dives in before 3! Everyone trades off and Gami runs in with a Super Frankensteiner on Fukawa when she tries a double-team, and Candy’s Bridging German gets two. Candy’s moonsault misses and Gami clotheslines Fukawa out of La Majistral while Rie cannonballs Aja off the apron, but when Candy tries to capitalize, Fukawa reverses to La Majistral for three (11:55)- Fukawa the rookie wins one! Aja & Omukai congratulating their little buddy at the end is great.
Man, that was a hell of a MOVEZ match, with everyone doing a lot of intricate “nobody gets more than two moves in a row until one is reversed” stuff. Assorted great stuff (Candy’s sell of Aja’s clothesline, the triple headbutts and the way they tried to quickly polish off Fukawa), mixed with some worse execution (Omukai’s weak powerslam and some lame jumping moves), and then they did one of those classic “non-stop false finishes” AJW-style Beamspam Finish with everyone doing double-teams and interference while holding others off from breaking up the pins. I loved that series into Candy’s Bridging German almost getting it, and everyone charging in to flatten someone until Fukawa unexpectedly reversed Candy for the win.
Rating: ***3/4 (like the AJW team matches of old, but going right to the killshots and cutting off 5 minutes)
We end things with the winning team celebrating, Fukawa bowing to the fans all tearfully, and Aja taunting a snarling Omukai and making a show out of “selecting” one of them- I assume this is for the Twin Star of ARSION Tournament coming up.
Okay, I REALLY dug ARSION’s first show. Not the greatest thing ever, but way more energy than Neo Ladies, and a lot of fun stuff in unique styles. I dig a promotion that has Monsters (Aja, Reggie), subordinate monsters (Jessie), shoot-style (Gami), flyers (Candy, Rie), whatever Omukai is, and a spitfire rookie like Fukawa. It’s VARIETY. And they really wanted to swing for the fences here and it showed- there was tons of effort and a desire to really impress people- Fukawa & Omukai in particular were NOBODIES before this, and wrestle like they want to be main eventers.
That said, there’s a weird kind of “Reset Button” here, where it’s like we, the audience, are supposed to pretend that these weren’t mostly minor wrestlers in the years before this. Michiko Omukai was a lower-tier wrestler in LLPW and now she’s nearly KOing AJA KONG? Gami’s also a slayer? Fukawa can now fight someone on Candy’s level to the limit as an equal? It’s like we’re meant to simply accept that everyone is a different person than they were beforehand- easy in a new promotion, but not so much when it’s built from old ones. It’s tough to train fans that “oh, suddenly Omukai is an uppercard challenge” in a land that usually makes people do a “slow march to stardom” (New Japan can rev it up with their “excursions” leveling people up by a ton but joshi doesn’t have that advantage).