This was the third Cachorras brawl in a month in a half that rates among the greatest brawls I've ever seen. What made this a great brawl wasn't the cool gimmick spots or the blood. Those things alone only make brawls great to fans of Big Japan and ECW who have no clue what a great brawl actually is. What made this a great brawl was that they did the cool spots in the right order, with everyone using the proper facials to get them over, so the spots had meaning and built to an incredible climax. This is where the vastly overrated Mankind vs. Undertaker Hell in the Cell match failed. Since that entire match, given who was going over, was in the reverse order it should have been, the pinnacle was 1 minute into it. Thus, it was all down hill from there. On the contrary, this match got better and better until it peaked for the finish. Due to the spots being made meaningful, everything being properly ordered, and the sellout crowd being incredibly vocal (and not just popping for the spots), this was a very dramatic match.
"This match was a great example of what a brawl and cage match should be. The didn't completely rely on the gimmicks, but they used them enough that you always knew you were watching a cage match. I liked the fact that they used shoot-style moves, such as jujigatame, even though there are no submissions in this type of the match. It not only added a lot of substance to the match itself, but allowed the U*TOPS to stay within their gimmick. The crowd got into this, and they were great down the stretch. If the ECW locker room is determined to actually mix good brawling and good wrestling, then maybe I can send Heyman a copy of this fantastic match," wrote Hadi.
Las Cachorras, who had left the promotion a month earlier, still held the WWWA tag titles, but this match was not for the tag titles. Actually, this style of cage match is always "Texas Tornado" style, so there weren't even any tags here. In order to win the match, both women had to escape over the top of the cage to the floor. What makes these rules much more interesting in tag is it's easy for one woman to escape, but you don't want to leave your partner to be massacred.
Watanabe's shoulder was really in bad shape, so she wore football shoulder pads. Her injury could have really hampered the match, but instead it just helped the psychology. Ito & Shimoda had a stare down before the match to build the rivalry, as well as the fans anticipation. Cachorras immediately unloaded a series of chair shots. They have the right idea when it comes to throwing the chair at their opponent on occasion. They can throw it harder than they can swing it, yet the shot still isn't hard enough that the opposition is going to lose their brain cells. The first 5 ½ minutes was all brawling with Cachorras also using chains and introducing their foes to the cage. Shimoda even tried to remove Watanabe's shoulder pads to get heat. Watanabe & Ito both displayed some great facials during this portion, which made you almost be able to feel their pain. The result of all this was that Ito and Watanabe were both bloody before they did their first offensive maneuver. This early portion clearly followed a basic premise, establishing the heels.
The U*TOPS team finally came back with Watanabe working over Shimoda's leg then applying a leg lock, which Shimoda basically bit her way out of. Ito did the same to Mita, but she did nothing to work up to it. Ito tried for an udehishigigyakujujigatame on Mita, but Shimoda, who was working on Watanabe's bad shoulder, made the save with a chair shot then tried an udehishigigyakujujigatame. When Mita recovered, she picked up where Shimoda left off, working Ito's shoulder.
Watanabe was screaming in pain from being put in the udehishigigyakujujigatame. Shimoda continued to work Watanabe's arm, with Watanabe continuing the excellent facials, while Mita took Ito out with her Death Valley bomb. With Ito selling the Death Valley bomb, Mita arm barred Watanabe and Shimoda came off the top with a punch to the shoulder. Cachorras wouldn't normally use this dated common spot, but due to Watanabe's shoulder injury, it enhanced the storyline of the match. What really made the spot work though was the face Watanabe made while Mita was twisting her arm when she saw Shimoda perched on the top rope ready to pounce on the bad shoulder. Shimoda then tried the first escape of the match. It was almost 10 minutes into the match, so this certainly wasn't Los Hermanos Dinamitas vs. Los Payasos in a which team can pull the other team off the cage the most death for all the viewers match. Of course, the first attempt at an escape didn't work, as Ito nadare shiki no released German suplexed Shimoda back into the ring.
Ito displayed a lot more fire than normal here, but all her comebacks were quickly cut off. With everyone down in the ring selling, Shimoda had Saya tie the security rail to a chain so they could get it over the top rope for Shimoda's rail drop. Maekawa tried to stop Saya, which was a nice little feud of the understudies that went on outside the ring throughout the match, but she was unsuccessful. Even though it was cool that Shimoda jumped off the top of the cage, the spot took too long to set up, and the way she does this spot she may as well just push the ladder over because her jump didn't add any impact to it. Cachorras tried to escape, but the U*TOPS recovered in time, and they finally took the advantage when Cachorras chair spot backfired.
Ito used the chain on Shimoda, who juiced a gusher. Ito held Shimoda in the udehishigigyakujujigatame forever, and Shimoda was selling it huge. Since there were no submissions in this match, Mima was at Ito's mercy, and Kaoru wasn't going to show her any. Mita wasn't able to make the save because Watanabe cannonball bustered her. Ito & Watanabe both tried to escape together. Watanabe made it over the top, but Mita recovered in time to cut Ito off by nadare shiki no piggyback dropping Ito, which was incredible. Watanabe being the one that escaped made sense because that meant the healthy one on the team was the one that was working longer.
The fans got behind Ito because it was two against one. Ito did her diving footstomp to both and tried to escape, but they cut her off. Cachorras then held Ito against the cage so Saya could spray a fire extinguisher in her face, and all around for that matter, which was a page out of Aja's book from the great brawl against Cachorras from 8/9/97. This created something of a smoke screen, and both Cachorras tried to escape. They did the smart thing, which was trying to escape from opposite sides of the ring, thus making it impossible for Ito to stop them both. Mita escaped, but Ito was able to stop Shimoda with a udehishigigyakujujigatame off the top. They used the cage for leverage extremely well in this match, allowing them to do moves off the top rope that they would normally have to do off the 2nd. This was the most incredible of these spots because Ito had Shimoda in udehishigigyakujujigatame position before she even jumped off the top! Shimoda's arm was still dead from the earlier udehishigigyakujujigatame, and she had been doing a great job of selling it all the way. She looked like a bird with a broken wing. Thus, it didn't take much to finish her off. Ito tried to escape, but since Mita is a heel, she had to try to stop Ito by climbing up the cage. They met at the top of the cage, but Ito dragged Mita over the top, and Mita took the bump into the ring. Ito probably could have escaped right at this point, but the titles weren't on the line and her legal opponent was "crippled," so a measure of revenge was worth more than the chance to win the match then and there. Ito climbed to the top of the cage and spread her arms for the Superfly leap. However, she jumped off the top of the cage onto Mita with her diving footstomp, which was 20 times as brutal as doing a body press would have been. Ito decided it was time for her to escape, and Mita certainly wasn't going to stand in her way at this point. Of course, you have to make it dramatic, so Shimoda pulled herself up with her good arm and tried to stop Ito, but she was in such bad shape that she got over there too late and was unable to climb up the cage because she only had one arm. Ito wasn't taking any chances though, so instead of climbing all the way down the cage she just let go and plunged to the mat landing on or next to Watanabe, who was still selling the previous damage.
"It was a perfect finish, with Ito really beating the odds of being left alone in the cage with both Shimoda & Mita. Part of what made it so cool was that Ito did not so much escape' the cage, rather she incapacitated both Shimoda & Mita then left. The footstomp from the top of the cage looked so brutal that it was very believable she could leave after that. Must not have taken much acting on Mita's part to sell that move," wrote Michiko.
This finishing sequence was the stuff legends are made of, and the fans went absolutely nuts for it. To top it all off, you had Hotta, the leader of the U*TOPS, lying over her partners and hugging them. Since this was beyond a war, Ito was spitting up something and Shimoda and Watanabe were putting their arm/shoulder over huge. Mita was actually holding Shimoda's arm for her as they left the cage.
This match could hardly have been better. The worst thing about it was that AJW had a really crappy camera for the overhead shots, so that footage wasn't even broadcast quality though obviously it aired anyway. The match put over the heels even though they lost, and actually it was really classy in that respect with AJW showing respect for their departed greats instead of jobbing them out like the US promotions would have done. The match also put the U*TOPS over huge because not only did they make the dramatic comeback win, but their new submission style was the catalyst.
This was the best women's match of 1997, and possibly the best match in the careers of all four wrestlers. It's a little more questionable with Shimoda & Mita since they've had a number of great matches, especially the 8 woman from 11/28/93. Escape cage matches suck everywhere else in the world because they degenerate into a bunch of climbing, clawing, pulling, and tugging, but this was truly great. There may have been a cage match from a previous decade that was worthy of a higher rating, but this is the greatest cage match ever. 17:26. ****3/4
According to Michael Smith, "This match was much better than any of the Hell in the Cell matches because they mixed brawling and wrestling, while all Michaels and Cactus did was bump. Of course, that's all you can do when you wrestle a good worker' who is Hall of Fame' caliber like Undertaker. The bump that Michaels took off of the cage through the table was talked about for months as being spectacular. However, it was extremely overrated because what people fail to mention is that the spot took forever to setup. The double footstomp off of the top of the cage was not only a gutsy move on Ito & Mita's part that was more dangerous than anything Michaels has ever done, but it was a spot that we didn't have to wait forever to see. As Mike pointed out to me, the waiting time for the diving footstomp only served to build anticipation for the spot, as Ito was playing to the crowd in Snuka-esque fashion. This finish truly was a beautiful moment of perfection where everything was just right, with the reaction of the crowd not only intensified an already dramatic and epic brawl, but taking the match to an even higher level. It truly was, the stuff that legends are made of.' Any fan that thinks New Jack is the epitome of a brawler or thinks that taking two suicidal bumps from the top of a cage makes a match "****1/2" owes it to themselves to check out this match and see how a cage match should be done. This match set a standard that may never be reached again."
As far as the Michaels vs. Undertaker Hell in the Cell match goes, the thing that really bothered me was that after Michaels, as always, put us through overexaggerated bump taking 101 and overexaggerated selling 101, he pretty much recovered from the killer bump off the cage by the time Mr. Methodical could climb down from the cage. This was the one bump Michaels needed to put over huge, but instead he finally didn't overact. This match was so far from ***** that I can't even see how anyone could try to justify giving it that rating.
Jerome: THE match that made the legend of LCO. I've never seen better structuring in such a difficult style. This is the perfect antithesis of how cage matches are worked these days because these fours are awesome wrestlers and not a bunch of idiots jumping left and right and breaking their bodies with poorly set up spots in substanceless stuntfests. Here the cage is used as much as a psychological element as a physical one. The number of big spots is incredibly low, and yet each one attains an unbelievable level of drama. The four huge cage spots are at the same time the climax of an entire section and a transition to another part of the match. It's a perfect illustration of what makes a wrestling match great : getting a lot out of doing a little.
In this case, the first ten minutes are basically a destruction of the face team by Mita and Shimoda. The work itself is minimum and consists of heel tactics such as using chairs, choking the opposition with chains, and rubbing their forehead against the steel cage to make them bleed. LCO just have to allow a few comebacks, particularly from Ito's part, to keep the interest of the crowd then cut them off abruptly to instill the feeling of desperation. They build the drama by, in fact, working slowly without using any big or even medium spots. All the drama resides in the painful facials of the poor victims, reinforced by some efficient blade-jobs (smart use of the blood), and in the sadistic attitude of the tormentors. The acting of all four woman is at an all time high, with Watanabe being particularly impressive. Shimoda and Mita are also awesome in their distinct roles of sexy bloodthirsty animal and cold and insensitive executioner respectively. Along with the facials goes the selling, and once again Watanabe is in her glory, selling both the blood loss and the agony of her injured elbow with a shocking realism. The roles were eventually reversed, so it became time for LCO to showcase their great selling and facials. The vision of a bloody Shimoda hooked in Ito's jujigatame, screaming and shaking like a fish out of water, was the perfect counterpoint to the same Shimoda tormenting poor Watanabe's shoulder earlier in the match.
The escape attempts were extremely smart and well built, and all lead to one of the big cage spots. The first one was Shimoda trying to get out after ten minutes of destroying the U*TOPS team, but being cut off by most valid of the two, Ito. The second time around, it was the U*TOPS turn to try to get out, with Ito protecting the path for the injured and more vulnerable Watanabe. Tomoko got out of harms way, but Ito was stopped by Mita, who then executed her signature spot where she puts her opponent on her shoulders before throwing them backward, except this time she was already standing on the top rope! This inhuman spot echoes the German suplex Ito used before to cut off Shimoda on her first escape attempt. The next one was rapidly aborted, as LCO made the mistake of trying to get out together by climbing up at the same time one next to the other. This allowed Ito to stop them both at the time. It finally lead to the last two attempts, which was the climax of the match. This time, LCO climbed the cage on opposite sides, and Ito had to make a choice. She went after Shimoda and put her in the jujigatame as they were both on the top rope, then simply dropped down, driving poor Mima to the mat in awfully brutal fashion. Etsuko Mita had no choice but to climb up the cage again to try to prevent Ito from going out. At this point, the drama hit its climax as Ito manages to throw Mita back in the ring. After this already insane bump, Mita then takes one of the most brutal moves I've ever seen. Kaoru could have gotten out of the cage and won the match for her team, but she chose to finish Mita, who was no longer a legal participant in the match, with her diving footstomp. Etsuko has an incredible heart to agree to take such a move because there's no way to protect yourself. The crowd went totally nuts as Ito escaped the steel trap, leaving LCO in their misery, Shimoda was crying through the blood on her face and selling her shoulder like it was broke, while Mita was holding her ribs (which certainly was a lot more legit than a sell job). Incredible performance from all four woman in every aspect possible, work, selling, psychology and acting. The best LCO match until their match vs. HamaKINO, and probably the best cage match ever since I doubt such a precedent can ever be equaled much less surpassed.