TWF & WWWA Sekai Joshi Ryo (two) Senshuken Jiai:
Draws have been used during series to prolong them, but considering the history of the series, it may have been the only way to end this one. Although Lioness has dominated each and every match, neither wrestler has been able to win two in a row. The series began on 4/26/98 with Kyoko capturing the TWF title at 17:29 following 3 lariats in a ****1/2 match that's most notable for being Lioness' best performance of the 90's. Lioness regained the title on a Neo show on 5/6/98 when she powerbombed Kyoko off a table draped across the middle rope at 18:12. This was the match where Kyoko proved she wasn't washed up by stepping her performance up several notches. Although as a whole it was still only slightly better than the first match, ****1/2 and better than 4/26 made it the best women's match of 1998. On 8/2/98, after taking a deadlier new powerbomb, this time off a table draped across the top rope, Kyoko came right back and regained the title, pinning Lioness in a nadare shiki no kaiten ebigatame at 26:52. Marred by a terrible finish, this was the low point of the series even though it was still a ***3/4 match. Lioness took the title back on 1/24/99, pinning Kyoko at 18:59 when she spewed poison mist in her face then caught her with a spinning high kick. Aside from a finish that was underwhelming considering how many killer spots the match contained, this was pretty much every bit as good as the 4/26/98 & 5/6/98 matches. The sameness was the other main factor that led me to give it ****1/4 rather than the ****1/2 that the other two got.
"A draw was a strange way to end this feud. The only real reason I can see for it to end in this was is to prove that the two are basically equal. This is believable because as you pointed out, neither has been able to win two in a row," wrote James.
In spite of the consistent in ring excellent and even though this was the first time that the legendary WWWA Sekai Single Senshuken was to be unified with a belt of a rival promotion, this match was an afterthought even on the day it took place because it was promoted by Jd' so "nobody" saw it. Lioness' greatly inferior matches against Chigusa are going to be the women's matches from '99 that are made out to be legendary by the Japanese because they took place on the major shows of one of the in promotions and drew overflow houses.
"This show being outdrawn by Nagayo-Asuka, and those being the matches that go down as famous in the years to come is to be expected. Nagayo and Asuka had an extensive history with each other, they were partners for years and their first match together after ten years was obviously going to generate major interest amongst fans and therefore big business. Kyoko and Asuka had a much shorter history, a series of five matches contested in front of small audiences," wrote James.
The problem is, outside of a few promotions, high profile match and great match don't usually go hand in hand, but have a way of blending together as time goes on and some of the better but more obscure stuff gets forgotten. There's certainly a place in history for the recent Chigusa vs. Lioness matches, as they were the reason those shows were two of the most successful women's shows since the AJW exodus. There should also be a place for the Kyoko vs. Lioness matches because this is the best series during that same time period. I doubt there will be though because there just seems to be apathy, at best, toward anything done in Jd' or Neo.
On their own day, Lioness & Kyoko were overshadowed and greatly outdrawn by Onita & Tenryu teaming for the first time in years for a terrible 8 man death match. Although their show sold out, Onita & Tenryu were overshadowed and greatly outdrawn by a K-1 show that the portion of the Grand Prix qualifying tournament where we get to see which native will get to lose to an international star in the opening round of the main tournament. Jd' did outdraw ARSION's Tournament ZION '99, but Omukai's second tournament win was more seen and talked about in the end. Normally I'd agree with going to ARSION over Jd', but ARSION's one night tournaments have historically been by far their worst "big" shows and Lioness vs. Kyoko has always delivered the goods since both were out of AJW (a little before Lioness left AJW for Jd' in '95, they had a tremendously disappointing match where Kyoko beat her in a couple minutes). The Onita show, which featured two good junior tags that nobody came to see and four other matches that were at least as awful as you'd expect, drew more than twice as much as both women's shows combined, so it's still yet another example of what's more popular not going hand in hand with what's better. I know someone will say that it's just women's wrestling being less popular than men's, which obviously is true. However, there was also a Michinoku show that day with the finals of the Fukumen World League and a TAKA & TOKYO & Fujita vs. SUWA & Super Boy & Curry Man match that was better than expected (****1/4) but obviously was going to be very good, yet like the ARSION show that also drew a measly 1,100 even though it was out of the Tokyo/Kanagawa area where all the competition between the aforementioned shows and the usual All Japan Korakuen Hall sellout were.
"I would probably have attended this show rather than ZION because on paper it looked like a better card with Momoe vs. Sakai, the six woman Jd' vs. NEO tag, the Yabushita vs. Kosugi AWF title match as well as the main event. On paper, all of these matches sounded like they would be be at least good. ARSION, on the other hand, had a fairly predictable looking tournament and only one other pre-announced match, the six woman Lucha tag," wrote James.
Considering their longest previous match was 26:52, going all the way up to a 60:00 draw was a little extreme. However, the length was one of several reasons they were able to make this match different while remaining true to just about everything that made their previous matches so good. The gimmick spots, for instance, were the same idea, but different surroundings resulted in different killer moves. The bump Kyoko took through a table off the ledge of the upper level seats and Lioness' subsequent diving footstomp off the ledge are spots that couldn't be done in Korakuen because there's not enough room under the balcony to pull them off. We'd seen Kyoko bump through a table before, and again earlier in this match, and we'd seen some crazy diving footstomps to the floor before, but these were probably new and definitely more deadly than whatever similar spots had come before them in joshi puroresu.
"One spot that was somewhat enhanced by the larger venue was Lioness sitting Kyoko on a chair and kicking her, which sent her crashing down the steps. This came off as a more dangerous move here because there are potentially a lot more steps to fall down than at Korakuen. This turned into a decent setup for Kyoko getting thrown off the balcony and through the table because it didn't require her to almost walk right up to the edge knowing what was likely to come next. Lioness then hitting a diving footstomp from the balcony was a logical follow up because it didn't give Kyoko time to recover while she walked back down all the stairs," wrote James.
The main area that was different was the credibility of the near falls. This was not paced like a match that was going anywhere near 60:00. It was slower than their usual match through the first half, but not to the extent where anyone would think the match wasn't going to end soon. I mean, can anyone say they expected Kyoko to wrestle another 35 some odd minutes after they redid the finish of the 1/24/99 match? How many times have you seen someone wrestle 35 minutes with poison mist all over their face? The near falls were credible for around the last 40 minutes of the match. The thing with the pace was that in the second half, it got slower and slower because they were becoming deader and deader within the storyline due to taking all the punishment, although obviously it wasn't all acting.
James wrote, "The selling was definitely better after the balcony dive. It would be good to think that they were still putting over the damage of that move but it appears another chunk was edited out after that so who knows?"
Even though both women had gone 60:00 just two years earlier (Lioness against Bison and Kyoko against Ito), I felt they proved a lot by doing it again because Lioness is "ancient" by the standards of women's wrestling and Kyoko isn't supposed to have this kind of stamina because she's "Ms. Buffet." Certainly, they showed miles more stamina than Bret & Shawn. Still, their match plays better at around 20 because Lioness does so many killer moves and Kyoko does so many lariats, but if anything this was better than the 60:00 draws they did two years ago when they were younger and skinnier (Kyoko vs. Ito may have been better, but so much was edited off TV that you couldn't tell). The most impressive thing may have been that they still had enough in the tank to do a hot finish where they went back and forth between Lioness' spin kicks and Kyoko's lariats.
"Lioness *is* old by the standards of a female wrestler. However, that only shows that in the past women have retired when they are still more than capable of performing for several more years. Of course, there are several women younger than Asuka who should have retired because they are either not in such good shape or are content to live off a reputation from the past," wrote James.
The main strengths of the match were the execution and impact of the moves, so good and high over such a long period of time. The ordering of the spots was very good on Lioness' part. Kyoko had good timing, but I can't say her ordering was anything special since she doesn't have enough moves to make a logical progression. They both played off the previous matches, which was more important than it should have been because that was about the only psychology. Lioness did a good job with the pacing. The match had some lulls so they could conserve energy, but aside from the first one that came after a very hot opening, none lasted long enough or had that meandering/nothing is happening look to them that makes them problematic or fast forward material.
"They also played off important matches they had been involved in against other people over the last few years, for example Lioness going for the sleeper that she had beaten Jaguar Yokota with to win the TWF title and Kyoko attempting to use the Victoria driver that she had used to capture the WWWA title from Toyota in 1996," wrote James.
The storyline is that the wrestler "places a self imposed ban" if they do one of the most dangerous moves like Kyoko's Victoria driver/Kobashi's Burning hammer or Misawa's emerald frowjion as to avoid injuring all their opponents. They pretty much only "remove the ban" when they "have to," so it's kind of an honor to have the move done to you since that means you are one of the select few that's considered the toughest or most hated opposition. Due to the move being reserved for special occasions, it's hard to say that it was playing off a previous match unless the wrestler is in with the same opponent.
The moves used themselves were largely a positive. There were some really memorable ones, mainly the gimmick spots which included the two aforementioned spots of the upper level (looked to be about 8 feet high, but they jumped out far and the camera angles were good), Lioness' running high angle Ligerbomb on a pile of chairs, & Lioness' powerbomb off the apron through a table. Also, there were enough different versions and implementations of similar moves to keep things fresh enough. The big problem though is that Kyoko just doesn't have enough moves for this length. Lioness used all kinds of different bombs from all different places, but Kyoko really abused her lariat and Niagara driver. I mean, between the two there must have been a total of 25.
The main detriments of the match was that it had no focus or storyline. Their other matches didn't either, but at 20 minutes it's much easier to get away with. I would have liked Kyoko to use submissions on Lioness's taped up shoulder rather than doing a leg submission so she could do her jig. Most of the moves were great, but at some point it becomes overkill and you start looking for something beyond that, which they simply didn't give us. Even Lioness' seconds didn't play much of a role today. They did something once in a while, but never in a way that put focus on them.
"Kyoko did go after Lioness' shoulder early in the match. Unfortunately, she went after the healthy shoulder and pretty much just sat on her back holding the arm, making it look more like a time waste move than a submission that could have played a key point in the match. Lioness then went almost immediately to a wakigatame on Kyoko's taped up arm, but that again really only came off as a brief rest hold before Lioness began to use a chair handed to her by Morimatsu. They played off some moves from their earlier matches, such as Kyoko ducking a lariat and German suplexing Lioness onto a pile of chairs that had been put in the ring presumably by her or Morimatsu (it looks like part of the match was cut out here). Lioness recovered quicker this time though and used a top rope suplex onto the chairs. Kyoko came back and sent Lioness into the chairs before Morimatsu cut off Kyoko on the top rope, letting Lioness power bomb Kyoko onto them. A good point in the match was after about nineteen minutes when Kyoko went for a powerbomb but, seeing Morimatsu come in with a chair, moved and held Lioness in front. Lioness ran behind, but Kyoko moved and Lioness ended up taking the chair shot. This gave Kyoko a decent run of offense and a few near falls before Lioness cut her off by blowing the mist and hitting a spin kick - the finish of their previous match," wrote James.
This was yet another really enjoyable match from these two that should be seen. In a way, it was the most impressive match of the series just because they kept the quality up for two to three times as many minutes. I don't rate it as highly as 3 of the other 4 because it started to drag toward the end due to so many spots from the same mold getting tiresome and repetitive. Had they worked some kind of storyline instead of relying solely on spots, this probably would have been the best match of the series. Kyoko's days of having great marathons that rely solely on spots quite simply are over. This match can hold it's own with most any recent women's match when it comes to how they did what they did. The thing is since they didn't really do anything to draw you further into the match; there wasn't near the level of drama that there should have been for an excellent double title match. The abundance of near falls was great, but the drama peaked more than 20 minutes before the match ended. It picked up again in the last few minutes, but by that time you finally knew it was going to be a draw. In carrying a wrestler with little varying offense to an excellent hour match, Lioness once again proved that she's the best woman in the business today. That said, clearly it was a great effort from both champions that allowed them to pull it off. Since there was no winner this time, both women came out of the series on top and with their gold.
To conclude a feud that spanned over 2 years, the two biggest stars of the two least followed joshi promotions deliver another great match. To close their rivalry once and for all, they chose the difficult exercise of a 60 minute draw. Considering the age of Lioness and the shape of Kyoko, one could doubt that both workers would have the necessary stamina to run such a marathon. Even though the match has its flaws, these two legends proved that they could still go one hour and put every youngster to shame.
Like in every other big Lioness match, they used a lot of gimmick spots, but from the 40 minutes shown, it's obvious that they did it in a smart way. They built anticipation for all the table spots with teases, reminding the audience of their previous encounters, and more than anything ordering them, from the "least" dangerous to the biggest one, an insane balcony dive through a table by Kyoko. At this stage of her career, Inoue has replaced the majority of her old quick and nervous move set with impressive bumping ability that would make Mick Foley proud. Strangely, she's been rather uncredited for it, even by fans who like "people killing themselves for their enjoyment." Personally, I wonder if taking such bumps is really necessary for one of the greatest workers of the 90's, but then again it's another adaptation of her game to her imposing physique.
The build of the match, with the balcony dive coming a long time before the end, allowed Kyoko to act nearly dead and sell the damage for a long time. This was a very smart element because she obviously doesn't have the unlimited energy she once possessed, but this selling prevented the eventual blow up. Since the gimmicks didn't end the match, the last part saw both workers throwing bombs back and forth. This is where the major flaw of the match lies. They don't have an extensive number of finishing moves, so they used a lot of lariats and powerbomb variations, with Lioness saving her towerhacker bomb for the final moments. If you overlook some typical quickie comebacks from Kyoko, they both put the toll of the match over very well. Overall, Lioness was awesome in her execution and at leading the match, and Kyoko reacted extremely well and provided the shock effects by taking huge bumps. One of the best women's match of '99.
Special thanks to: Jerome Denis & James Phillips - Japanese Women's Wrestling
60:00 (44:36 shown)