2/3 Falls WWWA Sekai Tag Senshuken Jiai:
Talk about a high pressure situation. The 25th anniversary interpromotional wars were planned, but they put the first two interpromotional matches on this last big show of the year as a prelude. The first was a terrible mistake, putting awful FMW stiffs Shark Tsuchiya & Crusher Maedomari against Debbie Malenko & Sakie Hasegawa, who were a fine team but a young one that was hardly going to carry the uncarryable. In order for next year’s program to be a big success, this match was going to have to deliver in a big way. It needed to at least be on par with the big matches AJW presented earlier in the card because this wasn’t similar to New Japan taking on All Japan; there was no other women’s league that was all that successful or important. The big matches AJW presented included a great Akira Hokuto vs. Kyoko Inoue match, and Aja Kong finally overtaking Bull Nakano.
All Yamada, Toyota, Kansai, & Ozaki did here was deliver the greatest women’s tag match of all time. In the process, they put the new JWP on the map (they’d lost half their roster the year before when LLPW was formed) and legitimized the main event status of WWWA tag champs Yamada & Toyota.
What made interpromotional matches in Japan special (few are now because they happen so often and so many wrestlers work in more than one league) was the idea the stakes were too high for anyone to lay down. With that in mind, consider the opening segment between Yamada and Kansai. It may or may not have gone down exactly as designed, but its lack of cleanness added to the legitimacy. The early misses and lack of cooperation spots showed this match was the real deal, and allowed them to start working together with the greatness they are capable of delivering. It also greatly lessened the impact of any future miscue because, like in UWF-I, a little awkwardness demonstrates the opponents attempted resistance.
The referee was almost at the mercy of the combatants’ good will, of which there was obviously none. From the outset, he could not contain them. Submissions were the motif of the match. Most of the regular outside interference was built from them, with the teammates taking free kicks to add to the pain or break up the hold any chance they got.
The pacing came off as being fast despite the plethora of submissions, more than any great women’s match I’ve ever seen, because everyone was in a constant state of desperation. They scrambled to seize any opportunity, so the specifics of the opportunity don’t carry that much significance.
The atmosphere was tremendous because JWP definitely had their share of fans in attendance. Though there were also a good number of fans that didn’t really know anything about JWP. However, the JWP team was so impressive that Ozaki had the fans cheering her name before the 8-minute mark, and this was when she had Toyota in a routine 1/2 crab.
Many wrestlers would take this surprising positive reaction as an opportunity to steal the crowd from the home team, but Kansai & Ozaki are class acts. They did just the opposite, stepping up their heel tactics to help guarantee their opponents got the intended applause.
Ozaki doesn’t get nearly the credit she deserves for her timing, which is the key to earning and inciting crowd response, at least in places where the fans are more than trained dogs when the public address system lets them out. In the 3rd fall, there was a spot were Toyota was booed for taking free face kicks in an attempt to free Yamada from Kansai’s ½ crab. When the ref got her out, Ozaki ran in and started stomping Yamada, which shifted the blame, and boos, back to her team. All that being said, the match wasn’t about face and heel. It was about everyone always being involved because their partner and promotion needed them. Sportsmanship was out the window with both teams taking short cuts and cheap shots regularly.
Teamwork was not only a regular aspect, it was a great asset. Yamada & Toyota, despite their great singles program, had plenty of matches to build up their timing and repertoire, but Kansai & Ozaki were almost always on opposite sides. Some of the moves they busted out were surprising; even though a younger Kansai tended to have the move set of a smaller woman, you certainly don’t think of Kansai as a top candidate for diving headbutts from opposite corners.
The idea that the JWP team was carried here is pure fiction. Ozaki was a top 5 female worker in 1990 when Yamada & Toyota were getting pushed beyond their capability because AJW’s forced retirements left them lacking both star power and top workers. Yamada & Toyota had developed into great workers in 1992, and it’s true that wouldn’t match them for a 30 minute spot sprint, but there’s a lot more to wrestling than workrate. Intelligence is a huge factor, and while Yamada & Toyota weren’t particularly bright, as long as KAORU isn’t around Ozaki is right up there with anyone that ever wrestled, male or female, and Kansai never got the credit she deserved in her prime because she was always the other big woman engulfed by the huge shadow of the great Aja Kong. I would go so far as to swing the pendulum in the other direction, stating Kansai & Ozaki carried the match as they were the ones that did the clever things, the little things, the things that really set the match off and made it outstanding. They had all the intangibles, and they did what the best wrestlers often do to have a great match, figure out how to best incorporate and utilize the talents of their less well rounded opponents.
Kansai was the dominant force in this match, and though her offense was deliciously brutal, I’m not talking about her being the only monster. She was the constant, and she opened up opportunities for the opposition to show what great workers they were. She also allowed Yamada to stand up to her and be her tough girl self, despite the large size difference.
Ozaki was only in about 1/3 of the time, which shows the kind of stamina Kansai had pre-illness, but what a force Mayumi was from the apron! The best example of her brilliance was the spot where Toyota was trying to reach the rope to break Kansai’s figure 4. A second before Toyota could make it, Ozaki entered and stepped on her hand. She left before getting disqualified, but stepped on the hand again from the apron. Then she stepped on it again when Toyota finally did reach the rope. Kansai was not going to get the submission here, but Ozaki was able to prolong Toyota’s agony by almost 20 seconds. Not only that, she put her partner in a spot where she could start kicking Toyota before Manami could get back to her feet.
Kansai & Ozaki only won one fall, but the bookers knew what they were doing. They gave them the first fall when Kansai splash mountained Toyota at 14:38, which quickly cemented their credibility. Now that we knew JWP was capable of beating AJW, the level of intensity and importance was automatically kicked up several notches.
The second fall didn’t serve much, if any, purpose. Kansai & Ozaki both rushing the AJW corner at the bell was a great idea. Ozaki kneeing Yamada to the floor gave Kansai the opportunity to pin the battered Toyota right away. Unfortunately, Toyota came back and Yamada escaped immediately. AJW isn’t booking for the glory of JWP, but still, the bigger the hole they put themselves in, the sweeter the victory in the end. Unfortunately, this second fall was just a series of suplexes until Kansai succumbed to Yamada’s reverse Gori special bomb at 1:44. Yamada’s initial backdrops had wicked snap, but she tired herself out throwing someone so much heavier than her so many times in succession, and it was showing.
The briefness of the second fall did allow for an amazing 3rd fall. Part of the reason it was so great was the length. At 24 minutes, it was longer than the vast majority of one fall tag matches either promotion runs. No one would have expected it to last that long, especially after the first two totaled more than 16 minutes.
The physical toll was very high. They certainly took their share of chances, including several dives, but they weren’t reckless. The stiffness, however, was really spiked with regular jarring contact because putting over anything weak would shatter the illusion the match was based on. The main trick employed was attacking an area that’s normally left alone, the face, in ways you wouldn’t see unless the attempt is specifically to injure. Yamada can’t approach Kansai’s power, but her expressions and motions while kicking made her strikes nearly a match.
Ozaki eventually succumbed to Toyota’s cross-arm German suplex, the finisher of her mentor Jaguar Yokota, or did she? Referee Daiichi Murayama counted 3, but Ozaki started rolling out at 2 ½, and you couldn’t really tell when she got her shoulders up. Like the rest of the match, it was just so close. This isn’t my favorite finish, but it was more than acceptable because my feeling was doubt rather than screw job or even protecting the JWP team. The match certainly left everyone clamoring for more, and the idea that the AJW team won without quite winning played a role in that, although certainly being a minor aspect that was greatly overshadowed by the amazing match quality.
What’s amazing about the early AJW interpromotional matches is how quickly they got it right. Really, the quality of this and the Hokuto vs. Kandori 4/2/93 match boggles the mind. You had promotions that had never done interpromotional matches and wrestlers that had never worked together before, yet the first big tag match and singles match wound up being the best matches women have ever delivered and the model for how anyone should to do an interpromotional match. More than anything, these matches are a testament to the outstanding effort of everyone involved. *****