AJW BIG EGG WRESTLING UNIVERSE ~Dômu Choujo Taisen~
PREFACE: Regarding Nomenclature
Throughout this work, the host promotion shall be referred to by its authentic Japanese colloquialisation of 'Zenjo', which derives from the individual pronunciations of the Japanese ideographic characters for "all" (zen) and "woman" (jo). This is the actual appellation used by the company and its fans as opposed to spurious westernised abbreviations. Furthermore, all Japanese names will be correctly transliterated and written exactly as the wrestler is announced.
Typically, the surname comes first and the given name second. Many wrestlers have creative and/or ambiguous ring names, utilising a nickname plus a given name, a single name in all capital Roman letters, et cetera. It should be firmly emphasised that wikipedia.org is flatly incorrect in removing the all-caps conventions. For example, on the following show the GAEA wrestler in the 4th match is named KAORU, not Kaoru.
Match titles shall be translated as necessary with a minimum of exposition.
Now, on with the show.
1, 20/1. Choujo Taisen Opening Match
Chaparrita ASARI [o] & Bomber Hikaru (GAEA) vs Yagi Hiromi & Sugou Hiromi [x] (JWP team) (6:53) reverse corkscrew missle dropkick
It's silly how long a walk it is to the ring at the Tokyo Dome, but ASARI made it more interesting than usual by backflipping halfway down the ramp. This was all ASARI and Yagi in a nice clash of styles. ASARI, as the crazy flippy girl did the biggest spot of the match with a top rope Skytwister to the floor. Yagi looked the best, carrying everyone and bringing out clever submissions including a Minoru Special-like flying juuji and a knee hold out of a victory roll. These two looked good against each other while their partners were completely useless. This didn't really detract in a short match, but Bomber in particular needed to have commands shouted at her during the finish, forcing ASARI to stand on the top rope longer than she should have. **1/4
2, ∞/1. Dome Super Midget Little Battle
Great Little Muta [o] & Buta Genjin vs Tsunokake Silver X [x] (4:46)
Little Muta had some amusing headstand-based moments and Buta did a Yone Genjin push-cart spot down the long ramp, but otherwise this answered the question "what would happen if a sorcerer turned the TNA Knockouts into male Japanese midgets?" Why on earth did this have no time limit? 1/4*, generously.
3, 20/1. Zenjo & JWP Future Conflict League Final / All Japan Junior Title
© Candy Okutsu (JWP) [o] vs Tamada Rie [x] (8:52) German suplex hold
Relatively competitive if homogenous performance based mostly on missile dropkicks and diving body presses with no real psychology. Candy does a running neckbreaker that's almost the Slingblade. Amusingly, at one point Tamada ostensibly uses Kekko Kamen's signature move. Finish came abruptly with a five-deep rolling German from Candy. **1/2
4, 30/1. Text of Wrestling
Minami Suzuka [o] vs KAORU (GAEA) [x] (9:33) high-angle sitting powerbomb
Basic back and forth, truncated match reminiscent of recent New Japan singles matches at the Dome. They got in their main points, but with more time they probably could have done more and utilised deeper psychology. Aside from some cradle jockeying, there wasn't much in the way of sequences - just reciprocating offense. Early on, KAORU showed some boxing (and I don't mean she threw punches), but later got quite moonsaulty. Suzuka wasn't flashy, but everything she did was solid and well executed. Finish saw KAORU land a moonsault; when she tried a second Suzuka blocked with her knees and was then able to hit the powerbomb. For some reason the commentators called it a piledriver. Nothing very special, but good for what it was. **3/4
5, 2'5R. Zenjo Fighting Globe (kickboxing match)
Maekawa Kumiko [o] vs Sugar Miyuki [x] (10:00) unanimous decision
Miyuki-chan is not in Wonderland as Maekawa has a comical reach and height advantage. Her controlled, compact striking worked better than Miyuki's strategy of bouncing around and flailing in punch combinations. Neither had stopping power. I graded this 50-45 Maekawa; the professionals scored it 50-49, 50-46, 50-48. For something like this, when there's clearly no danger of a finish, there's no entertainment.
6, 4'1R. Joshi Amateur Wrestling 1st Challenge
A. Hamaguchi Kyouko [x] vs Doris Blind (FRA) [o] (4:00)
There isn't enough room in a pro ring for amateur wrestling, so whenever they touched the ropes, the referee whistled and restarted them in the middle. Since this happened every 0-3 seconds, it sounded like Bill Alfonso was in attendance. Kyouko's father Animal hugs everyone afterwards. The French girls look confused and poor Kyouko-chan may have acquired severe social anxiety from the whole experience.
B. Yamamoto Miyuu [o] vs Anna Gomes (FRA) [x] (4:00)
Actually more of a real match since they avoid the ropes. Miyuu won 4-1, apparently. More hugging.
I have no idea why any of this was on the show at all, but it seems everyone expected Hamaguchi to join Zenjo. She never did.
7, 3'5R. Zenjo vs Shootboxing Kakutou Taikousen
Itou Kaoru [x] vs Ishimoto Fumiko (Osaka Gym) [o] (15:00) split decision
The rules are basically kickboxing with throws and standing submissions, but nothing on the ground. Throughout, Itou could score with judo throws at will but had poor punch defence. Things accelerated in round 5: Ishimoto blocked a hip toss and managed a suplex, Itou landed a clean uraken, they both traded throws to rack up points. I scored this a 48-48 draw, but the judges split 49-47, 47-49, 50-48 in favor of Ishimoto. The throws made this more interesting than Maekawa-Miyuki, but it was still rather irrelevant.
8. Big Heart Power Contest
Nagayo Chigusa (GAEA) [o] vs Reggie Bennett [x] (8:39) schoolboy
Reggie meets Chigusa on the ramp and they drop the gloves; Reggie will probably get an instigator in addition to the fighting major. Chigusa sells the weak strikes like a direct hit from a suborbital railgun cannonade and uses the pause to affect a very flaccid blade job. They eventually get to the ring... for the official introductions! Chigusa glares, points, froths, shouts and oversells everything Reggie both does and doesn't do to her. She favors her right side so derailingly that if it wasn't a legit injury or encounter with Longinus it was one of the weakest, lamest attempts to half-ass a match ever seen. Things began weirdly shoot style then segued into a floor brawl before settling to Chigusa-dominated inaction. Reggie clearly kicked out of the finish at two. Afterwards, the crowd boos Chigusa, and rightfully so. 1985 was clearly a long time ago. **
9, 30/1. Zenjo vs LLPW Dome Survival War
Yamada Toshiyo [x] & Watanabe Tomoko vs Kandori Shinobu [o] & Futagami Mikiko (LLPW team) (11:28) wakigatame
Not knowing her place, Gami jumps Yamada before the bell and gets a nearfall straight away, but the tables quickly turn. The main drive is ferocity between Yamada and Kandori with Watanabe and Futagami running interference (and into stiff strikes). Both show zero respect to the other's partner; Futagami in particular gets frequently tossed into her corner by Yamada, demanding engagement from Kandori. When she gets it, her strikes are psychotically stiff. Kandori isn't particularly interested in selling, but when you get kicked full force in the face you haven't much choice. Watanabe and Futagami trade getting cut off by the more senior women, but against each other are allowed to look good, even trading finishers near the end. In the finish, Kandori sweetly counters Yamada's Reverse Gory Special Bomb with a wakigatame; she keeps going back to the arm until Yamada has no choice but to tap. It looked like this was a preliminary skirmish leading to a big singles encounter, but I don't believe such a match ever took place. In any event, this was fierce and angry and they didn't waste a second of their twelve minutes. With a little more time this actually would've been main event-caliber material. ***1/2
10, 60/1. UWA World Women's Tag Title
© Mita Etsuko [o] & Shimoda Mima (Las Cachorras Orientales) vs Kurenai Yasha & Nagashima Michiko [x] (LLPW team) (15:36) Death Valley Bomb
The champions are borne to the ring by yokes of shirtless men, likely eliciting the jealousy of far more male and far fewer female wrestlers than you'd think. LCO play bully heels, but since they're facing another promotion's team, this puts them over with the crowd as baby faces. Lots of chokes, hair-mares, mocking pins, et cetera come into play. When momentum irrationally swings to LLPW, they return what was given to them - though none of these four seemed much interested in selling. Despite being demonstrably inferior talent, it's actually LLPW that scores the first big nearfall when Yasha gets 2.9 on Shimoda from a double impact nodowa otoshi. Generally basic and not always coordinated, things progress to bigger moves and shinai attacks from Yasha. In the most memorable spot, Mita throws Yasha at her partner, knocking both to the floor to set up dives. Later, Shimoda applies Yasha's own shinai to her right in front of the referee - neither seem to care. Though LLPW blocks or counters a lot of finishers, in the end Nagashima must visit Death Valley. LCO had little to work with, nor looked particularly wonderful themselves, but the biggest issue wasn't what anyone did but when: things progressed without dramatic timing across a Europa-flat story arc broken by random volcanism of big moves. Everyone did try to increase intensity while maintaining a steady allegro moderato, but overall they just didn't have the proper dramatic sense needed for an effective championship match. ***
11, 10/1. Legend of Memorial Fight
Lioness Asuka & Ogura Yumi vs Jaguar Yokota & Bison Kimura (10:00) full time draw
While this may be a ten minute exhibition between genuine legends drawn out of retirement, it isn't like WCW exhuming has-beens in their 50s and 60s for Slamboree '93. Here, Bison and Ogura are 27, Asuka is 31 and Jaguar is 33. All four are in tremendous shape and exhibit virtually no rust. Yet despite their amazing condition and clear desire to work hard, they get almost sarcastically confined to a ten minute afterthought. Fortunately for us fans, however, they absolutely made the most of it, in essence cramming as much of a 30-minute main event as they could into their allotted pittance. The stupid thing is the time limit made their stunning efforts pretty much pointless. What they did was awesome for what it was, but this demanded more time and respect. These four made Chigusa's performance from earlier look all the more pathetic. ***3/4
After this show, Ogura would return to retirement but Jaguar, Lioness and Bison would form the Raideen Array group, continuing in Zenjo as freelancers until forming Jd' at the end of 1995.
All India Women's Pro-Wrestling 3' Exhibition
Meghna Singh vs Nidhi Gurnani (2:00) two-thirds-time draw
Whilst 90% of the crowd is off to the lavatories, concessions, campground and/or miscellaneous '90s otaku activities and with the remaining 10% not really paying attention, two adolescent, ripe for marrying Indian girls dressed for ballet practise walk through a light routine of entry-level pro-wrestling moves. When the inexplicably still present time keeper announces one minute left in their native English, they interpret the time as being up and cease their surrealist activities. The 10 or so people who were watching laugh, but no one forces them to continue. I guess after their match, two of the midgets died and reincarnated really fast. Seriously though, it was fascinating to see the humble beginnings of the now global phenomenon that is Indian women's wrestling. n/r
Back from intermission, we're given the official ceremony presenting the coming V*TOP WOMAN Japan Championship Tournament. Contrary to what has been written by some deeply stupid (and apparently wholly deaf) Yanks, V*TOP is pronounced "vee top," not - obviously - "five star."
The awkwardly-weighted bracket is formally announced: Hotta-Combat and Hokuto-Eagle are on one half, Aja-Manami and Kansai-Kyouko on the other. The ceremony concludes with senior Zenjo referee Murayama Daichi holding aloft the championship belt. This isn't going to be a new, defended title, just a trophy for winning the tournament. So, with that, we're all set to begin, but first...
12, 30/1. Blizzard Yuki Debut
Blizzard Yuki [o] vs Yoshida Mariko [x] (12:01) Hiten
Unsurprisingly, they're playing this like no one knows that manga character come to life Blizzard Yuki is actually Hasegawa Sakie. She gets an overly elaborate tokusatsu entrance complete with ninja tumblers, pyrotechnics and a bungee-jumping body double. Apparently, the double got injured during the plummet from the ceiling, leaving Sakie extremely, noticably upset to the point that her performance was severely hampered. Additionally, she seemed uncomfortable and hesitant working a Tiger Mask-type style, so this match had two strikes against it from the outset. Mari did a very praiseworthy job of keeping things from being a complete fiasco, but this still had poor flow even with overly simplistic moves. Indeed, the simplicity and preponderance of rest holds suggests they may have scrapped the original plan and called everything in the ring once Sakie became a basket case. Ultimately, Mari dominates the entire match but an unusual, kung fu-looking head kick followed by a sort of twisting senton atomico gives the win to Yuki. Referee Murayama put an annoying hitch in his count after two so rhythmically-speaking he counted to four. Clearly not what this was supposed to look like. **
Post-match, very unusually, Sakie refuses to speak to the media as she hurries to the dressing room while ripping off pieces of her costume. Not an auspicious debut.
13, 30/1. V*TOP WOMAN Japan Championship Tournament - Round 1
Hotta Yumiko [x] vs Combat Toyoda (FMW) [o] (16:54) German suplex hold
And now, we reach the heart of the show- at just the 488th minute, too! Major fireworks to start as absolutely brutal strikes from Hotta result in a standing 10 count less than a minute in... but Combat haughtily gets to her feet at 3! Hotta continues her full force assault, which includes a palm strike directly to the face and kicks that make Yamada's attacks on Kandori look like the breeze from gossamer fairy wings. After a trash-talking figure four rest spot, Combat withstands more CTE shots and scores several 2.9 or closer nearfalls with powerbombs, a diving body press, backslide, even the Combat Driver, but Hotta refuses to die. In the match's only real skid, Hotta slips attempting a diving heel kick, so she has to try again - and of course makes sure to be extra stiff. Combat just barely makes then ten count and looks to be running on fumes. Hotta goes strike-psycho to such a degree that the referee tries to pull her away. She angrily shoves him away and in the confusion Combat grabs a German for the win. ...Huh? The entire second half was basically all nearfalls, so in essence they substituted psychology and workrate with brutal, jaw-dropping insanity. It is unfortunate that after everything these women did to each other, the finish had to be an almost American fluke win, but the bulk of this was astonishing enough to forgive it. Not for the weak of heart or technical wrestling nerds, though. ****
14, 30/1. V*TOP WOMAN Japan Championship Tournament - Round 1
Hokuto Akira [o] vs Eagle Sawai (LLPW) [x] (11:18) Northern Light Bomb
Eagle outweighs Hokuto by 105 pounds. Shh, don't tell UFC. Immediately after the bell, Eagle destroys Hokuto with a Thunder Fire for a nearfall. For the entire first half Hokuto takes a freaking beating from lariats, Vader attacks and a top rope uranage. Somehow, a missed reverse splash ignites her comeback. She hits a couple back spin high kicks and a plancha suicida off the post. They go back and forth, Hokuto wriggles out of a Thunder Fire, Eagle kicks out of one (alleged) Northern Light Bomb, but not a second. Wrestler-gets-destroyed-then-wins is my least favorite formula, especially when said wrestler looks less than outstanding. Not terrible, but not very believable. Sawai actually carried herself better than Hokuto, but I wouldn't want to see her go past 12 minutes. ***1/2
15, 30/1. V*TOP WOMAN Japan Championship Tournament - Round 1
Aja Kong [o] vs Toyota Manami [x] (17:17) Aja Driver
Aja arrives proudly wearing her WWWA World title belt. Manami, on the other hand, did not bring her All Pacific and IWA titles. More than just champion versus champion, these two have a personal history: in 1991 they had a competitive 30-minute draw, followed by a trade of victories in the 1992 Japan Grand Prix (Aja winning the final), so tonight will break the deadlock in their recent head-to-head series.
This is a classic duel of power and brutality versus speed and technique (not to mention scary versus cute). From a sneak attack before the bell, Manami grabs a cradle nearfall straight away. Aja comes back hard and over the course of the match really brutalises her rival, including kicks and punches straight to the face and a Canadian backbreaker drop on the ramp! It really seems like the women on this show are trying to out-crazy one another (more on that later). Throughout, Manami is able to survive through a combination of intelligently countering Aja's finishers and incredible, shrieking fortitude. In the first third, despite some big spots like a sunset bomb to counter the suisha otoshi, nothing could break Aja's momentum. Finally, when Aja looks for her big diving elbow, Manami kicks her off the post to the floor. Seeing her chance, she hits a tremendous, stiff missile dropkick followed by a plancha suicida from the top rope to the floor through a table! In the ring, Manami now dominates, but Aja won't go down to a moonsault or Japanese Ocean Suplex. Manami tries her running sunset flip but gets flattened with a powerbomb. Aja is visibly frustrated and the 45,000 fans are solidly behind Manami. In the blistering finale, Aja gets her legs up to brutally counter another moonsault and keeps looking for the homerun nadare-shiki suisha otoshi. The first leads to Manami countering and landing a missile dropkick to the back of the head. Aja goes back to the well, this time countering Manami's counter with a crushing hip drop. Aja picks her up and spikes her head first with a new finisher - essentially a suichoku rakka-shiki Falcon Arrow - and finally, Manami stays down.
What a match. On the biggest stage, in front of the biggest crowd, these two did exactly what the best of the best are supposed to do: they completely blew away their previous matches. They improved on what worked and jettisoned or corrected what didn't. They gave absolutely everything they had in a blistering, non-stop masterpiece. No rest holds, no time-shaving over-selling, no gimmicks, just glorious maximum effort. Though in essence the story was Manami refusing to give up and thus taking far more damage than Aja, both played their roles perfectly to such an exalted level that it wouldn't be unreasonable to say that in defeat Manami established herself as the biggest threat to Aja's championship. With a bit more time, balance and a Manami victory, the Tokyo Dome would've been blasted into orbit, certainly, but the bottom line is that Aja Kong and Toyota Manami showed us real greatness. And the best part? This is just the beginning! ****1/2
16, 30/1. V*TOP WOMAN Japan Championship Tournament - Round 1
Inoue Kyouko [x] vs Dynamite Kansai (JWP) [o] (17:38) nadare-shiki Splash Mountain
No sneak attacks or interpromotional bluster, here; in fact they follow the Code of Honor before opening with a no-nonsense exchange of Mongolian chops and low kicks. Wanting perhaps to outdo Aja's earlier ramp madness, Kyouko decides to do a giant swing! The action is extremely reciprocal, actually the most offensively balanced match thus far in the V*TOP. In a somewhat rest/compression-based but nevertheless interesting sequence, they trade submissions, highlighting the contrast of Kyouko's lucha and Dynamite's shoot style. The intensity increases when the action moves to the floor: Kansai attempts a Splash Mountain but Kyoko escapes and both crash into each other with lariats. Back in the ring, Dynamite does hit the Splash for 2.9. She follows up with an attempt from the top, but Kyouko elbows her off the post and connects with a diving elbow to the back of the head for a 2.9 of her own. They trade more finisher nearfalls and, abandoning strategy decide to just - from their knees! - blast away with strikes. First to her feet, Kyouko connects with a lariat and goes up top. Kansai stymies her there and... nadare-shiki Splash Mountain! Gird your loins and prepare for Aja!
Exciting back and forth battle with decent pace throughout, but after Aja-Manami felt rather like a denouement. While both women looked quite good against each other, through no real fault of their own they just couldn't capture the stratospheric energy needed for a truly memorable match. Indeed, this probably looks better when viewed independent of the rest of the tournament. Certainly hundreds of times superior to what you can see in Berwyn, in any case. ****
17, 45/1. Miss Wrestling Universe Tag Summit
Inoue Takako [x] & Cuty Suzuki (JWP) vs Kudou Megumi (FMW) [o] & Fukuoka Hikari (JWP) (14:03) Kudoume Driver
And now, the eagerly awaited battle of ladies who dearly want you to see them naked. Unfortunately, they're clothed for the match but Google Image Search is alive and well, intrepid puroresu otaku! Working a steady andante pace, all four take turns getting cut off and double-teamed. Takako doesn't want to sell and appropriately lays in bitch-slaps, but she's the one to job, going down to three consective Tiger Driver '91s (yes, really) from Kudou. They weren't always on the same page and the finish in particular was very disjointed and undramatic (not to mention ridiculous), but let's face it, this existed solely to provide a rest period betwen tournament rounds. Decent undercard match for Zenjo at the time, but not much else. ***
18, 60/1. Michinoku Puroresu Dome Lucha Heaven
The Great Sasuke [o], SATO & Shiryuu vs Super Delfin, Shinzaki Jinsei & Gran Naniwa [x] (21:45) Thunder Fire
It is interesting watching this nearly 20 years after the fact, since Michinoku Puroresu pioneered a style which has since been copied and bastardised by promotions on both sides of the Pacific. Going back to see the innovators actually forging this now almost cliched indy style should be quite elucidating to any chronologically-challenged, [present-loving] 21st century wrestling fan.
As a small, regional promotion from what is (no offense, anyone from Touhoku reading this) a backwater part of the country, Michinoku had a huge opportunity to show off exactly what they were all about to a huge crowd and national television audience. While not perfect, they certainly did not fail or disappoint - and very likely won themselves some new fans from Kantou showing off their screwball blend of hard hitting, lucha, goofiness, and even British wrestling. Typically of this sort of match, they started very slow and simple. Individuals paired off to demonstrate a particular aspect of their style: Shiryuu (now All Japan's Kaz Hayashi) and Naniwa lead off with comedy and slow technical wrestling that has since been copied wholesale by groups like Chikara; SATO (Dick Tougou) and Shinzaki then show off more traditional Japanese power wrestling - though of course their strikes come nowhere near what the ladies have been doing. Finally, Sasuke and Delfin go hard and fast in a more pyrotechnic junior style. As they return to and go beyond the top of the order, the spots accelerate almost exponentially. Aside from a rather hiccupy middle and a finish from out of nowhere, all six were almost telepathically on the same page. Shinzaki was completely useless and Naniwa very nearly, but the structure of the match and skill of the other four covered for them nicely. Though not the quintessential Michinoku Puroresu match - that honor goes to the wordlessly incredible ten-man on 10/10/96 from the Ryougoku Kokugikan - to paraphrase Shiryuu from the pre-match interview, "this wasn't women's wrestling, but we did our best" Their effort did much more than just kill time before the semifinals. Don't praise the imitators until you've seen the master craftsmen at work. ****1/4
19, 60/1. V*TOP WOMAN Japan Championship Tournament - Semifinal
Hokuto Akira [o] vs Combat Toyoda (FMW) [x] (5:47) Northern Light Bomb
Combat attacks before the bell, but Hokuto is the one to control first, hitting her tope con giro seconds in. It doesn't take long for Combat to come back. They go to and fro, Combat with power moves and Hokuto with the same 3-4 sloppy moves she used earlier. For the finish, Combat throws Hokuto out of the ring from a full military press and soon - back in the ring - throws a table directly at her head! Combat puts her on the table for a diving guillotine drop. Hokuto rolls off, Combat misses the table entirely and Hokuto wins with the Northern Light Bomb. With way too much stalling for a six minute match and a botched finish, this obviously was not a highlight. Hokuto continued to look disappointing and degenerated, but she's main event bound. ***
20, 60/1. V*TOP WOMAN Japan Championship Tournament - Semifinal
Aja Kong [o] vs Dynamite Kansai (JWP) [x] (12:22) uraken
Clearly still worn out from their gruelling first round wars, they start with a very slow pace, but hit hard, tricking us into thinking we'll be getting a replay of the Hokuto-Combat non-starter. Then, suddenly, things explode - and believe me it isn't for fans with weak constitution. Aja drops Kansai on her head with three straight backdrop suplexes for a 2.9. Kansai returns fire with a flurry of full power kicks to the head - Aja makes the standing 10 count at 9.99, then unleashes the fury with a shouda and brutal uraken. Kansai gets to her feet at 9 but looks legitimately knocked out. Somehow, she proceeds to kick out of - in sequence - the nadare-shiki suisha otoshi, diving back elbow and diving double stomp. Incredibly, she unleashes more max power kicks, but Aja destroys her with two more uraken AND SHE KICKS OUT! How on Earth...? She's completely out on her feet. Aja unleashes one final uraken - this time with the power to down an indricotherium - and thus ends quite possibly the stiffest match in wrestling history. Ho. Lee. Fuck. There is no way Dynamite Kansai can remember this. Both women were assuredly concussed and likely lost entire centers of cognition. There have been shoot fights with weaker striking than this. The next time some pain in the ass tells you wrestling is fake, show them this. Words do not do it justice. It's simply mind-boggling what these women did to each other in the name of entertainment. Not only is this the stiffest match in history, it could be the greatest match ever under fifteen minutes. This was superior to their title match from 8/25/93, as they cut the fluff and skipped straight to the insanity. ****1/2
21, 60/1. WWF World Women's Title
© Alundra Blayze [x] vs Bull Nakano [o] (9:27) diving guillotine drop
Her name is Madusa, it's always been Madusa... except here, where it's Alundra Blayze. She says she's proud to represent the WWF. I guess there aren't any trashcans nearby. Her entrance features a large American flag and an entire motorcycle gang. Alrighty then. Aja-Kansai is an impossible act to follow and boy howdy do they not even try, working just slightly beyond what they'd do on Raw. Bull sleepwalks and looks quite past her prime, Madusa tries fast, flashy athletics but screws everything up, including the saddest-looking, wimpiest sell of the Bull's Poseidon you'll ever see. On the biggest show of your careers, this is the best you can do?! Go do coke with the midgets then exile yourselves back to McMahonland, you Amekou hacks. **1/2
And actually, they do just that thing, meeting three days later at Survivor Series, where the title change is not acknowledged and Bull does the job.
22, ∞/1. V*TOP WOMAN Japan Championship - Final
Hokuto Akira [o] vs Aja Kong [x] (20:24) Northern Light Bomb ×3
Before the bell, they slap each other then shake hands, determined and grimly serious. Right from the bell, Hokuto grabs a tiger suplex but is unable to maintain the bridge for a pin. Aside from a couple notable moments such as Hokuto reversing a brainbuster attempt with a wakigatame and a vicious exchange of harite, the early minutes are awash in rest holds. Hokuto's attempts to gain momentum are repeatedly stymied and dragged to the mat by an obviously exhausted but somehow dominant Aja. Things glaciate in this manner until Aja crashes horribly on a dive. Hokuto then lands her patented momentum-changing tope con giro, which somehow has injured Aja's leg. Loud screams of "it hurts!" tell everyone it's a work. Nevertheless, several moments are spent tending the "injury" and Aja sells not being able to climb into the ring, which makes little sense as for some reason the ring out count wasn't even on. Time successfully shaved, back in the ring Hokuto zeroes right in on the knee - presumably as a callback to their previous match, wherein Aja ravaged Hokuto's (legitimately) injured knee. In and out of the ring they go, doing everything they can to transmute a five minute match into twenty. Aja's tearful, shrieking over-selling makes Jens Ryden sound like Bing Crosby. If she were an orchestral brass section, Georg Solti would be conducting. Eventually, they lurch their way to the (planned as being) hot finishing sequence. Aja - GASP - uses Hokuto's own finisher for one nearfall and gets another with an uraken. Hokuto counters the suisha otoshi with a nodowa and, of course, keeps attacking the leg. Aja returns fire with more uraken, then suffers a troika of Northern Light Bombs and that's that. Hokuto does not look happy that she won - nor should she! A teary, crestfallen Aja tries to give her the WWWA belt but Hokuto dramatically refuses. They cry and hug to end the show. I believe Iron Mike DiBiase and Dory Funk, Sr. ended a number of their matches in the same way.
This was an awful way to end the biggest show in company history. Beyond the fact that Aja and Hokuto have now misfired in every main event they've had with each other, the one star left standing triumphant at the end is the one who had the worst overall performance! Aja herself had two genuine match of the year candidates - ON ONE SHOW - yet she's the one to job in a frigid, contrived worked injury scenario set up to rationalise putting over the broken-down shell of Hokuto Akira. It really made no sense - not for this one huge show, nor for going forward as a company. If anything, the V*TOP was bracketed wrong: Aja should have defeated Hokuto in the first round to face Manami in the final. Their first round match looked and felt like a real main event. This match absolutely did not. ***
After the show, the commentators reflect on the marathon they just experienced. The color guy gloats and says "let's do it again next year!" His partner pointedly does not respond to this.
Anyone who understands the length and breadth of professional wrestling in space and time has no choice but to acknowledge All Japan Women's Pro-Wrestling as one of the best promotions of all time. Particularly through the '90s, they had a tremendous run with possibly the best pound for pound roster any wrestling company anywhere has ever seen. This doesn't mean they were perfect. Perfection in pro-wrestling is probably impossible. There's just too much to deal with from too many different directions to even expect such a thing, much less demand it. This show absolutely did not approach perfection. Even putting aside the awkward shoot fights and irrational amateur wrestling, Indian girls and midgets, there was a lot that just didn't make sense. Why Eagle Sawai and not Harley Saitou? Why was Ozaki Mayumi nowhere to be found? Why were four of the best put into a ten-minute afterthought? Why did Takako need to take three Tiger Driver '91s to get defeated? What the hell was up with Chigusa? And of course, the biggest question of all: why on Earth wasn't Aja-Manami the main event?! None of these questions can be answered, but honestly, this show still deserves its legendary status, and not just for the ridiculous length.
The total time was 634 minutes across four DVDs, including supplemental footage of pre-show press conferences and the like. The show proper ran ten hours, but hilariously enough if you skip pre & post match interviews and every three mile walk to the ring to focus strictly on bell to bell action, that length gets cut to four and a half hours! Still a very long show, but not insane. Not too long ago I brutally savaged a four and a half hour Ring of Honor show for its length, but let's be clear: quality is how you use any amount of time, not time itself. Yes, this show had some almost comical head-scratching moments, but it also had at least two legitimate best bout candidates and several four-plus star battles. Everyone who mattered (with but a couple exceptions) gave beyond maximum effort and even those who ultimately didn't matter also gave it their all.
This wasn't a gathering of less than one hundred creepy cultists at a bar who pretend what they're seeing is good in hopes of getting one of the wrestlers in bed once they're drunk at the after-party, this was a megalithic event drawing 45,000, a major success that featured some of the best wrestlers to have ever lived of any gender working for a legendary company at its pinnacle. However, this is not for beginners. I recommend this show whole-heartedly - even with its foibles - but if you're new to this era of women's wrestling, you'd probably be better served starting with something a little smaller. The Zenjo style can be strange and alien-looking, so you really shouldn't dive head first into something this titanic. Indeed, if you've only ever seen knockouts, divas and try-hard indy chicks, watching this may make your head explode. I do not want that on my conscience.