AJW WRESTLE MARINEPIAD ~Junior All Star Trial Road~
One Matsunaga stood up at the booking meeting and said, “I’ve got a really desperate idea, let’s try to fool the public by pushing all our wrestlers who aren’t ready.” Then another Matsunaga said, “And I can make it even more insulting, we’ll manufacture new stars by having the old stars squash them like WWF Superstars jobbers.” And such was the genesis of the 1996 installment of WRESTLE MARINEPIAD, converting one of the most anticipated shows of the year, which in the past has featured such memorable matches as Akira Hokuto & Suzuka Minami vs. Manami Toyota & Kyoko Inoue and Bull Nakano vs. Aja Kong in ’90 and ’92, Manami Toyota vs. Kyoko Inoue in ’92, Manami Toyota vs. Mayumi Ozaki and Toshiyo Yamada vs. Dynamite Kansai in ’93, and Yamada & Toyota vs. Double Inoue in ’94 into a one match show that otherwise served to increase the gap between veteran and junior. Even GAEA, the gold standard for living off the past, would have allowed one of the youngsters to luck into an unconvincing flash pin. AJW didn’t even allow any of them to be competitive.
Junior Trial Road I: Etsuko Mita vs. Misae Watanabe 5:15. The pairing was logical as Misae is Mita’s size, but it was nothing more than a competent and well-executed squash.
Junior Trial Road II: Kaoru Ito vs. Yuka Shiina 3:52. The energetic but unspectacular wrestlers delivered a technically sound match that was not surprisingly hard to get excited about considering Shiina’s big offense was a jackknife cradle after avoiding a reverse hip attack off the 2nd.
Junior Trial Road III: Tomoko Watanabe vs. Yoshiko Tamura 1:33. Tamura, AJW’s reigning junior champion, was almost able to hang with Watanabe until Tomoko hit her lariat for the win. Mind you, this took 90 seconds.
Junior Trial Road IV: Yumiko Hotta vs. Saya Endo 3:20. Saya at least showed some character bowing respectfully during the pre-match handshake to get Hotta off guard, only to German suplex Yumiko as soon as she turned her back. Of course, the last thing one wants to do is get the ass kicker mad. Hotta proceeded to toy with and taunt Endo, telling her to throw her best low kick only to laugh it off (it was pretty pathetic) and fire back with one that knocked Saya off her feet.
Heat Up The Junior All Stars: Kumiko Maekawa & Tanny Mouse vs. Chikako Shiratori & Flor Metalica 12:25. Finally, a competitive match. The Jd’ team played heel, roughing the AJW juniors up. Shiratori & Flor at least have full move sets, and did a decent job of carrying the match. Metalica gave her typical Black Album performance, considerably mediocre. Shiratori and Maekawa were a bit better with Maekawa being the most impressive of the AJW juniors so far, at least throwing some good kicks. Tanny has no offense, but is a modern day Numacchi, so bad and goofy the fans react to her. Given Mouse is the worst of all the juniors and someone who could never advance beyond cult laugh at her status, she of course is the first AJW junior to be put over. *1/2
Junior Trial Road V: Mariko Yoshida vs. Yumi Fukawa 6:25. Yoshida took the match seriously even though Fukawa wasn’t going to be competitive, turning in a really good performance. Fukawa attacked when Yoshida was entering, getting off to a “big” start including a plancha before Yoshida took over 35 seconds into the match. Still, they did a fairly exciting match where Fukawa at least showed a bit of heart. *3/4
Zenjo vs. Jd’ Hyper Soul: Toshiyo Yamada & Chaparrita ASARI vs. Bison Kimura & Chiquita Azteca 15:23. Some good action and brawling here. Yamada & Bison turned in good performances providing solid work, while ASARI & Azteca were flashy. ASARI was over enough there was at least the slight notion she could pin Bison with her sky twister press. ASARI greeted Azteca’s tope with a chair and tried to tear her mask off. After the match, they got into a fight with Azteca challenging ASARI to a mask vs. hair match. ***
Junior Trial Road VI: Aja Kong vs. Rie Tamada 14:07. If Tamada is considered their best junior, she should have beaten a lesser veteran such as Watanabe instead of getting destroyed by the best senior. Following in the footsteps of her partner Fukawa, Tamada attacked the entering opposition and delivered an early plancha. The fans reacted to Rie being able to German suplex Aja, but it was quickly all downhill for her, as Kong beat the living crap out of her. That said, Kong did a great job of making this compelling. Though at heart it differed from the previous 5 junior trial road matches only in length, Aja garnered heat and intensity. Tamada kept kicking out, but otherwise showed no signs of life. Aja eventually pulled her up after a piledriver and challenged her to give her a match. Tamada fired up and tried to mount an attack, though Aja countered most of it. Tamada did a few counters of her own, but mostly earned points for hanging in, the fans getting behind her (hoping for a competitive match already) even though no one believed she had even a slight chance. The second best match on the show wrestling wise, but I’d rather see a match where anyone can win. **3/4
Manami Toyota & Mima Shimoda vs. Kyoko Inoue & Takako Inoue 52:11. Memorable for the cumulative effect of putting together 52 high quality minutes, but never truly spectacular the way the 6/22/96 rematch was. The first installment was more suitable for Shimoda & Takako, as it was far slower paced. They built this match up much better than the rematch, though it was mainly softening the opposition up for the high spots, and it was always obvious the match was going to be considerably lengthy. The first half helped the match overall, but not a great deal. The second half was excellent, picking up on the outside with Kyoko tossing Toyota off the top rope to the floor. Toyota injured Takako’s back, delivering a knee off the apron to her kneeling foe. As they tended to Takako, Toyota flipped off the crowd. Toyota followed by putting Takako in a camel clutch where she held Takako’s arm, waving it at Kyoko in taunt. Shimoda put the boots to Takako’s back, but Takako came back injuring Shimoda with a hard slap to the mouth. Double Inoue extracted their revenge with a spot where Kyoko camel clutched Shimoda and Takako stuffed her boot in her fact. This might have been a great match if they had moved these injuries about 20 minutes earlier. Instead, by the time they introduced them they didn’t have that much time to develop them. As it was, they waited until the final 10 minutes to truly kick into gear. Toyota didn’t stand out nearly as much in this match as she did in the rematch as it wasn’t her workrate style, but Shimoda & Takako made up for it with far better performances. Shimoda didn’t do a post match interview, as she was driven off in an ambulance. ****