I am really glad to be watching more Joshi this year. I got burntout/jaded a few years back when watching some of the 1996 AJW tag matches with Double Inoue and my 1997 AJW DVD purchases weren't exactly as expected. See the previous post. So I just turned of the whole thing for years. I'd watch a match here and there but other than a couple odds & ends matches, I figured I'd seen what I wanted. Clearly this year, I've found out that I was wrong. 1997, 2000-01 AJW, Megumi Kudo, 1990-91 JWP have all produced excellent stuff and been absolutely worthwhile. These projects have turned me onto more vintage Joshi that I have overlooked. In a way each one has inspired me to go a little further out of my late 80s-1996 AJW comfort zone. The convenience of having this stuff on YouTube and a fast& reliable internet connection (finally) has helped immensely. That said, I am trying to cut down the amount of internet-only wrestling that I watch. I'm trying to supplement projects with these rather than base whole posts on them. However, this project is one that I've had in mind since January and this puppy is all online.
GAEA is a promotion that I totally bypassed in my joshi DVD buying phase. On paper the roster is there with many of the top AJW women being freelance or having their own promotions. Using Quebrada's reviews (and our opinions matched most of time back then), I felt it was kinda like late stage WCW. The roster looked good but in the ring, it was another thing - past their prime, disinterested, disregarded etc. Basically, it was nothing I wanted to spend my time and money on when I had very little of either. Now if I had a faster internet connection, I might have given it a shot I spent like an hour loading and watching Ozaki vs Kansai '95 street fight in chunks. Anyway, that was then and this is now.
I'm planning on watching the very best of GAEA over the next few weeks. I'm using Quebrada's reviews as well matches from the PWO yearbooks/Match Discussion Archives with emphasis given to Zenjo, Jetlag, Loss & PeteF3's lists/reviews. They all go way deeper in the Match Discussion Archives, so go check out their posts. Use the Gaea tab or search by date. I'm also doing a couple personal picks and am ultimately limited to what's available. I'm primarily using one account but it appears to be completely devoted to GAEA and most of the ones that were selected are available. I'm trying for full versions but if they're joined in progress, I'll note it. GAEA and other companies seemed to make this a practice in the late 90's. So this is my interpretation of what could be considered the cream of the crop.
Mayumi Ozaki & Devil Masami vs. Dynamite Kansai & Chigusa Nagayo (04/15/95): This is the most ECW match I have ever seen... in all of the best ways. It's the greatest theorhetical ECW match. The energy is through the roof. The wrestling is there. The history & intensity is there. But where this excels is the old AJW Dump era sense of utter chaos. Chains, blood, chairs, the ring ropes are torn down, the audience is freaking out, the seconds for Chigusa are losing it, its fantastic if you're into that kind of stuff. An all time classic in my book. This is just about shown in full with a couple seconds cut out here and there early on for some reason.
Mayumi Ozaki vs. Chigusa Nagayo - Street fight (09/17/95): 21 minutes of a 25 minute battle. I wish we could have seen the first few minutes as Ozaki is already bleeding. This is a pretty good hardcore match and is more in line with what you'd actually get with an ECW match on most occasions especially around this time. There was choking with the bull rope and the chain. There was some kinda uneventful brawling in the crowd, a couple neat spots with the tables. Honestly there rope and chain stuff didn't really do much for me since they never were attached to each other so you don't have the great dynamics of a dog collar or bull rope match. If you think I'll hype anything that is "ECW-like" then let this be an example against that belief. While the first match was the unintended accomplishment of the Platonic ideal of ECW hardcore wrestling by 4 Japanese women then this is the achievement of a real mid 90's ECW main event. It ain't bad and there's plenty to like but doesn't live up to the awesome set up match on 04/15.
We're on to 1996!
Sugar Sato & Chikayo Nagashima vs. Sonoko Kato & Toshie Uematsu (09/16/96): Ambitious yet rough around the edges. These 4 were main eventing and worked their asses off. Tons of potential. Good match at ***1/2 probably.
Akira Hokuto vs. Meiko Satomura (11/16/96): Hell yes! That was a sweet match for an Akira Hokuto fan. But credit is due to both ladies. Hokuto gave Meiko a good portion of her high end offense making the junior wrestler look tough (she is) and Meiko sold it wonderfully without looking like a tough chick with absolutely zero chance of winning. She got in some of her best stuff and absolutely put Hokuto in peril a couple times. Good stuff indeed and a good intro to Meiko Satomura for me. 12 minute match shown in full.
Chigusa Nagayo vs Sonoko Kato (GAEA 11/16/96): 10 minutes shown of a 15 minute match. This was awesome intense stuff. Great technical beginning and shoot style flavor throughout. Kato has got so much heart and toughness going against Chigusa. A David and Goliath match done right. Very good stuff and looking forward to more Sonoko Kato.
Sonoko Kato & Meiko Satomura vs. Akira Hokuto & KAORU (12/13/96): Joined in progress and we get 10 minutes of great tag wrestling. The timing here was impeccable on the spots. Kato & Satomura wrestle beyond their years. I definitely want to see more KAORU. She really impressed me here. Akira Hokuto can still go. I definitely slept on this portion of her career.
That said, I'm pretty darn happy with what I've seen so far with GAEA. Not everything has been a classic and perhaps in comparison to AJW for '95 & '96's top matches that means GAEA is not worth the time. I disagree and I'm glad to have some new and exciting old Joshi to watch. I love Chigusa, Oz and Hokuto. The young wrestlers are super talented. So I'm looking forward to things getting better.