I'm back with part #2 of the Very Best of GAEA. This time we're looking at 1997 which is a big year in Joshi. The whole landscape changes and you'll see that here with more familiar faces from AJW.
Akira Hokuto & Toshie Uematsu vs KAORU & Kiyoko Ichiki (01/19/97): Wow! That was awesome! For a good portion there they had a classic match on their hands. Things got a little loose with the younger wrestlers towards the end (disruption to the flow and not so much unforgivable sloppiness) but I'd still say a near classic. Akira Hokuto was indeed the Dangerous Queen. It felt like a lost AJW upper midcard match from 1995 in all of the best ways. Thanks to Jetlag for adding it to the Match Discussion Archive! Shown in full.
KAORU & Meiko Satomura vs Akira Hokuto & Sonoko Kato (03/15/97): The poster on YouTube has this as 04/29 but that's the date it aired and not the event date. 17 minutes long and shown in full. This was a,great tag match and another one for these four (12/13/96) and Hokuto & Jr. partner vs KAORU & Jr. Partner is a winning combination. This told a great story with Kato getting her arm injured and having to tough it out. KAORU and Satomura isolated her but there's no way either could fully handle Hokuto. But all it takes is one solid arm bar. Excellent timing and build again from these ladies.
Sugar Sato & Chikayo Nagashima & Rieko Amano (Oz Academy) vs. Yuka Shiina (AJW) & Kanako Motoya (JWP) & Yuko Kosugi (Jd')(07/19/97). What started out as just a fun up-and-coming 6 woman match turned into something really good. For a period it felt like one of those Dragon Gate 6 mans in ROH. Just so much stuff was happening! I think that also hurt it as I'm not familiar with everyone and wasn't necessarily rooting for any team of even remembering who is on each team at times. That said there were a couple clips and maybe only half was shown. So it's hard to say what this would be like in full.
Toshie Uematsu vs Yoshiko Tamura (07/19/97): Great match for the WCW Women's Cruiserweight Title. Remember that title? Me neither. Doesn't matter because they wrestled like this was for something way more prestigious. Toshie Uematsu has grown on me and she is really good here just selling her ass off. She is an excellent spunky babyface. Tamura who is from AJW has some good submission moves and essentially is the a heel here if only because she's from another company. The fact that they are wrestling at such a high level is quite surprising given their few years of experience. That's what really drives this into great match territory. It reminded me of early JWP at times with its sense of urgency, turning one move into another on the mat, great selling, and great action. I do recommend watching a little Toshie Uematsu beforehand as it helps you understand her as a babyface. With that dynamic, her selling of the story excels and match really delivers.Thankfully shown in full. Folks doing the year book for '97 loved it and a few probably had this as a classic. Independently, Quebrada gave it ***1/2. I won't go that high or that low but if you're reading this then you probably should check it out!
Chigusa Nagayo & Akira Hokuto vs KAORU & Toshiyo Yamada (08/30/97): Great under 10 minute match shown in full. KAORU & Toshiyo Yamada jump their opponents at the the bell and have an awesome offensive flurry. Chigusa and Hokuto weather the storm as they've been through ring wars. The mount their counter attack in equally exciting fashion. Yamada and KAORU have had her own battles so this is no walk in the park for either team. This is just a bomb throwing blast.
Meiko Satomura vs. Kyoko Inoue (09/20/97) : Here Kyoko has left AJW but isn't with NEO. Also her outfit is neon rainbow colored and I had to look away a couple times as it was giving me a headache! Anyhow this is joined in progress but we seem to get 9 of 16 minutes. It's good stuff too. Satomura does a great job going after Kyoko's arm. It's unfortunate that Kyoko doesn't really sell it as much as she could have and there's not much drama for me as a result. That said this isn't a battle of peers. Kyoko hits a killer lariat and the finishing couple of moves are brutal but I can't say this was a great match. Having the first 7 minutes skipped is probably what did that. There's no introduction to the story. It's like coming into a movie after missing nearly the first half. It did seem to have a great atmosphere and both wrestlers put in the work. Satomura definitely looked like she belonged in the ring with Kyoko due to her intensity and toughness. Inoue in turn helped sell that and took a lot of punishment to show Meiko is a young force to be reckoned with.
Chigusa Nagayo vs Aja Kong (09/20/97): Shown in full. This was an under 10 minute match. It was very good stuff as they did a heavyweight sprint with Aja opening with her spinning back fist. Everything was fought with intensity and heart. I really enjoyed their work together. They are very similar in size, ability and standing so it feels like a clash of titans. Had this gone on a minute or two longer, it would have been a great match. I felt the finish came too quickly but it is better business to leave'em wanting more, I suppose.
Meiko Satomura & Sonoko Kato vs Aja Kong & Toshie Uematsu (11/18/97): Oh shit! That was great! One thing I appreciate about these GAEA matches is the intensity. Satomura and Kato have to straight up stiff Aja Kong to even get her to slow down. The seeds for the much praised Aja vs Satomura program may be laid here. Kong knocks Meiko silly at ring side but the youngster won't quit. In general that everything else felt very competitive and organic. I really dug how moves were cut off midstream but then became something completely different. If they were planned sequences then they were very subtle choices and well executed. Unfortunately only 9 of 17 minutes were shown but unlike the Meiko vs Kyoko match you don't NEED to see that first half to "get it." It's like never seeing Terminator 2 but then jumping in midway. You can pick up the vibe right away and enjoy it until the end. Just wish we had this in full. I'm not sure I've seen this recommended elsewhere.
Hokuto & KAORU & Nagashima vs. Chigusa & Yamada & Sonoko Kato (12/27/97): What started out as just a fun match turned out to be a very good one! Nice interactions but Yamada vs KAORU felt like the focus. It was weird having the teams as they were since what I saw in 1997 had some of the folks in different corners. Something storyline wise must have gone down. Very nice end to the year! Shown in full.
1997 is a really good year in my view. As I said in the previous post, I don't think it'll unseat AJW in terms of high end match quality but it sure as hell is an excellent promotion. I really dig the homegrown talent mixing it up with the veterans. And its just a lot of fun finding all of this "new" stuff.