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[1993-12-10-AJW-Tag League The Best] Manami Toyota & Akira Hokuto vs Kyoko Inoue & Toshiyo Yamada

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Toyota is knocked for a loop, Yamada and Kyoko know it and repeatedly drop her on her head, and Hokuto is left to hold her team together until Toyota gets back in the game. What's not to love? The "first" match from an action standpoint was pretty incredible. Hokuto and Toyota wanted to do a clean sweep, while Kyoko and Yamada had to win to even stay in the game, so there's a lot at stake, and the match is wrestled at a crazy pace consistent with the storyline. If there's a lesson to be learned from Hokuto's 1993, I think it's the importance of selling. She got as over as strongly as she did because every obstacle seemed insurmountable, and it seemed insurmountable because she sold the despair and hopelessness so well. Hobbling around on one leg while trying to carry the team was awesome.

 

Yamada and Inoue have Big Mo' on their side, and do their best to not even let Toyota rest long enough to possibly recover. The stereo tombstones on the arena floor are an example of that. Eventually, Toyota does fight back, but this is maybe her best selling performance. All the melodrama, booking and world class action combine to make yet another MOTYC for 1993.

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It is two matches, not two "matches". So from a ranking standpoint, they either need to be split up or need a major * next to them.

 

I know it sounds odd, but it's something that I've struggled with for nearly 18 years since I first watched them. I usually just leave it off comping with something like Dream Rush, and instead kind of send them off into their own little corner when pimping them: It's this great little "thing" with great multi-match storylines and loads of stuff... and you need to see it. "Thing" is about as much as I can come up with it. It's a cheat, but it's a cheat to rank them together.

 

It's a bit like if 12/03/93 was a League Match (which it was rather than a Final which wasn't used until 1995), and had:

 

* a Kawada & Taue win or draw meaning they take the RWTL

* a Misawa & Kobashi win means the teams tie

* a tie means an extra match (which *is* the AJPW RWTL rules at the time)

* they work the exact same killer match

* we get the extra match

* we send 1996 Taue back in the Time Machine to "go it alone" to start the second match

* Kawada eventually gets the knee in enough shape to "help" Taue * they go 18-20 minutes

* we get something memorable at the finish... hmmm...

* Kawada pins Misawa for the First Time after the knock Kobashi out

 

So what do we have combining them together into one match? Best Match Ever Never To Be Topped Right?

 

On it's own, 12/03/93 is a freaking great, all-time classic especially given the context of the time (prior to 5/94). Add on top of that another match, with Taue in the heroic role trying to keep his team in it for 10 minutes... and we know 1996 Taue could have pulled that off because he was a killer worker. The Kawada rising from the dead to help out, but still selling the shit out of the knee because he's Kawada... but Budokan is lossing their shit over it actually pulling for him... and then toss in the Right Finish... Yeah, it wouldn't be fair to rate them together as one "match". But the power of the second match comes from the first, not as a stand alone. So it would be a "thing". A pretty epic "thing".

 

I love Toyota & Hokuto vs Inoue & Yamada. Have tried to point people to it for years. It's a pretty nice finish to what was a pretty terrific AJPW year. Melodrama... yeah, that is the right word for it, Loss. :)

 

John

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In a lot of way this might be the most complete "match" Zenjo ever did, because it combined the great sprints (and the first match is a phenomenal 20-minute sprint on its own) with the great melodramatic Hokuto story in the second match. I'd have to re-watch Queendom '94 and 8/30/95, but I'm pretty sure I'd call this the second best tag match ever in Joshi.

 

Incidentally, how much of the post-match footage is kept on this (and also St. Final)? You really can't cut-off Hokuto matches after the bell because the post-match is very much part of the whole deal, unlike anyone else I can ever recall doing.

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I don't think I would have liked the first match nearly as much without the second match as an emotional payoff. As others have said, the first one was a straight burst of action that sort of touched on the broader story of Hokuto breaking down but without an ultimate payoff. The second match was such an effective portrayal of perseverance that it cast a glow over both. Again, Hokuto had a rare gift for making everyone -- the crowd, her peers, a random American watching her 20 years later -- feel her pain and determination. And the other three fit themselves around that perfectly, from Toyota toning down her worst no-selling instincts to Yamada doing her best to give Hokuto a sour ending. Really good ending to a year of big Joshi matches.

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Anyone want to explain the "two" matches here? They continued after the first fall, so I assumed it was 2/3 falls...then Hokuto gets a pin and they start handing trophies out. (Please don't tell me that Kyoko/Yamada forced a tie at the end of the round-robin and we had another "final"...that's like if Alabama and Auburn had to play each other again to see who went to the SEC title game).

 

This was great and possibly a top 10 or top 5 MOTYC, but there's not a lot for me to add, because the two matches got split up between work. The execution throughout all of this was just superb, and while I've liked other Manami performances more than this because their lack of "Manami-ness," this is maybe the best Manami Being Manami match I've seen. All kinds of super-athletic spots set up beautifully by both her partner and her opponents.

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Kyoko and Yamada had to win the first match to stay in the tournament. If Hokuto and Toyota won, they would take it all. Kyoko and Yamada won. So at that point they were tied and had to wrestle again so the tournament would have a winner.

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What Loss says. The first match was the League Match, the last one of the League. If Hokuto & Toyota win or draw, they win the League. If Kyoko & Yamada win, then the League ends with the two teams tied. That's what happens, and it forces effectively a "playoff" match between the two teams to determine a winner.

 

So it's really 2 matches. They're connected, and there's storyline across them, which is going to happen when you book it this way.

 

John

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Part One was super charged workrate fun from the masters of the style. No weak links here as they all showed good form. Impressive quality wrestling and going about 15m was just right. A complete match in itself with a beginning, middle and end. There were near falls and excitement, but it didn't outstay its welcome and exhaust everyone. Very good, yet in itself there was nothing to separate it from many other tags from the era.

 

Part Two was excellent and stood out from the crowd. Under 15m this time, though it sure didn't feel like it. To their credit it was a very different encounter to the first. I loved the two FIP segments. Toyota was reeling so took an initial beating. I always like this type of psychology in 2/3 fall matches. Hokuto's poor old leg then took another pounding. The favourites were now looking like the underdogs. Plenty of drama in the closing stages and excitement from the crowd. Wrestlers getting tired isn't necessarily a bad thing, and wasn't here. Strong performances from all concerned and wonderful booking. It was only appropriate that Hokuto should end her extraordinary year in glory. One last fabulous performance from the wrestler of the year. And this card was a suitable way to round off the greatest year in company history. What a pleasure it has been to relive the glory days of 1993 once more.

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I was originally going to do what I do for normal two-out-of-three fall matches and review each match separately, but decided not to. Now I wish I had, because the sheer emotionalism of the second bout and postmatch is what I'm going to take away from this, more than any spot or piece of action.

 

Oh, these girls worked a tremendous pair of matches, pedal to the metal for over half an hour combined, which fit the storyline perfectly but didn't seem possible given the beating they all were taking. Hokuto's leg was nearly broken by the most vicious series of crabholds I've ever seen, and if Toyota had had to start the second bout, she couldn't have because she was knocked silly to end the first match. Then the wrestleoff, which went out of control early when Hokuto and Kyoko went to the back for some reason and stayed that way until both Hokuto and Toyota were tombstoned on the floor. Finally the finish, with Hokuto (who still wasn't quite sure where she was) almost breaking Yamada's neck to get the win, and Manami being so overcome by the sight of her regular partner laying motionless in the corner that she could barely accept the trophy. Then Akira broke down on the mic and left on her own. I don't understand a word of Japanese, and I was awestruck by it all.

 

Too often joshi dengenerates into a series of spots by rote, action for the sake of action with none of it designed to register beyond the moment. But when it chooses to actually tell a story with depth, few other styles can touch it. This was one of those times. If I was casting a Match of the Year ballot (and I'm glad I'm not, since it's taken me almost nine months to go through this set), this would definitely be in my top five. It was an incredible effort from all involved, and I hope to see more like it from joshi in 1994.

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For a lot of the first fall, I thought this would end up being just a decent joshi go-go-go spotfest. Especially because Toyota is involved. But by the time we hit the second match, and we have Hokuto selling the shit out of her knee, then we start getting into some really great stuff. The last 10 or so minutes are just so action packed and wrought with tension that you can't help but be engrossed in the finish. A lot of that is thanks to Hokuto who brought a lot of drama and structure to the match with her knee selling. Toyota makes for a great hot tag and adds all the sizzle to the steak.

 

****1/2

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First match was a great spotfest just right behind the 12/6 tag for me. Kyoko in the black gear and being a maniac is wonderful to see. Her winning felt well earned. It's tough for me to put it into words but it was 20 minutes of really exciting action. ****

 

The second fall piles on a great story to the proceedings involving Hokuto again. Toyota gets beat up for a while and then Hokuto comes in and she is also in a ton of trouble. I really appreciated the transitions that Hokuto used to reverse the tide. In addition, Toyota was really strong in this match execution wise and also bringing some emotion. The final moments with everyone diving around and Toyota on the brink of putting Kyoko away was fantastic. It felt like all Akira had to do was get the hot tag for them to win and she does and that STILL is not enough. Yamada comes back in and they try to isolate Toyota but that doesn't work out. Akira gets tagged in and again it feels like they have the match in hand until they don't. So many ebbs and flows in these final minutes and all of them make sense. Yamada gets rolled up for a 2.9999 count that I thought was the finish. Akira is finally able to put her away as an emphatic end to her amazing year. 1993 joshi is amazing and this is a hell of a way to close things out. ****1/2

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