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[1998-06-21-ARSION] Aja Kong vs Mariko Yoshida

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Yes! This isn't technically the yearbook debut of Mariko Yoshida, as she was in a few matches in 1992 and 1996. But she reinvented herself around this time with a new look and totally different working style. She is so different now that it might as well be a debut. She brings out a completely different side of Aja Kong here, one I'm not sure I've seen before or since. She forces her to work the mat. Fun moment near the beginning when Aja gets the better of a mat exchange then lies on the mat daring Yoshida to come after her. This went to a 15-minute time limit and was a really cool match. While Yoshida looks really good here, she's so much better in 1999 that this is really just a teaser of what's to come. But it's an effective one.

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I don't think I loved anyone more than Mariko Yoshida in ARSION. Feels like an eternity ago… I may need to come back to this stuff one day (although I'm afraid to spoil my memories of what probably was my favourite period ever of watching wrestling).

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Bring me more of this please. This feels like a good companion piece for arguments in the GOAT project for both as Aja performs a different style in this match and Yoshida was learning to reinvent herself. I loved Aja not realizing initially she was in a different type of fight as she dares Yoshida to get with her on the mat. Yoshida looked confident but Aja still has the size and power advantage. Good cat and mouse at the end with Yoshida able to hold on for the time limit draw after the spinning back fist nearfall. This gave her the moral victory. (***1/2)

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I liked the concept of this match but fell asleep the first two times I tried to watch. So maybe I really do want my Joshi to be go-go. Or maybe my constitution has simply been destroyed by parenting two small children and writing about Ray Rice. Anyway, I finally rallied to watch the whole thing and enjoyed it. I'm interested to see more Mariko in '99.

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I think they're still finding themselves with this new style (for joshi, at least), and while the all-matwork opening is interesting at times it looks a bit like mid-'80s UWF noodling-around-on-the-mat not accomplishing much. They do build nicely down the stretch and never delve into joshi go-go-go style, as Yoshida is still about submissions with only the occasional suplex to break it up. I groaned at the sudden time limit draw finish but I guess that's a good thing that I wanted this to keep going.

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They both got stomped by Reggie Bennett; now which one will redeem herself? I don't quite know where to put this match in relation to the others. There was some fantastic, clever stuff in this contest. Loved the character work, Aja intentionally being a stiff on the mat and Yoshida not caring for her at all. In a way they accomplished a ton here on the mat without actually doing much, which is great. On the other hand, this was similiar to Yoshida/Bennett, so I want to compare. The Bennett match was really good because Bennett could crush Mariko and even lock in submissions of her own, forcing Mariko to be careful and maneuver around her. Here Aja is uncooperative, but doesn't achieve much. Eventually Aja goes back to her old route: throwing bombs. I felt it was a little cheap, altough still good. It didn't have the novelty of Bennett because you've seen Aja doing it in a 100 other matches. Altough it was well worked. Loved Yoshida busting out the Greco headscissor and the finish was smart.

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