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[1998-08-23-AJW-TV] Manami Toyota vs Shinobu Kandori

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You can tell Toyota is maturing as a worker because the bell rings and she doesn't immediately take off with a running dropkick. Kandori is not really considered one of the great 90s Joshi workers as much as she is someone who happened to be a part of some really great matches. But I watch performances like this and beg to differ with that, and I think she's underrated overall. I don't know that this match would have seemed as king-sized with someone else opposite Toyota. Kandori is really good at pacing a match and allowing the big stuff to sink in. She is also in the Regal vein of conforming wrestlers to her style of working, which gives us a slower-paced and more grounded match than we would have gotten otherwise. We do still see the bursts of energy Toyota is known for, but they are spaced out well. I appreciate that Toyota is wrestling against her instincts, like she knows that her usual ovaries-to-the-wall approach isn't going to work opposite Kandori. But she maintains her resourcefulness with the surprise counters even in slowing down her game. Her body may have slowed down, but she still thinks quickly, which made her rapid attempt to counter the cross armbreaker work really well. That one counter into the bridge pin is something I've never seen for that move and looked amazing. It's amazing how much more Toyota's big offense means when she slows down and makes connecting with the crowd such a big priority. Some of the exchanges don't exactly look crisp, but considering the positives of this, I can accept that. This was a great match that didn't overstay its welcome, and it will almost definitely be in my top ten for the year.

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This was a fun terrific performance by both women. It combined the craft aspects of Kandori and combined the athletic never stop attitude of Toyota. The table dive spot was especially brutal. I really enjoyed the finishing sequence with the arm work being resulted in some crafty reversals and nearfalls feeling earned. Kandori getting the submission was a nice moment. This was a really great match in an extremely down year for Zenjo. (****1/4)

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At the time of the big interpromotional shows during 93-94 AJW very much held the booking power over the other groups, and their stars would win the majority of the important matches. Fast forward to 1998 and the scene was very different. With only a small roster remaining they now needed outsiders on their shows to survive. This led to Kandori having a one year WWWA title reign, which would've been unthinkable in previous times.

 

This was a dream match that had never previously taken place, bringing great heat and excitement. The two combatants worked very different styles which they did a great job of combining. The result was a long way from your typical Toyota style bout. Several of her best singles matches have come from situations where she's had to think in there and adapt her approach against tougher opponents. Shinobu always brought a credibility and sense of danger with her submissions. This was such a blast to watch because of the freshness and unpredictability. I had no idea what was happening next, yet it all fitted together just right. They maintained the excitement throughout with some great near falls. Definitely a MOTYC for '98 and my favourite Kandori singles bout not against Hokuto.

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They say styles make fights but Toyota is one of the last people you'd think would match up well with Kandori. A little bit of attitude goes a long way I suppose. I thought Kandori did a superb job of putting over Toyota's dropkick/springboard counter offence as lethal. To my mind that gave Toyota a ton of credibility against an opponent who could have eaten her alive on the mat. Even the spots that Manami blew or mistimed worked out okay because it came across as Manami over-extending herself and Kandori was able to immediately counter with a submission. There was one botch that ended up with Toyota kneeing Kandori in the head. Kandori hung in there for a submission counter and I thought "this match is rocking." The other great thing Kandori did was let Toyota fight through the first couple of submission attempts. Toyota having a defensive game, even if it wasn't the prettiest, meant that she had a chance of surviving Kandori's ground game. I loved how it became increasingly difficult for Toyota to fight through the holds and how Kandori took the momentum with her strikes. This really was one of the best Joshi matches of the 90s. Manami's missile dropkick to the outside was stupendous.

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I guess I'm a pretty big Toyota hater, but this was great, and she was great in it. I don't know that I've ever seen her come out more intense, which set the perfect tone for a styles-clash battle with Kandori. They kept things tight at about 18 minutes, with a really creative finishing run instead of a numbing series of kickouts. Joshi MOTY for sure and probably top 20 on the year overall.

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I daresay this is the best AJW match I've seen in 1998! A definite MOTYC worldwide for all the reasons Loss mentioned. I don't know if Toyota slows down because Kandori forces her to, because of a stylistic choice, or if she simply has too many miles on her--or a little from all three columns. She's filled out some more since the last time we saw her and the springboards aren't as crisp or as high-flying as they used to be, but she gets the most out of what she can and Kandori paces this excellently, knowing when to slap on the submissions, when to unleash the High-End Offense, and when to start selling and bumping to put Toyota's offense over. I have no problem calling Kandori a great worker and one of the better joshi workers of her era--when she started busting out the wind-up headbutts, it struck me as to why: she's a female Fujiwara in a lot of ways. Maybe even more fun to watch, too.

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I enjoy this match, but I'll admit that it was more of a fun clash of styles than an epic match. Toyota gets a lot of shit (and rightfully so) but she does a nice job adapting to her opponent here, coming up with a few cool counters of her own and throwing palm strikes . The layout in theory did a good job in hiding Toyotas weaknesses, but there were a few awkward moments and I thought Kandori basically shrugging off Toyotas huge opening barrage took away from the match. Still the bomb throwing and Kandori finding ways to twist Toyota up on the mat was hugely entertaining.

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