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The Big Stupid List of Great ARSION Matches

 

1998

  1. Yumi Fukawa vs. Michiko Ohmukai (4/11)

  2. Mikiko Futagami vs. Rie Tamada (8/31)

  3. Mariko Yoshida vs. Rie Tamada (4/17)

  4. Rie Tamada/Hiromi Yagi vs. Tiger Dream/Ayako Hamada (Twinstar Tag Final, 12/7)

  5. Reggie Bennett vs. Mariko Yoshida (8/31)

  6. Mariko Yoshida vs. Ayako Hamada (8/31)

  7. Aja Kong vs. Mariko Yoshida (6/21)

  8. Aja Kong vs. Michiko Ohmukai (2/18)

  9. Mariko Yoshida vs. Candy Okutsu (Queen of ARSION Title, 12/18)

  10. Yumi Fukawa vs. Candy Okutsu (2/18)

  11. Reggie Bennett vs. Mariko Yoshida (5/5)

  12. Mariko Yoshida vs. Mikiko Futagami (5/5)

  13. Candy Okutsu vs. Mikiko Futagami (4/17)

  14. Michiko Ohmukai vs. Rie Tamada (8/9)

  15. Mariko Yoshida vs. Michiko Ohmukai (8/31)

  16. Mikiko Futagami vs. Michiko Ohmukai (7/21)

  17. Aja Kong vs. Ayako Hamada (12/18)

  18. Rie Tamada vs. Candy Okutsu (5/5)

  19. Yumi Fukawa vs. Rie Tamada (7/21)

Best ARSION Matches of 1999

 

1. Mariko Yoshida vs. Hiromi Yagi (2/18)

2. Etsuko Mita/Mima Shimoda vs. Ayako Hamada/Mika Akino (12/11)

3. Mariko Yoshida vs. Mikiko Futagami (4/14)

4. Yumi Fukawa vs. Mariko Yoshida (9/26)

5. Mariko Yoshida vs. Hiromi Yagi (5/4)

6. Mariko Yoshida vs. Mika Akino (1/17)

7. Mariko Yoshida vs. Yumi Fukawa (5/4)

8. Mariko Yoshida vs. Aja Kong (8/6)

9. Mikiko Futagami vs. Michiko Ohmukai (5/4)

10. Ayako Hamada vs. Mari Apache (7/25)

11. Mari Apache vs. Chaparrita ASARI (7/25)

12. Mima Shimoda/Etsuko Mita vs. Yumi Fukawa/Rie Tamada (7/25)

13. Mika Akino vs. Chaparrita ASARI (7/25)

 

Comprehensive list of the Best ARSION matches of 2000. The really good stuff is in bold.

 

Aja Kong vs. Ayako Hamada (Queen of Arsion Title, 12/3/00 Tokyo)

Chapparita Asari vs. Mika Akino (Sky High of Arsion Title, 12/3/00 Tokyo)

Ayako Hamada vs. Mariko Yoshida (Arsion ZION Tournament Finals 10/17)

Mariko Yoshida vs. Aja Kong (ZION Tournament '00 Semi-Finals, 10/17/00 Tokyo)

Ayako Hamada vs. Mika Akino (SKY Tournament II Final, 7/16/00 Tokyo)

Mika Akino vs. Mary Apache (SKY Tournament II Semi-Finals, 7/16/00 Tokyo)

Aja Kong vs. Ayako Hamada (8/18/00 Tokyo)

Ayako Hamada/Gran Hamada vs. Hiromi Yagi/Tiger Mask IV (P*MIX Grand Prix Semi-Finals, 6/29/00)

Hiromi Yagi/Tiger Mask vs. Chapparita Asari/Great Sasuke (P*MIX Grand Prix Quarterfinals, 6/24/00)

Yumi Fukawa/Minoru Tanaka vs. Mariko Yoshida/Alexander Otsuka (P*MIX Grand Prix Quarterfinals, 6/7/00)

Aja Kong vs. Mariko Yoshida (ARS Tournament '00 Semi-Finals, 5/7 Tokyo)

Michiko Omukai & Mima Shimoda vs Aja Kong & Mariko Yoshida (ARSION 04/07/00)

Ayako Hamada/Gran Hamada vs. Faby Apache/Gran Apache (4/7)

Ayako Hamada/Mika Akino vs. Aja Kong/Mariko Yoshida (2/18)

 

ARSION is such an interesting fed. Pretty much the joshi equivalent of BattlARTS with it's crossover style and tiny roster that they had to use efficiently. With this fed you get the ace run of the mighy Mariko Yoshida, a period of the work or Aja Kong or Lioness Asuka that doesn't get talked about much, and a handful of unexplored workers like Futagami or Rie Tamada that deserve some recognition.

 

For this project I will go through the Best Of Arsion comp that is floating around and post my Top Matches for each year after finishing. Yes I know that's cherrypicking but for now I want to get the essence of it (judge a style by the best matches it produced etc) and compare to high end BattlARTS/RINGS/UWFi etc. If you know any essential ARSION that's not on the comp feel free to drop a comment.

 

Yumi Fukawa vs. Candy Okutsu (2/18)

 

The first ARSION match. It is a very appropriate debut match. They mix the traditional joshi with lucharesu and tricked out submission work, and the whole thing has the flair of two overzealous young workers going all out to show the world especially with the bomb throwing at the end and Fukawa hitting those face-shattering moonsaults that nearly KO'd Candy. I give them a ton of credit because they really delivered a good match that sets the tone. They kept going back to the submissions and really had a hard fought battle to the very end that the crowd got into. Can't remember the last time I watched a „young workers showing the world“ match on this level. Side note, a Cagematch user mentioned that he went to a few ARSION shows and he felt that many guys there went for the pretty workers and the „product“ (apparently Arsion had lots of quality mags, posters etc. for sell) and not the wrestling, so Arsion matches had not as much heat as GAEA. It's not hard to see why especially with Okutsu wearing a ridiculous outfit that made her butt look gigantic but to their credit the wrestling was top notch and on the level of the presentation.

 

Aja Kong vs. Michiko Ohmukai (2/18)

 

Michiko Ohmukai was this skinny girl with supermodel looks who worked like Daisuke Ikeda. I have no idea why she's not famous. She threw all those reckless kicks and impressive suplexes and was like a magic ingredient for matches that made everything crazier. Here she slaps Aja right at the bell and Aja just smirks at her and then Ohmukai starts dropping her with those 50 yards football kicks. Hell of an opening for a match. They get into a slugfest like this fucking BattlARTS or WAR and I am in love with this. Then they settle down a little with Aja dominating on the mat through size and Ohmukai trying to topple her. I think Aja was kind of mailing it in in Arsion which is such a disappointment but this match hit all the right spots and was really good stuff like it always is when Aja has someone to work with who brings the fight to her.

 

Aja Kong/Yumi Fukawa/Michiko Ohmukai vs. Candy Okutsu/Rie Tamada/Mikiko Futagami (2/18)

 

They end the debut show with a chaotic fast tag team match where everyone runs in and hits their stuff. Kind of pointless main event as the previous matches had done a good enough job to establish everyone, but I guess they had to work around having such a tiny roster to work with. Everyone has had matches before that evening so the execution wasn't at 100% anymore. Fukawa almost fell on her head doing an asai moonsault and then hit another reckless one inside the ring like a lunatic. Aja had solid interactions with everyone and I always get a kick out of watching Futagami work, but this wasn't much.

 

Mariko Yoshida vs. Rei Tamada (4/17)

 

WOAH! Apparently this was the debut match of Mariko in ARSION. I was expecting something good, but this was far more than a formative bout. Rei Tamada, for a name that never gets dropped, looked damn impressive. The bout was built around establishing Yoshida's new, signature style, and her focus was to take it to the mat no matter what. Tamada was far more than a piece of luggage for Yoshida to chuck around, however. Tamada could roll on the mat and I really liked her determination to get the match into standing position. I want to emphasize the standing exchanges here were also really good. Tamada hit a mean elbow and tried her darndest to cut Yoshida of, who rolled one submission counter after another out of her sleeve. Even some of the fancier lightweight moves landed as if to shut a door. It created a kind of intensity that I really love in a wrestling match and this was just an absolutely fabulous contest.

 

3 real hits out of 4 so far. Pretty damn good start for the project. Stay tuned & maybe come out of the woodwork and comment if you are an old ARSION superfan.

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One of my favourite company ever. I was a huge fan as it was happening, until about 2001 when Fukawa had to retire and Lioness came in. Fun to read about it today. I thought about revisiting it one day. ARSION was indeed extremely well versed into marketing the looks of its worker (well, when you have Fukawa and Chama (aka Ohmukai)), probably thanks to Rossy Ogawa, but it was also kinda revolutionnary with Yoshida's new style. It didn't last, as it reverted into a more plain joshi style after about 18 months, although with a lucha influence (thanks to the Apache, Ayako Hamada debuting). It was a super fun company, much better to me than the ever overrated GAEA.

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Funny you mention GAEA. I always saw GAEA as the 90s version of 80s AJW. I always saw ARSION as the 90s version of 80s JWP. I love the company too. From what I hear, ARSION eventually became more run-of-the-mill Joshi, which is unfortunate, but I'm not sure if that claim is exaggerated or not. Yoshida remained a fixture even through the transition of ARSION to A-To-Z, and I can't imagine her not always dictating the style to an extent. She's too good not to affect everyone around her.

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It was a super fun company, much better to me than the ever overrated GAEA.

 

For a moment I almost felt like I was back on the old DVDVR green board. Did you ever seen Yoshida vs. Megumi Fujii? That was a beautiful bout.

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Charles, basically Yoshida was doing her own thing and trained the rookies until the end. But the style of the promotion had basically reverted back as early as 2000. Yumi Fukawa having to retire in the summer of 2000 (I *think*) was the last nail in the coffin, as she was the one carrying the style with Yoshida. When Lioness Asuka came in to "save" the company, ARSION was a mess of styles. It was still fun, but the uniqueness of the first 18 months when they were trying to establish something new was lost. I never got to the point of AtoZ. Yumiko Hotta is one of my least favourite worker ever anywhere, so really I had no intention of watching her fucking up what was left of my former favourite promotion. Oddly enough, you can say the highest point of ARSION hype had nothing to do with Yoshida, as it was the infamous LCO vs HamaKINO bloodbath in late 99.

 

For a moment I almost felt like I was back on the old DVDVR green board. Did you ever seen Yoshida vs. Megumi Fujii? That was a beautiful bout.

 

Yep. Feels like in another life to be honest. :)

 

I have never saw that one. Happened after I dropped off. But I've heard about it many times. I really should watch it eventually.

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Candy Okutsu vs. Mikiko Futagami (4/17)

 

I am stoked to see serious Futagami. This was another match with a crazy amount of talent and innovation on display. You know how BattlARTS is shootstyle doped up with Lucharesu and AJPW headdrops? This was like joshi doped up with lucharesu which was in turn doped up with shootstyle. The opening minutes are some of the most fantastic sprint type work I've ever seen, joshi or not. The match was Futagami's armlocks and palm strike vs. Okutsu's athleticism. I can not emphasize how slick, smooth and intelligent some of the things they did were, and every few moments you had something like Okutsu crushing Futagami with a surprise moonsault, Futagami doing a slick reversal or Candy doing an awesome turnbuckle climbing spot that got you excited. It was like the world's greatest WCWSN match. The match turns into this kind of Kurt Angle-ish bombfest with multiple german suplex combos, which I don't love, but I will say it was better than any Kurt Angle style match I've seen by actual Kurt Angle. Plus it's cooler to watch Okutsu fly around because she is chunky. I want to say there were a number of spots here that could be stolen by current day workers and they would be praised as fresh and innovative. Hell the whole match could be copied at an EVOLVE show (if you can find two workers with this level of execution and athleticism) and would go down as near best possible Evolve match. My favourite moves here were probably the Solarina into Kimura and crazy Victory Roll into Fuchi style neck crank/legbar combo.

 

ARS Tournament Round 1

 

Candy Okutsu vs. Yumi Fukawa (5/5)

 

Double shot of Candy! They start this out with a typical joshi sprint section. The first move was a move that ended a previous match – but not a „death move“, so I am giving them big clever points. After that they settled down and had a more regular matwork-centered match. It was some great bantamweight style matwork with Fukawa constantly looking for the armbar. Too bad we have no 1998 IWRG to compare the matwork. Okutsu has these really amazing rope climbing spots. The match kept building nicely and the selling was spot-on, and then... Fukawa almost cripples herself by falling on her head TWICE trying an Asai Moonsault. Dear god that looked bad. They did a good job getting the match back on trail after that, and in a way it added drama to the finishing run, with Fukawa selling her neck and Okutsu suplexing her a bunch, but I felt that they ran out of ideas. I liked that it was mostly Fukawa submissions and roll ups vs. Candy's bombs. Good match despite all. Also, for continuety: Their first match ended in a draw, while this one goes just over the time limit. Watching stuff in context really adds to the enjoyment sometimes.

 

Michiko Ohmukai vs. Rie Tamada (5/5)

 

They start this out with a bunch of suplexes that they no sell. Ugh. This was the first match that really wasn't good. The matwork was boring and the standing stuff was mostly a mess. There's a big skill gap between Ohmukai and the others. Atleast it was over in less than 8 minutes.

 

Mariko Yoshida vs. Mikiko Futagami (5/5)

 

This was more like it. I love this matchup. Yoshida is the top girl on the mat, but Futagami is this crafty, unpredictable, stoic wrestler. They work this pretty much like a BattlARTs match with pinfalls and do all these awesome counters and transitions and kicks to the face. Yoshida does some neat selling of a choke and bandaged arm to allow Futagami to believably hang with her, which I dug. Another match that goes just over 10 minutes and is a blast.

 

Reggie Bennett vs. Aja Kong (5/5)

 

Reggie Bennett! Y'know with people in the past years gaining new appreciation for portly workers like Earthquake, maybe it's time to give her a reevaluation. She had pretty face and a fit-fat body that no one would have batted an eye on if she were a man. Along with Bull Nakano she feels like someone who could've been a postergirl for modern Tumblr/college feminist girls. They start this of like lumpy heavyweights and slapping the fuck out of eachother in the corner and Reggie ducks a really fast Uraken. Then Reggie locks in this Carl Greco-esque rolling neck crank and beats Aja in just two minutes!!! I like how this compilation included this to provide context for the next rounds.

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Ah, that moonsault combo...

 

So, you think Ohmukai is not on the level as the others ? Interesting. Back then, she was a big favourite, while Tamada was taking a while lot of shit (although that came later, in 98 she was still solid). As far as no-selling stuff, well, Chama ad Futagami would go on as do that on a regular basis, sadly.

 

I really enjoyed Reggie in ARSION. She's been mostly forgotten about, which is kinda sad honestly. Put her in WWE today and she works circles around that poor Nia Jax thing. She also looks much better, and since they want their monster to be attractive, she would fit right in. Love me some Reggie.

 

Candy was so much fun when she came back in ARSION. For a while. Then she wasn't as much fun. But her first year is pretty ace.

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Funny that you mentioned that the Candy/Gami match could be copied by Evolve as I've always thought the appeal of EVOLVE was that they've tried to model aspects of Battlarts.

 

I want to know what everyone thinks (including El-P and Othani's Jacket) about not only ARSION but also similar stuff like Yoshida's IBUKI promotion and the Battlarts Queen Bee matches and shows.

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The Queen Bee shows were the mixed tag-tournament stuff ? If so, I always enjoyed them. The Apache sisters and AKINO kinda ruled in those. And you had the sexiest couple tag-team ever (not that there is much competition) in Minoru Tanaka & Yumi Fukawa delivering the smooth shootstyle stuff. Haven't seen those in eons, but it was quite the novelty at the time, and mostly successful (despite Yuki Ishikawa playing token pervert worker I think).

 

IBUKI I've never seen. Always heard nothing but good things about Yoshida as a trainer, and on a personal level too.

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The Queen Bee shows were the mixed tag-tournament stuff ? If so, I always enjoyed them. The Apache sisters and AKINO kinda ruled in those. And you had the sexiest couple tag-team ever (not that there is much competition) in Minoru Tanaka & Yumi Fukawa delivering the smooth shootstyle stuff. Haven't seen those in eons, but it was quite the novelty at the time, and mostly successful (despite Yuki Ishikawa playing token pervert worker I think).

 

IBUKI I've never seen. Always heard nothing but good things about Yoshida as a trainer, and on a personal level too.

I think the mixed tag tournament stuff is the King and Queen tournament and I've been looking for that stuff online for a while.

 

The Queen Bee shows I'm talking about are the shows that Battlarts themselves ran all women shows in the late 2000s. They had Queen Bee matches on Battlarts shows with Kyoko Kimura, Toshie Uematsu, Carlos Amano, Chihiro Oikawa, Ray, and Kana (NXT Women's Champ Asuka) to name a few and they a couple of all women's show after that. I recently just saw some of this stuff and mentioned on the DVDVR board that enjoyed Kimura's stuff since she's retiring in January.

 

Jetlag's review of some of the 2/18 matches made me rewatch the show since I'm off from work today and the Candy/Fukawa opener is awesome. I remember watching the show earlier this year and falling asleep during it. Had to be due to lack of sleep cause that match ruled. ARSION is something that I've seen here and there throughout the years but I think Jetlag's reviews is getting me to finally watch the full shows I have but never sat down and watched.

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I actually strongly considered getting this comp as well (mostly for the Yoshida stuff after watching some matches in the home stretch of the GWE project). At this point in my life as a wrestling fan I never thought I'd ever be interested in doing another deep dive on a joshi promotion, but I probably will pick this up pretty soon.

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Just finished the 2/18 show in full and it was pretty fun stuff. There's a match with Gami against Jessie Bennett and it shows Gami as the bad m'fer. It's clunky at times only cause of how green Jessie Bennett is but it's fun. Reggie Bennett faces Rie Tamada and it isn't bad either. I disagree with Jetlag with the trios match at the end not being much as I enjoyed the match a lot as it was your mindless fun mulit person match and sometimes you need that variety in wrestling. If you want to stick to just shoot style, skip it but definitely watch it if you want to see a crazy six man tag.

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So, you think Ohmukai is not on the level as the others ? Interesting. Back then, she was a big favourite, while Tamada was taking a while lot of shit (although that came later, in 98 she was still solid). As far as no-selling stuff, well, Chama ad Futagami would go on as do that on a regular basis, sadly.

 

I meant in terms of skill-level. Well, I guess she can't do that twisty matwork as easily because she's tall and skinny, while Fukawa, Tamada etc. are tiny and compact. She also misses her kicks sometimes but I guess that's part of the charm.

 

I've watched some IBUKI and Queen Bee (Lenny used to have all that stuff up... can someone reup? I remember a tag with Yabushita that looked especially interesting...) Ibuki doesn't have much footage and some of it is clipped. I mainly watched Yoshida stuff from Ibuki and it's all pretty good especially the interactions with Megumi Fuji. Anyways, back to ARSION!

 

Semi-Finals of the ARS Tournament

 

Rei Tamada vs. Candy Okutsu (5/5)

 

This starts out great with Candy recklessly flying right into a Tamada dropkick. Then a weird thing happens when Okutsu tries a japanese leg roll pin and seems to dislocate Tamada's shoulder and she has to take a break. If that was intentional I'll have to give them points for creativity because I've never seen a simple rollup used in such a way. Tamada comes back and they take it to the mat and Okutsu is immediately going after her shoulder and Tamada fights back by going for the leg and this match is getting really really good now. They move back to standing and really smash into eachother, Tamada has a really great elbow smash and an awesome roaring elbow where she spins around really fast while keeping her elbow perfectly straight like a spinning top, while Candy just smashes her in the face with that forearm. Then Tamada starts busting out these missile dropkicks where she hits Candy right in the face. I guess it gets pretty joshi, where they forget the legwork and throw out a ton of moves, but it's hard to hate it when they do all these super neat standing exchanges, like Candy blocking a Dragon Suplex and eating an axe kick to the back of the head for it etc. I think joshi standing exchanges can be underrated and this was a good example of match with great ones. Match also ended just right. Another really good bout.

 

Reggie Bennett vs. Mariko Yoshida (5/5)

 

Reggie upset Aja in the 1st round, can she do it again against the submission queen? This match is totally perfect. They take it to the mat and Bennett just uses her weight advantage to squish Yoshida like a bug. Yoshida has to use all her skill and ride Bennett like a bull. I love this kind of stuff and Bennett could believably control on the mat and get in submissions which made things even better. Then Reggie starts busting out all these great power moves, just repeatedly crushing Yoshida who desperately tries to avoid and go for the submission. Great great stuff, absolutely one of the better skill vs. Power matches I can remember and I loved the final reversal.

 

BONUS MATCH – This match is not on the Best Of comp but you can just watch it on Dailymotion.

 

Yumi Fukawa vs. Michiko Ohmukai (4/11)

 

This is some grainy handheld of a houseshow match which is better than a fuckload of highly praised matches. They start this of with some lucharesu then morph into a BattlARTS style match. The matwork wasn't high end slick and smooth like in other matches but they went out to tell a story. Ohmukai was battering Fukawa with kicks from left and right, and Fukawa made all these awesome desperation armbar attempts. All of Ohmukai's stuff landed with bad intention and Fukawa was as brilliant as ever. The finish was fucking brutal aswell. Great little match.

 

I think I will create threads in 90s forum so people can discuss without flooding this thread.

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Funny that you mentioned that the Candy/Gami match could be copied by Evolve as I've always thought the appeal of EVOLVE was that they've tried to model aspects of Battlarts.

 

I want to know what everyone thinks (including El-P and Othani's Jacket) about not only ARSION but also similar stuff like Yoshida's IBUKI promotion and the Battlarts Queen Bee matches and shows.

 

My memory isn't what it used to be, but I remember liking Yoshida's IBUKI stuff for the most part. It wasn't on par with her ARSION stuff, but if you're a Yoshida fan then I think her match with Emoto is worth checking out. I watched a couple of matches from first Queen Bee show. AKINO vs. Kimura was decent, as far as I recall.

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HNY folks.

 

Finals of ARS Tournament

 

Reggie Bennett vs. Candy Okutsu (5/5)

 

Reggie has taken out the two biggest names in the tournament, can Candy overcome her? Talk about really smart booking. This was a match of two halves. They start out with an awesome Vader/Sting-like exchange where Candy charges full speed at Reggie and ends up getting clocked with a bear paw like right hand and then do more cool big vs. Small matwork in the vein of the previous Bennett vs. Yoshida match, with Bennett looking pretty good. Then there are some weird blown/poorly executed spots and Candy just goes on offense... Bennett had been super dominant throughout the match, which she was good at and I dug it, but Candy just strings a bunch of moves together... I didn't really buy it. Nor did I buy the finish, which came at just 9 minutes just when I thought the match was getting good again. I appreciate that they are not going for bloated epics all the time, but this was kind of underwhelming for a final, especially compared to the previous Bennett/Yoshida match.

 

Yumi Fukawa/Rie Tamada vs. Michiko Ohmukai/Candy Okutsu (6/21)

 

A sprint. This had all the things a joshi hater can't stand. Random moves and transitions a plenty, fuck all rhyme or reason. I guess it's true that you need matches like this to go along with the mat clinics, but I felt like was watching a „Greatest Hits“ clip of their previous matches at times. The level of execution was pretty high (besides Tamada almost KOing Candy with a missile dropkick) and everyone here had unpredictable offense, plus you get to see Ohmukai kicking people in the face a bunch and Fukawa grabbing all these fancy armbars. And, the match only went about 12 minutes which I think is a lot better than having this type of bout go 20+. So, it was a solid watch overall.

 

Aja Kong vs. Mariko Yoshida (6/21)

 

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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Mikiko Futagami vs. Michiko Ohmukai (7/21)

 

I've actually written about this match before, but it can't hurt to watch again. Because this is such a wonderful quasi BattlARTSian piece of cake. Ohmukai really lays it in on Futagami in the corner with some malintentioned knee strikes and then rocking her with that Ikeda-like running solebutt of hers, so Futagami, after a brief mat scramble, replies in kind by just standing up and punting Omukai square in the eye. Futagami really was brilliant at this stage as she did all this neat wrestling and had these Tenryu-like facial reactions. She is like William Regal portrayed by a gender switched Katsumi Usuda. The second half could have used a portion edited out as they really throw out way, way more than they should, but then Futagami always does something random and nifty (like in this case almost ripping Ohmukai's skinny shoulders off with an ultra painful looking double armlock thing) and Ohmukai keeps landing these ungodly stiff shots. It builds to a pretty dramatic finish. The use of the time limit in this fed is great.

 

Yumi Fukawa vs. Rie Tamada (7/21)

 

Remember when I talked about standing exchanges earlier? This starts out with another super neat one that feels like you're watching Misawa vs. Kawada or something. Then they get down on the mat with Tamada targeting Fukawa's bandaged shoulder and Fukawa returning the favor with a couple armbars of her own. They abandon the groundwork in favor of going for bigger moves and I don't mind it as they keep it building nicely and making the big moves feel important. Match starts getting a little wonky and I'm ready to write that these matches all start like a house of fire only to go completely of the rails in the second half, but instead a shock finish occurs and I will shut up. Another short match that had a few really outstanding parts.

 

Michiko Ohmukai vs. Rie Tamada (8/9)

 

Their last match blew. They go out to redeem themselves here. Mostly slow paced mat based match, altough Ohmukai's reach advantage does come into play, and a few face-shattering kicks are landed. Both girls target the arm, and while not anything mindblowing in terms of the skill displayed here, they stay focussed and if you are into Arn Anderson style „target the arm“ matches you will really dig this. Time limit again comes into play so I can forgive the one no-sell in the last minute. Another strong outting, better than I expected going in.

 

Ayako Hamada vs. Candy Okutsu (8/9)

 

Ayako Hamada debuts. And Arsion would never be the same! AYAKO WAS 17 COUNT THEM 17 YEARS OLD HERE!!! As far as the match goes, structure-wise it was pretty much a chaotic mess, altough I can think of worse ways to debut. The point was to introduce Hamada as this new hot thing, and she really did make that point doing all those stupidly fast armdrags and intricate flips and her dad's signature spots including the fucking brilliant cannonball into rana which I love – it veered into dangerous territory at times and there were one or two somewhat blown spots, but it didn't matter. You are supposed to look at this match and wonder how in the world a 17 year old girl can do all that. I'm just glad she didn't get the generic dropkicks-and-rollups treatment. Those fast armdrags were awesome.

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ZION Tournament 98 Round 1

 

Ayako Hamada vs. Mari Apache (8/31)

 

Mari Apache: Genius Luchadola. This was pretty much a lucharesu exhibition with some big nearfalls. Not a lot of selling and a bunch of pop-up transitions. I liked this as Mari is chunky so her graceful flying around is really cool to watch and I prefer swank armdrags over dragon suplexes. Plus Ayako continues to look incredible in her second match ever. Full worldwide point.

 

Mikiko Futagami vs. Rie Tamada (8/31)

 

Oh Mikiko Futagami, where you have been all my life? This was tremendous. Two workers who are always doing something nifty having a gritty match. Tamada worked over Futagami's leg for most of the bout, and Futagami came right back at her with all these neat/violent comebacks. Some of you selling purists might object to Futagami's selling here, but I thought it was just right. She was initially overwhelmed and would collapse after landing a single comeback move, then slowly work out the kinks, always hobble around and slapping at it as if to get it back working 100 %, and the leg seemed to come back and haunt her at the most uncomfortable times. Did I mention Futagami has this really great palm strike and nifty armbars and reckless desperation kicks and whatnot? Really dug how Tamada seemed to have Futagami's number throughout the match but went desperate near the end when Futagami kept catching her bad arm. Another damn good match where Tamada targets a limb, another damn good match where GAMI is GAMI.

 

Michiko Ohmukai vs. Yumi Fukawa (8/31)

 

This was kind of like an abridged version of their 4/11 match but not as good. They start out all scrappy and slapping eachother at the bell, and then it was Ohmukai's kicks and suplexes vs. Fukawa's submissions. Fukawa had a few neat counters and worked over Ohmukai's arm, which is a good idea when you look at Ohmukai's super thin matchstick like arms. I cringe when I see a wrestler with arms that skinny, male or female. It wasn't anything transcendent like previous matches and I felt Ohmukai was physically awkward at times. Also, the match was short and I felt like they were getting all their shit in. The crowd was also fairly dead too.

 

Reggie Bennett vs. Mariko Yoshida (8/31)

 

Reggie took the spider woman out of the last tournament; can she do it again? I love this matchup. They work this like the previous match and do callbacks and all that and start out with a bunch of matwork and it's all stupidly great. Reggie may have been better on the mat here than before as she did these great spots where she just collapses Mariko with her power and weight and it's brilliant. Mariko sells big time for Reggie and snaps her submissions on like a snare. I mean the first 5 minutes of this match would've done Negro Navarro proud. Reggie really lays in the chops and Mariko does her damndest to avoid the power moves. It all leads to an utterly brilliant finish. Fantastic stuff and it's so cool to see Bennett as a gaijin monster that doesn't suck on the mat.

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You really make me want to rewatch that stuff I loved so much. Has AKINO debuted yet ? Don't remember the timeline, but her debut was like the best debut match ever. She was Yoshida's pet project and she was simply terrific from the get go. Ayako was a lot messier, but she was pushed basically to the moon at a very young age, and all things considered, she did pretty damn well.

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She has, but she hasn't shown up on my comp yet. Her first appearance is in 1999. Can't find her debut match online either, sadly.

 

Semi Finals of the ZION Tournament

 

Ayako Hamada vs. Mikiko Futagami (8/31)

 

Pretty much a move exhibition where they cram as much as possible into a sub 5 minute match. There were a few swank moves and counters and the execution was good, so, this gets the Full Worldwide Point. Mikiko kind of works like a WCW PowerPlant guy in this meaning she busts out all kind of cool random stuff while Ayako sticks to her game lucha offense.

 

Mariko Yoshida vs. Michiko Ohmukai (8/31)

 

Finally Yoshida gets a break from having to wrestle big, heavy opponents. This was worked the same as Fukawa/Ohmukai but better because Yoshida always adds a certain uncooperativeness and all these awesome takedowns and mat transitions to a match. Ohmukai wants to play reckless kicker and Yoshida just mangles her legs on the mat. One of the things I like aboutYoshida is that she always maneuvers around and changes positions so her opponent can't get the ropes. Other wrestler will just sit there and let the guy crawl to safety, not so easy with Yoshida. Not that Ohmukai sold any of that, but man I don't even care. Match was short, to the point, and Yoshida looked like a beast.

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Finals of the Tournament

 

Mariko Yoshida vs. Ayako Hamada (8/31)

 

Lil Ayako upset two established wrestlers in the previous rounds. Yoshida just destroyed Ohmukai. What can the Super Rookie do against the Spider Lady? Well, not much, really. This was basically a rookie squash, but damn what a world class match. Yoshida was just dominating Hamada on the ground here. Absolutely nothing Hamada tried looked easy to get in on Yoshida, and that was a big part of the greatness of the match. Especially after watching Ayako in all these spotty matches. Not even her whacky Hamada Special move worked on Yoshida. The moments where she actually slips past Yoshida and catches here are something else, making this a damn great match for a 17 year old girl in her 4th pro wrestling match ever. Also, because Hamada had won the previous tournament match with a flash rollup, all of her rollups here were great nearfalls. After the match they carry off Hamada's corpse while Yoshida hasn't even broken a sweat. What a fabulous wrestler.

 

Ayako Hamada/Tiger Dream vs. Yumi Fukawa/Michiko Ohmukai (Tag League, 10/7)

 

The mysterious Tiger Dream makes her first appearance! (in this review series) My oh my, I wonder who that chunky, pink haired flyer girl could be? It was of course Candy Okutsu who wrestled pretty much like she always does except with 2 or 3 Tiger Mask spots added and she did the legendary Tiger Mask bouncing around. She did the Tiger Feint Kick before she put on the mask anyways. Given how she would go back to just being Candy soon after this I guess the gimmick was merely an excuse to stick her in shiny pants that gave Yoshida's leather grappler outfit a run for it's money in therms of sauciness. As for the match it was clipped to shit and looked like a spotfest. I will see that ARSION spotfests are much more fun than regular spotfests because they have these swank twisty lucha ranas followed by Fukawa rocking it on the mat.

 

Rie Tamada/Hiromi Yagi vs. Tiger Dream/Ayako Hamada (Twinstar Tag Final, 12/7)

 

We move straight to the finals. And also the first appearance of Hiromi Yagi! Apparently in ARSION she was mostly used in tags in 1998, which is a bit of shame because she was pure gold here. She was a feisty harpy cladded in leopard fur and did all these brilliant swank moves, including a chickenwing style suplex and chokehold that really need to be stolen. Watching this match, I was wondering if Arsion with it's reintroduction of lucha into the joshi style was merely a return to those early 80s Jaguar Yokota tags which are heavy on lucha. Because they do all this flying around and ranas and you have Hamada doing headbutts like her Papa, and between that they go into all these brilliant mat scrambles and takedowns and it's just a rush to watch. Of course being it's ARSION the swank lucha rollups lead into shootstyle submissions and legbars and what not. For all you psychology nerds Tamada and Yagi do some fierce isolation work on the plucky babyfaces here, leading to a series of dizzying double teams that actually lead to the finish. Didn't really matter to me because the wrestling on display here was fantastic, breath taking, inspiring, what have you. The first great ARSION tag I've watched so far.

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They made kind of a big deal with Candy being "trained" by Sayama before she debuted the Tiger Dream gimmick, but she was just awkward with it, not at ease with the requisite Tiger spots. It shows how lucha influenced ARSION was (and was gonna be even more in the months to come).

 

Hiromi Yagi in ARSION. A wet dream of any respectable JWP fan. Yagi will bring more awesomeness in 1999. And yes, she had the style too.

 

Where the hell are my tapes ?!

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Rie Tamada/Hiromi Yagi vs. Michiko Ohmukai/Yumi Fukawa (ARSION Tag Titles 12/18)

 

Uhm... I'm starting to think my brain isn't big enough to process this kind of match. I didn't like the offensive choices in the beginning of the match (X-Factors and Flying Clotheslines and so on). Then the match just kind of went into a spiral. Lots of unpredictable twists and turns, partner interferences and all that. There was one nifty Yagi/Fukawa exchange that I could sink my teeth into, and Ohmukai countered Tamada's Rolling Elbow by punching her in the face at one point. They play off the previous Tag Final match, and I liked some of the stuff near the end. The dead crowd didn't help either. I'll leave it to the joshi experts to judge this match.

 

Aja Kong vs. Ayako Hamada (12/18)

 

Aja Kong: abuses children and gets paid for it. This goes pretty much like you expect it to go. Aja slaps Ayako around a bunch and steps on her bad arm while looking unimpressed by Ayako's feeble offensive attempts. Hamada uses her agility to survive and it builds to Ayako landing increasingly bigger spots on Aja. It develops into a quite good match, even if a little by the numbers and you've seen it a thousand times from Aja before. The thing that sets it apart is that Ayako hits some spots vastly beyond the ability of most wrestler. Ayako didn't have the sharp offense she would develop later to combat a monster like Aja, making the match feel even more one sided. She gave a spirited selling performance, that's for sure. By the end she looked as if pushed beyond her tolerance point but just wouldn't quit.

 

Mariko Yoshida vs. Candy Okutsu (Queen of ARSION Title, 12/18)

 

ARSION with a big title match to close out the year. Candy is back as Candy and debugs another ridiculous outfit. Her necklace even seemed to be giving her trouble. I don't wanna mock any further, because for a match that has a tasseled cowgirl in it this had some super matwork. Candy can handle herself with Yoshida, but it became fast apparent that Candy would want to take this match into a standing position while Yoshida always goes back to the mat no matter what. Candy did a bunch of popping up and got all her shit in while Yoshida tried 7,000 different submissions on her until she got the right one. I mean, it was all high end, innovative work, but a little bloated and felt a little too much like a showcase for both girls rather than a title match. Props to Yoshida however as she was utterly stellar once again.

 

So that's it for 1998! To say ARSION has achieved a lot would be an understatement. They introduced all these wrestlers in their new characters, established it's own style (including educating the audience on submissions), made good use of tournaments and upset wins and delivered a whole bunch of good matches. Earth to indy wrestling promoters: this is how you establish your new company.

 

Best ARSION Matches of 1998

  1. Yumi Fukawa vs. Michiko Ohmukai (4/11)

  2. Mikiko Futagami vs. Rie Tamada (8/31)

  3. Mariko Yoshida vs. Rie Tamada (4/17)

  4. Rie Tamada/Hiromi Yagi vs. Tiger Dream/Ayako Hamada (Twinstar Tag Final, 12/7)

  5. Reggie Bennett vs. Mariko Yoshida (8/31)

  6. Mariko Yoshida vs. Ayako Hamada (8/31)

  7. Aja Kong vs. Mariko Yoshida (6/21)

  8. Aja Kong vs. Michiko Ohmukai (2/18)

  9. Mariko Yoshida vs. Candy Okutsu (Queen of ARSION Title, 12/18)

  10. Yumi Fukawa vs. Candy Okutsu (2/18)

  11. Reggie Bennett vs. Mariko Yoshida (5/5)

  12. Mariko Yoshida vs. Mikiko Futagami (5/5)

  13. Candy Okutsu vs. Mikiko Futagami (4/17)

  14. Michiko Ohmukai vs. Rie Tamada (8/9)

  15. Mariko Yoshida vs. Michiko Ohmukai (8/31)

  16. Mikiko Futagami vs. Michiko Ohmukai (7/21)

  17. Aja Kong vs. Ayako Hamada (12/18)

  18. Rie Tamada vs. Candy Okutsu (5/5)

  19. Yumi Fukawa vs. Rie Tamada (7/21)

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Mariko Yoshida vs. Mika Akino (1/17)

 

And here is AKINO in her first appearance on the set. Feels a little weird to watch this tiny young girl pop up in a title match less than a year after her debut, , but I ain't complaining! Pretty boss match for what it is. You can totally see the pet project thing with Akino. She wasn't a mat genius or anything, but she gets to survive Yoshida for a while and gets to impress with all these swank. Yoshida pretty much takes her apart twisting from one outlandish submission into another, while Akino goes for rope climbing spots and dives that a rookie really shouldn't be doing. A little robotic from Akino at times she couldn't hit everything cleanly, but her selling was solid enough and Yoshida is stellar just doing all this nifty stuff for 15 minutes. Y'know, I think if there's one thing missing from current junior weight wrestling it's this kind of SWANK. Yes yes I know they do all kinds of crazy spots and dives and 2.99999999999 counts and whatnot, but I can't name a single wrestler active in 2017 as swanky as Yoshida. Maybe Virus or Solar or some other luchador, but nobody elsewhere. I mean look at all these preposterous, twisty leg hooking holds! That fucking wristclutch throw she did just out of nowhere! People talk about DG being spectacular, but fuck that. A basic sweep from Yoshida is spectacular.

 

Mariko Yoshida vs. Hiromi Yagi (2/18)

 

I've seen this match before and felt it was great. But watching all this stuff now has changed my whole outlook on this bout. Proof that sometimes context is everything. We've seen Mariko demolish everybody else on the mat, and everyone tries to beat her standing. But here's Yagi. Hiromi Yagi, in this match, feels like the lost great female worker. Like we all fantasybook Tamon Honda to go to BattlARTS or Carl Greco in U-Style, here is Yagi, an unusual worker in her home promotion, going into an environment that fits her perfectly, and blooming. Nobody was able to do shit to Yoshida on the mat, until Hiromi Yagi came to town. Even the opening move makes sense now: Yoshida catches Yagi and drops her, and this match is business as usual right? Well not tonight, because Yagi goes back in and proceeds to put the fear of god into Yoshida. Yoshida would show weakness and Yagi would throw herself at her, Yoshida would try a move and Yagi would get her into trouble like no one before. Not only can Yagi hang on the mat, she can win. Suddenly all of Yoshida's sweeps and grounding aren't working. Yoshida would go to the mat, and suddenly she would be the one in trouble. The bandaged arm didn't even seem that important now. In a way, knowing that made the lulls/slow parts better as the bout had a type of tension building that I don't recall seeing in many other matches. Now I understand the crowd reaction when Yoshida escapes that armbar but doesn't engage further. For the first time, Yoshida doesn't want to be on the mat anymore. They do a tremendous job teasing the big throws, and Yagi ends up meeting her tragedy. No wonder she didn't want to shake hands after the match.

 

Unbelievable, mindblowing, truely great contest. I've loved it before but now it's in my canon of untouchable superclassics. The swank moves, slick matwork were present as before, but the story that the match told has now been elevated in my mind. Hiromi Yagi, what an astounding young lady.

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