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AJW 1995

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Hey guys,

Been forever since I was on here as the reality is I've been caught up in so many different things I just haven't had much time to watch any wrestling, save the odd match here and there for nostalgia and so on. But as I'm back in the UK for a month, in quarantine for this week and next, and in the process of copying my DVDs over onto an external hard drive, I thought I'd set myself a little "project" to watch. 

Back in the day I was one of the Joshi "defenders", but whereas the majority of my men's DVDs are on YouTube, etc, I guess Zenjo et al lost their popularity just before those platforms took off and there's far less of it out there. And when there used to be more discussion of Joshi, Big Egg tended to be the last recommended show. Obviously the same group of girls continued to be there until 1997, and as there's no reason to think they suddenly dropped off a cliff in talent after that show, I've decided I'm going to watch all the AJW tapes I have from after Big Egg, at least until the end of 1995. I don't have the TVs, but I do have all the comms. I'll be skipping the rookies (for the most part) and the midgets.

Anyway:

 

WRESTLEMARINEPIAD '94 EX: December 4th, 1994

What's interesting about this show right off the bat is that the building is only 60% full (at most), with the WON reporting an attendance of 3,200 in a building for 5,000. Bearing in mind that Big Egg was only a fortnight prior, it caught me a bit by surprise. Something to keep an eye on, I guess.

 

Reggie Bennett/Rie Tamada vs. Suzuka Minami/Tomoko Watanabe

Predictable undercard fare, this. When Reggie is in, she dominates; when Tamada is in, she gets beaten up. Reggie's power stuff looks fine, some of it (including the finish) rather good and impactful, but whenever they ask her to do more complicated sequences involving rope-running and whatnot it's clear that that's not her thing. Tamada sells quite well here, but she hasn't got much more to offer (an unfair comparison, perhaps, but the girls who debuted in the late 80s were all much further along after three years). As for Minami (who'd retire the following May) and Tomoko, it's clearly a minor match for them. 

 

Etsuko Mita/Mima Shimoda vs. Mariko Yoshida/Kaoru Ito

It's always strange to see Shimoda so shy and reserved in her pre-match interview and then go out to the ring and be very vocal the whole time. Ito is actually the opposite. Yoshida is easily the smoothest of the four here, but wouldn't find her own niche until several years later. My memory of LCO in this period is they had parts of their act down, but it wasn't until 97 when they became the complete package. There's a sequence here where they look as if they're about to turn this into a brawl, and then the match, bizarrely, just resets. Ito snaps after the match, drags Shimoda into the crowd, throws a few chairs on her...then walks away and Shimoda returns to the ring. Weird. This could have been one of those "interesting in hindsight" matches, but was merely OK.

 

Manami Toyota vs. Blizzard Yuki

Hasegawa (Yuki) is coming off a disastrous "debut" at Big Egg. She was always one of my favourites, but the gimmick did her no favours as her style was that bit more technical and she didn't have the flamboyance to "charismate" through the mask. It was dropped soon enough. As for this match, they were trying to elevate Hasegawa, and she countered a lot of Toyota's stuff (I don't think Manami strung together even three moves at any point), but the result was the match felt somewhat disjointed. One of the problems of Toyota in a singles match was she had so many cool moves, that there's a good chance she'll show up any opponent who can't match her (one of the reasons I preferred her matches with Kyoko was that she had just as much shit). The more matwork based approach works as "Sakie Hasegawa", the younger girl maintaining control however she can, etc; not so much here, when "Blizzard Yuki" is trying to prove herself. Still a perfectly good match and whilst the draw was somewhat telegraphed by the end, they kept it entertaining.

 

Lioness Asuka/Kyoko Inoue vs. Toshiyo Yamada/Takako Inoue

Another weird match this. As best I can remember, Asuka only returned at Big Egg a couple of weeks before, so I would have expected the other three to be extra pumped to work with one of their idols. Actually the match is very much of a "the bloom is off the rose of Asuka's comeback" sort, to the point where I Googled her retirement and comeback. Anyway, the match goes little over ten minutes, following the predictable patterns. I should point out that even in this "house show" format, Kyoko comfortably looks the best of the four with both the best offensive variation and execution.

 

Aja Kong vs. Yumiko Hotta (Red Belt)

Hotta comes into this with her knee all taped up (actually not the only one), and Aja goes after it with a brutality that dwarfs anything else on the show; she even removes the gate from the guard rail and uses that to bash Hotta's knee, a spot I can't recall seeing before. It's a squash for the first ten minutes, save the odd hope spot for Hotta (kicks, naturally, which Aja feeds her head right into). To be fair, the crowd are more into Hotta here than they'd been behind anybody else all night. Aja does pop the crowd with a well done false KO spot, which leads into something of a back-and-forth home stretch. Hotta actually kicks out of the first uraken, and a second one promptly ends it. With Hotta's injury, about as good a match as they could have had here. Their match was back in January.

 

Overall, a perfectly watchable show, but definitely one for collectors rather than casuals.  

 

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Welcome back.

I have a question I was hoping you could provide some insight on. Why was the red belt such a hot potato in 1995? Aja Kong entered the year having held it for over two years, and Bull Nakano held it for nearly three years before that. And Manami Toyota held it for a year after winning it in December. But in between, there were four title changes in the span of a little over eight months.

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By the end of 94, a lot of things had run their course, and where to go from there? As I mentioned at the start, I'll be keeping an eye on attendances and such like, going through old WONs, but my thought on that has always been that they were looking for the quick pops, a kind of desperate Russoism, especially in Toyota's first win. 

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Tag League The Best Finals: December 10th, 1994

Before we get to the matches themselves, it's worth my pointing out that all three teams involved in the tie had already worked a match on this show: Kyoko and Hasegawa had beaten Yamada and Hotta, and Toyota and Takako had beaten Aja and Reggie (Toyota pinning the latter). It would be, at least for me, more interesting if we had at least those matches to see how they (assuming they did, but it figures as such) mixed things up. Anyway...

 

Aja Kong/Reggie Bennett vs. Kyoko Inoue/Sakie Hasegawa

You'd think, given the size differences and the fact that they'd just lost to bring on this round-robin play-off, that Aja (in particular) and Reggie would look to dominate this early and make a statement, but it's actually quite back and forth. Nothing much to say about it, really; it's worked as if they expected it to be cut up on TV/tape.

 

Aja Kong/Reggie Bennett vs. Manami Toyota/Takako Inoue

This is worked closer to what I expected the first match to be: Takako doesn't enter the match for the first five minutes and it's all about the monsters working over Toyota; when she does make it in, she's quickly dominated too. Takako gets a breakthrough working Aja's leg, but that doesn't go anywhere once Toyota comes back in. Typical back and froth down the stretch and Toyota actually beats Aja with that evil looking leg clutch off the top. This, naturally, gets a massive pop.

 

Manami Toyota/Takako Inoue vs. Kyoko Inoue/Sakie Hasegawa

With Takako and Sakie switched, these would have a super match the following August. This is fine for what it is, each team's third match of the night, but the finish is interesting. Takako just randomly snaps, and nodowas both Kyoko and Sakie off the apron to the floor, then sets them both on a table (on top of each other) and Toyota splashes them from the post to the floor. That looked especially rough for Sakie, who was on the bottom. Kyoko eventually kicks out, tries to get a bit of offence, but it doesn't go anywhere and Toyota takes it home.

 

Another show for collectors this (it's sold with the December 23rd Korakuen show which I'll watch later), but a perfectly enjoyable 45 minutes. There are clips afterwards of a tour they did in Bali (per the WON, they had 20 local "prospects" in attendance who were put off by how rough the style was). This would actually be interesting to have seen a bit more of: they're working in a kickboxing ring, with four ropes (ropes, not cables, and loose), the ring inside sounds hard as hell (there's a dull thud with every bump), plus it being an exhibition of sorts, they're doing a lot more roll ups and strikes rather than bumps; it's the type of thing I'm always curious to see how they cope with it. 

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On 12/6/2020 at 4:01 PM, NintendoLogic said:

Welcome back.

I have a question I was hoping you could provide some insight on. Why was the red belt such a hot potato in 1995? Aja Kong entered the year having held it for over two years, and Bull Nakano held it for nearly three years before that. And Manami Toyota held it for a year after winning it in December. But in between, there were four title changes in the span of a little over eight months.

They clearly wanted to push Toyota thinking it was her time, and as you say she won it end of the year and held it for the next year. She also headlined the Budokan against Hokuto.

The problem is more the Aja --> Toyota --> Aja --> Dynamite dance.

Toyota winning it the first time was something of a surprise. Dave and I were told very specifically by someone who should have known that Aja was going over. Same person expressed surprise when we talked to him after the show with a "that wasn't what I'd been told" explanation. Didn't really get a clearer explanation beyond, "they changed their minds at the last minute." He really wasn't someone who would be working *Dave*, so I've been less jaded about it compared to other people who have lied right in Dave's face... sometimes to such a degree that we laughed at the person.

My read in 1995 as it was happening, and kind of still feel the same way barring more info:

AJW in 1995 post-Big Egg Universe seemed to be heading back to being a stand alone promotion rather than pushing the semi-regular inter-promotional stuff of the past 2+ years. It was a little telling that they pulled the belts from the Double Inoues to have a tourney to crown the 100th WWWA Tag Champs in a big building and have 0.00 of the teams key interpromotional teams. No JWP team, not LLPW team, no FMW team, etc. It was a ridiculously flat card on paper after two years of inter-promotional matches in such settings.

Less than a week later was Queendom in another big building with no real inter-promotional hook to help it.

If you're going to away from inter-promotional, it's arguably time to move away from the promotion's WWWA queen of the inter-promotional era and crown the new one, either via a chase or just doing it.

They just did it.

I don't think they had in mind *at the time* putting the belt on Kansai and having her job the title back to an AJW wrestler on the climactic show of the year.

Once they made that decision, it really had to be Aja who put over Kansai after going 3-0 against her in big matches.  Toyota --> Dynamite --> Toyota doesn't work as well, and fails in giving Kansai the win over her real rival.

Back to Aja, who jobs it wonderfully to Dynamite, and Toyota is kinda sorta symbolically crowned the new queen by upholding AJW's honor by getting Big Red back.

It is awkward as all hell. It screws up the build of Toyota-Hokuto at the September Budokan by making it non-title... there isn't even a WWWA title match on the card. There's the whipsaw of having no chase by Toyota for Big Red, and instead paying off Dynamite's chase of Aja.  A lack of a sustained run of Dynamite with the belt turning back a number of challengers over the course of a longer time before paying off in December.  Really messy.

It just didn't feel like things went how they planned when laying out the year. Either multiple changes (quick call on the first Aja-Toyota chance + deciding to do title business with JWP), or a single one (deciding to do title business with JWP which forced the belt back on Aja).  Either way, I don't think that when they mapped out the year in late 1994 and early 1995 that they were thinking about four title changes. Not really consistent with how they had run the promotion since Yokota won the title for the first time. Also not consistent with how they would run it in 1996 or 1997 up to the point Inoue dropped Big Red to Hotta as she was heading out the door.

I think they changed their minds, possibly twice.

It made for a strange, choppy year. On the flip side, I was kind of happy about a few things:

* unexpected title changes were at the moment a rare thing to see live, even if I was/am a bigger fan of Aja's

* I felt/feel happy that Dynamite got her win over Aja and her name on the list of holders of Big Red at a time when it felt it mattered

* I really loved that Aja-Dynamite title chance and Aja's performance in it

 

John

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8 hours ago, jdw said:

They clearly wanted to push Toyota thinking it was her time, and as you say she won it end of the year and held it for the next year. She also headlined the Budokan against Hokuto.

The problem is more the Aja --> Toyota --> Aja --> Dynamite dance.

Toyota winning it the first time was something of a surprise. Dave and I were told very specifically by someone who should have known that Aja was going over. Same person expressed surprise when we talked to him after the show with a "that wasn't what I'd been told" explanation. Didn't really get a clearer explanation beyond, "they changed their minds at the last minute." He really wasn't someone who would be working *Dave*, so I've been less jaded about it compared to other people who have lied right in Dave's face... sometimes to such a degree that we laughed at the person.

My read in 1995 as it was happening, and kind of still feel the same way barring more info:

AJW in 1995 post-Big Egg Universe seemed to be heading back to being a stand alone promotion rather than pushing the semi-regular inter-promotional stuff of the past 2+ years. It was a little telling that they pulled the belts from the Double Inoues to have a tourney to crown the 100th WWWA Tag Champs in a big building and have 0.00 of the teams key interpromotional teams. No JWP team, not LLPW team, no FMW team, etc. It was a ridiculously flat card on paper after two years of inter-promotional matches in such settings.

Less than a week later was Queendom in another big building with no real inter-promotional hook to help it.

If you're going to away from inter-promotional, it's arguably time to move away from the promotion's WWWA queen of the inter-promotional era and crown the new one, either via a chase or just doing it.

They just did it. 

I don't think they had in mind *at the time* putting the belt on Kansai and having her job the title back to an AJW wrestler on the climactic show of the year.

Once they made that decision, it really had to be Aja who put over Kansai after going 3-0 against her in big matches.  Toyota --> Dynamite --> Toyota doesn't work as well, and fails in giving Kansai the win over her real rival.

Back to Aja, who jobs it wonderfully to Dynamite, and Toyota is kinda sorta symbolically crowned the new queen by upholding AJW's honor by getting Big Red back.

It is awkward as all hell. It screws up the build of Toyota-Hokuto at the September Budokan by making it non-title... there isn't even a WWWA title match on the card. There's the whipsaw of having no chase by Toyota for Big Red, and instead paying off Dynamite's chase of Aja.  A lack of a sustained run of Dynamite with the belt turning back a number of challengers over the course of a longer time before paying off in December.  Really messy.

It just didn't feel like things went how they planned when laying out the year. Either multiple changes (quick call on the first Aja-Toyota chance + deciding to do title business with JWP), or a single one (deciding to do title business with JWP which forced the belt back on Aja).  Either way, I don't think that when they mapped out the year in late 1994 and early 1995 that they were thinking about four title changes. Not really consistent with how they had run the promotion since Yokota won the title for the first time. Also not consistent with how they would run it in 1996 or 1997 up to the point Inoue dropped Big Red to Hotta as she was heading out the door.

I think they changed their minds, possibly twice.

It made for a strange, choppy year. On the flip side, I was kind of happy about a few things:

* unexpected title changes were at the moment a rare thing to see live, even if I was/am a bigger fan of Aja's

* I felt/feel happy that Dynamite got her win over Aja and her name on the list of holders of Big Red at a time when it felt it mattered

* I really loved that Aja-Dynamite title chance and Aja's performance in it

 

John

Awesome. Thank you for sharing this. It's always great to hear from someone with inside info. Regarding Kansai, my best guess (and this is pure speculation on my part) is that AJW had been struggling at the box office with Hokuto's retirement and the end of interpromotional matches, so they reached out to JWP for a lifeline. JWP agreed to lend them Kansai in return for giving her a run as WWWA champion. In turn, this necessitated making Aja a transitional champion for the reasons you mentioned. Toyota's first title win seemingly being a last-minute decision adds a new wrinkle to the story. It seems like there was a lot of panic booking in AJW in 1995.

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