The 20th Anniversary of AJW’s Dream Rush – November 26th, 1992
Followers of this website might remember that I wrote an article on why Akira Hokuto, the Dangerous Queen, was my favorite wrestler of all time. In this column, and hopefully in the future, I’d like to highlight what are likely the four best women’s cards of all time. They coincide with the glory years of Joshi Puroresu in Japan and they all need to be remembered by wrestling fans everywhere as showing what women’s wrestling can be, given how so many fans are disappointed in how the women are treated today in the WWE and TNA.
This first card might well have been the most historical card in women’s wrestling history. Followers of WWE’s Divas and TNA’s Knockouts might be surprised to hear me say this but the evidence is pretty strong. Here are the results of the card:
Etsuko Mita & Mima Shimoda beat Miori Kamiya & Chikako Hasegawa.
This match highlights the team that many consider Japan’s greatest women’s tag team, early in their Las Cachorras Orientales days. Over time, Mita and Shimoda go on to dominate the woman’s tag scene all over Japan for the next six-plus years, across many promotions. The match itself has no real significance.
Yumiko Hotta & Suzuka Minami beat Terri Power & Takako Inoue.
Terri Power eventually returns to America and debuts as Tori in the WWE as Sable’s fan and Kane’s girlfriend. Here she is early in her career getting involved in a tag team with Takako Inoue, who probably becomes the most downloaded Joshi performer of all time as far as internet young males are concerned. Suzuka Minami was a tremendous performer who unfortunately had to retire way too early due to her knees. Her top rope karate kicks were breathtaking to watch. Hotta still wrestles today and was known for her stiff ring style. The match itself really didn’t have any significance and was booked to give these women a spot on the card.
Debbie Malenko & Sake Hasegawa beat Erika Tsuchiya & Yoshika Maedamori.
This is the first inter-promotional match on the card, pitting AJW versus FMW (of Mick Foley fame). Easily the low point of the card as their styles did not match up well plus Tsuchiya wrestled with a really bad arm injury, which could not be worked around. Many U.S. fans remember Debbie a little but what a talent she would have been if it wasn’t for a terrible career-ending knee injury. One of the great mysteries of women’s wrestling is what happened to Debbie after her career ended as she pretty much disappeared from the scene and I believe has never attended any of the legend’s events.
WWWA Martial Arts Champ Bat Yoshinaga beat Kamikaze.
A straight MMA-style shoot fight with a surprise winner.
Kaoru Ito beat Tomoko Watanabe to win the AJW Japanese Title (this belt was like the U.S. Heavyweight title, it has some importance but is the least prestigious of the singles crowns).
Two of the lesser names at the time but both went on to become big names in Japan. Ito wins the Red Belt in 2000 and Watanabe becomes a tag team champion multiple times.
Bison Kimura receives her retirement ceremony.
One of the great charms of Joshi is the fact that they held formal retirement ceremonies. Many of the women were forced to retire from AJW long before they should have, but at least the ceremony itself was really thought out. The other wrestlers always brought flowers or other gifts with them and the ceremony itself was usually tailored to their character and personality. Of course, competition of newer promotions causes Kimura to come out of retirement a few years later, as it has with so many AJW retirees forced to ‘retired’ when they reached AJW’s then-compulsory retirement age.
I hope to one day do a feature article about some of the more famous retirement ceremonies complete with YouTube links.
Akira Hokuto pinned Kyoko Inoue (22:17) to win the All-Pacific Title.
The All Pacific belt was equivalent to the Intercontinental Title in the WWE. It was used by AJW in the same way, as the test run for whether a wrestler could be trusted to carry the world title for the promotion. In 1992 Hokuto was being groomed for main event status through a number of feuds so that she would be the logical challenger to Aja Kong after Kong beat Nakano (unfortunately a series of injuries ended up limiting Hokuto and caused her to never hold the world title). This match was the end of a terrific program between the two and has a marvelously emotional ending with Hokuto going over.
What also makes this match special is that after the match Hokuto calls out Shinobu Kandori of LLPW, setting in motion the feud that dominates the Joshi world in 1993, leading to what most Joshi observers consider the greatest women’s singles match ever at Dream Slam I in April the following year.
Aja Kong pinned Bull Nakano (20:19) to win the WWWA Title.
For nearly three years Bull Nakano held the AJW Red Belt as world champion, having won the vacated title in January 1990 in a tournament. Aja was a former stablemate of hers and had been chasing the title for quite awhile. Putting the belt on Aja signaled the final changing of the guard from the era of the Crush Girls and Dump Matsumoto to the new crop, just like the WWE’s transition from the Backlund era to the Hogan era. After the match we once again get a look at how Japan differs from America as Aja and Bull actually celebrate the title change together with testimonial speeches aimed at each other.
Interestingly, Bull went on to Mexico and won the CMLL title later in the year. When she then defeated Alundra Blayze/Madusa in 1994 she became the only person to win AJW, CMLL and WWE world titles in a career. A worthy record for inclusion to the WWE Hall of Fame one would think.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J1GMddo1zFI Part One
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XRaLEwcgaGw Part Two
AJW WWWA Tag Champs Manami Toyota & Toshiyo Yamada beat Mayumi Ozaki & Dynamite Kansai (JWP) in 40:24.
First Fall: Kansai pinned Toyota (14:42)
Second Fall: Yamada pinned Kansai (16:24)
Third Fall: Toyota pinned Ozaki (40:24)
The first inter-promotional card produces possibly the best women’s tag team match of all time. One cannot look at this match without wondering how these women could keep up this pace for 40 minutes. And it starts out quickly when Manami Toyota nearly knocks out Mayumi Ozaki with a dropkick a few minutes into the match. The match has incredible action and emotion, and the crowd goes white hot for it. Eventually the AJW team gets the win but it is booked properly as JWP does get its’ share and actually wins the first fall. The chemistry between the wrestlers is terrific as both teams combine a high flyer and a power performer. Another aspect to this is that both Ozaki and Kansai had tried out for AJW and were turned down for entrance into their training program. Ozaki and Kansai leveraged this performance and became big time names in Japan for a long time to come.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hDO4Uj3yHlk (Whole Match)
What a card! Performance-wise and historically. Arguably the greatest collection of women’s wrestlers in history is this period in Japan. Pretty much all of the matches are available on YouTube and the DVD’s can be purchased on the web. A really good introduction to the Joshi world for anyone who wants to learn about this period.