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Written by JD Woolley

All Japan Women's Pro-Wrestling (AJW) Classic Eps. 23

Catching Up in 1987, AJW is at a cross-roads. The popular tag team of Itsuki Yamazaki and Noriyo Tateno aka The Jumping Bomb Angels have recently left AJW on a journey to the WWF even competing at Survivor Series vs the Glamour Girls. Also, earlier in 1987, the up and coming Hisako Uno (later Akira Hokuto) back in April during a tag title match vs the Red Typhoons took a spike piledriver during the first fall of 3 suffering a broken neck. At the time of watching that classic episode, I noticed her getting destroyed on this move and holding her neck up herself as she completed the match, but as this is a learning journey, I wasn’t aware that was the moment of her devastating injury.

Another big blow was losing their champion and top wrestler Jaguar Yakota in January of 1986 due to the mandatory retirement set age of 25 at the time. This was part of the strict “3 No’s” policy of no drinking, no smoking, and no boys. It is notable that Yakota did become the trainer of AJW upon retirement during this incredible rise of the tag team the Crush Gals (Chigusa Nagayo and Lioness Asuka) which saw in the same year AJW having over 2,000 girls try out to become a wrestler.

Finally, Chigusa Nagayo’s chase for the 3WA title ended with the defeat of Yukari Ohmori starting the next era of AJW with a young uprising Bull Nakano as that bridge wrestler of the old 80s style heading into the 90s. Therefore, there are retirements a plenty from the past generation of 80s AJW wrestlers coming and the need to make and push new stars in a hurry. The first to go will be in this episode written here. The last episode of 1987.

Place: Korakuen Hall, 12/26/1987

Yasuko Ishiguro Retirement 5-Minute Exhibition Match: Yasuko Ishiguro vs. Yachiyo Hirata

This would be common in joshi women’s wrestling. Every once in a while we get a retirement of a young wrestler. In this case, it is Ishiguro retiring only 2 years into her career. Retirement matches are generally standard. It’s a run through of their moves while having one final battle against either a close friend or storied rival in a timed exhibition match. The bigger names will get a storied send off with a speech and flower. Here, Ishiguro is simply someone young leaving wrestling and getting that last chance to shine.

AJW Junior Championship League Final – Championship Vacant: Mika Suzuki vs. Kaoru Maeda

Frequently, the Jr title in AJW found itself being vacated due to injury of the champion. I believe this was vacated due to the early retirement of then champion Kyoko Asoh. This is billed as a singles match, but confusingly this must the 3 way match where a person can only win when winning 2 matches in a row. We see Kaoru Maeda (currently mostly a comedy style wrestler still wrestling today as a freelancer frequenting Sendai as an example) lose to this mystery person (Amada?) in inside 4 minutes, and that cues in Mika Suzuki for the second match. The crowd is dead silent for this match and its entirety. Confusingly, if I have what I saw correctly, Mika defeats the opponent having Karou back in for the third match. These two have the longer match of the bunch which frequently saw a lot of basic mat work. This isn’t something to go out of your way to catch. Mika def Karou via a shoot wrestling pin and wins the vacated Jr title.

Hisako Uno vs. Mika Takahashi

This match is important in history because this is (to my knowledge) the return match for Uno from her broken neck injury suffered back in April earlier in the year. Unfortunately, this match is a rough watch. It’s really nothing but basic mat work as I did struggle to stay awake until the slew of near fall roll ups at the end. Finally, Uno wins with a float over bridge pin to win.

Devil Masami Retirement Match: Devil Masami vs. Chigusa Nagayo

Here is our second ‘major’ retirement during this classic watch journey. Former 3WA champion Devil Masami forced into retirement at only 25. Her final match is against arguably the most popular wrestler in Japan during the 80s and current 3WA champion Chigusa Nagayo. They go out and beat the hell out of each other in this exhibition showcase. Nagayo gets her licks in, and before the time expires on the match Devil Masami busts out all her signature moves including probably the hardest powerbomb of her career on Nagayo. I would expect releasing so much emotion and frustration along with it. That final bell rings and immediately Masami collapses onto Nagayo and embraces her bursting out into tears. Nagayo with furrowed brows holds back her own tears and exits the ring leaving Masami to stand alone in the ring one last time. Masami is all emotion, holding nothing back, and has the crying face and body language clearly of somebody not ready to retire.

It’s no wonder that later, many of these star wrestlers forced into retirement would go on to found other joshi promotions essentially AJW creating their own competition. Devil Masami was indeed one of those wrestlers that would show up in JWP (a competitor of AJW) in 1990 despite the promotion going through its own fractures and issues, and continue to wrestle all throughout the 90s in competitors to AJW.

-The next classic episode continues in order with episode 24 found through the AJW Classic archive.

New Japan through the 90’s (NJPW) – March to May 1, 1992

note: matches covered are what’s available in the archive on njpw world

Catching up in 1992 and the state of NJPW. Currently at this point, Riki Chosu is the IWGP champion having defeated Tatsumi Fujinami at the Tokyo Dome in January. An important note, is this is the time much of the “old guard” from the 80s (Fujinami, Vader, Chosu) are slowly starting to be beaten and having high competition from the up and coming stars known as the “3 Musketeers” (Keiji Mutoh, Shinya Hashimoto, and Masahiro Chono). Most notable, the writing was on the wall in late 1991 in the G1 Tournament finals when Chono and Mutoh had a classic for the ages seeing Chonu raise the trophy and the audience pelt the ring with tatami mats in celebration. Thus, here we currently are along with various other storylines ongoing with the rise of the junior division with young stars like Jushin Thunder Liger, and the ever longing presence of Antonio Inoki and his over bearing obsession with mixing wrestling with real fighters which we will see here shortly.

Mar 1, 1992 Kanagawa・Yokohama Arena 20TH ANNIVERSARY DAY SPECIAL MATCH - Antonio Inoki & Osamu Kido vs. Riki Choshu & Kengo Kimura

This match suffers from Inoki and his need to be the star at all times. Sure, the crowd still loves him and sees him as a star, but the matches seem to be falling flat more and more each time he’s out there. I thought Inoki working Chosu's arm and then Chosu tagging out and rolling to the floor to tape up his elbow and shoulder was a real cool spot. Other than that it was super dull and all boring mat work as it goes with Inoki until his trademark slow arm breaker spot, followed up with a sleeper and/or octopus stretch to end it. This one turns out in another direction. The crowd is dead basically the entire match which says a lot, and it just goes to a time limit draw. A waste of time I say.

March 1992 9 days Kyoto Prefectural Gymnasium Wrestling versus karate, mixed martial arts Tag Match - Shiro Koshinaka & Kuniaki Kobayashi vs. Masashi Aoyagi & Akirashun Saito

If you have been listening to the Red Leaf Retrocast podcast as I’ve gone through this NJPW retro journey through the 90s, more and more I have grown tired and ever more confused with these real fighting “shoot” fights in a wrestling ring presented as a hybrid real right wrestling match. What’s more confusing is watching as the crowd spills into a simple blood lust state as dudes pummel each other for no other reason than drawing blood be it ‘hard-way’ or ‘blading.’ This program/feud between these 4 men is no different.

The crowd was super-hot the whole time. It’s a tornado style tag match of 2 karate based dudes and the fighting mma dudes doing a lot of judo. It’s real weird. Karate guys go wild kicking and the mma dudes go wild double judo throwing. Reverts back to kicking and mma guys punching. People get busted open, and the crowd is in a blood lust state. The match actually gets stopped from blood and then an announced restart of the match which then the mma guys submit the karate guys. There is no conceivable way to describe the utter nonsense this was. If you want a fascinating weird match based on martial arts, this one is for you.

April 1992 30 days Ryogoku Kokugikan Wrestling vs. karate mixed martial arts game - Kuniaki Kobayashi vs. Akirashun Saito

This is the first singles match and a follow up feud from the tag match the prior month. This was the same thing: bloodbath, audience bloodlust, weird martial arts based thing and then seemingly ends with Saito submitting Kobayashi with a kimura. iIreally dont know how else to describe these worked mma matches.

May 1, 1992 Chiba Port Arena Wrestling versus karate, mixed martial arts game - Shiro Koshinaka vs. Masashi Aoyagi

Yes, the second and hopefully final of a variation of these 4 guys. Another mixed weird brawl thing to finish this out. This is the other 2 partners opposite from that tag match. At least in this one they mixed in more wrestling type moves like suplexes, throwing the dudes on their heads, but mostly it was the same thing. I have to assume this must have been some crazy program in the early 90s mixing styles and legit fighters into this shoot work thing in the ring. The crowd definitely liked all this and were super loud the entire time popping for every kick, punch, and certainly whenever a wrestling move was pulled off. Somehow no blood in this match occurs and ends with Shiro unable to make a 10 count after getting blasted

May 1, 1992 Chiba Port Arena IWGP TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH - Crusher Bam Bam Bigelow & Big Van Vader vs. Keiji Mutoh & Hiroshi Hase

Finally, something awesome to discuss. At some point that we dont see due to the archive availability Bigelow and Vader are tag team champions. Hase and Mutoh come out to a confetti entrance and the crowd screaming. Meanwhile, Vader and Bigelow come down like true monster gaijuns on the hunt. Very cool visuals and feelings here. You want to talk about an old school kind of new japan tag match then this would be one I’m going to point to in the future. The very long mullet and glorious moustache man Hase along with acrobatic Muto vs big bad boy gaijuns.

First half was Hase and Mutoh using their speed and technical skills to down the big men with armbars and armbreakers and the like. Eventually the power and with the use of clubbing fists the gaijuns take control as they bust open Hase. This dude bleeds like a stuffed pig seemingly every match seen with Hase in it. He's just got to get that tomato juice flowing. The crowd totally hates the big men beating up Hase. Eventually, as it does, the heroes fight back with dropkicks, highflying and the like and then off to the races for the remainder 6 min. Near falls occur, and the gaijuns slowly start overpowering our heroes. The finish is pretty awesome too where Vader choke uranagis Hase down and Hase lands right on the back of his neck while Bigelow holds Mutoh's leg keeping Mutoh arms reach from being able to break up the 3 count. Just an awesome old school tag match.

-Next up is the May 17, 1992 show from Osaka Castle Hall.

WCW Nitro Nov 23, 1998

To recap events leading up to important storylines: Kevin Nash recently won the 3 ring battle royal at World War 3 becoming the number 1 contender vs (c) Goldberg at Starrcade in December. Goldberg became champion back in July on free tv defeating Hulk Hogan. From that point, Hogan has been mostly off tv after his abysmal feud with The Warrior (formerly WWF Ultimate Warrior) involving botched flash paper and teleportation abilities that make zero sense. Hogan is also involved in running for the President of the United States in an obvious publicity stunt, that in which reaches cringe channel turning feats each time. Goldberg meanwhile, if he’s even on tv for more than 10 second since winning the title is currently brawling with “invading” Bam Bam Bigelow.

Kevin Nash and the red/black Wolfpac have been a group since Spring of 1998, and while WCW’s story line is they are feuding with Hollywood Hogan’s nWo black/white, there has been no story progression of the Wolfpac stable, nor any feud actually speak further of beside a complete drunk Scott Hall storyline. This feud culminated with Nash walking out of their match at Halloween Havoc, and then the follow up match not happening at all at World War 3 with WCW GM and nWo Eric Bischoff kicking Scott Hall out of the group for no apparent reason.

Eric Bischoff is in an on/off feud himself with Ric Flair and the reformed 4 Horsemen stable including the likes of Mongo, Dean Malenko, Chris Benoit, and retired in-ring wrestler Arn Anderson. Other notes include: Chris Jericho is TV champion, Eddie Guerrero leads the abysmal Latino World Order stable feuding with fellow cruiserweights and luchadores, and finally Bret Hart and DDP (US champion) are in the midst of a US title feud which is easily the best thing week in a week out.

Meanwhile in WWF: the Undertaker is trying to embalm Stone Cold alive

Kevin Nash has officially taken over as head booker starting with tonight’s Nitro.

Commentator Tony Schiovane introduces us as usual with the Nitro girls dancing and suspiciously building up the nWo being involved. They hype up the big World War 3 win from Kevin Nash as he was super dominant, and we are on the road to cattle prod town vs Goldberg at Starrcade. Then, they tell us Hogan will be on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno on Thanksgiving to announce something (presumably more President publicity stunt nonsense). Schiovane recaps Bigelow showing up at the ppv last night for the fisty-cuffs.

How do we start off Nitro hot off that ppv from last night? ....Mike Enos vs Lex Luger...This was very unlike a WCW top guy type match. Enis of all people went toe to toe with Luger and I have no idea why. I can’t imagine anything will come of this. Luger wins with the rack to a massive crowd pop. No matter what Luger does the crowd just loves this guy.

We cut to the back with 2 limos arriving. The front limo has Goldberg, and the second limo has Nash and Konnan (nWo Wolfpac). Nash says hes next!

Mean Gene [count 1] on the ramp to interview Billy Kidman (Cruiserweight champion) and then Mysterio Jr says good luck to their title match tonight. Then Eddie comes out all upset and says Rey is bound legally to the know...totally forgetting what happened last night kicking him out. Who could care less about all this lWo nonsense?

Benoit def Norman Smiley

A quick simple little showcase for Benoit as he wins with via the crippler crossface.

Nash and wolfpac promo - party bowdy. im next its gonna be me (Nash referencing the old Britany Spears song popular at the time). Of course, this comes off incredibly weird, awkward, and not cool despite Nash clearly believing he is.

Mean Gene [count 2] confronts Nash backstage about not mentioning Scott Hall in his promo, then he makes spooky faces when Goldberg walks by, and of course get one last lame joke in saying Goldberg had too much caffine before commercial.

Kanyon def Tokyo Magnum

Before the match Kanyon is backstage in total darkness which we assume he is talking to Raven who is still full emo ‘mom can’t tell me what to do’ phase. What a winning gimmick and story this is. Anyways, Raven refuses to go out with Kanyon to the ring. It’s a nice little short highlight match for both guys really. Magnum hit his few speed moves then Kanyon hits a flatliner basically out of nowhere from a random transition as is Kanyon’s matches.

Glacier's full entrance time. Always cool. 3x watch streak for Glacier's entrance. vs Bobby Duncam Jr

This match was weird and off the entire time all the way to the finish too where Duncam is in control goes for his bull rope and cowbell. It gets taken away. Glacier punches him. Duncam ducks and counters a second punch to hit the ‘Stroke’ and pins him. A very odd match to say the least. At this point this is 46 min into Nitro and I dont totally hate this. Feels like ages. Could be a record since well...June when I switched from thunder to nitro on this journey. There was that outlier real good show back in August to note.

Mean Gene [count 3] in the ring to interview The Giant from the nWo...keep in mind he's less than 2 months from leaving WCW to the WWF. Giant cuts a bad promo calling Nash a chicken cause he's more important that the title (groans all around).

Saturn def Silver King but not before Saturn calls out The Cat to fight him.

Match goes about 60 sec before Sonny Onoo and The Cat looking fly hit the ramp for a promo. It’s simply great and worth listening to via the audio review where a short clip was played. Saturn turns around and squashed Silver King in a few moves. Meh.

Mysterio Jr vs Kidman for the cruiserweight title. The problem is, who cares really?

Insufferable Larry Zbysco on commentary burying the cruiserweights still saying they dont have longevity, gets injured all the time etc when we know none of that is factually true. The crowd is mostly dead as usual for non-main event matches. They end up having a great match and end via the lWo interference. Juvi hits the driver as Eddie took the ref while Kidman was outside the ring. Kidman gets up and hits the shooting star to retain the title undenounced to him what happened to Mysterio Jr in the ring.

Mean Gene [count 4] as he interviews Bischoff talking about the controversy with Ric Flair. Bischoff claims he will settle this thing once and for all here tonight. Power trip type stuff and they call Barry Windham out since last week Flair said he's paying him, but Bischoff says he gives the checks, and vows Windham is going to knock him out. Flair says no way, its tradition (4 Horsemen references). Bischoff pie faces Flair and Flair goes after Bischoff. The crowd goes nuts, and then Windham hits Flair from behind. Flair and Windham go to blows. Crowd loves this. Windham takes down Flair by the knees, and the horsemen try to make the save as Bischoff and Windham give him the boots. The nWo cut off the horsemen as hilariously Mongo over runs the cue and Norton (IWGP champion) has to be a freight train to catch up to him. Brawling ensues everywhere and this had real heat to it all. A good segment. Bischoff is trying to be Vince McMahon so hard currently. He’s now the sole authority figure with the big heel group and has made Flair his version of Stone Cold Steve Austin. This isn’t bad at all. It’s just awkward in timing and how they are telling this story in many parts.

Konnan def Booker T via DQ

This sucked with a shit finish. They tried to have a match and then Stevie Ray wanders down. He gets on the apron, and then slapjacks Konnan for the dq. Stevie then questions Booker T's head cause he himself beat Konnan in 3 min… so we are back again to these two arguing over alliances like Booker T has forgotten about Stevie jumping him and betraying him before his injury only a few months ago. (more groans).

Mean gene [count 5] to interview Bret Hart

Hart calls DDP's US title victory last night cheap. Calls him cheap, and a PUNK! Hart wants a rematch cause that match was the PITS last night. Hart will take on Malenko, as he smiles about his bum leg. Hart says hes going to throw his leg into the crowd and will continue to rip people apart until he gets another match with DDP. Great promo and great motivation. Bret Hart is the best.

(into the 3rd hr we go. god these are long)

We start with my main man on the rise Wrath...and then commentary starts talking about him being undefeated like Goldberg and says he's got Nash...oh no...Damn it. Not like this.

So… on no build at all. No hype. Just a throw away match on the 3rd hr of Nitro. This is how it went down? Okay, I get it. Build Nash up further by beating another undefeated guy, but to have nothing come out of this nor a build it? F-this.

Now that my anger is fumed...these two had a hell of a match. Wrath bicycle kicks Nash and dropkicks him over the top rope. Nash actually ran with his busted legs and went over the top to the floor. Nash does get back in a hits a big boot, big powerbomb on Wrath for the victory.

Jericho to the ring with hair I can only describe as the most ridiculous messy hair plus possibly electrocuted. By the way Mean Gene count 6 and Jericho signs are all over the arena. Chris Jericho has some choice words for us fans in his funny role model type heel promo. Gene then follows up with his match vs Bobby Duncam Jr - Jericho hates cowboys and then Duncam hogties (by Mean Genes words) Ruphus (Jericho’s personal goofy bodyguard) out on the ramp area as Jericho screams “watch out he's a trained killer.” This segment was great and very entertaining.

Scott Hall to the ring still with nWo music as Jericho is trying to untie and pig squealing Ralphus, and then just leaves him.

Hall actually calls for the music to be cut. With the mic says “the nWo kicked him out and references he's all alone again, just the way he likes it. Guess I got something to prove” ...against alex wright... nothing wrong I suppose, but nothing particularly interesting. They go 50-50 for a bit and then Hall finishes Wright off with the Outsiders edge. Not a bad match at all. It was ‘a-ok.’

Dean Malenko def Bret Hart via DQ... but oh dream match....and they go to technical town on each other and they even go through a commercial break in the match. This a rare thing in WCW. They have a long match. It’s very enjoyable. Malenko puts up a great fight. They got a sleeper ‘rest hold’ over and Bret finally gets hold of Malenkos knee. Bobby Heenan on commentary does a phenomenal job telling the story inside the ring, and explaining the strategy and mindset of each wrestler. Hart wanting to lure and target the injured knee of Malenko, while Malenko playing safe and smart

Aafter a leap frog and clipping Hart, Malenko landed awkwardly and grabs the knee. Hart strikes like a snake. He wraps the knee on the post, beats on it, and after 18 minutes get DQd by sending a message to DDP by doing a diamond cutter to Malenko on a chair. Excellent match with excellent storytelling in and out of the ring. I loved it. Crowd was depressingly quiet throughout, but screw them this was awesome. Actually I cant blame them at all as 1998 WCW has progressively gotten worse over the year.

Hart lures DDP to the ring as hes about to take out Malenko’s knee further. DDP does get the better of Hart. Hitscum Hart promo from DDP, “I feel all jacked up and feel the bang, challenge for next week.”

Finally, our main event Giant vs Goldberg for the title, cause you know, just like Sting getting a title match the night after Fall Brawl War Games despite losing. Forget actually making sense of these things… so I think we all know where this is heading. 162-0 Goldberg is loved. Inside a minute Goldberg gets chokeslammed and he kicks out and holy F Goldberg pops back for knees to Giant. Hits the big spear and holy F he gets all of the big fat 550lbs Giant straight up and jackhammers him. Crowd goes nuts and my eyes went wide. 3 count and in his 90s sweatpants best, Bigelow goes to brawl with Goldberg. Security breaks them up, and naturally Nash then saunters down for his own pull apart with Goldberg.

All in all I got to say this was a pretty good nitro...except the stuff that featured Nash himself oddly enough, but overall not bad.

Next show is WCW Nitro Nov 30, 1998.

----JD Woolley

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