By JD Woolley
Learn, remember, and re-live the past.
Audio version of the retro review is available through the Red Leaf Retrocast podcast.
All Japan Women’s Pro-Wrestling (AJW) Classic Eps 26
Place: (All Matches from AJW @ Korakuen Hall, 5/15/1988 & AJW @ Kawasaki City Gymnasium, 8/25/1988)
The Glamour Girls & Dynamite Jack vs. Yumiko Hotta & Hisako Uno & Mitsuko Nishiwaki (AJW @ Korakuen Hall, 5/15/1988)
At this point, we are getting used to these classic episodes starting off with a short highlight match with notable names. In this one, The Glamour Girls along with a member (goon) from Bull Nakano’s faction are taking on the top 3 up and coming baby faces of AJW: Fire Jets and Uno (later known as Akira Hokuto).
The most stand out thing here is without question the entrance gear of the Fire Jets wearing gold and silver “power armor” to the ring like something straight out of cheesy 80’s superhero live action show. As for the match, there has been a continuing pattern with Nakano’s Dynamite squadron of there will be some opening grappling, the match will fall to an outside brawl, and the Dynamite squadron will hold the baby faces on the outside for a count out loss. That’s exactly what happens here.
Japan Grand Prix ‘88 League: Bull Nakano vs. Yumi Ogura (AJW @ Korakuen Hall, 5/15/1988)
With the clear and hot rise of Bull Nakano as the top heel in AJW, poor Ogura must be her next victim. Nakano has gone from her all blue face paint seen in Classic 25 to a full silver painted face with red lipstick. She looks like if the phantom of the opera tried out a Silver Surfer look. We love Bull Nakano. Yes, she beats the hell out of Ogura, but not before blowing white powder into her face to start the match (that’s new). To Ogura’s credit, she did manage to get some offense in for a small comeback, but there was no stopping the power of the Bull. Fine little enhancement type showing.
The Crush Gals vs. Noriyo Tateno & Itsuki Yamazaki (AJW @ Korakuen Hall, 5/15/1988)
With the Jumping Bomb Angels (JBA) coming back last month was huge, the reunion team of the Crush Gals was even bigger. The utter anticipation of Nagayo and Asuka teaming up again after breaking up to pursue their singles runs is an understatement. This crowd while they do heavily cheer JBA, there’s a large sign of respectful cheers from Asuka, and then the roof comes off when Nagayo comes out. When Nagayo’s music beat drops, the crowd immediately tries to step towards the entrance way, they cheer in unsent “Na-ga-yo, Na-ga-yo, Na-ga-yo.” She must push her way through the crowd and to the ring with security barely being able to hold the screaming women back. Chigusa Nagayo truly is the biggest star in wrestling in 1988.
As for the match, it was a damn good AJW tag team wrestling match. Each woman here was in phenomenal shape with most notably their thighs being bricks of muscle. Watching, the viewer can clearly see while doing normal mat based wrestling their quad muscles in action. The teams are hitting huge tag moves, and trading control using everything in the playbook from double dropkicks, judo throws, tombstone piledrivers, double spike piledrivers, you name it. Always fun to see 4 of the best do their thing with non-stop-action. The match does end with Asuka winning off a clutch-arm back suplex with a bridge. In Japan, there is nothing more devastating than a German suplex or variation thereof.
WWWA World Championship: Chigusa Nagayo (c) vs. Lioness Asuka (AJW @ Kawasaki City Gymnasium, 8/25/1988)
Over the course of the Summer in 1988, and coming hot of the reunion of the Crush Gals, Asuka and Nagayo would continue team over the going months. We would see the WWF Tag titles change hands from JBA back to the Glamour Girls, and the Crush Gals would be gearing up for their big title match to prove which one of them is better at Summer’s end.
Asuka is all business heading to the ring. Her gear is a deep blue onsie-with pants along with a demon samurai symbol on her back. Nagayo, along with her many adoring fans, see her in the usual red/black speedo swimsuit. The match here was your awesome mat wrestling we’ve come to expect from a couple all-time greats. They trade control, base, and naturally throw in a high impact move every now and again such as a Nagayo kick to an Asuka big-swing. A small note of the mat work was a notable focus was made of Asuka trying armbars on Nagayo. Both would try to choke each other out with various moves, but come later, the arm would play a very important role.
This moment came when Nagayo goes to the top turnbuckle. We assume she is going for a moonsault, but Asuka drop kicks Nagayo causing Nagayo to tumble off and fall to the apron and then to the floor. She immediately starts clutching her shoulder as the younger wrestlers ring side tend to her with towels and ice-spray. Note, it’s common in joshi wrestling to have member of the roster in the promotions jump-suits to be ring side with various items from water, buckets, towels, etc. A medic comes to her side and starts tending to the shoulder to check it over while the referee looks on.
Nagayo does get back into the ring, and this crowd is now crazy to see their hurt hero either survive, but more hopeful she can somehow overcome. In story, this puts Lioness Asuka in a tough place. Does she take advantage of a wounded Nagayo for the title, or does she show her friend sympathy? Well, Asuka knows her fellow Crush Gal would not want her to take pity and come at her with full strength. Asuka does indeed go after her after initial hesitation and a worried face. It’s the little things like this which makes ring-psychology and character building so important. Not to mention, Nagayo is so damn good at selling, even I believed she could be legitimately hurt here. Hell, I am still questioning it a little. Asuka kicks the hell out of Nagayo while Nagayo tries various attempts herself to mount a comeback, but unfortunately gets back to floor outside. This time the referee takes it upon himself to start asking Nagayo if she can continue. At one point, as it’s hard to tell, he might have even tried to pop Nagayo’s shoulder back in off her request to give the match one more go. Nagayo gives the referee the go ahead and she gets back into the ring. Chigusa and her screaming fans mount an incredible effort with high kicks, near fall roll ups, and finally it’s time for the german suplex to go for that win. Alas, on the motion of the suplex, Nagayo’s shoulder gives out and Asuka falls on her and her shoulder. The ref has seen enough and finally calls for injury stoppage. An AJW management figure gets into the ring to announce due to injury stoppage, Asuka has won the match and the 3WA title as medics, the ref, and roster members tend to Nagayo. Another ref goes over to Asuka in the opposite corner to present the title. Asuka is completely distraught and disappointed. She refuses to accept the title under this condition completing an incredibly well told story for this wrestling match clearly setting up another huge encounter.
The cameras meet Asuka and Nagayo in the locker rooms showing them both shaking hands and Asuka (I believe) saying something along the lines of respect, honor, and we shall fight again when you’re healthy. Askua taps the wall of the hallway as she walks away in frustration. Incredible. High recommendation.
The next classic episode continues in order with episode 27 found through the AJW Classic archive.
New Japan through the 90’s (NJPW) – June to Aug 16, 1992
note: matches covered are what’s available in the archive on njpw world
The other notable match that I watched for fun was...well, I got a little crazy and special.
Many notable matches in 1992 I wanted to watch lined up with the second half of the year.
Red Leaf Retrocast has already covered Vader vs Sting from the Great American Bash and I personally have seen Hart vs Michaels from Survivor Series 1992 enough in my life, I don’t need to see it again at this particular time along with Hart vs Bulldog from Summerslam.
Aug 11th 1992 - NJPW G1 Climax '92 Day 4 Liger vs Pegasus Kid (Chris Benoit)
Reason enough to watch this match is the interest of two all-time greats going at it hard. Sure enough, that's exactly what happened. There were only two small breaks in the action to apply some technical holds from either guy while the format was Benoit would hit a big suplex or Liger would be on the offensive causing Benoit to roll outside. Liger then would hit a high impact dive like a missile baseball slide which saw Benoit launch himself into the railing, and a big tope which had Liger land his hamstrings on the railings despite Benoit catching him. Utter madness from Liger as usual. Liger missed a diving headbutt, and this would be the Benoit near fall show with close suplex pins. Crowd and I are buying every single one. It ends with Benoit and Liger fighting up top as Benoit wanted to go for his own diving headbutt. Instead, with Liger up there with him, the strong Canadian guy wrenches the hero and powerbombs him off the top to a massive audience gasp. Benoit wins a good one.
Oct 21st 1992 - AJPW 20th Anniversary Show Mitsuharu Misawa vs Toshiaki Kawada
Watching retro AJPW and comparing to what I’ve seen from retro NJPW in 1992 has been crazy how different in star power AJPW had to NJPW. The sheer sight of introducing and holding the 3 titles representing the Triple Crown is awesome in of itself.
The first move in this match is Kawada back dropping Misawa right on his head. The crowd is crazy hot and gasp immediately. Obviously, I am in for a great one. Of course as I think that, Kawada grounds Misawa immediately for a long arm lock. Here go a very long serious of exchanges in which both guys fight for advantage. Patience is needed here. Misawa takes his turn on offense really working the back. This slowly became a match to me, with my little knowledge and experience with all japan wrestling, of Kawada reaching the level of Misawa. I think that's why whenever Kawada would hit a big kick or hit a powerbomb the crowd reacted so heavily. The same could be said for the level of Misawa that a massive elbow strike meant so much in putting opponents down. Kawada locking in his modified dragon sleeper got a massive reaction from the crowd. This really brought me into the match were moments like this.
Kawada kicking out of the tiger driver was a huge moment in the match. This crowd is absolutely electric for this and the announcers totally freak out for the Misawa FACELOCK! It's literally Kawada trying to survive Misawa at this point. Kawada nails a jumping front kick to even things out for him. Clearly Kawada's strikes are the difference maker for the man. Every pin fall at this point is life or death for this crowd. I find myself hanging on every move as well. Kawada kicks out of another tiger driver, and then a tiger suplex. Who knows when this match could end!? Any move can finish this at this point. Then Kawada's leg gives out, and Misawa takes full advantage for one more elbow and tiger suplex to finish Kawada off. Crowd chants Misawa like Chigusa Nagayo as the music plays for a fantastic bout.
Fall 1992 (finishing up the NJPW archive from 1992)
Sept 23, 1992 Yokohama Arena IWGP HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH The Great Muta vs. Shinya Hashimoto
Going into this and the real start to Great Muta's title reign, I was very excited. What we get here is heel Muta sauntering around the ring until Shinya had enough. Basically, it took Shinya daring Muta to hit him while he went down on his knees disrespecting the champion. From there, it's really the Shinya Hashimoto show kicking the hell out of Muta. This makes Muta resort to finding different ways to cheat to gain back an advantage. He's spitting mist, using chairs, and more. Muta here is really more about a "show" more than the usual "wrestling" we are accustomed to in NJPW which is different and interesting in of itself. Great Muta escapes outside and while Hashimoto is on the other side with the ref Muta grabs a steel rod and puts it into the shin area of his boot. He grabs a chair and brings it into the ring.
Shinya proceeds to kick the hell out of Muta to much crowd admiration. Muta spits mist into Shinya's eyes to avoid a wicked chair shot. The match ends with Muta using diving shin strikes (with the steel rod) multiple times to Hashimoto. Shinya does kick out to all these strikes, but does end up falling to the snap moonsault. The crowd absolutely booos this. This match does come off pretty flat in modern eyes sure, but in the context of the time, Muta is different and an enigma type character so it does work in its own way.
Sept 23, 1992 Yokohama Arena NWA World Heavyweight CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH Masahiro Chono vs. Steve Austin
This is the match famous for two reasons. One, is this match is where Austin breaks Chono's neck off a botched piledriver where Chono would hardly miss much time at all, but his career and style would forever be changed. Second, in irony, this is the same piledriver that would years later see Owen Hart break Austin's neck.
While the match itself is nothing special, and mostly slow, it's significant in checking out simply from the historical perspective. I am now curious to the next available Chono match that I see on this journey.
Oct 23, 1992 Korakuen Hall Shiro Koshinaka & Kengo Kimura vs. Genichiro Tenryu & Koki Kitahara
This is important in NJPW's history by this was the start of a huge angle. After SWS's collapse, Ishikawa joined Tenryu in forming WAR. Soon after (here), the promotion engaged in an inter-promotional war with NJPW. This crowd was hot hot hot for all this. There seems to be legit anger in the crowd over these betrayers and "outsiders" coming into their promotion.
The match itself is really simple brawling, but getting the absolute most out of it. Fans are throwing trash at the guys from WAR. Any time the wrestlers end up outside the ring or the "teams" of NJPW and WAR meet each other they start "shoot" fighting as security jumps in to try and restore order. The funny part is order does fall back into the ring like a magnet, and the process rinses and repeats until the finish.
This is absolute madness and pretty crazy to be watching. All that weird shoot fighting hybrid fighting earlier in 1992 seemed to all build towards this "invasion," and man I am really fascinated by this.
Nov 23, 1992 Ryogoku Kokugikan Kengo Kimura & Shiro Koshinaka & Masashi Aoyagi vs. Genichiro Tenryu & Takashishi Ishikawa & Koki Kitahara
We are at the mid-point in this WAR vs NJPW invasion. Here we have basically the top players of each faction facing off here and you can feel the heat coming from the crowd. This match is what you would expect, controlled mayhem. Kengo Kimura's role in this war was important as the story was WAR didn't have an answer to his style. The 'x' factor if you will. Whenever he got into the mix, Kimura was the difference maker. A great way to tell the story of the home team advantage. Again, this is mostly hybrid brawl/shoot fighting, but the angle and story is so hot along with the heated crowd makes this incredibly fascinating to watch. Honestly, I can't look away. Tenryu’s team won this match.
On a side note, Chono has been wrestling in matches this entire time. According to the cagematch website, he may have only missed a couple weeks after breaking his neck. He even had a 20 minute NWA title match against Scott Steiner on this very card (not in the NJPW archive).
Dec 14, 1992 Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium Shiro Koshinaka vs. Genichiro Tenryu
This is the big “go-home” singles match heading into the final WAR vs NJPW match at the Tokyo Dome. If you want a bloody hard hitting affair, then this one is for you. Anything involving this feud in NJPW is electric with the crowd and they buy every near fall. The ring is naturally surrounded by their various stable mates. This ring is completely stained from blood from the matches prior, and it would be a good bet that it’s about to get more bloody.
Koshinaka dominates most of the match over Tenryu. Tenryu does turn the tides after busting Koshinaka open. From that point, it’s an open war of strikes. Tenryu just never lets up. Just super hard hitting and bloody. A Koshinaka near fall with a possible controversial non-pin-call from the ref garnered the biggest reaction of the match believing Koshinaka did indeed get the upset win. Given the fact Koshinaka is a lower guy compared to Tenryu, along with the early bell beat down, this is a great success in execution. Tenryu chops the hell out of Koshinaka and does indeed win here after a hard fought battle. Ring presence and positioning was subtly fantastic and his back was never turned and was always near the center. I’ve only see maybe a handful of Tenryu matches in my lifetime to go along with my general low experience of AJPW greats, so after seeing a great classic match with a great feud, I am much looking forward to more Genichiro Tenryu.
Next up are the matches in the archive is the start of 1993 which means the 1993 Tokyo Dome.
NJPW vs WAR culminates here (this is the Fujinami Ishikawa match)
WCW Nitro Dec 14, 1998
From Tampa, Florida
Meanwhile on WWF Raw: The Corporation Stable run the place. McMahon draws number 1 for Steve Austin in the Royal Rumble, and The Rock retains the title over Triple H from interference as usual of WWF.
We recap the shit main event from the previous week, Nitro girls dance, another recap of the entire Giant promo on DDP last week all for Starrcade in 2 weeks.
Finally get our first match over 7min into the show.
Raven vs Scott Putski
Will Raven actually wrestle or continue complaining about "you can't tell me what to do?"
What about me, what about Raven? Well... Kanyon comes down during his babbling complaining promo. Kanyon gives him the business and reveals that Raven is actually a pre-med, and child of a rich family completely ruining the Raven character along with The Flock group from August. It’s total character assassination. Raven leaves the ring and we get the Nitro intro graphic 12:30 min into the show. Wow! It's like WCW is actively trying to lose the wrestling war.
Villano V vs Eddie Guerrero (lWo)
One more time, lWo was made to move up and stop the luchadores from fighting each other, so of course nothing has changed.
Besides all the flaws, not being over, and the terrible storytelling, the wrestling was alright. Villano V is about to win but Eddie distracts the ref so his unnamed bodyguard can interfere. Eddie hits the frog slash but doesn't pin Villano. The lWo come out to the ring and the bellinexplicably rings. This match just simply ends. Eddie recruits Villano into the lWo and this crowd could not give a shit less. Again, who can blame them?
Wrath vs Al Green (remember him? Me neither)
If you don't count boots, chokes, and forearms then Al Green never hit a single move in this match while Wrath only hit 3: yakuza kick, a shoulder block, and the meltdown. Wrath wins. We are 30 minutes into the show at this point. Help.
Another video package from last week with this one being the Flair on Bischoff promo.
Cut to Mean Gene to interview Eric Bischoff.
Bischoff makes fun of the crowd being fat and makes fun of Ric Flair being old. Of course, Bischoff brags about being a shoot fighter due to his karate background. A trained killer of 7 years he says. Cue Flair coming out and plays tag with Bischoff. After Flair chases him off in hilarity he cuts another crazed promo in the ring and funny enough salivates and exhausts himself.
Long story short he kind of repeats himself and this is the moment of moments. Yes, this is the infamous terrible angle of Flair having a stroke/heart attack on live tv played off as real. Watching it back like this is even more tasteless than 10 year old me remembers. Mean Gene says he injured himself, no doctors, Arn Anderson runs out and people lack any direction. The crowd is utterly silent all while there's a ton of people out doing nothing. In "real time" he gets stretchered out and into an ambulance.
Then randomly Bigelow brawls with Scott Hall backstage. Nash and Goldberg show and all 3 yell at each other as security keeps them apart. This is all one long weird segment, but I couldn't help but notice the awesome Surge vending machine. Clearly the more important thing for me to focus on.
Mean Gene kicks off the second hour to announced a triangle match for Bigelow v Goldberg v Nash before introducing Kidman.
There's so much wrong with what's happening. Anyways, Kidman wants to iron out the issues with Mysterio Jr with the cruiserweight title. Impromptu title match and Mysterio says no lWo tonight. Clearly, we see what's going to happen. Sure enough, after Schoivane and Tenay can't concentrate on the match and keep Ric Flair and his chest pains, the lWo of course interfere and beat up Mysterio and Kidman. What a shock.... crowd doesn't care.
Then, WCW recaps the entire Bigelow brawl backstage segment so at least we get another Surge machine. Why are we recapping the entire thing when only a single wrestling match happened, I don't know.
Monday night Jericho w/ Ralphus out for a promo.
He calls Konnan the greatest Latino rapper since Rico Suave, but Jericho is twisted steel and sex appeal. Jericho is the best. He calls out exhibit A, a fake mocking Konnan w/ a shovel. Jericho proceeds to recount a completely twisted story of their tv title match including Konnan using brass kuckles, a chain, a steel shovel, and the title belt (this one actually happened). He also draws a stick figure drawing of events in the best fashion and vows to beat Konnan with the power of the liontamer at Starrcade. A great segment and funny, but unfortunately this crowd is completely dead since the Flair "heart attack."
Emery Hale vs Barry Windham
Why? No idea. Things just happen on Nitro. The entire match is spearheaded by Schiovane talking about Ric Flair, what's he's gone through in 1998 with his real life feud with Bischoff along with the WCW one and more. Could not care less about the match. Windham wins. Woopie.
Norman Smiley vs Saturn
Not an interesting match in any way, but.... there is a moment where I laughed beyond my imagination. Smiley slaps the back/shoulder of Saturn and then dances (the big wiggle action). Saturn then makes a face like he needs to poop but by Moses it won't come out. He froths at the mouth and freaks out on Smiley punching him in the corner. The ref tries to get him off, and Saturn point that finger of his at the ref and says "I'm going to have to ask you to PLEASE keep your hands off of me."
Oono and Cat come out in shiny 'totally not Pimpin' clothes and encourage more big wigglin. The ref goes down, so Cat interferes and kicks Saturn down. He does the robot, then the suck it gesture and leaves. Referee Scott Dickinson (not Robinson who got knocked down) is in the ring and sees all of this. He fast counts Saturn down and Smiley wins. He raises his hand in victory and then bolts away. We are all confused, but I am still laughing at all of this. Tony Schiovane says it's all ABSURD! haha. Could not agree more.
Mean Gene to interview Bret Hart (US champion)
Gene asks Hart about the Flair situation. Hart responds by saying everyone is dropping like flies around here including his pulled groin the likes no one has ever seen before, and you don't see him hiding. Hart says he is fair and even being injured challenges DDP to come out and get the title. Total set up for DDP to get jumped and taken out by Giant. We get this awesome beat down as Giant rips apart to giant WCW letters on stage and chokeslams DDP through the stage area from the raised letter area. A simple good promo followed by a good angle. Dare I say that even WCW can do some things really well? Big thumbs up here. On to hour 3 with A LOT of pyro.
Konnan out the ring
He is stopped in the dark backstage by Disco still lobbying to be a Wolfpac member. We could not see a thing happening. Wolfpac music restarts and Konnan comes out with a Florida Marlins and Tampa Bay Bucs player on each side. Bowdy Bowdy the usual. Stevie Ray (nWo) is accompanied by Booker T in a nice suit. Why Booker is going along with this is stupid. Stevie Ray gets knocked outside and yells at a probably drunk and awkward looking Wade Boggs (baseball player) in the front row. Perhaps this was the fabled legend day Wade Boggs drank over 100 beers in one day? Could be. Anyways, Booker prevents the slap jack and dares Stevie to pin him. Of course he turns around and Konnan gives him the face buster to win. Lame.
Bischoff to the ring.
He's all serious. He looks sad. He stands silently in the ring. Crowd chanting asshole.
"Can I just have your attention please.... How real our business is, how real our situation is... sometimes things are serious. Ric Flair appears to have suffered a mild heart attack.... ask for forgiveness... Flair deserves credit and respect (crowd claps)." Then he apologizes and simply leaves. This is not at all what I remember. This was a serious attempt at remorse and playing the fake heart attack off as real.
Mean Gene to interview Booker T
Of course Booker was just there 1 segment ago. Gene asks "where is Booker T coming from these days?" Booker wishes the best for Flair, and transitions into his brother Stevie situation. Again... they were just out there right before the Bischoff situation. Stevie blames Booker T for joining the nWo. He throws an nWo tshirt at Booker after recounting how important he was. Again, this is dumb and weirdly out of order with all the fake Ric Flair stuff happening.
Cut to Raven's rich mom in the parking lot trying to get into the building to find Raven. Kanyon says he'll help her but she needs to give him $50 (funny). This...is...dumb.
Scott Hall with no music comes to the ring vs Horace (nWo)
Oh be still my heart (heavy sarcasm). Seeing Horace makes me wish Mongo or Brian Adams was in the ring instead. "Triangle main event here tonight" says Schiovane cause like him, that's all I can think about instead of watching Horace wrestle. Anyways, Horace is in control of this match for most of the time just to really suck the life out of the crowd. Riveting television. And.... nWo run in. Hoo-f'n-rah. Randomly Disco Inferno trys to run out for a save, but get murder power bombed by Scott Norton. At least that made me smile.
That 70's hippie Van Hammer vs Scott Steiner w/ Bagwell and personal referee
Last time we saw Van Hammer he got murdered by Scott Norton. Now another Scott has stepped up to the plate. Not as good of a beating as I was hoping for. Oh well. Steiner with the mic "pay homage (hard H) to the new leader of the nWo.... he calls out Lex Luger" Buff Bagwell tries to convince Luger that the Wolfpac are leaving him behind and Steiner offers up Luger into the black and white. Luger simply walks away from the offer with a smile on his face as Steiner says "I'll make ya famous boy." Very strange segment.
Main event with 8 minutes left in the show.
I honestly can't remember the last time I saw a Goldberg pyro entrance.
The match was ultimately fine, but a 3 way match was ultimately new at this time. We can infer that goal of the match was to tease Nash vs Goldberg at Starrcade. However, due to last week going nowhere and this match based on the same circumstance, but for some reason this time Nash doesn't have a problem with Goldberg fighting Bigelow anymore. So, by their own story it's convoluted. The end result became Bigelow despite being built as a crazed mad-man is now simply a large third wheel in the way. This match goes for about 5 minutes with Goldberg looking strong more or less, but as is Nitro tradition the main must end with a DQ run-in, (despite saying there will not be a run-in prior) this time by Scott Hall. The match gets thrown out and Schiovane says his trademark "we're out of time."
What a fascinatingly terrible show.
Next show is WCW Nitro Dec 21, 1998 (the go-home show for Starrcade 98).