Joshi puroresu was a very different world in 1980. Unlike the modern-day where even the biggest companies in the scene draw rather modest crowds, All Japan Women were the big dog. Acts like the Crush Girls and Jaguar Yokota had pushed them into the spotlight, and they were riding a wave. So what better time could be there to go back and explore?
Unlike my ROH or Stardom Throwbacks, this won’t be going show by show. Instead, I’m going through AJW Classics episodes, which Mort kindly posted an archive of at the start of this mess. That means the matches won’t necessarily be from the same show, but I’ll make sure to try and provide context as we go. Fair? Great.
Despite what I said above, all three of these matches are actually from the same date. It’s 1983, a year that saw my beloved Aberdeen win the Cup Winners’ Cup and All Japan Women run this show. What’s the connection? There isn’t one. I just wanted to mention it.
Noriyo Tateno defeated Hiromi Komatsubara
The Junior Title has nothing to do with weight class, but age, as it focused on younger wrestlers.
Unfortunately for Komatsubara one of these wrestlers has a Cagematch and a Wikipedia, and the other only returns one wrestling-related answer on Google, which is a review of this show. It might be a title for inexperienced wrestlers, but Tateno had held it since August of the previous year and would continue that reign into ’84.
However, while history might have Tateno as the dominant force, the actual action puts Komatsubara in control for large parts of. She is ruthless in her attack of the champion’s arm, whipping her around the ring. It’s a perfect example of doing simple things brilliantly, as Tateno performs wonderfully as the put upon underdog and the challenger made every move look like it hurt.
We also get an interesting finish, as three straightforward moves prove enough to change things. Tateno hits a Crossbody, Back Body Drop and a Slam, but that’s all it takes. It a fitting finish to a match worked around simple wrestling done well, and also a solid introduction to the company.
Verdict: Strong Start
Monster Ripper defeated Mimi Hagiwara
Well, it won’t take you long to figure out the story in this one. Monster Ripper was a Canadian wrestler who had runs in AAA, WWF and WCW before sadly dying in 2001. She was playing a wild woman gimmick, throwing the flowers she was given into the crowd and standing in direct contrast to Mimi Hagiwara, who came out wearing a crown and wings. It’s the Japanese beauty vs the violent gaijin.
And the match works out almost exactly like you’d expect it to. Mimi is the valiant underdog who is overpowered by Monster. She tries to duck and dodge, but when she’s caught, she doesn’t stand a chance even if the fans are chanting her name. Ripper is throwing her around the ring, dominating to the extent that Mimi’s mates getting involved isn’t enough to turn the tide.
The question is whether Mimi is there to slay the beast or build her up for her eventual slaying. Sadly for Hagiwara, it’s the latter. Despite the helping hand and some flashy offence, she’s ultimately put away with conviction. Everything about this was classic wrestling apart from the interference on Mini’s behalf, which is a weird move for the babyface. It does, however, only work to make Monster Ripper look all the stronger as she not only destroys her opponent but her friends too.
Verdict: Some Things Always Work
Devil Masami and Tarantula defeated Dynamite Girls (Jumbo Hori and Yukari Omori) to win the WWWA Tag Team Titles
The WWWA Tag Titles were vacant coming into this match and had been since the previous year. Masami and Tarantula (who is a masked wrestler) were former champions while Dynamite Girls were a relatively new team, but had both won the belts with other partners in the past.
The match itself was a weird one. After two easy to follow, well-wrestled narratives this was a bit scrappy and all over the place. There was a lot of crowd brawling with wrestlers being thrown onto fans while some spots, including the finish where Masami launched Tarantula onto Hori, looked clunky.
There were some cool moments, though. Hori may have taken the fall, but she looked impressive, hitting a Powerbomb and then following up with a second where she threw her opponent over her head rather than towards the ground. It had enough of those little moments where things clicked that I can’t call it bad, but it also needed a bit of work to be considered good.
Verdict: I Guess That Adds Up To A Fine?
La Galactica defeated Jaguar Yokota to win the WWW World Title and take her hair
Not only is the title on the line, but Jaguar’s hair and La Galactica’s mask. Galactica had a long lucha career, mainly going under the name Pantera Surena. Yokota, meanwhile, can safely be slotted into the joshi legend category and is still wrestling in Diana and some indie companies to this day.
We’re back to a match built around a very simple idea. Yokota is better than Galactica. When it’s the two of them wrestling, she doesn’t just hold her own but takes control, dominating the action. It’s not just a kayfabe thing either. Jaguar Yokota is fucking awesome in this, standing a level or two above her opponent.
What Galactica has, though, is Monster Ripper who is interfering at every opportunity. She’s in and out of the ring to the extent that it’s basically a handicap match, and it frustrates the ref to the point that he gets physically involved, dragging her out and pulling Galactica away from the ropes to force her to stay in a submission longer. Ripper is Galactica’s weapon, and she’ll be the thing that wins her this match.
Because towards the end, Jaguar has enough and fucking snaps, unleashing with a chair on whoever gets near her. Sadly, her anger leads to her demise as an insane Tope Suicida has her crash and burn on the outside. The chair rampage also means the ref is out of it and it leaves Galactica and Ripper to beat the snot out of her for the win.
In the post-match, Yokota is still furious, and the fans aren’t far behind her. Eventually, though, she calms down and lets the dastardly heels cut her hair, staring defiantly out at anyone who dares look her in the eye. It’s a hell of an image and a fitting end to a match that might not be a technical masterpiece but makes Jaguar look like a fucking badass.
Verdict: Jaguar Motherfucking Yokota
That was a really interesting show. In some ways, it was very old-fashioned. The aesthetic was obviously of its time, both in the arena and the wrestlers as they all wore the traditional joshi singlet. On top of that, the storytelling was very traditional, as the heels were mainly foreigners, brought in to play the big bads to the Japanese heroes. However, the wrestling itself wasn’t dated at all. If you put those exact matches on a show today, I don’t think anyone would blink an eye. They were well-worked, fast-paced and a lot of fun. My first dip into AJW gets the thumbs up from me.