Episode 15 of AJW Classics is absolutely packed with matches, the vast majority of which are people making their debuts. We’re about to be introduced to a lot of joshi royalty for the first time, but there maybe someone unexpected about to steal the show. Confused? Well, you better read on.
Kaoru Maeda defeated Megumi Kudo (8/8/86)
Most of you probably know who these two are, but just in case you don’t, Kaoru Maeda would lose the last name and has spent most of her career at Chigusa’s side. She’s now 51 and still a fucking badass. Megumi Kudo, meanwhile, would do little of note in AJW and leave not long after her debut. She then, however, returned as part of FMW and became a deathmatch legend, so there is a lot of potential in that ring.
And the temptation in situations like this is to claim that you can see it. You want to watch these two wrestlers working through the basics, grappling with each other and see the spark of genius that would ignite their careers. In this case, though, you’d be lying. This is a solid wee match, two debutants who look nervous as hell beforehand, managing to keep their cool and put together something enjoyable, but ultimately unremarkable.
The highlight, as is the case with a lot of AJW junior matches, comes when they’re fighting for pins, a situation that often feels like a shoot grapple. There was an ace spot where Kaoru managed to twist around from underneath Megumi, somehow finding herself on top before powering her opponent’s shoulders to the mat for the three. I don’t know what it is about those exchanges, but I love the struggle that they bring, and it was a bright finish to a solid rookie bout.
Nobuko Kimura defeated Junko Ohashi (10/9/86)
Ohashi is not a future legend, although that might be harsh. For all I know she’s fucking kicking ass at life, but it’s not in wrestling and I can find little to nothing about her online. Nobuko Kimura is much more recognisable, as she would eventually pick up the first name Bison and have an impressive career.
In their debut match, they went all out, hitting the accelerator from the bell. It didn’t take long for it to turn into a dropkick fest, the two of them throwing themselves into the air again and again until they were both struggling to get up. That did mean the final few minutes got a bit sloppy, but it was in a fun way, so I was willing to forgive it.
Kimura would get the win, and as mentioned go onto have the career, but Ohashi didn’t look the lesser wrestler. I’m not sure how much we’ll see of her short run, but I hope we get at least a match or two more.
Erika Shishido defeated Noriyo Toyoda (17/9/86)
Christ, 1986 was a hell of a rookie year for AJW, wasn’t it? Erika Shishido is better known as Aja Kong, and if you need me to tell you who she is, you’re in the wrong place. Noriyo Toyoda, meanwhile, would become Combat Toyoda and eventually join Megumi Kudo in FMW, where they’d go to war on more than one occasion.
And if we’ve had a technical match and a pacey one, then this is our hoss fight. What’s fun about it, though, is that Erika is overpowered. The future Aja Kong hasn’t yet bulked up, and while she can handle herself, Toyoda is the more physical presence. She’s forced to rely on more technical work, hitting a plethora of snapmares before focusing on submissions in an attempt to avoid that brute strength.
It gives us our third perfectly fine showing. These are all incredibly basic matches, worked within tight restrictions as these rookies are stepping out in front of a crowd for the first time. You can take it as a general rule that none of them are must see, but instead work as nice wee curios for us to get a glance at where some future legends came from.
Verdict: A Curiosity
Yachiyo Hirata defeated defeated Reibun Amada (25/9/86)
When I googled ‘Yachiyo Hirata wrestler’, the only thing that came up was something I wrote years ago before I knew anything about joshi, so it’s safe to say she didn’t make a huge impact. Then again, that article was about a Meltzer five-star match, so she left a bit of a legacy behind if you’re into that stuff. Reibun Amada had a slightly longer career and is another one who eventually made the leap to FMW. She didn’t hang around too long, though, seemingly retiring in 1990.
Honestly, what we see of this is a nothing match. All of these have been edited, but either this was a lot shorter than the others or was butchered by the scissors. Before it got going, it was over, and neither wrestler does much to stand out. Perhaps it suffers coming after a series of bouts that were structured similarly and worked with similar moves, but I was left underwhelmed.
Still, to give them their credit, it wasn’t a bad match either. For two rookies making their debut, it was fine, and if I had watched it in isolation I suspect I’d be higher on it.
Miori Kamiya defeated Mika Takahashi (25/9/86)
Kamiya would end up going by Cooga and spend most of her career in JD Star, wrestling up until around 2000. Takahashi’s run would be a lot shorter and primarily in AJW as she stuck around until 1991. Although I should mention that the records for this stuff are somewhat lacking, so any mistakes are only partly my fault.
Anyway, it was another solid rookie match. I’m not so much running out of things to say as already out of them. We’re half an hour into this episode, and they’ve made it through five bouts. Now, I have no issues with people keeping things short, but I’d be lying if I said there was much to get your teeth into. It’s another pair of rookies making their debuts. By this point, you know what you’re getting.
Verdict: Same Again
Yukon Erica defeated Kanako Nagatomo (10/10/86)
Now we’re talking! There is minimal information about Yukon Erica online, but she appears to have been a Canadian bodybuilder and the second she walks out you can tell we’re in for something different. She’s the rookie in this match (Nagatomo had been around for a few years), but she dwarves her opponent and looks like she’s about to dish out a beating.
Erica doesn’t only look like it. She does it too. I loved this match for its beautiful simplicity. Erica is massive, and Nagatomo wants to avoid being pummelled, but that’s easier said than done. It doesn’t matter that the Canadian is rough around the edges because she’s got an opponent she can throw across the ring and who, in the brief flurries of offence she gets, wrestles this match incredible intelligently. Kanako not only bumps around like crazy for the powerhouse but does a brilliant job of exploiting wee mistakes to slip into submissions, building the idea that she might just sneak out with the win.
She doesn’t, Erika eventually lifting her by her neck to get the submission, but I came out of this excited by both wrestlers. Kanako looked like a brilliant worker while Erica is a tank who could have easily run roughshod over 90% of the AJW roster. Sadly, history suggests that wasn’t to happen, but if I’d watched this in 1986, Yukon Erica would have been my new favourite wrestler.
Verdict: I Loved That
Chigusa Nagayo and Yumiko Hotta defeated Yukari Omori and Hisako Uno in a Two out of Three Falls match to win the AJW Tag League (10/10/86)
Time for the rookies to step aside and the masters to take over. Although, that is slightly overplaying the role of both Uno (the future Akira Hokuto) and Hotta in 1986. They were both young in their careers, getting the chance to step up and partner more experienced wrestlers for the Tag League.
Damn, do they grab that chance. It doesn’t start great for Hotta, Omori saying hi by smashing her in the face with the first move of the match, leaving her mouth bloody and picking up the opening fall in the process. However, that only seems to light a fire under Hotta as when she and Uno are unleashed they go all out. After a night of watching rookies work under restrictions, this feels like two people who have been let loose, granted permission to go out and steal the show. When they’re in there together, they seem determined to take lumps out of each other, leaving nothing behind as they swing for the fences.
And, of course, Chigusa and Omori are fantastic. Their interactions with each other are brilliant, but it’s the work with the less experienced wrestlers that really impresses. They know just how much to give, letting them shine without going too far. Uno gets a 2.99 count off Chigusa that sees fans screaming in panic, the perfect reaction to a tease of something that they still aren’t ready to believe could happen.
It makes for an awesome final that builds perfectly, the closing seconds playing brilliantly off the adoration that Chigusa receives. Most importantly, though, it feels like Hotta and Uno stepping up. The debuts on this show might not hint of what was to come, but this does.
Verdict: That Ruled
When I looked at the line-up to this show, I wasn’t expecting Yukon Erica to be the thing I was most excited about coming out the other side, but here we are. I am kind of joking, Uno and Hotta were the real stars, but Erica really did impress me, and I’m kind of gutted that I think this is the only time we see her. If anyone is hiding those Yukon Erica tapes away, feel free to send them to me because that sounds like a cracking afternoon.