As we head into 1987, things were beginning to shift in the world of AJW. A lot of the old faces are still around, but with the Crush Gals no-more and a host of incredible talent coming up behind them, we’re starting to see some new pairings. Sounds exciting, right?
Bull Nakano defeated Yasuko Ishiguro to retain the AJW Title (26/2/87)
From day one, it was clear that Bull Nakano was a star. You don’t the benefit of hindsight to see that, the second she walks through the curtain, she stands out, the coolest badass in the room. However, that general air of awesomeness almost makes it possible not to mention how quickly Bull became an outstanding wrestler. When this match took place, she was 19, and even in its clipped form, you can tell she’s starting to put it together.
And it doesn’t matter how cool Bull is, she’s not determined to wrestle that way. 90% of the flash in this match comes from Ishiguro, who tries to blitz Nakano early on. In response, Bull is just a bruiser, booting her, pulling her into holds and, yes, getting a bit of a helping weapon from her pals at ringside. She’s happy to rely on brute force, smashing down the fans’ heroes the old-fashioned way and drawing their ire as she does so.
It is perfectly encapsulated by the finish, which features no fancy moves or elaborate roll-ups. Bull simply powers Yasuko’s shoulders to the mat. The defiant babyface wriggles out a couple of times, but Nakano is relentless, holding her down there and eventually forcing the three. It’s simplicity personified, but fuck, it works.
Verdict: If She Keeps This Up, I Reckon That Kid Could Go Places
Lioness Asuka defeated Chigusa Nagayo by referee’s decision to become the number one contender to the WWWA Title (26/2/87)
Note: the Asuka vs Chigusa match on AJW Classics is a slightly edited version, so I decided to seek it out in full. If you would like to do the same, click here and it shall hopefully take you to a still working YouTube video.
There was a moment, relatively early in this match, where, for a second or two, I thought the crowd had gone kind of quiet. It took me a bit to realise that I was wrong. They were quiet in comparison to the rapturous roars that greeted Chigusa and Asuka’s entrances, but if you dropped the sound from the quietest moment in this match onto 99% of other wrestling shows, it would still be the biggest pop of the night.
Because this is Chigusa vs Asuka, fresh off the end of the Crush Gals and going one on one for what I believe was the first time since their iconic team called it quits. It’s clear from the start that the fans aren’t quite sure who to cheer, although Chigusa does continue to get the slightly louder reactions, so they’ve just decided to throw their weight behind both of their heroes.
It’s not just the noise that makes this special, though, as Asuka and Chigusa proved perfectly poised to get the best out of each other. This is an even match, one where no-one really gets the advantage, but that doesn’t mean that every grapple or exchange of moves comes out even. Instead, they play to their strengths. Asuka controls larger chunks of the action, going after Chigusa’s leg and trying to grind her down. Nagayo, meanwhile, is (as always) pure babyface fire, coming into the action through flurries of moves, hinting that she could win at any moment. It’s not even because everything is 50/50, but because they’re both brilliant at the things they do.
And, in the end, they can’t be split. The time limit expires at thirty minutes, but they’re given five more, both going full-throttle in an attempt to get the victory. Sadly, that too proves indecisive, leaving us with a rare situation where the ref is given the chance to decide who wins and plumps for Asuka. As you can imagine, it’s not a finish that is greeted with unbridled enthusiasm, but it leaves us open for round two and you can bet everyone that was there tuned in again.
Verdict: These Two Are A Bit Good
The Red Typhoons (Kazue Nagahori and Yumi Ogura) fought to a time-limit draw with Yumiko Hotta and Hisako Uno to keep the WWWA Tag Team Titles vacant (21/3/87)
Those wee rookies have got their feet under the table, haven’t they? Uno and Hotta were in no mood to wait for The Red Typhoons, attacking them as they made their entrance and looking to blast through their more experienced opponents. The kids are kids no longer, and they were here to play.
Unfortunately, this match has been heavily trimmed, but what we get is structured brilliantly. After Uno and Hotta’s hot start, the Typhoons regain control, looking to teach these impudent rookies a lesson. Yet, even as Kazue and Yumi work them over, Hotta and Uno don’t budge an inch. They keep bridging out of the pins, showing pure defiance as they take their beating and wait for their moment.
Then, towards the end, it’s their turn to come roaring forward. In this match’s closing act, they don’t only equal the Typhoons but perhaps start to overtake them, pushing for the win. Uno is being pinned as the bell rings, but she’s also kicking out, showing that the splash she’d missed wasn’t going to be enough to see her off. This was a match designed to show that Hotta and Uno are on the Typhoon’s level, and I suspect these kids are going somewhere.
Verdict: The Kids Are Alright
Bull Nakano and Chigusa Nagayo fought to a draw in the AJW Grand Prix (21/3/87)
If Chigusa had any delusion that taking Dump’s hair was going to save her from getting the shit kicked out of her regularly, Bull Nakano was here to show her otherwise. Before the bell rang, she’d already dragged the fans’ hero to ringside, proving she’d learnt a thing or two from the boss.
Sadly, this match is trimmed, so we don’t get the full delights of this pairing, but it does have some cool elements. For one thing, as much as I love Dump, you can’t deny that Bull can do things she never could. This is still Chigusa receiving a beating from Bull and all her pals, but when the two get to face-off, they’re able to ramp up the pace. In among the bloody brawl, there is the potential for a decent wrestling match.
The finish is pretty awesome too, even as it continues our theme of things not having a proper ending. As they brawl on the outside, Chigusa flies in with a spinning heel kick, causing them both to crash over the barricade. I can’t quite tell if the match is then thrown out because of a countout or because the ref has had enough, but it’s a draw, either way.
As a side note, this was part of the 1987 Grand Prix, and there is obviously a story going on with Dump, Bull and Chigusa. On a couple of occasions, Dump forgoes the opportunity to get some digs in (which you don’t need me to tell me is uncharacteristic of her), and she helps Chigusa to her feet at one point, much to Chig’s shock. I can’t quite figure out what was going down, but my guess would be that it’s either something to do with Dump trying to make sure she’s the one leading the Grand Prix or a feeling that if anyone’s going to murder Chigusa, it’s her. Any tension between Dump and Bull doesn’t seem long-term, though, as they end the show giving Chigusa a wee beating in a nice family bonding moment.
Anyway, I’m not actually sure how often Bull and Chigusa faced off over the years, but from the snippets we got here, I’m looking forward to finding out.
Verdict: Intrigue In The Air
There weren’t many clean finishes on that hour of TV, but it was a nice reminder that it is perfectly possible to book great wrestling without them. Whether you want brawls, legends squaring off or youngsters stepping up, episode seventeen of AJW Classics had it all. I certainly had a lovely time.