Episode 18 of AJW Classics has four matches all from the same show, as this is the 15th of April 1987. So far, this series has failed to deliver a single stinker of an episode, so surely that runs got to end sometime? Guess we should find out.
Kyoko Asoh defeated Mika Suzuki to win the AJW Junior Title
Neither Suzuki nor Asoh have popped up on AJW Classics before, so let’s say hello. Sadly, we’re not going to see much of Asoh because she’d retire in November of ’87 after a two-year career which Cagematch has managed to trim down to two matches, neither of which is this one. So we know she had at least three. Suzuki would hang around a lot longer, spending some time as Akira Hokuto’s partner and changing her name to Suzuka Minami. We’ll see a lot more of her going forward.
What this match shows, though, is just how good nearly everyone under AJW contract at this time was. It’s a simple opener for that Junior Title and we only see around four minutes of it, but these two are strong workers. They’re not doing anything complex, mainly working basic holds and throws, but everything is crisp, right down to that struggle for the pinfall that is a staple of AJW’s juniors.
It means that while this match is unlikely to go down in history, it’s worth a watch just to get a taste of how deep the roster was. Yes, we know Bull Nakano were fantastic, but so were these kids messing around in the undercard, and while not all of them would go onto have incredible careers, they probably all could have.
Verdict: Good, Solid Wrestling
Devil Masami and Chigusa Nagayo fought to a no-contest in the Grand Prix
Devil is deliciously, well, devilish, in this match. There is a moment early on where she’s stood over Chigusa having just hit a Powerbomb and getting ready to do another. She stops, though, just for a second, listening to the fans chant Chig’s name as a smile plays across her face. It’s the kind of pause that gives the fans hope, hope that she’s got too cocky and that as she’s pulled up Nagayo will fight back. They’re right about that. She does throw a desperate punch while Masami lifts her, but it’s not enough, Devil barely flinching before Powerbombing her once more.
It’s moments like that which makes these two so incredible. The teasing of Nagayo’s comebacks and the way Devil is happy to lean into being a pantomime villain, at one point even licking her lips before leaping from the top to crack a steel pipe over Chig’s back. It’s wrestling 101, the defiant fiery babyface going up against the powerful heel, but few do it this well, making sure that an entire arena picks up on every grin and grimace.
In the end, Chigusa fights fire with fire, taking on Devil’s steel pipe with a chair and forcing the match to be thrown out, the two of them scrapping in the middle of the ring as it is. In the aftermath, it’s clear they’re not done, Chigusa desperate to keep going, but not getting her wish. If the opener was proof of the depth of the AJW roster, then this is further proof of how incredible those at the top were. Chigusa and Devil went out to tell a simple story, and to the surprise of no-one, nailed it.
Verdict: So Good
Hisako Uno and Yumiko Hotta defeated The Glamour Girls (Judy Martin and Leliani Kai to win the WWWA Titles
I made a mistake in my review of episode 18 when I assumed The Red Typhoons went into their match with Uno and Hotta holding the WWWA Tag Titles. In reality, they were vacant after Dump and Bull let them go for reasons unknown, so the draw left them still without a holder. Until this match anyway.
And this starts with a tale as old as Japanese wrestling, two big Americans bullying the Japanese rookies across from them. Neither Kai nor Martin was ancient at this point, but next to the fresh-faced Hotta and Uno they look like grizzled vets, throwing them about the ring and overpowering them at every turn. They pick up the first fall with relative ease, their dominance never in doubt.
It makes Uno’s comeback all the more exciting, as she suddenly flickers to life, flying from the top rope to the floor and wiping Kai out. Unfortunately, Kai may have been wiped out a bit too much, as she’s left screaming in pain on the floor, gripping her arm as if she’s broken it. I’ve no idea if that was a real injury or not, but it feels like it could have been, and the ref counts her out. That means the third fall starts with a two on one advantage for the rookies until Dump turns up to get stabby, leaving Hotta a bloody mess and chopping at her hair. It’s a genuinely vicious and shocking attack, leaving the fans screaming in horror, so whether it was planned or a reaction to an injury, it fucking works.
That leaves the final fall as a whirlwind of action, in which Hotta takes centre stage. With her face stained red, she hits a perfect German on Martin, holding her in place with the bridge for just long enough to get the three and with it the titles. Told you those crazy kids were going somewhere, and while this match was a bit slow at the start, that home stretch more than made up for it.
Verdict: Mon’ The Kids
Yukari Ohmori defeated Lioness Asuka to retain the WWWA Title
Some wrestlers are natural foes and having watched this match Ohmori and Asuka may well be in that boat. Asuka’s biggest strength, is also one of her biggest weaknesses, as she tends to go all out all the time. It’s exciting as hell and probably a big part of why the fans love her, but it can make her singles matches pass in a bit of a blur. Ohmori, meanwhile, is simple where Asuka is complex. Her wrestling style has no thrills but simply sees her trying to beat her way through her opponent. The advantage of that? Well, it slows Asuka down.
Because while Asuka is hardly wrestling is slow motion, she’s up against someone who can beat the shit out of her. She tries to blitz Yukari in the opening seconds, flying into her and going for the quick win, but it doesn’t work. In return, the champ gets beating, throwing Asuka around and laying into her with hard strikes. It’s simple wrestling, but it’s brilliantly done, and she looks like a fucking badass. It also forces Asuka to sell, her back aching as she starts looking for small openings rather than continually throwing herself forward.
That makes for an awesome contest, one that in the end sees power come out on top as Asuka can’t quite get over the line. The Kneeling Piledriver that sees her off looks brutal, and Ohmori is the hardest motherfucker on the planet. It’s made her the latest wrestler from this period to slot nicely into my ever-growing collection of favourites, and if you want to see why, you could do a lot worse than starting here.
There were no stinkers to be found. AJW Classics once again delivers an episode of great wrestling, as we get everything from the solid rookie opener to the big time title fight. With it all coming from the same show, this episode’s pacing was also spot on, things building as we went along. It makes this one a must-watch, so get on it now.