Episode 19 of AJW Classics continues our walk through 1987, with all four of these matches coming from the April 27th show. There is at least one biggie here, plus a few other interesting titbits, so let’s get into it.
Itsuki Yamasaki and Noriyo Tateno fought to a double-count-out
We kick things off with the Jumping Bomb Angels going one on one in a match that had been for a trim.
Itsuki started off by forward rolling across the ring and barging into her partner, which somewhat set the pace for what was to come. These two worked a fast, enjoyable style that saw them unable to be separated. Despite that, what stood out most was their mat work, Yamasaki and Tateno doing a great job of retaining that pace while battling between holds. We even saw Itsuki pull out a submission that bore some resemblance to Yuki Miyazaki’s Super Shy Hold, but without the leg-spreading nature of that particular version.
Eventually, the fight tumbled to the outside, where the two partners got so into beating each other up that they failed to meet the count. It left this match, particularly in its abbreviated form, feeling like a taster. We got a hint of what the Jumping Bomb Angels facing off would look like, but they saved all the big stuff for the future.
Verdict: A Nice Sample
Devil Masami defeated Bull Nakano in the AJW Grand Prix
Look, it’s a match that reflects the current tedious Twitter discourse. How fun. In 1987, Devil’s first retirement was just around the corner (she would later return to the ring) while Bull was the shiny new toy. Of course, Masami was actually only 25, but at this point, that was as veteran as you got.
And they did a brilliant job of playing into that dynamic. Nakano is looking for a scrap, a mysterious pair of flying nunchucks landing in her hand before the match begins. She’s stronger and faster than Devil, which is before we even get to the usual shenanigans from her pals at ringside. The problem? Masami has all that experience. Where Bull wants to bludgeon her way through the veteran, Devil steps back, waiting for her moments and striking, controlling the pace of the action and never letting herself be bullied.
The finish then sees Bull’s youthful naivety bite her in the arse as she chokes Masami out with those nunchucks while perched high on her shoulders. The problem with being that high up is that there is every chance you’ll come down, and Devil falls backwards with an Electric Chair in a moment that might have been intentional or could have been caused by Bull’s choking. Either way, it’s effective, knocking Nakano out long enough for Masami to get the three and prove how much these youngsters have to learn.
Verdict: Lovely Stuff
The Red Typhoons (Kazue Nagahori & Yumi Ogura) defeated Yumiko Hotta & Hisako Uno to win the WWWA Tag Titles
Hotta and Uno’s first tag title reign was a short one, as they dropped the belts after twelve days in an infamous match against The Red Typhoons. That infamy doesn’t come from the fact they lost, but because the first fall was won by Ogura hitting a Second-Rope Tombstone to Uno. That in itself is quite a move, but it’s made all the more significant because it legitimately broke the young Akira Hokuto’s neck, who then went on to wrestle the subsequent two falls.
I found that watching this match with that knowledge made it almost impossible to review or even enjoy. For the first fall, I was anxious, waiting for the moment that I knew was coming. Then, after it happened, you can’t stop thinking about the fact this kid is wrestling with a broken neck. Uno doesn’t take it easy, either. She ate another fucking Piledriver! If you didn’t know it had happened, you could never have guessed, the only hint being her hand travelling up to her neck at every opportunity, holding her head in place. Knowing that it had, though, every bump and every blow suddenly looks ten times worse. I honestly don’t know if it’s the bravest or the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen.
Thankfully, Uno would be alright. She had a whole career of beautifully dumb things ahead of her, making it all a little bit easier to watch. I also suspect that without the injury, I’d be raving about it, as what I was able to take in looked great. Unfortunately, it will always have the label of the match where Uno broke her neck, and it’s impossible to focus on anything else.
Verdict: Don’t Wrestle With A Broken Neck
Chigusa Nagayo defeated Leilani Kai to retain the All-Pacific Title
Have I ever mentioned that I fucking love Chigusa Nagayo? Because I do. She started this match by shaking hands with Kai, waiting for her to turn round and dropping her with a Bridging German.
It was the setup for what I thought was going to be a routine defence. Kai is a decent wrestler, but she’s not on the level of AJW’s best. Coming from a scene with only a limited number of people to work with, that’s only to be expected, and you can tell that Chigusa is having to slow things down and work a slightly different game. Kai played the big, bullying heel well, but there was nothing particularly standout about their encounter.
Then the final act becomes a bloodbath. First, Kai busts Chig open with a can, then Nagayo gets her revenge, the two of them ending up with their faces and hair coated in blood as they slug it out. I’m not someone who craves the red stuff (although I also have no issue with it), but this was a perfect example of using it to make a match. Suddenly, it didn’t matter how good anyone in the ring was because it had become a fight, two bloody, pissed off people swinging with all they have.
It turned what I thought was going to be something throwaway into an outing that I enjoyed a lot. Not that it should be surprising. It’s fucking Chigusa; everything she touches turns to gold.
Verdict: All You Need Is Blood
Infamous matches, bloody brawls, tag teams colliding and an old-timer beating a youngster, what more could you want from an hour of TV? AJW Classics did it again.