AJW Throwback: AJW Classics Episode 21 Review

Our bizarre cliffhanger.

We’re moving into the latter half of AJW’s ’87 as episode 21 of Classics features a chunk of Tag League and a couple of intriguing singles. It’s then all somewhat let down by a decision from whoever edited it, but we’ll get to that, and it hopefully won’t ruin all the fun.

Bull Nakano fought Yumiko Hotta to a time-limit draw to retain the AJW Championship (20/7/87)

1987’s Yumiko Hotta is not quite the murderous bastard we know today, but she still stands out as one of the few people able to physically compete with Gokuaku Domei. We saw evidence of that on episode 20, where she and Dump had a thrilling five-minute sprint, and episode 21 opened up with yet more proof.

Sadly, we are missing roughly ten minutes of the match, but we still get a chance to see that Bull can’t bully Hotta. Yes, she uses those nunchucks, gnaws away at her forehead and is generally a bit of a prick, but it doesn’t have the usual effect. Hotta’s got an intriguing mix of technical ability and power, which stops Bull from running riot. On the flip side, Hotta never feels like winning. By the end, it looks like she’s breathing out of her arse, escaping pins only by twisting onto her stomach as her kicks slip into flailing territory. Not that I’m criticising her. Wrestling twenty minutes against a violent Bull sounds terrifying, and holding her off would take it out of you. Hotta barely survives till the time limit draw, but that’s more than most, so she’s earned a round of applause.

It makes for a match that falls into the interesting rather than extraordinary bracket. As an early showing between these two, there is still plenty to get your teeth into.

Verdict: I Think This Hotta Kid Might Be Quite Good

Kyoko Aso defeated Erika Shishido to retain the AJW Junior Title (20/8/87)

In case you’re unaware, Erika Shishido is a young Aja Kong. At this point, she’s yet to have made an impact by herself and is still a lowly member of Gokuaku Domei. While we’re going to see a lot of Erika’s career in the future, I wanted to take a second to point out how significant the racism of those in charge of AJW was on the path she took. I’m not an expert, and other people have written more in-depth pieces than I ever could, but they pushed Erika into being a heel and wrestling the way she did because she is mixed-race. Christ, there is a reason they’ll give her the surname Kong, and while she’s made it her own, that doesn’t change the past. I love celebrating AJW and the incredible talent involved, but it’s just as important to remember the bad. Aja’s career is legendary, and she will go down as one of the greats, but that doesn’t give anyone the right to sweep away the racism that influenced its beginnings.

It feels weird to go from that to talking about the match, but there was one, and it was a solid rookie showing. While these two are still working from the beginner instruction book, that made for a tense technical showcase as most of the action took place on the ground. You can see the base of knowledge that these women are working off as, at times, it does feel a bit like they’re being let loose to have a grapple and see who comes out on top.

On this occasion, it would be Asoh, as we got the unusual sight of seeing the future Aja get beaten down by a series of stiff running forearms to the chest. As is the norm in Junior Title matches, the pinfall was more a fight than a conclusive three, and Aja definitely got her shoulders up, but what are you going to do? Asoh would retire just a few months after this, so no one can begrudge her a bit longer with the belt.

Verdict: Solid Stuff

The Jumping Bomb Angels (Noriyo Tateno & Itsuki Yamazaki) defeated The Crush Gals (Chigusa Nagayo & Lioness Asuka) in Tag League The Best (14/9/87)

Despite having, to the best of my understanding, gone their separate ways at this point, The Crush Gals came back together for AJW’s interestingly named, Tag League The Best. Not that I’m complaining. Watching them face off with the Jumping Bomb Angels is never going to be an inconvenience.

This is the kind of match you get when you have four wrestlers perfectly in synch. The speed they are working at is extraordinary, and it can only point to a trust that everyone is going to be exactly where you want them to be. It’s not that they’re doing complex gymnastics that will see people being dropped on their head if someone isn’t there to catch them (all the dropping on heads is deliberate), but more that it feels like a jigsaw, and that if one piece were missing, you’d never get the whole picture.

It’s the Bomb Angels who steal this match, though, and not just the result. With their hair now at similar lengths and close to matching gear, their quick tags make it impossible to keep up with who is who unless you can get a glimpse of their faces. Perhaps because of the break the Crush Gals took, they come out of this looking like the complete team. Chigusa and Asuka are incredible, they always are, but their individual charisma is too strong for them ever to become one. Itsuki and Noriyo feel like two halves of the same whole, pushing each other on to be stronger than they were before.

You don’t need me to tell you this match is good, even in its trimmed-down form. It’s the Jumping Bomb Angels vs The Crush Gals. No matter what is happening around it, you know that’s going to rule, so sit back and enjoy.

Verdict: You Know It’s Good

Gokuaku Domei (Dump Matsumoto & Kaoru Kage) fought The Red Typhoons (Kazue Nagahori & Yumi Ogura) to a double count-out in the Tag League The Best (14/9/87)

Even by obscure 80s AJW wrestler standards, there is not much about Kaoru Kage on the internet. The list I generally use to check the matches on these shows even has Dump down as partnering with Megumi Nakamae, which had me momentarily confused. She’s another Gokuaku Domei member, though, and was rocking a very Dump-like look as she took the beatings for her boss.

It made for a bit of a by-the-numbers match as the Typhoons get to work over Kage before Dump clears house and things break down into a brawl. With both teams fighting on the outside, the ref counts them out, much to the Typhoons’ frustration as they give the poor bugger a piece of their minds. I’m guessing they’re annoyed that Dump and her goons weren’t disqualified? But it’s hard to say.

The Red Typhoons look good, although Kazue whiffs on a dive towards the end, getting tangled in the ropes, while Dump is my favourite murderer. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to make this anything particularly memorable. It happened, it was fine, and now we can all move on.

Verdict: Decent Enough

The Crush Gals (Chigusa Nagayo & Lioness Asuka) defeated Gokuaku Domei (Bull Nakano & Condor Saito) to win Tag League The Best (14/9/87)

Right, this is a weird one. Because whoever was editing AJW Classics made the somewhat baffling decision to end this episode before the match’s conclusion. We get about ten minutes of action before things fade out with Asuka sitting in a Single-Leg Crab. You might think that means episode 22 will open with the second half, but you’d be wrong! We have been left in the dark, destined never to know the winner (it’s The Crush Gals, thankfully the internet exists). I’ve been making it a general rule to stick to reviewing the AJW Classics’ versions of these matches, so it’s safe to say that the finish was somewhat lacking.

It’s a real shame as, until that moment, things were taking off. It starts with Bull slapping Asuka across the face before dropping her with a Bridging German to take the first fall, poor Chigusa turning back from her walk to the corner to discover they’re already one down. Thankfully, she’s an expert at firing her partner up, and after Asuka got a bit of treatment for her neck, Chigusa gave her another slap, one that wasn’t much softer than Bull’s but had a very different conclusion. It helped The Crush Gals quickly level things up, as I started to think that it made sense this match only had ten minutes.

That frantic start gives this a sense of desperation, as everyone involved goes all out. With those falls coming so quickly, they really sell the idea that it could end at any moment as that Crush Gals technical speed bashes up against Bull and Saito’s brawling. These are wrestlers who don’t tend to work slow at the best of times, but they are in a hurry, which makes the way it ends all the more deflating.

And I feel bad slating it because it’s not the fault of those involved. It’s the fault of whoever made that baffling decision. Even more frustratingly, I can’t find the whole thing online, although there is a copy of their match from earlier in the tournament. It all left me feeling somewhat unsatisfied, but for reasons outwith the control of those in the ring.

Verdict: Good Match, Weird Editing

Overall Show

Well, that was a pretty shitty way to end the show. It left this episode feeling like a bit of a damp squib, although looking back over it, that’s a harsh conclusion. Hotta vs Bull, Jumping Bomb Angels vs Crush Gals and what we got of the main event are all worth watching, while the Erika vs Asoh match is an interesting curio. Sadly, it’s all let down by whatever the hell that decision at the end was. Oh well, onto the next one!

If you enjoyed this review, please consider contributing to my Ko-fi, even the smallest amount is appreciated.

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