Welcome to another review of All Japan Women’s Pro-Wrestling Classics! AJW Classics is a television program that airs on SAMURAI TV in Japan. There are several different series within the AJW Classics name, I will be reviewing the series starting with the “Retro Hour” AJW Classics that first aired on August 7th, 2007. They are still airing to this day.
AJW Retro Hour Classics #4 features more Crush Gals, Bull Nakano going for the All Japan Women Championship, and more! All three matches come from the same date, on February 25th, 1985. Here is the full listing:
- All Japan Women’s Championship: Itsuki Yamazaki vs. Bull Nakano
- Jaguar Yokota and Devil Masami vs. Dynamite Girls (Jumbo Hori and Yukari Omori)
- WWWA World Tag Team Championship: Crush Gals (Lioness Asuka and Chigusa Nagayo) vs. Dump Matsumoto and Crane Yu
Only three matches on this one, so I hope they can deliver!
(c) Itsuki Yamazaki vs. Bull Nakano
This match is for the All Japan Women’s Championship. At the time of this match, Bull Nakano was only 17 years old but had already turned to the dark side, teaming with the mega heel faction Gokuaku Domei. Itsuki Yamazaki is better known as half of the Jumping Bomb Angels and had held the championship since beating Lioness Asuka on February 28th, 1984.
They get right into it with the champion dropkicking and slamming the challenger before armdragging Nakano around the ring. Nakano takes over and they roll out of the ring, with Nakano throwing Yamazaki into chairs at ringside. Back in, Nakano bounces Yamazaki around the ring as her friend Matsumoto and Yu come in to help. Which she didn’t need, since Nakano was winning at the time anyway. Nakano bites Yamazaki and she is triple teamed in the corner, Yamazaki goes up top and dropkicks Nakano but she dropkicks the referee too on accident. Chaos briefly ensues but is restored rather quickly, Irish whip by Nakano and she knees Yamazaki in the leg. Yamazaki is thrown out of the ring and assaulted by Matsumoto, she gets back in as Nakano goes for a big slash, but Yamazaki rolls out of the way. Nakano knocks Yamazaki back out of the ring where more cheating commences, and Nakano hits a body block. Vertical suplex by Nakano and she covers Yamazaki for two. Yamazaki fires back with a crossbody, but soon Gokuaku Domei runs in the ring and stomps on Yamazaki. The heel referee Shiro Abe actually has enough and he calls for the bell much to my surprise. Yamazaki is your winner by DQ.
This wasn’t as good as it could have been. It was nice of the referee to actually DQ someone for a change while normally he just watches, but the match finally felt like it was getting going when it was suddenly over. Nakano was pretty green here but was only 17, it would take her a few years to really get the evil brawling technique down pat. Yamazaki ended up forfeiting the title after the match, so why Nakano couldn’t go ahead and win it I am not sure as DQ endings in title matches is never ideal (even if it was better than the referee continuing to allow the group attack). Some good parts here and there and it is interesting to see a young Nakano, but it just never fully clicked.
Jaguar Yokota and Devil Masami vs. Dynamite Girls (Jumbo Hori and Yukari Omori)
This is not an official #1 Contendership, but these are the next two teams in line for a shot at the WWWA World Tag Team Championship. Yokota and Masami were not a regular tag team at the time, but since both were not Gokuaku Domei they were on the same side and were both accomplished as singles wrestlers. The Dynamite Girls had already held the WWWA World Tag Team Championship once, and were looking to move back up the ladder to get another shot at the gold.
Yokota goes after Hori to start the match and hits a jumping elbow followed by a dropkick. Masami comes in with Omori and they struggle for position on the mat, Masami elbows Omori but she tags in Hori. Masami gets Hori to the mat and tags in Yokota, dropkicks by Yokota but Hori gets to her corner and tags in Omori. Omori tosses Yokota to the mat and she hits a gutbuster for a two count. Yokota gets back in control and hip attacks Omori before hitting a Jackhammer. I guess it is true that all moves originated in AJW. She tags in Masami, the action spills out of the ring as Yokota and Masami stay in control. Omori and Masami get back in the ring and Omori hits a tilt-a-whirl slam, she gets Masami on her shoulders and Hori dives off the top turnbuckle with a diving crossbody. Alabama Slam by Hori to Masami but Masami comes back with a backdrop suplex. She tags in Yokota and Yokota puts Hori in an Octopus Hold. Hori gets out of it and slams Yokota in front of the corner, reverse splash by Omori and she covers Yokota for two. Dropkicks by Yokota, Masami goes up top and she hits a diving lariat. Omori lands close enough to her corner to tag Hori, but Masami levels her with a lariat. Hori picks up Masami and drops her with a powerbomb, but Masami gets a foot on the ropes. Masami gets Hori on her shoulders and hits an Electric Chair, they both pick up their respective opponents and hit tombstone piledrivers. Yokota gets on Masami’s shoulders and drops down onto Hori, picking up the three count pinfall! Yokota and Masami win the match!
I knew going in that Yokota and Masami were of a higher stature, but I wasn’t expecting them to handle the Dynamite Girls like this. Of course it was clipped so I do not know what was clipped out, but Yokota and Masami controlled the action for sure. The action was very smooth though, I wasn’t expecting Yokota to bust out a Jackhammer (it was a move she did from time to time but I hadn’t seen it yet) but everything here clicked. And it was nice to have a match that was clean and didn’t have crazy interference every five seconds. A solid tag match, only really hurt due to the clipping as I would have liked to have seen more. Mildly Recommended
(c) Crush Gals (Lioness Asuka and Chigusa Nagayo) vs. Dump Matsumoto and Crane Yu
This match is for the WWWA World Tag Team Championship and is a Two out of Three Falls Match. If you have read any of my previous reviews the storyline here should be clear – The Crush Gals are one of the most popular tag teams in all of Japan, while Gokuaku Domei are the heel faction that cheats constantly to try to win matches (or get DQed, as they did in the first match). This is not Matsumoto and Yu’s first match against The Crush Gals, as they also battled back in the fall in the Fuji TV Cup Tag League Final. There is more at stake here however, and with a packed Tokyo Ota-ku Taiikukan watching, the fan favorites will try to hold off Gokuaku Domei once again.
Nagayo is bleeding before the match even started, which is never a good sign. A few minutes of the recording was black so I do not know if they aired what happened to her, but I assume there was a pre-match brawl considering the participants. The first few minutes of this match were carnage, as you’d expect, but Nagayo manages to lock the Scorpion Deathlock on Matsumoto. It gets broken up, Asuka comes in but she is double teamed in the corner. Nagayo is tagged back in and she kicks Yu against the ropes, she applies a submission but Matsumoto breaks it up and drags Nagayo out of the ring. Matsumoto chokes Nagayo on the apron before dragging her back into the ring but Nagayo hits a sunset flip and tags Asuka. Heel kick by Asuka to Matsumoto, but all of Gokuaku Domei jump in the ring to help. Yu stays in the ring and Asuka slams her to the mat, Asuka applies a front headlock, but Yu gets out of it and Matsumoto hits a Banzai Drop. Matsumoto throws Asuka down by her hair, but she gets close enough to the corner to tag Nagayo. Nagayo kicks Matsumoto to the mat and applies a sleeper, but Matsumoto punches her way out of it. Matsumoto bites Nagayo’s already bloody head and stabs her repeatedly with a pair of scissors. Yu gets in the ring with Nagayo slowly following and Yu bites her head before hitting a body block. Another body block by Yu and she tags in Matsumoto. Nagayo avoids Yu’s diving leg drop, but Asuka accidentally lariats Nagayo.
They end up out of the ring again as Nagayo is thrown into the ring post and attacked more with scissors. Yu gets in the ring as Nagayo is counted out, and Gokuaku Domei wins the first fall. It is now 1-0 for Matsumoto and Yu. A even more bloody Nagayo gets back in the ring and she hits a quick German suplex on Yu, a equally bloody Asuka gets up top and hits a missile dropkick. Double kicks by Asuka and Nagayo, and they drop Yu with a spike piledriver for the three count cover! The match is now tied at 1-1. After a moment to re-group, Nagayo kicks Yu in the leg and applies the Scorpion Deathlock with Asuka keeping watch, but Matsumoto comes in with a trash can and hits everyone with it. Asuka knocks her down and puts her in a Scorpion Deathlock, but Bull Nakano and company run in the ring help Matsumoto take back over. Piledriver by Matsumoto to Nagayo, but Nagayo gets a shoulder up. Spike piledriver to Nagayo, but Nagayo bridges out of it. Next she is hit with an assisted leg drop and a Samoan Drop, but Nagayo fires back with a heel kick to Yu. Asuka comes in and hits an avalanche backdrop suplex, but Matsumoto breaks up the cover and the rest of Gokuaku Domei comes in again. Matsumoto gets some scissors and starts cutting Nagayo’s hair (the crowd is going ballistic during this), and Matsumoto lariats Nagayo repeatedly to the mat as referee Shiro Abe gets in the ring (not the original referee but the heel referee). Another lariat by Matsumoto, she covers Nagayo and picks up the three count! Matsumoto and Yu are the new champions!
First the good – I love a good heated bloody brawl and this was certainly that. The crowd was at a fever pitch for much of the match as it just never slowed down, every time it looked like the match was going to turn down a few notches suddenly someone would be stabbed with scissors or dragged out of the ring. Nagayo is beyond amazing, she is such a sympathetic wrestler and has tons of charisma that draws you into everything she does. As for the bad, Shiro Abe was basically Gokuaku Domei’s referee, and I don’t like big title matches ending with these kind of shenanigans. It is just a cop-out to have a different referee come down and count, its not an uncommon one but it is just a tactic that I grew tied of after it was over-used in the 90s. I realize this match came well before that but it still makes the ending feel a bit cheap. Still, that is my only real complaint as it was certainly an exciting and emotional match, definitely worth a watch. Recommended
In terms of overall importance, the All Japan Women event on February 22nd set the tone for all of 1985. Even though the tag titles were vacated soon after this, Nakano stepped in as #2 in Gokuaku Domei and they continued their long-running feud with The Crush Gals. The only real disappoint on this release was the opener, I was excited to see young Bull Nakano but the match didn’t live up to my hopes, which is mostly my fault but still for a title match I wanted a bit more. The main event was a bit sullied by using the “heel referee” tactic but otherwise was a fantastic bloody brawl in front of a really hot crowd, something you just don’t see a lot anymore these days. Overall a quality showing, even though it did have one less match than the last three Classics I reviewed.