This was Zenjo's second big show of the year, and the theme largely still revolved around the big feud of LCO, Hotta, Maekawa and Toyota vs Ito, Watanabe, and Nanamomo. I apologize if this gets a little long, but in all honesty this is one of the best two hour TV shows I've seen in years (and yes, I do watch lots of things besides joshi). Three matches in two hours, including two possible MOTYCs. What more can you ask for really?
MIHO WAKIZAWA & KAYO NOUMI
G-MAX is represented by Sayuri Okino and Carol Midori here, which is a blessing seeing as the other option would be Shark. Okino is kind of like a Yasha Kurenai type, and is a pretty decent wrestler. Carol Midori is great, and I'm stoked to be able to watch her again. Shark is looming at ringside, and the match is for MihoKayo's All-Japan Tag belts.
To kick things off the "weak link" Noumi is singled out by the heels, and Wakizawa is insanely, as well as comically vocal during the opening portion. Noumi is worked over for a bit with typical heel tactics, but gets the tag to Wakizawa and the faces take control with standard flying moves.
It isn't long until it spills outside the ring, and G-MAX are generous with the stiff weapon shots, using chairs, bokkens, and chains to beat down MihoKayo. Shark is also tossing people about with abandon. Okino pummels Noumi with the chain, and there's an interesting happening as you see Noumi face down, then toss the blade under the ring, but when she gets up it's obvious she couldn't find it in her heart to juice. She looks pretty visibly upset with herself too. That's going to be the least of her teams worries shortly though.
Back in, Wakizawa is on offense briefly, before Midori and Shark start flooding the ring with weapons and chairs, and Midori gives Wakizawa a vicious chairshot that hits with the metal backrest and cuts her hardway. Seconds later, Midori just smashes Wakizawa across the nose and face with the legs of another chair. Miho looks like her bell was rung pretty badly there actually. She crawls out and is set up on a table, and Okino hits a diving plancha onto her and the unbreakable table doesn't break.
Wakizawa is tossed back in, and takes a bunch of powerbombs on a pile of chairs, and she still looks only semi conscious. Okino gets a pair of nearfalls off of an avalanche double wrist armsault and a Michinoku Driver variation. Noumi breaks the pin, and buys enough time for Wakizawa to hit a top tope rana and then MihoKayo hit their plancha suicidas to the floor. A flying somersault senton gets a two, and Wakizawa hits a fisherman's suplex and fisherman's buster for another near fall.
Wakizawa looks really great here, as she's still selling her beating earlier (or maybe she's just…well…hurt) while hitting big moves, and making them dramatic and believable. She may not have the best moveset in the business, but she's really learning how to make things important, and the reaction of the crowd is testament to this.
GMAX have had enough, and Midori decides to hang Wakizawa over the ropes by her neck with a chain while Okino smacks her in the ribs with a bokken and Noumi is screaming in the background. With Wakizawa out of the picture, Noumi is hung upside down in the corner, and a table is set up with one set of legs down, and the other side resting on her throat. G-MAX take turns driving the table into her face with chairs, then decide to go back and hang Wakizawa some more. All this madness gets the DQ, and the fans are pissed. After the bell, Noumi flops out of the corner just in time to eat a chair thrown at her head from across the ring by Midori. Carol rules! 27:55
Post match, Midori gets on the mic and calls MihoKayo a joke, then leaves, flipping off the fans along the way. She recently won the LLPW title, just for the record. Also, MihoKayo are disgusted by their performance, and throw down the belts before heading back.
This match itself was so much better than it should have been. LLPW workers are virtually unknown commodities, but Okino and especially Midori were both really well rounded workers and excellent brawlers. Midori has so much charisma, that it's a shame that she's in the LLPW vacuum. On the face side, Noumi was generally OK, and didn't really do a lot. Wakizawa, on the other hand, was terrific. She's got such a great grounding in the basics, and now I think she's finally developing into a strong pro. Her selling, bumping, and timing are all nailed down, and in this match she also showed just how good she's gotten at working the crowd, and using her spots so that she gets the most out of them. Zenjo has recently taken her out of Kiss no Sekai, with her saying that she wanted to be stronger, and not a singer. Hopefully she'll get the chance to move up in the card along with it, she's ready.
When I saw this result, I couldn't wait. People who have followed them for a long time might remember a match they had in early 1998 that was ridiculously good, given their experience and abilities at that point in time. They were just a pair of wrestlers who clicked, for a variety of reasons. For one, Nakanishi takes kicks/dropkicks better than anyone I can think of off the top of my head. She does this by basically jumping head first into kicks and letting the force take over. Also, if Maekawa is in with a quick opponent, she's capable of throwing kicks and combos fast as hell. Against a Hotta or even an Ito, she can't really show it off, but in this setting it's wide open. Thirdly, both of them have incredible timing, so it makes each of their spots look like gold. So, I was looking forward to this now that both have gone from green as grass to being likely top 50 workers.
Maekawa starts off with the advantage, punting Nakanishi and locking on a chokesleeper. Nakanishi turns into Maekawa's guard, then falls back into a legbar. Maekawa gets the ropes and just smirks, as if she's going to have no trouble beating the smaller Nakanishi. Maekawa gets a Boston Crab, and on the rope break, Shimoda is outside to bite Momoe's knuckles. Fun! Maekawa works a few more holds, before the fight goes to the floor and the heel crew (Maekawa, Toyota, Mita & Shimoda) all gang up on Nakanishi.
In the ring, Maekawa fires Nakanishi into the ropes, but as she comes off, Nakanishi jumps and turns in mid-air, and hits a rolling kneebar. Damn that was smooth. Maekawa gets ropes, but Nakanishi keeps the focus on the kicking knee by working a figure-four and legbar for all it's worth. Maekawa is up, and hobbling around, but still manages to hit her big combo of step kick, roundhouse, and running scissor kick for a two.
Maekawa is the best kicker in joshi, everything she does is so precise and fluid. She's also one of the only wrestlers I know that can make big flashy "movie kicks" look believable.
Nakanishi manages to hit a dropkick to the kicking knee, and Maekawa screams in pain and goes down in a heap. Nakanishi frog splash for a near fall, and the fight hits the floor. Outside, Nakanishi hits a release German on the floor, but Maekawa fights back with stiff forearm shots. Nakanishi evades Maekawa's ax kick finisher, and hits another German, then runs back to the ring and hits a HUGE running triangle plancha.
They return to the ring, and Nakanishi hits a moonsault bodyblock and some rolling German's for a near fall. The crowd is eating this up now, but while Nakanishi is playing to them, Toyota just blitzes her in the back with a missile dropkick, sending her flying about 6 feet into Maekawa. Ugh, run ins as transitions aren't good. I understand Toyota was in the opening match and they probably wanted to give her a role, but that's just crappy.
Next, Maekawa tries what is probably the only top-rope move I've ever seen from here, putting Nakanishi in the corner, and climbing up behind before putting her knee behind Nakanishi's neck and driving her face to the mat. Maekawa rushes in with an abise giri on the recovering Momoe, who rolls forward to avoid it and sneaks in a dragon suplex hold for two. They start going toe to toe here, as well as trading finishers (Momoe's peach latch and Maekawa's ax kick). Maekawa hits a series of just brutal running scissor kicks, just running through Nakanishi's face, but the 4th is blocked and Maekawa gets tossed out.
Nakanishi does a Liger flip to the stunned Maekawa, then hits a crazy assed ringpost moonsault, but once again Toyota blindsides her and gives Maekawa the chance to spit the dreaded POISON FOG in Momoe's eyes.
Back in, Nakanishi can't see and gets trapped in the ropes while Maekawa launches straight kicks at her throat and head. Maekawa goes for a corner whip, but Nakanishi runs the corner and hits a sunset flip for a near fall. Actually, Maekawa didn't get the shoulder up in time, which is probably the only mistake either made in the entire match. Maekawa hits an absoultely gorgeous spinning kick combo at warp speed, and all the schoolgirls in attendance are screaming their heads off for Nakanishi. Maekawa then hits an abise-giri, and blocks a MomoLatch attempt for a really close near fall. Sensing victory, Maekawa throws Nakanishi to the corner for her running ax kick, but Nakanishi hits the moonsault dragon suplex for two! Holy crap. If you've never seen the move, on a corner whip Nakanishi runs the corner, moosaults behind her opponent, and hits a dragon suplex all in one motion. It's a thing of beauty I tells ya.
In the final minute of time now, Toyota runs in again and hits a backdrop, but her missile dropkick backfires and hits Maekawa. MomoLatch gets a really hot nearfall, but Maekawa is able to get off an ax kick. She goes for a second, but it's countered with a leg trip, and Maekawa's expression of mutual panic and hatred is priceless. Nakanishi gets a missile dropkick, and there's 30 seconds left. Maekawa gets another ax kick for two., Nakanishi German for two. And again. Finally, Maekawa hits a crazy desperation ax kick that knock Nakanishi into next week and…time is up. 30'00 draw.
Well. In terms of pure wrestling, this match is worth a definate look at for MOTY honors. Each of them have such impeccable timing and execution, that if you aren't impressed by the work in this, you're dead. The selling was excellent with the exception of Maekawa "shaking off" the knee damage too soon. The only real negative in this was the run-ins, which were annoyingly used as transitions for Maekawa, who doesn't need help with it at all. If they had served to get Nakanishi more babyface heat, then it would be easier to digest, but in reality, it was just Toyota hitting and running, and often sucking the excitement out of the crowd.
Still, for pure wrestling performed at an astoundingly high level for 30 minutes, this one will be hard to beat.
This was a streetfight match. Somehow, that name doesn't do this match justice. It was a trip to hell, and one of the most violent matches I've ever seen. Not BJ/CZW glass and nails violence, but a far more realistic and somewhat frightening kind of violence. Ito is no stranger to streetfight style matches, having appeared in two of the more recent Zenjo cages matches, as well as working as ZAP I for a long time. If you don't know, ZAPS was a masked brawler/heel gimmick done by Ito and Tomoko Watanabe, who for some reason are wildly over now, as opposed to being only marginally over when they were actually around. Hotta isn't as accustomed to wild brawling, but anyone who's ever seen her in action knows she can certainly bring the pain when required. In short, these are two of the biggest badasses in women's wrestling.
Each come out in streetfight gear, Hotta bringing a ladder and a huge chain along for the ride. Her second are Maekawa and Toyota, and Ito's is Nakanishi. As a side note, there was an insane amount of streamers during the introductions, which really lent this a dramatic big match feel.
Maekawa tries to jump Ito immediately but it pushed off. Nakanishi tries to jump in to help, but Ito stops her as she wants to do this one on one. Neverless the heels all jump Ito, and they brawl to the back immediately. They go up the stairs to the second level, where Hotta draws blood with a metal bucket. They appear at the balcony, and Hotta is pummeling Ito with the can, before flipping off the entire crowd below. They fight down to the floor, where Ito hits some lariats and then gets the mount and lays in some nasty potato punches to Hotta's face. They fight to the ring and back, when Hotta throws the ladder full speed at Ito, then pins her beneath it, and throws some wicked chain assisted punches. Hotta then begins to attack Nakanishi, which pisses Ito off like never before, and she knocks Hotta off of Momoe, and then just whips the ladder full speed at the helpless opponent.
They fight to ringside, where Hotta hits a vicious invented tombstone on an unbreakable table. Ito's head just bounces a foot off the wood. While Nakanishi panics and Ito is down, Hotta starts throwing chairs with abandon. Ito lunges at Hotta, and tosses her into the 5th row, before burying her under 10+ chairs. Once Hotta emerges, they go toe to toe with some brutally stiff shots, before Ito gets the mount in the 8th row and rains down more punches. Ito drags Hotta to ringside and hits a powerbomb on the mats, but is overwhelmed by the heel seconds, and winds up with a rope tied around her neck.
Fight to the back, and the ladder is open up so that it reaches to the balcony, and Ito is reeled up by Hotta, and met with some kicks. Note that Hotta isn't wearing wrestling boots, but big old combat boots. They fight to the back, then outside, then back in and tease some balcony tossing. Ito is almost over the edge, but Nakanishi has the ladder and sets it up so Ito can climb down. She's still wrapped in rope, however, and the heels set up a bizarre pulley that leaves Ito dangling about six inches off the ground, helpless. Hotta arrives on the scene and gets in some ladder shots, but Nakanishi frees Ito and Ito hits two throat slams (judo throw, like a spiked, released rock bottom) and an insane powerbomb on the concrete floor.
Ito climbs the ladder and her first footstomp mashes Hotta's punching arm, then climbs again and drives her feet into Hotta's ribs. This seems to be the turning point in the match, as up until now everything has been reasonably safe and protected, but from this point on everything gets out of a hand, and neither seem to be too worried about the other's health. Also, Hotta has a gash on her arm from the first footstomp, and is having trouble walking as they fight back to the ring.
Once they get there, Ito misses a footstomp and Hotta starts winging chairs at her prone body. The third opens up in flight and hits with a sick sounding rattle, and the fourth is thrown end over end sideways into Ito's ribs. If it doesn't sound insane, believe me, it LOOKS insane. The ladder is then set up between two chairs and Hotta bounces Ito off of it with a tiger driver. While this is going on, the heels are taking down the ropes, most likely to neutralize Ito's footstomps. Some more wild chair shots to Ito, and Hotta opens up the cut more with the metal thing that holds the turnbuckle to the ringpost.
Ito is tossed off the ring into the railing, but Nakanishi saves her by diving between the two. Nakanishi is great as a second in this, doing a lot of little things to add to the drama. They trade shots to the back again, and this time end up on an empty 6 foot landing. Hotta and Toyota miss a charge with a table and ladder, respectively, and Ito picks up the ladder and bounces it off Hotta's back, then stands it up while Momoe sets up the table.
A big powerbomb by Ito on the table, and this time it breaks. She follows this up by climbing the ladder and dropping a footstomp onto the wreckage and Hotta. Ito tosses Hotta off the landing to the floor, and she lands in a heap. Ito then picks up the ladder, walks over and just LAUNCHES it down at Hotta, hitting her in the back of the head with a sickening crack. Hotta rolls over in pain, and as if that wasn't enough, Ito throws the broken table down, only it glances off the edge of the landing and crunches into Hotta's face. Hotta staggers to her feet, just as Ito launches off the landing with a perfect running elbow suicida.
Ito drags Hotta to the ring, and hits two consecutive footstomps from the ladder. The seconds are fantastic here, with the heels trying to tip the ladder and the faces desperately trying to hold them at bay. The third stomp misses, and Hotta connects with a brutal potato punch to Ito's face, but Ito gets up and punches Hotta right in the mouth, then climbs and hits another footstomp from the ladder. Ito senses victory, but it swarmed by Hotta's seconds. Hotta now has a chain around her fist, and lands some more stiff as hell shots. Both go down, and get up at the count of 7.
Meanwhile, the heels have jury rigged the ladder to the ringpost with rope, and they hook Ito upside down by one leg in the rungs. Hotta lays in with the combat boots, and if you're familiar with Hotta you know how scary this is. Hotta decides that isn't enough, and throws a chair into Ito's face, then one hard into Ito's ribs again. That's just nasty, she was covering her face, so the one to the ribs was completely unprotected and unexpected.
Ito falls out in a heap, and Hotta teases a powerbomb to the floor, but it's blocked and both fall really awkwardly. Hotta gets up and hits a stuff powerbomb, then a Liger bomb. Ito manages to get up, and goes completely berzerk with stiff punches, driving Hotta back and over the guard rail. Ito pulls her back over and hits a Liger bomb of her own, then sets up for a lariat. Ito charges, but Hotta catches her arm and counters with a Tiger Driver 91 on the floor. Ito is dead, Her face is covered in blood and sick looking bruises at this point.
Hotta tosses the helpless Ito into the ring, and hooks her upside down in the ladder again. Hotta then wraps a big chain around her combat boot, and starts punting Ito in the face. Five or six huge kicks later, Ito falls out and can't answer the bell. The winner at an astounding 51'51, Yumiko Hotta.
It's not over yet though. The ringing of the bell bring Ito back to consciousness, and she smashes a chair over referee Bob Yazawa's head, and begins to leave, when Hotta calls her back into the ring over the mic. Ito's shirt is the kanji for "soul" or "heart", and Hotta says that Ito has a ton of heart, but in order to beat Hotta she needs to be heartless. Ito goes nuts and a huge pull apart ensues, after which Ito picks up the microphone. Ito says that Hotta just might be right…and at tomorrow's show, it's going to be ZAPS! The place went completely apeshit at this, and Hotta had a great look of "well…then" on her face. For the record, the next day ZAPS did return for one day to take on Toyota and Shimoda, and Shimoda left without most of her front teeth.
This match is really hard to put into words. There was a bit of wandering from location to location, and not a lot of really creative gimmick spots. However, it was so full of hatred and chaos, and stiffness, and drama, that the minor details are easy to overlook in order to enjoy the bigger picture. Here is the company's top heel and face, beating the living shit out of each other for 50+ minutes. In a way, it's pro-wrestling in its most base and pure form.
As for the entire show, obviously I highly recommend it. It's one of the best two hour wrestling shows I've ever seen, and there's something for everybody. This has been the best year for women's wrestling since 1996, and this show is the best of that resurgence. Whether it remains as the peak, or the beginning of another golden age remains to be seen. Still, if you're a fan of professional wrestling in any form, I urge you to check it out. It's wild.