AJW Summer Night Festival (8.22.85) review
August 22, 1985
Right, first of all, I’m cheating here. The whole show isn’t on YouTube, or anywhere that I can see. However, the TV is uploaded in a block that features the top three matches. One of which was given a whopping five stars from Davey Meltz.
This might be the oldest joshi show I’ve ever seen. When I was doing reviews back in the day a lot of my joshi viewing stemmed from a love of Manami Toyota (the best wrestler I’ve never seen live). Toyota was very much a wrestler of the 1990s. So, it’s a step into unknown waters here. Hopefully I can source some more content from AJW around this time. My fear with doing any Japanese wrestling from this time period is I have virtually no context for anything and it’s a potential wormhole for me to disappear into.
We’re in Tokyo, Japan at Budokan Hall. I’ve been there! The seats do not have the kind of legroom you get in Western arenas. Maybe Northampton Town. We have a crowd of 13,500.
Two Out of Three Falls
Itsuki Yamazaki & Noriyo Tateno vs. Bull Nakano & Dump Matsumoto
There is a song and dance routine pre-match. The camera work has to be seen to be believed. There are zooms, pans, jump cuts, streamers, cheerleaders, pyrotechnics.
It’s a full-blown dance routine too. The Villainous Alliance eventually join us. They’re all leather, chains and violence. Like a motorcycle gang from the 1950s. They chase comms into the crowd! The babyface team follows and they look suitably cutesy.
Itzuki has extremely 80s hair. She could have come here from the set of Dallas. There are virtually no rules here and they brawl all over the place. Itsuki’s first excursion into the ring sees her leap onto the top buckle so in come the Villainous Alliance’s young girls to give her a kicking. REF! Every time it looks like this might become a normal match they just brawl outside again and both teams get counted out.
It seems to have calmed down after that chaotic conclusion to falls 1 and 2 but then Tateno death stares Dump to start the third fall and it’s fucking on again! This is a less chaotic fall with Bull taking bumps for the faces, although she’s very young here and not as convincing at selling as she would get. Dump runs in chair shots both faces AND THE REFEREE. Naturally this means no pinfall, dipshit. Yamazaki takes over again so Dump hits her in the head with a bin! The Young Girls are in again for a spike piledriver on Yamazaki and that’ll do it. This was a riot!
An absolutely chaotic brawl. If you took this match, beat for beat, and replicated it in MSG with Hogan & Orndorff vs. Piper & Orton at the same time, it would go down in history as one of the greatest brawls ever done. ***½
My mileage on this would vary depending on when it took place. I’ve seen loads of matches like this in Japan and most of them suck. This being 1985 though, this was a crazy match up. Nobody in America (maybe Terry Funk) was doing anything like this.
All Pacific Championship
Devil Masami (c) vs. Chigusa Nagayo
The crowd, mostly women, are HOT for Chigusa Nagayo.
Devil Masami, with her flowery top, stares a hole in Nagayo.
There are so many streamers the camera shakes. From what I’ve seen of Chigusa Nagayo, I love her. I’ve only saw Devil Masami wrestle when she was much older. Tragically, this is the 12 minute clipped version of a match that went to 36 minutes. You can still feel the power of the crowd’s love for Nagayo. It’s a constant noise. Especially their support for Chigusa when she’s put in submission holds. It is MOLTEN. I’ve seen precisely one German suplex since I started this (and it was a finish). This match has a German (from both) and a Dragon suplex as near falls, plus a tope suicida. It’s not just high spots. The tension is palpable. The strikes are sensational. Every moment has the entire Budokan on the edge of their seats. The suplex variations are just the cream on the top. They pull out a bloody Straightjacket German suplex in this and a jumping Tombstone. The only argument against this being incredible is that they don’t sell the impact of the big spots enough. That’s what stops it being truly epic. Nagayo does a better job selling the strikes and at one point Masami pops her right in the nose with a left hand and she drops like dead weight. Masami tends to be better at selling the big spots and less so the strikes, which prevents them getting into a crazy strike duel that could really put this over the top. The finish is also an issue with them brawling until neither can stand anymore and it’s a double count out, in the ring. Sensational match though. Not without flaws but the shit they were doing was light years ahead of anything else in the world at that time. ****½
THAT WASN’T EVEN THE MAIN EVENT.
WWWA World Championship
Jaguar Yokota (c) vs. Lioness Asuka
Asuka gets powerful amounts of streamers too. They do a spot in this, which is snapmares with them slipping out of the resultant pinfall and it’s the smoothest shit, ever. Yokota’s last kick out into a headlock is awesome. I literally pause the tape and go back to watch it four times. Flawless pro wrestling. They do the powerbomb with the flipover pin and that’s perfect. Yokota breaks out the double underhook piledriver and then, AND THEN, they do a Tombstone reversal and Yokota does a running, jumping SITOUT TOMBSTONE. The danger levels here are off the charts and that’s not the finish. I’m screaming. I call my wife in from another room to come and watch it. Some of the strikes have significant air between the feet on the target or this would be an all-timer. Asuka does a Giant Swing and it’s one of the best giant swings I’ve ever seen.
That’s another rewind. This match is going to take me an hour to watch at this rate. It just keeps going too. Asuka goes for a suplex and just throws Yokota over the top rope instead and then misses with a tope and eats shit into the concrete. I try and avoid play by play in these reviews but all these spots FUCKING RULE. The theme of Asuka going for crazy dives and them missing leads right into the finish as she tries a kneedrop off the top but misses and gets picked off with a German suplex for the pin. Holy shit, this was awesome. I was popping stuff in my house. This is on that rare tier of matches where I’m reacting like a fan. Where I’m so fucking invested in everything that’s happening that I’m forgetting to analyse stuff. Even with the slightly loose strikes in the early going this is still an elite match. Arguably up there with the greatest of all time and a country mile ahead of anything else, anywhere in the world at this time. *****
You earned that massive trophy Jaguar!
The best wrestling show of all time to this point? Almost certainly. You could argue this as being the best wrestling show of the entire decade. I’m struggling to think of one better.