Dynamite Kansai, Mayumi Ozaki, Hikari Fukuoka, & Cuty Suzuki vs. Aja Kong, Kyoko Inoue, Sakie Hasegawa, & Takako Inoue (JWP Thunder Queen Battle in Yokohama 7/31/93)

Match Reviews

This review was commissioned by Mark Buckeldee over on my Ko-fi account.

Obligatory rundown of the ruleset here, since it is a one of a kind stipulation. It’s a 60 minute Iron Man match where the team with the most falls wins the day. The bout is separated into two sections: First Attack and Second Attack. First Attack sees the competitors pair off in four one-on-one matches with a 5 minute time limit each. Then, Second Attack is just 40 minute eight woman tag where teams gather up points towards their total score.

It’s not a perfect thing. Just stylistically, joshi’s one I’ve always struggled with a little bit and some of the reasons can be seen here. Some of those strikes don’t land as clean as I’d want, there’s a much bigger emphasis on the continuous rhythm of action than letting some things breathe. These are generally standard across a lot of the joshi I’ve seen, and I’ve come to accept most of it as a stylistic quirk that I can look past more often than not.

And a match like this makes looking past those smaller flaws real easy.

Between the ruleset and general construction of the match, it is one of pro wrestling’s greatest ever “team game” matches in history. There are better tag matches than this that don’t ever quite capture that same atmosphere of collaboration and sport at play here. There’s a few things at work making it so. The ruleset is one, yes, but also the innate interpromotional tension does this bout so many favors. AJW spends most of late 92-93 running these interpromotional feuds, and the JWP rivalry has already produced some of the best wrestling of the decade (the Dream Rush 92 main event being a personal favorite). But the execution of the match too, makes it incredibly clear that functioning as an actual team takes great precedence over any individual capabilities.

One of the ways it achieves this so beautifully is by making defense arguably a bigger part of the match’s internal psychology than offense. The vast majority of the Second Attack portion centers on each team struggling to find ways to neutralize the other team’s ability to break up a fall. Even when one person gets isolated and a team is able to go through a big run of offense, someone’s always waiting in the wings to disrupt the pin attempt. What results are these big moments where a team will try to block the path to the pin attempt and the women just crashing into each other in order to break things up.

From a big picture perspective too, there’s so many narrative beats that the match totally nails.

For example, it’s such a great choice to have the first fall of the match come from Fukuoka sneaking a pinfall on Hasegawa while the latter’s going for leg work. It immediately creates an atmosphere that lasts for the entire match that finishes can come at basically any point. There’s this very tangible sense that they sustain for the full 60 minutes that any and every bit of offense could be the one to shift the tides, and that’s a pretty astonishing accomplishment all things considered.

From there, the big choices come from centering Aja Kong as the machine on her side of the team. Aja’s is easily the standout performance on the entire match, constantly feeling like this massive game changer that keeps her team in the lead for most of this. Before the bell, she’s already all up in Dynamite Kansai’s face, and that makes it all the more thrilling when in the final 1v1 segment of First Attack, Aja knocks Kansai the fuck out just seconds into their match. Later on, she’s just this dominant bully punishing away at the smaller members of the opposite team. The few times she and Kansai get to properly lock horns are so thrilling, with Kansai being JWP’s resident bruiser being able to really take it to Aja and push her in ways the others can’t. It’s honest to god a performance from Aja that makes me sit back and truly think, “Well, wow, that’s obviously just one of the best wrestlers that’s ever lived.”

That being said, another entirely accidental story blossoms from how domineering Aja is in this match. At one point, about halfway through, with AJW still having the lead, Aja rushes in to break up a pinfall Ozaki has on Kyoko. Aja accidentally kicks Ozaki’s head right into Kyoko’s leading to Kyoko getting busted open and Ozaki’s eye pretty much immediately swelling up.

It’s the former that’s so key to the match though. With Kyoko now bleeding, the JWP team finally have something they can focus on and the coordination they work with around this cut feels so natural and correct that one can barely believe it stems from an actual injury. The JWP team work extremely hard to finally get Kyoko back in the ring, and when they do, they really work her over and hope to get the pinfall to tie up the score on her. It’s a really brilliant structural choice to deny them that early rally, even running big offense all in a row, and standing guard to play defense, Team AJW just kind of bowls through them to cut off the momentum of the comeback, and really force them to keep fighting back for it. Again, it almost feels like it grows from the moment itself, because when JWP do finally find the momentum to neutralize the other team and finally rally back, it’s Kansai finally dropping Kyoko that evens up the falls. It’s pretty much a perfect narrative pay off, not only that JWP were forced to really double down on their strategy to go after the most damaged member of the opposition, but also that it’s Aja’s own heavy striking that caused the injury to her teammate in the first place. Beautiful karmic storytelling, and all from an accidental knocking of the heads.

That sense of defense being more important than offense plays into the finish as well. With the points tied up, team JWP are increasing the pace, scrambling to score that final winning fall as time’s running out on the clock. At less than a minute left, Takako nails Ozaki with a bridging suplex and Team AJW rushes into the opposite corner to block Team JWP from breaking up the fall. Ozaki escapes though, and while Team AJW is still tangled up with their opposition, she sneaks the dragon suplex to get the deciding fall with seconds to spare. It’s a breathtaking victory, fully turning the tables on the bigshot invaders and timed to perfection as well.

That being said, it’s still a 60 minute match and those are just truly difficult to get perfect. Most notably here, JWP tying up the match by finally making their plan to go after Kyoko feels so much like the big emotional payoff that the final scramble for the winning point never entirely matches up to. The eventual destination with Ozaki sneaking that final pin rocks, but those final minutes getting there don’t always live up to what came before.

But again, these are generally minor criticisms of a match that’s greater than the sum of its parts. Very much an example of the forest being too beautiful to bother quibbling about the trees.

IS IT BETTER THAN 6/3/94? My criticisms of both matches are similar, specifically in that it has a not-so-perfect structure and that one can occasionally feel the minor dips in both. While I would argue that what Thunder Queen Battle achieves is more singular and more impressive at the end of the day, my personal inclination to the stylings of Kings Road win out on this occasion. There’s just a much clearer laser focus with 6/3/94 and its tragic story that can’t help but win the day this time around.

Rating: ****1/2

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