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Matt Talbot



Larval Joshi

Recently, I started watching more Joshi Puroresu or Japanese Women's Wrestling. I used to just have a match here or there that showed up on a Best of... Comp. In the past couple of weeks, I have bought some pure Joshi tapes like the DreamSlams and Big Egg Universe. I thought I would write a column at this point in my Joshi experience, the larval stage, looking into Joshi Puroresu. Perhaps in the future months, I could write another column with those contemporary views on Joshi and we could see how they have changed. Anyway, let's look at the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

The Good: Where do I start? Joshi is a rather unique beast, indeed. On any given card, you are likely to find many different styles. You will have women like Manami Toyota taking it to the air, women like Dynamite Kansai working extremely stiffly, and so forth. In fact, many of the female wrestlers can work more than one style. I saw Manami Toyota in an Explosion Death Match and Mayumi Ozaki in a Double Hell Barbed Wire match. There will be something for everybody in a Joshi event. The women are not slouches either. Everybody works hard in all the matches I have seen and even if the end result is not sublime, they can still put out a good product. Even the younger wrestlers are busting their butts out there. Joshi, in my view, is more for the people who like good athletic competition. That does, of course, mean that if you are more of a fan of the Entertainment in Sports Entertainment, then perhaps Joshi is not for you. But for people who are more traditional fans (not that there is anything wrong with that) or have balanced tastes between the two sides, then you can easily enjoy Joshi.

The Bad: Where do I start? Well, perhaps this is just me, but with the garishly bright costumes that these women wear, it is sometimes hard to take them seriously. I run into the same problem with Lucha Libre, but just to see these human rainbows of colours running around, chopping each other, and whatnot, it is almost comical. There is one wrestler named Eagle Sawai who (in the only match I have seen her in) had her hair sticking several feet vertically into the air. If HHH or The Rock were to do that people would not take them as seriously and, as such, I find the same effect with the Joshi girls. However, it is Akira Hokuto (who some call the greatest wrestler ever) who is the biggest perpetrator of this. She walks with some weird stick in her mouth and wears this UGLY mask. She has this huge wig with white hair. Thankfully, she does not wrestle with those items on. Still, it just does not help paint her as a true competitor. Adding to this "hard to take seriousness"ness was the ultra-realism that some women portrayed. This is not unlike the way that the Scott Hall drunk angle bombed, people do not want uber-realism. The biggest example I see of this is when a Joshi SuperStar does a scoop slam, she has to set it up like a vertical suplex first and then do the scoop slam to get that added leverage. It makes the ladies look weaker, because even dolts like Hulk Hogan and Roddy Piper can do a run of the mill scoop slam without having to set up an extra maneuver. Another example of this is when a wrestler wants to do a huricanrana, they have to do this weird running senton into their opponent. They run at their opponent and, instead of just jumping onto their shoulders and doing the 'rana, they somersault into them and then do a sit-up into a huricanrana position. Then, they do the HuriC, although it does get countered more times than actually done. These moves seem superfluous to me and make it harder for me to take the women as serious as the men. In addition to that, there is another reason why it is hard to take them seriously. They are always making noise when they wrestle. Even when they are in rest holds, they are grunting and panting. If these are the world class athletes that they are supposed to be, would not they be able to wrestle without getting tired so quickly. This is not as bad as the other two reasons, but still it just gets to me. You do not see Misawa and Kawada grunting 3 minutes into a match.

Another part of The Bad is the continual sloppiness. My theory is that this stems from the fact that there were many organizations (AJW, FMW, LLPW) that were working together on these inter-promotions matches, so many wrestlers did not usually wrestle against each other. The timing of the moves was sometimes off, due to this lack of familiarity and so that lead to sloppiness. One wrestler would go for a German suplex, but the other would not jump at the right time and so the German would end up going to the side instead of straight back or something like that. There were so many times that two wrestlers would screw up a sunset flip, because one woman would not fall back enough. The women had not worked together enough and were sometimes not on the same page. Now me, I like really crisp wrestling. I like stiff, crisp, fast-paced maneuvers working somewhere. Take the crisp out of that equation and it lessens the enjoyment factour. I did notice that as you went up the card, the sloppiness got less and less pronounced, but it was present. That is something of a compliment to the older wrestlers. They were able to keep it straight even when presented with the adversity of working with somebody they were not familiar with. Moreover, they were still able to churn out extremely good matches (see Hokuto v. Kandori).

There is another part of The Bad that relates more to the younger Joshi stars. From what I understand, it was common for the younger wrestlers to use very few moves so as to learn the basics of wrestling. Once they had mastered the fundamentals, they could start pulling out the tombstone piledrivers onto tables and the Ocean Cyclone Suplexes. As such, they would use a lot of the same moves over and over and over again, like dropkicks or cross body blocks. Even without a singular wrestler, they would use the same move repeatedly. One wrestler just kept doing bulldogs, while another did a lot of these weird butt press Lou Thesz presses. This would be a sparkling opportunity to work to a big climax of the match where the opponent counters "their move" for the win. They never really did this though. If I were a wrestler and, watching my opponent wrestle, I noticed that (s)he always did the same exact move, I would practice a million different counters for that move. They are wasting an opportunity to spruce up the match. In addition, when you see the same move over and over again, it can get kind of boring.

The Ugly: Aja Kong; Bull Nakano; Bat Yoshinga; Combat Toyota. If any of those wrestlers actually read this column (which is so unlikely), then dutifully I do apologize.

The Neutral: This can be good or bad depending on your view on this controversial topic. There is a ton of head dropping that I have seen in Joshi. I saw a barbed wire match between Megumi Kudo and Mayumi Ozaki, which I referred to earlier, and I counted no less than 2 TD '91ish type maneuvers. Plus, the finisher in that match was this extremely innovative and hellacious move, which can only be described as a Backslide Tiger Driver '91 or something like that. It is hard to explain and, although really cool, spiked the girl right on her neck. Maybe this has to do with the sloppiness/timing issue I talked about, but a lot of the suplexes that these women did ended up slamming the girl right on her neck like a Dangerous Backdrop. The finisher to a Manami Toyota/Toshiyo Yamada v. Megumi Kudo/Combat Toyota match involved Manami doing an Ocean Cyclone Suplex on Megumi that landed TD '91 style from far higher in the air then your garden variety TD '91. I would just like to point out to all the people that lament the supposed rise in head dropping in AJ that perhaps it is the influence of Joshi, a fan favourite on the 'net. Personally, I love it, but that is just little ole' me.

My view of Joshi at this point is that it is really good, but, like just about everything else you will hear about on the 'net, overrated. I did not consider the Hokuto v. Kandori match that I referenced earlier to be ***** and I especially do not see Hokuto as the best ever (although her blade job could be the best ever). Of course, this is really early in my Joshi career. I'll check back several months down the road to see how I am doing. As for recommendations, I would recommend purchasing Joshi, not only to get a taste of real women's wrestling, but also because there are many really good matches. Just do not expect the world of it.

Anyway, if you have any comments, concerns, complaints, questions, or just wanna chat about Tori............Power, then please by all means email me at

P.S. Please do not send me threatening emails saying that I do not have the qualifications to make a judgement on Joshi, because I have not seen enough. This is, of course, merely my opinion and your mileage may vary. I am looking at you, Doug Hill. Thank you.

Matt Talbot

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