February 25, 1981/Showa 56
At quick glance it’s easy to tell that this will be an important title match for the immediate future but this match is also a major changing of the guard for AJW from their first stars to the eventual rise of some of the biggest wrestlers of the new decade. I’ll start first with the reigning WWWA champion, Jackie Sato was a part of one of the most popular tag teams in Japanese wrestling history and is one of the most popular acts to ever wrestle in the company. Her and Maki Ueda were put together to form the Beauty Pair in 1976, and though not an immediate success they quickly became the top tag team and soon started to record music that shot their popularity and mainstream presence to unseen heights for women’s wrestling. After the release of their first single in November of 1976, “Kake Me Guru Seishun”, they found themselves selling a reported 800,000 copies and appearing on episodes of Fuji Television’s long-running music show Yoru No Hit Studio alongside other top female pop stars of the time like Pink Lady and Candys. A year later Beauty Pair and other members of AJW would star in a movie that served as a biopic about the team and release two more albums, the massive success of Beauty Pair would make the team a template for AJW on how to make stars in the future with the biggest products of the pop singing formula being the also massively popular Crush Gals. Despite the popularity, AJW had their retirement rule and in 1979 Jackie Sato defeated her teammate, Maki Ueda, in a retirement match that disbanded Beauty Pair for good. Jackie would continue on as a successful singles star highlighted by her long-time feud with Monster Ripper and would also release some solo songs in the remaining years of her AJW career.
Now with both wrestlers in the ring the announcer introduces the last three women to have held the WWWA championship before Jackie’s reign; between April 1975 to July 1977 the WWWA belt had been held between Jumbo Miyamoto, Mariko Akagi, and Maki Ueda. Jumbo Miyamoto became the 13th official WWWA champion by defeating Miyoko Hoshino on September 11, 1973 but in my opinion her third title reign is the one with the most historic impact even if it wasn’t intentional at the time. When Jumbo Miyamoto’s third championship reign was ended by a young Mach Fumiake in 1975, the WWWA belt would only be held by three foreigners afterwards (Monster Ripper, La Galactica a.k.a. Pantera Sureña, and Awesome Kong) before this the title was commonly passed between a Japanese wrestler and a foreign talent on tour. Jumbo started her career before AJW was created and decided to join the promotion and became a star of the 70s alongside Mariko Akagi.
Mariko Akagi made her wrestling debut in 1970 in the newly formed AJW and was an early standout due to her technical wrestling ability. She held the WWWA singles title twice in the 70s but saw more success in tag team wrestling, holding the WWWA tag team belts with Jumbo Miyamoto multiple times and then in her late career became a heel in the team Silver Pair with Silver Satan; they were the antagonists to Golden Pair in the same way Black Pair was to the Beauty Pair. Mariko also had the rare distinction of having wrestled in AJW for 9 years which is a record that would stand until Jaguar Yokota’s original retirement in 1986.
The last special guest to get introduced is Maki Ueda, the other half of Beauty Pair, who’s seen chit-chatting with Jackie during the early match announcements. She held the WWWA belt twice before Jackie ever won the title, and unlike her former teammate once she retired Maki never made a return to the ring and rarely participated in the music industry as she wasn’t very into singing and the idol life during her time in Beauty Pair (a little bit like how Lioness Asuka didn’t like having to deal with idol life along with her wrestling career, and also like Asuka the two were the weaker singers of their teams).
Now we’re left with a young wrestler by the name of Rimi Yokota who up to this point had won the tag titles with Ayumi Hori and became the inaugural AJW Champion by defeating her senior, Nancy Kumi. At the time of this match the young Rimi Yokota is only 4 years into her career and has just two secondary title reigns to her name, unbeknownst to the people in the stands and to an extent maybe even the AJW brass, Rimi would become Jaguar and develop into one of the most talented and important wrestlers in the entire lifespan of AJW and joshi wrestling beyond. She originally wrestled from 1977 to 1986, after her first retirement she became a head trainer at the AJW dojo and would help teach many of the stars of the approaching Heisei era. Jaguar would also be a part of one of the first major apuesta matches in joshi wrestling when she lost her hair to La Galactica in 1983, a part of the growing importance lucha libre would have on the joshi wrestling style and talent in the future.
After the bell Rimi looks like someone that’s a little past their depth, she’s the smaller of the two and is the one trying to push the pace in the early minutes but Jackie slows it down by kicking her down or controlling a lockup. It feels like Rimi is stuck trying to fight someone in a weight class above her, Jackie is seemingly able to kick her around and rough her up anytime the two grapple leading Rimi to eventually rely more on her swiftness to try and get any advantage as the match progresses. Anytime it looks like Jackie might be in trouble she uses her strength to overcome the problem and regain control of the match, she’s controlling the ground game and any attempt Rimi makes to lock in a simple wrist lock Jackie calmly works her way out of it and goes back into bully mode. Despite this Rimi keeps finding a way to the ropes or an escape that gives her enough time to try to find a weakness in Jackie’s offense. About halfway through the match Rimi rolls out to the apron and starts a game of chicken with Jackie; the two stare at each other with the ref counting the ring out and eventually having to get tough on the two to stay separated enough that the action can continue in-ring. This is when something finally clicks for Rimi and she starts to wrestle dirtier, she flips Jackie to the ground after stomping on both of her feet and starts some small joint manipulation and she’s able to start doing some serious damage to Jackie. Jackie tries to call over the ref to complain about her fingers getting twisted but she’s soon back on her feet and has her hand thrown into the ropes and stomped on by the challenger. For the first time in the match Jackie is vulnerable and gets thrown into some chairs, cradling her injured hand as she gets back into the ring with the now aggressive Rimi. Jackie gets back to form and lays in some serious stomps on the young wrestler but none of it is enough as Rimi is still somehow able to escape her submissions and slip out of pin attempts.
We’re in the final stretch of the match and Jackie is starting to look fatigued, Rimi is able to suplex her twice and when that doesn’t work she drags Jackie onto the floor and throws her into chairs again to greater effect than before. Earlier one of the commentators mentioned the importance of stamina in title matches like this, the toll of the match seems to be catching up with Jackie but in a last gasp of breath she shows a string of offense that culminates in a backbreaker that almost lands her a win but before a pin count can start she moves Rimi into a bow & arrow. Jackie’s impatience and growing frustration is ultimately the cause of her loss, she lost the composure she had in the first half of the match and let herself get beaten once her hand got worked over by Rimi. Rimi Yokota wins the WWWA championship for the first time and after a quick handshake Jackie exits the ring and lets the new champion have her moment in the spotlight, Jackie Sato will retire from AJW three months later. The new champion is given the belt, victory documents, and hoists a trophy that’s almost as tall as her; Yokota’s first reign will last for 801 days when she’s defeated by the aforementioned La Galactica in 1983.
This is a passing of the torch that’ll lead AJW into the 80s that’ll feature bigger stars and more business but is also a somber moment as we start to see less of the big players from the formation of AJW and its first “golden era”. It’s not the last that we’ll ever see them, Jackie Sato, Nancy Kumi and others will come out of retirement in different points in the 80s to join brand new promotions like JWP or be like Mach Fumiake and have acting careers, even Jaguar Yokota returns from retirement to wrestle in Big Egg Wrestling Universe and joins the hot trend of creating her own promotion in 1995. It’s more that as a western fan of late Showa-era joshi wrestling it’s too often that people skip over this time for the more colorful and explosive 90s when much of that was built off the back of these wrestlers.
With the exception of the movie poster and the picture of Mariko Akagi from the movie trailer, all images in the post are from this amazing blog https://ameblo.jp/kimumasa992/ I heavily recommend going through and reading the blog posts from this old time joshi fan, I’ve learned a lot about the era and I suggest y’all do the same.