December 6, 1993/Heisei 4
This match is the second singles encounter between Akira Hokuto and Shinobu Kandori in the ongoing Hokuto vs LLPW feud. Both this and their first match in April of the same year received high praise from domestic and international audiences and either one are often included in lists of the best women’s/joshi wrestling matches of all time, the matches provided career-defining moments for both women and are highlights for the last major era for joshi wrestling. Violence was not new to joshi wrestling but this kind of hatred shown between the two wrestlers feels different from the extraordinary and dazzling spectacle of Chigusa Nagayo vs Dump Matsumoto or the cutting edge of Bull Nakano vs Aja Kong in the cage from Wrestlemarinepiad 1990, joshi wrestling was finishing its transition from hybrid idol entertainment to firmly existing in the same sports space as men’s promotions. Hokuto fighting Kandori feels grounded in reality while also feeling like a battle between two all-time greats, there are no weapons, no gimmicks, not even much blood after the first 10 minutes, but both women come into the match with a history of hatred and pettiness that leads them to face each other with a great sense of urgency.
A major Japanese wrestling company having a main event between some of the hottest wrestlers around go just over twenty minutes is unfortunately a rarity in today’s culture. Years of Bushiroad pandering to a specific critic and his copycats entire audiences has created a warped idea of what makes a wrestling match great and emotionally charged. To think that an “epic” match must follow a rigid multi-act structure like a Roman drama -escalation can only be reached once the opposing forces have completed a period of stalemate in the form of move countering, or the dreaded stagnation during an opening act in order to build up tension or whatever bullshit some schmuck from twitter will excuse Okada’s continued body degradation with- is an activity for those that seem to lack opinions that weren’t curated for them by popular talking heads in the pro wrestling space. While pro wrestling lives in the sphere of physical performance not too far away from stage performance I believe it has much more freedom than theater to express basic and complex human emotions, because while prose is one of man’s most powerful tools for expression, violence can be universally understood.
To call Utami vs Syuri the current generation’s version of Hokuto vs Kandori, you can pick which match to compare it to, is exactly the kind of hyperbole I expect from Dave Meltzer after years of being the official hype man for the Bushiroad product. Stardom didn’t suddenly become a great promotion after purchase by Bushiroad, they’ve long been home to some of the best talent in joshi wrestling since it started in 2011, but when you’re in their pocket you can be convinced to say anything about bang average matches that are often too long for their purpose and hilarious amounts of time-limit draws. Akira Hokuto, Shinobu Kandori, and many of the women who wrestled in the 1990s have something that is seemingly not allowed in Stardom that will forever make any broad comparison untrue, the great wrestlers of the 1990s all had an aura of danger that no one in the sanitized product of Stardom has. Even the idol wrestlers like Takako Inoue and Cutie Suzuki could flip a switch and feel like they could destroy anyone that crossed their paths, being able to make the audience feel like anything could happen at any given second and create an all out war between any wrestlers involved in the match, and even those ringside, is a tone that is sorely lacking from all of the stables currently make up the Stardom roster. For a match from the current generation of wrestlers to be the new Hokuto vs Kandori it would require a build-up built on hostility and a match with no fluff, just constant fighting and bullying that conveys to the audience just how much these two women and their respective factions hate each other and without a doubt in my mind I know that something with that emotional weight won’t happen organically in the Stardom kayfabe.
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