To those uninitiated the much respected website Death Valley Driver Video Review is putting together a list of 1001 matches to see before you die called the DVDVR 1001. This is my project where I am reviewing every match in the DVDVR 1001, continuing with #14,
This is for the vacant All Japan Women’s Pro-Wrestling Junior Heavyweight Championship.
Watching earlier Joshi is always an experience. Especially when you reach the time period of the late 1970s into the early 1980s. It’s right before the big boom, at least in terms of availability, of the mid-1980s. This is also the period that took place on the dawn of the Joshi style of the late 1980s to early 1990s becoming more solidified. In that sense a match like this is a great time piece because it shows so much of what Joshi would become, while still feeling trapped in what Joshi, and women’s wrestling in general, had been for oh so many years.
This match features Rimi Yokota versus Chino Sato, which is pretty much a perfect match-up for this place and time. Yokota is indeed the soon to be Jaguar Yokota, who some still hold up as one of the best workers to ever step into a wrestling ring. Yokota is very much a wrestler as athlete. That’s all too obvious in the amount of times she bridges to escape a Lateral Press. It’s a surefire way to pop the crowd who look at pro wrestling as an athletic endeavor. On the other side of the coin you have Sato, who while athletic herself is very much playing up the more feminine side of being a pro wrestler. She launches her body, treats it as a weapon, seems to be out of control, and yet the entire time carries herself much in the way one would expect a glamour wrestler of the 1950s to carry herself.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I have seen very little of early Yokota and this is maybe the second Sato match I have ever seen. Perhaps my take on their roles within the feminine strata are way off. That’s very likely, but I can only work with what I see in this match, have seen previously, and the interpretations I have formed. Knowing that, I ended up finding Sato versus Yokota to be a deeply flawed yet eminently interesting match to watch. A mishmash of ideas, styles, eras, and approach that is rarely seen in modern pro wrestling.
The largest flaw in the match may also be the match’s biggest strength. A difficult feat to pull off for sure, but the match manages to pull off that feat in spades. This isn’t a whole match so much as it is a collection of ideas that have been turned into individual segments. The segments don’t add up to a greater whole with a greater purpose, but they still make for interesting viewing. Watching them decide to crowd brawl is interesting; even more interesting is watching Yokota take a cracker of a chair shot straight to the back of her neck. It’s very interesting watching the various segments play out, even if I know the brawling won’t go anywhere else or the early leg work will be quickly forgotten.
The crowd reaction is something as well. At one point Sato hits back to back Powerbombs, and the crowd remains deathly silent. This may be out of respect, or it may be that they have no idea how to process what they are seeing. The Powerbomb itself isn’t the issue, but its two women who have spent a match working holds, then hitting Suplexes, and now they are hitting big Powerbombs. I hate to sound like a broken record, but there’s no better word to describe what Sato and Yokota are doing than interesting.
By no means is this a perfect match, or even a great match. Heck, I’m not even sure if it’s a good match when all is said and done. I was engaged by this match; the way it was structured drew me into the action in a way I wasn’t expecting. The ending of the match is the bow that fits the overall package the best. Yokota hits a Butterfly Suplex and as she attempts a Lateral Press Sato is squirming to and fro. The referee completely ignores this and starts counting even though Sato’s shoulders aren’t on the mat and keeps counting to a three count even though her shoulders are never truly on the mat. It’s a surreal moment, and obvious botch if ever there were one. That being said, it’s an interesting moment in a match that is a collection of interesting moments.