One of the most consistent topics of conversation amongst pro wrestling fans these days is Dave Meltzer’s star rating scale. Like him or loath him, the WON journalist has the world talking when he awards five or more stars to a bout, giving it his seal of approval. Regardless of where in the world these bouts take place though or what makes each of them so great, there’s one running theme throughout them all – every person involved is a male.
For over twenty years, each match awarded these high ratings have exclusively involved men. It seems as though Meltzer has completely fallen out of watching joshi (Japanese female) wrestling in recent years, and does not deem any Western women’s wrestling match thus far worthy of five or more stars. In addition, he has been widely criticised in the past year for some of his comments towards specific female wrestlers, and for reporting sensitive news stories about victims of abuse at the hands of wrestlers in very unprofessional ways, releasing sensitive information and failing to reach out to the women involved.
As WON haven’t given a five-star rating to any female since the 90’s, five-star matches are pretty much always talked about as an exclusively male honour. In fact, the top search result for a list of Meltzer five-star matches does not contain one female match whatsoever, yet dozens of women’s wrestling matches got the full five stars in the 80’s and 90’s.
So, as sadly many of you may not have seen or heard about any of these amazing five-star matches featuring some of the best joshi competitors ever, I’ve decided to put a spotlight on them to let all of you lovely readers know about the incredible action you’ve been missing out on. This is no means a celebration of the person who gave the ratings, it’s simply to acknowledge those that are overlooked, and to make more people aware of some of the greatest in-ring performers there have ever been. Here are 10 Five-Star Women’s Wrestling Matches You Need to Watch.
Kyoko Inoue and Takako Inoue vs. Mayumi Ozaki and Cutie Suzuki – AJW April 2nd1993
It seems as though April 1993 was an incredible month for Japanese women’s tag team wrestling (try and say that ten times faster), as two matches from AJW earned five-star ratings from the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, and one even went on to be declared the MOTY. Although this match wasn’t deemed the best of 1993, this bout between Kyoko and Takako Inoue, and Mayumi Ozaki and Cutie Suzuki is still absolutely incredible (fun fact: Cutie Suzuki had her own Japan-exclusive women’s wrestling video game named after her for the Sega Megadrive). Starting off with a forty second giant swing that would give Cesaro a run for his money, this match is fast-paced, non-stop action from start to finish.
Manami Toyota and Toshiyo Yamada vs. Dynamite Kansai and Mayumi Ozaki – AJW April 11th 1993
Only two women’s matches have won the Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s Match of the Year Award, and both of them feature Manami Toyota. For any loyal readers of my blog, you will know how much I adore this woman’s work. In my opinion, Toyota is one of the best to ever step between the ropes, and one of my personal favourite wrestlers of all time. In fact, I could easily make a top ten of just Toyota’s five-star matches – she has seventeen of them after all.
The first in a trilogy of all-time classic tag team bouts, everything about this match is fantastic: the athleticism on display in this is astounding, especially by Toyota, with brilliant heel work from both Kansai and Ozaki throughout, stellar teamwork and double team moves displayed by both teams, world-class selling of moves from everybody involved, possibly the best series of dropkicks I’ve ever seen, and Toyota’s ring gear looks like something straight out of a Winter Olympics’ figure skating final, it’s wonderful. Choose not to watch this, and you will be missing out on perhaps one of the greatest tag team matches in history.
Manami Toyota vs. Kyoko Inoue: Hair vs. Hair – AJW April 25th 1992
Here we have arguably one of the most iconic joshi matches of all time. When Meltzer reviewed this match back in 1992, he stated:
“These two are probably a decade ahead of their time when it comes to putting together a match. It was so good, in some ways too good, in that the people were just in awe of it to the point they could barely react. The moves were all new so people had no idea what was coming next. Toyota’s performance in this match, and for 1992 in general, can’t even be given words to describe it although she is the outstanding wrestler of 1992, male or female. The only way I can describe this match is to say that it had the same impact as the first time I saw Tiger Mask vs. Dynamite Kid’s match in 1982, in that they were years ahead of their time. Toyota won with a Japanese Ocean suplex, which is a new kind of german suplex. *****+++”
Toyota and Inoue had a chemistry together that comes along once in a generation. Whenever they were in the ring together, either as allies or as opponents, they created magic, with this being one of their earliest examples of brilliance. This bout is just sequence after sequence of amazing, revolutionary action that is hard to believe is from 1992. Watch in awe of these two legends.
Akira Hokuto vs. Shinobu Kandori – AJPW April 2nd 1993
If you want to watch a captivating, brutally violent war fuelled by vicious hatred and gore, you need to check this out. Although it does take a while to truly get going, this bout is personal, painful, and extremely physical. Although their hatred for one another is visible throughout, they have an in-ring chemistry that makes them the perfect rivals, clicking with each other throughout.
After tortoring each other with everything they have, they’re left shrouded in their own blood, and you are left feeling like you have just witnessed a truly savage brawl that most bouts cannot compete with.
Dynamite Kansai, Cutie Suzuki, Mayumi Ozaki and Hikari Fukuoka
vs. Aja Kong, Sakie Hasegawa, Kyoko Inoue and Takako Inoue – JWP July 31st 1993
Quite easily the best four-on-four match you will ever see. For the time, this was practically JWPW’s eight top stars all fighting in one match together. The key to this bout is not only their talents in the ring, but how they use the dynamic and stipulations of the match to create suspense and excitement.
Rather than a regular tag match, this begins with four five minute singles matches, with each match involving a different member of each team. Each match has to last the full five minutes regardless of whether a pinfall or submission takes place. Each fall is worth one point. Once those first twenty minutes were up, forty minutes of tag action began, with the team that had earnt the most points by the end of the hour winning the match overall. It’s a unique bout that makes for fantastic viewing.
Manami Toyota Vs. Aja Kong AJPW March 26th 1995
This match is worth watching for the pure brutality alone, featuring a barrage of some of the stiffest strikes, piledrivers, slams, and submissions I have ever witnessed in a wrestling match. Toyota’s ability to absorb Kong’s constant barbaric punishment is at times hard to watch, yet always impressive, much like the picture perfect suplexes she performs throughout the bout. As great as this match is, and it is more than worth your time, it’s arguably not even the best one-on-one match Manami was ever involved in, that’s just how incredible of a pro wrestler she was.
Chigusa Nagayo vs. Lioness Asuka – AJPW February 26th 1987
Considering he once described her as “the most popular woman wrestler of all-time”, it should come as no surprise that Dave Meltzer gave a few five-star match ratings to Chigusa Nagayo during her illustrious career. In a run that includes starring in a BBC documentary, multiple top ten pop songs, appearing in WCW during the height of its popularity, and starting her own wrestling promotion, it all began in All Japan Pro Wrestling, where in 1987, she had her first five-star match against a woman her career would forever be linked to. In the early 80s, Chigusa Nagayo and Lioness Asuka formed The Crush Gals, a duo so ridiculously popular that they expanded beyond the world of pro wrestling.
Despite having a highly successful music career together, The Crush Gals in-ring work was not impacted. They were drawing record TV ratings on AJW’s weekly television show, and inspired so many future Japanese female wrestlers in the process. In 1987, the two partners faced off together in a five-star epic. Even at this young age, Nagayo had achieved more mainstream and critical success than most wrestlers could ever dream of, and she was only 22 years old. Simply amazing.
Lioness Asuka, Mika Komatsu, Kazue Nagahori, Mitsuko Nishiwaki, Etsuko Mita, and Sachiko Nakamura vs. Chigusa Nagayo, Yumiko Hotta, Mika Takahashi, Mika Suzuki, Yachiyo Hirata, and Yumi Ogura- AJPW December 6th 1987
Right, now this is where things get a little complicated. You’ve probably never heard of this match before, right? Well, that shouldn’t come as any surprise as it’s now impossible to watch in full. Of the approximately fifty minute match length, it seems only seventeen minutes of footage remains of the entire twelve-woman tag. In fact, this five-star bout is so obscure, I could find barely any information regarding some of those involved, other than that Etsuko Mita is one of the youngest people to ever be involved in a five-star match at just eighteen years old.
Due to the lack of footage, it’s difficult to really comment on the quality of this match, other than the surviving segment of the match is absolute chaos, in a good way. What’s more, it’s practically impossible to tell who most of the members in this match are, unless you speak Japanese of course. Don’t let these negatives fool you though, this match definitely got the full five-stars, and Meltzer is even quoted as saying in The Observer: “The main event was by far the greatest match I’ve ever seen live. In fact, I’d say without question it was better than any match ever held in the United States in the history of this business.”
Not bad going for a group of competitors only just into their adult years. If this match really is as wonderful as this review states, it seems like an absolute crime that we may never be able to watch it in full ever again.
Devil Masami vs. Bull Nakano April 18th 1993 JWP
Two of the most dangerous and feared competitors for their time faced off against each other, and it was awesome. Long holds, big hits, and a screaming crowd throughout. Also, watching the state of Bull’s incredible hair alter over time is fascinating.
Akira Hokuto and Manami Toyota vs. Toshiyo Yamada and Kyoko Inoue – AJPW December 12th 1993
At the 1993 AJW Tag League finals, a round robin style tag team tournament, Yamada and Inoue defeated the points leaders at the time, Toyota and Hokuto, in a bout rated five stars. With this victory, Yamada and Inoue had enough points to qualify for the tournament finals… which just happened to be on the very same night.
So after having one five-star match together, these four women had to face off once again, and guess what? They had another five-star match! These participants are the only people in history to currently hold this honour, and it is a testament to how good all of them were.
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