Part 14 of an in depth look at the growth of women’s wrestling, from noted ring historian The Phantom of the Ring.
The Phantom of the Ring
Lipstick, Dynamite and Glowworms Part 14
The Age of Garbage Wrestling Hits the Women
When Atsushi Onita began his Frontier Martial-arts Wrestling in October 1989, he decided to make his company as diverse as possible. And that included having a Women’s division. His women’s roster was thin including such as Eriko “Shark” Tsuchiya, Witch Warrior, Kumiko “Tsuppari Mack” Matsuda, Miwa Sato, Yuki Morimatsu, Yoshiko “Crusher” Maedomari and Despina Montagas, but the talent roster was thin, both in number and talent, and Onita was looking for someone to build the women’s division around.
He found that such person in Megumi Kudo. Kudo (born Megumi Takayama, September 20, 1969, in Kashigaya City, Saitama Prefecture), was accepted to the AJW dojo at the age of 16. At this time, the AJW dojo was the hardest place in the world to crash. There were hundreds of applicants, brought in by the overwhelming success of the Crush Gals. The one thing necessary was an athletic resume, and to Kudo’s credit, she was a star basketball player in high school. She survived the eight month training course. (Her fellow survivors from that class included Erica Shishedo (Aja Kong), Nobuko (Bison) Kimura, Noriyo (Combat) Toyoda, KAORU (Kaoru Maeda), Mika Takahashi, Miori (Cooga) Kamiya, Reibun Amada, Yachiyo Hirata & Darlene Ohashi.)
In March of 1988, she was released, the reason given that she had not progressed enough as a wrestler, which sounds political, since it takes some wrestlers at least five years to make significant progress. She retired from wrestling and went to work teaching kindergarten. Someone from AJW gave Kudo’s name to Onita telling him she was a diamond in the rough and had not been given a fair chance with AJW. Onita, who by this time was grasping at straws, met with Kudo and was impressed enough to make her an offer, which she accepted. Along with Kudo, two of Kudo’s AJW training classmates Noriyo “Combat” Toyoda & Reibun Amada were also added. Toyoda had retired at the end of 1988 after an unsuccessful run as the masked Dynamite Jack. She never made past the occasional mid-card level and only lasted as long as she had because she was larger than most of her opponents.
Amada was much more successful in her AJW stint; she was a solid midlevel star before leaving AJW at the end of 1989. Amada and Miori Kamiya formed a regular tag-team during that period in the late 80s when many face tag-teams were created in an attempt by to fill the void left by the retirement of the Crush Gals and Jumping Bomb Angels. But Amada and Kamiya found themselves overshadowed by other face teams such as the Firejets (Yumiko Hotta & Mitsuko Nishiwaki), Marine Wolves (Suzuka Minami & Akira Hokuto), Honey Wings (Mika Takahashi & Kaoru Maeda), Dream Orca (Toshiyo Yamada & Etsuko Mita) and the Sweethearts (Manami Toyota & Mima Shimoda). Their lack of charisma and a team name kept them a step below the top teams. However, they did manage a short run as All Japan Tag Champions by defeating The Honey Wings on March 4.1989 in Tokyo. They held the title for roughly three months, before the promotion lost patience with their inability to get over with the fans, and they ended up dropping it to Dream Orca on June 16, 1989, in Tokyo.
After a brief training period to shake off the ring rust, she made her FMW debut on March 13, 1990, teaming with Reibun Amada to defeat Miwa Sato and Yuki Morimatsu. She and Amada became a regular tag team until Amada turned on her. Kudo now became the most popular female in FMW. But her billing as top star never went to her head. She was always willing to put over lesser performers if it helped the promotion, even if it meant looking up at the lights in the end.
FMW itself was unlike anything the Japanese wrestling fans had seen. There was nothing that was considered too much, no move or match that went too far. Because Kudo always did what was best for FMW, such as being one of the only women willing to participate in crazy gimmick matches and taking bumps no one else dared take, she was quickly pushed to the top of the card.
In FMW, blood was the order of the day, and almost every match was steeped in gore. The women were not exempt. Kudo, who undoubtedly spilled more blood than any other female performer in the 1990′s, was nicknamed “Queen of the Blade.”
FMW decided to institute a Women’s title. It would be called the WWA Women’s Title, and the first champion was Combat Toyoda, who defeated Beastie the Road Warrior (Colleen Favare, formerly of G.L.O.W.) for the belt on November 5, 1990, in Tokyo.
Kudo then took the title from Toyoda on March 28, 1991, before dropping it back to her on August 17. Her biggest title victory was on February 25, 1994, when she defeated Leilani Kai for both the vacant WWA Title and the newly established FMW Women’s Independent Champion. She lost both titles to old foe Toyoda on June 19, 1994, and won them back for the 6th and last time on March 21, 1997 from Erico “Shark” Tsuchiya. She held the belts until her retirement.
During the inter promotional period of the early 90s, Kudo and Toyoda worked quite frequently with JWP and LLPW, but AJW tended to work them only occasionally because of their reputations. But as time went on, the reluctance vanished, and from 1992 to 1994 FMW was able to work several inter promotional matches with AJW.
The first big card with AJW was Dreamslam I on April 2, 1993. AJW, JWP, LLPW, EMLL and FMW came together in Yokohama to draw a sellout 16,500 fans to Yokohama Arena for an estimated $1.2 million live gate. The main event was Akira Hokuto defeating LLPW’s Shinobu Kandori in one the classic bloodbaths of all time. Kudo & Toyoda lost to Manami Toyota & Toshiyo Yamada in a match for Toyota & Yamada’s WWWA tag title, but gave a good account of themselves.
Kudo & Toyoda also took part in DreamSlam II on April 11, 1993, defeating Etsuko Mita & Mima Shimoda in solid and well-paced match with Toyoda pinning Shimoda for the win.
Kudo put both her belts on the line at FMW’s major Kawasaki Stadium show on May 5, 1994, defeating AJW’s Yumiko Hotta before a sellout crowd of 52,000 fans. Since Hotta was a major star in AJW at the time, the victory boosted Kudo’s reputation. When AJW pulled out of the inter promotional matches in 1995, Kudo was faced with what soon became a double dilemma, in that FMW, in order to secure good crowds went to a complete “garbage” style of wrestling. The retirement of Onita had left a void and Kudo tried to fill it from the women’s side. She became, in effect, the female version of Onita; selling everything for most of the match, sliced and dice by the heel, then making her comeback at the end and scoring a quick win. Unfortunately though the FMW women’s division wasn’t much of a draw, she continued to have her fans.
It gets weirder and weirder as Kudo began working crazy gimmick matches. On June 27, 1995, for instance she teamed with Toyoda against Shark Tsuchiya and Rie “Bad Nurse” Nakamura in the first women’s bats on a pole match. Kudo found herself wrapped in barbed wire then pinned by Tsuchiya. She also participated in the first ever women’s barbed wire match, teaming with Toyoda against Miwa Sato, Tsuchiya, & Nakamura. Kudo had her face pressed into the barbed wire, causing hard way juice.
FMW Women also sold out Korakuen Hall on December 22, 1995, for a Kudo vs. Shark Tsuchiya no rope barbed wire match. This match was much sicker than Kudo’s previous gimmick matches. She juiced heavily, but eventually pinned the Shark for the victory.
Combat Toyoda’s retirement match on May 5, 1996 featured her versus Kudo in what had to be the first women’s no rope electrified explosive barbed wire death match. Both women ended up being exploded, and both bled heavily from the arm. Although Kudo defeated Toyoda in 21:26 to capture the WWA Women’s title for the fifth time (and the Independent Women’s title for the third time), she didn’t get time to celebrate her victory as she was carried off on a stretcher.
With Toyoda’s retirement, FMW was really short on good workers. AJW and GAEA refused to work with FMW because of the extreme violence. But LLPW’s Shinobu Kandori was just crazy enough to feud with Kudo. Their first match, on FMW’s major year end show (December 11, 1996, at Tokyo Komazawa Olympic Park Gym) saw Kandori win with a choke sleeper. They met again in the main in the main event of LLPW’s January 5, 1997, show, as event Kandori defeated a battered and bloody Kudo. Kudo bled in this one. Kudo finally got a victory over Kandori on March 14, 1997, when she defeated her in a no rope barbed wire death match where both juiced heavily.
Kudo’s retirement match took place on April 29, 1997, against Shark Tsuchiya. It was a No ropes 200 volt double hell double barbed wire barricade double land mine glass crush death match. Simply put, the ropes were removed and replaced by 200 volt electrified, double-layered barbed wire. The ring itself was surrounded by double layers of land mines and broken glass. It almost sounds like a parody of wrestling death matches. During the match Kudo was set on fire with a fire ball. Referee Go Ito managed to put the fire out with his bare hands. Kudo managed to cover Tsuchiya for the victory after both wrestlers hit the exploding barbed wire. After the match Kudo then handed the belts to Kaori Nakayama, asking Nakayama to carry the women’s division on for her.
She officially retired in a ceremony held at Korakuen Hall on June 13, 1997, with the entire FMW roster surrounding the ring.
Since her retirement she has worked on television programs and hosts a weekly radio show called Kudo radio. She is married to wrestler Hido (Badboy Hido of the Big Japan Wrestling Promotion), whom she met in their FMW days.
Kudo was featured in a video titled Squall and books titled: Stand Up, Keep On Running and Still Dream.
Kaori Nakayama, Kudo’s chosen successor, was born March 3rd, 1978 in Osaka. She comes from good pedigree: Her father was a local wrestling promoter in Osaka and her mother, Miyoko Hoshino, was a two time W.W.W.A. Champion (1972-73), a four time W.W.W.A. Tag Champion (1971-1974), 3 times with Jumbo Miyamoto and once with Peggy Kuroda), a two-time A.G.W.A. International Tag Champion (with Jumbo Miyamoto) and a member of the AJW Hall of Fame.
Trained at the FMW dojo (why her parents would let her train there instead of with GAEA, or JWP Project, is a mystery.) Kaori made her wrestling debut at the age of 16 against Mayumi Shimizu.
Her first year in FMW was as a heel in Shark Tsuchiya’s group, she then switched over to be Megumi Kudo’s tag partner and side kick. Although chosen to take over the reigns of the women’s division from Kudo upon her retirement, Nakayama, who is about 5 feet tall and light in stature, was not a believable star to beat the much bigger promotion’s major heel Shark Tsuchiya.
Like her mentor Kudo, Nakayama took chances in the ring. One chance misfired and she spent most of 1998 on the sideline. As she was the one on whom the FMW’s Women’s Division was pinned, the pain was felt throughout the promotion. Lacking enough wrestlers for a Women’s division, FMW came to an agreement with GAEA in March, 1999, and teamed Kaori with GAEA star Sugar Sato. On April 4th, 1999, Kaori worked in GAEA’s 4th Anniversary show. She wrestled in an elimination match and lost in 6 minutes to Sakura Hirota. FMW had second thoughts about the agreement with GAEA and brought Nakayama back, inking Emi Motokawa as Kaori’s opponent for shows.
In June of 2000, FMW put Kaori into a six-man tag team with male wrestlers Gedo and Jado. On September 17, 2000, they challenged the WEW 6 Man Tag Champions Kodo Fuyuki, Mr. Gannosuke, & Shinjuku-zame (Hiroshi Ohsumi), Kaori pinned Fuyuki to win the belts. Nakayama vacated her share of the title on January 27, 2001.
In 2002 Kaori joined Hayabusa’s new promotion “Wrestling Marvelous Future” (WMF) with the understanding that she would be retiring at the end of the year. Kaori wrestled fellow FMW wrestler Miss Mongol, on the August 28, 2002 debut show.
Kaori retired on the 23rd October 2002. Her final match was against Shark Tsuchiya who had wrestled her both as her long time partner and rival. The pair had a bloody match before Nakayama lost.
In 2001, she entered the world of Mixed Marshal Arts. She had two bouts, both of which she lost on decision. The first loss was on May 3, 2001 to Yeon Hwa Lee at ReMix-Golden Gate 2001. The second was on August 4, 2002 to Lay Ho at the SG 6-Summer Gate 2002.
– The Phantom of the Ring
You can write to the Phantom care of Karen Belcher
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