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Default January 12th, 2003: Dancing with the Devil

January 12th, 2003

From the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo, Japan

Attendance: 16,500

Announce Team: Joey Styles and Tracy Brooks

Official Theme Song: "Runnin' with the Devil" by Van Halen


We opened the show with me in the ring, in a role as an 'ambassador.' I could have used Arn here, but I'm a much bigger star in Japan. Plus it'll be a long flight going straight from this show back to the States for Nitro, so I did it myself rather than asking anyone else to do it. Anyway, I had an interpreter alongside me to translate for the fans in the arena. Basically it was just a generic message about this being a monumental night in women's wrestling history, and I thanked the fans for coming out to see it. I kept my actual talking to a minimum and focused on playing to the crowd nonverbally, allowing my popularity to drive the segment and get the fans excited. I shook hands with many of the fans in the front row before settling in next to Joey and Tracy to provide color commentary for the rest of the night. Tracy at this point can't be trusted as the only color commentator on a PPV show, which is why I inserted myself for a three person booth here. It was clearly a good decision, because I had a chance to watch this segment back later and it was easy to tell that Tracy was nervous.

Grade: B+
Alexis Laree vs. Etsuko Mita (w/Eric Bischoff)

This feud began when young Alexis scored what we played up as a major upset over Mita in a singles match on the November 9th episode of Renaissance. The former World Champion did not take the loss lightly, and after a couple of months of feuding via attacks, promos and a couple tag matches, we finally did the singles rematch as the first match on this historic PPV. Mita has ceded a lot of the spotlight to newer heels Devil Masami and Aja Kong since dropping the title, but she's one of our best and that's why I trusted her to get the job done here. She did exactly that. Alexis worked hard and carried her own weight, but it was the skill and popularity of Mita that made this a high quality match; definitely the best of Alexis' young career so far.

Laree proved her first win was no fluke, holding her own and scoring several near-falls in a back and forth match as Bischoff watched in concern, afraid that The Empire's female representative would lose to the upstart in this high-profile match. Alexis went to the middle rope and attempted a tornado DDT--but moments before impact, Mita was able to stop her momentum, hoist her over her shoulders and nail the Death Valley Driver! The 3 count followed, and Mita had avenged her previous loss.

Grade: B
Kyoko Inoue vs. Takako Inoue

We made a big deal of the fact that these two women (no relation) are quite a decorated tag team, with three championship reigns together in All Japan Women's during the mid-'90s. But Kyoko had rejected Takako's proposal to revive their team here in WCW, saying that her former partner had become too focused on her appearance instead of concentrating on her career. She taunted Takako with that a few times during the match, mocking and angering her by striking a few faux-modeling poses.

With the talent of these two women, their familiarity with each other as well as their stamina, I told them to hold nothing back and go all out to steal the show. While I wouldn't say they truly stole the show, they did succeed in getting the crowd buzzing with this fast-paced match. Both women are fairly versatile in the ring, and they blended brawling and technical wrestling very well throughout this match. Takako attempted to hit her 'Takako Panic' flying knee off of the top rope, but Kyoko cut her off and hit an overhead belly to belly superplex. After that she executed her devastating Victoria Driver finisher (aka Kenta Kobashi's Burning Hammer, which Kyoko created) for the pin.

Grade: B

Chigusa Nagayo and Aja Kong did pre-taped promos for their match tonight, in which Kong's AAAW Singles title would be on the line despite not "officially" being a sanctioned title in WCW. Nagayo again referenced her past with that title, which she was the first champion of when GAEA opened and is the only woman to win it three times. GAEA is gone, but she said she'll be happy to win that title for a fourth time and shut Aja's mouth. For Kong's part, she said that it doesn't matter whether All Japan Women's or GAEA are still open, or whether WCW recognizes her claim as the true world champion. All that matters is that she knows she's the best and so do all of the other women in WCW, because none of them had been able to take the "big red" belt that Toyota now wears away from her and none of them could take this one away from her now. Both women were fine here, but Tracy's commentary was poor as she tried to talk about Kong's promo and got the two titles mixed up.

(For the record, as a refresher: our world title, the belt that Manami Toyota now holds, dates back to Mildred Burke in the 1930s and later became the top title in All Japan Women's. Kong held that title but vacated it when she left AJW. Etsuko Mita won the title shortly before we bought the company last January, and we continued to recognize her title reign thereafter. The AAAW Singles title, the one Kong holds, was the top championship in GAEA until we bought that company from Chigusa Nagayo in late 2002, shortly before launching Renaissance.)

Grade: B
Our Generation vs. Daffney and LuFisto

I knew this one would be a bit of a struggle since all four of these women are really still just being introduced to the Japanese fans. The original plan of Mayumi Ozaki being in the match as Daffney's partner would have offset a lot of that, but I don't regret making the decision to fire her. Fortunately the popularity issue was helped out by the fact that both teams have really strong innate chemistry, which was the reason this match was put together in the first place. There wasn't a clear leader or anyone who was lagging far behind the rest, as all four women worked at a pretty similar level. I'd give the nod to Melissa as the best performer of the match and Nattie as the worst, but there wasn't much separation between any of the four.

The action was fine, but this match was really all about advancing the budding storyline between these two teams. Nattie was recuperating on the floor after being dumped out by LuFisto, but Daffney caught her by surprise with the mist to the face! The referee had been tied up with LuFisto and Melissa and hadn't seen it, but Nattie was blinded by the mist and unable to return to the ring before being counted out. I thought this was a good way to incorporate the mist into a finish without the logic gap of the referee making the 3 count despite the victim's face being covered in mist, plus this allows us to continue building this feud.

Grade: C+
Meiko Satomura vs. Shinobu Kandori

I'll be honest: I was surprised to see so many fans pick Kandori to win this match in our prediction contest on the website. The 38 year old Kandori's role in WCW has been to serve as a reliable hand who puts over our top women. Satomura, 23, isn't quite at the top level yet, but we believe she has all the potential in the world. I think you can see where this is going.

The action in this match was about Kandori trying to use her judo techniques to throw Satomura to the mat, and then transition into a match-ending submission hold. Satomura proved elusive though, and the few times Shinobu was able to get a submission applied, Meiko either made the ropes or found some means to slip out or counter. Satomura eventually hit her Scorpio Rising kick to win the match. This match was fine, but it was noticeable how much better Satomura looked than the 16-year veteran (though Meiko could be considered a young veteran despite her age, as she's been working for seven years now.)

Grade: B-

We aired a pretty lengthy Starrcade highlights package. I thought our production team did a great job here, making an already great show look even more epic. (And yes, we slipped in a reference to it as the Show of the Year.)

Grade: B+

Chigusa Nagayo vs. Aja Kong {}

Chigusa may be getting up there in age (38, with 22 years' experience) and Kong may be past her prime, but I still felt this match was likely to be very good, so much so that I seriously thought about gimmicking the match order so this would be the main event. That wouldn't have made any sense with the show literally being named for the Toyota/Masami match though, so this was the semi main instead.

As I'd done with many of the matches on the show, I had Dusty work closely with these two women on putting the particulars of the match together, and you could definitely see his influence as the match was structured beautifully to get the fans behind Chigusa as she tried to battle from underneath against the fearsome Kong. Kong's physical decline was apparent in this match. Even though Aja's six years younger than Chigusa, it was the 22-year pro who carried this match as the clear star, doing a great job in building sympathy for herself while simultaneously getting Aja over as a monster. The match lived up to expectations despite the problems, as this was the best women's match in WCW history to this point in time.

The fans were fully behind Nagayo, believing that the '80s mainstream star was going to turn back the clock here and return to world championship level. They popped big when she locked Kong in the Sasori Gatame (aka the Sharpshooter, made famous by a very talented, handsome and humble Canadian), but their enthusiasm dipped when Aja powered out, and deflated completely as Kong got back to her feet and connected with the Uraken backfist. Chigusa had given a great effort and proved she could still hang with the best, but it wasn't enough to stop Aja Kong.

Grade: B+

Devil Masami vs. Manami Toyota {}

We put together a video recap of this feud, beginning with Toyota coming to the aid of her friend Toshiyo Yamada, then showing Devil beating Toyota in a tag match. That earned her a title shot on the December 7th Renaissance, in which she had her sleeper hold locked on when the time limit expired. The rematch was tonight, this time with a full sixty minute time limit if necessary. More good work from our production team here in hitting the major points of this feud and hopefully getting people excited for the match to follow.

Grade: B+

Unlike most of the matches on this show, I didn't have Dusty work with these women to painstakingly plan this match out. He only relayed the finish and the general idea of how I wanted the match to go, and the rest was left up to them. This was because I think Manami Toyota has a great mind for the business, and I trusted her to be able to handle the finer points of how to structure this match. She was instructed to make sure the match was even, with Devil getting plenty of offense in but not necessarily dominating, and to work a more deliberate pace early on and gradually build up to a big crescendo at the end.

Saying that Toyota rewarded my faith in her would be an understatement. I needn't have worried about this match being overshadowed by Kong vs. Nagayo, because there was no doubt by the end that this was not only the match of the night, but hands-down the best women's match in WCW history. I would bet it's the best women's match any US-based company has ever put on, and was also the best match either of these women have had in many years. Toyota is such a well-rounded performer and a great babyface, and Masami brought solid brawling and a tremendous heel presence to the match. Both women did their part here and deserve a lot of credit for this great main event. Toyota was the better performer, but the 40-year old Devil did good work as well and was by no means carried through this one. About the only negative comment I can make about the match is the color commentary of Tracy, who didn't do a very good job at stressing the importance of Toyota trying to avoid Masami's sleeper, which was the focal point of the entire match.

There were two big questions here: could Masami get the sleeper on again, and if so, could Toyota escape it? The first question was answered affirmatively as we were closing in on the twenty minute mark, because even though Toyota was able to kick out of a sitout powerbomb, she was too weakened to prevent Devil from going to the sleeper. Thus began the heated struggle, with Masami trying to put the champion to sleep while Toyota fought to find some way out. The fight left Toyota and she sank to a seated position, where referee Charles Robinson raised her arm and let it drop once...


...but the champion raised it back up on the third attempt! She fought back to her feet, got a running start and dropped down to her knees, causing the challenger's head to hit the top turnbuckle hard. That dazed Masami, and Toyota capitalized with the Ocean Cyclone Suplex to defeat the Devil.

Grade: A

Toyota's friend and partner Toshiyo Yamada joined her to offer her congratulations, and I left Joey and Tracy behind to join them inside the ring. We did a puroresu-inspired bit where I presented her with the championship and shook her hand, and then we had her cut a celebratory promo. I let her just say whatever she wanted to here. I obviously couldn't understand the actual words she was speaking, but all I had to do was listen to the reaction of the Tokyo fans to tell that she did a fantastic job here.

She talked a bit about the uncertain state that women's wrestling had been left in with the decline and later the complete closure of all of the former top joshi groups, but said that thanks to WCW and the Women's Wrestling Renaissance program, women's wrestling was not only alive but thriving. She put over Masami as a tough opponent, but said she had fought through and remained the champion, and she intended to represent WCW as its world champion for as long as she was physically able. She also apparently came up with a new spur-of-the-moment catchphrase too. Something about the Flying Angel (her nickname) soaring to new global heights or something. Maybe it gets lost in translation, but as long as the Japanese fans react to it I guess that's all that matters. This was a much better promo than I expected, and a great way to close the show. I think being featured so prominently and doing so well on this PPV has really raised Toyota's profile with fans around the globe, which is great.

Grade: A*

Show Overall Grade: B+

Prediction Scores (out of a possible 8 points):

Uncrewed: 7

K-Nection: 6
Rateddc: 6
DavidCorperial: 6
bonnie: 6
Satyr24: 6
cbacon87: 6
GnarlsFunk: 6
jscotty: 6
KnowYourEnemy: 6

DGenerationMC: 5
deanohbk: 5
Wolfman84: 5
smw88: 5
Ian carlisle: 5
Kijar: 5
Dead_Jester: 5
kinnikuniverse: 5
JMike: 5
Warhawk8492: 5
evileddie10: 5
Danny H22: 5
chrismday: 5
odan: 5
Beejus: 5
BHK6: 5

Happy0wns: 4
2Sweet: 4
tg01: 4
GingeyOne: 4
Destiny: 4

michgcs: 3

Originally Posted by DGenerationMC View Post
General diary comments/questions/critiques: Cannot wait for the inevitable Toyota-Kong clash and wouldn't mind seeing someone from Renaissance be a member of a WCW stable one day as a crossover.
Already done, with Etsuko Mita, though she doesn't appear with the rest of The Empire much anymore since she's over here instead of on Nitro every week.

Originally Posted by Kijar View Post
General diary comments/questions/critiques: Not related to this show, just wondering why you didn't choose Guido for the Italian gimmick? Nobody does it better
The team was pretty much created by accident, when I signed the unemployed Mamaluke to a one night contract and threw he and Parisi (then going by Johnny Swinger) together to job to another team. They wound up having the chemistry, so I signed Mamaluke, made them a full-time team and sent them down to developmental. Aside from that I don't think I'd be able to look past the "Full Blooded Italian" character with Guido, and that's not really the type of character Parisi and Mamaluke are playing here.

Originally Posted by Beejus View Post
Well you're a few years too early for Breaking Benjamin's "Dance with the Devil", but Metallica had "Devil's Dance" out already, so that could be on the show if you have the green for it
Bret considered it, but he decided Van Halen would be more cost-effective than Metallica--even if it's runnin(g) rather than dancing!

Originally Posted by GingeyOne View Post
General diary comments/questions/critiques: None at all! I have however been playing a little of WWE 2k17 recently and playing some of the matches from the Golden Age. What exactly was the Flying Scorpion that you had Sting use?
It was just a fancy name that I gave to a flying "Superfly" splash off the top rope. I didn't want to give him the Scorpion Deathlock since Bret already had the Sharpshooter, the Stinger Splash doesn't really work as a finisher and the Scorpion Deathdrop wouldn't have been era-appropriate, so I needed to come up with something else.

Originally Posted by KnowYourEnemy View Post
General diary comments/questions/critiques: Waiting for this PPV for a long time -- Masumi has to win the title, right? I mean, the PPV is called "Dancing With The Devil?" .... but the bigger question: are we going with Immortal Technique's "Dance With The Devil" for our theme song? I think the song was out at this time.
I'd never heard of that song before, but did stumble upon it when doing a Youtube search to try and figure out what I was going to use for this show. I know GDS allows a little more leeway with language used in diaries compared to the rest of the board, but I have to think they'd frown upon embedding a video with an F bomb in it.

The PPV was named for Masami, but Toyota's the woman I'm building the brand around right now.
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