Monday, June 11, 2007

Manami Toyota, part 1

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Manami Toyota is a professional wrestler best known for her work with the All Japan Women's Pro-Wrestling (AJW) wrestling promotion. Following AJW's closure she has continued to work in other joshi promotions such as GAEA and NEO. Toyota is a member of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame.

Manami was born March 2, 1971 in Masuda, Shimane.She was trained by Jaguar Yokota.

Manami Toyota made her professional wrestling debut on August 5, 1987, in a singles match against Sachiko Nakamura. Her big break came in her second year, on the first Wrestlemarinpiad show from Yokohama Arena, on May 6, 1989. Teamed with Mima Shimoda, she defeated Etsuko Mita and Toshiyo Yamada in a lightning-paced match that nearly stole the card from the more established veterans. The bout had all the basic ingredients that made Toyota a star, including flashy moves, fast and frequent tags, double-team moves, and a long series of dramatic near falls. When the bout was released as part of a four-hour commercial tape, Toyota became recognized as a wrestler to watch.

Toyota won her first title on November 18, 1989 in Matsuda, when she defeated Mika Takahashi for the AJW Championship. She defended the title three times, including one defense against her future rival Kyoko Inoue (on August 1, 1990), before vacating it on September 1, 1990. The following month (October 7 in Tokyo) she challenged Bison Kimura for the All Pacific Championship and emerged victorious. However she only managed to defend the title once before losing to Suzuka Minami on March 17, 1991.

Parallel to this success ran Toyota’s famous feud with future tag-team partner Toshiyo Yamada. Initially, following Toyota’s success teaming up with Shimoda, the AJW braintrust felt they could well be the new Beauty Pair or Crush Gals, but that was not to be. Toyota's real chemistry came not with Shimoda but with Yamada, whose style was unlike Toyota's and provided more of a contrast. Yamada was a slightly built, short-haired, kicking specialist, who idolized both Chigusa Nagayo and Akira Maeda. Unlike other wrestlers who rely on kicks and submissions, Yamada could also work the rapid-paced matches, and was accomplished at building to near-falls with repeated kick-outs at the last possible moment.

To begin with, however, Toyota and Yamada were opponents rather than partners. Between 1989 and 1991 they wrestled many times, producing bouts that rivaled the quality of the main events that AJW's champions were presenting. At the start of 1992, the two won their first tag team championship when they defeated KAORU and Lady Apache in Tokyo on January 19 for the UWA titles.

However, their singles feud was not yet over, and it reached a climax on August 15, 1992 at Korakuen Hall in a Hair vs. Hair match. The bout was a dramatic one, not least due to what occurred after the match was over. Toyota, even though she had won the match, did not want Yamada to get her head shaved, and had to be forcefully restrained by four prelim girls, who eventually forced her back to the mat. In respect of the match conditions Yamada wanted her head shaved and went ahead with the stipulation.

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