I had about four or maybe all five already set, but the honorable mentions was much more tougher to trim down. I kept it at eight since that's a nice round number even honestly about though thirteen or fourteen came to mind instantly once I came up with the top five. It does help that some of my favorites have already been listed or mentioned so that makes feel less bad about not naming them.
I also tried my best to go across different eras. My prevailing thought was the matches you would come up with if you had to show someone who doesn't really care for women's wrestling or at best a casual viewer and implore them to seek out as soon as possible.
IN NO SPECIFIC ORDER EXCEPT CHRONOLOGICALLY
Jaguar Yokota vs. Lioness Asuka (AJW Summer Night Festival In Budokan, 8/22/1985)
Man, it's hard to describe how special both of these women were at the time. I am a fan of the Crush Gals, but I think I like their singles matches a bit better cause honestly it's two great singles wrestlers thrown in tag team matches. In my mind, it was both Chigusa Nagayo and Lioness Asuka working two single matches at the same time. They had a crazy atmosphere usually and that's ultimately what made the matches. I would add that probably their best tag team match was against their seniors Devil Masami and Jaguar Yokota, who were basically working heel and were the glue of the match. Here, you see the dynamic of a phenomenal young athlete in Lioness Asuka who is the prototype of many of top female wrestlers today versus another phenomenal athlete in Jaguar who for my money was probably the most gifted female wrestler who understood storytelling. Sure, there have been wrestlers who had a better or more impressive movesets since Jaguar. However, I don't think there has been one who can do what prime Jaguar Yokota did in terms of building a match to the perfect crescendo. Maybe you could argue Meiko Satomura, Arisa Nakajima, Tsukasa Fujimoto, and a select few others come close. My point is Jaguar doesn't do the template of seven to ten minutes of trading random moves, a few minutes of down time, then big move, maybe a few dives, big move, big move, big move, trading nine false finishes, one more false finish that SHOULD HAVE been the finish, and then finally the actual finish. What Jaguar had working for is she was able to work outside that formula because she understood storytelling. That's not to say Jaguar carried Lioness in the match. However, Jaguar Yokota was the perfect conductor for this match cause she played towards Asuka's strength as an athlete and injects an emotion into the match beyond the responses that either of the Crush Gals got. Jaguar just amplified those responses.
Dynamite Kansai vs. Mayumi Ozaki (Dress Up Wild Fight, JWP Jazz & Soul, 3/17/1995)
Of the five matches I came up with, this probably contains the best individual performance. Goddamn, did Mayumi Ozaki bring it here. The raw visceral and guttural scream Ozaki lets go when she finally pins Kansai after basically losing to Kansai in every singles match since the new JWP was formed a few years earlier is stuff you cannot script. You can try but it won't work as well. It was like a three hundred pound weight had been lifted off her little shoulders. The first thing you think about first off is how the hell did these women not make it into AJW when they tried out? Second is why did JWP have a reverse David and Goliath theme going in their rivalry prior to this? Kansai's overall demeanor is babyface, but being the larger wrestler who is kicking the dog crap out of people doesn't work when you have a much smaller wrestler in Ozaki who knows how to work from underneath. Now it helps that Ozaki likes working as a more heelish grappler and also explains why OZ Academy (the promotion) for the longest had a bunch of Russo fetish booking involving her. However, she is an amazing fiery babyface if you put her in those situations. It was the same when she was working with Chigusa Nagayo when Chigusa would show up in JWP and Ozaki was bleeding gushers for the cause. They change it up a bit here cause after they brawl all over Hakata Starlanes, which is a very intimate venue and a perfect setting for this type of match, Ozaki gets a chain and proceeds to beat the absolute Iceman King Parsons "Have Mercy, Yall" shit out of Kansai. From the stiff shots to the face to the combat boots stomps to the noggin' to the insane color Ozaki gets on Kansai (she may have cut Kansai a little bit too deep). I believe the term we have in the black community is she "dogwalked" Kansai for a good stretch of the match. Sidenote: When Ozaki would do the chain spot in later years where she drags people across the ring or on the outside like a literal dog, she would scream something like "doggie doggie good doggie" and that makes the term fit adequately here figuratively and literally. Anyway, the story isn't she hates Kansai as much she HAS TO beat Kansai. She HAS TO. Overcoming Kansai is her white whale. Then, when it looks like she is on the road to doing that, Kansai fires up and returns the beating. The powerbomb on the table laying flat when EVERYONE has to do the powerbomb THROUGH the table is a cool spot. It looked so much more brutal probably cause (1) it likely was and (2) it's a Japanese table so good luck breaking it. They do much stuff here that I feel was missing from ECW in terms of innovation. Lack of innovation is probably what bedeviled latter era ECW. What they do here is little creative things that bolster the match. They also do a course correction by having Ozaki play the babyface in the final backstretch of the match cause the fans are way behind her and have Kansai play the big bully. Thus, when the finish actually happens, they go NUTS. However, their reaction SOMEHOW pales in comparison to Ozaki who goes through a wide range of emotions. It's unparallel in terms of booking to a create a star and makes me wish JWP's roster was bit deeper cause they could have went places with Ozaki and Fukuoka as their stars for the future.
CAZAI (AKINO & Ayako Hamada) vs. Las Cachorras Orientales (Etsuko Mita & Mima Shimoda)(ARSION Carnival ARSION 1999, 12/11/1999)
I would like to make the argument that in terms of overall consistency (save for when it was the Tokyo Sweethearts instead before Mita and Shimoda came back together full time), LCO was probably a top ten tag team regardless of gender in the 90s. They could be used to work heel against any team cause Shimoda was a charismatic ultra cocky heel and Mita was the big nasty, merciless bruiser. In my mind, they were one of the bright spots of AJW after the interpromotional period. They also did a bunch of great work when they were basically freelance and sort of hired guns.
In this match, LCO were basically the Midnight Express or probably Rose & Somers to CAZAI's the Fantastics or Midnight Rockers. LCO dominated about 80 percent of the match especially any and everything that takes place outside the ring. It isn't that squash match domination though. It's that "we KNOW we are the superior tag team and you're on life support cause we allow you to be". They were basically Chinese water torturing Hamada and AKINO. Speaking of cutting someone too deep, the ref does a similar job Ozaki did on Kansai on Ayako Hamada here. It flows like water, my friend. Even the producers of the original Carrie would be like, "yeah, that's a bit too much." It becomes like a boxing match in one way cause you can tell Ayako is legit having a hard time seeing cause the blood is going directly into her eyes and it never clots really. In a more unedited version of the aftermath you can find, when Ayako climbs to the top rope in celebration, you can see she is about lose her cookies because she likely swallowed a bunch of blood as well.
The domination and that grisly aspect of the match specifically only enhances the match cause there isn't one specific move or moment that gets CAZAI back into the match and it resets the entire match. Everytime they sort of fire up, LCO immediately cuts them off and continues whooping that ass in humiliating fashion. CAZAI slowly but surely works themselves back into the match. It's like a team that is down by thirty at halftime, you click over to another game that's way more competitive, you turn back to watch the final three or four minutes of the game you were watching, and you see they're only down ten points and driving down the field swiftly to score again. The drama is CAN they get that go ahead score and is there enough time to do that. LCO can win at any time same as a team can seal a game with getting a defensive turnover on a final possession. However, CAZAI refuses to lose simply. Ayako Hamada doesn't have the same type of individual performance Ozaki has in the Kansai match, but she comes off as a star nonetheless cause of the gusher and also being the clear leader of her tag team. She gets turned into the weak link cause she's losing so much blood, and it feels like AKINO is helpless to save her. However, her sheer determination and resiliency is what makes the match work when they get to the finish. You buy into Ayako's grittiness as she seems to be fighting for not only her titles (CAZAI came in as tag champs of ARSION even if the match doesn't feel like it), but her and her tag partner's very lives. Ayako has a moment similar to when Sting was becoming a star in JCP where she fires up, and you can tell she means by gawd business. I believe the kids on the street call it FAFO. At that very moment, LCO is fucked. LCO has to make a goal line stand in a game they spent the majority of putting a hurting on their opponents, and the odds are ever increasingly not in their favor. CAZAI still has to do something to win it, but the score is essentially zero zero now. That's the drama you look for in pro wrestling.
Yoshiko Tamura vs. Azumi Hyuga (JWP Climax 2006, 12/24/2006)
This one for me was a no brainer. I can go on for days about my love of Yoshiko Tamura in this era cause she OWNED every big match she was in. I said it before that if I had a time machine and be able to transport a wrestler from a bygone era to now so they can wrestle the new generation of female wrestlers, Tamura would be number one on the list. IMO she's nonpareil in terms of brutality and intensity. I could have listed other matches she had, but in this one, she's going against someone in Hyuga that was one of her established rivals in multiple promotions and also criminally underrated. When she was under her real name Tomoko Kuzumi, she was pretty damn good. This is her at her best and several years more experience. It's the perfect recipe for an excellent match.
However, it's not an excellent match. That would be insulting. They had a couple other prior matches that fall into the excellent category. This here folks is nothing short of a masterpiece. Why? Cause Hyuga dares to match the brutality and intensity of Tamura and even more ballsy, try to one up her at every turn. FOR SIXTY MINUTES! It's a war for an hour. It's the stuff of legends. Like how older people use to talk about the wars between Carmen Basilio and Tony DeMarco and the wars between the original "Rock" Rocky Graziano and "The Man of Steel" Tony Zale which inspired Paul Newman's first starring role "Somebody Up There Likes Me" or the bloodletting at times between "Sugar" Ray Robinson and Jake LaMotta, this is on that level when it comes to pro wrestling. And I am not being hyperbolic. There is a moment early on that sets the tone and tempo roughly five minutes into the match where you can tell Hyuga may legit had her eye socket or cheek bone (probably both) cracked and she's fighting through the pain. She wrestled another fifty plus minutes enduring that pain. That reason alone I have to give flowers to both Tamura AND Hyuga because they could easily have done Tamura's type of epic match or recycled what they had been doing to play it safe. They don't do that.
They wrestle like two women who are fighting for the livelihood of women's wrestling in their country. Unfortunately, they probably were IRL cause it definitely wasn't in a good place at the time. There was definite promise and potential it would get better. However, promise and potential just means it ain't happened yet. You cannot live off of that. These two women don't do that. They put their hearts and souls into this, and you can feel every bit of that once the sixty minute mark elapses.
Best Friends (Arisa Nakajima & Tsukasa Fujimoto) vs. Nanae Takahashi & Emi Sakura (Ice Ribbon 10th Anniversary Show, 5/4/2016)
Last and certainly not least, there is a reason I picked this one over any of my honorable mentions which could have easily been in the top five. There might be two or three more additional reasons. The main one is that the same respect I give LCO for being a tremendous tag team, I have to give maybe double the amount of respect for Nakajima and Fujimoto just cause they're stellar singles wrestlers who make being a tag team somehow work as good if not better than their individual singles career. They are both dynamic to the point where everything they do is in harmony and fits seamlessly into the match. It's just not random double tag moves they worked out, which everyone feels like they're compelled to do. You can tell they love teaming together and know how to lay out a match where nothing feels forced. Just like the Masami and Yokota example I laid out earlier, they can work more face when they need to or work heel when they have to. So you put them up against anyone be it the smaller or younger plucky underdog tag team or the more abrasive, rugged, and meaner teams, they know what to do it and how to make each match feel a little different. You look at Arisa's style and don't really see her wrestling as a babyface most of the time. You look at Tsukka's face and consider her overall attitude alone and don't see how she can play heel. However, together, they can switch it up and do it in sync.
In this particular match, since you have the storied history of all the participants on a big show and I believe this was originally suppose to be Best Friends vs. Thunder Rock, they feel free to just go for the gusto. Nanae doesn't likely inspire people to go out and seek out of her matches, but in this environment, she excels much like she did during NANA*MOMO against LCO. It isn't so much Emi Sakura: Super Worker (now Miracle Worker in AEW) so much as Emi Sakura: Super Tag Partner. She picks up the slack here in a big way and probably cause this is her return to Ice Ribbon. Sakura absolutely puts on in this match. She also doesn't do it in a way that leaves Nanae out in the cold cause Nanae is always in the right spots. The one thing I love about this match is you don't see people waffling or anticipating or just waiting to break up a spot or pinfall. Everything feels spontaneous even though you definitely know they probably laid this out well in advance or at least key parts of it. I am not a big "you have to hide the magic from me" person, but I certainly ain't complaining when you do. Get me invested in the damn match, and I will watch every moment of it. Here you have the components of what should be your average great match, and they elevate it to one of the finest pieces of wrestling you will ever see.
For the listamania portion, I will give you the Honorable Mentions also in chronological order:
1987 Team Gold Combo (Manami Toyota & Toshiyo Yamada) vs. Dynamite Kansai & Mayumi Ozaki I (2 Out of 3 Falls, AJW Dream Rush In Kawasaki, 11/26/1992)
Dynamite Kansai & Mayumi Ozaki vs. 1987 Team Gold Combo II (Manami Toyota & Toshiyo Yamada) (2 Out of 3 Falls, AJW Dream Slam 2, 4/11/1993)
Akira Hokuto vs. Shinobu Kandori II (AJW St. Battle Final 1993, 12/6/1993)
1987 Team Gold Combo (Manami Toyota & Toshiyo Yamada) vs. Double Inoue (Takako Inoue & Kyoko Inoue) (2 Out of 3 Falls, AJW Wrestlemarinepiad 1994, 10/9/1994)
Combat Toyoda vs. Megumi Kudo (No Ropes Barbed Wire Current Blast Death Match, FMW Fighting Creation '96 - 7th Anniversary Show, 5/5/1996)
Kaoru Ito, Momoe Nakanishi & Nanae Takahashi vs. Kumiko Maekawa & Las Cachorras Orientales (Etsuko Mita & Mima Shimoda) (Steel Cage Death Match, AJW Women's Wrestling Festival W FUSION 2000, 11/23/2000)
Giulia vs. Maya Yukihi (Ice Ribbon Osaka Ribbon 2019 II, 5/25/2019)
Utami Hayashishita vs. Syuri (Stardom Tokyo Dream Cinderella Special Edition, 6/12/2021)