THE JUMPING BOMB ANGELS
Norio Tateno & Itsuki Yamazaki
WWF Womens Tag Team Champions
Written by Adam Zimmerman
Today, I wanted to take a look at a team that set fire to not only women's tag team wrestling in the WWF but also to wrestling in general. The Jumping Bomb Angels were one of the smoothest, most well put together teams that have ever competed - male or female. They deserve a place at the top of the ranks alongside teams like The Hart Foundation and The British Bulldogs.
Noriyo Tateno and Itsuki Yamazaki, both debuted in 1981 but didn't actually form a team until a few years later. Upon formation, they toured the Japanese joshi circuit and traded the WWWA World Tag Team Championship back and forth with teams like (one of my favorites) Bull Nakano alongside Condor Saito and The Crush Gals, Lioness Asuka and Chigusa Nagayo. Initially only competing in Japan, it wasn't long before they got called up to the WWF to showcase their skills to North American wrestling fans.
The Angels debuted in the WWF in mid-1987. There was a small womens tag team division going on at the time, complete with a championship, but I wouldn't call it very established. "Struggling" is more like it. The WWF Womens Tag Team Championship was established in 1983 when Velvet McIntyre and Princess Victoria entered the WWF. At the time, they were the reigning NWA Women's World Tag Team Champions. They vacated those titles upon entering and were awarded the WWF version of the titles. Princess Victoria was later injured and replaced by Desiree Petersen. In 1985, the titles were awarded to Judy Martin and Leilani Kai - The Glamour Girls. Supposedly, they won the titles in a match against the champions that occurred in Cairo, Egypt but I'm sure it's highly doubtful that match actually occurred.
The Glamour Girls (who really deserve their own spotlight here... maybe next year) struck out on the independent scene after a few title defenses because of lack of depth in the division but they would pop in for a title defense on WWF television every now and then and were called back up full time once The Jumping Bomb Angels burst onto the scene.
The Jumping Bomb Angels debuted in mid-1987 and at the Survivor Series, these two teams faced off as participants in a stacked (no double entendre intended), 10-woman Survivor Series match. This sparked a feud that continued through most of '88. Match after match, every time these two teams faced off, it was golden.
The Angels' fluidity in the ring and penchant for tag team wrestling always endeared them to the crowd. Tateno and Yamazaki were both great ring technicians and worked amazingly well as a team. I personally always enjoyed their double missile dropkicks from the top turnbuckles. Those always looked particularly stiff because usually one Angel would connect with her dropkick just a split second before the other Angel and you'd see their opponent's body bounce back and forth between the two impacts like a pinball.
The Angels won the WWF Women's Tag Team Championship from The Glamour Girls at the 1988 Royal Rumble and after having plenty of amazing matches stateside; both teams also went on a tour of Japan to further their rivalry. On this tour of Japan, The Fabulous Moolah (the real-life trainer and "manager" of The Glamour Girls) informed the Japanese promoters that The Glamour Girls were supposed to win the titles back on the last show of the tour. This was questioned by both teams but, in the end, The Glamour Girls agreed to win the belts.
Once the teams returned to North America, head booker Pat Patterson was apparently so angered by this that he scrapped almost all future plans for the title which had included a match at Wrestlemania V. The WWF Women's Tag Team Championship was later abandoned in 1989 and sadly, for North American wrestling fans at the time, The Angels returned to Japan to never be seen here again.
The Jumping Bomb Angels remained a team until Itzuki Yamazaki decided to retire at the end of 1991. Noriyo Tateno continued on as a singles competitor in Japan until 2010. Although their run in the WWF was somewhat brief, they made a lasting mark in the minds of the fans who witnessed their work. The Jumping Bomb Angels are truly one of the greatest tag teams of all time.