Yokohama Festival: SEAdLINNNG 5/3/18 & Marvelous 5/5/18 Live Thoughts

May 3 and 5, 2018 in Yokohama, Japan

I saw four events in Yokohama during Golden Week, two each on May 3 and 5 (with Mika Iida’s retirement show and Gatoh Move on May 4 in Tokyo in between). Here I’ll be talking about the two later in the day shows I saw in Yokohama.

 

SEAdLINNNG Golden Go! Go! 5/3/18

In was great to see Nanae Takahashi return to competition after a scary neck injury in a hardcore match earlier in the year. She eased back into things with a five minute time limit exhibition match against Takashi Sasaki to open the show.

After that Dragon Libre won a 4-way against (Wave’s) ASUKA, Nagisa Nozaki, and Shunsuke Wakayama which I primarily remember for Nagisa trying to kick people’s heads off.

 

 

 

I’m mentioned Yoshiko’s not a favorite for personal reasons, but bias aside she’s good in general and admittedly excellent in the right role. As with the fantastic match I saw her have against Mio Momono in August 2017, her playing the monster versus a determined smaller rookie is certainly the right role.

 

 

 

Asahi is fast becoming a personal favorite of mine, and with all the opportunities she’s getting to wrestle veterans and champions from other promotions in singles matches she’s just going to continue to evolve and improve that much quicker. She played the fiery underdog perfectly and survived a bit under fifteen minutes before the larger, more experienced wrestler put her away. They drew me into a match I had some disposition to be disinvested in, and that speaks very highly of the skill of both.

 

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The last two matches of the card were part of the first round of the ULTRA U-21 tournament to crown tag team champions for Seadlinnng. In a nice, rare (for me) chance to see Kaho Kobayashi, she and Makoto advanced over the visiting Ice Ribbon team of Hamuko & Ibuki Hoshi. Solid tag action from everyone, with the less experienced of the four (Kaho and Ibushi) actually looking the best.

 

 

 

The main event featured more Ice Ribbon talent as well as a visitor from Wave, as Akane Fujita & Ryo Mizunami faced Best Friends (Arisa Nakajima & Tsukasa Fujimoto). This was one person removed from Best Friends vs Avid Rival, my favorite tag rivalry of all time. And while Akane isn’t Misaki Ohata she’s an strong, underrated talent who fit right in with her more experienced compatriots. As expected with the four involved and a nice amount of time to perform in a main event role this was excellent.

 

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They wrestled to a 15 minute time limit draw, and in Seadlinnng tournaments that meant they then continued under 2-count rules. I love that approach. It allows a lot of booking leeway, and the atmosphere and sense of desperation in the overtime is always palpable. Best Friends prevailed after another five minutes of intense action.

 

Three good to great matches out of five and nothing actively bad made this an easy watch and a fun time.

 

Marvelous 5/5/18

Marvelous’ offerings are often a “tale of two shows” within the show for me. I find about half the card fine but perhaps a bit bland, while a couple of key matches (usually involving Mio Momono, Takumi Iroha, and/or visiting wrestlers) blow me away. This show was that template personified.

 

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W-Fix had pretty standard outings featuring the expected heel shenanigans as KAORU & Chikayo Nagashima opened against Super Momoe Chan (Aja Perara) & Sahara 7 and Megumi Yabushita later faced Tomoko Watanabe. W-Fix is  a good heel stable and these matches were fine, but their match quality does take a bit of a noticeable hit when Dash isn’t around. She brings out the best in the rest of them and elevates everything she’s involved in. Tomoko was fierce in trying to overcome the odds against her, and Momoe & Sahara looked good and clearly made a favorable impression on the crowd.

 

 

 

And to be perfectly honest I don’t recall anything about Leo Isaka & MIKAMI vs Wild Bear & Tomohiko Hashimoto, which means nothing stood out as particularly exciting nor particularly bad. Yuki Miyazaki and Sakura Hirota also brawled with each other throughout the show, leading to Chigusa putting straightening them out at one point and Yuki getting the better of Hirota in the middle of the show while Chigusa and others stood around them in the ring making comments.

 

 

 

Which brings us to the highlights of the evening in the form of a pair of excellent tag matches. The third match of the five match card saw NEW-TRA (Rin Kadokura & Takumi Iroha) against Ibuki Hoshi & Tsukasa Fujimoto from Ice Ribbon. I.e. each company’s ace paired with one of their respective brightest rookies. Ibuki looked right at home here and kept up well, and they got a nice amount of time to play with. This was tons of fun and  I’d love to see a rematch sometime.

 

 

 

In the main event  Kyuuri & Mio Momono (accompanied to the ring by a bubble machine, which amused me to no end) faced off against LEVEL5 (Maki Natsumi & Yuu Yamagata). Like with Saori Anou and Tae Honma last December I thought this was my first look at Maki when watching live, but I had actually seen all three of them in a random tag match at Reina early in their careers.

 

 

 

I remarked that the match was nothing spectacular but featured decent work from those involved. And I honestly promptly forgot about them among the incredible number of new wrestlers I was introduced to that trip (as they didn’t appear in other promotions I was watching at the time) and didn’t connect that match to the names when I later started hearing about rising stars in the ActWres promotion.

 

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The progress of all three in the passing couple years is fantastic. Maki looked great here, and I am beyond psyched to see her challenge Riho for her Super Asia Championship at Gatoh Move in a couple weeks. Great stuff, and the countout victory makes sense to put Mio & Kyuuri over without being definitive. However I share Maki’s expressed confusion (pictured above) over losing by countout when people were rolling in and out of the ring during the count. As much as I adore Mio & Kyuuri, Maki & Yuu were robbed here. Minor complaint though, and the match was excellent overall.

 

 

 

So solid shows from both promotions with some admittedly forgettable stuff yet also several highlights that definitely push into highly recommended territory. I had a great time, which is of course always the goal. 🙂

 

Mae Young Classic 2018 Episode 3 Review

This year’s Mae Young Classic got off to an impressive start with good matches, improved production and commentary over last year, and the introduction of legend Meiko Satomura to the WWE universe. I was only able to watch last week’s episode peripherally, so in terms of these reviews I’m skipping to this week’s episode 3.

 

Previous episodes:

Episode 1

 

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Two big rivalries exploding in the first round tonight, a former champion returns, and a wrestler from last year’s tourney faces off with someone I’m familiar with from outside WWE in four intriguing matchups.

A really nice quick intro to all eight of tonight’s wrestlers opens the show, which will be built upon with the longer packages later. The presentation this year has been top notch.

 

Round 1 continued:

9)  Kaitlyn vs Kavita Devi **

Devi loss last year to Dakota Kai is highlighted and she’s determined to win this time. Kaitlyn’s this year’s Serena-like return story. Nice package on her focusing on her being a former champ and her personal redemption/transformation.

Cole admits he’s not impartial here because of excitement for Kaitlyn’s return after all she’s overcome. She looks quite different, and comfortable. Davi seems to be playing quasi-heel, but her importance and fame as the first Indian woman superstar is also emphasized. Cole owns up to past problems with WWE’s presentation of women during Kaitlyn’s original run and his own part in it, and apologizes.

Kaitlyn, referred to as the “Hybrid Diva,” trying to overcome Devi’s power and size was the focus here. The spear eventually ends it and sends Kaitlyn on. “Will she be the Cinderella Story of this tourney?” Basic but decent, with the story more the point here, and it was a good one. I’m happy for Kaitlyn, and while Devi’s still green she’s improving. Kaitlyn will face the winner of tonight’s main in the next round.

 

10) Toni Storm vs Jinny **3/4

The Fashionista has arrived. “My style is ruthless. I don’t care about my opponent.”

Toni made the semis last year, and “got a taste of my dream.” Presented as a rock star to Jinny’s haughty refinement, Toni gets a longer package and is clearly being positioned as a tourney favorite. I hope we get more of the Toni I’ve heard so much about on the indie scene around the world and less of the one who I honestly thought underperformed last year.

Big crowd reaction for Toni. Jinny has fantastic heel presence, body language, etc. Curiously there really isn’t much mention of the history between these two. Jinny wants no part of Toni’s handshake and slaps it away. Throughout the match the more vicious Jinny became, the better this got. Both looked decent, and this was the most I’ve liked Toni so far. One highlight was a beautiful snap German by Toni. Toni wins with the “Storm Zero” (tiger driver). She doesn’t get much height on it, and honestly it looks dangerous to me as it seems her opponent could easily under rotate and come down on her head. Decent, but this could have been more. Seems to be a theme with me and Toni’s tourney matches. We’ll see how next round goes.

 

11) Karen Q vs Xia Li ***

Karen Q looked good when I saw her at Shimmer, and it’s nice to see her get a chance here. It’s stressed that Xia debuted at last year’s tourney (against Martinez), and she’s the clear favorite from the way things are being presented.

Both square up for martial arts immediately and the crowd goes wild. Karen discards respect early and slaps Xia, which backfires a bit as Xia unloads on her, but then the ref pulls Xia back and Karen ambushes her with a kick to take control. Mocking bow and Karen’s gone practically full cocky heel in attitude, but is still using speed and martial arts back ground for some crowd popping strikes. The mixture actually works well here, given the two showed respect again once the match was over. Anymore heel work by Karen and that would have felt odd.

Xia’s kicks look brutal. She’s come a long way in a year. These two hit the hell out of each other and put on a really nice little match. Both should be proud, and I’d love to see a rematch when both have more experience. Karen missed a frog splash (that had shades of Dash Chisako in its beautiful form), and Xia capitalized with a flipping axe kick for the win. Heat of competition aside, Karen congratulated Xia afterwards.

 

12) Mia Yim vs Allysin Kay ***3/4

Pinkies up! Great intro package for Kay, including background on Mia breaking her nose and how they’ve feuded all over. Her discus lariat finish is stressed. Mia talks about bringing a whole different game this year. Unlike with Toni and Jinny the history between these two is greatly emphasized.

Via Shimmer footage of Mia’s matches Aja Kong and Aoi Kizuki appear up on WWE tv, which is an amusing little treat for a Joshi fan like me, particularly with Aoi retiring in a couple weeks.

Allysin Kay is constantly refining her craft, and has really evolved and grown over time. She went from someone who I found ok to someone I get excited to see and cheer for. Really happy to see her included.

Glad to hear commentary bring up Mia Yim’s history as a domestic violence survivor and her efforts to spread awareness and encourage others to break the silence.

Tense stare off, no handshake of course. “Let’s go Mia!” “Pinkies up!” dueling chants throughout. This was intense, well worked and paced, and had a great underlying story. Neck and neck with Kelly vs Meiko for best match of the tourney so far. Kay hits the lariat but was slow to cover, so Mia survived. They kept going toe to toe until Mia got the better of an exchange on the turnbuckles and nailed a sweet second rope Seoul Food for the win. Mia will face Kaitlyn in round 2, which I’m quite interested to see after tonight.

 

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I really enjoyed this week’s episode overall, and the tournament is nicely living up to its potential thus far.

Astro City: Life in the Big City (Volume 1) Review

Why would a man who could fly dream of flying?
What’s news in a world where anything can happen?
What should a small time crook do with the greatest of all secrets?
What is it that defines home?
How would our lives look to an outsider?
Is there time for superheroes to take a night off?

 

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Life in the Big City collects Astro City vol. 1 issues 1-6. This is the complete original miniseries.

 

A tad over 20 years ago, Kurt Busiek introduced the world to Astro City. It was his attempt to tell stories of depth in the medium of superhero comics, as both a celebration of them and to push the boundries of what they were capable of. In his own words from the prologue: “We’ve been taking apart the superhero for ten years or more; it’s time to put it back together and wind it up, see what it’ll do.”

What it did was create wonderful stories in a world of heroes, that answer the question above and tons more like them. This is not a comic about a hero – it’s a comic about all of them. Most of the six standalone stories here star a different character, from heroes to criminals to bystanders. This is a comic about life as much as anything else.

Astro City was an enormous undertaking. Busiek did not want to limit his stories to a single perspective, nor establish a setting that felt hollow or could change to suit events. He created an entire world to explore, with fully realized geography, denizens of all types, and depth and consequences to the stories he tells there. There is a full history to this world, which we get wondrous glimpses of here and there until later trades fill us in. The careful groundwork set up here connects to and is built upon by all the future trades. All the stories (including the individual ones here) read fine alone, but together they have amazing depth and resonance.

Since he was creating an examination of heroes, Busiek used many familiar archetypes. You will see similarities between Samaritan and Superman, Winged Victory and Wonder Woman, etc. But to equate them or dismiss Astro City’s heroes as imitations would be a mistake. Even while using the archetypical nature of these characters as a point of discovery, Busiek makes them compelling, complex people in their own right.

The consistent art is also a strong positive. Alex Ross provides his usual astounding work for the covers, and the interiors are all Brent Anderson. Anderson’s art has a unique style and can take some getting used to. It’s not quite as crisp as the typical comic art, but it suits the stories extremely well and his habit of leaving some details a little obscured pays off beautifully when the scene requires more detail (which he provides in amazing fashion – emotion comes across strongly from his characters). Personally I love it, but it’s worth mentioning that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

Life in the Big City is the start of a truly phenomenal comic and should be read by any comic book fan. The most impressive part is that Astro City would get even better in the second trade…

Ice Ribbon 4/28/18 Live Thoughts

April 28, 2018 in Tokyo, Japan

Late in 2017 Shutter Ribbon (the one Ice Ribbon dojo show a month where pictures are allowed) was moved from last show of month to the first show of the month, so no action pictures for this one. This was a cool looking show on paper that I was hyped up for.

 

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Karen DATE vs Giulia was a really good opener, with both showing progression and skills beyond years in terms of experience. Karen picked up the win in a nicely competitive contest.

 

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The second match was an interesting mix-and-match tag with Hamuko Hoshi & Kyuuri vs. Maika Ozaki & Miyako Matsumoto. It featured regular partners Kyuuri and Maika on opposites sides teaming with Hammy and Miyako respectively, who were trios partners at the time while Hammy was also gunning for Miyako’s Ice Cross Infinity title. This was my favorite match of a strong show. It had a wonderful feeling of escalation throughout and a real, palpable sense of desperation as time ran down and everyone became frantic to win. This was as fine a worked time limit draw as I’ve ever seen.

 

The semi-final saw Ibuki Hoshi facing Maya Yukihi. The outcome was never in doubt, but with under a year of experience at the time Ibuki might have gotten the best match I’ve ever seen out of Maya. They clicked, and Ibuki’s portrayal of the fiery underdog was the perfect foil for Maya’s confidence. Maya’s ringwork has improved greatly since over time, particularly in last year, and she looks more and more comfortable in the ring and closer and closer to the top level competitor Ice Ribbon has been trying to make her.

 

 

The main event was a six-woman tag of Akane Fujita, Mochi Miyagi, & Risa Sera vs Uno Matsuya, Nao DATE, & Tsukushi. Good back and forth match with the expected trios based style that’s still quite satisfying. Formulas become formulas for a reason. Nao stood out to me, and Akane is quietly becoming a force to be reckoned with and is somewhat of an under-appreciated presence in IR.

 

The post show roundtable this time set up matches for a “Young Ice” (based on experience, not age) vs veterans series at the 5/5 Yokohama show. In absentia Asahi was chosen to face off against champion Miyako, first by Tsukka’s announcement then via rock, paper, scissors (with Kyuuri subbing for her) after Ibuki and Karen both objected, trying to get another shot at the champ for themselves. Karen and Ibuki then settled for challenging Ibuki’s mother Hamuko and her regular partner Mochi to a tag match. Giulia requested a rematch with Tsukka, who had destroyed the rookie in under three minutes the last time they faced, and perhaps the star of the rookie class and winner of the Young Ice tournament Nao Date wanted to go one on one with former champion Risa Sera. That left Uno, Totoro, & Hana vs Akane, Kurumi, & Maya to round out the series.

It was a solid, interesting lineup that seemed well structured at the time. I expected Giulia to give Tsukka more trouble but still come up short, the Butchers to dispatch the youngsters, Nao to continue her ascent by beating Risa, and the rookie trio to prevail leading to the series being on the line with Asahi vs Miyako, something that could go either way with the type of champ Miyako was. I’d get something different, but more on that when I review that show.

 

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This is exactly the kind of fun show IR does best. The mix of spotlight on younger talent and interesting matchups featuring vets was excellent. Across the ring from me was a person at their first Ice show gasping and cheering whole night, which was great to see and a perfect reflection of how I felt myself.  Pro-wrestling should be fun and enthralling, and that’s precisely what we got here. 🙂

Gatoh Move 4/29/18 & 5/4/18 Live Thoughts

April 29 and May 4, 2018 in Tokyo, Japan

As I like to explain to start my Gatoh Move reviews, the Ichigaya events are held in a small room with no ring and two large windows on one wall which are removed for the shows. The crowd itself is effectively the “rope break” marker and the wrestlers will sometimes use the front row to bounce off of for “running the ropes” and the windowsills to jump off of for high risk maneuvers. The limitations of the venue restrict the action in ways compared to “normal” matches, but also provide opportunities for creative variations on standard wrestling elements.

Pictures are not allowed during the show but can be taken afterward, so my pics here won’t contain anything from the matches and will only be of the roundtable and dancing following the shows (as well as of some souvenirs).

 

4/29/18:

With Aasa out indefinitely, Kotori retired, and Obi injured, Gatoh Move’s core roster was a bit depleted around the time of this show. Emi joked about welcoming the crowd to “Joshi Puroresu,” as this particular show featured seven men and just three women. Still, the heart of Gatoh Move is Emi’s approach and the atmosphere it creates, and this show was pure Gatoh Move.

 

 

 

Cho-un Shiryu, who I’ve seen at Ichigaya several times, opened the show with a victory over new-to-me Yu Iizuka. Pretty standard, decent opener.

 

Antonio Honda was up second, which always means comedy time at Ichiagaya. My favorite up and comer Mitsuru Konno was his opponent this time, in what can only be properly described as a pictionary match. Whenever one of them achieved a count on the other, the referee gave them a person to draw and if they could get judge Obi to correctly guess who it was they’d get a point. After the 10 minute time limit elapsed the person with the most points would win the match. Totally ridiculous, and yet a lot of fun.

Both were pretty good with the sketches (Mitsuru routinely draws pictures on autograph boards that audience members can get the right to purchase via audience wide rock, paper, scissors games), and the subjects were a mix of famous people and wrestlers, which made this engaging even with me being unable to read the clues. And it’s great to see a rare Mitsuru victory no matter the format. 😉 The sketch pad would be relevant again later…

 

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As I’m mentioned before, it’s quite impressive that Gatoh Move can do six-person tags in such a limited space and unique environment. Even more so is the fact that they’re always great. In this one the Tag Team Champions Emi Sakura & Masahiro Takanashi  teamed with One and Only Champ Golem Thai to face Baliyan Akki, Sawasdee Kamen, & Super Asia Champion Riho. Non-stop, exciting action with the all champ team coming out on top.

 

 

After the show Emi held another balloon drill in leiu of the regular talking/promos, likely as a nice consideration to having foreigners like me in the audience. The great part is that in addition to it being a fun thing to watch, they incorporated a couple of angles into it. Akki pinned Gatoh Move One and Only champion Golem Thai during the Go Go Green Curry Cup tournament the day before and tensions between them were high. Akki pointed at Golem and said “your face” before DESTROYING his balloon with a dropkick that also leveled poor Emi holding the strike pad. She got up complaining “His face?! MY face!!!”

When it was Golem’s turn he had Akki help Emi hold the pad, then instead of throwing a dropkick he simply ran through the balloon, pad, Emi and Akki with a shoulder tackle. Add in little things like Riho blocking her ears from the popping noises and playing with balloons that people failed to pop and this was a really cool little epilogue to the show.

 

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After the balloon drill and ending dance, Mitsuru took the pad from her match out again and revealed a pre-drawn announcement of her starting a twitter account. It’s a minor thing, but tying it back to the comedy match like that was a cool little touch.

 

 

5/4/18:

During my second (and only other) Ichigaya show of this trip Emi was traveling to appear for Pro Wrestling Eve in Europe so was unfortunately missing in action.

 

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It was fun to see Cherry at Ichigaya for my first time. Ok opener during which she played mind games with her opponent Taro Yamada and picked up the win by taking advantage of the ref (another wrestler) getting involved.

 

The second match was Baliyan Akki vs Emi Sakura W, and was bit more serious than the other Sakura W matches I’ve seen. As a result I really liked the feel of this one, with W’s antics still there but a little more controlled. Akki’s fantastic and is always a treat to see wrestle. Nice five minute match that didn’t feel short and, as expected with his feud with Golem ongoing, saw Akki pick up the victory.

 

 

The main event saw a match reminiscent of the Go Go Green Curry Cup first round with the team of Gatoh Move’s two singles champions Golem Thai & Riho facing Mitsuru and a partner, in this case Madoka. As usual with Gatoh’s tag main events this was fast paced, exciting, and a lot of fun. As I’ve mentioned before I adore seeing Mitsuru against Gatoh’s vets, and her and Riho have great chemistry. Golem’s a monster and was an imposing figure for Mitsuru and Madoka to try to overcome. But while they brought a strong fight, the pair of champions prevailed with Riho eventually getting the pin on Mitsuru. This was action packed and a great match to wrap up my Gatoh Move shows for this trip.

 

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A few days before this show Mitsuru had announced on Twitter that replica’s of her mask from the Go Go Green Curry Cup, made by the original mask maker (the incredible Demonio Blanco / Bacchanales Tokyo), were available for special order. I put in an order but expected to have to pick it up during my next trip (whenever that ended up being). In a wonderful, greatly appreciated gesture a point was made of finishing it for this show so it could be delivered before I returned home and Mitsuru surprised me with it after the show. It’s a wonderful keepsake of amazing quality and a centerpiece addition to my collection.

As a final fantastic bit of amusement, Mitsuru had her own mask with her and had us both wear them when I got a pic with her later on, then signed with “we are heroes!” It was fun to a be a sidekick for a moment. 😉

 

 

I always enjoy my time at Gatoh Move, and these shows were no exception, with engaging matches as well as some additional cool moments and memories for me personally.

Mae Young Classic 2018 Episode 1 Review

Been psyched for the return of the WWE’s women’s tournament after its inaugural edition last year (check out my thoughts starting here). The taping format limited the matches in certain respects and the presentation and commentary was hit or miss, but it was a decent showing overall leading to a strong final and deserving winner (who just recently won the NXT Women’s Championship). This year the lineup is even more impressive, with several returns as well as numerous exciting WWE debuts.

Instead of the episode dump of last year the tournament is airing weekly after NXT. Episode 1 will start things off in a big way, as one of the biggest names will main event.

 

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Round 1:

 

1) Tegan Nox vs Zatara ***

Nice video packages to hype both wrestlers. Zatara’s got into her background as 10 year vet and WWE’s first Chilean wrestler. Tegan’s focused on her missing last year’s tourney due to an acl tear and being inspired by Molly Holly.

Renee Young, Beth Phoenix, and Michael Cole calling this, which with all due respect is a big step up from last year’s team. They all talk up Tegan as a possible favorite for the tourney, while also commenting it won’t be easy because she had a tough draw in the first round of a physical vet who’s looking to make a statement.

Great to see Nox back from the injury. I’m familiar with her from Shimmer (as Nixon Newel), while this is my first look at Zatara. The latter started in sportsmanlike fashion but slowly allowed the heel tendencies to emerge as the match continued, reacting to Tegan’s hot start and the crowd’s lack of support for her against the darling Nox. Solid, well worked match with an easy to follow story that culminated with Nox overcoming trouble with her previously injured knee to nail the Shiniest Wizard to advance. Both looked good and this was a great choice to start with.

 

Ember Moon and Alexa Bliss are shown watching in the crowd.

 

2) Rhea Ripley vs MJ Jenkins **3/4

Rhea’s been repackaged, claiming to be a darker, better version of herself and is out to make up for “making a fool of myself last year.” Interesting angle. MJ’s charisma comes across instantly, and although there seems to be no real hope for her here she’s getting the crowd involved and generally playing her part well. Rhea mentioned as a darkhorse. Commentary is excellent so far, sounding informed about the competitors and genuinely interested in what’s happening.

Rhea won’t shake hands to open. Jenkins shows a bit of fire early, but Rhea takes over with a HARD dropkick counter to a springboard that sends MJ to the floor. Rhea’s all heel here but the new look and aggressive attitude has the crowd behind her for a bit. The two do get the crowd behind MJ later on, which is a credit to both.  Rhea grinds Jenkins down little by little and while the newcomer got to look tough for holding on as long as she did and had a couple of nice flurries Rhea eventually picks up the expected victory with a SWEET pumphandle sitout powerbomb. Solid.

 

 

3)  Lacey Lane vs Vanessa Kraven **1/2

Kraven’s a Shimmer mainstay who I’m thrilled to see getting a shot here. Nice use of Shimmer footage in here intro package matching up with a calm, even delivery from Kraven about here ambitions. Lacey’s new to me. She has a unique look and comes across well in her video. As she comes to the ring it’s mentioned she’s signed to the performance center, which doesn’t bode well for the Mountain. 😦

Lio Rush is shown in the crowd.

Big size advantage for Kraven, and the commentators go right for the David vs Goliath comparison. Cole mentions though that it’s not just that: there’s also a big experience advantage for Kraven. Nice touch. They mention Lane’s intergender wrestling background, which is good context for her taking on an opponent who has 100 pounds on her. Lane flubs a rope bounce early, but recovers well (and again Cole, Phoenix and Young explain/cover it well talking about big match nerves). Kraven catches Lane on a dive outside and then dominates with nice power style for a bit. Some of Lane’s stuff didn’t quite hit clean and the pacing was off, but she looked decent overall with some real fire and flare. She picked up the victory with a crucifix bomb, and is on to round 2. It was sold as a huge upset over the 14 year veteran, which is at least a good amount of respect for Kraven and a good story even if I’m disappointed to see the Mountain out so quick. Lane’s your Cinderella story at this point.

 

Natalia gives an interview backstage and says she’s rooting for Io and Mia.

 

4) Meiko Satomura vs Killer Kelly ***3/4

Meiko is a legitimate legend and quite possibly the best wrestler in the world. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to see her wrestle several times live in Japan, including against another MYC participant in an incredible match on a show by Meiko’s promotion Sendai Girls this past April. Footage is show from 22 years ago when Meiko wrestled a match for WCW. Killer Kelly comes across as no nonsense and seems a good choice for Meiko’s opponent just from her attitude and style alone.

 

Funaki’s in the audience with Tye Dillinger.

Meiko being presented as the legend she is (Cole even uses the word). Crowd explodes for her too. Handshake and a bow before the match. Strikes and chain wrestling early, and I can’t stress how much of a treat it is to see Meiko ply her craft. Kelly holding her end up wonderfully and the crowd’s well invested. Meiko wow’s the crowd with some of her incredible transitions and counters and gets Kelly in a STF that puts Cena to SHAME. Kelly forces a rope break but Satomura continues to pick her apart bit by bit. Kelly gives the vet all she can handle at times though, including locking in a dragon sleeper on the tope rope, and getting a 2.9999 off a fisherman’s. Meiko’s just too much however, and the Death Valley Driver puts Kelly away. Meiko pulls Kelly up afterwards to hug her and bows to an emotional Kelly who congratulates Meiko on the win. Kelly clearly know what an honor she received being able to wrestle Satomura in a main event. And she looked great. Meiko of course is Meiko, and this was a blast.

 

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Fantastic first impression here. And we’re just getting started…

A Ray of Light Gone Too Soon

Before my first trip to Japan in late 2015, my initial exposure to most Joshi wrestlers I was familiar with came via Shimmer Women Athletes. In 2012 Shimmer announced Leon would be debuting at the company’s March tapings, along with her tag team partner Ray. I wasn’t familiar with either, so my first glimpse at their work was via highlight clips as I looked into Shimmer’s newest Joshi visitors. Both were impressive, talented veterans and fantastic additions to the Shimmer roster. But with all due respect to Leon, it’s Ray who immediately captured my attention and a few short clips were all it took to make her an instant favorite of mine.

 

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Ray combined innovative offense, like her fantastic Cartwheel-Bomb, with a crispness and smooth execution that made her an absolute delight to watch. Already being nearly a ten year vet when I started watching her, she was at the top of her game and incredibly precise in everything she did. She came to Shimmer twice, covering a total of eight matches taped over two different weekends set two years apart. I spotlighted her and Leon’s title match against Ayako Hamada & Ayumi Kurihara on volume 47 as a shining example of Shimmer’s tag division looking back during Shimmer’s 10th Anniversary, and they were always a treat to watch.

It was during Ray’s second trip in 2014 that I was lucky enough to attend live, seeing her & Leon tear the house down in tag matches against three different teams that all had or would hold Shimmer’s tag belts at some point (the Canadian Ninjas (Nicole Matthews & Portia Perez), 3G (reigning tag champs at the time Kellie Skater & Tomoka Nakagawa), and the Kimber Bombs (Cherry Bomb & Kimber Lee)), as well as a singles encounter for Ray against Mia Yim. Again, every match was a treat to see and Ray was incredible.

In December of 2015 I made my first trip to Japan and saw several excellent shows and matches. One of my most anticipated things was getting to see Ray again, and it was nice to get to talk to her again and see her tag with Alex Lee against Takako Inoue & Karou at Marvelous’ 12/20 show. Unfortunately this would turn out to be one of Ray’s final matches, as to start JWP’s Climax a week later she came out to announce she was pulled from the show due to illness. That illness would sadly later be revealed to be a malignant, inoperable brain tumor.

Ray fought her cancer emphatically, and there was always a tiny bit of hope and prayer in everyone’s minds of a recovery and comeback for her. Unfortunately Ray succumbed recently and passed away. In the ring and out she was an inspiration, and she will be greatly missed.