October 8, 2018 in Tokyo, Japan
Stepping back a little to look at one of the last two shows I have to write up from my September-October trip. Big Korakuen show for Ice Ribbon here, the day after most of the roster appeared at Aoi Kizuki’s retirement show.
The show opened with a non-title 2 out of 3 falls contest with unspecified other stipulations between reigning Ice Cross Infinity Champion Tsukasa Fujimoto and Risa Sera.
If any in story reason for this being the opener was given, I missed it. I generally dislike it when things happen unexplained because of how the match is going to play out and had that sinking feeling here, and sure enough this started the show so it could continue throughout the event.
First fall was a regular match, which seemed there to placate the live audience and be able to say that those who paid to attend the show live got to see some of Risa vs Tsukka. While it involving these two meant it was still decent, it wasn’t enough honestly. Eight and half minutes of them hitting their signature spots before they disappeared to wrestle elsewhere for hours.
To be clear I don’t blame them at all for pacing themselves, but given the majority wouldn’t be happening at the arena I would’ve liked to see something… more compelling at least from this first fall. The biggest problem with the angle they’re running of Risa’s character being much more effective/interested in hardcore matches than regular matches is it seems to be bleeding over into her work and her regular matches feel less interesting/engaging than her hardcore stuff now.
Tsukka won this clean as a whistle center of the ring (more on that later). Then the second fall was announced as falls count anywhere and they brawled through the crowd … and out of the arena, leaving the live audience behind. A referee and camera was sent after them, and the show moved on.
In a somewhat tough spot of being overshadowed by the match that just vacated the arena, Miyako Matsumoto, Tae Honma, & Uno Matsuya vs Tequila Saya, Giulia, & Makoto was a decent way to keep the energy in the arena up. Good match overall, and I really liked Tae’s increasing frustration with her own partner Uno as things went on. Little touches are so important.
On a side note, I think this was my first time seeing Saya’s entrance gear that riffs on Giulia’s militant look, with Saya’s version having a bandolier of shot glasses and a glass tequila bottle shaped like a gun. Fantastic.
As Misaki Ohata’s career wound down this year I really enjoyed her involvement in P’s Party, particularly her matches / interactions with Asahi. So it was a real treat for me to see them team here against Arisa Nakajima & Karen DATE. I loved this, as beyond just great action it also had several interesting undercurrents being played off of throughout the match.
Arisa and Misaki’s mutual resentment was palpable, and Misaki’s strained patience with Asahi yet being rabidly protective when Arisa mocked the rookie was pitch perfect character work. Great stuff all around.
With all of the DATES currently absent from Ice Ribbon’s shows this seems like it was my last time seeing Karen live for the foreseeable future (if ever). A high note to go out on at least.
A year and change into her career, Ibuki Hoshi got the… opportunity… to face legend Aja Kong. Exactly as expected and warranted, as the defiant Ibuki fought her heart out but still eventually got wrecked by the veteran monster. Ibuki’s really solid in her storytelling, and this was quite good for this formula.
Shortly before this show Maika Ozaki had temporarily broken up her GEKOKU team with Kyuuri in a case of tough love because she thought the latter wasn’t as upset by losing matches as she should be. Here they were pitted against each other in tag action, teaming with Nao DATE and Totoro Satsuki respectively.
I adore the fact that they were teaming with two wrestlers who were regular partners themselves (as Novel Tornado), as it created several interesting parallels between the team who was ok facing each other in a competitive environment and the team who was being torn apart by it. Kyuuri wanted NO PART of fighting Maika, looking absolutely miserable during the ring entrances and only lightening up when in the ring against Nao. She wouldn’t even lock up with Maika at first, but later in the match when pushed far enough she completely went off on her usual partner in spectacular, crowd popping fashion.
Maika, perhaps partially proving her point about Kyuuri’s priorities, eventually prevails and pins her regular partner with the Muscle Buster. A dejected, depressed Kyuuri then slinks off with Totoro in tow as Maika desperately tries to call her back and explain. Great interweaving of stories in a great match. Between this and the ActWres feud Gekoku has been the center of some of the best storytelling Ice Ribbon did all year, and of course the story wasn’t over yet.
Like Karen, Nao has also apparently stopped wrestling for now (?) since I saw this show. She’s one of my absolute favorites among Ice’s rookies and I hope to see her back someday.
Next up former Ice Ribbon wrestler and unwelcome invader Hikaru Shida faced Akane Fujita. Fine, if a bit perfunctory. Long for what it was as Akane never had a chance here and they didn’t do a great job of ever making it feel like she did. Tae Homna being the only corner person for Shida (since all of Ice Ribbon hates her in story) was a nice little touch. Shida was confronted by the entire batch of Ice Ribbon “rookies” afterwards, which led to nothing.
So an hour an ten minutes later we get the finish of fall 2 of Tsukka vs Risa, relayed via video clip on a screen directly behind me. Yay live wrestling. Risa wins, and they hop on a train to continue for fall 3. How is “falls count anywhere” and “falls count anywhere (WE’RE ON A TRAIN NOW!)” any logically different as a stipulation? No idea. And on to the next match we went.
In the supposed semi-main event Maya Yukihi faced Wave’s Rina Yamishita. Really good showing for Maya against tough competition in a hard hitting fifteen minute battle before coming up short. She’s gradually and continually improved over the three years I’ve been watching her wrestle and is at the level for the position they’ve been building her towards. Rina’s great and it’s always nice to see her come to Ice Ribbon in the few appearances she makes.
It seemed possible that Tsukushi’s journey since her redebut would culminate here and lead to the vacated International Ribbon Tag Team Champions of This is Ice Ribbon (Tsukushi & Kurumi Hiiragi) reclaiming the belts. But instead the team that claimed the belts in their absence, the Lovely Butchers (Hamuko Hoshi & Mochi Miyagi), had their reign legitimized in a decisive win. Solid match, with Mochi and Tsukushi’s simmering animosity that bubbled over in at the dojo show days before providing a strong central emotional core to build around. But once the dust settled in the aftermath of the heated battled all was forgiven.
But of course that wasn’t really the main event, because we still have a fall left of our “opener” to check in on. Risa wins the train battle, and thus the “match.” This makes her the #1 contender to Tsukka’s title, and then they throw to another video which is an announcement/commercial for a variety show TV special Ice Ribbon had coming up.
I was really torn on this, because I like that Ice Ribbon does unusual promotional things exactly like having a match spill all over Tokyo. On the other hand, as a member of the live, paying audience having the majority of this, including both the falls that actually mattered in the end, happen away from the venue and relayed on a video screen directly behind me quite honestly sucked. And progressing throughout the show the way it did meant it became the focal point, and the wrestling actually happening in the building was in some sense second fiddle to off site action. Another smaller frustration is that as a result the champion and number 1 contender, arguably the company’s two biggest stars, ended up hours away from the venue and missing for post show photo ops, etc.
On top of that Tsukka, the champion facing her rival who’s being set up to challenge her mind you, won center of the ring in the non-stipulation fall. Why does Risa then winning gimmicked, brawling falls make her number one contender in the exact type of match she just lost clean in short order?
This should be fine and enjoyable on dvd, but from my personal perspective as a live audience member as well as how it was presented / booked I was honestly disappointed.
Overall this show was clearly a mixed bag for me live, but the primary issues I had won’t be a problem on tape and there’s some really great gems hiding in the undercard, so this still gets a recommendation from me to check out.