Ice Ribbon 12/31/17 (RibbonMania) Live Thoughts

December 31, 2017 in Tokyo, Japan

As always for my holiday wrestling trips, one of my most anticipated events was Ice Ribbon’s biggest of the year.

 

 

The opening contest was an unusual one, as in featured the re-debut of Tsukushi to in-ring action after her hiatus.  As announced at the dojo show on 12/23 this was to be a career reset for her, underscored by the fact that this was the opener and Tsukushi came out for it in a plain white swimsuit style outfit befitting a rookie instead any of her old gear. It was the right approach, committing to the idea of this being a new start for her and not any sort of “triumphant return.”

 

She had an extremely emotional match against company ace Tsukasa Fujimoto.  It was much more even than I expected, with Tsukushi going toe-to-toe with Tsukka in an extremely good contest before her inevitable defeat. They both bowed to all sides of the ring afterwards, and Tsukka carried Tsukushi to the back via piggyback.

 

 

A pair of 6-woman tags followed, starting with “another” debut as Mammoth Ikino made her first Ice Ribbon appearance teaming with Hana DATE & Ibuki Hoshi in an elimination match against Satsuki Totoro, Karen DATE & Giulia.

 

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This was energetic and fun. In general I do wish wrestlers still in eliminations matches  would get up on the apron. If they’re fighting with other active participants outside it’s one thing, but having them on the floor crouched next to the eliminated team members gets confusing. That minor point aside I really enjoyed this. It was a decent debut for Mammoth, everyone looked good. Totoro and Hana continue to be particularly impressive, including the latter’s flying kick that looks like something out of a video game.

 

 

What could have been essentially a throwaway catch all match between Uno Matsuya & The Lovely Butchers (Hamuko Hoshi & Mochi Miyagi) and Tequila Saya, Maya Yukihi & Makoto was a decent contest significantly elevated by the underlying story. Uno was briefly in good spirits coming out and dancing with the Butchers in a highly amusing attempted imitation of their entrance, but as soon as that was done she adopted the poise and posture of someone with something to prove. Throughout the match she was almost desperate in her quest to upstage her rival/frequent partner Saya, including things like knocking her own partner Mochi off the apron at one point so Hamuko would have to tag her in. It was a great thread to build the match around, and Uno’s aggressive, almost selfish attitude surprisingly paying off with her pinning Saya leaves several interesting ways to proceed from here.

 

 

At the Christmas Eve show at KFC Hall one week prior, Akane Fujita issued a challenge to SEAdLINNG’s Arisa Nakajima which was promptly accepted. This was a great showcase opportunity for Akane, who’s really been stepping up all parts of her performances over the past year. Arisa is simply one of the greatest wrestlers in the world, and this pairing was excellent.

A fantastic moment in this match happened when Akane dug into her recent hardcore tendencies to try to get the advantage. She hit Arisa with a chair repeatedly, but the latter got up and wrenched the weapon away from her. Arisa then seemed ready to return the favor, but at the last second tossed the chair away in a “I don’t need this” manner and WAYLAID Akane with forearms instead. Great character moment and a really strong sequence altogether.

 

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Miyako Matsumoto’s glorious overconfidence was in full force again as she had challenged Hideki Suzuki to a singles match for this event. I had just been introduced to Hideki Suzuki a couple days prior at a Basara tournament and had no doubts the unlikely winning streak I had seen from Miyako so far this trip was going to run into a brick wall. Indeed, the bell rung and Miyako ran towards Hideki, who swept her legs into a cover and pinned her in 6 seconds.

 

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Miyako would never let a little thing like losing rob her of her victory, so she challenged Hideki to an immediate rematch. He accepted, swept her legs in the same fashion again and won in 5 seconds this time.

 

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But no one’s force of will and delusion is as strong as the Dancing Queen’s and as Hideki’s senior in the sports she demanded a third match. Miyako’s nothing (besides stubborn) if not consistent and charged the exact same way and fell victim to the same sweep and cover for the third time… but kicks out at 2.999 to a huge ovation. It’s the simple things that can be so effective when done right, and the third time’s always the charm.

 

 

From there they had a fun match with Miyako trying to do ridiculous things like Irish Whipping Hideki, but lucking into some actual offense here and there and pouring her heart into her efforts in her own Miyako way. This was well worked and fun, being ridiculous but on purpose and with reason.

It was cool to see a wrestler with a no-nonsense aura like Suzuki play his part in a humorous match so perfectly. Since then he’s been talking about being in Ice Ribbon’s “Men’s Division”  and has finagled his way into a title match against Tsukka (also including Miyako) where if he wins the belt Tsukka and Miyako become his assistants in expanding his division and if he loses he goes away and stops bothering them (I may have taken some liberties with that phrasing 😉 ). This was my favorite match(es) of Myako’s at Ribbonmania thus far and I’m finding the subsequent angle with Hideki highly amusing.

 

 

From comedy things progressed to palpable tension as GEKOKU (Kyuuri & Maika Ozaki) faced the visiting Saori Anou & Tae Honma from Actwres girl’Z. Tae and Kyuuri in particular seemed to want to tear into each other from the word go.

This was an excellent, heated tag match that ended with a too infrequent victory for Gekoku. A tense stare down between Kyuuri and Tae afterwards emphasized things weren’t over. I knew of Saori and Tae but hadn’t seen either wrestle before, and I definitely left this wanting to see more of both.

 

 

The semi-main was the Young Ice Tournament final, and it was a great match made even better by an unexpected finish. I saw a Maruko Nagasaki victory as a foregone conclusion, with her vanquishing her third member of Team DATE in a row to win the tourney. So I was pleasantly shocked to see Nao DATE take it and Ice Ribbon use the tournament to significantly elevate a new face. These are two of IR’s brightest rising stars and the match they put on certainly reflected that.

 

 

Amusing aftermath saw Hana absolutely giddy with excitement for her sister’s victory, celebrating with the trophy until Nao seemed to be shooting her “uhm, you know *I* won that, right?” looks.

 

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To close out the show Risa Sera defended her Ice Cross Infinity Title against a human wrecking ball in the form of Kurumi Hiiragi. This confrontation had been built to nicely, right up to Risa sucessfully defending her International Ribbon Tag Team Championship with partner Maya against Kurumi and Akane at KFC Hall a week prior.  This was a very good match and solid main event that suffered just a little in the pacing department. After a hard hitting affair Kurumi stood victorious as the new champion. It was time, and Kurumi was a suitable choice to dethrone Risa.

 

 

After Risa graciously congratulated the new champion, Nao Date came in to challenge Kurumi and that title match will headline Yokohama Ribbon!!! A main event shot for someone new in a fresh matchup is exactly what that type of tourney should build to, an this angle capped off an excellent show from top to bottom in a great way.

Basara 12/28/17 Live Thoughts

December 28, 2017 in Tokyo, Japan

At the last minute I decided to check out my first DDT / Basara produced show, which was their 3rd “Shinjuku Strongest Ground Budokai” tournament. It featured competitors from a variety of companies (including Gatoh Move’s Riho, a large part of why I found out about and was interested in this show).

The show opened with what were essentially qualifiers, with the winners joining the 6 competitors already in the quarterfinals. For those two matches plus the quarters, there were no ropes and matches could end by ring out in addition to the normal ways (pin, submission, etc). The wrestlers did a good job with the structure, and the finishes were varied and clever.

 

In the first qualifier Isami Kodaka defeated Naoki Tanizaki to advance to face Ayako Hamada by knocking him out of the ring with a knee strike. I don’t recall much about this extremely short match, but it served it’s purpose of introducing the concept and rules.

 

 

In the second Colt Cabana was sent flying out of the ring when Yuko Miyamoto kicked out of a Superman Dive to send Yuko on to face Hideki Suzuki. This was an amusing comedy match, with Colt using his towel in bull fighting fashion to tempt Yuko to charge, with the latter later returning the favor, but also trying to trick Colt into charging out of the ring.

 

 

Opening the quarters was an extremely good, more serious match in which Fuminori Abe beat Akito with a wonderful counter to being in a Figure Four where he rolled both himself and Akito out of the ring but grabbed the corner to support himself so Akito hit the floor first.

 

 

I mentioned I came to the show primarily to see Riho, and as always she certainly didn’t disappoint. Her match against Yasu Urano was great, with Urano being a little dismissive but needed to take things seriously as Riho was unfazed at his 8 inch and 90 pound advantage and took the fight right to him.

 

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For those unfamiliar, Riho’s a twelve year veteran at age 20, and is an expert at making the story of her match believable. Here that meant using her quickness and aggressiveness to counter the size discrepancy. Her never say die approach here made this engrossing, and Urano was also perfect as the bully realizing he might have more bit off more than he could handle. They had some great exchanged around/near the ringposts and edges. My favorite finish of the night saw Riho hit a spinning sunset flip near the ring’s edge, and Urano emphatically kick out just before 3… sending himself out of the ring and giving Riho the win. Great stuff.

 

 

Isami Kodaka followed up his qualifier win by becoming the apparent “Cinderella Story” representative to the semis by upsetting Wave’s Ayako Hamada with a well placed kick while they were fighting around the ringpost to send her to the floor. This was ok, but it was one of the shortest matches of the night (admittedly understandably given how many times Isami was wrestling) and I wanted to see more from a star like Hamada. Her going up for the moonsault despite there being no ropes was awesome though.

 

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The final quarterfinal match was my first look at Hideki Suzuki. I really like the no-nonsense aura he has that belies his versatility. After a solid, grapple based match he ended up defeating Yuko Miyamoto when the latter grabbed Suzuki’s tights to avoid falling to the floor. Suzuki broke the grip as his tights were pulled down and stood both victorious and mooning the crowd. He played the comedic moment perfectly for his character, not really caring about the exposure.

So the no rope round matches all ended with ring outs, but the matches and finishes were so different it was totally the right call to make the most of the stipulation.

 

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The ropes were added for the semis, but the ring out loss condition was still in effect. Fuminori Abe ended Isami Kodaka’s run in the first non ring out of the night as the two decided to just hit each other until one couldn’t get up. Isami failed to answer a 10 count after Abe’s Rabbit Punch and Abe was declared the winner by KO.

 

 

Which left Riho in the other semi final against Hideki Suzuki. I like the different approach in this one, as not only did the added ropes confine Riho more, Suzuki had even more of a size advantage at 14 inches taller and 150 pounds heavier than Riho. So she was appropriately much more tentative here, playing keep away in between flurries of trying to attack her massive opponent. Suzuki for his part just stalked her around the ring and shrugged off her strikes as intimidation. An amusing spot saw her offer a test of strength as Suzuki looked at her incredulously.

 

 

After a couple of minutes he did try to rush her, but her quickness let her get out of the way and send him crashing into the corner for her first real advantage. She wore him down a little with some high risk moves, then went for her Tiger Feint Kick (619) with Suzuki draped over the second rope. But she couldn’t adjust for his size and power as he pushed her as she connected making her fall to the outside giving Suzuki a ring out victory. They packed a lot of story into 3 minutes, and avoided having either look weak.

 

 

The only non-tournament match of the night gave a break between the semis and the main with a 10-man tag of Trans-Am Ryuichi, SAGAT, FUMA, Yusuke Kubo & Hagane Shino vs Takumi Tsukamoto, Ryuichi Sekine, Ryota Nakatsu, Daichi Kazato & Takato Nakano. Ten minutes of crazy brawling and chaotic spots. Good for what it was, although I imagine it would have been more compelling if I was familiar with the various teams and personalities coming facing off here and the underlying dynamics.

 

 

So for the tournament final the ring out rule is gone, so were back to regular match rules. Hideki Suzuki defeated Fuminori Abe in a suitably hard hitting main event with his Double Arm Suplex.

 

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I really enjoyed this show. It had a nice mix of comedic moments and serious wrestling, excellent use of the chosen stipulations, and a real feel that everyone cared about winning the tournament.

 

Farewell to a Rising Star

 

I was largely unfamiliar with the professional wrestling company Gatoh Move, and completely unfamiliar with 17 year old competitor Kotori, when I attended my first show of theirs on 12/22/15. Kotori was on opposite sides from another new to me competitor named Riho in a tag match also featuring wrestlers previously familiar in Hikaru Shida and Makoto. It was a very good match, and I left impressed with both of the younger participants and wanting to see more of them.

 

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Of course “younger” in Joshi doesn’t necessarily correlate to experience, and the 18 year old Riho was the most senior competitor of the match with nearly 10 years as a wrestler. So it’s understandable that she overshadowed the least experienced a touch as far as first impressions go. But Kotori more than held her own against the veterans, and immediately showed well honed skills beyond her 3 years.

 

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Once I got a chance to see Gatoh Move in their home environment the true depth and ability of the talent on their core roster became even more apparent. The 12/22/15 show had been a “traditional” wrestling show with a traditional wrestling ring. The reason I specify is that Gatoh Move’s home venue, Ichigaya Chocolate Square, is 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.

And it was increasingly clear under such constraints that Kotori was already a fantastic wrestler who was only going to get better. Complimenting her excellent instincts and skills benefiting from being trained by one of the very best in the world in Emi Sakura, Kotori brought an exuberance and enthusiasm to her wrestling that was downright contagious. I called her match with SAKI “pretty much as good a 7 minute match as you’ll ever see,” and I couldn’t wait to what she’d achieve going forward. Kotori’s infectious positive attitude also came across in her roundtable discussion, where she practiced her English by doing some translation for us visiting foreign fans.

 

 

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The following year I had the privilege of seeing Kotori (now teaming with Riho instead of across the ring from her) crowned GM’s tag team champions in an excellent match main eventing the 12/21/16 show against Aoi Kizuki and Sayaka Obihiro. The undercurrent here was a more stern Kotori having something to prove as the least experienced competitor and being extremely aggressive in pursuit of the titles. She played the role perfectly and her emotional reaction to victory was genuinely moving.

It was great to see her development during the intervening year, becoming a little more focused and honing her skills even further. She was equalling impressive in the three other matches I saw her in that trip, including a fantastic 6-woman tag including the entire expanded core Gatoh Move Roster (Kotori teaming with Riho & Aasa against Emi Sakura, Sayaka Obihiro, & Mitsuru).

 

 

 

I was fortunate to make a short, unexpected trip back to Tokyo in August 2017, and was treated to seeing Kotori vs Aasa in the semi-finals of the Super Asia Championship tournament as the main event of the 8/26/17 Ichigaya show. Kotori’s win was a foregone conclusion with her en route to face partner Riho in the finals, but she and Aasa created tension and drama regardless in a fantastic match that felt like the big deal it should be. Kotori was beyond proud with her victory when talking to her after the show, and it was great to be able to share that excitement with her.

 

 

 

I didn’t know it at the time, but that would be the last opportunity I got to see Kotori wrestle live. Her “graduation” (retirement) from wrestling was announced on 10/26/17 due to graduating from high school and needing to move away for family reasons. A hiatus was considered, but Kotori wanted to try different things and chose to wrap up her wrestling career. Her last match was on 12/21/17, unfortunately a single day before I’d be arriving in Tokyo for my winter trip. While I am sorry to have missed that, I was lucky to have seen her wrestle as often as I did. I was also able to pick up the wonderful commemorative booklet produced looking back on her great, short career.

 

 

 

While I will always wonder what she may have achieved if she had continued and am sad to see Kotori go, I wish her all the best in whatever her future holds.

 

7th Garden Volume 1 Review

“Did I open a Pandora’s box I never should have laid my hands upon?”

Awyn (the) Gardner is living his perfect life tending the remote estate gardens belonging to a young lady he devotedly serves and wishes to protect. However when the ruling Angels’ crusading knights arrive to wreak havoc on his peaceful corner of the world he may have to revisit his less than savory skills of the past… and make a deal with a demon.

 

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7th Garden runs through a lot of cliche checkboxes: a quiet main character who’s more than he appears, an idyllic life he wants left alone, ruling Angels who are unjust and devils who still tend towards evil but maybe more just, etc. But the first volume shows just enough nuance to the characters and does well enough in the execution that I enjoyed this and am intrigued to see where it goes from here.

The fanservice is in-your-face when it happens, but in at least one character’s case they seem to be building to some story justification for it. The art is good and easy to follow in the action sequences, and the end of the volume is already hinting at deeper secrets to be uncovered involving Awyn’s demon “friend.”

Pretty standard Shounen fare here, but good for what it is.

 

Late Eclipses (October Daye Book 4) Review

“That’s me,’ I agreed. ‘Toby Daye, assassin of fun.”

October’s luck is as rough as ever, with one of her friends in mortal danger, a ghost of the past haunting her mind, and those in power uninterested in being particularly helpful with any of the ensuing chaos.

This is the fourth book in the October Daye series, and it addresses major, long running plot threads. Best to start with Rosemary and Rue (book 1).

 

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I like urban fantasy best when it’s heavily peppered with mysteries and mind games, and Late Eclipses has both in spades.

I mentioned in my review of An Artificial Night that the series was getting to the point where some of the major plot threads needed to be addressed, and Late Eclipses does so in fine fashion. Several reveals and key developments com at the perfect time, with an incredible number of connect but diverse plot threads carefully interwoven into a wonderfully strong narrative. I’ll avoid spoilers, but there are major implications for numerous characters complimented by a real sense of mystery and tension maintained throughout. October’s been facing different sources of real danger in these last couple books, and the harrowing atmosphere created is palpable.

 

An Artificial Night was easily my favorite in the series to that point, and this surpasses it. Wonderful stuff from Seanan McGuire.

Gatoh Move 1/2/18 Live Thoughts

January 2, 2018 in Tokyo, Japan

My final Gatoh Move show of my most recent trip was another great one with three intriguing matches and something special in place of the normal roundtable discussion afterwards.

 

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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).

 

 

I mentioned in other reviews how big a fan I am of Mitsuru Konno in particular and how wonderful it was this trip to see her in singles matches against incredible veterans like Riho and Masahiro Takanashi. This show had potentially the biggest treat in that vein, as she faced Gatoh Move founder Emi Sakura in a match I was beyond excited for. Unfortunately with this show being super sold out I ended up off to the side a bit with a less than ideal viewing angle looking through the window and couldn’t see about half of this.

It was still great though, as Mitsuru continued to play the perfect fiery underdog trying to prove herself against an opponent who’s an absolute expert in the field. They spilled out of the window by me towards the end leading to Mitsuru’s fun “using an audience stool to launch herself back through the window into a kick on her opponent” spot. Emi eventually prevailed, but both looked extremely good from what I witnessed. Hope to be lucky enough to see this matchup again.

 

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Happy Birthday Honda-san!

 

In a variation on a match I saw last yearAntonio Honda faced Aoi Kizuki in a special match for New Year’s involving trying to “recreate” a Kagami mochi. This time the goal was to get a hat that looked like mochi onto Obi’s head (Obi was sitting apparently passively in a corner of the mat), then whoever placed an orange on top of the hat to complete it would win. This was absurd in the best way, and one of my favorite comedy matches I’ve seen in Gatoh Move.

There was a slow bit it the middle where Aoi was inches away from winning but kept stopping for some reason as Honda begged off (obviously understanding Japanese might have helped me here), but otherwise everything really came together and was highly amusing. Particular high points included Honda and Aoi having to temporarily join forces to get the hat on Obi when she started striking whoever got close to her, and a fantastic ending that saw Honda and Aoi get more and more exaggerated and ridiculous doing dueling dances building up to Honda’s tribute to Dusty Rhodes’ trademark elbow, but when it came time to hit the elbows as Honda reared back for it Aoi turned and calmly put an orange on Obi’s head for the win instead. This was my first time seeing Aoi at an Ichigaya show and my only opportunity to see her this trip, so her involvement in this was particularly awesome for me.

 

 

During the roundtable following the New Year’s Day ShowBaliyan Akki formed a new tag team with Saki, and Emi set up a unique challenge for them if the form of her own tag team champion partner Masahiro Takanashi and Gatoh Move’s singles champion Riho. Both teams had great chemistry and I loved this match. The unusual pairing of champions prevailed here in an excellent main event.

 

 

 

After the show in lieu of the normal roundtable of conversation Emi changed things up a little, in part to be more accessible to the decent number of visiting foreigners. So this time they ran cool practice drill where Emi had balloons taped to a kickpad she was holding and other wrestlers took turns trying to pop them via dropkicks. Mitsuru, Baliyan, Aoi, and Riho all popped their balloons first try. Poor Saki came very close on two attempts, but only managed to knock the balloon off the kickpad. Guest referee for the day Hikaru Shida walked up to Emi before her attempt and took the balloon off the pad and made Emi hold it instead (to the latter’s consternation), then just took the balloon away altogether and blasted Emi with the dropkick instead.

This was so much fun to watch and another excellent touch from a promoter completely committed to making her shows enjoyable.

 

 

 

This was a pretty much perfect way to wrap up my Gatoh Move shows for this visit to Japan, and as always I had a fantastic time.

Wave 12/29/17 Live Thoughts

December 29, 2017 in Tokyo, Japan

Like last year, my only main Wave show this trip was luckily their big one: Thanksgiving Wave 2017. This was an extremely interesting card on paper, and I was looking forward to several of the matches.

 

 

The show opened with a 2 out of 3 falls match pitting Moeka Haruhi, Kyusei Sakura Hirota, Cherry & Mio Momono vs Hikaru Shida, Fairy Nipponbashi, Kaori Yoneyama & Miyuki Takase. As some of the talent involved indicates, there was a significant amount of humor in this one. The first two falls happened very quickly and were all comedy, centered around Mio not having her gear and trading pins with Fairy. Other shenanigans included regular partners Cherry and Yone teaming up for a moment despite being on opposite sides, the ref getting roped into applying a submission hold to help Mio’s team while she was missing to change once her gear “arrived,” and Hirota resisting the magic of Fairy’s wand because she was scared to be thrown off the top rope.

 

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This was ok. Some of the comedy worked, some fell flat. Several of the wrestlers were just kind of there, with a few being the main focus. On the plus side, one of those was Mio, one of wrestling’s best up and comers. The end came when Miyuki evaded Mio’s flying cross body and caused the latter to wipe out Hirota instead, leading to enough confusion for Fairy’s team to prevail. Mio didn’t look particularly broken up about it afterwards, and taunted her own team.

 

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Mika Iida is an excellent wrestler who’s coming up on her retirement in spring (likely due to accumulated injuries). She wasn’t wrestling for the August show I was at, so it was wonderful to see her back in the ring and get to see her wrestle several times this trip, perhaps for the last time live. Here she had a short match against the very game Hiroe Nagahama which packed a lot into five minutes while still having good flow and allowing the less experienced competitor look competitive before Iida put her away. Iida’s victory would not be her last spotlight moment of the night…

 

To be honest, I wish they had taken some time from the Men’s Wave match that saw Kenichiro Arai & Mitomi Masayuki vs Keisuke Goto & Koju Takeda and given it to the prior one. This was decent, but the main point of the match was the nonchalance of Arai eventually allowing him to get the better of his opponent’s temper and win, which could have been achieved in a shorter, tighter match.

 

 

Dangerous Wave was next, and was an incredible hardcore brawl between teams SAKI & KAORU and Ryo Mizunami & Rina Yamashita. Kaoru’s at her best in hardcore matches, and similar to the W-Fix match at Marvelous’ Christmas show she was completely in her element here. Avid Rival (Mizunami & Misaki Ohata) is my favorite tag team in wrestling right now, but I have to admit the pairing of Mizunami and Rina is nearly as good and a team I really want to see more often. And the more I see Saki the more I think she’s generally underrated, and I was thrilled to see her wrestle more frequently recently

This was pretty much INSANE, with Mizunami swinging a car tire around (and throwing it from inside the ring towards Karou when she was right in front of me), a bicycle getting involved, people flying off ladders, etc. I wish they would tone down things just a little, like the finish where Saki took a nasty powerbomb on chairs and seemed to come up a little loopy, but overall this was an amazing performance from all four and a definite highlight of the night as well as my trip. After their victory Rina and Ryo are greeted with the news that they will get another Dangerous Wave match at the next show, against Nanae Takahashi and Yoshiko from SEAdLINNG. Rina’s thrilled, Mizunami not so much.

I was not at that show/match, but heard it was cut short when Nanae suffered a serious injury off a bad ladder fall. Hoping for a speedy and full recovery for her.

 

 

The tag team title match seeing NEW-TRA (Takumi Iroha & Rin Kadokura) defend against Yuki Miyazaki & Nagisa Nozaki was an action packed contest with a clever finish. Yuki kept kissing her opponents to momentarily stun them (just go with it). Rin temporarily blinded her by spitting water into her face, and Yuki unknowingly grabbed her own partner Nagisa, kissed her, and rolled her up. Takumi took advantage of the moment and counted a pin, making Yuki think they won. New-Tra then capitalized on the confusion and put away the challengers to retain. The whole match was fun, and the strides Rin has made in developing her persona and ring style are highly impressive. I really like the pairing of her and Iroha. This was my first decent look at Nozaki (her match at the August show I attended was short and inconsequential), and I left it definitely wanting to see her more often.

 

 

The semi-main was a huge tag match pitting Wave against Sendai Girls, with legend Ayako Hamada and someone who’s being built as a top contender in Asuka against Sendai’s own legend Meiko Satomura and their champion Chihiro Hashimoto. This should be obvious in a Wave review, but for clarity this is Wave’s Asuka and not the former Kana who uses that name in WWE. Chihiro made a strong initial impression at Marvelous’ Christmas day show, and looked great here as well showcasing an impactful, no-nonsense style.

 

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The whole match was quite good, but in particular the highlight was seeing the two opposing legends interact, which really built anticipation for their impending singles match at Sendai Girls. The Sendai duo won this one with Meiko putting Asuka away. Everyone in the match seemed to designs on Chihiro’s title, which left a lot of interesting directions open going forward.

 

 

The main event saw two favorites of mine battling for the Regina di Wave championship as Misaki Ohata defended against Yumi Ohka.

 

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This was a fantastic, hard hitting match that went back and forth until Ohka just kicked Ohata in the face until she couldn’t get up. I was a little disappointed for Ohata since I hoped for a longer title reign, but I expect the title to change at Thanksgiving Wave, it was a nice moment for Ohka, and at this point Ohata’s already won it back. Misaki really sold disappointment and dejection afterwards, a theme that would continue later.

 

 

After the show proper there was a musical performance, then the Wave roster came back out for the announcement of the Zan-1 rankings. It was determined by fan vote, the top 10 are called into the ring in reverse order, and #1 wins the Zan-1 belt for the year and becomes the #1 contender for the Regina di Wave championship.

There were several amusing moments. Miscommunication between Gami and the ring announcer lead to Mizunami’s picture being displayed too early, after which Mizunami, Hamada, and Rina huddled up “hoping” to be the next called. Rina’s excitement over her own placement was great. Best of all, the somewhat surprising winner turned out to be Mika Iida, a fitting honor for her as her career winds down.

 

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Ohata, last year’s winner who relinquished the belt to open the ceremony, came in second and stared an absolute hole through Iida, the belt, and Ohka (who placed third) as she looked at the two championships she lost by inches in the same night. Fantastic touch and consistency by Ohata, which I assume added desperation to her effort to regain the Regina di Wave title in her rematch with Ohka.

 

 

Excellent show overall, and I think the best I’ve seen from Wave yet.