December 19, 2015 in Tokyo, Japan
This was the first show I saw live during my Japan trip, and my first exposure to Ice Ribbon. My initial impression of the show can be read here. Will be interesting to revisit.
The dvd opens with a rundown of the entire card with a couple of highlights running in the background. Nice touch. Entrances are generally not shown for the participants before each match, but there’s a “title card” type listing that serves the purpose of breaking up things for pacing so it doesn’t feel too awkward not having them.
1) The Lovely Butchers (Hamuko Hoshi and Mochi Miyagi) and Pantera Rosa vs. Akane Fujita, 235 and Kyuuri ***
I remember this being fun live. I was previously unfamiliar with all six wrestlers. Pantera Rosa clearly has some history with her opponents, as they jump her team in lieu of handshakes, knock the Butchers out of the ring, then take turns attacking Rosa. She plays them against each other with some quick dodges though and takes over in short order. Ice Ribbon doesn’t really have what I’d think of as traditional full blown heels in general (outside of Miyako, who plays it for comedy), so Pantera’s act stands out. The Butchers are kind of in between here, still playing to the crowd at points but utilizing heel tactics in conjunction with their partner. It’s odd but suits the match I guess. I’m personally not a big fan of the Butchers’ belly based offense or random “come hither” poses either.
Kyuuri shows a lot of resiliency and fire fighting back against her larger opponents in the early going. Mochi seems quick for her size and I like her rapid repeated Earthquake splashes. After numerous attempts and reversals of offensive advantage Kyuuri hits Mochi with a Fisherman’s Suplex, which looks crazy given Kyuuri’s diminutive size. She’s a great underdog.
235 gets the tag and comes in angry, showing her strength by slamming Mochi then demanding Rosa comes in. Continuing the grating, dismissive attitude towards her opponents Rosa simply turns her back and drops from the apron. Mochi up and she fires back a bit, but 235 gets the better of a strike exchange and unloads with forearms until hitting a (slightly sloppy) step up legdrop to the back of Mochi’s head. TEN running crossbodies follow (with Mochi trying to stand between each and both showing building exertion as they go) to the crowd’s delight. 235 back to the corner and with a battle cry to psych herself up again, but her eleventh crossbody attempt is caught and Mochi spins her into a sideslam.
Pantera comes in to take advantage of the downed 235 and wastes no time mocking kicking her in the head then knocking her partners off the apron. She grabs her chain from her corner, wraps it around 235’s neck, then drags her around the ring with it while the ref argues with Akane and Kyuuri. 235 thrown over the ropes and is now being hung by the chain. Ref turns around and catches Rosa, but simply applies a 5-count. From what I’ve been told automatic DQ’s are practically non-existent in Japan. Took some getting used to. 235 on the floor, still wrapped in the chain, as Rosa nonchalantly waits in the ring. 235 with a burst of adrenaline when she rolls in though and catches Rosa napping, charging in and laying into her with about twenty forearms. Akane comes in for a double suplex, then drags the spent 235 to the corner and tags herself in. I love that spot, as it shows the intelligence to help your partner out of trouble, rather than just attacking your opponent.
Akane takes her frustration out on Rosa with power moves until Rosa sneaks behind and shoves her into the ref. She grabs handcuffs this time, and uses them like brass knuckles to repeatedly punch Akane down. Ref revived by the seconds on the outside so she drops the cuffs and tries a hold, but when Kyuuri and 235 come in to help Rosa just grabs the cuffs again and knocks them both out of the ring with them. Arm bar on Akane, but they’ve all finally had enough of Rosa and 235 grabs her own chain and nails her in the back. Arm drag by Kyuuri, whip into a double boot in the corner by 235 that becomes a tornado DDT, then a power back body drop by Akane. Nice bit of revenge on Rosa.
Akane goes for the mask, but the Butcher come in to save. Rosa takes advantage of the confusion with a crucifix style rollup for a close 2, then tags out. Hammy in and Akane looks like a beast trading shoulder tackles and forearms with her. Butchers with a double splash then Hammy picks up Mochi and dumps her on Akane for 2. Hammy up top, but Kyuuri saves. Akane throws Hammy down, 235 with a crossbody from the opposite turnbuckle, Kyuuri with one of her own, then Akane powers Hammy up for a powerslam for 2. Great sequence. Mochi saves her partner from a single arm stranglehold, and Akane and Hammy trade strikes again. Akane with the advantage, but Rosa with a chain shot to the back from outside and the Butchers hit their running belly strikes to Akane’s face (as ridiculous as it sounds).
Everyone’s in and Rosa knocks 235 and Kyuuri back out. X-Factor from Mochi sets up a top rope splash by Hammy for the win. This played just as well taped as live. Nice exchanges, a strong heel, some high points for the faces before they lost, and good effort all around. Akane was in a few different roles in here various matches I saw, and I liked her here best as a wrecking ball. I hope she keeps to this power wrestling in the future because it suits her well.
2) Miyako Matsumoto and Maruko Nagasaki vs Azure Revolution (Risa Sera and Maya Yukihi) ***1/2
This was also my first time seeing any of these wrestlers, although I had heard a lot about Risa ahead of time. She was as good as advertised, but Miyako stole my attention here. I adore her act. To me she’s the epitome of “comedy wrestling can be great when done well.” The humor is based in the wrestling and the match, as well as her wonderfully shameless heel character. More on that as we go through the match.
Maruko and Maya start, trading headlocks and until they back into the corner and Risa comes in to knock Miyako off the apron and help Maya with Maruko. In the US that would be an extremely heelish move, but seems to be played off as a normal part of the match, as Risa’s definitely a face here. Double running elbow in the corner to Maruko, THEN a tag to bring Risa in legally (why not reverse those?). Risa locks in a high angle Boston Crab and Maruko crawls all the way across the ring to reach the ropes, delighting the crowd with her fortitude. Miyako (who IS a heel and totally acts it) was awesomely using all her weight to push the rope inward for her partner to grab. An annoyed Risa chases her off the apron again.
Tag and Maya comes in. Couple of hard snapmares, some kicks and a cover for 2 then tag back out to Risa. Odd that AR has only double teamed illegally so far, and not after any of their actual tags. Boston Crab setup again, but this time Risa grabs the arms, lifts Maruko, and does her awesome hanging/shaking version. Dismissive/mocking “kicks” to the head of the beaten down Maruko and I’m beginning to wonder if I’ve missed a storyline reason for AR acting quasi-heelish here. Risa hits the ropes and Miyako cheap shots her with a kick to the back to cheers. Screw it, I’m accepting this as a Bizzaro World match and moving on.
Miyako in to help and her and Maruko whip Risa into the ropes only to eat a double shoulder block by Risa. Miyako rolls out, tag to Maya, and Maruko’s still in major trouble. She loses a forearm exchange, but then hits a running dropkick to a pop to turn the tide. After a second one she tags out and Miyako’s in legally for the first time. She fires her self up excessively and hits a running double chop, but Risa in to attack from behind. AR whips Miyako into the ropes, which she tries to counter with a cross body, but they catch her and the fun truly begins as Miyako decides this would be a good time to pose dramatically likes she’s winning (while still being held midair by her opponents). AR with a disbelieving look and they just unceremoniously drop her mid-pose. They hit the ropes but Miyako rolls towards them to trip them and hits a double faceplant.
Risa out and Miyako fires up the crowd and gets them clapping, then ties Maya up in the ropes for some forearms. When she hits the far rope however Maya frees herself and levels Miyako with a shoulder block. Miyako’s got a natural charisma to everything she does, no matter how ridiculous, that’s highly amusing and engages the crowd. Tag to Risa and she hits her running knees to Miyako’s back numerous times for 2. In the corner and Miyako makes some sort of whining comment that makes people laugh. Whip to the opposite corner and Risa follows with an elbow, then Miyako drops down, and Risa runs back to the far corner then back again with more double knees. Risa got impressive speed on both running moves and they looked great.
Risa attempts what looks like a belly-to-back suplex, but Miyako blocks midair for more posing, then swings around Risa to go into a crucifix-type rollup for 2. Capitalizing on the moment, she kicks Risa, knocks Maya off the apron and calls Maruko into the ring. They attempt a double whip on Risa again, with Miyako seeming like she has a plan. Risa comes off with the shoulder block again, but Miyako pushes Maruko in the way (to boos) and her expression indicates it worked perfectly because she wasn’t hit. She forces Risa to do Miyako’s trademark pose, then dumps her into a splash onto Maruko (which is supposed to hurt Risa too somehow?), and rolls Risa over for a cover while kicking her partner out of the way. I adore her shameless, self-serving antics.
She hits another running double chop then sells exhaustion and fatigue and crawls to her corner to tag Maruko (who is still selling from the damage Miyako caused her). But Maruko good naturedly takes the tag and comes in for the benefit of her team. The “face teaming with selfish heel” dynamic here reminds me of El Generico and Steen. Maruko and Risa trade some dropkicks then go into a forearm exchange, with Risa essentially laughing off Maruko’s attempts and showing her what real forearms are. Her confidence backfires though when Maruko reverses a whip into the corner and hits another running dropkick.
Miyako in and cuts off Maya, then excitedly gets Maruko to do the full Mama Mia pose procession. Risa is on the mat calmly (and obviously) watching them the whole time, and when they finally go for the double splash she raises her feet to kick both with a big smile on her face. Nice touch.
Miyako rolls out and Risa seems lost for a second, then fights over slam attempts with Maruko until Risa reverses one into a swinging side slam. Miyako saves and again pays the price of Risa beating her back out of the ring. Tag to Maya and she wears Maruko down with strikes and holds until Miyako saves again, and again Risa chases her away.
Maruko reverses a whip into a running dropkick and Miyako comes in to press the gained advantage. Double whip, and since it’s on Maya this time they successfully hit a running double chop/elbow combination. Miyako celebrates by kicking her partner to double her over then essentially hitting Angel’s Wings on Maruko onto Maya as an offensive move. She pulls the near dead Maruko onto Maya for 2. Maruko pulls herself together for an uranage that only gets 2 when Risa gets by Miyako and saves. Miyako chases her out and Maya fights off another uranage, only to suffer a close 2 when Maruko ducks a clothesline and applies a backslide.
Maruko with another duck into a close rollup, but then Maya kind of hits a leg lariat for 2 of her own. Risa in and a double whip on Maruko into the corner. Maya with a running elbow, then drops down so Risa can launch off her into a flying double knee. Chokeslam by Maya but Miyako saves. Superkick for a very close 2 and the crowd applauds Maruko’s tenacity. Maya signals for the end, and hits her Snow Tone Bomb (sitout slam) for 3 while Risa holds off Miyako. Unfortunately the post-match where Miyako attacks Maruko for having the nerve to lose is cut from the dvd. Likely just some added amusement/character antics for the live crowd.
This played a little better live, where I didn’t have time to notice things like double teaming never taking place off of actual tags or slight heel mannerisms from AR, but those are likely just differences between Joshi wrestling norms and those in the US that I need to get used to and this was still a ton of fun taped once it got going. Maruko is another great babyface underdog and her pairing with the selfish Miyako was fantastic. The latter became an instant favorite of mine here. She’s not a technical wizard in the ring, but she’s solid and her act is pitch perfect. Her antics flow from the wrestling and her character and thus add humor to the match without detracting from it.
3) Aoi Kizuki and Tsukushi vs Yuuka and Hamuko Hoshi ***1/2
This is Hoshi’s second match of the night, this time opposite her opponent for her upcoming title match against champion Aoi Kazuki. Tsukushi and Yuuka start. Interesting match up: while the wrestlers are around the same age (18 and 17, respectively), Tsukushi has three times the amount of experience of her slightly larger opponent (6 yrs vs 2 yrs). A little bit of nice chain wrestling and counters to start leads to a stalemate, and fairly quick tags to bring in the champ and her impending challenger, who waste no time rushing at each other with some shoulder blocks. Neither goes down, which spotlights Aoi since Hoshi has a lot of size on her. Aoi with a flurry of double windmill chops then hits another running shoulder block, but Hoshi bounces off the ropes with one of her own and finally takes Aoi down. Aoi rolls outside and Hoshi’s left in the ring to do her ridiculous poses.
She ambushes Aoi on the way back in and it’s belly based offense time. I really hate this gimmick. Yuuka in but Aoi cartwheels through a double clothesline attempt and hits a double crossbody. She slams Yuuka onto Hoshi and calls Tsukushi in for Aoi’s trademark pose while standing on their opponents. Hoshi rolls out and leaves Aoi with Yuuka. No actual tag there, which Aoi confirms with the ref. Hoshi now on the apron and Aoi goes for her. Yuuka tries a surprise rollup, but Aoi holds her ground, stays standing, and goes back to a forearm exchange with Hoshi as the ref explains to Yuuka that she’s not legal.
Yuuka clues in, gives up the rollup attempt and goes outside, indicating to Hoshi that she needs to either get in the ring or tag. Awkward sequence, particularly from Hoshi who took far too long to figure out what was going on, but nice focus from Aoi and the ref to fix it. Tsukushi had a completely deadpan expression on for the whole thing in the opposite corner.
Aoi with some machine gun chops on Hoshi in the corner to get us back on track, then Hoshi responds with a slam and splash for 1. NOW we get a tag to Yuuka. She comes in pumped up, but Aoi easliy blocks her suplex attempt with clubbing blows to the back then single-legs Yuuka into a toehold. Yuuka escapes and tries to block a Boston Crab attempt, but Aoi calmly points out that her shoulders are down, then finishes the Boston Crab when Yuuka’s forced to kick out of the refs count. Yuuka’s screaming and really selling well as Tsukushi comes out of the corner slightly to watch for a possible Hoshi save. Aoi transitions into a facelock combination, then rolls out and hits double knees to Yuuka’s back followed by a pair of running sentons then a twist splash for 2.
Tag to Tsukushi, who knocks Hoshi off the apron and then Aoi and Tsukushi take turns doing Tsukushi’s “run on opponent’s back repeatedly” spot until Tsukushi tires of Aoi’s contribution and pushes her away to finish Yuuka’s abuse herself. She directs the champ out of the ring, to which Aoi complies smiling. Tsukushi fires up the crowd and fights for a surfboard, finally applying it by rolling FORWARD in a cool variation. She releases it after a few seconds and ties Yuuka up in the ropes and pulls back on her nose for some mocking.
Tsukushi then signals for a running strike, but behind her Yuuka is nearly free and has an awesome “I’m one step ahead” expression on as she follows Tsukushi in and nails her with a forearm as soon as Tsukushi bounces off the far rope. Nice running forearm, but as she goes for another Tsukushi stays down and kicks up at Yuuka with both feet (looked a little awkward since Yuuka couldn’t possibly have hit anything herself from her position once Tsukushi didn’t get up). Yuuka seated in the corner and Tsukushi hits a beautiful crossbody in the corner a la Misaki Ohata.
Yuuka showing fire and comes out for a forearm exchange, which looks great as both are laying it in. Tsukushi gets the advantage but Yuuka counters a whip into the corner with a great step up crossbody. Tag to Hoshi, who tries to ambush Aoi but the champ avoids the charge by moving behind the ringpost. Shows of intelligence make me happy. Running splash on Tsukushi, butt blocks (imagine a kind of shoulder block done turned around with one’s posterior), and a bulldog for 2. Boston Crab by Hoshi and she turns so she can taunt Aoi while applying the hold. Aoi yelling in her face as Tsukushi struggles, then comes in and slaps at Hoshi until she releases. Hoshi knocks her out of the ring with a forearm and turns to Tsukushi.
After a little back and forth Tsukushi hits her forward rollup into a double stomp, knocks Yuuka down, and WAYLAYS a seated Hoshi with a dropkick against the ropes. Up top for a missile dropkick for 2. Tag and Aoi with a crossbody from the top, followed by one to Hoshi’s midsection with Hoshi standing in the corner. Fires up the crowd, trips Hoshi, then goes up, but Hoshi stops Aoi and gets her on Hoshi’s shoulders. Aoi escapes and they go into another intense forearm exchange. Aoi tries to end it with an STO, but Hoshi’s too strong, reverses the position and pushes Aoi down across her knee for a brief submission hold. Running belly to the face for 2.
Aoi reverses a whip into a German suplex (!!!), but sends Hoshi right into her corner for a tag. Yuuka comes in hot and hits a running dropkick in the corner and a tornado DDT for 2. They jockey for control and Aoi applies a STF. Can’t help but think about how awful Cena’s looks every time I see anyone else do one. Aoi taunting Yuuka to give up while the latter screams and struggles until Hoshi gets by Tsukushi and breaks the hold. Northern Lights suplex by Aoi countered into a backslide attempt which is countered into a whip and a flying clothesline.
Single leg by Aoi sets up a top rope double stomp by Tsukushi followed by Aoi’s Snow Blow (horizontal half turn in the air into a spalsh) for 2 after a Hoshi save. Hoshi nails both her opponents with clotheslines, then brawls with Aoi allowing Yuuka to sneak in with her bridging backslide. It’s like I’ve seen Amber O’Neal do, but Yuuka releases her opponents arms as she bridges, and as a result gets a better bridge and actually has her opponent’s shoulders on the mat. Aoi escapes at 2 but Yuuka pushes her into a missle dropkick from Hoshi. Crosslegged cradle suplex for 2 on the champ.
Aoi reverses a whip into a stunner and Northen Lights suplex for 2. They kind of whiff a crucifix bomb as Yuuka doesn’t go backward enough and comes down on Aoi. Aoi holds on and pulls her over into a cover. Save by Hoshi. Tsukushi takes Hoshi out with a dropkick and Aoi plants Yuuka with a slam. She then goes up and hits her awesome spinning splash (Happiness Splash) for the win.
This was great when it was in gear, with numerous saves and nearfalls emphasizing the will of both teams to win. A few miscues here and there hurt a little, but everyone was good about keeping it all together and minimizing the effects.
Yuuka’s excellent for her experience level, and Tsukushi was smooth in everything and makes herself a believable threat despite her small size. I adore Aoi. She does little things that enhance her matches a lot and I find her offense (particularly the top rope stuff) unique and exciting. Hoshi isn’t bad, but she was a bit outshone by the others and made some mistakes I wouldn’t expect from someone of her experience (beyond “everyone has off moments” stuff). I also personally don’t enjoy her gimmick or trademark moves. On the other hand the most important thing is that her effort (as well as everyone else’s) was good, and she did make her opponent’s offense look impressive.
4) Triangle Ribbon Title Match: Neko Nitta (c) vs Tsukasa Fujimoto vs Kyuuri ****
This was shortly before Neko’s retirement, and it was a privilege to get to see her last matches live. This was stated as the final time she would defend her Triangle Championship, so it seemed likely that it could change hands. Tsukka is the ace of the company and could conceivably add it to her list of accolades, and Kyuuri is the plucky up and comer, seemingly groomed for this belt. Fantastic choice of challengers. I’d seen Tsukka wrestle before in Shimmer and am convinced she’s one of the best there is.
Kyuuri will have the uphill battle here, being not only the least experienced of the three but also the only one to have wrestled earlier on the card. Show of respect all around, although the handshake was tentative between Neko and Tsukka. All guarded as they do a three-way lockup, then Tsukka immediately steps over to break her connection with Neko and puts an arm wringer on Kyuuri. Neko let’s go of Kyuuri and goes over to grab Tsukka’s arm, which frees Kyuuri to put a headlock on Neko. Tsukka rolls out of Neko’s grip and applies her own headlock on Kyuuri (who’s still holding Neko). They take a couple turns escaping the end of the chain and applying new headlocks to the beginning, then Tsukka and Kyuuri transition into simultaneous arm wringers on Neko. Long sequence of simple moves done in ways unique to the three person format to get things going nicely.
Neko rolls out, tossing both her opponents forward, but then runs into a double dropkick as they recover. They team on the champ a bit, including alternating kicks to her back and a simultaneous figure four by Kyuuri and double chicken wing by Tsukka, followed by tying her up in the ropes and taking turns raking her back and dropkicking her. From what I understand Neko’s been a strong champ in this format so this strategy makes sense.
Boston Crab by Tsukka is transitioned into a half crab while Kyuuri applies a Camel Clutch and they’ve been in complete control of the champ for quite a while. Neko turns the tide by reversing a whip and sends both into a corner, but Tsukka slides outside when she cahrges, so only Kyuuri is hit by Neko’s running forearm. Tsukka takes advantage with a crossbody off the top, then trips Neko while she’s trying to whip Kyuuri to essentially force Neko to armdrag Kyuuri. She then capitalizes with a flash rollup for a close two on the champ. Great showcase of Tsukka’s speed, ring awareness, and veteran instincts.
Dropkick to Neko in the corner seems to set up a running version, but Kyuuri intercepts and knocks Tsukka down. She then slams Neko in the center and hits a cartwheel splash for 2, wonderfully holding on to Neko’s arm for a Fujiwara attempt as Neko kicks out. Neko rolls out but Kyuuri holds on again for a cross armbreaker. Tsukka tries to kick Kyuuri in the head to break, but Kyuuri ducks without losing the hold, grabs Tsukka, and puts them BOTH in the cross armbreaker simultaneously. Wonderful sequence. Neko and Tsukka sell like their arms are being ripped out once it’s fully locked and quickly get their feet on the bottom rope to break.
Neko regains the advantage with a side slam on Kyuuri, then when Tsukka swipes at her she ducks and hits a lungblower on Tsukka so that she lands on Kyuuri. Middle rope shotgun dropkick to Tsukka, followed by a missile variation for 2. Up for a moonsault in the opposite corner, but Kyuuri grabs her leg. Tsukka gets up, knocks Kyuuri off the apron, and sets up the Ocean Cyclone Suplex, but Kyuuri small packages them both from that position for 2. The constant interceptions/reversals and unique uses of having three competitors in the match are great.
Tsukka has clearly had enough, as she snapmares both her opponents into seated positions and just brutalizes their backs with kicks for a while. Slam to Kyuuri and she goes up top, hitting a missile dropkick on Neko while splashing Kyuuri. I love that type of spot. Kyuuri kicks out at 2 and Tsukka turns to a seated Neko with a running dropkick in the corner, followed by a hard slam for 2 then a Japanese stranglehold. Kyuuri comes back in for some revenge with a vicious kick of her own to Tsukka’s exposed back, then hooks everyone’s arms with her feet and flips them both over for another double 2 count.
Kyuuri ties them both up in suplex position (under the same arm), looking for a double Fisherman’s suplex. She gets them off the ground to the crowd’s awe, but can’t convert. However after she releases them they rush her in sequence and each get a snap version for their trouble. She holds on to Neko after hitting it for 2. Whip to the rope and Neko jumps up to hit a springboard elblow, catching both opponents then rolling them up in a double crucifix for a double 2 count.
Flurry of strikes by Tsukka on Neko, countered with a palm strike, but Kyuuri then catches Neko with a small package for 2. Spinning tail shot to Kyuuri’s face only seems to anger her, as she responds with a big right hand and the Fisherman’s suplex again. Neko kicks out at 1 however, and hits an Asai moonsault. She pulls Kyuuri in position for the top rope moonsault, but Tsukka attacks. Neko knocks her down with a headbutt, then catches a recovered and charging Kyuuri and side slams her off the middle rope. Pinfall is interrupted when Tsukka hits a dropkick right to Neko’s face. Ouch.
Another Ocean Cyclone Suplex attempt on Neko is countered into a rollup for a very close 2, then Tsukka gets one of her own off a hurricarana. The crowd is electric for these nearfalls. Neko ducks a kick to the head and catches Tsukka’s foot, then grabs Tsukka’s arms as well for a modified backslide (pumping her legs for all she was worth for leverage)… for the win! Great, unexpected finish, with Neko retiring the championship she’s known for and pinning the more experienced (and thus seemingly less like to take the fall) opponent. Kyuuri put up a good fight and is set up to be a part of reintroducing the belt after Neko leaves.
The “roundtable” interviews where the roster comes out to the ring after the show and take turns speaking about the show and what comes next are included. Not speaking Japanese I obviously didn’t get much out of this, but it is a nice way for them to emphasize the stories and set up future events, and it feels appropriate for the promotion and its overall presentation. Neko writing down her comments and gesturing and having Mochi read/relate them (since Neko only speaks in “Nyahs”) was amusing.
While some things play better live and I heartily recommend seeing IR in person if at all possible, even on dvd this was a fun show with lots of fantastic wrestling. The dojo shows like this one run an hour (not counting the roundtable), which may seem short compared to US shows. But these are the small, shorter shows for the company, and as my ridiculously long recap (don’t know if I’ll be able to keep up play-by-play for these) illustrates, that hour is all ring time and completely action packed. These shows are also often two to a dvd. I’m guessing Neko’s last title defense might be the reason for this getting its own release. No complaints here as long as the quality of the show is high, which it is. I loved this show live as my introduction to Ice Ribbon and it was awesome to rewatch. Great stuff.