December 31, 2015 in Tokyo, Japan
This was Ice Ribbon’s big year end show, and I thoroughly enjoyed it live.
Roster is introduced to open and champion Aoi Kizuki speaks to hype things up. After everyone heads back tag champions Arisa Nakajima and Tsukasa Fujimoto give a well received singing performance that further fired up the crowd to start the event.
I continue to love the video packages that run before the matches start running down the entire card with a little background for each. It sets the stage for the dvd wonderfully and I wish American wrestling companies would do it.
1) Hiroyo Matsumoto, Makoto and Maruko Nagasaki vs Cherry, Hiroe Nagahama and Mika Iida **3/4
Entrances are skipped as usual and we cut right to the opening bell, with both teams in chicken fight position. Seeing a little of the lead up to that might’ve been a wise inclusion. Still, fun start with an amusing visual as Hiroyo and Makoto with Maruko on their shouldrs charge Cherry and Mika carrying Hiroe. Maruko gets the better of it and shoves Hiroe off balance, toppling her whole group. As Maruko’s team turns to celebrate, Cherry attacks from behind to similarly topple them. And thus the match proper begins. 😉
Cherry’s team isolates the only IR roster member in the match and Cherry rips bunches out of Maruko’s hair (while Hiroyo gives thumbs down from the outside) then proceeds to repeated back raking. No mystery as to who the heels are here. Tag to Hiroe who hits a couple dropkicks in the corner then tags out to Iida. Iida gleefully beats on and twists Maruko into knots for a bit then tags out to Cherry, who taunts Hiroyo and Makoto by bringing Maruko’s hand within inches of the tag then pulling back. As much as I like the usual “spirit of competition” feel to most of IR’s matches, it’s nice to see clear, committed heel work like this sometimes too.
Maruko eventually hits a running dropkick to stun Cherry and make it to Hiroyo for the tag. The Lady Destroyer levels Iida and Hiroe with shoulder tackles and powers Cherry into a backdrop suplex from a waistlock, then calls Makoto and Maruko in to climb onto her for extra weight as she drops the double knees to Cherry. Iida and Hiroe drop Hiroyo with a double dropkick however, then Cherry drop toeholds and slams her own partners into a pile on Hiroyo and splashes the top of it. For some reason the ref counts this as a legit cover, but Hiroyo powers a shoulder up from under her three opponents at 2.
Iida tagged in, but Hiroyo clotheslines her and tags Makoto, who goes up top for a crossbody followed by a bicycle kick on Iida for 2. Cherry helps Iida take over, then a tag brings in Hiroe, who wears Makoto out with running dropkicks until Hiroyo grabs Hiroe from the apron to allow Makoto to tag. Maruko’s turn to hit repeated running dropkicks, and they get 2. Forearm exchange ends when Hiroe tries a Northern lights suplex, which Maruko tries to counter into a sunset flip. Hiroe maintains balance until Makoto comes in with a… running double overhead chop I guess to knock Hiroe back and allow Maruko to complete the sunset flip for 2.
Hiroyo splashes Hiroe in the corner and she’s small packaged by Maruko for 2 (broken up by Iida and Cherry). European uppercut by Iida into a … double backhand slap something by Cherry into the previously attempted Northern lights by Hiroe which gets 2 as Makoto and Hiroyo save. Maruko hits a surprise uranage for a close 2 to pop the crowd, but Hiroe responds with a wheelbarrow rollup for the win.
Decent enough opener and an effective way to use numerous non-regular roster members to fill out the card, but this really played like a match on fast forward. Each segment pairing different opponents was maybe thirty seconds. Felt like a really good fifteen minute 6-woman tag crushed into half that. Fine for what they had to work with though. Was my first time seeing any of the winning team. Particularly interested in seeing what Iida can do with more of a spotlight.
2) Yuuka vs Sareee ***3/4
Teens single match spotlight here. Nice to get a glimpse at a couple of rising stars in an environment like this. Yuuka with a slightly creepy stare towards Sareee during the handshake that she holds a little too long. Nice touch of attempted intimidation there without being disrespectful or heelish. Fun back and forth stalemate sequence to start, with the usual chain wrestling, arm drags, etc.
Despite both being teens at this point, Sareee has a couple years both in age and experience on Yuuka, as well as a slight size and strength advantage, and definitely plays the “testing out the upstart” mannerisms here and there. Yuuka fires back each time, lending a nice backbone story to the match. After a hairmare and some choking in the corner, Sareee applies a nice Muta lock which Yuuka eventually gets out of by biting Sareee’s hand. The latter isn’t amused and boots Yuuka repeatedly as the she tries to get up. Corner whip is revered by Yuuka and she hits a running dropkick followed by a DDT for 2. Saree bridges out of the pin and hits some dropkicks of her own for 2.
Sareee up top with a missile dropkick for 2. Crowd’s into Yuuka’s resilience. Yuuka reverses a whip and catches Sareee against the ropes with a forearm, then hits the rebound one to knock Sareee down as she staggers to the center, then the diving one on a prone Sareee for 2. Love that sequence. Yuuka goes up top for her own missile dropkick, then across the ring to the far turnbuckle for a crossbody for 2. Crosslegged fisherman’s suplex attempt fought off, and Sareee responds to a Yuuka forearm to the chest by NAILING Yuuka with one of her own across Yuuka’s face. Big crowd gasps for that. They lay into each other with alternating forearms to the chest, which ends when Yuuka hits the ropes for one and Sareee hits a dropkick. Yuuka’s laying against the ropes and Sareee hits the far side for a running dropkick to the seated Yuuka.
Yuuka counters a German attempt into a wheelbarrow rollup for 2, then catches Sareee as the latter tries a jackknife cover with another pinning combination for 2, then gets her floatover backslide for 2. Sareee waistlock countered into a 120% schoolboy attempt which Sareee tries to counter into a pin but they’re in the ropes. Yuuka leans against the ropes again for a second and eats another running dropkick in that position. Sareee up to the top again, but gets caught and Yuuka brings her down with a super-hurricanrana. Crosslegged fisherman’s connect for a believable nearfall.
Yuuka hits the rope but her forearm is ducked and Sareee finally hits the German for 2. She jaws with the ref for a second about that not being 3. Sareee calls for the and and pulls Yuuka up by her hair. Defiant roar by Yuuka, so Sareee hits another HARD forearm to knock her down. Yuuka back up and charges, but runs right into and overhead uranage for the pin.
Nice showing for both. Haven’t seen much of Sareee, but she looked good here. Yuuka has instincts and skills well beyond her experience, and should be a huge star someday.
3) Miyako and Jun Kasai vs Antonio Honda and Mochi Miyagi vs GENTARO and Yuji Hino ***1/2
Miyako Matsumoto’s band Black DPG provided the second live singing performance of the night as an entrance ceremony of sorts for Miyako and partner Jun Kasai (who amusingly sat on the turnbuckle in the background “encouraging” people to clap). Miyako and company had a “slightly” different feel to their music and dancing than Best Friends’ song. 😉 Entertaining enough. Miyako and Kasai are both wearing a contact in one eye
We cut right to the opening bell after the performance ends, where special ref (and retired IR wrestler) Mio Shirai is checking the participants. Mio, Honda, and Gentaro start, with the two men shaking hands, then Honda offering a hand to Miyako only to draw it back with a Ric Flair “Woooo” when she reaches for it. Miyako responds with her usual good nature and pounds Honda to the mat. Gentaro decides to greet Miyako with a slap to the face. Miyako responds in kind with a hard shot, gets swatted on the head by Gentaro, and this time straight up punches him in the face in retaliation (nice hard shot too).
Gentaro swings back at Miyako, who blocks the shot, hits another slap, then gets a side headlock for a second before being sent to the ropes. Miyako gets the better of him for a few seconds with pose enhanced armdrags, but when she poses in celebration Gentaro double swats the back of her head and she rolls out of the ring. Honda’s back up and he and Gentaro counter wrestle for a bit, then Gentaro trips Honda after agreeing to a square up, so Honda just pokes him in the eyes. Then does the same to Miyako, who of course chose the worst possible time to come back in the ring.
His opponents are outside the ring so Honda hits the ropes for an apparent dive (doubtful) and sure enough his knee “gives out” before he can dive and he tumbles to the mat, then rolls outside clutching his knee. With the original combatants all in disarray outside of the ring their three partners enter it to face off. The crowd is clearly behind Kasai. Mochi takes exception and does the Lovely Butchers’ posing routine to win the crowd back, but halfway through Kasai simply kicks her in the head to a hero’s ovation. Mochi ducks a clothesline and continues the posing, so Kasai kicks her in the head again. I like. Hino has just stood in a corner watching all of this so far. Mochi dodges a Kasai charge into the corner and… more posing. You’d think she’d have learned by now. This time Hino attacks here during the pose with a slap to the back.
Mochi rolls out of the ring and Hino follows, but gets caught by Honda who holds him while Mochi grabs her whip. Hino moves and Honda takes the shot. Not to be deterred, he then grabs Gentaro and holds him for the whip, but of course Gentaro also moves and Honda eats another whip shot from his partner. As stubborn as his partner was with her posing, Honda decides it will surely work on Miyako, and grabs her for yet another attempt. And the same results again as Miyako gets free at the last second. Oh wait, there’s one more opponent to try, so Honda rolls into the ring where Kasai’s been watching from and grabs him. Mochi comes in and do I even have to type it? No? Good. Apparently Honda’s not satisfied with that last hit he took, and has Mochi hit him again as Kasai stands off to the side (with an appropriate WTF? look). Still no good, as he takes the whip from Mochi, hands it to ref Mio, and presents his backside her to hit with the whip. After Mio does so Honda shakes her hand. OK THEN.
Kasai ends the … festivities… by knocking both Honda and Mochi out of the ring, where Miyako attacks them with a giant plastic ball. Yes, really:
Kasai goes with the slightly more effective weapon choice of a table, and after bonking Mochi square in the head with it goes into the crowd and sets up the table next to a stairwell overhang. He and Miyako drag Hino up and lay him out on the table, then Kasai does a diving splash OVER THE STAIRWAY onto Hino sending him through the table.
After that everyone fights back down to ringside, where Kasai chokes Mochi with hula hoops and Miyako bounces her ball off Honda’s head. Miyako and Kasai lay out Honda and Mochi in the ring and it’s time for posing of the entertaining variety. 😉 Kasai trying to match Miyako’s poses is hilarious. Simultaneous splash gets 2, as Honda kicks out and Gentaro dives in and grabs Mio to prevent Mochi being counted out. Kasai slams Gentaro and he and Miyako don goggles, go up to opposite top turnbuckles, and… Hino crotches Kasai on the turnbuckle while Miyako dives and gets caught with Gentaro’s raised knees.
Hino grabs Miyako and just tosses her over his head from slam position for 2. Honda and Mochi in but Hino reverses a double suplex and suplexes them both at the same time. This leaves poor Miyako alone with Gentaro and Hino. Gentaro holds her for a big Hino chop, which Miyako escapes from and Gentaro eats. Kasai saves Miyako from a Razor’s Edge, then calls for a lariat only to eat one from Hino instead. Hino then stalks Miyako, as the crowd chants their support for her as she panics. Powerbomb attempt and Miyako tries a ran reversal, but Hino is too powerful and pulls her back up, only to have Miyako go up and over into a sunset flip for 2.
Hino’s had enough and levels Miyako with a chop for 2. Kasai saves by dropkicking MIO, which can’t possibly end well. Mio slaps Kasai, then kicks him low. Well, he certainly had it coming. Honda in and Hino goes to chop him, which Honda keeps blocking / begging off. Finally Honda bows to Hino, says something and salutes Hino. After a moment Hino returns the salute instead of chopping Honda. As they stand there Mochi hits a Thesz press on Hino, who then rolls out of the ring. Reverse DDT from Honda on Miyako sets up a Mochi top rope frog splash for the win. Odd that Miyako’s band never got involved, given the match was no-DQ and they were sitting near the ring the whole time.
That was ridiculous, but in most of the right ways. I didn’t follow (nor like) everything, but overall it was a fun combination of absurdity and intense brawling, and never pretended to be anything else.
4) Tag Team #1 Contendership: Buribato (SAKI and MIZUKI) vs Azure Revolution (Maya Yukihi & Risa Sera) **1/2
Buribato impressed my quite a bit the first time I saw them (in the main event of a Gatoh Move show), so I was pretty excited to see them here against IR mainstays Risa and Maya with a shot at IR’s tag titles on the line. Handshakes all around before the bell.
Mizuki and Risa start, kind of, as Maya comes back in at the bell and knocks Saki off the apron so Azure Rev can doubleteam. Mizuki’s whipped to the corner and hit with the double running elbow right away, but Saki’s back and “fights off” Maya by kicking her once and having Maya run away outside for some reason as Buribato attacks her partner. Double faceplant on Risa followed by a double arm wringer and they hit their trademark pose.
NOW the one on one starts between Risa and Mizuki… nevermind again, as Mizuki hits a couple boots and then immediately tags out. Scoop slam by Saki then she locks in an abdominal stretch with headlock on Risa. She lets that go after a few seconds and ties up Risa’s arms and legs and suspends her in the air. Impressive hold that the crowd murmurs in appreciation of.
Once she drops Risa the latter takes the opportunity to trip Saki and apply her suspended Boston crab, likewise drawing crowd noise. Every hold in the match so far has only been kept on for about five seconds each, which makes sense with the supporting your opponent’s weight ones but overall is giving the match an odd feel and pace. Wish the partners were breaking them up or something. Triple running double knees to the back gets 2, but after a little back and forth Saki hits a suplex and tags Mizuki.
Risa’s receives a drop toehold against the ropes and Saki grabs her feet and holds her up for Mizuki to hit WGTT’s old leapfrog move (kind of: Mizuki BARELY cleared Saki and landed on Risa’s legs instead of her back). Mizuki presses the advantage until Risa creates an opening and hits the double running knees in the corner followed by her spinning side slam for 2. Tag and Maya’s in for the first time. Elbow followed by a kneedrop that clearly misses Mizuki’s head gets 2. Mizuki swats away a kick, but gets sent to her knees by one to her legs then one to the chin gets 2.
Mizuki rolls under a clothesline then has one of her own ducked, then kind of staggers in place for a second until Maya remembers to grab her in a waistlock from behind. She fights out and gets an awkward body scissors takedown into a (nice) pinning combination for 2. Mizuki with a wheelbarrow rollup but she rolls right off Maya into the corner, jumps to the middle turnbuckle and twists around to jump into a doublestomp for 2. Nice spot. Tag to Saki who hits a trio of running shoulder tackles for 2.
Saki keeps control and goes for a giant swing, but only gets about a revolution before losing Maya. Don’t know if that was a bad grip on her part or lack of cooperation. She does it again and gets the move for an appropriate length of time, though clearly doing it through power and struggling to keep it going. Gets 2. Scoop slam in the corner and Saki goes to the middle turnbuckle, but Maya rolls out of the way of the Vaderbomb. Risa in and Azure Rev with a couple of doubleteams featuring Maya setting up variations of Risa’s running double knees then Maya hits her standing leg drop for 2.
Slam by Maya as Risa holds Mizuki back but the swanton misses. Crossbody by Mizuki on both opponents into Saki schoolboying them both gets 2. Mizuki and Risa brawl outside and Saki hits a a pair of Vaderbombs on Maya for 2. Risa back in to intercept and Azure Rev hit a double chokeslam for 2 (Mizuki saves). Mizuki and Risa back outside and Saki puts Maya down with a shoulder tackle, then tries a suplex but Maya barely goes off the ground. Saki does it again, all power, and hits the move … for 3?!
This was a weird match, with these two teams not having nearly the chemistry they should have. The pacing was off throughout the match, right up to the anticlimactic pin after a vertical suplex. Risa’s exchanges with Buribato were decent, but even those were a little more awkward in parts than I remember them being live. Maya’s timing was off and she also seemed to be literal deadweight for all of Saki’s moves. Now don’t let my criticism give the wrong idea: this was not horrible by any means and there were some fun sequences. But there were also obvious issues and these four are certainly capable of better.
5) Neko Nitta retirement match: Neko Nitta and 235 vs Akane Fujita and Kyuuri ***1/2
I feel honored to have been at this event live to see Neko’s last match and retirement ceremony. More thoughts on that here.
Neko and 235’s entrance is shown, as are the ring intros. Neko comes to the ring wearing Pantera Rosa’s mask, which she removes to reveal silver hair for the occasion. Neko gets to play in a lot of streamers during her intro. 🙂
Akane calls for Neko to start, but they refuse and 235 is in for the opening bell. Akane charges her and knocks her back into their corner, and repeats her desire for Neko to come in. Neko obliges and Akane gets the advantage then has Kyuuri come in for some doubleteams. They try one too many and Neko takes over, then hits a lungblower on Akane landing essentially into a senton on a prone Kyuuri. Tag to 235, but Akane powers her into a slam to take over and Kyuuri tags in and applies a nasty submission hold where she’s essentially sitting on the back of a folded in half 235 while pulling back on both arms.
After Kyuuri releases she and Akane take turns working over 235 for a while, with Kyuuri always going back to the arm and Akane wearing her out with power moves. This ends when Neko breaks another vicious submission hold of Kyuuri’s and angrily slaps 235 around a bit to get her back into gear. 235 then hits FOURTEEN of her running crossbodies in succession as the crowd gets more and more fired up the longer she goes. She gets 2 off the last one as Akane breaks by Neko and saves.
An exhausted 235 crawls to her corner and tags Neko, who pulls Kyuuri into a camel clutch and scratches her face when she refuses to give up. More face scratching with Kyuuri in the ropes, but the latter reverses a scoop slam and tries to make the tag. 235 comes running in to knock Akane off the apron and end that, then she and Neko doubleteam with corner strikes, a 235 crossbody to a seated Kyuuri and a Neko senton for 2. Kyuuri fights back however with judo throws to both and tags out.
Akane and Neko exchange forearms in a heated sequence that leads to Neko hitting a series of shots with her tail to get the advantage. She goes up to the middle rope and hits a shotgun dropkick then a wheelbarrow rollup for 2. Neko then tours the turnbuckles hitting a middle ropes shotgun dropkick from each on Akane. Last one gets 2. Neko goes up top but Kyuuri stalls her enough for Akane to recover and slam Neko off the turnbuckle. Delayed back body drop gets 2. Neko scratches Akane’s eyes then hits the ropes, where Kyuuri hits Neko in the back but Neko ignores it, then Neko lightly runs into Akane, who’s halfway to her feet. No bump off that and Neko did no actual strike and seemed to be expecting something else. So she simply beats on Akane a few times and iits the far ropes again, where indeed Kyuuri hits her in the back again and this time Akane drops Neko with a double sledge off the rebound. Not usually a fan of repeating blown spots but Neko covered that nicely and the repeat wasn’t as obvious or awkward as it could have been.
Running powerslam by Akane on Neko gets 2. Kyuuri hits the fisherman’s then runs over to block 235 as Akane locks in a sharpshooter. 235 gets by Kyuuri to break it up, but gets sent outside the ring by Akane. Double whip into the ropes on Neko, but she jumps to the middle rope and comes off it with a double reverse elbow to drop both her opponents. She whips Akane into a corner where 235’s waiting to hit a tornado DDT, then the lungblower gets a close 2 for Neko. Neko picks Akane up and 235 comes off the top with a flying crossbody, then Neko off the opposite corner with a shotgun dropkick for 2 when Kyuuri saves. Kyuuri and 235 brawl outside and Neko hits a trio of uppercut palm strikes… for 1. Big pop for Akane’s kickout there.
She wipes Neko out with a shoulder tackle for 2, but Neko reverses a fireman’s carry into a sunset flip for 2 of her own. Another palm strike into another lungblower looks to be it, but Akane kicks out at 2.999. Neko drags Akane into posiition near the corner and finishes her with a moonsault to win her last match. All four wrestlers embrace on the mat and then bow together afterwards and are all understandably emotional.
Solid match that was exactly what it was meant to be: a fitting farewell to Neko during which she got to wrestle with the roster members she learned with.
Parts of the ceremony where people from Neko’s career came out to present her with gifts and flowers were shown while piano music played. Miyako hitting her over the head with a rose before hugging her was particularly amusing, as was Kasai going for a kiss after shaking Neko’s hand and getting slapped. Then a video message was played from someone who couldn’t attend, and after which Neko stood center ring as the announcer went over career highlights (for which clips played for us dvd viewers), then Neko gave a speech. Neko then received a ten bell salute for the end of career.
Another, greater avalanche of streamers met her at the end of the salute, and once she untangled herself Kyuuri, 235, and Akane carried her around the outside of the ring.
The ceremony was an incredible thing to be able to attend love and share with Neko as she retired, and the dvd captured the emotion and highlights of it all wonderfully.
6) Tsukushi vs Ayako Hamada ***3/4
Hamada’s shoulder is heavily taped. Tsukushi looks beyond tiny next to Hamada, who has about 6 inches and 50 lbs on the younger competitor. Collar and elbow tie up to start and Tsukushi really works it trying to back Hamada up, but the latter powers Tsukushi back a couple of steps then pushes her away and into the ropes. They lock up again with similar results, then the third time Hamada finally pushes Tsukushi all the way against the ropes. She breaks clean but Tsukushi grabs her, spins her around, and hits a forearm. Nice show of intensity so far from Tsukushi kind of acknowledging she’s got an uphill battle while not being intimidated and holding her own.
They go back and forth for a bit with Hamada trying to use her size and power advantage along with her own speed to get the better of Tsukushi, and the latter being just a little quicker and avoiding most of it while getting a couple shots in here and there. Once Hamada catches Tsukushi she hits a trio of slams and goes into a Rings of Saturn variation to wear Tsukushi down. Once Tsukushi reaches the ropes they do a forearm exchange with Hamada leveling Tsukushi each time and shrugging of the retaliations until Tsukushi hits THIRTEEN in rapid succession to stun Hamada briefly. She tries to follow up with a wheelbarrow roll, but Hamada powers her over into a nice wheelbarrow suplex instead.
Another forearm lays Tsukushi out and Hamada goes up for the moonsault, but Tsukushi rolls inside and it misses. Double rotation flying headscissors (during which Tsukushi lost momentum in the middle but they managed to right themselves without being too obvious and finish) sends Hamada outside. Tsukushi climbs the turnbuckles and hits a crossbody to Hamada on the floor. Back in, after a missile dropkick Tsukushi targets Hamada’s leg, including a sweet counter of a Hamada spin kick into a knee bar. Hamada makes the ropes to break but Tsukushi then hits a dropkick as she lays against them.
Tsukushi then hits a tiger suplex(!!), but can’t keep the bridge for the count. So she goes for it again, which makes total sense within the match context and doesn’t come across as a redone spot, and just nails it with a perfect arch and bridge for 2. Looked crazy impressive on the much larger opponent and the crowd “oooh”ed appreciatively. Hamada fights off a third then sits down on a Tsukushi victory roll attempt for 2. Tsukushi tries another wheelbarrow, but just gets spun away through the air. Tsukushi attempts to counter Hamada’s powerbomb with a hurricanrana, but Hamada’s too strong and lifts Tsukushi back up to complete the move, but Tsukushi goes up and over instead and gets a sunset flip for a very close 2.
A clothesline by Hamada as Tsukushi comes off the ropes ends Tsukushi’s momentum, and Hamada press the advantage with a couple of strikes before putting Tsukushi on the top turnbuckle. The latter fights off the slam attempt however and executes the vistory roll she was going for earlier for 2. Then the wheelbarrow roll for 2. Nice callbacks to her earlier strategies. Tiger attempted again but Hamada counters into a big backdrop suplex.
Tsukushi goes through Hamada’s legs to avoid the powerbomb, but Hamada leg lariats (the general area kind of near) Tsukushi’s head to put her down again. The youngster looks to be out but when the sitout powerbomb finally connects it only gets 2. Big applause for that kickout. Hamada’s shows a mixture of disbelief and respect on her face, but that was all Tsukushi had left and a spin kick to the head puts her down for 3.
Don’t know if it was the taped shoulder or just the passage of time, but Hamada was definitely more methodical here than I remember. The structure was somewhat odd, as Hamada never really paid for taking Tsukushi a little lightly here and there (and in fact won with a lackadaisical cover) and never sold Tsukushi’s legwork. That said, they did build to believable nearfalls to sell a possible upset and the counters and Tsukushi’s going back to things until they worked gave a strong backbone to the action. This played a little better on dvd than I remember it being live.
7) Tag Title Match: Best Friends (Fujimoto and Nakajima) vs Avid Rival (Misaki Ohata and Ryo Mizunami) ****3/4
I adore all four competitors and this was tied for my favorite match out of 84 I saw while visiting Japan. Let’s see how it holds up.
Champions’ entrance is shown, coming out to the same song they sung to open the show. Their wearing all their belts, which is quite the awesome sight. Introductions are shown too, a nice touch for title matches. Knowing Misaki can play the energetic, “bubbly” babyface, it’s highly amusing to see her play the more serious “straight man” in Avid Rival counter to Mizunami’s exuberance. The charisma Mizunami has developed in the couple years since I last saw her is incredible. She was always solid in the ring, but now she’s absolutely captivating in her mannerisms and expressions.
Stern faces on all four during the pre-match portion, but handshakes all around regardless. Tsukka and Mizunami start. They trade waistlocks with Muzunami having a slight advantage due to her power and she takes Tsukka down and trasitions into a front facelock, but Tsukka immediately rolls into one of her own and they trade reversals on that for a few go rounds. Mizunami once agains starts to establish and advantage, so when Tsukka escapes that time she goes back to the waistlock, but Mizunami cinches in a side headlock to counter. Interesting storytelling here early on, as they’re practically even but Mizunami is just getting the slightest little edges here and there to subtlely establish she’s a threat to the champion.
She flips Tsukka over in a side headlock takedown, countered with a headscissors, Mizunami kips out and rushes Tsukka, legs swept and a cover for less than 1, Tsukka rushes Mizunami now, legs swept and a cover for less than 1 as Tsukka bridges out, Mizunami rolls under Tsukka’s kick, and there’s the stalemate square up as they eye each other wearily. Counter wrestling like that is so much fun when done properly, and of course these two did.
Switch on both sides and now it’s Misaki vs Arisa. It’s formulaic but “different sets of opponents facing each other” is always a great way to start big tag matches. In contrast to how their partners started, these two go straight into a collar-and-elbow tie up and simply try to power each other backwards. No go either way so they mutually break after a few seconds. They circle and Misaki gestures for a test of strength, but Tsukka comes in and attacks her from behind (BOO!). The rest of the audience doesn’t mind the illegal assist, as BF’s double dropkick to Misaki gets applause, as does their subsequent double kick to the chest.
Mizunami is intercepted by Arisa trying to come to Misaki’s aid, and BF’s throw Avid Rival into opposite corners. However Avid Rival do-si-do when whipped toward each other and splash BF’s back into the corners. Misaki and Mizunami then do Mizunami’s trademark fire up / pose of kissing their knuckles and splash their opponents again, then criss cross and Misaki nails Arisa with the seated crossbody while Mizunami lariats Tsukka in the opposite corner. Crowd equally happy with that sequence so we’ve got a hot title match here with the audience into whatever awesome wrestling they see and no obvious favorites or heels so far.
Misaki goes up to the top turnbuckle as Mizunami wrangles both BF’s on the outside, but they move and Misaki nails Mizunami with the crossbody to the floor. As AR gets up Arisa hits them both with a dropkick from the apron, then Tsukka follows with her own crossbody from the top to the outside. Amusing side note: this all happened about ten feet from me live, which was so awesome.
Arisa rolls Misaki back in and she and Tsukka go up in opposite corners to hit missile dropkicks in sequence. As Misaki rolls from the impact of Tsukka’s Arisa has already gotten up and grabs Misaki from behind to go straight into a German suplex for 2. The only wrestlers I can think of that throw Germans anywhere near as good as Arisa are Akira Tozawa, and Arisa’s opponent here in Misaki. I could watch any of the three of them hit nothing but German variations for an entire match (although I probably wouldn’t want that to happen to their poor opponents). Arisa kicks at Misaki’s face, which fires the challenger up and she catches one, gets to her feet, and starts a STIFF forearm exchange. They’re laying into each other gloriously. Misaki eventually ends the back and forth with a flurry of around ten rapid fire shots, but when she hits the ropes to press her advantage Arisa catches her with a Cutie Special for 2.
Then Arisa hits the ropes, but this time Misaki counters and levels her with the spinning double sledge for 2. The energy level of this back and forth is incredible, and the crowd is loving it. Another switch in momentum, and Arisa slips behind Misaki and hits a release German, but when she charges Misaki afterwards the latter swats away a kick and hits her own release German. Shotgun dropkick sends Arisa into AR’s corner, and Misaki follows with the seated crossbody to finally establish a little bit of a sustained advantage. Tag to Mizunami.
The powerhouse stalks Arisa and nails her with a spear. She then picks Arisa up into running powerslam position, but Arisa drops down behind Mizunami, ducks a clothesline, then hits the ropes… to run right into a powerslam for 2. Nice sequence. Running Guillotine Drop misses, and Arisa goes for a German, but Ryo sets her weight to block, then hits a back elbow to break the waistlock. This leads to a forearm exchange to each others’ faces and the crowd is WAY into it since Mizunami’s hitting even harder than Arisa does. She eventually hits a flurry for the advantage, but Arisa ducks the last one and Tsukka slips in and hits her rollup into the kick to the chest. Arisa follows with the rollup into a doublestomp, then they hit their version of 3G’s Hangover for 2.
Back to just Arisa and Ryo, and the latter fights off a full nelson, but then eats SIXTEEN rapid fire forearms from Arisa. Arisa backs up for a big clothesline, which Mizunami ducks, but Arisa spin right around into another forearm shot that ROCKS Ryo. STRAIGHTJACKET GERMAN!!! Love that move, and Arisa nails a beauty here. Gets 2 as Misaki saves.
Tag to Tsukka and she sprints along the apron to a neutral corner and climbs for a missile dropkick, then nails the running dropkick in the opposite corner (which Mizunami rolled into from the impact of the missile). Misaki interrupts a suplex attempt and AR whips Tsukka into the ropes, but she catches them both with a dropkick on the rebound. Exquisitely done too, catching each opponent with one of her feet square in the center of their chests. Tsukka does a forward rollup kip up and plays to the roaring crowd for a second, then hits a trio of hard kicks to a seated Mizunami’s back. Rebound kick to the chest is ducked, but Arisa’s in and plants a savate kick right to Mizunami’s jaw as she gets to her feet.
Best Friends with a double whip to the ropes, but Mizunami levels them both with a double spear off the rebound. She calls Misaki in to knock Arisa out of the ring, then Mizunami ties Tsukka up in the ropes and AR take turns splashing her. When she stumbles into the center Mizunami hits the running Guillotine Drop for 2.
Mizunami lifts Tsukka into torture rack position, but when she looks to turn it into a burning hammer Tsukka does a beautiful flip off Mizunami’s shoulders to counter and lands on her feet. She hits the ropes, but Mizunami catches her and spins her up into a torture rack while Misaki dashes along the apron to a neutral corner. Sitout burning hammer sets up a diving splash from the top by Misaki (on a perpendicular Tsukka, so Misaki does a sweet turn in mid-air to land properly).
Misaki blocks Arisa and Mizunami nails the lariat on Tsukka for 2. Mizunami seems to signal the end and gets a full nelson, but when she tries to suplex Tsukka the latter breaks the holds and whips Mizunami into a yakuza kick by Arisa (who broke free of Misaki). Hurricanrana rollup gets 2 for Tsukka. She hits the far ropes for momentum and run right into a HUGE lariat from Mizunami. Gets 2, with Arisa just BARELY getting free of Misaki in time to break up the pin. Great stuff.
Misaki sends Arisa out and runs back to her own corner to tag in and give Mizunami a breather, and hits Tsukka with a sweet deadlift German with a perfect bridge for a close 2. Tsukka fights off a fisherman’s suplex, but Misaki whips her to the ropes and Mizunami comes back in to help hit a 3D on Tsukka for 2. Great dramatic moment there as Arisa was trying to run around the ref and Mizunami and couldn’t make it in time, but Tsukka kicked out at the last second anyway to keep the match alive.
Ohata hits the ropes as Tsukka rises but gets caught with a double dropkick by both member of Best Friends. She ends up sitting against the ropes and Arisa hits a running kick to the face followed by a dropkick from Tsukka. They both go up and Misaki stumbles to her feet and eats a double missile dropkick (with Arisa clearly hitting first and hard but Tsukka still mostly connecting so it still looked good overall) for 2.
Tsukka calls for the Venus Shoot, but Misaki steps into the corner to block and hold up Tsukka for a second for Mizunami to knock Tsukka down with a nasty right hand from the apron. Misaki hits a trio of rolling bridging Germans (and I have to put her up neck and neck with Arisa on her execution of them all match) and holds the last one for 2.999 as Arisa breaks free of Mizunami and hits Misaki out of the bridge with a dropkick to save the titles.
Misaki directs her partner to take care of Arisa, then gets a fisherman’s buster on Tsukka for another extremely close 2. Tsukka just willed her right arm / shoulder up at the last second there. Misaki pulls a largely lifeless Tsukka up and gets into crucifix position, then Mizunami seems to be about to pick them both up like that, but Arisa comes flying in with a missile dropkick to Mizunami to stop it. Misaki drops off Tsukka and tries to attack Arisa, but takes a release German for her troubles.
Misaki tries to block another German from Arisa by settign into wheelbarrow position, but Tsukka hits a sliding kick to Misaki’s face THROUGH ARISA’S LEGS, then rolls out out the way as Arisa uses that momentum to complete the deadlift German. Since Tsukka’s legal, as Arisa holds the bridge Tsukka flips over Misaki into a jackknife cradle for 2. AWESOME sequence. Tsukka jumps into crucifix position and converts into the Infinity. Misaki’s going NOWHERE but Mizunami saves the match.
Tsukka hits a strike combination and jumps into code red position, but Mizunami LEVELS her with a lariat to counter. Misaki with a floatover rollup for 2. Both up, Misaki hit a trio of spinning double sledges, but Tsukka follows her into the ropes and surprises her with the Tsukadora! Mizunami saves at the last second and the crowd’s going nuts. Arisa runs in with a release German to take Mizunami out of the equation. Enzugiri by Tsukka on Misaki sets up the Venus Shoot! 1, 2… kickout! Crowd erupted for that unexpected escape and Tsukka’s selling complete shock. Arisa calls for the end though, and a release dragon suplex from her leads to the Tsukka-chan Bomb (Code Red) by Tsukka to retain.
Yeah, this held up big time. Four fantastic wrestlers going all out in a championship match and really embracing and taking advantage of the tag team format. So many awesome doubleteams, reversals, back and forth spots, etc. Everything I love about pro-wrestling, and a MOTYC for me.
8) Ice Cross Infinity Title Match: Aoi Kizuki (c) vs Hamuko Hoshi ****
Big fan of defending champion Aoi, but the challenger hadn’t impressed me much leading up to this, so my expectation were middling.
Full entrances for both competitors for the first time tonight. Don’t know if that’s because it’s the main or a telegraph of the finish.
Tentative circling to start then they lock up hard only to stalemate. Hoshi baits Aoi and she charges, only to have Hoshi roll under the clothesline and start her posing. Well, at least were getting that out of the way early. Aoi slaps Hoshi’s hand in annoyance during the routine and hits the ropes, but eats a lariat on the rebound for 2. Hoshi with a bunch of overhand chops, which Aoi absorbs as she flexes and walks forward to back Hoshi up a bit. She then responds with her windmill double chops, then sends Hoshi into a corner for machinegun chops. Double claw to the belly and she tries to toss Hoshi, but the latter send Aoi spinning away instead. I think that’s the first belly spot from Hoshi I’ve actually found amusing.
Aoi with a nice cartwheel out of a hairmare attempt, then lands a dropkick. Hoshi catches Aoi charging into the corner with a kick to the gut, then goes up for her belly rub to the face spot. She whips Aoi to the opposite corner, follows with a splash, then hits the buttblocks (which honestly look particularly ridiculous here since Aoi’s so much taller Hoshi’s impacting her thighs instead of her midsection), but Aoi explodes out of the corner with a faceplant as Hoshi celebrates. Senton followed by a twisting splash gets 2.
Both up, and after a Hoshi clothesline is ducked Aoi forces her back in STO position over Aoi’s knee for a submission attempt. Aoi reverses direction and tosses Hoshi away to break. Aoi attempts the crossbody in the corner, but Hoshi runs out to meet her Vader vertical splash style and Aoi’s knocked out of the air. Running belly to the face gets 2. Hoshi hits a shotgun missile dropkick and a folding press for 2, then converts right into a STF when Aoi kicks out.
Aoi reverses by rolling over into her own STF (nice counter I don’t think I’ve ever seen before). It’s in for a while until Hoshi claws to the ropes to break. Aoi ducks a clothesline and gets a wheelbarrow drop toehold to go right back into the STF. Good strategy. Aoi tries to grab Hoshi’s hand when she gets close to the ropes to prevent the break but can’t do so without losing the hold, so Hoshi does indeed make the ropes again to break.
Aoi sets Hoshi against the ropes and hits the opposite side for momentum for the crossbody, then gets a Northern lights suplex with a bridge for 2. She goes up to the top turnbuckle and Aoi’s swivel splash gets 2. She pulls Hoshi to her knees and turns to hit the ropes, but Hoshi grabs Aoi’s ankle to block. Aoi fights free, kicks Hoshi, and hits the ropes, but Hoshi catches her with a lariat for 2. Samoan drop lays out Aoi for Hoshi to go up top, but Aoi rolls inside of the splash attempt and Hoshi eats canvas.
Hoshi to her feet and “bongs” her tummy to indicate she’s fine. Aoi with a leaping clothesline, but Hoshi doesn’t move. Hoshi hits the ropes and Aoi takes the clothesline and rolls right back up to show her own toughness, then ducks another and hits a release German on Hoshi(!!). Hoshi responds in kind and they’re both slow to get up. Simultaneous clotheslines and neither goes down, then Aoi hits the ropes and does a spinning leaping clothesline for 2. Both are down and the ref gets to 9 before they both get back up.
Nice forearm exchange on their knees as both sell exhaustion yet not backing down or giving up. They stumble to their feet and Hoshi hits standing back and forth clothlines to Aoi’s chest and back to get the advantage. Aoi ducks the big one though and nails a beautiful bridging German for 2. Scoop slam and Aoi goes up for the Happiness Splash, but Hoshi moves and the champ hits the mat hard (looks like harder than she thought too: might have been the first few time she’s missed that move and it seems she smacked her face on the landing).
Hoshi follows up with an exploder, then puts Aoi on the turnbuckles. They exchange shits as Hoshi climbs up with her, then Hoshi gets Aoi on her shoulders and gets a super Samoan drop from the second turnbuckle. Hoshi goes up and hits a splash fro mthe top turnbuckle for 2.999. Live I thought that was it. Aoi ducks a clothesline but Hoshi adjusts and hits one to Aoi’s back, but when she goes to the ropes to capitalize Aoi catches her with a small package off the rebound for 2. Aoi tries to spin Hoshi around into a rollup, but Hoshi sets down on her for 2. Hoshi does her roll over downed opponent, but instead of getting a cover out of it Aoi leverages herself up just enough to put Hoshi’s own shoulders down for a close 2.
Aoi calls for the end and looks for a straightjacket German, but Hoshi gets a hard short lariat instead. But Aoi kicks out at 1. Hoshi hits the ropes and another lariat but Aoi kicks out at 1 AGAIN, then unloads with forearms to Hosi’s face, then a slap. Aoi’s playing this like she’s using any and all of her reserves / remaining energy. She goes for the ropes, but jumps into a spinebuster and Hoshi gets 2. Another lariat gets 2. One final lariat and the champ is done. Hoshi gets 3 and the IR title.
This was much better than I expected live, and I think it plays ever better on disc. It felt off formula, with them going for some signature moves early and then just pulling out all the stops as they pounded on each other back and forth until someone couldn’t get up. Great, well told story. Wish Aoi had retained, but given her subsequent leaving of IR the outcome obviously makes sense (wonder which decision was made first though…). Easily the best match I’ve seen from Hoshi, and I definitely would like to see more lariat throwing, tough as nails Hoshi and less Lovely Butcher belly wielding Hoshi going forward.
Mochi attacks Hoshi as the latter basks in her moment to make a point and challenge her for a title match. Seems like a competition thing and not a full heel turn / breakup of the team though. Weird.
Footage is shown of the roster going through the crowd shaking hands and thanking everyone for coming. They announce their biggest attendance ever for the show, and the champ leads the “Happy Ice Ribbon” cheer to finish up.
Suitably awesome show for IR’s biggest of the year with a fun undercard, an emotional retirement ceremony, and two great matches on top. As I mentioned in my live thoughts, when the only criticism I have of a show is that given the talent involved I know a few undercard matches could have been even better I’d say things went well. 🙂