December 29, 2016 in Tokyo, Japan
My only Wave show this trip was thankfully their big one: Thanksgiving Wave 2016. It felt a little more serious overall than the Wave show I saw last year, although there were still comedic antics in the undercard.
Note: My camera broke the night before and I hadn’t replaced it yet, so I unfortunately don’t have any action photos for this show.
1) Moeka Haruhi & Hiroe Nagahama vs Yako Fujigasaki & Yuki Miyazaki
I honestly don’t have much to say about this one. Solid but unspectacular, with nothing that particularly jumps out in my memory either in negative terms (botches, etc) or in exceptional ones (a standout performance or compelling hook). Serviceable opener.
2) Ai Shimizu vs Fairy Nipponbashi
Things opened with an amusing idol worship angle, as Fairy was starstruck with Ai and once she had greeted the voice actress she left the ring satisfied and headed towards the back. Ai, wanting her match, talked to the ref and whatever was then conveyed to Fairy (and the crowd) convinced Fairy to come back and start the contest.
I wasn’t familiar with Ai, who won Ice Ribbon’s Triangle Championship since my last trip and would be defending it at Ribbonmania a couple days after this show, so was very curious for my initial look at her. To be honest as far as first impressions go this wasn’t the best. Most of her offense revolved around her strikes, which looked extremely weak and unconvincing. Her offense looked a lot better in the subsequent matches I saw featuring her on other shows though. She also does a fantastic rope walk spot (in the style of the Undertaker) halfway around the ring that’s a striking signature.
Fairy’s end of the match was all comedy, from “magic” hip tosses to use of a lightsaber. Nothing offensive, nothing I personally found that entertaining. Meh match for me overall, but was kept mercifully short.
3) Elimination Match: Yumi Ohka, Mika Iida, & Hikaru Shida vs Kaho Kobayashi, Rina Yamashita, & Natsu Sumire vs ASUKA, Kaori Yoneyama, & Sawako Shimono
All three trios were nice, complimentary combinations. I was especially glad to have an opportunity to see more of Iida, and she was impressive here. She was also paired with two wrestlers I’m quite familiar with and like a great deal, so I was behind her trio despite them being the defacto heels here. I was surprised then they were the first eliminated, although it made sense given where the match was going.
I saw Kaho & Rina tag last year, so this was nice extension of that. They work well as a unit. Great back and forth interaction between teams both in the first segment and after Ohka, Iida & Shida were eliminated.
After getting the team’s victory Rina appeared to move on to other issues and challenged her teammate, effective immediately.
4) Kaho Kobayashi vs Rina Yamashita
This was as good as it could be for being so quick (literally a couple of minutes). Kaho fought valiantly but Rina put her away in pretty short order. These two could tear the house down in a “real” match.
Kaho’s other teammate wasn’t to be left out, and challenged the exhausted youngster to yet other match.
5) Kaho Kobayashi vs Natsu Sumire
A touch longer than the last, and Kaho pulled out the victory here to the crowd’s delight.
There was a longish segment afterwards with Gami coming in and presenting something to Kaho, which I later got clarification was due to Kaho going on a tour wrestling in Mexico. Should be a great experience for her.
6) Ayako Hamada & Gran Hamada vs Kyoko Kimura & Hana Kimura
The generational angle here was of course immediately obvious despite not being privy to the buildup. Beyond the parent / child teams facing off, the dynamic of one “child” member (Ayako) being of similar age to the opposite “parent” (Kyoko) and the resulting age range of participant going from 19 to 66 and experience range from 9 months to just under 45 years made this a unique spectacle.
Everything was all about the intrigue and the people involved much more than the actual action. A suitable and notable occurrence that was a privilege to be at no doubt and I certainly understand the limitations on Gran Hamada at 66 and appreciate him still performing for us, but I found they didn’t quite create the drama needed to overcome the slow pace of the match, possibly due to going a bit too long.
7) Misaki Ohata 10th Anniversary Match: Misaki Ohata & Mayumi Ozaki vs Hiroyo Matsumoto & DASH Chisako
As no Sendai Girls shows fit my trip, it was a real treat to see Dash chosen to be a part of this match (which I was already excited for as Misaki’s a favorite of mine) and thus give me one opportunity to see her wrestle. This was a fitting and fun “tribute” match. All four wrestlers were clearly enjoying themselves, particularly Misaki having an absolute blast playing heel alongside Ozaki.
Main Event) Regina Di Wave Title Match: Yuu Yamagata (c) vs Ryo Mizunami
I’ve seen Mizunami a fair bit both as part of Avid Rival (her team with Misaki Ohata that held both the Wave and Ice Ribbon tag team championships at the time of this show) and her trips to the Shimmer promotion in the US. She’s a powerhouse with great charisma in the way she performs and carries herself in general. They built to the right outcome here, with Mizunami toppling Yamagata to claim Wave’s top prize.
The match itself was decent and allowed Mizunami to properly shine at points, but I find Yamagata’s ring style slow and not compelling when she’s on offense. So her playing dominant champion in contrast to Mizunami’s perseverance wasn’t a story that played to her strengths and I felt it could have been better given the talent levels involved.
To close the show Ohata was announced as the winner of Wave’s annual “Zan-1” tournament / belt and became the #1 contender to her own tag title partner’s just won Regina Di Wave singles championship.
As with last year, a lot of the appeal of this show was seeing numerous wrestlers I didn’t get to see elsewhere. The quality was up and down, but there was a point to everything and the angles were interesting even when not executed perfectly. I also particularly enjoyed the trios tag and subsequent angle with Kaho, Misaki’s match, and getting to see the well deserving Mizunami crowned champion.