Ice Ribbon Vol. 740 & 741 DVD Review

This is another disc where I don’t know much about the results and sought it out based on a few matches of particular interest. Should be interesting.

 

Vol 740: August 6, 2016 in Tokyo, Japan

 

 

1) Miyako Matsumoto & Tequila Saya vs 235 & Maika Ozaki **1/2

Straight to the action this time, with no opening promo shown. Maika’s wrestling in red shorts and a yellow t-shirt that look like workout clothes, which leaves me wondering if she hadn’t established her regular gear this early into her time at Ice Ribbon or just didn’t have it for this show. 

Miyako was amusingly the theme for the whole match, as even when she wasn’t in the ring or on offense more often than not someone was doing something mimicking her. Early on Saya makes 235 do the Mama Mia pose in honor of her partner, but doesn’t know what to do next. Miyako yells instructions (or possible just complaints) at her while 235 gets free and slams her. Later 235 executes the Mama Mia on Miyako herself. Mio’s the ref here, and another amusing moment saw her refusing to help Miyako balance for the Super Mama Mia, leaving the Dancing Queen a sitting duck on the top rope for Maika to grab for a torture rack.

There was an interesting mini-story for Miyako and Saya here, as early in the match the usual theme of Miyako never quite being able to do teamwork right is prevalent, but near the end it’s their opponents who miscommunicate and they actually work well together to take advantage. 

After a shining wizard for 2, Miyako absolutely SPIKES Maika with Angel’s Wings for the win. That’s always been one of my favorite finishers, and Miyako winning is always a pleasant surprise.

There were a couple awkward exchanges, but this was solid overall. The action was kept pretty basic, particularly involving Maika, but everyone fit their roles and strong effort plus Miyako related antics made this fun.

 

 

2) Maruko Nagasaki vs Kaho Kobayashi ***

Should be a good contest here, as both wrestlers show skills beyond their experience (three years for Kaho and one for Maruko). QUICK, crisp exchange of leapfrogs, trips, and rolls to open that already has the crowd oohing and aahing. Kaho takes over with some hard strikes and keeps control for a while, including a sequence of whipping Maruko back and forth between opposite corners and following each time with a running dropkick five times. Kaho makes Maruko claw and scrape to get to the ropes to break a half crab.

Forearm exchange fires Maruko up, and she takes over with three consecutive running dropkicks. Boston Crab of her own transitioned into half crab and now Kaho has to pull all of Maruko’s weight to the ropes. She’s SCREAMING here to sell the pain and it really helps emphasis her struggle.

Ripcord elbow by Kaho for 2. Missile dropkick for 2. fisherman countered into a small package for 2. Kaho headlock takeover and has one of Maruko’s arms trapped with her legs. They’re both working this and making it seem like a legit submission attempt instead of the usual control opponent on the mat type of thing. Maruko strains and just barely gets a foot on the ropes. After some back and forth pinfall reversals, Kaho reverses Maruko’s signature rollup for the win.

They did a lot here with the time given. Both have a lot of natural ability and potentially big careers ahead of them.

 

 

3) Misaki Ohata vs Kyuuri ***1/2

It’s a long time favorite of mine here against my favorite rising star, so this is one of the matches I was most excited about when getting this DVD. Also interesting is the fact that these two were partners in main event of the previous volume.

Misaki dominates an opening mat wrestling exchange, constantly switching to a new hold whenever Kyuuri tries to free herself or reverse. When Kyuuri finally manages to tie Misaki up, the latter pulls her hair for leverage to reverse into a pinning combination for 2. They square up again to applause.

Collar and elbow tie up is immediately turned into a headlock by Misaki. Kyuuri fights out of this one with forearms instead of continuing the counter wrestling, but after she sends Misaki to the ropes she eats a shoulder tackle on the rebound. Misaki hits the ropes again and Kyuuri drops down, but Misaki holds on to stop herself then just stomps on Kyuuri’s back. Kyuuri gets up and Ohata charges with a clothesline. Kyuuri ducks then rebounds off the ropes with a crossbody for her first real offensive move of the match. It only gets 1.

Kyuuri follows with a snapmare then steps over Ohata’s shoulder with one leg and pulls back on both arms. Ohata seems trapped and in pain, which is an important detail. Odd bit follows where Kyuuri puts her foot on the rope for leverage (or possibly to keep her balance) and ref Mio counts, but when Kyuuri removes her foot she’s allowed to keep the hold on. A couple seconds later Misaki gets her foot on the ropes and this time Kyuuri has to completely break.

Back to the center, Misaki’s face down and Kyuuri gets on her back for a camel clutch. Misaki hides her arms beneath her to block it, so Kyuuri slaps her back hard and grabs an arm when Misaki flinches. Repeat for the other arm. Nice bit. Kyuuri signals for the cheek pinch taunt, but Misaki’s having none of it, as she frees herself by sliding backwards through Kyuuri’s legs, tripping her in the process into position so Misaki can apply her own camel clutch and execute the intended taunt on Kyuuri instead.

She smacks Kyuuri upside the head as she breaks, hits a couple strikes as Kyuuri gets up, then hairtosses her across the ring a couple times. Kyuuri’s seated in corner and Misaki stands on her to choke. Scoop slam in the center and Misaki covers for 2 with just one knee across Kyuuri’s chest. Hard curbstomp follows and Misaki sits on Kyuuri’s chest this time in another cocky cover for 2.  Mocking, dismissive kicks to the back of the head as Kyuuri tries to stand. Great arrogant touches being shown by Ohata that suit the story they’re telling. As mentioned she’s one of my favorite wrestlers and yet after these last couple of minutes I want to see Kyuuri kick her ass.

Misaki hits the ropes and charges Kyuuri but runs right into a beautiful judo takedown. Kyuuri capitalizes with a trio of slingblades for 2, and when Misaki kicks out Kyuuri uses the momentum to apply an armbar. I can’t stress enough how much I adore that spot. Misaki rolls through but Kyuuri hangs on and reapplies it, but they’re too close to the ropes and Misaki simply extends her leg to reach them for the quick break.

Fisherman attempt by Kyuuri countered with a knee to the gut followed by a DDT. Kyuuri’s down in the corner, which means it’s time for Misaki’s crossbody. It connects and Misaki goes up and sits on the top turnbuckle. Kyuuri clearly hasn’t scouted Misaki enough, as when the latter taunts Kyuuri she runs straight towards Misaki going for a forearm, which Misaki of course catches and leans back with Kyuuri’s arm for her trademark rope suspended armbar.

Mio reaches 4 on the count and Misaki releases, taking a moment while still upside down to start a clap to fire the crowd up. She then sits back up to a standing position on the middle turnbuckle and hits a missile dropkick. Misaki then goes right for a cross armbreaker. Kyuuri gets her hands clasped and tries to roll Misaki over, so Misaki slams Kyuuri’s arm into the mat instead. Both wrestlers trying to shake their arms out from the damage done so far.

Misaki hits the ropes and goes for the crossbody to the seated Kyuuri. Kyuuri rolls through though, and in a great move doesn’t stop once she’s in cover position but keeps rolling a little more until Misaki’s arm is exposed and applies a key lock. Misaki’s going CRAZY trying to get to the ropes and screaming in pain. She makes it but as soon as Kyuuri breaks she goes for the arm trap submission. Misaki counters with a rollup for 2. As they get up from that Kyuuri grabs a small package for 2.

Kyuuri ducks a clothesline and kicks at Misaki’s arm, then hits the ropes … and Misaki lands the spinning double sledge on the rebounding Kyuuri and the latter falls like a chopped down tree. Misaki covers for a close 2.

Misaki’s looking for the cross armbreaker again, which Kyuuri beautifully counters into a stretch muffler. Ohata’s screaming again and flailing around to try to escape, and ends up forcing Kyuuri down by getting a leg around her head. She uses it to get free, grabs an arm and rolls Kyuuri over and stretches out behind her shoulders.

That position can only mean one thing, and it’s bad news for Kyuuri. Indeed, one arm gets locked up by Misaki’s right leg, the other trapped and over extended by Misaki’s arms, Misaki’s left leg goes around Kyuuri’s head and that’s the Fairy Lock completed which quickly gives Misaki a submission victory.

 

This contest was all about Kyuuri being largely outmatched by the crafty veteran but resilient and still dangerous because of her submission skills. I wish she was portrayed more evenly in matches like this because she has the ability to be credible in that role, but her career is still relatively young so this is how it goes sometimes.

That said, despite me wanting this to be something a bit different the story was a solid one and as expected these two worked it wonderfully. Misaki was dominant early which gave her a reason to be cocky in the middle, but throughout Kyuuri still looked like a credible threat because Misaki completely freaked out every time Kyuuri got her in a submission. That was so important and kudos to both for hitting that point hard a few times during the match.

I’m also a big fan of good counter mat wrestling with cool submissions and they definitely provided that here. Great little match overall. Would love to see something longer between these two in the future.

 

 

4) Risa Sera & Tsukushi vs Maya Yukihi & Ryo Mizunami ***

Intriguing teams with normal partners Azure Revolution (Risa and Maya) on opposite sides, and they start against each other. Tentative counter wrestling to open, which eventually leads to a stalemate spot, but instead of giving room Maya kicks Risa in the face. Big “ooh” from crowd but Risa looks amused. That doesn’t last long though as Maya tags Mizunami and the latter just pounds on Risa for a bit, building up to wiping Risa out with one of her monster shoulder tackles.

On getting up Risa manages to push Ryo into the corner and tag Tsukushi. The little imp tries to hairtoss Mizunami, and when that doesn’t work due to Ryo’s short hair she grabs Mizunami’s EARS instead to throw her across the ring by. I hope Mizunami spears the brat out of her boots. Tsukushi tries to followup with a scoop slam, but the much larger Mizunami just set her weight to block, then picks up Tsukushi, holds her in the air with one arm, fires up the crowd, does a squat, walks around, and finally slams her. Go Ryo! Jumping legdrop gets 2.

Tag to Maya and after a few strikes Mizunami comes back in for a double submission. Once they break that Maya picks Tsukushi up but gets surprised with a scoop slam, Tsukushi runs over to land a shot on Mizunami on the apron for some retribution and then tags out to Risa. Hairtoss by Risa and then she chokes her regular partner in the corner while Tsukushi helps from the apron. That’s just mean.

Azure Revolution fight each other over a scoop slam until Maya finally gets it and tags Mizunami. She knocks Risa off the apron and has Maya hold Risa in the corner for her power up, “kiss the fist” shot, but spends so much time taunting Tsukushi recovers and dropkicks Mizunami as she starts to run. Maya tries to hold both opponents against the ropes for Mizunami, but they get free and Ryo knocks her own partner to the floor instead.

Risa and Tsukushi hit the far ropes and run at Mizunami, then Risa stops just shy of Ryo as Tsukushi hits a dropkick. Seemed like Risa and Ryo were too close together for Risa to do her half of a double dropkick and she decided against trying (or she was expecting to do a different doubleteam and stopped herself when Tsukushi jumped). Looked odd but much better than doing something haphazardly, and Tsukushi connected so it came off ok.

Back to just Tsukushi and Ryo, and the former ties the latter up in the ropes and abuses her for a bit. Ryo’s down in the center and Tsukushi and Risa alternate doing Tsukushi’s “run on opponent’s back” spot, but in a great moment when Tsukushi goes for her second turn Ryo stands up and sends Tsukushi flying. Then she wipes out Risa with a running forearm for good measure.

Tsukushi tries to get the wheelbarrow roll, but the powerhouse just sets herself and holds Tsukushi in midair as the latter flails, then reverses into a gorgeous release German. Trio of rapid fire legdrops gets 2. Ryo calls for the lariat, which is ducked and Tsukushi looks really proud of herself for the hard forearm she lands… until Ryo responds in kind and she tumbles to her knees.

They continue in this vein and I love variations on the standard forearm exchange where like this they really emphasize the individuals involved. Tsukushi is hitting hard but can’t really budge the larger Mizunami, where every shot Mizunami lands knocks Tsukushi over. Tsukushi switches it up with seventeen in a row and a slap to the face, which Mizunami absorbs and levels Tsukushi again. ANOTHER fourteen and a slap from Tsukushi as Ryo just yells back at her in between. But she has worn down the monster a bit and Ryo’s up against the ropes for support.

Tsukushi’s whip attempt is reversed and when she rebounds off the far ropes Mizunami tilt-a-whirls her… up into a torture rack?! I’ve never seen that transition before, and it’s really sweet. Tsukushi reverses into a wheelbarrow and gets the roll into the doublestomp this time. Missile dropkick to follow and she gets 2, then tags Risa.

Mizunami fights off Ayers Rock, lands a few forearms, turns towards the ropes… then turns back around and hits Risa a few more times. Ryo covered well but I bet someone was out of position. After the extra strikes Ryo does go to bounce off the ropes she looked at earlier and wouldn’t you know it Tsukushi’s back up in her corner now and nails Mizunami with a kick to the back from the apron, then grabs her head and drops her across the ropes to set up a 619 from Risa. Risa’s suspended Boston Crab follows, then the double knee drop to the back for 2.

Mizunami whipped to the corner. Running hip check drops her down for the running double knees and another 2 count. As Risa picks Mizunami up the latter spins Risa up onto her shoulders but Risa drops behind into a waistlock. Elbows from Mizunami to break. Risa blocks a forearm and hits one of her own, then a running one, but Mizunami responds with a flurry of them ending with the fist kiss shot. Hard clothesline against the ropes. Risa catches her with a dropkick when she tries to follow up, but then charges into a powerslam for 2. Mizunami tags out and Maya hits a knee and a standing kick to Risa’s chest for 2.

Forearm exchange leads to Maya hitting several as Risa dares her for more, then when Maya hits the ropes Risa drop toeholds her into a pinning combination, then slickly goes right into an octopus hold when Maya kicks out.

Mizunami blasts by Tsukushi and attacks Risa to break it up. Risa takes exception and knocks Ryo off the apron as she exits, then hits the ropes but runs right into a leg lariat for 2. Maya kick blocked, Risa picks her up, swings her around to be across Risa’s back, and drops her down in a side slam for 2. Tag to Tsukushi. Corner dropkick, hits the ropes and runs into a tilt a whirl backbreaker by Maya. Sharpshooter, but Risa fights past Mizunami just enough to kick Maya in the head to break.

Another forearm exchange, rather lopsided this time as Tsukushi’s still laying them in so hard the audience gasps which makes Maya’s look a little weak in comparison. Tsukushi hits a stunner that send Maya backwards into the ropes. Risa double knees followed by Tsukushi dropkick to the seated Maya.

Risa up to the second turnbuckle. Tsukushi climbs the top behind her. Now up on Risa’s shoulders … double stomp from there to Maya. Mizunami saves at 2. Tsukushi hits the ropes and Ryo pushes Maya out of the way and levels Tsukushi with a lariat. Kick to the face from Maya for 2. Maya hits the chokslam but Risa saves at 2. Maya lifts Tsukushi up into lawn dart position but she wiggles free down Maya’s back, rolls through, and gets La Magistral cradle for a close 2. Maya rolls Tsukushi up, but Risa kicks out from where Ryo’s holding her to break it at 2.

Tsukushi overhand backslide position, jumps up into a sunset flip and floats over for a pin, but Maya immediately counters back the other way for 2. During this kickout Risa kicks at Maya and doesn’t quite connect so she kicks again, but by this time they’re already in a different position so Risa accidentally kicks her partner in the back and breaks up her own team’s pin. Tsukushi and Maya roll through that into another pin attempt for Maya for 2.

Risa and Ryo are completely wrapped up with each other in the corner. Maya hits the ropes and runs into a basement dropkick by Tsukushi. Tsukushi then stands behind Maya’s head and rolls her forward for a pin. She doesn’t get a hold of Maya’s legs and can’t reach them once they’re on the mat, so Maya essentially has to pull her own legs up into Tsukushi’s hands to be held down for the 3 count.

This was a good match that had some awkwardness but also some really great sequences. They generally covered pretty well for the imperfections and thus nothing was too jarring. All four had moments to shine, although the best sections featured Mizunami vs Tsukushi.

 

Roundtable features the usual promos and hype, plus Tsukushi being a brat to Avid Rival. She gives Misaki a hug but makes faces while she does, then offers one to Mizunami but slaps her in the face instead when she goes to accept.

 

Vol 741: August 13, 2016 in Tokyo, Japan

 

 

1) Hamuko Hoshi & Maika Ozaki vs Mochi Miyagi & Tequila Saya **3/4

Like last volume this opens with Maika (again in t-shirt and shorts) and Saya on opposite sides of a tag team contest. The difference here (beyond just different partners) is their respective partners are themselves a regular tag team.

Early story was Hammy and Maika dominating Saya with their size and power, with spots of the latter countering with speed. Saya’s developing great instincts for playing the underdog babyface, and it suits her ring style and charisma too as she’s really able to fire the crowd up.

They had some fun with the Lovely Butchers’ trademark posing as Maika applied a camel clutch on Saya while Hammy poses in front of her to taunt, then it was reversed and repeated with Saya holding Maika and Mochi posing. Later on the one segment where the Butchers faced off against each other was pretty much all them doing their signature moves to each other.

Mochi really had her working boots on here so to speak. Everything she did looked impactful and crisp, particularly during an extended working over of Maika that included Alex Shelley’s thrusting pushup facebuster and a trio of HARD Earthquake splashes.

The finish came with the Butchers fighting outside. After fighting out of the torture rack and getting a rollup for 2, Saya blocks a clothesline and looks like she’s going to duck under and use Maika’s arm for leverage for her trademark side rollup. But Maika goes down a touch early and takes Saya tumbling with her. Both roll through and right back up like it was exactly what they planned, and Saya grabs a tight inside cradle variation for the win. Nice save there by the (relative) rookies.

Again Maika largely stuck to the basics and looked fine. These outings almost felt like tryouts for her. Looking it up she had about 5 matches in Ice Ribbon prior to these. I’ve seen matches from her later in the year where she’s powering people around more and looking like a monster, so it’s interesting to go back a bit and see her development. Decent match overall, with Mochi and Saya standing out the most.

 

 

2) Tsukushi vs Kyuuri ***3/4

Counter wrestling to start with the veteran largely getting the better of Kyuuri, similar to her match with Misaki last volume. The difference here is even the small Kyuuri makes Tsukushi look tiny, so the visuals and general dynamic are different.

They do some nice back and forth with their signatures spots. First Tsukushi does her running on her downed opponent’s back sequence, but on the third attempt Kyuuri trips her and returns the favor. Then Kyuuri goes for a camel clutch and her pinching cheeks taunting, but like Misaki did Tsukushi backs out, trips Kyuuri, applies her own camel clutch and does it to Kyuuri instead. Then she transitions into her own standard taunt of pulling back on her opponent’s nose. Tsukushi then ties her up in the ropes but as she claps to get the crowd fired up Kyuuri breaks free, ties up Tsukushi instead, and finally gets the taunt. Kyuuri hits the far ropes and dropkicks the tied up Tsukushi.

The match continues in the same vein to great effect. At one point Tsukushi goes for her dropkick with Kyuuri sitting against ropes, but Kyuuri moves and Tsukushi lands across bottom rope half outside of the ring. Tsukushi does a similar crossbody to seated opponent as Misaki, and when she went for that Kyuuri countered same way she did Misaki by rolling through into a keylock.

In contrast Kyuuri connected with most of her signature moves when attempted. The judo throw, triple slingblades, the armtrap submission, etc. When she did the rolling Fishermans Tsukushi tried to counter the third into a rollup, but Kyuuri rolled right back the other way and powered her over to complete it.

So faced with an opponent that was largely countering Tsukushi’s moves and landing her own, the veteran was forced to get creative with rollups and holds, and wait for the right moments to try her trademarks again. In one great bit she backslides Kyuuri into position for a triangle choke that the latter spends a long time in before making the ropes. They also have a wonderfully fierce forearm exchange at one point. Both throw them with the force of someone several times their size.

Towards the end Kyuuri flashes her own deadly submission skills, with Tsukushi appropriately screaming when Kyuuri cranked on her arm.

Tsukushi eventually takes control by drop toeholding Kyuuri into the ropes and manages to NAIL the seated dropkick she missed earlier. Kyuuri looks done and Tsukushi goes up and hits a top rope double stomp, but Kyuuri barely kicks out to stay alive to a big ovation. Tsukushi goes for reverse triangle to put the upstart away, but the time limit expires and we have a draw.

 

This is exactly the competitive showing I wanted Kyuuri to get. It had a great story, and the time limit draw was a pleasant surprise as I expected a Tsukushi victory. Excellent ten minute match. Like with Kyuuri and Misaki, I’d love to see a longer rematch sometime.

 

 

3) Kurumi Hiiragi & Maya Yukihi vs Risa Sera & Maruko Nagasaki **1/2

Another match with Azure Revolution opposite each other. Risa’s team won last time, let’s see if Maruko’s as successful a partner for her as Tsukushi was. I’m guessing not, as of these four Maruko’s the most likely to take the pin.

Back and forth criss cross, arm drags, etc between Maya and Maruko to open, but Maruko quickly becomes face in peril after that. Kurumi and Maya have nice chemistry as team, and the sections of them in control were quite good.

There was an odd spot where Maruko tries to call Risa in to help once she has control on Kurumi, and Risa just moves down the ring apron and looks at Maruko instead (as if she thought Maruko just wanted her to stand in a different corner). I don’t get the joke there. I guess it seemed like a “Risa doesn’t understand what’s going on” joke (which is quite silly for someone of her experience). Maruko ends up attacking Kurumi without Risa and shoots the latter a look of disbelief as she tags out. Then Risa comes in, gets leveled by a couple shoulder tackles, and looks shocked and uncertain what to do next each time. Whatever character beat Risa’s trying to play in this match I’m not digging it. On the plus side, her more serious stuff was cool, including later getting the hanging Boson Crab on Kurumi in an admittedly cool show of strength.

Generally every time someone started to get better of Kurumi, she used her own strength to take back over. She’s really portrayed as a force of nature, and it suits her.

Azure Revolution had a nice sequence in middle against each other featuring good back and forth countering, etc. The more I see them in make-shift tag matches like these the more I think I like them as opponents much more than as partners. They have better chemistry when wrestling against each other than they do as a team.

Maruko did a good job getting the crowd behind her both with resilience in the face of Kurumi’s assaults and moves like a perfectly timed surprise rollup nearfall when getting beat on by Maya and a swank slingshot elbow from the apron.

Kurumi eventually wore Maruko down with summersault sentons and hit a top rope splash to for the win (although Maruko clearly got a shoulder up before 3, which was hidden from ref’s view by Kurumi’s body).

Fine match, despite a couple missteps. I left this wanting to see more of Maya and Kurumi as a team.

 

 

4) ICE Cross Infinity Championship Match: Tsukasa Fujimoto (c) vs Uno Matsuya ****1/4

Tsukka was starting a fighting champion type angle, and this was her 2nd defense. Potentially a big opportunity to shine for the rookie Uno, who normally wouldn’t get a title match this soon into her career.

Uno’s quite fired up to start, to Tsukka’s amusement. They trade arm wringers and counters, then hammerlocks, then Tsukka moves to strikes to take over. Once she has the advantage, she keeps control for a while with a variety of holds. At one point she draws a chorus of boos for raking Uno’s shoulder with her fingernails. The rest of the Ice Ribbon roster is LOUD at ringside encouraging Uno, which gets the crowd involved too. Tsukka kicks at the ropes in irritation of the other wrestlers cheers for her opponent.

Tsukka gets more boos for something off camera (the shot was on Uno recovering in the corner) involving her and the ref. I was NOT expecting an almost heel Tsukka here, and the dynamic’s interesting. Now a choke in the corner, and the brilliance of the work done so far (and of Uno’s selling) materializes, as that spot is in every match I’ve seen in Ice Ribbon featuring a veteran against a rookie it’s generally treated as just part of the match, but here it gets more loud boos.

Uno tries to put on the brakes when whipped to the ropes, so Tsukka nonchalantly dropkicks her against the ropes instead of off the rebound. Uno tied up for the dropkick to the back, which gets 2. Uno counters a whip with a shoulder tackle off the rebound, then hits two more for 2. Uno tries a scoop slam but Tsukka sets herself to block then slams Uno instead for 2.

Tsukka locks in a crossface, which Uno eventually reverses into pin for 2 (the ref was a bit slow to notice it was a cover and start counting here). Tsukka kicks at Uno then hits the ropes, but Uno counters with a spear for 2 then applies a Boston Crab. Amusing bit follows as Tsukka motions for the crowd to cheer her efforts to get to the ropes and is met with silence. She then bangs the mat to start a clap and the crowd goes along with it, but chants for Uno. They’ve obviously done a superb job getting the audience into the story of the match.

Scoop slam for 2. Uno tries to pick Tsukka up over her shoulder but Tsukka fights it off and hits a dropkick in the corner, then the seated version. Scoop slam follows for 2, then Tsukka applies another crossface. Uno’s in for a long time and claws for the ropes, so Tsukka tries to convert into the stranglehold. In a great counter, Uno rolls over and over on the mat between Tsukka’s legs to prevent Tsukka from grabbing her, and as the champ frantically tries to figure out what to do Uno stops spinning and converts into a sunset flip for a close 2. Crowd’s going nuts. Fantastic sequence.

Tsukka kicks Uno and goes up for a missile dropkick, which is swatted away and Uno gets a schoolgirl rollup for 2. As Tsukka gets up after kicking out Uno gets another for another 2. A third for 2. A fourth for 2. A fifth for 2.999. Each was closer and closer to a finish, and the structure of this match is superb. Tsukka with a double chop to Uno’s back to stop her momentum.

Perhaps the most gentle snap mare I’ve ever seen sets up Uno seated on the mat for HARD kicks to the back. The rebound one to the chest gets 2. Tsukka signals for the end, but as she jumps to the top rope Uno’s already on her feet and intercepts. She tries to schoolgirl Tsukka from the top. Tsukka hangs on, so Uno supports herself sideways on the middle rope to put all her weight into it, eventually breaking Tsukka’s grip and completing the rollup off the turnbuckles for 2. But as Tsukka kicks out, Uno holds on and rolls her over again for another 2.999. Tsukka comes up with a great scared, “what on Earth is happening here” look on her face, and the crowd is SOLIDLY behind the underdog Uno’s effort.

Uno’s got Tsukka over her shoulder, and connects with the faceplant this time for 2. Uno hits the ropes, Tsukka on her back and pushes Uno back with her legs and spins around for her trademark rollup, but off the rebound Uno rolls forward onto Tsukka for a cover and another incredibly close 2. Uno whips Tsukka into the ropes and gets caught in a wheelbarrow rollup off Tsukka’s rebound. Instead of rolling through for the kick Tsukka cinches down for a tight cover using both her arms and legs to trap Uno’s legs over her shoulders … and gets the 3. Tsukka comes up looking extremely relieved, then cheerfully reclaims her belt.

 

This was a masterclass in storytelling. Tsukka, Uno, and the wrestlers outside did EVERYTHING they could to get the crowd behind the outmatched challenger. The dynamic of Tsukka working almost heel with literally the entire roster cheering against her was a refreshing way to add layers to what could have been a squash otherwise. Then the match structure of having a resilient Uno get closer and closer nearfalls as the match went on built wonderfully until the champ, who never should have been in any danger, felt vulnerable.

As I talked about in my spotlight on exceptional Joshi rookies, Uno has great natural ability to engage the crowd and was already showing flashes of that talent here, a mere couple of months and under 15 matches into her career. Most of her offense wasn’t anything more complicated than slams and rollups, and yet this was a fantastic match with a lot of drama. I’ve said many times I think Tsukka’s one of the best and most versatile wrestlers in the world, and performances like this only serve to strengthen that opinion.

 

Couldn’t understand much from the roundtable but Maruko was really emotionally choked up about something, and Risa and Kurumi had a bit of a face off.

 

Overall

I really enjoyed this DVD. Each show had about 40 minutes of wrestling, but as I often find myself saying about Ice Ribbon’s dojo shows the quality of action and pace are such that the shows never feel short. There was good variety with several visiting wrestlers on vol 40, the mix and match tag team encounters all had points of interest, and the four singles matches were a nicely diverse bunch and all varying levels of very good to excellent. Cap it all off with a sleeper hit of a title match and this disc is an easy recommendation.

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