April 19, 2018 in Tokyo, Japan
As I mentioned in my discussion of favorite matches from my trip last winter, I was lucky enough to travel back to Japan shortly thereafter. While this Spring trip was primarily to celebrate a momentous occasion for two close friends of mine, I also took the opportunity to see a lot of excellent wrestling.
Although I’m a huge fan of several of Sendai Girls’ regular roster and have seen them often at other companies’ shows, this was only my second chance to see one of their shows live, and my first of theirs at Korakuen Hall. Their 1/6/18 show I saw at Shinjuku Face was fantastic, and the card for this one left no doubt that it would be equally impressive.
In an interesting bit of symmetry for me this show opened with the same rookie matchup the 1/6/18 show did with Ami Sato vs Manami. Overall this mirrored that first match, with some awkwardness but a overall a decent showing both. They’re both showing progression and improvement, which is great. Again I’m a little more keen on Manami, but Sato also shows a lot of potential and she seems to be the one the company’s more behind as she again defeated Manami.
In another parallel opponents from my first Sendai Girls show, Sakura Hirota & Eiger, were teaming here against Solo Darling & KAORU. Of course with this line up it was all comedy. Hirota’s humor is hit or miss for me but when it works it’s truly wonderful, and it was spot on here. From creative sequences involving Karou’s trademark wooden board to Hirota being as afraid of her partner as she was her opponents, etc this was highly amusing. At one point Hirota got Karou in position for a POWERBOMB (?!)… only to slowly walk her across the ring and set her gently down on the opposite turnbuckle. Then of course Karou kicked her in the face. The finish was wonderfully absurd as Karou tried to block Eiger by holding her board in front of her face, but the latter knocked on it and when Karou “opened” it like a door Eiger threw powder at her. Hirota rolled up the indisposed Karou and the unlikely duo of Hirota and Eiger were victorious. Ridiculous in a lot of good ways.
The next match was just fifteen minutes of chaos as DASH Chisako, Mio Momono, Hiroyo Matsumoto & Alex Lee faced Aja Kong, Sammii Jayne, Heidi Katrina & Cassandra Miyagi. The brawl through the crowd wiped out seats on all four sides of the ring. Particular highlights for me included seeing Dash and Mio (not to mention Hiroyo) on the same team, and scrappy, perhaps overconfident Mio facing off against the monster that is Aja Kong. Really fun match, and as I’ve mentioned before whenever I get to see Dash’s gorgeous Hormone Splash I’m extremely happy.
Mika Iwata and Hana Kimura already had a myriad of issues between them when they faced off on opposites sides of a tag match on my 1/6 show. Things had apparently continued building in the meantime and they faced off in a big singles encounter here. This was solid and they told a good, heated story, although it went a little long for the level of experience of those involved. Both looked good overall though and this felt like a big win for Mika.
During my first trip to Japan at the end of 2015 on of the best matches I saw was the main event of Stardom’s Climax 2015. It featured what were then and are still two of the best wrestlers in the world wrestling for Stardom’s top prize as company ace Io Shirai challenged reigning outsider champion Meiko Satomura. I was beyond psyched when a rematch was announced for this show in Meiko’s home promotion. Seeing how it would be different over two years from their previous encounter I was lucky enough to witness live was intriguing, as is looking back on both matches now as the (slight) possibility of the two facing off in a WWE ring during the Mae Young Classic looms.
As should come as no surprise, this was excellent. I’m not sure Meiko can have a bad match (note to wrestlers: that’s not a challenge), and Io’s likewise a top tier talent constantly firing on all cylinders. The fact that their first match I saw was building to a big moment while this one was fairly obviously going to a time limit draw affected the structure and I think puts the prior just a touch above this one, but it was still an excellent encounter between two masters which will no doubt make my list of top matches for this trip. Meiko brings out the very best in everyone she faces, and in the case of someone who’s already performing at as high a level as Io does the results are always something special.
Speaking of Meiko bringing out the best in her opponents, her #1 contenders match in the main event of the 1/6 show against fellow legend Ayako Hamada was an incredible contest that was my top match of the entire trip. In a stroke of pure luck, my return to Tokyo four months later coincided with the result of that match: Hamada getting her title shot at Chihiro Hashimoto.
This was a hard hitting, all out war that saw Chihiro throw everything she had at the veteran but eventually prove unable to withstand Hamada’s assault resulting in the Wave Pro outsider claiming Sendai Girls’ top belt. At the risk of blasphemy, I actually liked this just a touch more than the semi-main. What an incredible one-two punch to end the show.
Dash came out afterwards to challenge the new champion for a future championship match. Hamada had been on fire as of late, making that impending contest even more of a dream encounter. Which makes looking back on all of this even more heart wrenching. Shortly after I left Japan, and right before this scheduled match with Dash, Hamada relinquished the title due to legal issues and her home promotion of Wave fired her and scrubbed all of her matches from their online services. She was recently convicted on drug possession charges, an incredibly serious offense in Japan, and announced she will not return to wrestling. I wish her the best in recovering from this and getting the help she needs.
Outside of the mix of emotions surrounding what subsequently happened with Hamada, this was incredible. Quite likely the best show of the fourteen I saw this trip, my latest experience with Sendai Girls just makes me even more excited to see more and more of their offerings.