Ice Ribbon 4/28/18 Live Thoughts

April 28, 2018 in Tokyo, Japan

Late in 2017 Shutter Ribbon (the one Ice Ribbon dojo show a month where pictures are allowed) was moved from last show of month to the first show of the month, so no action pictures for this one. This was a cool looking show on paper that I was hyped up for.

 

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Karen DATE vs Giulia was a really good opener, with both showing progression and skills beyond years in terms of experience. Karen picked up the win in a nicely competitive contest.

 

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The second match was an interesting mix-and-match tag with Hamuko Hoshi & Kyuri vs. Maika Ozaki & Miyako Matsumoto. It featured regular partners Kyuri and Maika on opposites sides teaming with Hammy and Miyako respectively, who were trios partners at the time while Hammy was also gunning for Miyako’s Ice Cross Infinity title. This was my favorite match of a strong show. It had a wonderful feeling of escalation throughout and a real, palpable sense of desperation as time ran down and everyone became frantic to win. This was as fine a worked time limit draw as I’ve ever seen.

 

The semi-final saw Ibuki Hoshi facing Maya Yukihi. The outcome was never in doubt, but with under a year of experience at the time Ibuki might have gotten the best match I’ve ever seen out of Maya. They clicked, and Ibuki’s portrayal of the fiery underdog was the perfect foil for Maya’s confidence. Maya’s ringwork has improved greatly since over time, particularly in last year, and she looks more and more comfortable in the ring and closer and closer to the top level competitor Ice Ribbon has been trying to make her.

 

 

The main event was a six-woman tag of Akane Fujita, Mochi Miyagi, & Risa Sera vs Uno Matsuya, Nao DATE, & Tsukushi. Good back and forth match with the expected trios based style that’s still quite satisfying. Formulas become formulas for a reason. Nao stood out to me, and Akane is quietly becoming a force to be reckoned with and is somewhat of an under-appreciated presence in IR.

 

The post show roundtable this time set up matches for a “Young Ice” (based on experience, not age) vs veterans series at the 5/5 Yokohama show. In absentia Asahi was chosen to face off against champion Miyako, first by Tsukka’s announcement then via rock, paper, scissors (with Kyuri subbing for her) after Ibuki and Karen both objected, trying to get another shot at the champ for themselves. Karen and Ibuki then settled for challenging Ibuki’s mother Hamuko and her regular partner Mochi to a tag match. Giulia requested a rematch with Tsukka, who had destroyed the rookie in under three minutes the last time they faced, and perhaps the star of the rookie class and winner of the Young Ice tournament Nao Date wanted to go one on one with former champion Risa Sera. That left Uno, Totoro, & Hana vs Akane, Kurumi, & Maya to round out the series.

It was a solid, interesting lineup that seemed well structured at the time. I expected Giulia to give Tsukka more trouble but still come up short, the Butchers to dispatch the youngsters, Nao to continue her ascent by beating Risa, and the rookie trio to prevail leading to the series being on the line with Asahi vs Miyako, something that could go either way with the type of champ Miyako was. I’d get something different, but more on that when I review that show.

 

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This is exactly the kind of fun show IR does best. The mix of spotlight on younger talent and interesting matchups featuring vets was excellent. Across the ring from me was a person at their first Ice show gasping and cheering whole night, which was great to see and a perfect reflection of how I felt myself.  Pro-wrestling should be fun and enthralling, and that’s precisely what we got here. 🙂

Gatoh Move 4/29/18 & 5/4/18 Live Thoughts

April 29 and May 4, 2018 in Tokyo, Japan

As I like to explain to start my Gatoh Move reviews, the Ichigaya events are held in a small room with no ring and two large windows on one wall which are removed for the shows. The crowd itself is effectively the “rope break” marker and the wrestlers will sometimes use the front row to bounce off of for “running the ropes” and the windowsills to jump off of for high risk maneuvers. The limitations of the venue restrict the action in ways compared to “normal” matches, but also provide opportunities for creative variations on standard wrestling elements.

Pictures are not allowed during the show but can be taken afterward, so my pics here won’t contain anything from the matches and will only be of the roundtable and dancing following the shows (as well as of some souvenirs).

 

4/29/18:

With Aasa out indefinitely, Kotori retired, and Obi injured, Gatoh Move’s core roster was a bit depleted around the time of this show. Emi joked about welcoming the crowd to “Joshi Puroresu,” as this particular show featured seven men and just three women. Still, the heart of Gatoh Move is Emi’s approach and the atmosphere it creates, and this show was pure Gatoh Move.

 

 

 

Cho-un Shiryu, who I’ve seen at Ichigaya several times, opened the show with a victory over new-to-me Yu Iizuka. Pretty standard, decent opener.

 

Antonio Honda was up second, which always means comedy time at Ichiagaya. My favorite up and comer Mitsuru Konno was his opponent this time, in what can only be properly described as a pictionary match. Whenever one of them achieved a count on the other, the referee gave them a person to draw and if they could get judge Obi to correctly guess who it was they’d get a point. After the 10 minute time limit elapsed the person with the most points would win the match. Totally ridiculous, and yet a lot of fun.

Both were pretty good with the sketches (Mitsuru routinely draws pictures on autograph boards that audience members can get the right to purchase via audience wide rock, paper, scissors games), and the subjects were a mix of famous people and wrestlers, which made this engaging even with me being unable to read the clues. And it’s great to see a rare Mitsuru victory no matter the format. 😉 The sketch pad would be relevant again later…

 

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As I’m mentioned before, it’s quite impressive that Gatoh Move can do six-person tags in such a limited space and unique environment. Even more so is the fact that they’re always great. In this one the Tag Team Champions Emi Sakura & Masahiro Takanashi  teamed with One and Only Champ Golem Thai to face Baliyan Akki, Sawasdee Kamen, & Super Asia Champion Riho. Non-stop, exciting action with the all champ team coming out on top.

 

 

After the show Emi held another balloon drill in leiu of the regular talking/promos, likely as a nice consideration to having foreigners like me in the audience. The great part is that in addition to it being a fun thing to watch, they incorporated a couple of angles into it. Akki pinned Gatoh Move One and Only champion Golem Thai during the Go Go Green Curry Cup tournament the day before and tensions between them were high. Akki pointed at Golem and said “your face” before DESTROYING his balloon with a dropkick that also leveled poor Emi holding the strike pad. She got up complaining “His face?! MY face!!!”

When it was Golem’s turn he had Akki help Emi hold the pad, then instead of throwing a dropkick he simply ran through the balloon, pad, Emi and Akki with a shoulder tackle. Add in little things like Riho blocking her ears from the popping noises and playing with balloons that people failed to pop and this was a really cool little epilogue to the show.

 

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After the balloon drill and ending dance, Mitsuru took the pad from her match out again and revealed a pre-drawn announcement of her starting a twitter account. It’s a minor thing, but tying it back to the comedy match like that was a cool little touch.

 

 

5/4/18:

During my second (and only other) Ichigaya show of this trip Emi was traveling to appear for Pro Wrestling Eve in Europe so was unfortunately missing in action.

 

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It was fun to see Cherry at Ichigaya for my first time. Ok opener during which she played mind games with her opponent Taro Yamada and picked up the win by taking advantage of the ref (another wrestler) getting involved.

 

The second match was Baliyan Akki vs Emi Sakura W, and was bit more serious than the other Sakura W matches I’ve seen. As a result I really liked the feel of this one, with W’s antics still there but a little more controlled. Akki’s fantastic and is always a treat to see wrestle. Nice five minute match that didn’t feel short and, as expected with his feud with Golem ongoing, saw Akki pick up the victory.

 

 

The main event saw a match reminiscent of the Go Go Green Curry Cup first round with the team of Gatoh Move’s two singles champions Golem Thai & Riho facing Mitsuru and a partner, in this case Madoka. As usual with Gatoh’s tag main events this was fast paced, exciting, and a lot of fun. As I’ve mentioned before I adore seeing Mitsuru against Gatoh’s vets, and her and Riho have great chemistry. Golem’s a monster and was an imposing figure for Mitsuru and Madoka to try to overcome. But while they brought a strong fight, the pair of champions prevailed with Riho eventually getting the pin on Mitsuru. This was action packed and a great match to wrap up my Gatoh Move shows for this trip.

 

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A few days before this show Mitsuru had announced on Twitter that replica’s of her mask from the Go Go Green Curry Cup, made by the original mask maker (the incredible Demonio Blanco / Bacchanales Tokyo), were available for special order. I put in an order but expected to have to pick it up during my next trip (whenever that ended up being). In a wonderful, greatly appreciated gesture a point was made of finishing it for this show so it could be delivered before I returned home and Mitsuru surprised me with it after the show. It’s a wonderful keepsake of amazing quality and a centerpiece addition to my collection.

As a final fantastic bit of amusement, Mitsuru had her own mask with her and had us both wear them when I got a pic with her later on, then signed with “we are heroes!” It was fun to a be a sidekick for a moment. 😉

 

 

I always enjoy my time at Gatoh Move, and these shows were no exception, with engaging matches as well as some additional cool moments and memories for me personally.

Mae Young Classic 2018 Episode 1 Review

Been psyched for the return of the WWE’s women’s tournament after its inaugural edition last year (check out my thoughts starting here). The taping format limited the matches in certain respects and the presentation and commentary was hit or miss, but it was a decent showing overall leading to a strong final and deserving winner (who just recently won the NXT Women’s Championship). This year the lineup is even more impressive, with several returns as well as numerous exciting WWE debuts.

Instead of the episode dump of last year the tournament is airing weekly after NXT. Episode 1 will start things off in a big way, as one of the biggest names will main event.

 

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Round 1:

 

1) Tegan Nox vs Zatara ***

Nice video packages to hype both wrestlers. Zatara’s got into her background as 10 year vet and WWE’s first Chilean wrestler. Tegan’s focused on her missing last year’s tourney due to an acl tear and being inspired by Molly Holly.

Renee Young, Beth Phoenix, and Michael Cole calling this, which with all due respect is a big step up from last year’s team. They all talk up Tegan as a possible favorite for the tourney, while also commenting it won’t be easy because she had a tough draw in the first round of a physical vet who’s looking to make a statement.

Great to see Nox back from the injury. I’m familiar with her from Shimmer (as Nixon Newel), while this is my first look at Zatara. The latter started in sportsmanlike fashion but slowly allowed the heel tendencies to emerge as the match continued, reacting to Tegan’s hot start and the crowd’s lack of support for her against the darling Nox. Solid, well worked match with an easy to follow story that culminated with Nox overcoming trouble with her previously injured knee to nail the Shiniest Wizard to advance. Both looked good and this was a great choice to start with.

 

Ember Moon and Alexa Bliss are shown watching in the crowd.

 

2) Rhea Ripley vs MJ Jenkins **3/4

Rhea’s been repackaged, claiming to be a darker, better version of herself and is out to make up for “making a fool of myself last year.” Interesting angle. MJ’s charisma comes across instantly, and although there seems to be no real hope for her here she’s getting the crowd involved and generally playing her part well. Rhea mentioned as a darkhorse. Commentary is excellent so far, sounding informed about the competitors and genuinely interested in what’s happening.

Rhea won’t shake hands to open. Jenkins shows a bit of fire early, but Rhea takes over with a HARD dropkick counter to a springboard that sends MJ to the floor. Rhea’s all heel here but the new look and aggressive attitude has the crowd behind her for a bit. The two do get the crowd behind MJ later on, which is a credit to both.  Rhea grinds Jenkins down little by little and while the newcomer got to look tough for holding on as long as she did and had a couple of nice flurries Rhea eventually picks up the expected victory with a SWEET pumphandle sitout powerbomb. Solid.

 

 

3)  Lacey Lane vs Vanessa Kraven **1/2

Kraven’s a Shimmer mainstay who I’m thrilled to see getting a shot here. Nice use of Shimmer footage in here intro package matching up with a calm, even delivery from Kraven about here ambitions. Lacey’s new to me. She has a unique look and comes across well in her video. As she comes to the ring it’s mentioned she’s signed to the performance center, which doesn’t bode well for the Mountain. 😦

Lio Rush is shown in the crowd.

Big size advantage for Kraven, and the commentators go right for the David vs Goliath comparison. Cole mentions though that it’s not just that: there’s also a big experience advantage for Kraven. Nice touch. They mention Lane’s intergender wrestling background, which is good context for her taking on an opponent who has 100 pounds on her. Lane flubs a rope bounce early, but recovers well (and again Cole, Phoenix and Young explain/cover it well talking about big match nerves). Kraven catches Lane on a dive outside and then dominates with nice power style for a bit. Some of Lane’s stuff didn’t quite hit clean and the pacing was off, but she looked decent overall with some real fire and flare. She picked up the victory with a crucifix bomb, and is on to round 2. It was sold as a huge upset over the 14 year veteran, which is at least a good amount of respect for Kraven and a good story even if I’m disappointed to see the Mountain out so quick. Lane’s your Cinderella story at this point.

 

Natalia gives an interview backstage and says she’s rooting for Io and Mia.

 

4) Meiko Satomura vs Killer Kelly ***3/4

Meiko is a legitimate legend and quite possibly the best wrestler in the world. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to see her wrestle several times live in Japan, including against another MYC participant in an incredible match on a show by Meiko’s promotion Sendai Girls this past April. Footage is show from 22 years ago when Meiko wrestled a match for WCW. Killer Kelly comes across as no nonsense and seems a good choice for Meiko’s opponent just from her attitude and style alone.

 

Funaki’s in the audience with Tye Dillinger.

Meiko being presented as the legend she is (Cole even uses the word). Crowd explodes for her too. Handshake and a bow before the match. Strikes and chain wrestling early, and I can’t stress how much of a treat it is to see Meiko ply her craft. Kelly holding her end up wonderfully and the crowd’s well invested. Meiko wow’s the crowd with some of her incredible transitions and counters and gets Kelly in a STF that puts Cena to SHAME. Kelly forces a rope break but Satomura continues to pick her apart bit by bit. Kelly gives the vet all she can handle at times though, including locking in a dragon sleeper on the tope rope, and getting a 2.9999 off a fisherman’s. Meiko’s just too much however, and the Death Valley Driver puts Kelly away. Meiko pulls Kelly up afterwards to hug her and bows to an emotional Kelly who congratulates Meiko on the win. Kelly clearly know what an honor she received being able to wrestle Satomura in a main event. And she looked great. Meiko of course is Meiko, and this was a blast.

 

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Fantastic first impression here. And we’re just getting started…