Going to be sharing a long overdue look at some of my favorite matches I was lucky enough to see in 2019. It’s been a while since my last list for Fall 2018, so there’s a ton of excellent wrestling to cover.
In essentially switching here to time periods (as opposed to my previous lists by trip) a gap was created omitting December 2018. The 2019 list is already incredibly difficult to narrow down so I didn’t want to expand the criteria, but December 2018 had a number of matches I really enjoyed. So I’d like to take a moment just to list those favorites briefly. Please check out the show links for more information.
Honorable mention: Reika Saiki vs Nadoka Tenma – TJPW 12/22/18
5. Gatoh at MP Emi Sakura, Baliyan Akki, & Masahiro Takanashi vs Riho, Greg Ho, & Mei Suruga – Michinoku Pro 12/21
4. Emi Sakura, Mei Suruga, & Yuna Mizumori vs Nanae Takahashi, Ryo Mizunami, & Sae – SEAdLINNNG 12/28
3. Emi Sakura, Obihiro Sayaka, & Riho vs Mitsuru Konno, Mei Suruga, & Yuna Mizumori – Gatoh Move 12/31
2. Ice Cross Infinity Championship: Tsukasa Fujimoto (c) vs Maya Yukihi – Ice Ribbon 12/31/18
1. Regina di Wave Championship: Misaki Ohata vs Ryo Mizunami (c) – Wave 12/29/18
Ok, on to 2019. The remainder of this entry will cover honorable mentions, including a number of instances where I wanted to talk about several matches together.
The Hot Dog Match Ice Ribbon: Frank Sisters Produce 1/5/18
What better way to start than with a match that became immediately infamous. Ice Ribbon’s second show of the day on 1/5/19 at Yokohama Radiant Hall was produced by the Frank Sisters trio of Kurumi Hiiragi, Akane Fujita, and Mochi Miyagi. The “frank” theme was nowhere as apparent as in the tag team encounter of Tsukasa Fujimoto & Hamuko Hoshi vs Maya Yukihi & Tae Honma.
Music would randomly be played during this tag match, at which point any wrestler currently in the ring could eat hot dogs (brought in by the respective teams’ seconds). The team that had the most hot dogs eaten at the end of the match won (winning the fall to trigger the end of the match by pin or submission was worth five “virtual hot dogs” in the final count).
This was absurd in all the best ways. It was viscerally hard to watch them stuff their faces and then bump on their stomachs seconds later, and as usual with Ice Ribbon everyone was fully invested in making even the most ridiculous of situations wonderfully compelling. This was given proper time to emphasize the gimmick, with the match going almost twenty minutes, and the wrestling in between the eating was top notch. Fantastic in ways I can’t properly describe.
PS – TAE IS A MONSTER.
I debated what to do with this entry as sneaking a full show in is a bit of a cheat. But I really loved this as a complete show and wanted to highlight it as such, and this section seemed the right place to put it.
The opening match was a treat in the form of a rare singles match between Emi Sakura and Sayaka Obihiro, made even more special by Obi goading Sakura into putting her 3-Count Championship on the line. Mei Suruga wrestling like she thinks she can take on the whole world is AWESOME, and her 3-way against Baliyan Akki and Saki was a ton of fun. The main event was a case of being so-over-the-top-it-worked, as Riho & Madoka were in full villain mode against the hero duo of Mitsuru Konno & Sawasdee Kamen with easily distracted referee Emi Sakura presiding over it all.
The show had a little bit over everything and just all came together into a wonderfully engaging whole.
DareJyo Showcase – 5/1/19
DareJyo is short for “Daredemo Joshi Puroresu” or Anyone’s Women’s Professional Wrestling. Run by Gatoh Move founder Emi Sakura, the idea is to offer a suitable environment for any woman, regardless of age, experience, etc, to learn the basics of pro wrestling in a casual manner within a professional, safe environment. There are limits on the types of things the participants will learn and try (avoiding more difficult and potentially dangerous aspects like certain types of strikes, etc) while still giving a strong introduction and base to build off of.
It’s a wonderful concept, making wrestling extremely approachable while providing the right framework and support system to learn properly.
The approach to their shows is also wonderfully unique and engaging. They start with warm up drills and “competitive” practice sequences (two wrestlers locking up then trying to force each other into the ropes, etc), then proceeded to exhibition matches. As a wrestling fan the little deeper glimpse of preparation and training was really cool to see, and overall this was once of the most unique and fun events I attended all year.
Chigusa’s Return – Marvelous 12/8/19
At Marvelous’ 12/8/19 show at Korakuen Hall Chigusa Nagayo returned to the ring for a pair of special matches. Chigusa wrestles infrequently nowadays and had not competed in her company for some time.
First was a exhibition match where Chigusa teamed with Maria, Mikoto Shindo, & Mei Hoshizuki vs Nyla Rose, Tomoko Wantanabe, KAORU, & Hibiki. After five minutes Chigusa and Nyla would switch sides, with the remaining five minutes being wrestled with the revised teams. It was all about the participants, and often their seconds, interacting with Chigusa. It was a lot of fun and clearly emotional for everyone involved.
After that, it was founder against ace as Chigusa faced Takumi Iroha. This was a deliberately paced, epic encounter that told a story that could only be told between the two of them. The packed Korakuen crowd was electric for it all, and it was a special day all around.
Tequila Saya’s retirement – Ice Ribbon 9/29/18
After her originally planned last show in October got canceled due to the typhoon, Ice Ribbon’s Tequilia Saya ended up postponing her retirement to cover the commitments left by Giulia’s sudden departure from the company. It would be a great couple of months for her, seeing her first and only overseas match and first and only singles title run. Selfishly it was also nice that it all meant I would get to see Saya wrestle a few more times.
Her final dojo match on 12/28 was a great singles encounter with Ice Ribbon’s ace Tsukasa Fujimoto, and she ended her career with an incredibly fun 36 (plus a few) person gauntlet match in the main event of Ribbonmania. I loved both matches and it was a great way to see Saya off.
That does it for this intro. Hope everyone enjoyed reading about these great matches/shows. More to come soon.