Japan Reviews Wrestling

Top 25 Matches 2019 (Live) 25-16

Continuing on with my (overdue) look back on my favorite matches from 2019. In addition to still wanting to highlight and share these great matches, positivity and happy memories seem to be in great need at the moment.

Previous installments:
Prelude (with honorable mentions and a brief list for December 2018)

Special mention

Hana Kimura & Bobbi Tyler vs Brittany Blake & Britt Baker vs Bea Priestly & Konami – Stardom American Dream 2019 

Obviously with the tragic passing of Hana she’s been on everyone’s mind. This match was the last one I got to see her in, and was a fond memory in the first place so I wanted to share it here.

From my review of the show:
Hana was CRAZY over, but her & Bobbi were also able to get booed as needed for the story of the match. Excellent work by both. This was a bit rough in parts, but nicely energetic and chaotic in largely good way leading to a fun encounter overall. Crowd seemed to be waiting for a little more of a spotlight on Konami, but she looked good in what we saw of her. Hana picks up the win, and goes CRAZY and starts throwing things at the ring announcer when the wrong music plays. She was on point and in character every second she was visible (more on that later) and it’s really cool seeing how far she’s come as a performer since I last saw her in her rookie year.

Later on, at the end of the show, STARS called the entire the roster out to sign off with in a one time show of unity to represent Stardom and thank the fans. Hana alone remained lurking on the stage off to the side where she watched the main event from, dismissively staring at her various former compatriots. Nice touch and yet another example of all the wonderful nuance she brought to her performances.

Rest in Peace Hana.


One might notice that since my prelude this has become a top 25. Even with the latitude I took in spotlighting shows or groups of matches in the prelude I still had a monster of a time narrowing this down. Since there is no set reason to strictly restrict it to 20 (and to avoid delaying any further), I decided to stop sweating the minutia of what to include and expand the list a bit. Even so, there is plenty of excellent wrestling beyond what’s here (and what I was able to attend) as 2019 was a phenomenal year.

Match reviews are copied/modified from my show specific blogs when appropriate, although there’s a fair bit of new writing this time around from shows I didn’t have the chance to write up. As always the ordering was a bunch of close calls and could’ve been different – everything here is great.

Also, I’ve indicated and linked to matches officially available online from the companies that held them for those who would like to check them out.

25. Lulu Pencil vs Yasu Urano – Gatoh Move 12/7/19

(Available for free on Gatoh Move’s YouTube Channel.)

Yaso was involved in one of my favorite intergender matches of all time, a no-rope contest against Gatoh Move’s former ace Riho at Basara’s 12/28/17 show, and has faced Lulu before.

The story here was Lulu drawing inspiration from Emi Sakura and wanting to make use of certain counters she’d learned/copied… so she kept setting herself up for moves and holds. A confused and tentative Yasu didn’t know what to make of it, and kept putting on the “wrong” move, repeatedly preventing her plans from working.

It all eventually builds to a persistent Lulu finally executing one successfully into a rollup, but not having the power or weight to prevent Yasu from reversing into his own pin for the win.

This was different and silly in a way that enhanced the story told, and a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways. Lulu’s gimmick of being a pro-wrestler who’s too weak and awkward to be pro-wrestler is rather genius in the way it’s being executed, and makes her a natural and easy to cheer for underdog.

24.  Reiwa Ultima Powers (DASH Chisako & Hiroyo Matsumoto) vs Twisted Sisterz (Thunder Rosa & Holidead) – Shimmer 3/30/19

Sendai Girls’ DASH Chisako is a 13-year veteran and one of the best high flyers in wrestling. She’s also a personal favorite of mine, and I had been dying to have her in Shimmer for years. Her Shimmer debut weekend was an impressive one, and she & Hiroyo make a fantastic team. RUP and Twisted Sisterz had the best match of the weekend (imho) in an energetic, captivating clinic on tag wrestling.

23. Signature Moves Match: Guilia & Suzu Suzuki vs Asahi & Tsukasa Fujimoto – Ice Ribbon 1/19/19

(Available with subscription to Ice Ribbon’s Nico Nico Channel.)

This was one of IR’s weird and wonderful stipulation matches. Each team was assigned 3 moves from the repertoire of Tequila Saya or Uno Matusya respectively, who amusingly demonstrated their moves on each other before the match. All 3 moves on your checklist must be successfully completed on your opponents.

Giulia & Suzu had the “Tokuho” (Saya’s corner splash), “Submarine” (her reverse pedigree), and “Grand Maestro de Tequila” (her sideways rollup). Asahi & Tsukka needed to complete Uno’s schoolboy rollup, “Saber Chop,” and “Katsudon” (over the shoulder into a faceplant).

As an additional treat, Maya refereed this.

It’s particularly interesting to look back on this now, both in light of Giulia’s departure (more on that later) and since after Saya’s retirement Suzu has inherited the Gran Maestro de Tequila, one of her assigned moves in this match.

This was great, with fighting over the checklist moves providing an additional layer of storytelling and fun to the match. The thread of Asahi being desperate for victory and to prove herself continued, and she executed both the schoolboy and Katsudon to get her team within one move of winning after being behind as her opponents managed the Tokuho and Submarine early.

In a clever sequence once again bringing Asahi oh so close to victory without quite getting there, she hit everyone in the match with the top rope chop except who she needed to (her legal opponent at the time, Giulia, who kept dodging or pulling others in the way).

Eventually Giulia hits the Grand Maestro de Tequila to complete the checklist and get the pin simultaneously. This was a ton of fun.

22. Maya Yukihi, Maika Ozaki, & Kyuri vs Tsukushi, Tequila Saya, & Giulia  –  Ice Ribbon 1/5/19

(Available with subscription to Ice Ribbon’s Nico Nico Channel.)

The newly crowned (at Ribbonmania, less than a week prior) Ice Cross Infinity and International Ribbon Tag Team Champions teamed together here against a group of likely forthcoming challengers. I was expecting a Tsukushi pin on someone to set her up in her traditional role as sacrificial first defense for the new singles champion, but Saya pinning Kyuri set up several interesting things post match and was a nice, intriguing call. I really liked the direction the booking took around that time overall, shaking things up a little in a believable way. This match was an exciting, face paced contest throughout with excellent work by all six.

21.  Maria vs Maika Ozaki – P’s Party 5/2/19

As great as all of Marvelous’ current crop of rookies are, Maria is my favorite. So I was extremely excited to see her get a singles spotlight in the semi-main of this show, particularly against another favorite in Maika Ozaki. This was all about the scrappy Maria showing no hesitation in facing Maika’s incredible power, and it completely clicked. They presented a good, well worked story in an exciting match that was exactly as long as it needed to be. Loved this.

20. Calamari Druken Kings (Chris Brookes & Takanashi) & Rin Rin vs Mei Suruga, Saki, & Sayaka – Gatoh Move 12/7/19

(Available for free on Gatoh Move’s YouTube Channel.)

I’d been dying to see Brookes in Ichigaya, and as expected it was a lot of fun. His building feud with Mei is awesome, and the two have a ton of chemistry in the little things they do to egg each other on.

Rin Rin looked great and totally at ease, and the play off of what happened last time she teamed with CDK was highly amusing. She had gotten on Chris’ shoulder for a double team, and when he stood up her head banged on the ceiling. So this time when he and Takanashi tried to put her on Chris’ shoulder she freaked out, fought her way down and slapped them upside the head in admonishment. Awesome.

I have yet to see a trios match at Ichigaya that I didn’t love, and this certainly continued the streak. Innovative and fun, with the Gatoh regulars showing their usual mastery and the new faces fitting in well (in addition to Chris and Rin Rin this was also my first time seeing Sayaka since her Gatoh debut). Mei pinned Rin Rin to give her team the victory.

I absolutely adore the trio of CDK and Rin Rin and also loved the other match I saw them in against Mitsuru Konno, Mei Suruga, & Yuna Mizumori.

19. Makoto & Yoshiko vs Mikoto Shindo & Ryo Mizunami – SEAdLINNNG 5/29/2019

This tag team match of seemingly thrown together teams was surprisingly fantastic. The chemistry of the odd pairings was fantastic, particularly Mikoto & Mizunami. Fun from start to finish, and anchored by great action and INCREDIBLE in-ring storytelling where they built things to the point that they actually had the audience buying the idea that Mikoto might PIN YOSHIKO at a couple of key moments (which at this point in time was never going to happen). Excellent stuff all around.

18. Yuka Sakazaki, Miu Watanabe, Rika Tatsumi, & Maki Itoh vs Hikari Noa, Miyu Yamashita, Nodoka Tenma, & Yuna Aino – TJPW 12/27/19

(Available with subscription to Wrestle Universe.)

A few days out from Tokyo Joshi Pro’s traditional January 4th show the champions and challengers faced off early in a 2 out of 3 falls 8-woman tag team match. Wonderfully exciting and fast paced battle between some of TJPW’s top wrestlers.

Somewhat surprisingly upcoming opponents were involved with each other in all the falls and it was impressive how well done it all was while also serving its purpose to build anticipation for the big show without feeling like too much was given away.

17. Sareee & Syuri vs Takumi Iroha & Mayu Iwatani – Sareee’s Special Night

This was billed as a dream match, and with reigning top champions from three different promotions that don’t all generally interact and a recently returned MMA competitor involved I’d say it fit the description.

With her time in MMA I hadn’t seen Syuri wrestle in years. And while Stardom’s NY show was quite good a crazy 8-woman tag with a broken bottom rope isn’t the same thing as a concentrated singles or tag team match, so this was also my first time seeing Mayu in this type of contest in about as long. Add in Marvelous’ ace and reigning Regina di Wave champion Iroha and Sareee herself and this was quite an exciting matchup on paper.

Of course again the benefit of dream matches is seeing these unusual combinations of wrestlers squaring off with a big fight feel, and this had it all in spades. Top notch work from all four for the full duration of the time limit draw without every feeling like it was headed that way, this was a treat on so many levels. Great way to wrap up a great show.

16. Yuka Sakazaki & Mizuki vs Shoko Nakajima & Riho  – Tokyo Joshi Pro 1/4/19

(Available with subscription to Wrestle Universe.)

In an interesting parallel, the Tokyo Princess Tag Team Title Match involved the same four wrestlers as the prior year’s event, but in different pairs. Yuka Sakazaki now held the titles with Mizuki, and her former championship partner Shoko Nakajima challenged alongside Gatoh Move’s Riho (who teamed with Mizuki to challenge Yuka & Shoko the prior year).

I found the previous year’s match just a touch better overall, but that’s slight criticism and this was still an excellent, high energy example of tag team wrestling. Again all four’s jaw dropping athleticism was on display in innovative double teams and exciting action. Down the stretch this became about Shoko trying to prove herself against her former partner, and she looked absolutely emotionally wrecked afterwards about coming up short and being pinned by Yuka.


Hope you enjoyed reading about these great matches. Everything I’ve mentioned is well worth seeking out if possible. Be back soon with 15 though 6.

2 replies on “Top 25 Matches 2019 (Live) 25-16”

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