Japan Reviews Wrestling

Top 25 Matches 2019 (Live) 15-6

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)

One might notice that since my prelude this has become a top 25. Even with the latitude I took in spotlighting shows/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 / what I was able to see 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.


15. Sendai Girls Junior Championship: Ayame Sasamura (c) vs Millie McKenzie – Sendai Girls 1/6/19

I was not familiar with rookie Ayame Sasamura prior to this trip, and was impressed with what I saw from her at SEAdLINNNG on 12/28 in a triple threat against Sakura Hirota and Ayame’s own reigning SEAdLINNNG Tag Team Championship partner Arisa Nakajima. That isn’t the only title she held either, and here she defended her Sendai Girls Junior Championship against Millie McKenzie (who I saw at Tokyo Joshi Pro two days prior). Excellent work here from two wrestlers with under a year and half experience each. Both have a lot of potential and bright futures ahead of them (not to dismiss what each has already accomplished of course). Millie scores a bit of an upset and becomes the new SG Jr Champion in a great match.

14. Riho & Mitsuru Konno vs Emi Sakura & Masahiro Takanashi –  Gatoh Move 1/1/19

I adore the pairings involved as well as any chance to see Mitsuru in with Gatoh’s veterans, so was really excited for this one. In a great bit to start, Emi was dismissive of Mitsuru just before the bell rung, at which point a fired up Mitsuru beat Emi across the venue. Great intensity, and beyond the normal excellent tag work in Gatoh this had a good feel of varying things up a little to nice effect, including things like brawling through the crowd a bit. Loved it overall. Emi eventually isolated and pinned Mitsuru to give her and Takanashi the win.

Takanashi is currently out with injury. I hope he recovers as soon and as completely as possible. He’s incredible and this is not the last of his appearances in this list.

13. Wonder of STARDOM Championship: Momo Watanabe (c) vs Utami Hayashishita  – Stardom American Dream 2019 

(Available as an ippv replay on FiteTV.)

Excellent, and even more impressive once discovered that Utami chose to work through a broken thumb here. This completely lived up to expectations, while leaving room for the inevitable rematch to take things a step further. It’s also a nice illustration of Stardom following through on giving NYC an authentic, worthy show, as this was a big, important first time singles title match for them between their current reigning tag team champions. The hype around Utami seems justified, and it’s nice to see Momo excelling as (one of) Stardom’s ace(s). It took a lot, but Momo eventually prevailed with a clean pin over her rookie partner and retained her title. Just the start of the story though I’m sure. This was the match I was most hyped for, and it delivered big time. Crazy to imagine what it would have been without the broken bottom rope and Utami’s injury.

12. Chris Brookes vs Mitsuru Konno – Gatoh Move 12/30/19

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

Chris has been such an awesome fit in Gatoh, and his singles match against one of my personal favorites in Mitsuru was a treat. This was all about Mitsuru’s fire and defiance as a counter to Chris’ size advantage, including her unloading at various points with heavy, vicious strikes. I adored the inventive submissions and counters from both that anchored the match throughout, and it all lead to a great series of rollup reversals culminating in Chris locking in an arm bar for win.

11. Super Asia Championship: Mei Suruga vs Riho (c) – Gatoh Move 6/4/19 

Riho, Gatoh Move’s ace since the promotion’s inception and a twelve year veteran at age 21, was a month away from going freelance and still held the company’s top title. Here she defended against arguably their biggest rising superstar at the time with just a year and a half under her belt.

So there was a real feel of a title change being possible hanging over this match, especially with the build in the proceeding shows. It added a lot of drama to this excellent, fast paced match. Riho’s transitions and counters were so smooth, and Mei kept up with the master in fine form for a lot tense, gripping back and forth sequences.

A particular highlight of the match was Mei hitting her battering ram move on the apron, sending Riho headfirst into the ringpost.

FANTASTIC finish where Mei ducked Riho’s double knees finisher (as she had earlier in the match for a rollup and a close 2 count), but before she could do anything else Riho turned around and nailed Mei in the back with it. Riho then hit it again proper for the win. Riho then vacated the championship (which has not been reintroduced since). After leaving Gatoh Move she would become AEW’s first Woman’s Champion as well as winning Stardom’s High Speed title.

10. Ice Ribbon vs P’s Party: Maya Yukihi, Akane Fujita, & Risa Sera vs Tequila Saya, Giulia, & Asahi   –  Ice Ribbon 1/3/19

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

As a big fan of what Tequila Saya’s being doing with P’s Party, I was thrilled to see “P’s Party vs Ice Ribbon” theme for the main event with Giulia & Asahi joining Saya to face Azure Revolution (Maya Yukihi & Risa Sera) & Akane Fujita. This was an elimination match with each wrestler being assigned a finisher before the match via ladder game, which was the only way they could score pinfalls. Eliminations could also by going over the top rope to the floor.

They had fun with the assigned finishers, such as Risa repeatedly (and unsuccessfully) trying to rope-walk, the slim Giulia bouncing off of people when she tried to throw her assigned lariats, and a posturing Saya struggling in her attempts to perform a powerbomb. Maya got “diving headbutt” and attempted several Maki Itoh style ones, while Akane and Asahi got luckiest and had the appropriate for them “bodyslam” and “schoolboy rollup” respectively.

This was really well booked and executed, with a surprisingly strong showing for the “rookies” (in Japan that term generally covers any with less than three years experience). Despite everyone’s best efforts with their finishers, all the eliminations ended up being over the top rope. After Risa, Saya, and reigning Ice Cross Infinity Champion Maya were respectively eliminated, it was down to Akane vs Asahi & Giulia.

Eventually Asahi had Akane on the apron and delivered several running dropkicks to try to knock her off and win. As she set up for the (presumably) final one her partner Giulia shoved her out of the way and knocked Akane down herself to claim the victory and the glory. (Man, does this play a bit differently looking back now.) TEAM P’S PARTY WINS!!!

Asahi stares a HOLE through her so called partner, and then goes CRAZY trying to claw and scrape her way to at at Giulia requiring three others to hold her back and finally Tsukka comes in to calm her down. Fantastic fire from Asahi here, and there was more story and character conveyed in these 30 seconds than I’ve seen in entire shows. Which makes a bit mind-boggling that they cut the post match stuff out from the video releases. SHOW PEOPLE THESE AWESOME BITS OF EMOTION.

The match itself was creative and engaging, and done in such a way that made the rookies look good and competitive without taking anything away from the vets. Great stuff.

9. Mitsuru Konno vs Mei Suruga  – Gatoh Move 12/26/19

In their last big event of the year, two of Gatoh Move’s top rising stars faced off in a battle of wrestlers trying to prove their place as the new ace in the wake of Riho’s departure. This had been built to wonderfully, with Mei consistently having a bit of an edge on Mitsuru despite having less experience. A few days prior the two battled to a draw in an intense tag match (Mitsuru & Rin Rin vs Mei & Actwres Girlz’ Saki).

Excellent work all around from both, and the underlying story of Mei trying to outlast and outmaneuver an angry, driven Mitsuru was pitch perfect. They took advantage of the spotlight and this was a strong indication of a bright future ahead of Gatoh Move.

I was thrilled (as well as a bit surprised) to see Mitsuru finally get a big win. Awesome all around.

8. Ice Cross Infinity Championship: Maya Yukihi (c) vs Giulia – Ice Ribbon 5/28/19

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

Maya was a triple champion in Ice Ribbon at this point, holding the Triangle Ribbon and International Ribbon Tag Team Championships in addition to her Ice Cross Infinity Championship that is on the line.

At the time this seemed to be a preview of Ice Ribbon’s future, with Giulia likely to be a center point of the promotion someday. Who knew. Whatever of the circumstances of Giulia’s sudden and contentious departure in the Fall, this was an absolutely excellent match. She fought tooth and nail to dethrone the person dominating Ice Ribbon only to come up a bit short when Maya absolutely spikes her with a butterfly package piledriver. Incredibly hard hitting and intense the whole way through.

7. Union Max Championship: Masahiro Takanashi (c) vs Isami Kodaka – Basara 12/28/19

(Available with subscription to Wrestle Universe.)

I’ve only seen a little of Basara here and there, but am well familiar with Takanashi from Gatoh Move. I went to this show primarily to see him defend his championship, and the match certainly didn’t disappoint. Great, gradual building war of counter wrestling and one upsmanship culminating with Takanashi retaining with one final Takatonic (his version of the Code Red) after a number of close calls.

6. Meiko Satomura vs Reika Saiki  – Tokyo Joshi Pro 1/4/19

(Available with subscription to Wrestle Universe.)

Ever since seeing Meiko Satomura come to TJP in August 2017 I’d been dying to see my personal favorite from the promotion, the Muscle Idol Reika Saiki, get a shot at the legend. Reika just keeps getting better and better, utilizing her incredible power in wonderful ways and really strives to excel at everything she does. Meiko is quite simply the greatest wrestler in the world. I certainly wasn’t disappointed with this battle. Reika went toe-to-toe with the 23-year veteran at several points, and had an excellent, hard hitting, back and forth showing before Meiko put down the upstart. 


Hope you enjoyed reading about these great matches. Everything I’ve mentioned is well worth seeking out if possible. Be back soon to finish up with the Top 5.

3 replies on “Top 25 Matches 2019 (Live) 15-6”

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