Stardom American Dream 2019 in the Big Apple 4/5/19 Live Thoughts

April 5, 2019 in Brooklyn, NY

Wrestlemania weekend in the NYC area saw the return of Joshi puroresu company Stardom to the US for the first time since their two show CA tour in 2015. This was also my first time attending a Stardom event since the end of 2016. There were a number of talents I was particularly interested in seeing, as well as curiosity about what Stardom would choose to present to the foreign audience.

 

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There were some operational difficulties to talk about. Fans were not let into the building until less than ten minutes before the advertised start time, leading to a disgruntled start for attendees having spent significant time waiting in line outside in the cold rain. Attempts were being made to repair the broken bottom rope, leading to the show starting about a half hour late. The rope was never fully repaired and sagged nearly to the mat, unable to support any weight. So the entire show was performed with a functionally unusable bottom rope.

The live stream also reportedly had problems, but the replay is up in its entirety now and as I’m sharing my impressions of attending live it doesn’t have an impact on this writeup.

 

Stardom stressed at the outset that they intended to have a traditional Japanese show for the American crowd, starting with having their regular ring announcer here.

 

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1. JAN (Jungle Kyona & Natsuko Tora) vs Sonya Strong & Violette

Good choice for an opener, with the local team the clear heels allowing the crowd to get really into the visiting team, particularly Kyona. JAN wins a decent, crowd pleasing opener.

 

2. 3-Way: Hana Kimura & Bobbi Tyler vs Brittany Blake & Dr. Britt Baker vs Bea Priestley & Konami

“You blocked me on Facebook. Now you’re going to die.”

Hana was CRAZY over, but her & Bobbi were also able to get boo’d 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.

 

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3. High Speed Championship: Hazuki (c) vs Dust

Short but effective. Feels like this may have been where they shaved a little bit of time after the late start. Dust is a bit under appreciated I think, and has really found her grove the last couple of years. She worked well with Hazuki, whose general presence and mannerisms were striking. Champ retained here.

 

 

 

4. Wonder of STARDOM Championship: Momo Watanabe (c) vs Utami Hayashishita

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.

 

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Main Event. Elimination Match: Oedo Tai (Kagetsu, Andras Miyagi, Jamie Hayter & Session Moth Martina) vs STARS (Mayu Iwatani, Saki Kashima, Arisa Hoshiki & Tam Nakano) 

Was a little surprised this main evented over the Wonder of Stardom title defense, but I do understand the choice to end on a big all out battle between two top factions. Japanese style rules here, with eliminations by pinfall, submission, or over the top to the floor.

Oedo Tai’s dance makes quite the spectacle live, and both teams felt like big deals during the introductions, heightening anticipations. This was a lot of fun, and made good use of the format. It was really well booked to keep the audience invested, and the crowd erupted when Mayu ultimately pulled out the victory for her team.

 

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I was also particularly impressed by Arisa, who I’ve heard a fair bit about but hadn’t seen. She did a wonderful job as a subtle workhorse here, a role similarly filled by Hayter on the other team. Miyagi seems to be doing well in her new home promotion and is a great fit with Oedo Tai. Kagetsu plays her role really well and it’s easy to see why she’s one of the wrestlers Stardom has built around, and Tam’s always fun to see. Good match to end on a high note with the audience.

STARS called the rest of the roster back 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.

 

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The show ended at 6:15 pm, running fifteen minutes past the supposed plan, bringing the show time to about an hour and forty-five minutes with the delayed start. I was one of the people who left immediately to go to NXT, so didn’t participate in the meet and greet following the show.

The show felt energetic and fine in length overall, largely because the wrestlers made the most of the time they had and Stardom put together a card of smart matchups. As Stardom stated, this card is totally one they could have run in Japan, which was 100% the right approach to make a good impression and potentially draw new viewers into following the company regularly.

 

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Working around not having a functional bottom rope was a challenge, and the wrestlers all adjusted admirably. I do however wish they didn’t have to and had the opportunity to go all out.

I personally feel like Stardom can get in its own way sometimes and find them a bit hit or miss, so was thrilled to see them put their best foot forward and have everything come together from an in-ring perspective here. Overall this was a focused, well presented and performed show under extremely difficult conditions. While there are valid criticisms and preparation issues to address, I hope it will be remembered for the level of wrestling and not the surrounding difficulties. This show was great live.

Frank Sisters Produce (Ice Ribbon) 1/5/19 Live Thoughts

January 5, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan

Earlier the same day Ice Ribbon had  strong show at Yokohama Radiant Hall. This was a few hours later, and was not a “normal” Ice Ribbon event. Entitled “I Like Frank More Than Three Bowls of Rice,” this was produced by the “Frank Sisters” of Akane Fujita, Kurumi Hiirgi, & Mochi Miyagi and had a decidedly different feel.

 

 

1) Hiroyo Matsumoto vs Ibuki Hoshi

Ibuki’s a fantastic, natural fiery underdog (and in a different way than say Asahi is) and really shines in matchups like these. She had a nice showing of resilience against the force of nature that is the Lady Destroyer before Hiroyo put her away for good.

 

 

2) Mochi Miyagi & Papillon Akemi vs Makoto & Moeka Haruhi

I’ve only ever seen Akemi before as Emi Sakura W in Gatoh Move, but the gimmick’s very similar here. This was weird, but reasonably fun. Makoto & Moeka might have been the defacto heels, but I found their aggression and games of one-upmanship towards Akemi somewhat amusing and was pleased when they pulled out the win.

 

 

3) Hot Dog Eating Contest Match: Tsukasa Fujimoto & Hamuko Hoshi vs Maya Yukihi & Tae Honma 

Tsukka certainly did not look happy coming out for this. After losing her title and participating in a jump rope match within days prior to this, it was a rough week for her.

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 ate 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.

 

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Tsukka won the fall with the stranglehold while Tae was still chomping on THREE hot dogs at once. However, with a count of 22-18, Tae & Maya still won. Subtracting the 5 virtual hot dogs, Maya & (mostly) Tae outate Tsukka & Hammy by 9 hot dogs. O_o TAE IS A MONSTER. Fantastic in ways I can’t properly describe.

 

 

4) Hardcore Tag: Risa Sera & Yuko Miyamoto vs Akane Fujita & Minoru Fujita 

No surprise seeing Risa and Akane break out the hardcore stipulation for their mixed tag. There was a lot of silliness in this that required a go-with-the-flow kind of attitude when watching, but was highly enjoyable on those terms. They played baseball with rubber duckies, duplexed each other on Legos, and so on.

 

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When things got more “serious” Risa’s tendencies to go a little overboard took me out of the match a bit. There’s a line between compelling violence used to tell a story and unnecessary, cringeworthy spots that look like they hurt the person performing them more than the one receiving it anyway. This was a fun for what it was brawl otherwise though, with Risa & Yuko picking up the win.

 

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Main Event) Kurumi Hiiragi vs Kengo Mashimo

In the past several of the intergender matches I’ve seen from Ice Ribbon have been solely about how much damage the woman can take before losing. This had a more fully realized story/layout with Kurumi actually aggressively fighting back and giving a dismissive Kengo a bit of comeuppance before losing.  Kurumi worked really well against her larger opponent and this was a strong way to end the show. Kengo messed with her more after the match, to LOUD boos.

 

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Talked to Tae after the show, during which she related how full she was and expressed a desire to not eat any more hot dogs for a year.  She also cheerfully displayed her “Best Enemy” award from the earlier show.

 

“I Like Frank More Than Three Bowls of Rice” was something different in wonderful ways, and just a blast overall to be at.

Farewell to an Angel: Yuuka’s Retirement

During my first trip at the end of 2015 to Japan I became a huge fan of Ice Ribbon, and follow them to this day. I had my first exposure to several would-become-favorites during that time, including the then reigning Ice Cross Infinity Champion and recently retired Aoi Kizuki.

During my first Ice Ribbon show, which was also my first ever live show in Japan, there was another wrestler who really impressed me in the same tag match as Aoi. But in contrast to Aoi being a 10-year veteran, this was a relative rookie with just under 2 years in the sport.

 

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Yuuka, nicknamed the “White Angel of Ice Ribbon,” wowed me with her instincts and level of skill for her experience and 17 years of age. She presented herself in a way that made an immediate impact, including a ring style that showcased hard strikes and fierce determination in a thoroughly compelling manner.

Throughout the trip I got to see Yuuka in four other matches. On Neko Nitta’s Produced show she faced normal tag partners Risa Sera and Maya Yukihi in an interesting triple threat, and my final Ice Ribbon show of the trip saw her team with Hamuko Hoshi opposite Aoi again, this time in a 6-woman tag with Maruko Nagaski as their third and Akane Fujita & Mochi Miyagi on Aoi’s side.

 

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In between those shows were two matches I look back on particularly fondly. On Risa Sera’s 2nd Produced show Yuuka was part of a rather hilarious cell phone destruction match, and on Ice Ribbon’s biggest show of the year Yuuka got nice singles spotlight against fellow up and comer Sareee in perhaps my favorite of the live matches I saw with her.

 

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I wouldn’t return to Japan until the following holiday season, so those were my only opportunities to see Yuuka wrestle live. But the first half of 2016 held a number of other interesting things for her. She had a fun rivalry/partnership with another favorite of mine in Wave’s veteran Misaki Ohata (who also recently retired … been a rough year or so), won the Young Oh! Oh! portion of Wave’s annual Catch the Wave Tournament, then was built up to challenge Risa Sera for the Ice Cross Infinity Championship to main event Ice Ribbon’s 10th Anniversary show in what has to be considered her career highlight.

Yuuka had an energy and commitment to whatever story she was telling that was captivating. Little details in her matches, her body language and facial expressions, and the general way she carried herself added tons to her character and made her a joy to watch.

 

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Yuuka’s last match was in mid-July 2016, after which she went on hiatus for undisclosed reasons. But she was still listed as part of the Ice Ribbon roster on their webpage with an implied possibility of return until recently. On March 25, 2019 her retirement was officially announced. She was one of the young wrestlers who left a great impression on me, and I’ve mentioned before she certainly had the potential for a big career ahead of her if she continued.

 

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While it’s a shame that didn’t come to pass and I miss seeing her in the ring, I’m always happy and supportive of seeing people do what’s best for them and I wish Yuuka all the best in whatever’s next.

Sendai Girls 1/6/19 Live Thoughts

January 6, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan

 

 

Because of the timing of my trips and usually staying in Tokyo I don’t get to see a whole lot of Sendai Girls shows. But I adore several members of the roster and the opportunities I do get to attend live are always great. This is my third show of theirs, after 1/6/18 headlined by a battle of legends and 4/19/18 featuring those two legends in separate singles matches against two of today’s hottest stars. This card looked a bit different than those on paper, but no less interesting.

 

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The show opened with a short match that saw Marvelous’ rookie Mei Hoshizuki against veteran DASH Chisako. Marvelous has a strong track record training up and comers, from Maria Takeda looking good the previous day at Ice Ribbon at only two weeks experience to the absolute star Mio Momono has become, among others. Sixteen year old Mei was at about a month and a half here, and looked decent against the aggressive, dominating veteran. Dash is a favorite of mine and one of the best high flyers in the world, and it’s always a treat to see her wrestle in any capacity.

 

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From a rough welcome for a visiting rookie we go to absolute ridiculousness in a 4-way between Eiger, Sakura Hirota, Hikaru Shida, and KAORU. Exactly the type of match one would expect from a pair of comedy wrestlers in with two weapon wielding opponents, and was quite amusing and held together with some creative spots and the occasional flash of wrestling prowess. Eiger surprisingly won by pinning everyone, including reigning Oz Academy champion Shida. Bonus amusement was had in the form of Eiger going over to the concentrated Chihiro cheering section (more on them later) a few times to spook them.

 

 

Aja Kong, Hiroyo Matsumoto, Alex Lee & Mikoto Shindo vs Meiko Satomura, Cassandra Miyagi, Mika Iwata, & Minami was an exciting 8-woman tag with a solid central story and various nice undercurrents.

 

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Minami was absolutely fed to wolves here, including a point at which she went for a tag and Meiko told her in no uncertain terms to get back to the center of the ring to face her monstrous opponents some more. It didn’t seem like she had been in for too short a time, but Meiko was clearly pushing the rookie (and perhaps teaching some match pacing at the same time). They all also played it up well (Meiko spun to the crowd and see to dare them to defy her judgement in a great moment), and with the specters of Hiroyo and Kong bearing down on the Minami throughout it ending up getting the crowd behind her even more. Which lead to a great finish that saw her eventually getting the win for her team to a strong pop. There was also tension between former partners Alex Lee and Mika Iwata, my last time seeing Cassandra Miyagi in Sendai Girls, and general strong work from all involved.

 

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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.

Since this show Ayame was injured and required foot surgery (forfeiting her SEAdLINNNG tag title as a result). I really hope to see here recover in full and make a return to the ring when able.

 

 

I also tend to get too few opportunities to see DIANA’s Sareee wrestle, so I was really excited for this main event. She was particularly fantastic here, going tooth and nail with the dominant Sendai Girl’s Champion Chihiro Hashimoto in a surprisingly visceral title match. Incredibly impressed with the performances of both wrestlers here, which was no surprise. Chihiro is an incredible wrestler with equally incredible presence, and it’s a joy to hear her dedicated cheering section go wild for her during her matches. Sareee pushed the champs limits, but Chihiro persevered and kept her title. Would love to see a rematch down the line.

 

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Another really fun, engrossing show from Sendai Girls. My next opportunity to see them live can’t come soon enough.

Tokyo Joshi Pro 1/4/19 Live Thoughts

January 4, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo Joshi Pro’s biggest show of the year helped start off 2019, and had three really intriguing matches scheduled for the top of the card.

 

 

A year to the day after their quadruple debut in a tag match against each other the Up Up Girls, sporting brand new gimmicks and names (kind of), teamed together in an 8-woman tag against Haruna Neko, Marika Kobashi, Mina Shirakawa & Pom Harajuku

The Up Up Girls are now Hikari Noa, Miu Watanabe, Pinano Pipipipi & Raku. The new names and looks were unveiled at a concert a few days prior. For the most part the new gear stuck to the established color scheme for each but now varies by their individual tastes and personalities. I kind of feel like the one who most needed a new direction changed the least (including leaving her name the same with just a different Japanese spelling), but overall all the new looks are good, nicely unique, and complimentary. The way Hinano fully embraced repackaging is great (she’s the only one who really changed her name, not just adding a last name or changing the spelling, and she also went multi color in her gear and changed her distinctive pigtails), and Hikari’s goth tendencies coming through is awesome.

 

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Back to the match, it was an ok affair with a fair bit of the expected awkwardness given seven of the eight competitors had a year or less experience. It went a bit too long for what it was, but the effort was there, a few wrestlers stood out, and the Up Up Girls felt like a nicely unified unit on their way to a victory.

I will admit that Pom’s wrestling tends to grate on my nerves a bit. For example I’ve never seen her even so much as feint anything other than the shin kicks when rushing people in the corner. So instead of Pom looking like she outsmarts her opponents or something by kicking the shins as a response when her opponents throw their hands up to block their faces, her opponents always look like complete morons for blocking their faces in the first place. She has potential and we’ll see how things go, but everyone has their own preferences and pet peeves and her act’s not coming together that well for me so far.

 

 

The second match was a triple threat “Queen of USA match” with Hyper Misao vs Yuna Manase vs Veda Scott. The three fought over a star spangled hat (which eventually became three star spangled hats), danced when they managed to wear the hats, and Veda won when she was able to dance long enough uninterrupted. Meh. Not my thing, but it was short enough and the rest of the crowd was highly amused.

 

 

With a bit of buzz about her departure from Actwres Girlz, Maki Natsumi made her TJP debut teaming with Millie McKenzie against the BAKURETSU Sisters (Nodoka Tenma & Yuki Aino). Really good match, with Maki and Millie both looking impressive and having great chemistry as a team. While I’m still waiting for a bit more momentum to be built for the repackaged Nodoka Temna, Maki & Millie going over here was definitely the right call.

 

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My first look at Saki Akai in a while was honestly a largely forgettable affair. She teamed with rookie YUMI to defeat Himawari Unagi & Yuki Kamifuku, and my only recollection of this match is leaving it wanting to see more from Yumi in the future.

 

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Ever since seeing Meiko Satomura come to TJP in August 2017 I’ve 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. My match of the night.

 

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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.

 

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The main event for the Tokyo Princess of Princess Championship saw the company’s ace versus the overachieving rebel as Miyu Yamashita defended against Maki Itoh 

Itoh’s limitations in the ring meant this wasn’t a technical masterpiece, but that was never the point. She grown into being a decent wrestler through force of willpower, and that journey and her incredible charisma make her impossible not to root for. This was always going to be a battle of the champion outclassing the brash upstart punching above her weight, who would then either refuse to die long enough to wear down Miyu and score the upset, or eventually succumb to the champ’s assault.

 

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Between Itoh’s unique moveset (including spots like blocking an axe kick with a headbutt) and the story and limitations I mentioned, this match might not be terribly accessible to new viewers in isolation. But for those who have been following Itoh’s quest it was captivating and exactly what it should have been, and the crowd was into it the whole time. It was not quite Itoh’s time it seems, and Miyu would emerge with her title intact.

 

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Decent, crowd pleasing show from Tokyo Joshi Pro to kick off the new year. A little hit or miss in the undercard but still quite fun overall, with a pair of excellent matches plus an appropriately worked main event closing out the show in a strong way.

 

Ice Ribbon 1/5/19 Live Thoughts

January 5, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan

The first of two Ice Ribbon shows at Yokohama Radiant Hall. This was a “regular” Ice Ribbon show while the one later in the day … well, wasn’t. 😉

 

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The opening 6-woman tag of Asahi, Tsukasa Fujimoto, & Makoto vs Totoro Satsuki, Kurumi Hiiragi, & Miyako Matsumoto had a great story of Makoto and Tsukka trying to support a desperate Asahi looking to prove her worth and earn the win anchoring the action. Unfortunately their opponents were just a bit too much for the rookie to overcome and eventually pinned Asahi for the win.

 

 

Marvelous’ rookie Maria Takeda, just a couple of weeks after debuting against then Ice Cross Infinity Champion Tsukka, got to wrestle a former champion here in the form of Risa Sera. The arena, prompted by the cheering of the wrestlers at ringside and the quasi-heel antics of Risa, were firmly behind Maria. Risa isn’t quite as good at the “bell-to-bell turn” as Tsukka (see her title defense against Uno from Vol 741 for an incredible example of this formula), but still played her role well here in a decent match. Maria held up her end and looked really impressive for two weeks experience.

 

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Speaking of Uno Matsuya, she got to shine a bit against a visiting veteran as she and Akane Fujita took on Pure-J’s Command Bolshoi & Mochi Miyagi. This was a pretty straightforward, ok tag match overall.

 

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Another opportunity to see mother vs daughter clash graced the semi main as Hamuko Hoshi faced Ibuki Hoshi. They’re great as opponents and I look forward to these matches. In my opinion Ibuki brings out the best in her mother, and this was a nicely intense battle somewhat reminiscent of the opener with the rookie desperate to prove herself and coming up just a bit short.

 

 

In the main event the newly crowned (at Ribbonmania, less than a week prior) Ice Cross Infinity and International Ribbon Tag Team Champions teamed together as Maya Yukihi, Kyuri, & Maika Ozaki took on Tequila Saya, Giulia, & Tsukushi. 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, interesting call. I really liked the direction the booking took during this trip 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.

 

 

To close out there was a presentation for 2018 awards. The “Rookie” of the Year award had a bit of unfortunate hilarity, as it was announced as a tie between Saya and Uno. As they celebrated Sato quickly jumped in to correct the announcement, as it was actually a tie between Saya and Giulia. Poor Uno. It was pretty much a given that some form of Tsukka vs Maya would win Best Match, it was just a matter of whether the Ribbonmania main would eclipse their encounter in August in the fans eyes. Not quite it seems, as the August match won. Tsukka also won MVP, the Butchers took Best Tag Team, Ribbonmania was Best Event, and the absent Tae Honma won Best “Enemy” (outsider).

 

Another strong show from Ice Ribbon to start the day in Yokohama, and a few hours later I’d be back for something completely different.

Ice Ribbon 1/3/19 Live Thoughts

January 3, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan

First show of 2019 for Ice Ribbon, a few days after a Ribbonmania that saw new champions all around.

 

 

After a successful effort in her debut at Ribbonmania Suzu Suzuki faced Mochi Miyagi to open this dojo show. Fine rookie vs established wrestler match, although honestly I would’ve liked something more interesting from the followup to Suzu’s debut win. Suzu actually looked a little more tentative/nervous in this smaller setting than at Ribbonmania. She’s a good addition to the roster and seems to have a lot of potential.

 

 

Three days after Uno Matsuya & Miyako Matsumoto were competing challengers for the Triangle Ribbon Championship (in a match that certainly didn’t go the way either wanted) they had more success as a team Totoro Satsuki & Tsukushi. Fine, run of the mill random tag team contest here with each wrestler playing their usual role.

 

 

In contrast, Tsukasa Fujimoto’s match with Hamuko Hoshi was anything but typical. At “random” intervals Mio Shirai would play music, signaling the wrestlers had to stop what they were doing and jump rope until it stopped. Ridiculously amusing, with the participants eventually getting tired being interrupted at key moments and jumping rope in general. They went after Mio together, but she somehow twisted it into being referee (and reigning Triangle Ribbon Champion) Banny’s fault, and they attacked her instead.

 

 

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.

 

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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. 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. 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 all around.

 

 

A pair of ok matches followed by a pair of unique, engrossing ones with a perfect mix of humor and action made this show a blast overall to be at live. I also really enjoyed the increased emphasis on and spotlight for newer faces on the shows this trip, something I’ve wanted for a while from Ice Ribbon.