Gatoh Move 5/6/19 Live Thoughts

May 6, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan

Last Monday’s Gatoh Move show had a lot of important developments, most centered around a one-day, four person tournament to name Riho’s next challenger for her Super-Asia Championship at Riho’s birthday show on June 4th.

 

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In a wonderful step that increases the accessibility of one of the most unique and fun wrestling companies anywhere, Gatoh has started uploading matches with English play-by-play. Currently new matches are being uploaded daily, and in an awesome move they shared the entire tournament yesterday. Short version: it’s great. Head over there now to watch without spoilers. Then/or continue reading for my thoughts and match results (including from the one non-tournament match one the show, which made this a rare four match show for Ichigaya).

This tournament came about after the May 1st Go Go Green Curry Cup show (more on that in a later post) where Mitsuru, Yuna, and Mei all expressed a desire to challenge Riho before she leaves Gatoh Move to go freelance in July. A reluctant Emi, enduring a particularly bad day with her ever present back problems, eventually accepted her spot as the fourth participant.

 

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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).

 

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1) Super-Asia Championship #1 Contender Tournament Round 1: Mitsuru Konno vs Yuna Mizomori

The previous Saturday Mitsuru was pulled from Gatoh’s show due to an injury to her right arm suffered during practice earlier in the day. Here she had it wrapped, was favoring it heavily, and seemed unable to really straighten it fully. I really hope she wasn’t pushing herself too hard taking part here.

That said, this was the usual masterclass in Gatoh Move on making the most of what’s available and woking within constraints. Mitsuru’s arm became the story of the match, with Yuna continually targeting it and taunting Mitsuru in ways like refusing to shake her good arm and insisting on the injured one (which of course caused Mitsuru to angrily slap the hand away). This was top notch story telling by both, with a gutsy performance by Mitsuru and excellent work by Mizumori to take care of her injured counterpart while putting on an exciting, engaging match. Mizumori’s onslaught was eventually too much and she pinned Mitsuru to advance to the finals.

Would have liked to see what this would have been without the injury of course, but instead of letting it hamper things they capitalized and built around it to produce an excellent match. And Mitsuru did not let her arm slow her down at all, which as with her mentor is both incredibly impressive and a little worrisome long term.

 

 

2) Super-Asia Championship #1 Contender Tournament Round 1: Mei Suruga vs Emi Sakura

This was a rematch of the best match I saw during my trip last fall.  Speaking of Mitsuru’s mentor and not letting anything stop her, Emi Sakura, who was using a cane to move around, once again put on a clinic while nursing a bad back. Again making a potential weakness a strength Sakura’s back was the story here, with her unable to lock in certain moves, Mei targeting it, and Sakura even resorting to getting her cane involved. More great stuff for Gatoh’s regulars. Mei eventually tied Sakura up just enough to keep Gatoh’s founder down for 3 and move on to the finals.

 

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3) An-Chamu & Riho vs Baliyan Akki & Cherry 

While giving the tournament participants a break before the main event, this match was also a ton of fun on its own. Riho embraced teaming with the gravure idol, and there was a lot of posing and playfulness going on. Cherry played full heel here, drawing an initially confused Akki along into full on antics by the end. Light and entertaining yet of course anchored with strong wrestling. Cherry pinned An-Chamu to prove underhanded tactics sometimes do pay off. 😉

 

 

4) Super-Asia Championship #1 Contender Tournament Final: Mei Suruga vs Yuna Mizomori

So Gatoh’s two super-rookies faced off to see who would challenge for the company’s top singles title. They are both amazing, particularly given both have under a year and a half experience. It’s interesting that with all the (rightful) buzz about Mei that I think that Yuna’s equally impressive start in pro-wrestling gets overlooked a little, even though she’s already a two-time tag team champion in Gatoh.

This was a blast, with a hyper aggressive Yuna repeatedly charging and trying to overpower the hyper quick Mei. While Mei seemed the favorite for the tournament did eventually best Yuna to become Riho’s next challenger, this really could have gone either way and was gripping right up to the end. Great stuff.

Yuna was crying in frustration after and during the roundtable, a feeling that clearly extended to Mitsuru as well.

 

 

Special guests Dann and Emily Read, who were a joy to meet and talk to, appeared after the roundtable (with translation help from Akki) to talk about being in Japan and taking in around fourteen shows scouting talent. They said one wrestler impressed them more than anyone else, and would be getting a straight shot into their SHE-1 tournament without needing to go through a qualification match, something they only ever did before with Meiko Satomura. There seemed two possibilities and with that lead up I was leaning towards Riho, but it was in fact the other and Mei is going to London this fall! Huge, well deserved opportunity. Big day all around for her.

 

 

During the roundtable Gatoh talents wear t-shirts over their gear. When Dann finished the announcement he gave Mei an Eve t-shirt and she quickly and excitedly took off the one she was wearing to put it on in a really cute moment.

 

 

Great show, perhaps one of the best I’ve seen at Ichigaya, with a ton of significant things happening around excellent wrestling, And in a somewhat unusual case for Gatoh I can recommend going online right now to check out a majority of the show, so do so. 😉

Gatoh Move 1/20/19 Live Thoughts

January 20, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan

 

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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).

 

 

The comedy heavy opener of Mei Suruga & Taro Yamada vs Baliyan Akki & Riho  pushed things a bit (from the perspective of a foreign fan) with everyone imitating Taro’s narrow eyes, but was in good fun overall and a solid opener. With the talent involved the underlying action was of course really good.

 

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Sayaka Obihiro vs Shota was honestly a touch slow and a bit hard to get absorbed into, but at the same time was a well worked display of chain wrestling at its core and decent overall.

 

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Emi Sakura & Masahiro Takanashi vs Mitsuru Konno & Yuna Mizumori took a little time to find it’s footing, with the normally unflappable Emi seeming a bit off and even poking a bit of fun at herself, but they played off everything well and things really gelled and became incredible down the stretch. I love both these teams and this pairing was a treat for me. Emi pinned Mizumori to pick up the victory after a beautiful counter.

 

 

 

There were admittedly little wrinkles in this one, but nothing that really detracted from the enjoyment and entertainment of the show as a whole. The entire roster has been pushing themselves to try new things as experiment in different directions, which is of course always great to see. This was a fine way to wrap things up with Gatoh for that particular trip, and I can’t wait to go back.

Be Happy: The History of Ice Ribbon Girls Pro-Wrestling Review

Disclosure: The author of this book is a friend of mine and introduced me to Ice Ribbon years ago. This has had no influence on the opinions in this review, although obviously my status as a fan of the promotion does affect my appreciation of the subject matter.

 

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Ice Ribbon is a women’s professional wrestling company based in Tokyo, Japan, infused with the philosophy of founder Emi Sakura that professional wrestling should be fun, both for the audience and performers.

In May of 2016 the company celebrated their ten year anniversary. The majority of Be Happy is an amazingly detailed, meticulously researched compilation of shows and matches with attendance figures, participants, match time, and results for the ENTIRE period from the company’s beginning through said 10th anniversary. And not only Ice Ribbon’s shows (which are of course covered in full), but also every match any Ice Ribbon talent at any given time participated in including for other companies. As someone familiar with data collection and maintenance, I know the effort, careful bookkeeping, and time required to compile data of such volume and accuracy. Amassing the detail contained here is enormous undertaking and impressive accomplishment.

Of course as a book presentation and accessibility is just as vital as the quality of the underlying information. It can be easy to overlook the importance of headers, proper bolding, etc, but it’s absolutely imperative in a project like this to make the enormous amount of information accessible. Short clearly kept this in mind, and the format of Be Happy is excellent and makes his chronicle accessible and enjoyable.

A short introduction provides historical perspective and a strong framework, as well as a list of all official members of Ice Ribbon and years they worked for company for easier perusing for fans of particular wrestlers.

The results are organized by year with a descriptive title for each and an easy to digest and browse format containing shaded headers for dates, boxed show names, then normal text results. Perhaps most importantly, there interesting tidbits (context about the wrestlers and what was going on in the promotion), supporting information (match stipulations, debuts, injuries, etc), and pictures in each part included that keep it from becoming a dry recitation and make Be Happy a throughly engaging tome to get absorbed in.

The pictures are wonderful, including things like ticket stubs and event posters in addition to the numerous wonderful pictures of the wrestlers themselves. Following the chronicle that makes up the majority of the book, there are dedicated sections of pictures featuring a sample of the incredible costumes and gear made by BACCHANALES TOKYO and the impressive fan-made banners that are hung in the venues during events as a sign of support and respect for the wrestlers. While Short himself apologizes in the book that the black and white pictures don’t do proper justice to the creations, all included pictures are still fantastic and a real treat to have included. The other post chronicle sections contain complete title histories (including all defenses) for the time period covered and top event attendance figures respectively.

In the introduction Short self-describes his book as a love letter to the company, and it couldn’t be more of a fitting description. This is a dense, laser focused examination of a fairly niche product, which is of course a treasure trove to huge fans of Ice Ribbon such as myself, but also made wonderfully accessible to those with any level of interest by way of the dedication, careful presentation choices, and above all else the love the author has for the subject matter.

Be Happy is an absolute gem, and I’m beyond thrilled to see my friend’s vision for this book come together in such spectacular fashion.

Ice Ribbon 1/19/19 Live Thoughts

January 19, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan

This show was a “January Birthdays Produce,” with Tequila Saya, Maya Yukihi, and Uno Matsuya in charge of the festivities and another special Shutter Ribbon event allowing pictures during the show..

 

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We started right in with a theme match, as “Saya” (Hamuko Hoshi) faced “Maya” (Uno Matsuya) to open. This wasn’t like most other costume matches I’ve seen in Ice Ribbon, as there was no requirement to to try wrestle like person you’re dressed as. Still highly amusing, and well worked with a couple of believable near falls for Uno before Hammy put her away.

 

 

Maya Yukihi vs Miyako Matsumoto was perhaps even more ridiculous to be expected from these two, as poor referee and reigning Triangle Ribbon Champion Banny Oikawa was frequently draw into the action (as was happening in many matches around this time). More story than matches, although Maya did provide some good action to anchor things and this was fine for what it was.

 

 

Giulia & Suzu Suzuki vs Asahi & Tsukasa Fujimoto was one of IR’s weird and wonderful stipulation matches. Each team was assigned 3 moves from the repertoire of Saya or Uno respectively, who amusingly demonstrated their moves on each other before the match. In addition to the normal ways to win a match, victory could be achieved by successfully executing all 3 moves 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.

 

 

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).

Really nice touch on the finish in which Maya seemed to wave off the checklist victory for Giulia because she didn’t quite get Saya’s finisher right (the Grand Maestro de Tequila is hard to execute) and counted the pin instead (producing the same outcome in an internally consistent way). This was so much fun.

 

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The main event of  Maika Ozaki & Mochi Miyagi vs Tequila Saya & Tsukushi started off with a three way stare off in beginning, as neither impending challenger for Maika’s tag championship Saya nor one of the wrestlers who would soon be facing Maika in a triple threat #1 contender’s match for Maya’s Ice Cross Infinity title Tsukushi wanted to play nice. Mochi was caught in the middle and just kind of got fed up trying to cheerfully offer an opening handshake and left the three others to their brooding.

Solid match, with a lot of the highlights once again revolving around Maika’s incredible power. Her double torture rack in particular never fails to impress.

Saya pinned Maika with the Grand Maestro, meaning along with the 6-woman tag on 1/5/19 she had pinned both of the reigning tag champions with it going into Burning Raw (her & Giulia)’s tag title shot. Nice booking.

 

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Emotional roundtable, with everyone (well, Saya, Tsukushi, and Giulia…) seeming to lay into Maika about everything from Kyuri being absent from this show to criticizing Maika for trying to be a double champ, etc. Then Asahi was crying in frustration during her turn to speak.

Things lightened a bit to end with birthday cake coming out for the producers of the night.

Also, Tsukka was honored with Tokyo Sports Women’s Wrestler of the Year Award for 2018 and had her well deserved trophy with her after this show.

 

 

This was a great little dojo show to end my Ice Ribbon run for this trip, with nicely building stories and enjoyable matches throughout.

P’s Party 1/16/19 Live Thoughts

January 16, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan

Last Spring Ice Ribbon’s Tequila Saya started producing a series of biweekly shows called P’s Party (“short” for Peace Party… somehow…) initially focusing on talent with less than three years experience (although as time passes some of their core roster re obviously passing that particular hallmark), with some vets mixed in for them to work with. The concept is fantastic and I really enjoyed the show I got to see in Spring as well as Misaki Ohata’s last show with them in December.

 

 

This show started with a really fun tag match of Asahi & Tsukushi vs Tequila Saya & Totoro Satsuki. All four were spot on and a lot of the exchanges were creative and exciting. The way Saya’s been evolving and chaining a lot of her signature moves is really awesome. Although I do kind of wish her devastating looking “Submarine” (reverse-pedigree) was used as a finisher instead of a transition into a submission (no matter how cool that transition / submission move is). Despite being partnered with the rookie-who-isn’t, Asahi can’t quite stand up to her opponents’ assault long term and is eventually pinned to give Saya & Totoro the win.

 

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Ice Ribbon’s newest rookie Suzu Suzuki took on veteran and renown comedy wrestler Sakura Hirota in the P’s Party debuts for both. This was kind of two matches spot wielded together, as Hirota broke out her underrated technical skills in a strong display of match wrestling between the two for the first half of the match then transitioned to her standard comedy structure in the latter half.

Her humor works a lot of the time, and I understand cultural differences in comedy that affect my perception of things and that Hirota’s “finger strike to the butt attack” is a standard part of her matches. But honestly I don’t ever need to see a teenager frightenedly running around the ring covering her backside in a panic again. Saya selflessly coming into the ring to “save” Suzu by offering herself up to take the move instead begs all kind of questions about what the point was and why exactly Hirota couldn’t have just continued to attack Suzu afterwards. Sorry to bring logic to a Hirota match, but the way this was done was both uncomfortable and nonsensical (even within Sakura’s usual framework). First half of the match was great, second was … not. Hirota won with her “fluke collapse on opponent for the pin” spot.

 

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In the main event Maika Ozaki & Matsuya Uno faced Giulia & Rina Shingaki. Interestingly the team of Giulia & Rina were also the “randomly chosen” opponents opening the previous P’s Party event. Enjoyable main event that was largely a spotlight for half of the then reigning International Ribbon Tag Team Champions. Maika’s power was on full display and she picked up a rather emphatic win for her team down the stretch.

 

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I continue to adore what Saya’s been doing with P’s Party overall and I hope this cool little sister/developmental promotion to Ice Ribbon becomes more accessible to a wider audience at some point. Outside of my personal view on part of the middle match this was another strong outing for them.

P’s Party will have their first larger show as part of the Yokohama Wrestling Festival during Golden Week this year on 5/2. Excited to see what Saya and her roster does with the bigger spotlight.

 

Gatoh Move 1/12 & 1/13/19 Live Thoughts

January 12 and 13, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan

I expected 1/1 and 1/2 to be my last Gatoh Move shows of this trip, but an unexpected extension due to less than pleasant circumstances yielded the fortuitous side effect of getting to enjoy a bit more wrestling.

 

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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 generally 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).

 

1/12/19:

1) Mitsuru Konno vs An-Chamu

Interesting matchup for An-Chamu after only having seen her against veterans in singles matches until now. Mitsuru has more experience than An, but is still within what’s considered a relative rookie in Japan with just over two years wrestling (at the time). This was a little rough in parts, but well done overall and continued the building story of Mitsuru developing a more aggressive edge. It was interesting to see what she did with an unusual power advantage too, and always cool to see her pick up a victory.

 

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2) Mei Suruga vs Masahiro Takanashi

I adore veteran vs rookie singles matches in general, and particularly in Gatoh Move where differences in character are so seamlessly integrated into ringwork. This one was fantastic, with a brilliantly executed underlying story. Mei seemed a little “full of herself”, but it was justified as she continually countered and befuddled the vet. Takanashi only had the advantage when he focused on a body part and pressed his size advantage, which Mei would then often counter to start the cycle over. Takanashi brandishing an audience member’s stool at points also spoke to a touch of desperation / annoyance at the level of fight he was receiving (and they got really clever with how they used it too). Mei eventually ends up getting caught in a sharpshooter and Takanashi escapes with a win.

 

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3) Emi Sakura, Riho, & Sayaka Obihiro vs Yuna Mizumori, Saki, & Baliyan Akki

Another fun, fast paced 6-person tag from Gatoh Move.  The strike exchanges stood out in this one, particularly a series of them between Yuna and Emi. The Gatoh Move originals were befuddled a bit with a frenetic onslaught at the end of the match from their opponents leading to an exciting upset victory for Yuna, Akki, & Saki when the latter pinned Obi.

 

 

1/13/19:

For this show I was lucky enough to have an opportunity to sit in the “rope row” for the first time. As intimate and exciting Ichigaya is as a venue in general, it’s incredible how different the experience is from being just a couple feet back standing behind these seats or sitting right outside the window. It really drives home the impact of moves and how fast everyone is moving when they’re inches away.

 

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1) 3-Count Championship: Emi Sakura (c) vs Sayaka Obihiro

Obi had been needling Sakura going into this long awaited singles encounter, and the latter decided to throw down the gauntlet and make this a title match. Really intense, back and forth match leading to Sakura exerting her dominance in the end and retaining. It was a treat to see these two in singles action.

 

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2) 3-way: Mei Suruga vs Baliyan Akki vs Saki

This was so much fun. Mei wrestling like she thinks she can take on the whole world is AWESOME. Akki’s really grown in his time with Gatoh, honing his impressive athletic abilities and refining all the little details that make for great matches. And Saki’s always an appreciated addition to Gatoh shows. She eventually pinned a stunned Mei to win this.

 

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3) Mitsuru Konno & Sawasdee Kamen vs Riho & Madoka

I think Madoka was announced under one of his billion other names here, but it was him. He and Riho came out brandishing training equipment, which would quickly be revealed to be intended weapons. Going into this Mitsuru had been tweeting about their righteous cause to “cleanse the hearts of evil,” while Riho responded claiming there was no evil in her heart. I thought it simply banter until the match started…

Playing off those exchanges, this was framed with Riho & Madoka as the villains to Mitsuru & Sawasdee’s hero personas. Evil Riho is pretty awesome. Sakura was refereeing, and is possibly the “worst” ref ever. She was ridiculously easily distracted, often had her back problems act up when she was supposed to be counting pins for the heroes, etc.

I honestly generally dislike incompetent ref stories, as they’re really hard to do without making the faces look stupid. But the level to which they went over the top in the ridiculousness made this amusing (although it will get tiresome quick if the heroes keep getting the short end of the stick like this over several matches). They committed to the story 110%, anchored it with solid wrestling, and made this highly enjoyable. Madoka stole a pin on Sawasdee and the villains won this day.

 

 

The roundtable was especially fun this time, with Aoi Kizuki visiting (to sell DVDs of her  retirement show), and Mitsuru staring a hole through Emi and others and they presented their version of what happened during the main event.

 

As I mentioned before everything was really clicking for Gatoh Move for these shows, even above and beyond their usual high standard. They’re always pushing themselves in new directions, making the most of their diverse styles and personalities, and above all striving to make everything they do fun for both the audience and themselves, and it really comes through in the form of enjoyable, engaging shows.

 

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.