Mae Young Classic Episode 3 Review

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Again we open with a nice summary of those who had advanced so far and quick introduction of this week’s competitors and matchups before the standard opening video. Nice narration and presentation here.

My thoughts on the first and second episodes.

 

Round 1 (continued):

 

9) Ayesha Raymond vs Toni Storm 3/4*

This is my first time seeing either, but I’ve heard a lot about Storm. She’s an 8 year veteran at 21 years old and has significant hype around her. Her video showcases her rock star attitude and she gets a great line to encapsulate everything: “Poor girl. I’m just sorry in advance for the damage I will be causing you.” Ayesha gets a nice chance to talk about her deadlifting and strength, comparing herself to powerful felines. Nothing wrestling related is shown for her though.

Storm pulls back the handshake to “ooohs” instead of boos, and seconds later the crowd is chanting for her. If she’s trying to work heel it’s not going to happen. If she’s not and it’s just “attitude” she shouldn’t be doing the same thing numerous heels in the tourney are doing to try to generate heat.

Really nothing to this. Trying to get Storm over as resilient in three minutes is a story that’s never going to work well. Raymond looked fine until the end (when something clearly went wrong with the finish and they improvised stalling, a missed splash, and an awkward rollup) in a limited role using power based offense. Storm did less than ten moves, and half of them were thrusting her “hip” at Raymond’s face. Lungblower and Northern Lights suplex looked good, but mostly I’ll have to wait until she gets a proper match to see what the fuss is about with Toni Storm.

 

SARA DEL REY (Amato) is next to Charlotte Flair. Bringing Sara (on of the greatest wrestlers in the world) as a trainer has paid glorious dividends for WWE’s women’s divisions.

 

10) Kavita Devi vs Dakota Kai **

TEAM KICK!!! Dakota Kai is the former Evie and a fantastic wrestler I’ve had the privilege of following in Shimmer, where she held the Tag Team Championships with Heidi Lovelace (Ruby Riot). She self describes as a girl next door, being quick, and “Ido a lot of strikes. I kick hard.” Enough said. 🙂  Kavita is the first Indian woman to wrestle for WWE and mentions being trained by the Great Khali.

The debuting Devi works within her limits well here, with it being all about her stalking Kai using her power and size. The pace is awkward, but it’s an effective story and Kai BOUNCES all around the ring to make Devi look impressive. Devi does a nice ropewalk arm drag (twice, which is once too many for a showcase like that) and a gorilla press drop that pop the crowd.

She eventually stalls too much, allowing Kai to dodge out of the corner, nail the parabola kick (always looks so awesome) and a top rope double stomp for the victory. Short, inoffensive, and got both over. Kai worked her ass off here holding it all together She advances to face Rhea Ripley, which will be a similar dynamic and should be a good matchup.

 

11) Bianca Belair vs Sage Beckett *1/4

Another pair of two new to me competitors. Wait, check that – Beckett is the former Andrea from Shine. Decent power wrestler. She’s presented as “a shaman, not a witch.” Good look and gimmick for her. Belair’s intro focuses on her strength, track star past, and long braid.

Basic power offense from Beckett, which Belair counters with speed and hard shots of her own (including some sadly awful looking face slams to the mat). Bianca gets the better of her larger opponent for most of the match, eventually capitalizing on a miss from the top rope with a whip of her braid (uhm, shouldn’t that be illegal) and a short spear for the victory (which honestly looked ridiculous given the size differential and the lack of building up momentum).

Belair controlling so much of the match and often kicking out of Beckett’s offense at 1 undermined what would have been a better story of her weathering the storm to upset the monster. She also needs a different finisher badly. Beckett’s capable of more, and I’m surprised to see her go out here. All that said, there was good effort and a couple nice sequences in this.

The brackets remind us that even in advancing Bianca’s just destined to be fodder for the winner of Tessa vs Kairi.

 

12) Piper Niven vs Santana Garrett ***1/2

Viper (Piper Niven) is a great wrestler who’s extremely agile for her size and has incredible charisma. Santana is a highly decorated independent wrestler who’s held numerous titles across various companies and seems exactly the type WWE’s trying to attract with this tournament, but honestly I’ve personally always found her decent but a bit dull. Let’s see how this shakes out.

Santana talks about staying humble and “being you,” while being called wrestling’s “Wonder Woman” and wearing capes. Ok then. Piper’s video includes a great soundbite from JR talking about her headlining Korakuen Hall, impressive footage from her time in Shimmer, and emphasis on how she can do things people half her size would have trouble with. Both wrestlers were well presented and from just the intros it’d be hard to say who was favored (which is what they should always be aiming for).

Piper’s out in bright blue gear as opposed to the dark colors larger female wrestler usually wear in WWE and (as always) comes across as totally comfortable in her own skin. We need to see more of that in wrestling.

Santana described by JR as a veteran looking for her break, but Piper actually has slightly more experience of the two. Nice exchanges in the early going varying the size versus speed dynamic we’ve seen in several matches by building it around grappling and counter wrestling. Piper throws a great crossbody at one point that wipes Santana out. Crowd getting behind both. These two are using holds and strikes no one else has thus far in the tournament, letting this stand out. Nothing crazy, but simply adding a cravate and striking while in a hold sequences for variety goes a long way.

Commentary actually better than usual for this match, focusing on good points like Santana having trouble trying to out quick Piper because the larger athlete is quite agile in her own right and the specific strategies each wrestler is using. Santana with Eat Defeat at one point, which shouldn’t have happened since it was established as Mia’s finisher earlier in the round. Seen things like that a couple of times so far, and the agents should be more on top of it in this kind of tournament.

Santana catches Piper up top with a handstand rana late (after Piper fought it off once in a great sequence) for a close 2 count, and the crowd totally bought it as the finish. Superkick and she goes for the backflip splash but Piper moves, drops a huge elbow, and nails a Michinoku driver for the win!

Perhaps the best I’ve seen from Santana. These two had fantastic chemistry and this is easily my favorite match so far in the tournament. Pleasantly surprised to see Piper advance, as while Santana definitely made the most of this appearance and would have been a fine choice for round 2 I feel Piper’s better overall and there are more interesting stories to be told with her proceeding. She’ll face another veteran in Serena Deeb in round 2.

 

We again end with a well done summary of this episode’s winners as well as the remaining competitors and matches. Big names in LaRae, Savoy, Sane, and Blanchard still to come.

 

——-

The formula of these first round episode continues, with several quick matches focused on a particular aspect and a longer, more impressive main event. Hoping to see better showcases for Storm and Kai in the next round.

Down to the last four matches left for round 1 next episodes. Let’s go KAIRI!

Tokyo Joshi Pro 8/26/17 Live Thoughts

August 26, 2017 in Tokyo, Japan

The difference between 2016’s 1/4 Tokyo Joshi Pro show I attended and this year’s was night and day, and I went into this third show of theirs for me pretty excited. I knew little of the card though outside of the fact that two of my favorites from the promotion, Reika Sakai and Yuka Sakazaki, would be fighting over the Princess of Princess title. I was in for at least one fantastic surprise… more on that later.

 

Before the first match the Tokyo Princess of Princess Tag Championship belts were unveiled, and there’s an upcoming tournament to crown the first champions.

 

 

The opener of MIZUKI & Nonoko vs Yuna Manase & Yuki Kamifuku was ok for what it was I suppose, but went too long and was my least favorite match. Nonoko’s heavily featured breast based offense just doesn’t amuse me, and the debuting Yuki Kamifuku was pretty awkward in the ring. Nice seeing Mizuki in TJP though, and Manase looked decent.

 

 

The Idol Lumberjack Death Match between Azusa Takigawa and Maki Ito was wonderful in its absurdity and an example of how the ridiculous stuff can really work. Each idol group serving as lumberjacks got an entrance number (with special referee Sanshiro Takagi coming out with the last) and were armed with plastic toy squeaky hammers.

 

 

Azusa sung her way to the ring, then when Maki’s music hit she cut it off and sang the same one as Azusa without music instead, with the latter getting more and more visibly furious until she attacked the still singing Itoh to jumpstart the match. This was over the top in the best way possible, didn’t overstay welcome, and played to the strengths and personas of the participants. At one point Itoh went up to the top seemingly to jump to the outside onto Azusa, but she got scared, gingerly climbed down to the apron, and attacked from there. It totally fit and even the apron dive was enough to get the crowd exited.

 

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My favorite moment was when the wrestlers got tired of being attack by the lumberjacks, pulled a couple hammers away from them and chased them around the ring. Maki got a HUGE ovation for her eventual victory. This was not great technical wrestling, but it was great amusement. In general I’m seeing continual improvement in the performances of both these wrestlers, which is wonderful.

 

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Even though things are always unpredictable when DDT’s Ironman Heavymetalweight Title is involved, Yu’s 3-way title defense against Marika Kobashi and Nodoka One-san still seemed like a foregone conclusion. Decent match regardless, with the challengers looking solid but Yu eventually dominating her way to the expected victory. The traditional match format / defense for this belt feel really odd, particularly considering shortly after the match was over the challengers resumed going for pinfalls under the title’s 24/7 rule. Yu kicked out, ran, and escaped with the championship intact.

 

 

The “International Match” (must every match have a subtitle?) saw a debuting Solo Darling get a pretty good showing against one of TJP’s most consistent performers in Shoko Nakajima. For a match likely booked based on them both wearing tails, they had good chemistry and Solo fits well with TJP’s style. Shoko’s a much bigger star though, and got the expected (and proper) victory with a nice Northern Lights suplex.

 

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The surprise I referred to earlier came in the form of the incredible Meiko Satomura appearing at TJP to face former (and first) Princess of Princess Champion Miyu Yamashita. This was fantastic and edges out the main for match of the night. I’ve commented before that I felt Miyu was capable of more than I’d seen her show, and this was totally the breakout performance I’ve been wanting from her.

 

 

She wrestled like someone with something to prove from the very first second and really took it to Meiko, believably smothering the veteran at points with relentless offense, but just couldn’t put the larger, more experienced wrestler. Meiko of course is an artist in the ring and always a joy to watch. Loved this.

 

 

Afterwards Miyu slaps Meiko a couple of times out of frustration (and apparently in a challenge for another match) and Meiko’s so impressed with Miyu’s fire she applauds her for it. Great stuff.

 

 

The semi main 6-person tag pitting Rika Tatsumi, Maho Kurone & Shiro Koshinaka against Akai Saki, Martha & Yukio Saint Laurent wasn’t really to my tastes, but it was fine for what it was and featured some good action in between the silly stuff. It was interesting to see the zombie Maho as a face (which worked surprisingly well), and the rivalry between Rika and Saki came across well. Akai denying the 3-count then fainting when her henchmen reluctantly confirm she lost to Rika was a nice touch. Well received by the crowd overall, so it did its job.

 

 

Reika Saiki stepped up as the next challenger for then Tokyo Princess of Princess Champion Yu at the last show I saw in January, and came up short in that attempt in March. Since then Mil Clown departed TJP and her “twin sister” Yuka Sakazaki returned to take the title from Yu. Reika recently won the 4th Tokyo Princess Cup tournament, beating the reigning champion in the finals to do it. She leveraged that into a title shot and it was the main event of this show.

 

 

As I mentioned Yuka and Reika are two of my favorite wrestlers in the promotion, so I was thrilled to see this. Yuka is perhaps the most fundamentally sound and consistent performers on the roster, and also wows the crowd with her agility and rope walk spots, so was a great choice for champion. Reika seems their biggest rising star so this was exactly the right time for this confrontation. While I do have to admit I prefer and miss the Mil Clown persona, Yuka’s excellent in any incarnation.

 

 

The match was great, going back and forth and building well to a strong finish that saw Reika take advantage of a miss by Yuka with hard strikes and a sweet Shining Wizard, then hit the jackhammer (such a perfect choice of finisher for the Muscle Idol) to become the new Princess of Princess champion. Was awesome to be there for that moment, and Reika definitely deserves a chance to show what she can do as champ.

 

 

Tokyo Joshi Pro has been a breath of fresh air for me (discounting my first experience with them having a rather poor show I saw two years ago). They fill a specific niche and do it well, strong effort and commitment is visible from everyone, and perhaps most importantly the development and improvement of the roster over time is wonderful to watch. While certain things can still use some work, in general TJP gets better every time I see them, improving the wrestling and pacing aspect of their shows while still retaining the idol edge and other aspects that make them unique and appeal to their core target demographic. Thoroughly enjoyed this show.

 

5

Pleasure to meet and congratulate the new champion.

 

Mae Young Classic Episode 2 Review

 

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Nice highlight video of the first episode and quick summary of this week’s competitors before the standard opening video.

 

Round 1 (continued):

 

5) Xia Li vs. Mercedes Martinez *3/4

Interesting setup here with a debuting wrestler against a 16 year veteran and Mercedes really sinks her teeth into it, doing an excellent job of getting herself over in the short time given in her intro package. In under a minute we know her experience, style, outlook, and attitude. Well done. Xia’s wisely emphasizes her martial arts background and desire to prove herself in this new environment.

Mercedes mocks Xia and wipes her hand after the handshake to a fair amount of heat, which the announcers immediately undercut by saying she’s “having fun with the inexperienced Xia” and ridiculously talking about how it was to intimidate through the language barrier. JR’s also still talking about single elimination tournaments like it’s an alien concept. I’m going to try to ignore the commentary dumpster fire from here on out so I don’t go insane.

This is kept brief, with Xia countering Mercedes’ superior grappling skills with hard strikes to show fighting spirit while being overmatched. The veteran ties Xia up in a leg trap dragon sleeper for the submission victory in short order though. Made its point. Xia is of course super green and a bit awkward, but she kept it basic, connected with everything, and there’s definitely potential for her going forward.

 

6)  Marti Belle vs. Rachel Evers – UGH (zero stars)

Evers is new to me, while I’ve seen a fair bit of Belle in Shimmer and elsewhere. She’s honestly a pretty generic heel who’s ok but doesn’t remotely live up to her near decade of experience. Evers’ video package focuses on her being adaptable in style and growing up the daughter of Paul Ellering yet isolated from his profession until now. Marti’s touts her being a “powerful Dominican woman” with “street smarts.” Neither did much to make the viewer care.

This was the first actively bad match of the tourney. Pace, timing, execution were all off all match long, and most of it looked to be on Marti’s end. At one point the relative rookie actually had to stop, walk over and pull the wrestler with seven+ years more experience back into position for a senton when Marti forgot what they were doing and started to roll away. Neither looked very good, but Rachel did look better between the two and was the right choice to advance (which may have been an audible do to Marti’s poor performance if rumors are to be believed).  Really though, either going to round 2 when Kay Lee Ray, Jazzy Gabbert, etc are already out is nonsense.

 

Wow, the placement of a clip of HHH telling the 32 participants to make the most of the opportunity they have right after that last match is (unintentionally?) biting.

 

7) Miranda Salinas vs. Rhea Ripley *1/4

I know nothing of either competitor coming into this one. Miranda’s summary primarily explains her “look sets her apart,” she’s short (and doesn’t care), and was trained by Booker T. Rhea’s shows a quirky personality, highlights her nine year soccer career at just 20 years old and the kicking ability it gives her, and JR calls her “one of the most highly regarded performers in this tournament.” Am I supposed to think Miranda’s going to do anything except be demolished after that?

Indeed, the match lasts just long enough to Miranda to cheat a couple of times, the six foot tall Rhea to show off some nice dropkicks, a couple of strike exchanges, and Rhea kicking Miranda’s head off then hitting a full nelson slam for the win. Like Baszler’s and Mercedes’ matches this was about making a point, and it did.

Ok, I have to break my silence on the commentary for a minute. “These women don’t care about how they win. It’s just winning. Nothing wrong with that quite frankly – the losers go home.” YES THERE IS. There are RULES and you’re supposed to be praising those who do care and win while following them! How the hell are heels supposed to get heat when the announcers are advocating winning as everything and cheating as a normal, justifiable part of the match? Blah.

 

8) Mia Yim vs. Sarah Logan ***1/4

In a nice touch, Mia’s video mentions her devotion to raising awareness about domestic abuse and how she shared her own story to help others. Her martial arts background is spotlighted with clips that give a good idea of what to expect from her in the ring. The wild woman gimmick is an interesting hook for the former Crazy Mary Dobson. The matchup is interesting, although given Logan appeared in a losing effort to Peyton Royce at NXT Takeover tapings just days before this aired I’m not sure why we’re supposed to believe she has a chance here.

Solid back and forth match of a style we haven’t really seen yet in the tournament. Early the story was Logan countering Yim’s mat skills with ferocity and strikes, but of course Yim’s an accomplished striker herself and eventually lays in hard kicks to fight fire with fire. So Sarah adapts and goes to some submissions herself.

They have a great exchange of seated palm strikes and kicks at one point. Logan also hits some fun offense like a cartwheel dodge into a double knee strike and a fisherman suplex out of the corner. Mia keeps wearing her down with German suplexs, etc though and eventually hits “Eat Defeat” for the win. This edges out Laith vs Gabbert as the best so far. Mia’s got Shayna in round 2.

 

——-

Presentation and background packages were little better this time overall, although the commentary’s still a problem. Format’s still fine, with two matches there to serve a specific purpose (which they did) and the best match in the main (let’s just forget about that other match in the middle).

Eight more matches left across two episodes for round 1, including two of the participants I’m most excited for (Savoy and Sane). Onward to episode 3.

Mae Young Classic Episode 1 Review

Finally getting a chance to dive into this, and am hoping to get caught up before the live final next week. Excited for this not only based on what I’ve heard, but also as a longtime fan of women’s wrestling as well as being familiar with a majority of the field. Nearly half of them have previously wrestled in Shimmer (a fantastic Chicago based women’s wrestling promotion – find more information here), and a number of other highly regarded wrestlers from around the world are involved as well.

 

Let’s get started.

 

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The tournament introduction narrated by Stephanie McMahon walks a line between appropriate and heavy handed / self indulgent.

 

Round 1:

1) Princesa Sugehit vs. Kay Lee Ray **1/2

The video packages seem quite short. Sugehit’s really gives no background on her other than the meaning of her name. Kay Lee Ray’s does a much better job getting her over, being just a little longer and using a fair amount of Shimmer footage to good effect. Never seen Sugehit before, while KLR’s a personal favorite.

I understand why Jim Ross and Lita were chosen as the announce team, but right off the bat they are all over the place and detracting from the action to a frustrating degree. JR comments about the tournament having a “very unique format: single elimination.” Uhm, actually single elimination ladder brackets is the most standard tournament format there is.

They spend the match trying to sell the “rookie” story of grappler Kay Lee Ray needing to ground high flying veteran Sugehit to have any chance (including constant criticism of KLR’s strategy EVEN WHEN SHE’S IN COMPLETE CONTROL OF THE MATCH. Seriously – WTF?), but every once in a while they remember that KLR is herself an eight year pro AND a high flyer herself and say something that contradicts all their previous points.  They repeatedly mention the talking point of Sugehit’s “confusing style” being hard to handle, yet she does pretty much NOTHING odd or unique in this match. It’s like they wrote a story before the actual match took place based and were sticking to it no matter what. Not a good first impression.

As for the match itself, it was a solid enough start to the tourney, though a little disjointed. A particularly great sequence saw KLR reverse a sunset flip attempt into gory bomb attempt, but Sugehit reverse that into a code red instead. Overall KLR looked better than Sugehit, and it’s a shame to see her out so early.

 

2)  Vanessa Bourne vs. Serena Deeb *1/4

Former cheerleader who’s only hook is apparently claiming to be more than that against former WWE star and redemption story for the tourney. No uncertainty here, and the short video packages do nothing to change that. Deeb did create the slightly bit of doubt/drama through eating the corner hard on a spear miss though, which was a nice touch. Nothing match otherwise, with Bourne mostly dominating in basic fashion (and looking a bit lost at times) until Deeb hit a “surprise” spear for the win.

 

 

3) Shayna Baszler vs. Zeda *1/4

The conversion Baszler’s made from MMA to pro wrestling has been incredible (as I’ve talked about here), and she’s been really impressive in Shimmer. I know nothing about Zeda. Her introduction as “representing China from Richmond VA” screams WWE stretching to make the tourney seem more international.

So the role model who’s trying to “be her own superhero” gets destroyed in 2 minutes by an unsportsmanlike bully who has three friends cheering her at ringside. I feel like literally ANY other story would have better here. Shayna’s the clear star, so crowd cheers her regardless of her being the heel. Just a squash, but with a beautiful finish that sees Baszler counter a guillotine into a suplex position then drops right into the choke. The point of Baszler’s choke being deadly was made, but her character and skills come across much better in longer, more even contests.  Rousey’s getting as much attention than the actual competitor, which is understandable but disappointing.

 

4) Jazzy Gabbert vs. Abbey Laith ***1/4 

Nice intro for Alpha Female (Gabbert), whose video has the best distillation of a competitor/character yet. Haven’t seen her wrestle before but obviously have heard quite a bit about her. Her opponent, the former Kimber Lee, references Mae Young as an inspiration and points out she indirectly inherited a finisher from Mae (the Alligator Clutch). That doesn’t bode well for the apparent favorite Gabbert.

One thing I have liked about the commentary is reference to past accomplishments, including acknowledging Laith as former Chikara Grand Champion (a hell of an achievement as she’s the only woman to hold that title). Gabbert comes out carrying a German flag and carries herself like a star.

Abbey goes straight at the imposing monster to little effect, and the combination of her determination and Gabbert just setting herself and playing immovable object fires the crowd way up. This was good, with both getting a chance to shine with some back in forth. Although I will say Gabbert shouldn’t be using rear naked choke in the middle of the match right after Baszler established it as instant death.

Unsurprisingly after the intro, Laith eventually counters into the Alligator Clutch for the win. Another curious early exit, but in terms of getting Abbey over as a threat by beating the imposing Gabbert mission accomplished.

——-

Decent beginning overall. The presentation isn’t what I’d hoped, from superficial video introductions to the competitors to disappointing commentary, but the important things still get across just enough. This round is definitely being built for episodic format, with some matches clearly more about making a point or just introducing someone in as little time as possible rather than extended action with longer ones to open and end each episode.

Effective enough, just remember it’s the early part of a tournament and not everything’s supposed to be tearing the house down at this point. Already wishing certain people had gone farther, but we’ll see how things shake out going forward. And I suppose some big matches needed to happen early to provide main events for each episode.

Twelve more matches left across three episodes for round 1. Onward to episode 2.

 

Quick Takes: The Lego Batman Movie, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, and Logan

As I’ve done in the past I recently took advantage of a long plane ride to catch up on a few movies I’ve been meaning to watch. Here are brief thoughts on three films I checked out this time.

 

The Lego Batman Movie

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Exactly as expected. Silly and fun, with moments of depth and a metric ton of pop culture references and in-jokes. Not of all it worked, but the vast majority of it did and as a huge Batman fan in general this was highly amusing.

 

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

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I gave this one a look because Tom Cruise movies in this vein are generally a decent enough way to spend a couple hours. And I hold to that opinion here. This was solid, providing nothing really ground breaking but was a good “spy” style action flick all the same.

 

Logan

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I’d heard great things about this, and despite Wolverine not being a personal favorite of mine I found myself agreeing completely. The plot was layered and interesting, Jackman provided his most impressive, nuanced performance yet, and X-23’s introduction and portrayal was perfect.

 

——-

These three very different films all fully embraced what they were to great effect. Logan’s the best here by a sliver over Lego Batman, with Reacher a clear third yet still enjoyable. Great batch overall and I could see myself watching any of them again.

SEAdLINNNG 8/24/17 Live Thoughts

August 24, 2017 in Tokyo, Japan

 

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During my first trip to Japan in 2015 my favorite match (well tied with one other) featured two incredible tag teams going full throttle competing for Ice Ribbon’s International Tag Ribbon Championships at Ribbonmania. When a best of three series of rematches (one hosted by each wrestler’s home promotion) was announced I was beyond excited, and ended up lucky enough to be able travel to see two of those three starting with here at my first ever SEAdLINNG show.

Although despite it being my first show under the SEAdLINNNG banner, I had previously seen all but two of the wrestlers live before, and that includes several personal favorites. On the other hand, one of the new to me in ring competitors is someone I have a large issue with watching/supporting and I feel I need to say something here. I had (and still have) mixed feelings about attending shows Yoshiko’s on, and I’m even more conflicted on her return to wrestling after eerily similar recent events with Sexy Star. There are a number of different angles and components that get into this (that I won’t expand upon here because it’d be longer than the review I’m trying to write), but for now I’ve chosen not to skip shows/matches she’s on in favor of supporting the other wrestlers on the shows (and for admittedly selfish reasons of not wanting to miss certain matches).

 

Alright, on to the show:

 

1) High Speed Match: Manami Toyota vs Maruko Nagasaki vs Kaho Kobayashi 

 

 

This was an amusing opener centered around the legend having some difficulty with the match concept (super quick counts and covers only valid after some sort of running move from what I could tell) and getting annoyed with special referee Natsuki Taiyo. She eventually adapted and outlasted the youngsters, picked up the win, then sold being exhausted from so much running. Amusing, particularly in watching Toyota’s protege Tsukka crack up at ringside at the various antics. 

 

2) Ultra U-7 Semi-Final: Yoshiko vs Mio Momono 

 

 

I hate to admit it given my previously mentioned personal bias, but Yoshiko was awesome here and this was easily the second best match of the night. She was a perfect monster for Mio attempt to outlast while just refusing to stay down under the larger, more experienced wrestler’s onslaught. The crowd was evenly split between heavy home promotion support for Yoshiko and visiting Marvelous fans (like me) going nuts for Mio. They went to time limit, then overtime where only a two count was needed. The heat for the nearfalls during that final portion was insane.

As I’ve previously gushed about, Mio is just incredible and shines even among the impressive crop of current Joshi rookies across all companies. Her timing, mannerisms, and technique are all well beyond normal for her experience level and she just keeps getting better every time I see her. Sky’s the limit if she keeps on this trajectory.

 

3) Ultra U-7 Semi-Final: Takumi Iroha vs Sareee 

 

 

The second semi-final also featured a Marvelous wrestler against a SEAdLINNG talent. Iroha’s incredible power eventually overwhelmed Sareee to send the former to the finals for another interpromotional match. This was quite good, but I do feel like they have a better match in them. I hope this rivalry continues and we get to see many more contests between the two.

 

4) TLC Match: Nanae Takahashi vs The Great Sasuke 

 

 

I found out about this match just a couple of days before the show, and what a treat it was to be there for. It exactly what it should have been: a spotfest featuring two honored veterans. I have to say even with all the crazy stunts and complicated ladder/chair spots, my favorite was a comedy one. Nanae was in the corner under a ladder and Sasuke essentially played whack a mole with a chair trying to hit her head whenever she poked it up between the rungs, only to have her duck back down and Sasuke hurt his own hands as the chair hit the ladder.

 

5) Best Friends (Tsukasa Fujimoto & Arisa Nakajima) vs Avid Rival (Misaki Ohata & Ryo Mizunami) 

 

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So here we are – the reason for this trip. Going into this match Avid Rival was up 1-0 in this series of 3 (having won at Wave on 8/12 in a match I haven’t seen), and things were tied between the teams overall if the first match in 2015 was considered.

 

 

As expected, this was excellent. The lack of finish (time limit draw) and time spent on some comedy put this just a touch below the other match I had seen from them, but that’s mild criticism. Best of the night and exactly what I was hoping for from two of the greatest teams in all of wrestling.

 

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Neither team was happy with the lack of resolution, and there was tension between the specific pairs of Ryo & Tsukka and Misaki & Arisa afterwards building to the final match at Ice Ribbon a few days later.

 

Main event) Ultra U-7 Final: Yoshiko vs Takumi Iroha

 

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It was fitting to have this main, given Best Friends vs Avid Rival didn’t have a finish and how over Yoshiko is in SEAdLINNNG. Her essentially being a heel who plays to the crowd is so uncomfortable. Don’t know if it was because of how engrossing Mio’s matches are or just the general structure, but I found it harder to look past my personal feelings on Yoshiko in this one. They still put on a hell of a match though. Good showing for Iroha in defeat in a back and forth power match. I wish Iroha had won for a multitude of reasons, one of the most relevant of which is a young outsider taking the tournament seems like a better story. Strong finish to the tournament regardless, and a large portion of the crowd was thrilled.

 

 

Great show overall, and an extremely good first impression made for SEAdLINNNG. Of course my favorite parts involved outside talent (and the resulting atmosphere, due to the rabid support of the Marvelous contingent), but the core roster members are also great wrestlers and a solid base to build around. Will be interesting to see more in the future.

 

Gatoh Move 8/26/17 Live Thoughts

August 26, 2017 in Tokyo, Japan

Gatoh Move’s Ichigaya shows are always unique and interesting given the venue (with small space and lack of ring) and how the performers use and adapt to it. For more detail see my previous reviews. Being summertime the building was a hotbox, but a slight cross breeze from the open window frames and cold packs handed out as the show began helped a lot (Gatoh Move is incredibly considerate and thoughtful of its fans in things like that).

As usual for Gatoh Move the show opened and closed with a song/dance, but Emi sat out this time. The opening was a solo by Aasa and the closing performed by her, Riho and Kotori. The card looked interesting, with a big tournament main event, a men’s match to open, and several “outside” guests (perhaps in place of Obi, who’s out injured, and Mitsuru, who couldn’t make this event – hope to see both back soon).

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.

 

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First was Masahiro Takanashi  against Yamada Taro. This was a great example of the different styles that can work in Ichigaya Chocolate Square’s unique environment. It was near entirely grapple based, with the combatants trying to out power each other on the mat. Solid, interesting opener.

Up next was a tag match of Kaori Yoneyama & Emi Sakura vs Riho & Saki. Little touches like Emi’s glare as Riho was introduced as Gatoh Move’s Ace and somewhat of a heel edge shown by Kaori & Emi gave this additional depth. This was a hard hitting, back and forth encounter with some ref involvement in the finish as he was out of place and used to trip Saki into a pin by the crafty veterans, giving an out to Riho & Saki and seeming to set up additional angles during the roundtable.

 

 

 

The main event was the second semi-final of Gatoh Move’s title tournament to determine who would face Riho in the finals at their September Greenhall show.  Kotori vs Aasa was appropriately treated like a big deal and felt important. The outcome was never really in doubt with Kotori on a march to face her tag partner in the finals, but they did an excellent job building drama for near falls regardless and put on a main event that is a testament to their skill even at relatively short times in wrestling.

They went right for each other from the first second in another match that made good use of the environment yet felt different from the other two on the show. I continue to love Aasa’s gimmick, and her energetic onslaught trying to overwhelm the more experienced Kotori was a perfect story for the match as the latter was forced to get creative in countering Aasa’s exuberance. One particularly great spot involved them fighting out the window then running around the building back through the door. Kotori entered first and tried to ambush Aasa, but the latter just BARRELED through Kotori with one of her Vader splashes instead. As expected Kotori eventually prevailed, and she beamed pride throughout the roundtable and even during the meet and greet afterward while Aasa did likewise with little spots of disappointment and despondence. Great touches from both. Koroti vs Riho to crown a champion should be great.

 

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I enjoyed this from top to bottom as it had three diverse, very good matches. Fun time.