P’s Party 65 Live Stream Thoughts

January 27, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan

With Tequila Saya’s departure from Ice Ribbon and pro wrestling altogether last month, P’s Party has been under the new management of Tsukushi Haruka.

After a recent chorus of volunteers among the roster wanting to be in line for a shot at Tsukushi’s IW-19 Championship, a tournament was set up to decide who will get that opportunity.

P’s League 2021 is a round robin tournament with two five wrestler blocks. Each match will have a 19 count on the floor (as per IW-19 rules) and a 10 minute time limit. A win is worth 2 points, a draw 1, and a loss 0.

The winner of each block will face in the finals (no time limit), with the winner of that match receiving an IW-19 title match at Yokohama Party on May 4, 2021. In case of a score tie in a block, a tie breaker match will be held to determine who advances to the finals.

The field is a great mix of the P’s roster, both Ice Ribbon members, regulars, and guests.

Block A:
Itsuki Aoki (Shawn Capture)
Momo Kohgo (Actwres)
Yappy
Nao Ishikawa
Yuuki Mashiro

Block B:
Totoro Satsuki
Rina Shingaki (2AW)
Banny Oikawa
Madeline (Diana)
Honori Hana (SEAdLINNNG)

Looks like each week will have a match from each block, and it all kicks off here.

Ps Party is broadcast on Ice Ribbon’s Nico Nico channel.

P’s Party 65

Tequila Saya made a special appearance to open to promote her new endeavor as part of the idol group Otonatic Romance.

Then Yuuki Mashiro and Tsukasa Fujimoto are brought out. Yuuki receives her ShuPro (Weekly Pro-Wrestling Magazine) Rookie of the Year Award. This is a big deal and a well deserved honor for our quirky, determined Gacha King. Tsukka is presented with the new issue of ShuPro that features her on the cover. Both give some thoughts and then Yuuki leads a “P’s Party Yay!” call to start off the show.

1) Suzu Suzuki & Yappy vs Banny Oikawa & Yuuki Mashiro

Suzu is not happy about the absence of her recently lost title belt, and seemingly takes a lot of her frustrations out on the Gacha King early on. Straightforward, decent tag match with a lot of amusing highlights. At one point Yuuki attempts to do a repeated sit attack on Yappy’s back but has no weight behind it so Yappy just relaxes on the mat. Yappy’s hip/butt attacks are now named / punctuated with a call of “Big Ass!” by Mio on commentary, which is always going to make me chuckle. Yuuki & Banny’s less than effective double team attempts were also a nice touch, and Suzu hit a wild sliding apron kick at one point.

In the end Suzu finished Banny with a great looking Tequila Shot (rollup slam from the side).

2) P’s League A Block: Itsuki Aoki vs Nao Ishikawa

This match was supposed to be Nao vs Momo Kohgo, but the latter was injured in practice and is temporarily out. With Aoki having a shot at a different singles title in Ice Ribbon impending, she’s the one to beat in Block A. Nothing would make me happier than a strong showing for Nao in this tournament, but the rookie with no wins’ chances don’t look good here.

This was even early, but shortly settled into Aoki slowly picking Nao apart while the latter remained defiant.

Around the halfway point Nao rallied, including a hard fought for scoop slam and sweet crossbody. I love the spamming of repeated pin attempts spot and it made a lot of sense as Nao tried to keep the monster down.

Aoki fought back late and had Nao in trouble with a crazy looking half crab. There was a really good story with Aoki being extremely confident, and Nao just flat out being tougher than she expected.

With under a minute left Nao dodged top double stomp and went for a bunch of rollups in the last minute, not keeping Aoki down but eating time. She laid in increasingly weaker forearms, and Aoki LEVELD her with a lariat with ten seconds left… for 2.999! Aoki went for a German but clearly wasn’t moving fast enough and time expires as she starts to lift Nao.

NAO DIDN’T LOSE! Definite shock here, but a well done and believable one. As mentioned I’m a huge fan of Nao, and starting the tourney with a surprise is an awesome choice. Aoki looking around as if wondering what just happened was great too. Aoki goes over to Nao after but gets slapped in the face for her trouble, as a draw clearly wasn’t satisfactory enough for the fiery rookie. I pretty much adored every thing about this.

3) Tsukushi Haruka & Madeline vs Thekla & Tsukasa Fujimoto

With the previously mentioned change to the card due to Kohgo’s absence, newly crowned ICE Cross Infinity Champion Tsukka is taking Aoki’s place in this tag match.

Maddie’s the greatest, and her cheerfully brandishing Fairy’s wand is highly amusing. Tsukushi showed little tolerance for her partner here even during the entrances.

Thekla has a title shot against Tsukushi coming up, so there’s additional tension between the teams.

Maddie vs Tsukka to start! Tsukka hit the reverse pedigree pretty early (love the move although I wish someone else had inherited from Saya that as it’s finisher worthy and Tsukka already has somewhere around 7).

The match continued at a great, fast pace. Tsukka and Tsukushi went full bore whenever they were in against each other, and one particularly amazing spot saw Tsukka kip up out of a wheelbarrow rollup. In the middle of the match there was also a lot of great grappling on the mat with Thekla and Maddie. Maddie’s unique holds and rollups are amazing.

Late in the match Maddie was way too amused to be doing Tsukka’s back kicks to Tsukka. Tsukka absorbed them, then kicked Maddie in counter when soccer kick and showed the poor rookie how they were really to be done.

Maddie hung in with the champ well, but eventually Tsukka used Maddie’s own kickout momentum to pull her into the stranglehold for the win (I always love transitions/reversals like that).

Really good match with a lot of interesting action.

4) P’s League B Block: Totoro Satsuki vs Honori Hana

We have a direct parallel of the Block A match here, with the most experienced wrestler in Block B facing a rookie with little success in singles matches.

Perhaps learning the lessons of the earlier P’s League match, this started off fast with the two just flat out charging at each other.

A bit in there was a really imaginative spot to highlight the tournament rules that saw them brawl to back area where Totoro locked Honori in and went back to the ring. After a couple of futile attempts to open the door, Honori realized she could go outside then enter back in through the audience door and she just beat the count reentering the ring at 18.

Totoro was relentless and pretty much in control all match until Honori took over with a great extended series of shoulder tackles. She later hit a spear and spammed pin attempts to wear Totoro down. Totoro fired back with several sentons for close counts, then went up to the second rope.

Totoro missed the second rope senton, but got up and charged Honori in the corner. Honori dodged and rolled Totoro into a deep schoolboy… for 3!

Another brilliant in ring story as Honori disrupted Totoro’s dominance with a flurry leading a rattled to over rely on her strongest move, and it led to an opportunity for the big upset.

——-

Can’t compliment the way things unfolded here enough. There were two very different upsets to kick off P’s League and make everything feel unpredictable. In one match the confident favorite wasn’t quite wrestling with the needed urgency to put her opponent away in time, and the other favorite couldn’t recover from having her well built momentum thrown off. Both Itsuki and Totoro still looked crazy strong without either upset feeling like a fluke. Well done all around.

Add in a pair of good tag matches and this was a really strong show. P’s Party continues to be a great showcase and playground for lesser experienced wrestlers and a ton of fun.

Ice Ribbon 10th Anniversary Show DVD Review

May 4, 2016 in Tokyo, Japan

IR10thann

Been wanting to revisit and finally review this show for a long time, and while I was hoping to finish it up before the end of the year there’s something fitting about it being my first blog post to welcome the new year.

DVD opens with a nice year by year highlight package of the company’s history, which ends with Emi Sakura’s shocking return.

The landscape of joshi puroresu constantly changes, and I’ll be pointing out numerous wrestlers who have retired in the four and a half years since this show took place.

1) Maruko Nagasaki, Bete Noire & Hiroyo Matsumoto vs. Hiroe Nagahama, Ryo Mizunami & Makoto 

Bete Noire later became Jayla Dark, and retired in 2019 (against Tsukasa Fujimoto at Pro-Wrestling Eve). Wave’s Hiroe (now HIRO’e) retired in August 2020. Maruko was the only Ice Ribbon roster member at the time in this match. She has since left the promotion but still wrestles for Itabashi Pro.

Clips are shown of Hiroe and Maruko’s rivalry, including Hiroe pinning Maruko to win the opening 6-woman tag at Ribbonmania 2015. At it’s core their rivalry was what this solid, somewhat standard Ice Ribbon opening multi-woman tag was all about. With the four veterans in the ring with them anchoring the match (including a particularly striking moment when Bette near took Makoto’s head off with a discus lariat), Hiroe and Maruko were able to build up to an extended exchange between the two of them at the end. After a bunch of close calls Maruko tied Hiroe up tight with a great rollup variation for the win.

2) 235, Miyako Matsumoto & Kasako Ueki vs. Isami Kodaka & Yuko Miyamoto vs. Gentaro & Takashi Sasaki vs. Papillon Akemi & Kazunari Murakami 

The two Ice Ribbon wrestlers in this match are no longer with the company, as 235 retired in 2017 and Miyako left in 2019 to produce her own shows.

Miyako assembled her team by holding 235 at gunpoint. Really.

Falls apparently count either in the ring or on a mat setup on the stage.

This was a combination of all the wackiness expected from a Miyako match that didn’t really come together. Nearly from the get-go there was constantly action in three to five places at a time as all the various team broke off into pairs or groups to do battle. There were parts I found great, like the grappling going on on the stage and when they brawled up to the balcony, and those that didn’t hold interest for me personally like when the action ground to a halt for comedy and when Miyako started threatening people with firearms (done over the top or not it doesn’t work for me when she breaks out “real” weapons). The problem is there was no time to process the interesting parts because they constantly had to keep cutting to some of the other action. So this was somehow both chaotic and surprisingly flat. It’s the type of match I imagine was much more exciting live than it comes across on video.

Still it had its highlights, such as Miyako doing a balcony dive. Fun end too: Murakami interrupts Super Mama Mia and everyone else bails leaving him alone to destroy Miyako, but when he misses a kick and she tries to roll him up everyone comes back in to help and the dog pile gives Miyako a surprising pin.

3) Kurumi Hiiragi, Tequila Saya & Manami Toyota vs. Akane Fujita & The Lovely Butchers (Hamuko Hoshi & Mochi Miyagi)

Just two months into Saya’s career here, and this show is the first use of the “Tequila Saya” name and her first time in the Mexican flag themed colors that would become a trademark of all her outfits (before this she had generic rookie gear). Saya ended her in ring career a year ago and just left wrestling altogether a few weeks ago. Toyota retired at the end of 2017 after a 30 year career. This match was Kurumi’s return from being out for 10 months with injury. She was 16 at this point, already a six year pro, and had held multiple championships.

So their team was a really interesting trio of the returning overachiever, the legend, and the rookie, and it was reflected nicely in the match structure. Generally when Kurumi was in she was throwing herself at her opponents in great power showdowns. When Toyota was in the Ice Ribbon stalwarts were trying to prove they could go toe to toe with her. When Saya was in she was getting extensively worked over by her more experienced opponents, but defiantly getting her own shots in and showing great fortitude. Throw in a few lighter moments here and there (like when they convinced Toyota to try the Butchers’ poses) and it really worked. All six wrestlers looked good, and overall this was an excellent little gem of a match.

Down the stretch things got intense as Mochi and Kurumi battled, with Mochi eventually hitting a huge top rope leg drop for the win. Did NOT expect Kurumi to take the pin here. Again, great stuff all round.

4) Triangle Ribbon Title: Cherry (c) vs. Kyuri vs. Misaki Ohata 

Cherry had pinned Kyuri to win the vacated championship (in a match that also included Makoto) after Neko Nitta retired as champion at Ribbonmania 2015. Kyuri was at a little under three years experience at this point, and determined to win that title.

Ohata, who had been wrestling in IR a lot around this time, was a high level threat and it was entirely possible she could walk out with the title over the highly competent but often comedic champion and the less experienced other challenger. She retired at the end of 2018.

There was a lot of cool use of triangle format, with some clever three person spots, reversals, etc. Ohata is an all time favorite of mine and had a couple of fantastic moments in this, including nailing both opponents at the same time with her seated body press against the ropes and a crazy spot where she German duplexed Cherry ONTO Kyuri. Cherry was generally opportunistic throughout, looking for ways to sneak out with her title intact, and Kyuri was fighting with everything she had to prove herself against the veterans.

Late in the match Cherry ducks a clothesline from Ohata and sends her to the ropes where Kyuri, who’s entering from outside, holds them open sending Ohata tumbling to the floor. Kyuri then immediately grabs a crucifix rollup on Cherry … to win the title before Misaki can get back in! Cherry kind of dropped into position for the finish for no reason after shoving Ohata, but it didn’t really detract from Kyuri’s big moment.

Having Misaki in this added a hard hitting element and made it even more of an impressive victory for the new champion. Happy to see Kyuri win her first title here and the match was quite good.

5) Maya Yukihi vs. Kyoko Kimura (Maya Trial Series) 

Kyoko retired about eight months after this show. She is the mother of the greatly missed Hana Kimura, passed six months ago, and my thoughts are with Kyoko as she continues to fight against the injustices that led to Hana’s death.

Maya was about a year and a half into her career and this is the middle match of her trial series against a series of high profile, difficult opponents. Highlights are shown of her first three matches of the series against Toyota, Mayumi Ozaki, and Dynamite Kansai (Hiroyo Matsumoto, Maya’s Azure Revolution partner Risa Sera, and Nanae Takahashi would finish out the series after this).

The Ozaki match was particularly significant, as after the match she invited Maya to join her and Dark Snow was born. In fact Maya is in Dark Snow form here and accompanied by Mayumi Ozaki.

This was essentially an Oz Academy style match dropped in the middle of an Ice Ribbon show. Constant interference and weapons use in full view of the referee, with Maya starting the match out just wearing out Kyoko with the whip she brought, Ozaki just coming into the ring in the middle of the match to attack Kyoko, and so on. Honestly this type of stuff is everything I don’t like about how heels are generally booked / handled in Japan. There are no enforced rules and the faces hardly ever respond in kind so it’s just a bunch of lopsided battles and defacto handicap matches with no real reason why the opponents put up with all the nonsense. Also, being Maya’s home promotion and early on for the Dark Snow persona, she was vigorously cheered no matter what.

All that said, there were some nice elements to this match in particular. Kyoko, being a natural heel herself, DID respond in kind at least a little by throwing Maya around by the hair and tossing Ozaki’s chain right back out of the ring whenever the latter tried to toss it to Maya while in Kyoko’s half crab. The base action was good and Maya showed great fire, including a bit where she just wears Kyoko out with a long series of hard slaps.

Late in the match Maya mishit Ozaki, creating an opening for Kyoko to hit a palm strike followed by the choke bomb for 2. Immediate sleeper after that finishes Maya.

Overall this was a fine example of the style for those who like it, but it’s so not my thing.

6) Tsukushi vs. Meiko Satomura 

Video package shows a flashback to Emi Sakura & Tsukushi winning the then vacant tag belts over Meiko & Sendai Sachiko in 2011. Nice bit of history to both as context going into this singles contest and in the overall theme of the show being a celebration of Ice Ribbonn’s anniversary.

Instead of locking up Meiko kicks Tsukushi in the head to immediately set the tone. I was only planning on doing full play by play for the top two matches, but screw it after that start we’re going full bore here as well.

Tsukushi tries to kick at Meiko’s legs but takes the worst of it as Meiko’s reach is longer and her counter kicks keep Tsukushi at a distance. Now a lockup happens and the two look like they’re putting every once of strength they have into it. Meiko slowly forces Tsukushi to back up into the ropes, but gives a clean break and they go back to center and lockup again.

Meiko transitions into a trip takedown. Tsukushi rolls through, but Meiko continues Tsukushi’s roll and holds on to the side headlock. Too close to the ropes though, and Tsukushi gets a foot over the bottom to break. Meiko tries to keep control of her opponent’s head as they stand up, but Tsukushi breaks free and defiantly slaps Meiko across the face. So Meiko kicks her to the mat, but Tsukushi pops back up and hits a dropkick.

Tsukushi tries a whip but Meiko has ahold of the top rope and is going NOWHERE. Tsukushi lays in one of her vicious forearms and tries again, but Meiko keeps hold of the rope, kicks Tsukushi back, then levels Tsukushi with a forearm of her own. Meiko whips Tsukushi to the ropes, but gets hit with a dropkick to the one on the rebound. Tsukushi jumps up for a hurricanrana, but Meiko shrugs her off and as Tsukushi lands in standing position Meiko nails her with another kick to the head for 2. Despite Tsukushi’s resistance Meiko turns her over into a crab, then transitions into an STF. Tsukushi scrapes her way towards the ropes with all Meiko’s weight on her but when she gets close Meiko floats into a front face lock, and pulls Tsukushi up. Scoop slam gets 2 and Meiko uses Tsukushi’s kickout momentum to apply a Fujiwara armbar. After a struggle Tsukushi inches close enough to get a foot on the bottom rope for a break. A pair of elbow drops gets 2 for Meiko.

Tsukushi floats over Meiko on a scoop slam attempt but Meiko blocks her ensuing forearm and uses an arm wringer to set up some hard kicks to the chest. Tsukushi catches the third though and a dragon screw leg whip gives her her first real advantage of the match. She ties up Meiko leg in the ropes in the corner and hits a kick and a dropkick to the leg, then backs up as Meiko falls into sitting position to hit the running dropkick in the corner. She drags Meiko out of the corner by the leg she’s been working over and covers for 2, keeping hold of the leg and transitioning into an ankle lock as Meiko kicks out.

Meiko rolls forward while still in the hold and uses her free leg to kick Tsukushi in the head several times to force a break, but Tsukushi uses the momentum from the last kick to bounce off the ropes and return the favor. Tsukushi up top and hits a missile dropkick, which knocks Meiko down and against the ropes for Tsukushi’s vicious seated dropkick.

Back to their feet, Meiko breaks a double chicken wing with a back kick and then European uppercuts Tsukushi down to the mat. Several hard kicks to the chest as Tsukushi tries to sit/stand up keep her down until Meiko decides to pick her up. Meiko whips her to the ropes and just runs her over off the rebound. After a quick check from the ref that Tsukushi can continue Meiko attempts another whip, which Tsukushi beautifully counters into a knee bar. Meiko however uses her height and strength advantage to stand up out of it and reverse into one of her own. Tsukushi again holds on long enough to claw her way to the ropes for a break. Nursing the leg, she doesn’t get up right away so Meiko kicks at her on the mat, which enrages Tsukushi who stands up and nails a forearm. Trade of Meiko kicks to the leg and Tsukushi forearms follows until Meiko nails several forearms of her own in a row to take control. Tsukushi flips out of backdrop suplex position, lands another hard forearm, and hits the ropes but Meiko LEVELS her with another high kick.

Meiko calls for the end but Tsukushi looks out on the mat so the ref backs her up and starts a count. Tsukushi gets up at 5 with a look of pure determination, but Meiko grabs the backdrop suplex for 2. Meiko kicks Tsukushi down several times again as she tries to get up, but Tsukushi just roars in defiance each time and finally gets up and rocks the legend with a flurry of forearms. Beautiful bridging tiger suplex gets 2.

Harukaze countered … into Meiko just throwing Tsukushi aside. Another European kicks Tsukushi down, but she slaps Meiko across the face again as she gets up. High kick is ducked, more forearms put Meiko off balance, and the Harukaze is completed this time for a close 2. Tsukushi locks Meiko’s arms behind her and seems to be going for a wrist clutch tiger suplex, but Meiko breaks free and there’s the pele. Meiko’s had enough and the Death Valley Driver finishes the upstart.

What a great, hard hitting match. It featured a ton of the type of reversals and trade offs I adore, visceral, hard strikes from both, and a real sense of intensity. This was all about Tsukushi looking to prove she could hang with the legend, and despite the loss she totally did.

7) Tsukasa Fujimoto & Arisa Nakajima vs. Emi Sakura & Nanae Takahashi 

Yuuka was my favorite rising star in wrestling at the time, and I understand wanting to headline with the company’s top title, but still can’t shake the feeling that founder Emi Sakura returning to Ice Ribbon for this tag match really should have been the main event.

Big, dramatic intro video for this one all about Tsukka as the current director of Ice Ribbon and the shock of Sakura’s return at a dojo show to be revealed as Nanae’s partner for this match. Sakura had not returned to Ice Ribbon at all since her departure years prior and her creation of Gatoh Move.

Full entrances shown, which is unusual for these DVDs (likely due to music rights and/or time considerations), but very important for a match like this and I’m really glad they did. Seeing Sakura showered in streamers in an Ice Ribbon ring for their monumental 10th Anniversary was a surreal, important moment and had to be included.

Best Friends are draped in belts, as they were the reigning tag team champions of both Ice Ribbon and JWP at the time, and Arisa was JWP’s top singles champion as well. A number of Ice Ribbon wrestlers got onto the ring apron to hold the ropes open for them as them came down the isle, and in the shadows (the arena is dark except for a spotlight on the entering team) Nanae & Emi briefly chasing them off the apron can be made out. Arisa shoves her JWP title right in Nanae’s face during her introduction. Nana formed SEAdLINNNG a month after the show, and Arisa would leave JWP to join SEAdLINNNG to start 2017.

This is going to be insane.

No handshake, to the surprise of no one. Arisa and Nanae start, being extremely tentative about locking up but fiercely grappling for an advantage the second they do make contact. A lot of groundwork with a variety of attempted holds where they are constantly in motion with neither getting any advantage for long ends in a stalemate.

Wholesale changes bring in Tsukka and Sakura, and the crowd is both hyped and split. After circling they lockup for all of a half second before Sakura knees Tsukka in the ribs to break and Tsukka responds with an immediate forearm. Sakura dares her for more so she obliges, and once Sakura’s against the ropes Tsukka whips her to the far ones and nails a dropkick off the rebound. Hard kick, double sledge to the back, then snap mare set uo the seated back kick. Sakura pops right back up and slaps Tsukka across the face so hard Tsukka drops to her knees. Whip to the ropes and a dropkick by Sakura follow. Scoop slam attempt by Sakura reversed by Tsukka. Any time there’s the briefest pause or opening between moves one takes a quick swing or kick at the other. Tsukka hits a forearm and Sakura again dares her for more, but she slaps Sakura across the face instead. They trade HARD slaps until Sakura switches to a chop across the chest that levels Tsukka.

Tag brings in Nanae, who presses the advantage with a backdrop suplex. She applies a half crab and Tsukka struggles to the ropes to break. Shotgun dropkick from the middle turnbuckle gets 2. Tag back to Sakura who lays in some stomps. In a nice touch a shot of a conflicted Makoto at ringside is shown (Makoto was trained by Sakura in Ice Ribbon but was part of Reina and wrestled occasionally for both Ice and Gatoh by this time). Sakura throws Tsukka across the ring by her hair then lays in a series of chops in the corner. Single leg trip sets up the surfboard, and Nanae runs across the ring to prevent Arisa from saving as Sakura completes the hold. Sakura pulls all the way back for a little while, then releases the hold. More stomps to the head just anger Tsukka and she pops up with a forearm in between each one, but Sakura gets a scoop slam to stop that and maintain control. Cover gets 2 then Nanane is tagged backed in. Close up on Tsukka seems to show her with a bit of a bloody mouth.

Nanae boots mockingly Tsukka in the head a couple times. The third is caught and a forearm exchange ensues, with Nanae largely getting the better of it due to being fresher and larger. Tsukka ducks the last a hits the ropes for a hurricanrana attempt, but Nanae holds on just able Tsukka’s knees to turn it into a modified crab. Tsukka crawls towards the ropes to break. Nanae pulls her up and hits three hard clotheslines against the ropes, then whips her to the far side. But Tsukka nails a dropkick off the rebound, hits the seated kick to the back for good measure, and tags in Arisa to finally get a reprieve.

Arisa was already on the top turnbuckle when she was tagged, and shotgun missile dropkicks Nanae all the way back into her own corner where Sakura tags in. Arisa ducks the charge and hits Nanae with a knee strike in the corner then keeps pounding on her with forearms while Sakura shrugs behind Arisa in an amusing bit. Sakura pulls Arisa back out of the corner by her gear and goes for a backdrop suplex, but Arisa flips out, ducks Sakura’s elbow… and runs back to the corner to waylay Nanae with more forearms to the face. This is great. Sakura shrugs again but obligingly finally succeeds in pulling Arisa off Nanae. They double whip Arisa to the ropes, but she ducks their attack, shoves Nanae into Sakura, then nails Nanae with a German suplex. With Sakura & Nanae laid out against opposing ropes, Arisa runs back and forth between them hitting face wash kicks for a bit. She’s certainly paying them back for the extended beating Tsukka took in spades so far.

Nanae’s still prone against the ropes so Arisa knees her in the face a bunch. Nanae eventually catches one and elevates Arisa into a faceplan, which is followed by a Sakura summersault to halt Arisa’s rampage. Arisa staggers into the corner and Sakura runs from the opposite to hit her awesome corner crossbody. Knee to the face keeps Arisa in the corner and Nanae is tagged in for some revenge. She clotheslines Arisa in the corner then UNLOADS with over twenty punches to the head. Then Arisa drops and slumps against the bottom turnbuckle when Nanae finally pauses, so Nanae drops to her knees and hits another five. Arisa picked up by the hair and whipped to the far corner to eat another pair of running clotheslines then brought to the middle where the backdrop driver gets 2. That would be only the third cover of the match. Crazy.

Nanae hits the ropes, runs right into Arisa’s Cutie Special, and is dropped right on her head as she wasn’t rotated quite enough before hitting the mat. Arisa takes a needed reprieve against the ropes as the ref checks on Nanae, and it seems she’s ok to continue. Arisa goes to the topes and hits the doubelstomp for 2. She picks Nanae up, kneeing her in the head along the way, and is looking for a dragon suplex as Tsukka sprints across the ring to cut Sakura off. Nanae breaks the full nelson so Arisa spins her around and lays in a long flurry of forearms, but Nanae just slaps her across the face hard enough to drop her to her knees in response.

Sakura in and they hit a spinning side slam / elbow drop double team of Arisa for a close 2. Nanae grabs a waist lock and Sakura tries to hit Arisa, but Arisa ducks and the enzugiri hits Nanae instead. Tsukka cuts off Sakura as Arisa hit an impressive straightjacket German, but Sakura gets free just in time to save the fall at 2. Flying kick from Nanae counters a charge, but Arisa gets right back up and kicks Nanae in the head. Hard headbutt by Arisa countered in kind, then Nanae levels her with a clothesline. Both are down.

Arisa crawls to the corner and tags in Tsukka, who runs along the apron to a neutral corner, hits a missile dropkick just as Nanae stands to knock her into the far corner, and follows immediately with her running corner dropkick. Scoop slam by Nanae slows things for just a moment as Tsukka gets up and hits a forearm. Nanae hits one of her own, but Tsukka uses the momentum to go into Nanae’s corner to nail Sakura on the apron before coming back and hitting her next one on Nanae. Incredible. Then Tsukka does it again. Third time Sakura ducks the forearm and ties up Tsukka, but when Nanae charges Tsukka gets free and Nanae knocks Sakura off the apron. Arisa in out of nowhere with a dropkick to Nanae’s back. Arisa hits another German and Tsukka does her awesome floatover pin for 2. Tsukka calls for the end but Nanae’s up before she can even scale the ropes and meets her up there to hit a superplex on Tsukka. Sliding kick gets 2.

Tsukka fights off a face lock, hits a couple strikes and comes off the ropes for a Tsukka-chan Bomb (code red), but Nanae stands up to counter. Tsukka fights out of backdrop suplex position and tries again, but gets face planted as a counter this time. Arisa in to break up another face lock, and they whip Nanae to the corner and charge, but she comes out and levels both in succession with clotheslines. Nanae grabs backdrop suplex position again and finally hits the modified Blue Thunder Bomb for 2.

Sakura tagged in. She butterflies Tsukka’s arms and lifts, impressively holding Tsukka suspended for a bit and turning to all sides of the ring before completing the backbreaker. Big smile on Sakura’s face with Tsukka in some much trouble. She does another variation of the butterfly backbreaker and adds a stomp for good measure, but when she wasitlocks Tsukka the latter counters with her roll through into a kick to a chest. Tsukka looks winded and worn out but had no intention of tagging just yet and hits three hard kicks to the back and the rebounding soccer kick to the chest. Sakura defiantly kicks out before 1, so Tsukka simply hits it again, for 2. And AGAIN, prompting a save from Nanae at 2.

Tsukka calls for the end and picks Sakura up into position for the Venus Shoot, but Sakura follows her into the corner and counter with a powerbomb, then hits a middle turnbuckle Vaderbomb for 2. Tigerdriver countered with Tsukka landing on her feet and Sakura still dropping to the mat in perfect position for Tsukka to hit another chest kick. EIGHT more kicks to Sakura’s back with audible thuds. Tsukka lets Sakura get to her feet and seems to dare her to respond in kind, but after Sakura snap mares Tsukka into position Arisa comes in to grab her leg and block the kicks. Hard forearm knocks Sakura back down and Best Friends hit the tandem kick to the back and face. They go up on adjacent turnbuckles (on the long side O_o) and hit the double missile dropkick as Sakura stands. Close 2.

Venus Shoot… and Sakura CATCHES THE KICK on the way down and transitions into a half crab. Nanae holds Arisa back and Sakura drags Tsukka to the center, forcing Tsukka to fight for every inch as she claws to the ropes for a break. But Sakura’s not breaking, so Arisa gets free of Nanae and kicks Sakura in the head. She then hits the ropes to continue the assault but Sakura completely wipes her out with a super kick and goes back to Tsukka. She tells Nanae to get up on the ropes, then does a top rope hurricanrana on her own partner to send Nanae crashing into the prone Tsukka on the mat. Sakura calls for the end and goes up to the top again for a sweet moonsault that gets 2 when Arisa saves at the last possible second.

Nanae drops Arisa with a backdrop driver and she & Sakura hit stereo splashes from opposite top turnbuckles on Arisa & Tsukka respectively. Tsukka powers her shoulder up at 2.9 to keep the match alive. Tiger driver (sitout butterfly power bomb) finally connects, but Tsukka kicks out at 2.999. Sakura’s face looks more annoyed than shocked in a nice touch. Sakura tries to pick her up for another but Tsukka is deadweight. Tsukka tries to fight up from her knees as Sakura just absorbs the shots, then pulls her up into a backdrop driver for another super close 2. Sakura signals for the 450, but Tsukka counters with a variation of the Venus Shoot with Sakura on the top turnbuckle and Arisa sprints in to bring Sakura down with a gut wrench superplex. Tsukkadora completed and Sakura could not have kicked out any closer to it being over. Strike combination stuns Sakura and the Tsukka-chan Bomb… DOESN’T finish as Nanae flies in out of nowhere to break up the pin. Totally bought that as the finish (as did the crowd) as it was clear Sakura wasn’t so much as twitching and wouldn’t be kicking out.

Nane forearms Arisa a bit and hits the ropes, but Arisa’s right behind her and knocks her right through the ropes as she hits them. Arisa follows her out and it’s back down to the legal participants. Sakura catches Tsukka off the ropes with a dropkick to the knee to put her into potion for La Magistral but Tsukka rolls out of it and hits an enzugiri. Venus Shoot connects and Sakura is out cold in the middle of the ring. Tsukka covers … FOR 3 AND THE WIN. Tsukka’s crying with emotion and is swarmed by members of the Ice roster in congratulations. Camera cuts just as the ring bell is stricken a few times, indicating somewhere off screen Arisa and Nanae must still be going at it.

Cuts to just a little bit later to show Sakura leaving with the Gatoh Move seconds (Riho, Sayaka Obihiro, Kotori, and Mitsuru Konno). Tsukka has the microphone and cuts an emotional promo to wrap up the clash of Ice Ribbon’s past and present.

As mentioned Sakura left with her compatriots so the post match backstage interview with her “team” is just Nanae.

Simply incredible. Seek this out.

This was everything one could want from this match and more, but it wasn’t the end of the story. More on that after the main event.

8) Ice Cross Infinity Title Match: Risa Sera (c) vs Yuuka 

Yuuka was a standout and really felt like the future of the company at the time. Highlight package shows her pinning Risa in a tag match leading up to this, as well as her training method of attaching a drawing of Risa to her punching bag. Another interesting thing shown is that when Emi Sakura made her surprise visit to the Ice Ribbon dojo as referred to above, Yuuka made to hold the ropes for her to enter the ring (before being told off by Tsukka).

Yuuka’s just staring a hole through the champ at every opportunity, even turning her head to keep looking at Risa as she walks around the ring for her intro. They do shake hands before the start, but Yuuka holds on extra long while staring His right in the eyes.

Bell rings and Yuuka dashes right at Risa, ducks under, and grabs her School Girl (120% schoolboy rollup – continuing to roll through a schoolboy rollup to end up bridging over the opponent’s legs for added leverage) for a close 2. So smart to start this off fast when having to follow the war that happened in the semi-main, and Yuuka immediately going for the move she’s pinned Risa with before puts the champ on the defensive and makes for a great underlying story for the match.

Yuuka does a matrix evasion of a Risa right (to the crowd’s delight) then pops back up with a forearm and tries the schoolboy again, but Risa twists into a pin of her own for 2.

Brief stalemate staredown then they start laying into each other with forearms. Yuuka stops that by grabbing Risa’s hair but the champ responds in kind and throws Yuuka across the ring by her hair then chokes her against the bottom turnbuckle. Scoop slam sets up the crab and the champ looks pleased to be in control. She grabs Yuuka arms and goes into her hanging crab, bouncing Yuuka’s head off the mat as she shakes Yuuka up and down.

Risa drops her out of the hold hard after a few moments and a double knee drop to the back gets 2. Running knee drop misses and Yuuka dropkicks Risa to the back and right out of the ring. Yuuka up to the top and hits a nice flying crossbody to Risa on the floor. Yuuka rolls her back in, goes back to the top, and hits another flying crossbody (inside the ring this time) for 2. Heavy forearm exchange leads to Risa hitting several in a row and then hitting the ropes, but Yuuka follows her in for one against the ropes. She then rebounds off the far ropes and knocks Risa down with a running one to set up her awesome Angel Thunder (diving “forearm drop”) on a prone Risa for 2.

Risa blocks when Yuuka tries to lift her, so Yuuka lands another forearm and hits the ropes. But Risa drop toeholds her and follows up with the upper leg hold crab. The torque on Yuuka looks vicious. She fights into better position then crawls to the ropes to break. Risa drags her into position and hits a double knee drop from the second turnbuckle for 2. Up into fireman’s carry but Yuuka struggles back down out of it. Forearm by Risa sends her into the corner, but when Risa tries to whip her out of it Yuuka reverses and lands another forearm. Tornado DDT follows then Yuuka finally completes the Angel’s Trumpet Suplex Hold (crossed-legged fisherman’s suplex), but it only gets 2.

Yuuka up top and nails a beautiful top rope Angel Thunder, and Risa just barely survives by getting her shoulder up by centimeters and her hand in the way of the ref’s coming down.

Risa’s essentially deadweight in kneeling position as Yuuka tries to pull her up so the challenger smiles briefly and kicks her in the head and chest until she stands up, at which point Yuuka slaps her across the face. Risa with a quick smirk of her own, responds in kind, then just unloads on the back of Yuuka’s head with elbows / forearms. Falcon’s Arrow gets 2.

Risa calls for the end and goes up to the top turnbuckle, but Yuuka’s to her feet and meets the champ up there to hit a top rope hurricanrana. She follows up with a crossed legged bridging backdrop suplex for 2. For the first time in the match Yuuka’s looking a little frustrated and disbelieving instead of determined and laser focused. Hard forearm to Risa, then she hits the ropes… but charges right into Ayers Rock.

However Yuuka kicks out at 1 (!) and gets up to swing at Risa. Risa tries to counter into the Sera Rhythm Buster (her swing around side slam), but Yuuka counters into a rollup for 2, which Risa counters for 2, which Yuuka counters for 2. Love that sequence, with each successive count being a closer call.

Risa kicks at Yuuka then whips her into the corner for the running elbow, trip, then running knees combo. Back to the middle and the Sera Rhythm Buster gets 2. Double knees from the top miss as Yuuka moves and the challenger applies a bridging backslide for another close 2. They both hit the ropes and Yuuka goes into the School Girl again for 2. She swings at Risa who counters into a full nelson, but Yuuka gets free and does a backslide into the School Girl as she’s trying and combining every rollup variation she can think of to try to keep Risa down. The champion gets a shoulder up in the nick of time.

Yuuka hits the ropes but runs into a right hand and Risa plants her with Ayres Rock II (sitout fireman’s carry slam). Bit shocked Yuuka kicks out. Spinning power bomb by Risa… also gets 2, and the crowd is very audibly, appreciatively shocked at Yuuka surviving that. Double diving knees from the top rope make the third finisher, and that’s finally enough for Risa to keep Yuuka down and retain her title.

This was great. Intense, quick paced, and incredibly well worked. It was exactly the right type of match to follow the huge semi-main if anything had to, and all the respect in the world to Risa and Yuuka to finishing such a monumental show on such a high note.

Epilogue

As I mentioned earlier it seemed like Yuuka was going to be a big part of the future of the company, and this performance seemed to further solidify that. As it turns out, she’d only have about 15 matches after this. She took a hiatus in July 2016 which she never returned to the ring from, and officially retired in 2019.

In the weeks following this event, Tsukka expressed a desire to visit Ichigaya Chocolate Square in the same way Sakura had shown up at the Ice Ribbon dojo. Risa Sera said she wanted to come too, but Sakura responded that Risa was not welcome but Tsukka could bring Yuuka because the later showed respect when Sakura was at the dojo. During that appearance Tsukka made a challenge for another match, which Sakura agreed to under the condition it would be the last Gatoh Move vs Ice Ribbon encounter. Thus far it has been, with the match on this show and the followup being the only two times the companies have crossed paths in the ring.

The match would take place at Riho’s 10th Anniversary event on June 22, 2016 at Korakuen Hall (a little under two months after this event). It was Emi Sakura and a young Gatoh Move wrestler with similar experience level as Yuuka, Kotori, against Tsukka & Yuuka. I really like the fact that two young yet already high level wrestlers were chosen as the partners in general, let alone how awesome the specific two chosen were in particular. The match was another intense, exciting encounter. As part of Emi Sakura’s 25th Anniversary festivities this past August, the match was included in a watch party of Sakura matches on Gatoh Move’s YouTube channel. It is still available to watch and highly recommended.

Side note: Like Yuuka, Kotori was another excellent rising star that retired a bit early, and ended her career at the end of 2017.

Overall

Ok, so if you’ve stuck with me through to the end of this it really should be no surprise that I think this show was fantastic, particularly the last three matches. It’s both significant for a variety of reasons and just plain great as a wrestling show in its own right and is well worth making a point to see for not only Ice Ribbon (and/or Gatoh Move) fans but anyone who enjoys Joshi Pro-wrestling.

Available both on Ice Ribbon’s Nico channel (with subscription, show archived in three parts without video packages, etc) and as a DVD (as reviewed above).

Assemble 10/1/20 Live Stream Thoughts

October 1, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan

Pro-Wrestling Assemble is new collaborative Joshi endeavor, with several promotions contributing to make each show a supershow of sorts.

The total list of participating promotions are:
Ice Ribbon
Marvelous
Oz Academy
Pure-J
SEAdLINNNG
Sendai Girls
Stardom
T-HEARTS (Yumiko Hotta’s new group)
Wave


Freelancers are also able to appear.

**Side note: There’s understandably not much public information on the reasons behind the promotions that aren’t participating, but on a ChocoPro livestream Emi Sakura did mention that Gatoh Move was invited and while interested she decided it just wasn’t the right time for them to be involved in such a project for a variety of reasons.**

It was announced that there would be no inter-promotional matches due to Covid considerations (likely as well as potential booking difficulties). Each participating company provided a match for the show, and the match order would be determined by random draw the day of.

The participating promotions and their announced matches for this big first show were:
Freelancers: Sareee, Tomoka Inaba, & Riko Kawabata VS Yumiko Hotta, Saki Akai, & Asuka (Veny)
Marvelous: Takumi Iroha, Rin Kadokura, & Maria vs Mio Momono, Mikoto Shindo, & Mei Hoshizuki
Oz Academy: Mayumi Ozaki & Saori Anou vs Sonoko Kato & AKINO
Pure-J: Leon & Rydeen Hagane vs Manami Katsu & Mari Manji
SEAdLINNNG: Yoshiko & Honori Hana vs Arisa Nakajima & Riko Kaiju *Referee: Natsuki Taiyo
Sendai Girls: Meiko Satomura, DASH Chisako, & Yurika Oka vs Chihiro Hashimoto, Manami, & Natsuho Kaneko

The abundance of tag matches makes sense for each promotion to be able to feature as many wrestlers as possible as well as allowing any match to be potentially suitable for any position on the card.

The draw for card order happened right before the show started, with lots also being drawn to determine who would draw for position first. Chigusa Nagoya got the prize pull putting Marvelous’ offering in the main event.

1) Freelancers: Sareee, Tomoka Inaba, & Riko Kawahata VS Yumiko Hotta, Saki Akai, & Asuka (Veny)

“Freelance” is apparently covering people from promotions not on this show as well as actual freelancers. Smart considering the flexibility it gives and the resulting match here is quite strong.

Opening the show with Sareee’s music hitting is pretty perfect. So awesome she’s being allowed to wrestle over there until it’s safe to come over to the states. I’m not previously familiar with her partners, but she’s alongside two rookies here against a trio of veterans. This is underscored when Hotta shakes everyone’s hand, but her partners Akai & Asuka ignore the rookies and only shake hands with Sareee.

This was all about the veteran heel team being dominant and the rookies getting to show some fire here and there (particularly against Asuka). They built to Saree’s involvement, with her first tag in ten minutes into the match. Solid match that set the stage nicely for the rest of the night.

Great finish saw Hotta & Saki push Sareee & Inaba into the orchestra pit and played guard so they couldn’t get back up to stop Asuka from finishing Riko.

Multiple cameras were used and the somewhat unusual angles combined with the uniqueness of the Ueno venue (which is like a concert stage as opposed to venues where the audience can be on all sides of the ring) gave a pretty cool and distinct feel. Shots were tight because of the setup and occasionally action started or finished out of frame, but overall the presentation was really good and striking.

Although in the first match they were clearly still getting used to the setup, and a camera in one of the corners with a potentially cool angle had to be largely ignored because it was largely blocked by the backsides of the wrestlers standing on the apron. They moved it to the middle of the far side of the ring for the rest of the show.

The various referees were wearing face shields, the audience was spaced out, and the ring was disinfected between matches. Really awesome to see reasonable precautions be taken and enforced.

2) Oz Academy: Mayumi Ozaki & Saori Anou vs Sonoko Kato & AKINO 

Pretty huge offering from Oz here. This match features four of their top stars and could easily main event one of their shows.

This match involved several wrestlers I really enjoy… mostly when they wrestle elsewhere. Oz Academy is often the epitome of heels over running everything in a way I really don’t care for. True to form, Police got involved three second in using chairs. During the match he repeatedly entered the ring to attack Sato or Akino. Ozaki & Anou also repeatedly used weapons themselves. All in full view of the referee. It’d be marginally better for me if the faces at least fought fire with fire, but they NEVER respond in kind.

The good news though is the action was solid in between all the nonsense, and this presented a spot on idea of what Oz Academy is all about. It’s not my thing, but was a genuine portrayal of the company and the style and should be highly enjoyable for fans of such.

There was a small amount of retribution late as Akino low blowed Police, but Ozaki rolled her up in the resulting chaos for the win.

3) Sendai Girls: Meiko Satomura, DASH Chisako, & Yurika Oka vs Chihiro Hashimoto, Manami, & Natsuho Kaneko 

I’m a big fan of Sendai Girls (and Dash Chisako in particular) and their 6-woman tags are always fire, so this had show stealer written all over it for me. And it was as fun and awesome as expected.

It’s been great to see Manami grow as a wrestler over her three year career thus far, and she looked really good here teaming with Sendai’s champion Chihiro and rookie Kaneko. Opposite them was veteran Dash, rookie Oka, and the legendary Meiko Satomura.

The match built nicely and the timing on everything was pitch perfect, particularly the double and triple teams. All the exchanges between Chihiro and the opposing vets (Dash & Meiko) were particularly intense. One of my favorite spots of the night saw Dash viciously headbutt her way out of a power bomb attempt.

Everything led to a long sequence with Chihiro and Oka at the end. Oka hung in, got several close falls, and even survived a lariat, but eventually Chihiro hit the bridging German for the victory.

4) SEAdLINNNG: Yoshiko & Honori Hana vs Arisa Nakajima & Riko Kaiju 

Similar to what Sendai Girls did, SEAdLINNNG went with a solid formula of putting their top two stars across from each other paired with two of their rookies.

The rookies, Riko and Honori, started with a nice exchange and the match just kept escalating from there. I’ve seen Honori a couple of times prior, but this might have been my first exposure to Riko. Both looked good and held up their parts of the match nicely.

This was quick paced and exciting, and there was palpable tension every time Arisa and Yoshiko got anywhere near each other which made for a gripping, excellent match.

Yoshiko won with her senton on Riko, and continued to fight with Arisa after the bell.

5) Pure-J: Leon & Rydeen Hagane vs Manami Katsu & Mari Manji 

I’ve struck through this match title because I unfortunately didn’t watch it. I couldn’t catch this show live and was watching the archive, and was running up against the time limit (it was only available for a few days after the original broadcast). I had to skip something, and this was the least interesting match to me personally.

Interestingly, just a few days after this show Katsu and Manji announced they will be leaving Pure-J.

6) Marvelous: Takumi Iroha, Rin Kadokura, & Maria vs Mio Momono, Mikoto Shindo, & Mei Hoshizuki 

This isn’t the match I imagined as the main event, but it was suitable and the participants more than capable of tearing the house down.

It’s awesome that Rin was able to be back for this. I haven’t seen Shindo’s new gear much before, and it looks great.

Mio’s team tried a bum rush to start but Iroha was ready and just turned and stared them into stopping. Such an awesome little character moment for Iroha, which immediately established Marvelous’ ace as the badass in the match.

The match was the kind of controlled chaos Marvelous does really well when they’re firing on all cylinders. I love Maria’s attitude and the little mannerisms she has during matches, and in general everyone in the match (and the show for that matter) was on point and giving their all to make the best impression possible.

Rin seemed to be pretty much immediately back to form. Her arm kind of gave out on her at one point, but it was a small thing and she recovered well enough.

A big portion of the match was rising star against ace as Mio battled Iroha. One incredible moment saw Mio looking done after Iroha hit the stout power bomb, but Shindo DOVE through her opponents to get a hand on Iroha to save the fall.

Late Mio did a beautiful code red reversal to another Iroha power bomb. But Iroha took back over and kicked Mio in the head three times then hooked a deep cover… so deep Mio rolled it around into a tight cover of her own, and WON!

EVERYONE was shell shocked, including Mio’s partners who seemed to take a few moments to realize they won.

Huge statement here by Marvelous by having Mio beat their ace in the main event of cross company show. Mio’s incredible and just really getting some momentum going after coming back from injury, so it’s fantastic to see her get a big spotlight victory here.

——-

Overall this was an extremely strong initial offering for Assemble. Good action all around with some big highlights, and each match was a bit different in style highlighting the promotion presenting it. I’m particularly looking forward to seeing more of the numerous new-to-me rookies from this show.

Assemble’s second show will be November 20. I expected the companies missing from the first show to be cycled in, but Ice Ribbon and Wave will still not appear yet.

All the companies from the first show (minus the freelance match) will be back, meaning the full slate of participating companies will be Marvelous, Oz Academy, Pure-J, SEAdLINNNG, Sendai Girls, Stardom, and T-HEARTS.

There will also be a “Hall of Fame Special Edition” match, and three “Up and Coming Edition” dark matches for a pre-show. The match order for both the pre-show and main show will be randomly determined (separately).

Another Wonderful Way Pro-Wrestling is Art 3

Welcome back for another look at some great art featuring professional wrestlers.

In Another Wonderful Way Pro-Wrestling is Art I talked about the wrestling centric work of Rob Schamberger. The subsequent Another Wonderful Way Pro-Wrestling is Art 2 featured more from Rob, some of the wonderfully stark, hyper realistic black and white ink drawings of Shining Wizard Designs, and an artist readers of this blog will be well familiar with who entered the realm of drawing professional wrestlers as the result of commission requests (from me).

Here I’d like to share a couple more of Juri H Chinchilla’s pieces, then spotlight a new artist to these articles who’s a bit of an awesomely unusual case.

As I’ve mentioned often, I’ve been a fan of Juri’s amazing art for several years, and her work never ceases to amaze me.

Her Personal Sketch Cards have been a great opportunity to request particular subjects and design elements, and she’s done an amazing job with depictions of subjects both priorly familiar and not.

Sareee is a truly incredible wrestler who has recently signed with WWE and was set to come stateside in February (before the pandemic necessitated her remaining in Japan for now). She’s a nine year veteran who trained and wrestled with Ring of Honor’s Jenny Rose (a ten year veteran herself) under the Diana promotion in Japan early on in both of their careers. Last December Jenny traveled back to Japan to appear on Sareee’s Special Night, an excellent show produced by Sareee herself.

Juri’s rendition of the pair of best friends is stunning, highlighted by a wonderful metallic background that makes the image of subjects themselves really pop.

Also pictured is Juri’s representation of the recently retired Tequila Saya from Ice Ribbon, showing off Saya’s great entrance gear including a gun shaped tequila bottle and bandolier of shot glasses against a colorful background befitting the Gran Maestro de Tequila.

More information about Juri’s art can be found on her artist page.

The next artist doesn’t just make art about wrestling on paper: as a wrestler herself she makes a different type of art in the ring as well.

Yappy wrestles for a women’s wrestling company in Japan named Ice Ribbon and is a little over a year into her career. She has a naturally likable presence that makes her easy to cheer for, is energetic and exciting in her matches, and is always pushing to improve and learn in these early stages of her wrestling journey. She’s heavily involved in Ice Ribbon’s interactions with foreign fans and has done a lot to reach out to and help them with things like English updates and event information and overseas purchase of Ice Ribbon merchandise.

After her debut Yappy’s personal fan art also started to gain a wider audience, and it really started to turn heads with her incredible piece depicting Ice Ribbon’s ace Tsukasa Fujimoto.

Tsukasa Fujimoto by Yappy (print also signed by Tsukka).

Yappy’s full illustrations are gorgeous. They feature vibrant colors, fantastic little touches and details, and often a real, dynamic sense of motion. They also capture the personalities of the subjects in a really great way.

Tequila Saya by Yappy (print also signed by Saya).

Yappy also did a striking Tequila Saya and an energetic depiction of Ice Ribbon’s resident bratty prodigy (and I mean that in the best way possible), Tsukushi. Amid well deserved rising fan interest in her creations, these three pieces were the initial offerings via Ice Ribbon’s online shop as both the originals and limited edition prints.

Her second batch (of course again all of Ice Ribbon wrestlers) featured reigning Ice Cross Infinity Champion Maya Yukihi, Maya’s frequent Azure Revolution tag partner (and former champion herself) Risa Sera, and two of Ice Ribbon’s rookie rising stars in Suzu Suzuki and Asahi, with more likely to come. Looking forward to it. Again the way the individual wrestlers’ personalities, gimmicks, and styles are incorporated into the themes of Yappy’s art is exceptional.

Satsuki Totoro sketch by Yappy.

Another really wonderful thing about Yappy’s art is the different styles she experiments with. She’s done some smaller pieces as thank you’s for the live signing streams including things like fun quick sketches and really cute chibi style headshots. Her work always puts a smile on my face and I hope she continues to create for a long time to come.

A variety of Ice Ribbon wrestlers and staff drawn by Yappy (picture from Yappy’s Twitter).

More information about both Yappy’s art and her wrestling can be found on Twitter.

Nao Ishikawa by Yappy.

——-

Thanks again to both of these artists for their impressive creations.

P’s Party 48 Live Stream Thoughts

July 8, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan

The future for P’s Party (“short” for Peace Party), Ice Ribbon’s related promotion run by Tequila Saya focusing on newer wrestlers, was uncertain when Saya retired from in-ring competition at the end of 2019.

However Saya stayed involved with Ice Ribbon in a commentary capacity, and after five months in limbo P’s Party would return in May as a weekly show (with of course no live audience at the time). P’s Party is a lot of fun and I was thrilled to see it come back.

Ps Party is broadcast on Ice Ribbon’s Nico Nico channel. During June there was a small additional ppv price for the live viewings, but all P’s Party shows go up as part of the subscription service as replays. Now with small audiences starting to be allowed again, P’s Party is back to a two week schedule and fully included in the channel subscription even for live viewing.

I’ve been especially thrilled to see Diana’s Madeline and Haruka Umesaki as regulars since the restart (although Haruka isn’t on this show), along with other guests as well as of course Ice Ribbon’s own rookies (and a great selection of veterans sprinkled in for them to work with and learn from).

There was a particularly special guest this time around: Wave’s HIRO’e is appearing on both of this month’s P’s Party shows as she approaches her retirement.

Saya herself is on commentary.

Side note: During the no audience time period Ice Ribbon put in new lights in the dojo. They’re great for visibility (and likely great for Shutter Ribbon events as well), although do take just a little getting used to as brighter lights mean the shadows of the ropes and wrestlers are more noticeable and the mat’s a bit bright itself (the logos on the back part of the mat are pretty much completely washed out).

P’s Party 48

1) Tsukushi vs Honori Hana

Honori is a first year rookie from SEAdLINNNG, and looked good in her debut against SEAdLINNNG champion Arisa Nakajima on 12/23/19 (the only match I’ve seen in her in previously).

A little awkward at first, but they got on the same page quick. Honori impressively hits pretty much as hard as Tsukushi (who’s known for vicious shots) during an early forearm exchange.

Emphatic win for Tsukushi with a small flurry of offense for Honori in the middle. Good for what it was, and it was nice to see Honori in P’s Party. I hope she comes back.

Tsukushi’s issues with referee Mio continued as she was being a brat and antagonizing Mio (including tieing her up with Honori for the rope dropkick, although that backfired when Mio couldn’t count her subsequent cover). After the match Mio calls Tsukushi back to the ring and Yappy (and later Totoro) come out to seemingly continue to story of trying to get Tsukushi to respect the rules. Lost cause.

2) Uno Matsuya & Yappy vs Thekla & Satsuki Totoro

Preview of Uno’s upcoming shot at Thekla’s WUW World Championess title this Sunday at “Ice Ribbon in 176BOX” with them on opposing sides here.

Solid tag match that did a good job of building tension for Sunday, with strong support from Totoro and Yappy. I really like how Yappy is turning her facelock spin into a facebuster at the end now. Looks vicious.

Thelka & Totoro were in firm control late, but Uno reverses a fireman’s carry into a cross armbreaker and makes Totoro submit for the win. Nice establishment of that hold as a real threat going into Uno’s title match.

3) Banny Oikawa & Madeline vs Suzu Suzuki & Rina Shingaki

Partners Banny & Madeline faced in a singles match at P’s Party 44. They’ll make an amusing team. As with that match when she stole it for some posing, Madeline is still fascinated by Banny’s tail here.

Rina’s been a P’s Party regular since early on and it’s been great to see her develop. She’s actually the most senior wrestler in this match experience-wise at just over two years.

Don’t know if this is still a minority opinion, but I greatly prefer Suzu’s new gimmick and style to the Chirin Chirin days. She looked great here, and her sections against Madeline were a treat. Also, late in the match Suzu avoided a high kick from Banny with the smoothest matrix evasion I’ve seen.

Banny’s still a bit awkward with ring positioning , etc at times, but nothing too bad or too often, the effort is always there, and she’s continually improving bit by bit. Mid-match she hit a beautiful through-the-legs trip into a bridging pinfall attempt.

Suzu & Rina taunted their opponents heavily mid-match with the appropriation of Madeline’s batons for both aid in applying simultaneous camel clutches and a bit of showboating.

Rina pinned Banny after turning what looked like an attempted armbar taken down into a rollup. Banny hit hard, and I’m glad she was up and seemed to be moving ok afterwards. Fun match.

4) Nao Ishikawa vs HIRO’e

Nao debuted during the no audience period at Ice Ribbon 1039 on May 2 in the main event teaming with Suzu against reigning International Ribbon Tag Title holders the Dropkickers (Tsukasa Fujimoto & Tsukushi), and has looked really sharp. She’s been in several main events of both Ice Ribbon dojo shows and P’s Party events in her short two month career so far, and gets a big spotlight here in a singles match in the main event as one of HIRO’e’s final opponents.

Nice, energetic match. Nao’s really good at using the basics to build her end of the match and push her skills and repertoire a bit more each time out. Cool to get a few more opportunities to see HIRO’e before she the end of her career too.

Nao puts up a good fight, but HIRO’e eventually wins with a backdrop suplex.

This was a straightforward, enjoyable show with something different in each match and a bunch of interesting pairings. Nothing earth-shattering, but that’s not the point of P’s Party in the first place. Definitely recommend checking out this and the P’s Party back catalogue in general.

Ice Ribbon Special Challenge Match: Tsukka vs Broom Review

May 10, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan

A very special no audience match up for free on Tsukka’s YouTube channel.

Suzu Suzuki is acting as referee, with Hifumi behind the camera.

In an impromptu scuffle last month during cleaning, Broom nearly pinned Tsukka after countering her trademark kicks. The incident isn’t mentioned here, but that’s where it all began.

We get video highlights of subsequent sneak attacks by Broom baiting Tsukka into this grudge match.

Tsukasa Fujimoto vs Broom

Lockup to start. Tsukka struggles and is forced back towards the ropes, but reverses at the last second to push Broom up against them. No clean break as Tsukka kicks Broom then hits a “hair”-mare into the far corner and chokes Broom against the bottom turnbuckle.

Back to center and Tsukka converts a scoop slam into a power slam for 2, then works some crossfaces from Camel Clutch position. Broom holds on and does not give up. Tsukka calls for a brainbuster, but Broom reverses into a suplex on Tsukka and gets 2. Chinlock on Tsukka follows. She tries to break by biting the broomstick, but referee Suzu’s aggressive count breaks that right up and Tsukka remains in the hold. She struggles to the ropes for the break.

Back in the center of the ring they trade “head”-butts and forearms respectively, and Tsukka wins the exchange with a surprise enzuigiri that sends Broom right out of the ring. Tsukka follows up with a doublestomp off the apron, then rolls Broom back in and hits another from the top rope for 2.

All Tsukka at this point, but her flurry of kicks is countered with the same rollup Broom almost pinned Tsukka to set this whole rivalry off for a close 2. Tsukka lays in some more forearms and tosses Broom into the air but gets caught coming off the ropes with a crossbody and just barely kicks out to deny Broom the upset win.

The veteran is getting tired of the upstart cleaning implement, and whips Broom into the corner to hit a nice pair of dropkicks (one “standing,” one “seated”). World’s Strongest Slam only gets 2, but that kickout is all Broom has left and Tsukka nails a beautiful Venus Shoot for the 3 count and the victory. That broom will know better than to bother Ice Ribbon’s ace again.

Ok so this was ridiculous (as was my choice to do full play-by-play), but that was the point. One of the best wrestlers in the world today took the old “so good they could get a decent match out of a broomstick” cliche as literally as possible to produce five minutes of absolute absurdity that was just plain fun. The key of course is they played it totally straight within the confines of the silly premise, and while I certainly don’t need to see Broom become an Ice Ribbon regular this was a tremendously amusing.

Extremely well done too. Tsukka managed pretty long stretches in this, with only a few cuts (honestly I’m surprised there weren’t a lot more) that were noticeable if looking for them but pretty smooth overall. She only needed outside help with a single spot too, and the camera angle completely obscured Suzu holding Broom up for the Venus Shoot (the needed angle also made the move itself look particularly awesome).

Truly a match for the ages. Congratulations to Tsukka on her epic victory.

Watch it here.

Ice Ribbon Vol. 1037 Live Stream Thoughts

April 25, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan

Another special no audience show broadcasted from the Ice Ribbon Dojo for free on YouTube in addition to Ice Ribbon’s NicoNico channel.

Tequila Saya and Yappy are commentating. They made a great team throughout and the English explanations were much appreciated. Banny Oikawa refereed all the matches.

The IW19 Title Tournament starts here. The field has been announced but which matches happen on each show will be revealed day of.

A Block features participants in IW19’s previous incarnation:

Tsukasa Fujimoto vs Hamuko Hoshi
Risa Sera vs Kurumi Hiiragi
Tsukushi vs Mochi Miyagi

B Block features newcomers to IW19:

Satsuki Totoro vs Thekla
Maya Yukihi vs Uno Matsuya
Suzu Suzuki vs Akane Fujita

All tournament matches have 19 minute time limits and a 19 count outside the ring. First round singles matches and the block semi-final triangle matches also have over-the-top eliminations in play (the final between block winners will not). In the case of a time limit draw internet fan voting via the live broadcast on Nico will determine the winners.

This show will feature one match from each block and a non-tournament tag team contest between them.

Side note: Ice Ribbon’s insisting that it’s “I-W juu-ku”, and is not to be referred to as “I-W nineteen” (yes, English letters pronounced as normal but insisting on Japanese pronunciation of the numbers). I imagine this is for consistency sake but it’s honestly rather awkward.

1) IW19 Tournament B Block: Satsuki Totoro vs Thelka

As I remarked about the previous shows, the energy for these is really impressive. Totoro in particular is quite loud in her vocals and it helps elevate the atmosphere in the absence of a crowd.

Both participants here are right around 3 years experience, and quite good for their level. This was a solid, mostly smooth start for the tournament with Totoro controlling with her size and power and Thekla countering as she could with speed and bursts of unique offense. Thekla makes a great addition to the roster and looked competitive even in defeat as Totoro’s onslaught proved too much to endure.

Totoro’s tope rope senton sends her on to the Block B semi-final.

2) Tsukasa Fujimoto & Risa Sera vs Hamuko Hoshi & Uno Matsuya

A little bit of a preview for Block A, as tournament opponents Tsukka and Hammy are on opposite sides of this tag match. Really fun, energetic contest. Ice Ribbon has done a particularly good job of pacing the matches on these internet shows to really draw in the virtual viewers and keep them engaged. Everyone’s putting in top notch effort and it shows.

Towards the end Uno gets some nice nearfalls on Tsukka to shine a bit before eventually being defeated with the Venus Shoot.

3) IW19 Tournament A Block: Tsukushi vs Mochi Miyagi

It’s mentioned that Tsukushi is coming up on her ten year anniversary in wrestling. Nice to be back to acknowledging her original debut.

So like the opener this is a match between wrestlers of similar experience levels. Although Tsukushi is the more decorated wrestler in terms of title runs, etc including being a former IW19 champion. Mochi is just returned from an injury absence and looking fully back to normal.

There’s a bit of brawling outside ring to illustrate the 19 count (which is unusual as Ice Ribbon matches are generally no-countout). Tsukushi sends Mochi at the wall with such force Mochi’s foot goes right through it when she blocks herself from crashing into it.

A couple of in-ring highlights saw Mochi dropping Tsukushi across the top rope from torture rack position in a vicious looking moment, and Tsukushi absolutely wiping Mochi out with thing like her against the ropes dropkick and corner hanging doublestomp. The nearfalls at the end had a real sense of urgency, including Mochi kicking out of the Denden Mushi and countering a Harukaze attempt for 2.999.

One of the best singles matches I’ve seen from Mochi and an excellent main event to cap off the first IW19 tournament show. Tsukushi wins with a second Harukaze to advance.

Tsukushi has no intention of waiting to be crowned champion, and shows off a cardboard version of the belt she’s sure she’ll be wearing soon.

——-

Another fantastic show from Ice Ribbon under the current difficult circumstances. The consistency of these shows and everything that goes into them is impressive and greatly appreciated.

If anyone is interested in / able to support the production of these shows (which with no crowd have no income from ticket sales) YouTube superchat and Nico Nico chat present system are available during the live streams, and Ice Ribbon has a Nico Nico subscription channel with a large library of older shows.

Note: The replays of the live stream of these shows are only available for free on YouTube for a short period. But they’re then replaced with the enhanced, multi-camera version through the first match with the full show available via subscription to their Nico Nico Channel. There have been some complaints about the frame rate during the live broadcasts (although it hasn’t been that bad for me personally) but to my knowledge the later uploaded versions have no such issues.

Ice Ribbon Vol. 1036 Live Stream Thoughts

April 18, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan

Another special no audience show broadcasted from the Ice Ribbon Dojo for free on YouTube in addition to Ice Ribbon’s NicoNico channel.

Tequila Saya and Ai Hara were hosting and commentating, and in a really great move for accessibility Yappy and Thekla were helping out with English translation for some of the pre-match comments, etc.

Banny Oikawa became referee for all matches after her planned match with Suzu Suzuki was cancelled due to Suzu sustaining an injury during training. That match was actually a change itself which came about after trainee Ishikawa’s exhibition match with Suzu was cancelled due to the former being sick during the week. Best wishes for a fast recovery for both Suzu and Ishikawa.

The prematch comments mention this so I will here as well as I don’t want to gloss over it by omission – Yappy’s grandmother recently passed away due to Covid-19 and she wrestled on these shows with the memory of her grandmother who always supported her in mind. My heart goes out to Yappy, I’m glad that returning to the ring is helping her a bit in this tough time, and I hope she does whatever she needs to take care of herself.

1) Tsukushi vs Yappy

As I remarked during volume 1035, the energy for these shows is really impressive. The wrestlers are vocal during their matches as are the rest from the outside cheering, giving a similar atmosphere and feeling to a regular dojo show. Quite cool and impressive under the circumstances.

Really good match to start things off. Tsukushi is quite excellent at bringing the best out of wrestlers with less experience, and Yappy’s improving and looking more comfortable and confident each time out. The veteran eventually prevailed with La Magistral.

Leading into the next match it was cool to get a translation of some of the explanation for Maya’s turn and joining Rebel x Enemy, with her being frustrated with a lack of urgency on the part of her fellow Ice Ribbon roster members. Uno’s judo background gets highlighted in respect to her group Joint Army of wrestlers who feature a style focused on joint manipulation. They (along with Thekla) are partners for the next contest.

2) Frank Sisters (Kurumi Hiiragi, Mochi Miyagi, & Akane Fujita) vs Maya Yukihi, Thekla, & Uno Matsuya

Nice to see Mochi officially back from an achilles tendon injury.

There were a lot of little details worked into the larger flow of the match that made this particularly fun. I loved the variety of creative triple teams from the Frank Sisters, and was cringing at Akane’s brutal overhand chops during a late match exchange.

Nice touches from the other team as well, ranging from Thekla trying to beg off by invoking social distancing, Uno tagging herself in at a key moment underscoring both her self-focused ambitions as well as Maya’s slight estrangement from her team given her new attitude, etc.

Fast paced, hard hitting 6-woman tag throughout that ended with Kurumi absolutely spiking Uno with a cradle tombstone for the pin.

3) 2 out of 3 Falls: Tsukasa Fujimoto vs Risa Sera

The main event was set up last show as the two battled after the time limit expired in their tag team match and a frustrated Tsukka snapmared Risa off the far ring apron.

Each fall will have a separate stipulation. They play rock-paper scissors to determine who will draw the one for the first fall. After two ties Risa wins and draws:

1st Fall: 4 Count Outside the Ring

Note that Ice Ribbon matches are normally no countout, but here a wrestler can win if their opponent fails to get back in the ring before the referee reaches a count of 4 (in addition to normal possible pinfall/submission victory conditions).

Tsukka ties Risa up early for dropkick in ropes and sent her outside to illustrate the stipulation, as Risa dove back in at the count of 3.

Risa was using her mini-cam for “Sera’s eyes” footage, so Tsukka grabbed one of the outside photographers’ cameras and attacked Risa with it while taking pictures as Yappy wondered if they should be involving such expensive equipment and if IR’s budget could handle it. This was done well and as such was pretty great.

A bit of fighting over the top rope to the apron and trying to avoid falling to floor like they were in a battle royal provided both nice story elements and action.

Tsukka’s was eventually able to get into Ace Crusher position on the far apron and snapmare Risa to the floor to win the first fall by 4-count. Nice play off of the aftermath of last show’s main event that set this match up.

Winner got to draw the next stipulation. Tsukka pulled:

2nd Fall: 18 Revolutions

The stipulations do not carry over, so back to the normal no countout rule. This fall could be decided by the usual pinfall or submission means or by performing 18 consecutive revolutions with any appropriate spinning move.

Risa immediately realized this could favor her and called for the giant swing. Tsukka fought her off persistently and later gets and holds on to a rolling cradle for 17 rotations in a great sequence as Tsukka gradually lost momentum and energy as she did more and more turns. She couldn’t quite get Risa over for the last one, and the fall continued.

They were both quite dizzy kind of stumbled around each other as Yappy ponders it being the creation of a new Ice Ribbon dance. Her little additions to commentary were really fun.

Eventually Risa managed to get the giant swing going and managed the full 18 times around to win the second fall and tie things up.

3rd Fall: Double Knee

For the final fall some sort of double knee drop must proceed pin attempts. These moves are among Risa’s trademark offense, so she again presumably has the advantage.

After shaking off the remaining dizziness Risa started quick and trapped Tsukka in the corner for the running double knees, but after that it was all Tsukka for a while as she turned the tables and proceeded to do a long sequence of running double knees off the ropes to a prone Risa. I like the urgency early on and the way they embraced the stipulation and just kept going for the important move.

Just a bit in they fell out of sight as Risa hit an air raid crash off the apron on the far side of the ring to payback Tsukka a bit for how last week and the first fall ended. Everything went eerily quiet as commentary reminded viewers there are no mats on that side of the ring and speculated on Tsukka’s well being …

… and then one of the seconds started singing Star Wars themes while someone wearing Sera’s Yoda mask and robe jumped into the ring joined shortly thereafter by someone wearing a hoodie and a mask that says “Corona” (in katakana). Apparently their appearance was enough to make the match underway a draw and turn it into a tag match. Can’t say I was pleased.

At a guess it looked like Yoda was played by Uno and Corona by Kurumi.

A little back and forth and then the team of Tsukka and the person who drove her headfirst into the concrete floor minutes ago to hushed silence dispatched of Corona pretty easily with consecutive diving double knees from the top.

Probably won’t surprise anyone that the ending segment wasn’t to my tastes. I like my comedy wrestling more integrated and less of the type that grinds everything to a screeching halt, and the jarring nature, uncomfortable drama, and so-so payoff of how this was all done pretty much sent the match off the rails for me (although I can totally understand if other viewers found this fun/satisfying).

So honestly it was a flat end that dragged what was shaping up to be among the most engaging dojo shows I’ve seen down a touch, but the match before the nonsense was extremely interesting and well executed. Also this sidestepped the need for putting one of them over the other and if it was the price to pay for having the match at all so be it.

——-

Post show Tsukka brings out the Internet Wrestling 19 title and apparently announces a tournament for it (I’m unclear of the details as “tournament” is the only word I caught). Reintroducing a title from numerous years ago would have been a good spot to let Yappy translate, particularly as she was standing right there. Hopefully they’ll get better used to pausing for and integrating the translation in the future, although again it’s awesome and appreciated that they are doing it at all.

Like with volume 1035 Ice Ribbon again achieved something special in the presentation under difficult circumstances as this really felt like a normal dojo show in atmosphere. The effort and energy throughout was once again top notch and overall this was an extremely strong and enjoyable show.

Note: These shows are only available for free on YouTube for a short period, but they’re then replaced with the enhanced, multi-camera version through the first match. The remainder will presumably be available later with a subscription to their Nico Nico Channel.

Ice Ribbon Vol. 1035 Live Stream Thoughts

April 11, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan

Special no audience show broadcasted from the Ice Ribbon Dojo for free on YouTube in addition to Ice Ribbon’s NicoNico channel.

Tequila Saya and Chiharu are hosting and commentating. Mio is referee.

Nice video production with profile cards displayed featuring the participants for each match and a short Ice Ribbon video played before of each match (as a buffer to separate things and in place of entrances). This is being approached and produced like any of their big shows, which is not only a nice touch but also impressive given the circumstances. 

1) Maika vs Totoro

Lots of shouting from Maika and Totoro and cheering from the seconds around the ring, which really helps the energy for a no audience show.

I enjoy this pairing and this was a great little match. Both wrestlers have impressive power, making this a high impact affair.

Maika getting Totoro up in the torture rack late match was crazy impressive. She eventually transfers that into a slam and finishes with the senton from the middle rope in the corner.

Saya and Chiharu briefly interview both participants after the matches. This was another well done touch throughout the show, even if I couldn’t understand much outside of some comments in English from Yappy and Thekla.

2) Akane Fujita vs Thekla

The video, which was fine for the opening match, goes out of focus for this one. They can’t get it to refocus without going in close, so it alternates between being zoomed in just a little too much and being out of focus as they kept zooming in and out trying to fix it.

Hard to judge in full with the technical issues as I personally couldn’t really watched the blurred image for very long at a time, but this seemed solid with just a tiny bit of awkwardness here and there. Looking forward to seeing Thekla (who I was previously unfamiliar with) wrestle again sometime when I can better see. 

Of note: There was a second camera being operated from the balcony, so this should not be an issue on the DVD or when eventually released in edited for on Ice Ribbon’s NicoNico channel. 

3) Dropkickers (Tsukasa Fujimoto & Tsukushi) vs. Mochi Miyagi & Risa Sera

Dropkickers are the reigning International Ribbon Tag Team Champions. This is non-title. 

They fixed the camera between matches. Still not perfect on wide shots, but much better than it was, being pretty crisp on medium to close shots and totally watchable. Still a lot of zooming in and out as they test the best distance though.

Early on all the camera problems are momentarily and amusingly solved as they fight to the outside and everything becomes a closeup. Really great energy from everyone as they brawl around.

Tsukushi goes wild with Mochi’s whip, attacking her opponents as well as poor Akane who was nearby. Then with Risa & Mochi laid out Tsukka runs them over with Mio’s baby stroller while Tsukushi gently restrains the referee’s protests. But Mio draws the line on Tsukka trying to swing it like a steel chair and forcibly takes it back. 

Back in the ring this settled into an extremely good, fast paced example of IR’s midcard tag matches. It was kept brisk and energetic, and had some added amusement as Risa kept grabbing a personal camera to use, often not to her own benefit. The video selfie footage as she was getting attacked should be interesting to say the least. 

This went the full 15 minutes for a time limit draw, keeping the intensity up the whole way. I think was my favorite match of the show.

Tsukka and Risa went crazy at the end trying to get falls before time expired. They keep at it a little afterwards and a frustrated Tsukka snapmares Risa off the far ring apron. During the post match interview a future singles match seems set up.

4) Kurumi Hiiragi vs. Yappy

The semi-regular tag team XL Breakers face off against each other in singles competition here.

Yappy is continuing to improve her skills and is coming across as more and more comfortable in the ring. It’s particularly cool to see her get a bit of a spotlight in this semi-main event singles match. Yappy also does a lot outside of the ring to try and make Ice Ribbon more accessible and understandable to foreign fans, which is always greatly appreciated.

Another good match, playing to the strengths of both combatants in a straight up power battle. Yappy hung in with Ice Ribbon’s dominate monster and fought back as she could, but Kurumi’s onslaught was eventually too much and she prevailed with the top rope splash.

5) Ibuki Hoshi & Maya Yukihi vs. Hamuko Hoshi & Suzu Suzuki

Suzu has retired the Chirin Chirin gimmick for an awesome new look and a more serious attitude and is headed for a title shot against ICE Cross Infinity Champion Maya. She vaulted into title contention by defeating IR’s ace Tsukka in a singles match, which is a huge deal considering Suzu’s been wrestling for less than a year and a half.

Maya recently kind of turned her back on Ice Ribbon to form the group Rebel x Enemy with outsiders Kaichow Ram & Rina Yamashita. It appears to be mostly an attitude thing, as she stills participates in tag matches like this teaming with other members of the Ice roster. Maya’s in colorful new gear, separating this from her Dark Snow character in Oz Academy (although her Oz stablemates Mayumi Ozaki and Police recently came to Ice to set up a tag title challenge for Ozaki & Saori Anou).

The other half of the participants in this match see a mother and daughter rivalry continuing to develop as Ibuki angrily slaps Hammy’s hand away in lieu of a pre-match handshake after shaking Suzu’s (Maya ignored Hammy’s offered hand, and Suzu didn’t offer).

Hamuko and Ibuki start hot, and Hammy brings her daughter outside to the camera in short order for an extreme closeup of her chomping on Ibuki’s arm. Back in Ibuki repays it a bit by stomping her mom during the sexy pose.

Lots of intensity in this one. Suzu looks right at home in with IR’s top wrestlers and I really like the dynamic of having two people who’ve recently added harder edges to their personas feuding.

Ibuki’s also constantly upping her game and looked great. She had some incredible near fall exchanges with Suzu down the stretch before the latter pulled out the win with the Gran Maestro de Tequila.

Strong finish to a strong show. Afterwards, birthday cakes are brought out for Chiharu and Kurumi.

Ice Ribbon achieved something special here, as it really felt like a normal dojo show in atmosphere, and an extremely good one at that (the card was more along the lines of one of their larger venue shows).

The technical issues were only really a big deal during one match, and that’s not bad at all with a reduced staff and people helping with things they don’t normally do (and as I mentioned above the second camera’s footage will be available to them to clean things up for the DVD).

Great effort, energy, and execution were there up and down the card, and everyone involved should be proud of putting on a show like this under tough circumstances.

Edit 4/21/20: Turns out these shows are only available for free on YouTube for a short period, so I removed the original link from the review. But the enhanced, multi-camera version through the first match is now there and the remainder is available with a subscription to their Nico Nico Channel.

Thank You Liger: Farewell to a Childhood Hero

I became enamored with professional wrestling as a kid, and while great many of my tastes have changed there have been some eternal constants. Wrestlers, styles, etc that transcend time in a sense.

When I was young I had only watched American wrestling, in the form of (then) WWF and WCW. Bret Hart, the Midnight Express, Mr. Perfect, and other wrestlers who combined athleticism and in-ring storytelling were among my favorites. I’d seen a little bit of the Great Muta in his WCW appearances, but that was largely it as far as non-North American talent went.

Then Superbrawl II started off with Jushin Thunder Liger vs Flyin’ Brian Pillman in a match (rightfully) still lauded to this day as perhaps the greatest opening match of all time. Liger was like nothing else I’d ever seen. Combining precision flying and hard strikes with uncanny psychology, and of course an incredible, striking presence, Jushin Thunder Liger was a superhero come to life (literally, as his persona was based off of an anime character). The match, and Liger, obviously left quite an impression on me and remains one of my all time favorites.

From there I would occasionally hunt down bits of his matches in Japan, and while I never quite saw as much as I wanted the sampling was invariably impressive. He was always captivating, and I have distinct memories of rewatching certain moves and sequences over and over in awe.

Flash way forward to 2015 and NXT Takeover Brooklyn would end up being my first time seeing Liger live, somewhat surreally in a WWE ring no less. His style had understandably changed over the years, but it still felt like a Liger match, and a very good one at that. Tyler Breeze was a great choice for his opponent and it was a treat to be there.

The following year at ROH/NJPW War of the Worlds 2016 I actually got to meet the legend, and then I was lucky enough to be able to attend Wrestle Kingdom 11 on 1/4/17 finally see him wrestle in Japan (albeit in limited fashion as part of a battle royal). As it happens it would end up being the only time I saw him wrestle live in Japan and the final time overall.

Throughout my changing tastes and focus on different parts of wrestling, I’ve remained a huge fan of Liger and am extremely happy he was able to keep wrestling for as long as he did, and for the times I was lucky enough to see him live.

Earlier this month Liger finished up his 35 year career. With Wrestle Kingdom 14 becoming a two-night event Liger’s farewell was unusually spread over three days, with his last two matches at the two WK shows on 1/4 and 1/5/20 and his retirement ceremony being held at a separate event than his final match at New Year’s Dash on 1/6/20.

I sadly was unable to attend the 1/5 show as planned due to illness, but watching online still conveyed the weight and emotion of the occasion. Liger wrestled with and against several of his compatriots on 1/4 in the star studded Jushin Thunder Liger, Tatsumi Fujinami, Tiger Mask, & Great Sasuke vs Shinjiro Otani, Tatsuhito Takaiwa, Naoki Sano, & Ryusuke Taguchi, then put over the next generation in a tag match on 1/5 teaming with Naoki Sano against Hiromu Takahashi & Ryu Lee. While many hoped he had on last singles match in him, these carefully chosen tag matches were a great, fitting way to say goodbye.

It’s almost as weird to see Liger go as it was to have him in wrestling at the level he was for so long. All that’s really left to say is thank you to the legend for everything, particularly the memories.