Ice Ribbon 8/27/17 Live Thoughts

August 27, 2017 in Tokyo, Japan

Seeing Ice Ribbon at Korakuen Hall is always a treat, and one match in particular had me even more excited that usual for this event.

 

The International Tag Ribbon championships were in limbo at this point due to co-holder Tsukushi’s hiatus (legal trouble related, exact details withheld since she was a minor in Japan at the time). She’s since returned in a limited, non-wrestling role with a public apology and the titles have been vacated. Her partner Kurumi was scheduled to team with Manami Toyota on this show to face #1 contenders The Lovely Butchers (Hamuko Hoshi & Mochi Miyagi) in a match that was speculated to have title implications, but Kurumi was injured shortly before resulting in shuffling around of the card. Kurumi was at the event working the merchandise tables and in good spirits, and I hope she recovers/returns soon.

 

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Hamuko Hoshi’s new match ended up being against her recently debuted daughter Ibushi Hoshi, and they opened the show.  This was one of many matches on the show that were more about a less experienced competitor putting up a good fight in defeat than having a believable chance of winning. As such I was hoping that Ibushi would be allowed to show a little more against mom, but it was a fine opener all the same. I’d actually really like to see a longer, more competitive rematch in the future. 

 

 

A second match with the same dynamic followed as another new roster member Asahi debuted, playing the role of totally overmatched but determined underdog well against legend Manami Toyota. I thought this worked a little better, with the confident, somewhat dismissive Toyota acting more and more surprised at Asahi’s resiliency and the length she had to go to in order to beat the upstart. Tsukka and others cheering on Asahi excitedly each time she got a little edge on the veteran or survived a pin attempt added a lot to the atmosphere.

 

 

Miyako & Jun Kasai were involved in a triple threat tag, which of course meant plenty of shenanigans. Their opponents were regular team Kyuuri & Maika Ozaki and makeshift team of  Mochi Miyagi and the visiting Yoshiko from SEAdLINNNG. I could do without Yoshiko ever being in Ice Ribbon but, as I discussed a little in my review of SEAdLINNG’s show from a few days before this, I’ve hesitantly decided not to avoid shows she’s on or her matches. Her presence can provide an additional barrier for me to really get involved in a match though. I found it in mild effect here. She does play her role well and the story of her adopting Miyako’s antics to antagonize the latter gave the Dancing Queen plenty to play off of.

 

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The match was amusing, never talking itself too seriously but still providing a good deal of action in between things like water gun and aerosol can fights. One of my favorite things here was Kyuuri slinking off during said silliness and quietly taking a seat in the bleachers among the crowd (right behind me) and contently watching her opponents battle with a self satisfied expression on her face. Of course since this was a tag match she was kind of abandoning her partner, but sacrifices must be made in water gun wars I suppose. 😉

 

 

Eventually Miyako was Miyako and got annoyed with Kasai, unwisely provoking her partner physically and getting leveled by him. This left her easy pickings for Yoshiko and Mochi to finish off for the win. During this Kyuuri and Maika got on the apron and were casually knocked back down to take them out of the equation. I personally really like their team and wish they weren’t treated like cannon fodder for the other teams here (and in general). Regardless of that and my least favorite team of the three winning, this was again decent and fun overall.

 

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It’s great to see Akane Fujita back in full force from injury, and she seems to be carving out a nice niche in hardcore matches. Against the veteran KAROU from Marvelous in one here I expected this to be another “valiant effort in defeat” story, and while in some sense that’s exactly what we got Akane looked Karou’s equal and had the crowd primed for an upset at several moments.

 

 

The ending was a bit weird. Karou misted Akane in the eyes while they were fighting on a ladder then floated around to hit a powerbomb for the win, but Akane sold the mist by acting stunned instead of reacting much (which initially made it hard to tell what had happened). She then rolled right to her knees after being pinning instead of selling the effects of the powerbomb, making the whole sequence feel odd. Otherwise this was a very good hardcore match with strong work from both, including a gorgeous moonsault by Karou from the very top of the ladder and them brawling right through my seat on the outside.

 

 

During my first trip to Japan in 2015 I was lucky enough to see some of my favorite wrestlers battle for Ice Ribbon’s International Tag Ribbon Championships at Ribbonmania in a match that immediately became a favorite of mine and I consider the teams involved two of the very best in the world. Seeing some of the best of three series of rematches (one hosted by each wrestler’s home promotion) between Best Friends (Tsukasa Fujimoto & Arisa Nakajima) and Avid Rival (Misaki Ohata & Ryo Mizunami) was the impetus for this trip.

 

 

This was the last of the series, with Avid Rival up 1-0 (after winning at Wave on August 12 and wrestling to a time limit draw at SEAdLINNG on August 24) and the teams even overall counting the 2015 match.

This match being just prior to intermission and a little early in the card for its magnitude is likely due to Avid Rival needing to make it out to Osaka for a Wave show that evening. Both were out the door and on their way as soon as intermission started.

 

 

The time limit draw at SEAdLINNNG was great, if just a touch below the original match that inspired this series. This one is neck and neck with the original, and a fantastic way to close things out for now. I was actually partially anticipating the “upset” victory and Avid Rival sweeping the series given the way difficulties between Best Friends were being stressed, leading to somewhat of a feud between Tsukka and Arisa. But them coming together on the same page as a team to dig down and prove they could still win was an equally satisfying story.

 

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One great thing I’ve noticed in Avid Rival’s development over time is the way they add and modify actual double team moves in their arsenal (in addition to having awesome versions of the also great rapid fire alternating offense a lot of Joshi teams rely on). It makes them feel more like a cohesive unit and gives a sense of evolution.

 

 

Much like the first time Best Friends beat Avid Rival, they exchanged fantastic hard hitting offense with a lot of close calls until Tsukka and Arisa were finally able to just keep wearing someone down with a succession of their multitude of individual finishers. This time it was Mizunami that finally fell to Tsukka, and Misaki consoled her partner after the loss.

 

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In a nice touch for the way the feud had been built (with the opposing team members all being quite tense and in each others faces about who was better) there were no handshakes afterwards, just smug looks from Best Friends and grudging acceptance from Avid Rival from a distance. Can’t recommend this match (and the whole series) enough. Hope to see the one I haven’t (and the only one Avid Rival won) from Wave soon.

 

 

I was a little late coming back from intermission and unfortunately missed the begining of the big blow off elimination match featuring Team DATE (Nao, Nori, Hanna, & Karen) vs Maruko Nagasaki, Tequila Saya, Uno Matsuya, & Satsuki Totoro. As such Hanna was already eliminated and on the outside (and seemed to be nursing a knee injury of some sort) and I came in just as Uno also left the match. Uno’s actually my favorite on that team and I wish she was featured a bit more in general.

 

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Even coming in partway, what I saw was excellent and this was my second favorite match of the night. Everyone was constantly fighting as appropriate for the intense rivalry that has been the cornerstone of the feud. This was my first look at any of the DATES as well as Totoro and even though the nature of the match meant not everyone got a lot of chance to shine they all looked good and payed their roles well. Nao and Satsuki went next (and in rapid succession), leaving Saya and Maruko against Karen and Nori. Nori and Saya had been mostly paired off throughout the match, and they had some really good exchanges in this section until Karen and Nori were able to isolate and eliminate Saya, leaving Maruko in a 2 on 1.

 

 

The most experienced of Ice Ribbon’s rookie team persevered to eliminate Karen to even things up and eventually get the better of Nori (in a really good final section) to win for her team. This was 100% the right outcome, as the building story had been the DATES’ dominance and this last battle was Maruko and company’s final chance to prove their equals and gain some respect. Great story, great match. Nori impressed me the most here, and I hope to see a lot more of everyone involved going forward.

 

 

After the match Maruko’s team seemed to head to the back without any consideration for their finally defeated rivals, but they came back with Ice Ribbon jackets for Team DATE instead, finally fully accepting them into the roster and leaving things peaceful and in a state of mutual respect between all eight wrestlers after the feud’s end. Again, really well done.

 

 

The main event saw Azure Revolution do battle as Risa Sera (c) defended her ICE Cross Infinity Championship against her partner Maya Yukihi. I’ve commented before that I think these two have better chemistry as opponents than as a team, and it continued here as they had a very good match overall.

 

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But Risa’s defenses always seem oddly paced to me, as if she just doesn’t quite know how to smoothly build matches once they get past a certain length (with the same opponent that is, her multi-opponent ironwoman matches are great). Also, with the story of Maya trying to prove herself by defeating her more decorated, respected partner this needed more urgency. Given the story (not to mention Maya’s new gear) I was surprised at the result, but I also think Maya’s not quite ready for a title run and she’ll certainly have future opportunities so Risa overcoming this challenge and continuing on as champ works just fine.

 

 

A lot of this show was a bit “by the numbers” booking-wise, but there were a couple of surprises and predictable is perfectly fine if done well, which pretty much everything was. Having an underdog (ideally Akane) win one of the “proving ground” story matches would have been so nice since there were several, but that’s a mild criticism. Overall this was excellent, and in addition to the tag match I will continue to gush about forever the whole show is well worth checking out.

 

SEAdLINNNG 8/24/17 Live Thoughts

August 24, 2017 in Tokyo, Japan

 

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

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

 

Alright, on to the show:

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

4) TLC Match: Nanae Takahashi vs The Great Sasuke 

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

Japan Trip 2016: Top 10 Matches Part 2 (Live)

Like last year, I was lucky enough to spend two and a half weeks in Tokyo to close out 2016 / start 2017. Here I’ll be going over my top 5 matches from this year’s trip. See part 1 for some general info and stats about what I saw, honorable mentions for this top 10 list, and matches #6-10.

Match reviews copied/modified from my show specific blogs when possible/appropriate.

I’m pleasantly surprised at how many rookies made this top 10. I did a spotlight on several of them, all of which have bright futures ahead. Check it out here.

 

5. Mio Momono vs Mika Shirahime – Marvelous 12/25/16

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I mentioned this match when talking about Mio’s performance in the 7-way at Ribbonmania (#7 on this list, featured in part 1). It was a perfect storm of excellent chemistry between opponents and both performing at a level far beyond their experience levels. Incredible instincts and craft were shown by both rookies, who built drama expertly through the 15 minute encounter and had the crowd going crazy at the end. There were a couple awkward spots, such as an instance from each where they essentially forgot to roll up their opponent, forcing the other to kind of roll herself up and wait for the other to get in proper position. But otherwise this was smooth and well executed. And even in the places I mentioned the ability of the other wrestler to adapt and keep things on track was impressive.

I was at Mio Momono’s debut in New York, and it’s wonderful to see how much she’s capitalized on the potential she showed even then. Her progression in 10 months was incredible. Can’t wait to see what the future holds for this extremely talented youngster.

 

4. International Ribbon Tag Championship: Avid Rival (Misaki Ohata & Ryo Mizunami) (c) vs The Lovely Butchers (Hamuko Hoshi & Mochi Miyagi) – Ice Ribbon 12/31/16

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Photo by Oliver Saupe.

 

I was a bit trepidatious headed into this match, as I generally don’t care for the Butchers’ gimmick, and signs seemed to be pointing towards them dethroning my current favorite tag team for IR’s tag team titles. Mizunami won Wave’s (her home promotion) singles title the night before, and Misaki was declared her #1 contender. Between the roll the Butchers had been on and the new status quo in Wave, it would have made sense for AR to begin dropping their tag titles here (they held the Wave tag titles too).

But I find Hamuko and Mochi vastly more entertaining when they get serious, which they did here to great benefit. They went toe-to-toe with Misaki and Ryo, leading to an excellent match. A particular highlight was an intense lariat exchange between Hoshi and Mizunami, who both throw them with incredible force.

In a pleasant surprise for me, Avid Rival persevered and retained their International Ribbon titles when Misaki hit her beautiful Sky Blue Suplex (bridging half wrist clutch tiger suplex) on Mochi. Kudos to all four here. Fantastic stuff.

 

3. IWGP Heavyweight Championship: Kazuchika Okada (c) vs Kenny Omega – NJPW 1/4/17

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The so called “Six Star Match” was admittedly fantastic, if not quite what the hype suggests. Okada and Omega built to a tremendous crescendo while telling a solid story of the cocky Omega being assured victory if he could hit the One Winged Angel, with the champion avoiding it at every turn until he simply outlasted the challenger and beat down Omega until he just couldn’t continue. They had a good first half of a match that felt largely unconnected to the phenomenal second half once they really kicked into gear.

Again still excellent overall though (which should be an obvious opinion with it here at #3 of 71 matches I saw), it’s just I personally don’t think it was the best match of all time up to that point, considering I didn’t even think it was the best of that show…

 

2. World of Stardom Championship: Io Shirai (c) vs Mayu – Stardom 12/23/16

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In the main event of last year’s Climax Io Shirai claimed the World of Stardom title from  Meiko Satomura in one of my top five matches from that trip. In this year’s main she defended that same title against her former Thunder Rock partner Mayu Iwatani.

This was a great, pedal-to-the-floor main event with tons of jaw dropping exchanges from two pros extremely familiar with one another. Highlights include Mayu hitting dragon suplexes on the apron and floor (ouch!), trying for one from the top rope only to have Io flip out and LAND ON HER FEET, and a trio of rolling Germans from Io that has to be seen to be believed. Strong back and forth contest and an incredible main event.

 

1. IWGP Intercontinental Championship: Tetsuo Naito (c) vs Hiroshi Tanahashi – NJPW 1/4/17

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… so here it is. In what I’m sure will be a largely disputed opinion I enjoyed the semi-main of Wrestle Kingdom 11 a bit better than the main. Naito and Tanahashi built an amazing back and forth struggle from start to finish. The tension gradually ramped to build to a perfect crescendo. Naito is in such command of his character now and the little touches he brings to his performances are a joy to see. Tanahashi is as always wrestling’s rock star. Definitive win for Naito too, which was 100% the right call.

 

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That does it for this trip. Hope you enjoyed reading about these great matches. Everything I’ve mentioned is well worth seeking out if possible.

Japan Trip 2016: Top 10 Matches Part 1 (Live)

Like last year, I was lucky enough to spend two and a half weeks in Tokyo to close out 2016 / start 2017. During this trip I saw 12 shows from 7 promotions with 71 matches featuring 148 wrestlers.

Slightly less shows and matches than the first trip, but interestingly because of adding in NJPW Wrestle Kingdom (with it’s 11 matches and entirely filled with wrestlers I wouldn’t otherwise see during my Joshi-centric schedule) I actually saw a few more different wrestlers this time.

Here’s a breakdown of matches by company: Gatoh Move: 14 matches, Ice Ribbon: 19 matches, Marvelous: 6 matches, New Japan Pro Wrestling: 11 matches, Pro Wrestling Wave: 8 matches, Tokyo Joshi Pro: 7 matches, and World Wonder Ring Stardom: 6 matches.

Happily, once again the vast majority of what I saw was extremely good. So it was VERY difficult to choose my favorite matches. In fact, things were so close this year I’m doing a Top 10 instead of 5. Even then there are still a lot of worthy wrestlers and matches that won’t be mentioned here, and the order is highly subject to change.

Match reviews copied / modified from my show specific blogs when possible/appropriate.

I’m pleasantly surprised at how many rookies made this list. I did a spotlight on several of them, all of which have bright futures ahead. Check it out here.

This entry will cover honorable mentions and #6-10.

 

Honorable mentions:

Survival Ribbon – Ice Ribbon 1/3/17 

Ice Ribbon’s entire 1/3/17 event gets a mention here, as everything was connected and the appeal was in the whole concept and execution rather than an individual match. Two teams of six were formed, split based on time in IR, with opposite team members randomly paired off in singles matches with the winners advancing to a tag main event. The atmosphere was incredible, with both teams at ringside cheering their side vocally and some fun pairings. Fantastic themed show.

 

Kairi Hojo vs Nana SuzukiStardom 12/22/16

In her debut match model Nana Suzuki got to get in the ring against one of Stardom’s aces, Kairi Hojo, in a singles contest. Nana actually played her role as an overmatched but determined underdog well and the match was quite good. Kairi rightly dominated most of this, but the story was well told and Nana got the crowd behind her comeback spots. Nana seems like she could make the transition and wrestle regularly if she wants to.

 

Misaki Ohata 10th Anniversary Match: Misaki Ohata & Mayumi Ozaki  vs Hiroyo Matsumoto & DASH Chisako – Wave 1/2/29/16

As no Sendai Girls shows fit my schedule, it was a real treat to see Dash chosen to be a part of this match (which I was already excited for as Misaki’s a favorite of mine) and thus give me one opportunity to see her wrestle. This was a fitting and fun “tribute” match.  All four wrestlers were clearly enjoying themselves, particularly Misaki having an absolute blast playing heel alongside Ozaki.

 

Top 10:

10. Ice Cross Infinity Title Tournament Finals: Tsukasa Fujimoto vs Risa Sera – Ice Ribbon 12/31/16

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Technically speaking, I thought this was a great match. It would likely be even higher on the list if not for the atmosphere and lack of crowd heat, as I thought it was pretty much the epitome of the “wrong match for the wrong crowd.” More specifically, it was the wrong match for the story they chose to tell.

It was instead exactly the match they should have had under the original trajectory of Tsukka’s title reign. This match would have been PERFECT as the end of Tsukka plowing through everyone else on a quest to best her own defense record just to run into a determined Risa dead set on proving she could reclaim her title from the woman who dethroned her.

However without Tsukka’s streak still in tact to add drama and uncertainty not one person in arena bought a Tsukka win here. The tournament was sold on the possibility of the unexpected, which made a back and forth contest between determined rivals the wrong framework for the finals. Both competitors should have been conveying desperation here (or better yet someone else should have advanced to face Risa, or the whole tourney been skipped). All that said, the wrestling itself again was great. And this will likely play better on disc.

 

9. Gatoh Move Tag Team Championship: Aoi & Obi (c) v Riho & KotoriGatoh Move 12/24/16

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Aoi is a personal favorite of mine, and this was unfortunately the only chance I had to see her wrestle this trip. Thankfully though it was a main event match in with three other excellent wrestlers, and as such was great.

Both teams were sharp and this was exactly the quick paced, hard hitting main event it should have been. Kotori having a bit of a chip on her shoulder and something to prove was a nice undercurrent, and Riho and Aoi had some fantastic exchanges down the stretch.

 

8. Team REINA (Makoto, Mari Sakamoto, & Hirori) vs Team Gatoh Move (Emi Sakura, Aasa Maika, & Mitsuru Konno) – Gatoh Move 12/24/16

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This 6-woman tag was elimination style, with over-the-top rules in addition to pin/submission. Interesting set up here, with Gatoh Move’s founder and two of her trainees against Reina’s reigning Champion (who was also GM’s IWA Triple Crown Championship) and two of hers. I’d of course seen Emi and Makoto last trip, and also saw Mari when she came to New York with Syuuri last year. Hirori, Aasa, and Mitsuru were all new to me.

The story of the match was phenomenal, with both teams showing real desire to prevail in the inter-promotional contest. The seconds on the outside for each team were visibly engaged and cheering their promotion, which really added to the atmosphere and the sense of something important being at stake here, even if it was just bragging rights.

 

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The action was great too, with everyone looking sharp, things going back and forth nicely, building drama around the eliminations, etc. Makoto’s presence and mannerisms as a cocky heel were several levels better than what I saw of her in a babyface role last year. Aasa got a nice spotlight at the end being the last member of her team left trying to topple Makoto before coming up just short, and her ring style as a pint-sized powerhouse suits her extremely well. I’d like to see more of Mitsuru too in the future, as she looked quite good in the little time she had before being the first elimination.

 

7. 7-Way: Hiroe Nagahama vs Kyuuri vs Maika Ozaki vs Mio Momono vs 235 vs Tequila Saya vs Uno Matsuya – Ice Ribbon 12/31/16

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This was originally scheduled to be a six-woman tag match, but shortly before the event Mio Momono was added to the match and it became a 7-way contest where eliminations could happen by pin, submission, or being thrown over the top rope to the floor. I’d been at Mio’s pro wrestling debut in NYC as well as seeing her in a fantastic opening contest at Marvelous’ Christmas Eve show (more on that later 😉 ), so was quite excited for her Ice Ribbon debut.

It was an extremely fortuitous change, as they really made the most of the format and this was much more interesting than IR’s traditional random 6-man would have been. EVERYONE got a chance to shine at various points, including Ozaki showing off her strength with a double torture rack, innovative multi-person moves and pin attempts, and an incredible sequence where Uno was thrown to the apron and went crazy trying to stay in the match running halfway around the ring on the apron while everyone inside tried to knock her off. The effort from all seven wrestlers was phenomenal, and they really got the crowd fired up for several sequences.

Excellent match overall, and one of my favorites of my trip. In the end Saya got to look strong somewhat surprisingly hanging in until the final two competitors, but the expected (and rightful) wrestler won when Kyuuri pinned her with the Fisherman suplex. Great showings for all involved. Really hope to see Mio continue to wrestle in IR.

 

6. Emi Sakura, Sayaka Obihiro, & Mitsuru Konno vs Riho, Kotori, & Aasa Maika  – Gatoh Move 12/31/17

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This was my favorite Gatoh Move dojo match of the trip. Obviously they all know each other extremely well and have great chemistry together, which led to an thoroughly exciting contest with innovative multi person spots and use of the venue. Riho’s double knees to an opponent seated against the wall looks so vicious.

Towards the end Emi and Kotori tumbled out of the window into my (hastily vacated) seat. Kotori held Emi outside to prevent her from making a save as Riho pinned Misturu. Little things like that are excellent uses of the uniqueness of the environment.

 

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I  was blessed to have such a great opportunity to visit Japan and see so much phenomenal wrestling. I hope you’ve enjoyed my look at some of the best of the best. Will be back with Part 2 featuring my top 5.

Ice Ribbon Vol. 740 & 741 DVD Review

This is another disc where I don’t know much about the results and sought it out based on a few matches of particular interest. Should be interesting.

 

Vol 740: August 6, 2016 in Tokyo, Japan

 

 

1) Miyako Matsumoto & Tequila Saya vs 235 & Maika Ozaki **1/2

Straight to the action this time, with no opening promo shown. Maika’s wrestling in red shorts and a yellow t-shirt that look like workout clothes, which leaves me wondering if she hadn’t established her regular gear this early into her time at Ice Ribbon or just didn’t have it for this show. 

Miyako was amusingly the theme for the whole match, as even when she wasn’t in the ring or on offense more often than not someone was doing something mimicking her. Early on Saya makes 235 do the Mama Mia pose in honor of her partner, but doesn’t know what to do next. Miyako yells instructions (or possible just complaints) at her while 235 gets free and slams her. Later 235 executes the Mama Mia on Miyako herself. Mio’s the ref here, and another amusing moment saw her refusing to help Miyako balance for the Super Mama Mia, leaving the Dancing Queen a sitting duck on the top rope for Maika to grab for a torture rack.

There was an interesting mini-story for Miyako and Saya here, as early in the match the usual theme of Miyako never quite being able to do teamwork right is prevalent, but near the end it’s their opponents who miscommunicate and they actually work well together to take advantage. 

After a shining wizard for 2, Miyako absolutely SPIKES Maika with Angel’s Wings for the win. That’s always been one of my favorite finishers, and Miyako winning is always a pleasant surprise.

There were a couple awkward exchanges, but this was solid overall. The action was kept pretty basic, particularly involving Maika, but everyone fit their roles and strong effort plus Miyako related antics made this fun.

 

 

2) Maruko Nagasaki vs Kaho Kobayashi ***

Should be a good contest here, as both wrestlers show skills beyond their experience (three years for Kaho and one for Maruko). QUICK, crisp exchange of leapfrogs, trips, and rolls to open that already has the crowd oohing and aahing. Kaho takes over with some hard strikes and keeps control for a while, including a sequence of whipping Maruko back and forth between opposite corners and following each time with a running dropkick five times. Kaho makes Maruko claw and scrape to get to the ropes to break a half crab.

Forearm exchange fires Maruko up, and she takes over with three consecutive running dropkicks. Boston Crab of her own transitioned into half crab and now Kaho has to pull all of Maruko’s weight to the ropes. She’s SCREAMING here to sell the pain and it really helps emphasis her struggle.

Ripcord elbow by Kaho for 2. Missile dropkick for 2. fisherman countered into a small package for 2. Kaho headlock takeover and has one of Maruko’s arms trapped with her legs. They’re both working this and making it seem like a legit submission attempt instead of the usual control opponent on the mat type of thing. Maruko strains and just barely gets a foot on the ropes. After some back and forth pinfall reversals, Kaho reverses Maruko’s signature rollup for the win.

They did a lot here with the time given. Both have a lot of natural ability and potentially big careers ahead of them.

 

 

3) Misaki Ohata vs Kyuuri ***1/2

It’s a long time favorite of mine here against my favorite rising star, so this is one of the matches I was most excited about when getting this DVD. Also interesting is the fact that these two were partners in main event of the previous volume.

Misaki dominates an opening mat wrestling exchange, constantly switching to a new hold whenever Kyuuri tries to free herself or reverse. When Kyuuri finally manages to tie Misaki up, the latter pulls her hair for leverage to reverse into a pinning combination for 2. They square up again to applause.

Collar and elbow tie up is immediately turned into a headlock by Misaki. Kyuuri fights out of this one with forearms instead of continuing the counter wrestling, but after she sends Misaki to the ropes she eats a shoulder tackle on the rebound. Misaki hits the ropes again and Kyuuri drops down, but Misaki holds on to stop herself then just stomps on Kyuuri’s back. Kyuuri gets up and Ohata charges with a clothesline. Kyuuri ducks then rebounds off the ropes with a crossbody for her first real offensive move of the match. It only gets 1.

Kyuuri follows with a snapmare then steps over Ohata’s shoulder with one leg and pulls back on both arms. Ohata seems trapped and in pain, which is an important detail. Odd bit follows where Kyuuri puts her foot on the rope for leverage (or possibly to keep her balance) and ref Mio counts, but when Kyuuri removes her foot she’s allowed to keep the hold on. A couple seconds later Misaki gets her foot on the ropes and this time Kyuuri has to completely break.

Back to the center, Misaki’s face down and Kyuuri gets on her back for a camel clutch. Misaki hides her arms beneath her to block it, so Kyuuri slaps her back hard and grabs an arm when Misaki flinches. Repeat for the other arm. Nice bit. Kyuuri signals for the cheek pinch taunt, but Misaki’s having none of it, as she frees herself by sliding backwards through Kyuuri’s legs, tripping her in the process into position so Misaki can apply her own camel clutch and execute the intended taunt on Kyuuri instead.

She smacks Kyuuri upside the head as she breaks, hits a couple strikes as Kyuuri gets up, then hairtosses her across the ring a couple times. Kyuuri’s seated in corner and Misaki stands on her to choke. Scoop slam in the center and Misaki covers for 2 with just one knee across Kyuuri’s chest. Hard curbstomp follows and Misaki sits on Kyuuri’s chest this time in another cocky cover for 2.  Mocking, dismissive kicks to the back of the head as Kyuuri tries to stand. Great arrogant touches being shown by Ohata that suit the story they’re telling. As mentioned she’s one of my favorite wrestlers and yet after these last couple of minutes I want to see Kyuuri kick her ass.

Misaki hits the ropes and charges Kyuuri but runs right into a beautiful judo takedown. Kyuuri capitalizes with a trio of slingblades for 2, and when Misaki kicks out Kyuuri uses the momentum to apply an armbar. I can’t stress enough how much I adore that spot. Misaki rolls through but Kyuuri hangs on and reapplies it, but they’re too close to the ropes and Misaki simply extends her leg to reach them for the quick break.

Fisherman attempt by Kyuuri countered with a knee to the gut followed by a DDT. Kyuuri’s down in the corner, which means it’s time for Misaki’s crossbody. It connects and Misaki goes up and sits on the top turnbuckle. Kyuuri clearly hasn’t scouted Misaki enough, as when the latter taunts Kyuuri she runs straight towards Misaki going for a forearm, which Misaki of course catches and leans back with Kyuuri’s arm for her trademark rope suspended armbar.

Mio reaches 4 on the count and Misaki releases, taking a moment while still upside down to start a clap to fire the crowd up. She then sits back up to a standing position on the middle turnbuckle and hits a missile dropkick. Misaki then goes right for a cross armbreaker. Kyuuri gets her hands clasped and tries to roll Misaki over, so Misaki slams Kyuuri’s arm into the mat instead. Both wrestlers trying to shake their arms out from the damage done so far.

Misaki hits the ropes and goes for the crossbody to the seated Kyuuri. Kyuuri rolls through though, and in a great move doesn’t stop once she’s in cover position but keeps rolling a little more until Misaki’s arm is exposed and applies a key lock. Misaki’s going CRAZY trying to get to the ropes and screaming in pain. She makes it but as soon as Kyuuri breaks she goes for the arm trap submission. Misaki counters with a rollup for 2. As they get up from that Kyuuri grabs a small package for 2.

Kyuuri ducks a clothesline and kicks at Misaki’s arm, then hits the ropes … and Misaki lands the spinning double sledge on the rebounding Kyuuri and the latter falls like a chopped down tree. Misaki covers for a close 2.

Misaki’s looking for the cross armbreaker again, which Kyuuri beautifully counters into a stretch muffler. Ohata’s screaming again and flailing around to try to escape, and ends up forcing Kyuuri down by getting a leg around her head. She uses it to get free, grabs an arm and rolls Kyuuri over and stretches out behind her shoulders.

That position can only mean one thing, and it’s bad news for Kyuuri. Indeed, one arm gets locked up by Misaki’s right leg, the other trapped and over extended by Misaki’s arms, Misaki’s left leg goes around Kyuuri’s head and that’s the Fairy Lock completed which quickly gives Misaki a submission victory.

 

This contest was all about Kyuuri being largely outmatched by the crafty veteran but resilient and still dangerous because of her submission skills. I wish she was portrayed more evenly in matches like this because she has the ability to be credible in that role, but her career is still relatively young so this is how it goes sometimes.

That said, despite me wanting this to be something a bit different the story was a solid one and as expected these two worked it wonderfully. Misaki was dominant early which gave her a reason to be cocky in the middle, but throughout Kyuuri still looked like a credible threat because Misaki completely freaked out every time Kyuuri got her in a submission. That was so important and kudos to both for hitting that point hard a few times during the match.

I’m also a big fan of good counter mat wrestling with cool submissions and they definitely provided that here. Great little match overall. Would love to see something longer between these two in the future.

 

 

4) Risa Sera & Tsukushi vs Maya Yukihi & Ryo Mizunami ***

Intriguing teams with normal partners Azure Revolution (Risa and Maya) on opposite sides, and they start against each other. Tentative counter wrestling to open, which eventually leads to a stalemate spot, but instead of giving room Maya kicks Risa in the face. Big “ooh” from crowd but Risa looks amused. That doesn’t last long though as Maya tags Mizunami and the latter just pounds on Risa for a bit, building up to wiping Risa out with one of her monster shoulder tackles.

On getting up Risa manages to push Ryo into the corner and tag Tsukushi. The little imp tries to hairtoss Mizunami, and when that doesn’t work due to Ryo’s short hair she grabs Mizunami’s EARS instead to throw her across the ring by. I hope Mizunami spears the brat out of her boots. Tsukushi tries to followup with a scoop slam, but the much larger Mizunami just set her weight to block, then picks up Tsukushi, holds her in the air with one arm, fires up the crowd, does a squat, walks around, and finally slams her. Go Ryo! Jumping legdrop gets 2.

Tag to Maya and after a few strikes Mizunami comes back in for a double submission. Once they break that Maya picks Tsukushi up but gets surprised with a scoop slam, Tsukushi runs over to land a shot on Mizunami on the apron for some retribution and then tags out to Risa. Hairtoss by Risa and then she chokes her regular partner in the corner while Tsukushi helps from the apron. That’s just mean.

Azure Revolution fight each other over a scoop slam until Maya finally gets it and tags Mizunami. She knocks Risa off the apron and has Maya hold Risa in the corner for her power up, “kiss the fist” shot, but spends so much time taunting Tsukushi recovers and dropkicks Mizunami as she starts to run. Maya tries to hold both opponents against the ropes for Mizunami, but they get free and Ryo knocks her own partner to the floor instead.

Risa and Tsukushi hit the far ropes and run at Mizunami, then Risa stops just shy of Ryo as Tsukushi hits a dropkick. Seemed like Risa and Ryo were too close together for Risa to do her half of a double dropkick and she decided against trying (or she was expecting to do a different doubleteam and stopped herself when Tsukushi jumped). Looked odd but much better than doing something haphazardly, and Tsukushi connected so it came off ok.

Back to just Tsukushi and Ryo, and the former ties the latter up in the ropes and abuses her for a bit. Ryo’s down in the center and Tsukushi and Risa alternate doing Tsukushi’s “run on opponent’s back” spot, but in a great moment when Tsukushi goes for her second turn Ryo stands up and sends Tsukushi flying. Then she wipes out Risa with a running forearm for good measure.

Tsukushi tries to get the wheelbarrow roll, but the powerhouse just sets herself and holds Tsukushi in midair as the latter flails, then reverses into a gorgeous release German. Trio of rapid fire legdrops gets 2. Ryo calls for the lariat, which is ducked and Tsukushi looks really proud of herself for the hard forearm she lands… until Ryo responds in kind and she tumbles to her knees.

They continue in this vein and I love variations on the standard forearm exchange where like this they really emphasize the individuals involved. Tsukushi is hitting hard but can’t really budge the larger Mizunami, where every shot Mizunami lands knocks Tsukushi over. Tsukushi switches it up with seventeen in a row and a slap to the face, which Mizunami absorbs and levels Tsukushi again. ANOTHER fourteen and a slap from Tsukushi as Ryo just yells back at her in between. But she has worn down the monster a bit and Ryo’s up against the ropes for support.

Tsukushi’s whip attempt is reversed and when she rebounds off the far ropes Mizunami tilt-a-whirls her… up into a torture rack?! I’ve never seen that transition before, and it’s really sweet. Tsukushi reverses into a wheelbarrow and gets the roll into the doublestomp this time. Missile dropkick to follow and she gets 2, then tags Risa.

Mizunami fights off Ayers Rock, lands a few forearms, turns towards the ropes… then turns back around and hits Risa a few more times. Ryo covered well but I bet someone was out of position. After the extra strikes Ryo does go to bounce off the ropes she looked at earlier and wouldn’t you know it Tsukushi’s back up in her corner now and nails Mizunami with a kick to the back from the apron, then grabs her head and drops her across the ropes to set up a 619 from Risa. Risa’s suspended Boston Crab follows, then the double knee drop to the back for 2.

Mizunami whipped to the corner. Running hip check drops her down for the running double knees and another 2 count. As Risa picks Mizunami up the latter spins Risa up onto her shoulders but Risa drops behind into a waistlock. Elbows from Mizunami to break. Risa blocks a forearm and hits one of her own, then a running one, but Mizunami responds with a flurry of them ending with the fist kiss shot. Hard clothesline against the ropes. Risa catches her with a dropkick when she tries to follow up, but then charges into a powerslam for 2. Mizunami tags out and Maya hits a knee and a standing kick to Risa’s chest for 2.

Forearm exchange leads to Maya hitting several as Risa dares her for more, then when Maya hits the ropes Risa drop toeholds her into a pinning combination, then slickly goes right into an octopus hold when Maya kicks out.

Mizunami blasts by Tsukushi and attacks Risa to break it up. Risa takes exception and knocks Ryo off the apron as she exits, then hits the ropes but runs right into a leg lariat for 2. Maya kick blocked, Risa picks her up, swings her around to be across Risa’s back, and drops her down in a side slam for 2. Tag to Tsukushi. Corner dropkick, hits the ropes and runs into a tilt a whirl backbreaker by Maya. Sharpshooter, but Risa fights past Mizunami just enough to kick Maya in the head to break.

Another forearm exchange, rather lopsided this time as Tsukushi’s still laying them in so hard the audience gasps which makes Maya’s look a little weak in comparison. Tsukushi hits a stunner that send Maya backwards into the ropes. Risa double knees followed by Tsukushi dropkick to the seated Maya.

Risa up to the second turnbuckle. Tsukushi climbs the top behind her. Now up on Risa’s shoulders … double stomp from there to Maya. Mizunami saves at 2. Tsukushi hits the ropes and Ryo pushes Maya out of the way and levels Tsukushi with a lariat. Kick to the face from Maya for 2. Maya hits the chokslam but Risa saves at 2. Maya lifts Tsukushi up into lawn dart position but she wiggles free down Maya’s back, rolls through, and gets La Magistral cradle for a close 2. Maya rolls Tsukushi up, but Risa kicks out from where Ryo’s holding her to break it at 2.

Tsukushi overhand backslide position, jumps up into a sunset flip and floats over for a pin, but Maya immediately counters back the other way for 2. During this kickout Risa kicks at Maya and doesn’t quite connect so she kicks again, but by this time they’re already in a different position so Risa accidentally kicks her partner in the back and breaks up her own team’s pin. Tsukushi and Maya roll through that into another pin attempt for Maya for 2.

Risa and Ryo are completely wrapped up with each other in the corner. Maya hits the ropes and runs into a basement dropkick by Tsukushi. Tsukushi then stands behind Maya’s head and rolls her forward for a pin. She doesn’t get a hold of Maya’s legs and can’t reach them once they’re on the mat, so Maya essentially has to pull her own legs up into Tsukushi’s hands to be held down for the 3 count.

This was a good match that had some awkwardness but also some really great sequences. They generally covered pretty well for the imperfections and thus nothing was too jarring. All four had moments to shine, although the best sections featured Mizunami vs Tsukushi.

 

Roundtable features the usual promos and hype, plus Tsukushi being a brat to Avid Rival. She gives Misaki a hug but makes faces while she does, then offers one to Mizunami but slaps her in the face instead when she goes to accept.

 

Vol 741: August 13, 2016 in Tokyo, Japan

 

 

1) Hamuko Hoshi & Maika Ozaki vs Mochi Miyagi & Tequila Saya **3/4

Like last volume this opens with Maika (again in t-shirt and shorts) and Saya on opposite sides of a tag team contest. The difference here (beyond just different partners) is their respective partners are themselves a regular tag team.

Early story was Hammy and Maika dominating Saya with their size and power, with spots of the latter countering with speed. Saya’s developing great instincts for playing the underdog babyface, and it suits her ring style and charisma too as she’s really able to fire the crowd up.

They had some fun with the Lovely Butchers’ trademark posing as Maika applied a camel clutch on Saya while Hammy poses in front of her to taunt, then it was reversed and repeated with Saya holding Maika and Mochi posing. Later on the one segment where the Butchers faced off against each other was pretty much all them doing their signature moves to each other.

Mochi really had her working boots on here so to speak. Everything she did looked impactful and crisp, particularly during an extended working over of Maika that included Alex Shelley’s thrusting pushup facebuster and a trio of HARD Earthquake splashes.

The finish came with the Butchers fighting outside. After fighting out of the torture rack and getting a rollup for 2, Saya blocks a clothesline and looks like she’s going to duck under and use Maika’s arm for leverage for her trademark side rollup. But Maika goes down a touch early and takes Saya tumbling with her. Both roll through and right back up like it was exactly what they planned, and Saya grabs a tight inside cradle variation for the win. Nice save there by the (relative) rookies.

Again Maika largely stuck to the basics and looked fine. These outings almost felt like tryouts for her. Looking it up she had about 5 matches in Ice Ribbon prior to these. I’ve seen matches from her later in the year where she’s powering people around more and looking like a monster, so it’s interesting to go back a bit and see her development. Decent match overall, with Mochi and Saya standing out the most.

 

 

2) Tsukushi vs Kyuuri ***3/4

Counter wrestling to start with the veteran largely getting the better of Kyuuri, similar to her match with Misaki last volume. The difference here is even the small Kyuuri makes Tsukushi look tiny, so the visuals and general dynamic are different.

They do some nice back and forth with their signatures spots. First Tsukushi does her running on her downed opponent’s back sequence, but on the third attempt Kyuuri trips her and returns the favor. Then Kyuuri goes for a camel clutch and her pinching cheeks taunting, but like Misaki did Tsukushi backs out, trips Kyuuri, applies her own camel clutch and does it to Kyuuri instead. Then she transitions into her own standard taunt of pulling back on her opponent’s nose. Tsukushi then ties her up in the ropes but as she claps to get the crowd fired up Kyuuri breaks free, ties up Tsukushi instead, and finally gets the taunt. Kyuuri hits the far ropes and dropkicks the tied up Tsukushi.

The match continues in the same vein to great effect. At one point Tsukushi goes for her dropkick with Kyuuri sitting against ropes, but Kyuuri moves and Tsukushi lands across bottom rope half outside of the ring. Tsukushi does a similar crossbody to seated opponent as Misaki, and when she went for that Kyuuri countered same way she did Misaki by rolling through into a keylock.

In contrast Kyuuri connected with most of her signature moves when attempted. The judo throw, triple slingblades, the armtrap submission, etc. When she did the rolling Fishermans Tsukushi tried to counter the third into a rollup, but Kyuuri rolled right back the other way and powered her over to complete it.

So faced with an opponent that was largely countering Tsukushi’s moves and landing her own, the veteran was forced to get creative with rollups and holds, and wait for the right moments to try her trademarks again. In one great bit she backslides Kyuuri into position for a triangle choke that the latter spends a long time in before making the ropes. They also have a wonderfully fierce forearm exchange at one point. Both throw them with the force of someone several times their size.

Towards the end Kyuuri flashes her own deadly submission skills, with Tsukushi appropriately screaming when Kyuuri cranked on her arm.

Tsukushi eventually takes control by drop toeholding Kyuuri into the ropes and manages to NAIL the seated dropkick she missed earlier. Kyuuri looks done and Tsukushi goes up and hits a top rope double stomp, but Kyuuri barely kicks out to stay alive to a big ovation. Tsukushi goes for reverse triangle to put the upstart away, but the time limit expires and we have a draw.

 

This is exactly the competitive showing I wanted Kyuuri to get. It had a great story, and the time limit draw was a pleasant surprise as I expected a Tsukushi victory. Excellent ten minute match. Like with Kyuuri and Misaki, I’d love to see a longer rematch sometime.

 

 

3) Kurumi Hiiragi & Maya Yukihi vs Risa Sera & Maruko Nagasaki **1/2

Another match with Azure Revolution opposite each other. Risa’s team won last time, let’s see if Maruko’s as successful a partner for her as Tsukushi was. I’m guessing not, as of these four Maruko’s the most likely to take the pin.

Back and forth criss cross, arm drags, etc between Maya and Maruko to open, but Maruko quickly becomes face in peril after that. Kurumi and Maya have nice chemistry as team, and the sections of them in control were quite good.

There was an odd spot where Maruko tries to call Risa in to help once she has control on Kurumi, and Risa just moves down the ring apron and looks at Maruko instead (as if she thought Maruko just wanted her to stand in a different corner). I don’t get the joke there. I guess it seemed like a “Risa doesn’t understand what’s going on” joke (which is quite silly for someone of her experience). Maruko ends up attacking Kurumi without Risa and shoots the latter a look of disbelief as she tags out. Then Risa comes in, gets leveled by a couple shoulder tackles, and looks shocked and uncertain what to do next each time. Whatever character beat Risa’s trying to play in this match I’m not digging it. On the plus side, her more serious stuff was cool, including later getting the hanging Boson Crab on Kurumi in an admittedly cool show of strength.

Generally every time someone started to get better of Kurumi, she used her own strength to take back over. She’s really portrayed as a force of nature, and it suits her.

Azure Revolution had a nice sequence in middle against each other featuring good back and forth countering, etc. The more I see them in make-shift tag matches like these the more I think I like them as opponents much more than as partners. They have better chemistry when wrestling against each other than they do as a team.

Maruko did a good job getting the crowd behind her both with resilience in the face of Kurumi’s assaults and moves like a perfectly timed surprise rollup nearfall when getting beat on by Maya and a swank slingshot elbow from the apron.

Kurumi eventually wore Maruko down with summersault sentons and hit a top rope splash to for the win (although Maruko clearly got a shoulder up before 3, which was hidden from ref’s view by Kurumi’s body).

Fine match, despite a couple missteps. I left this wanting to see more of Maya and Kurumi as a team.

 

 

4) ICE Cross Infinity Championship Match: Tsukasa Fujimoto (c) vs Uno Matsuya ****1/4

Tsukka was starting a fighting champion type angle, and this was her 2nd defense. Potentially a big opportunity to shine for the rookie Uno, who normally wouldn’t get a title match this soon into her career.

Uno’s quite fired up to start, to Tsukka’s amusement. They trade arm wringers and counters, then hammerlocks, then Tsukka moves to strikes to take over. Once she has the advantage, she keeps control for a while with a variety of holds. At one point she draws a chorus of boos for raking Uno’s shoulder with her fingernails. The rest of the Ice Ribbon roster is LOUD at ringside encouraging Uno, which gets the crowd involved too. Tsukka kicks at the ropes in irritation of the other wrestlers cheers for her opponent.

Tsukka gets more boos for something off camera (the shot was on Uno recovering in the corner) involving her and the ref. I was NOT expecting an almost heel Tsukka here, and the dynamic’s interesting. Now a choke in the corner, and the brilliance of the work done so far (and of Uno’s selling) materializes, as that spot is in every match I’ve seen in Ice Ribbon featuring a veteran against a rookie it’s generally treated as just part of the match, but here it gets more loud boos.

Uno tries to put on the brakes when whipped to the ropes, so Tsukka nonchalantly dropkicks her against the ropes instead of off the rebound. Uno tied up for the dropkick to the back, which gets 2. Uno counters a whip with a shoulder tackle off the rebound, then hits two more for 2. Uno tries a scoop slam but Tsukka sets herself to block then slams Uno instead for 2.

Tsukka locks in a crossface, which Uno eventually reverses into pin for 2 (the ref was a bit slow to notice it was a cover and start counting here). Tsukka kicks at Uno then hits the ropes, but Uno counters with a spear for 2 then applies a Boston Crab. Amusing bit follows as Tsukka motions for the crowd to cheer her efforts to get to the ropes and is met with silence. She then bangs the mat to start a clap and the crowd goes along with it, but chants for Uno. They’ve obviously done a superb job getting the audience into the story of the match.

Scoop slam for 2. Uno tries to pick Tsukka up over her shoulder but Tsukka fights it off and hits a dropkick in the corner, then the seated version. Scoop slam follows for 2, then Tsukka applies another crossface. Uno’s in for a long time and claws for the ropes, so Tsukka tries to convert into the stranglehold. In a great counter, Uno rolls over and over on the mat between Tsukka’s legs to prevent Tsukka from grabbing her, and as the champ frantically tries to figure out what to do Uno stops spinning and converts into a sunset flip for a close 2. Crowd’s going nuts. Fantastic sequence.

Tsukka kicks Uno and goes up for a missile dropkick, which is swatted away and Uno gets a schoolgirl rollup for 2. As Tsukka gets up after kicking out Uno gets another for another 2. A third for 2. A fourth for 2. A fifth for 2.999. Each was closer and closer to a finish, and the structure of this match is superb. Tsukka with a double chop to Uno’s back to stop her momentum.

Perhaps the most gentle snap mare I’ve ever seen sets up Uno seated on the mat for HARD kicks to the back. The rebound one to the chest gets 2. Tsukka signals for the end, but as she jumps to the top rope Uno’s already on her feet and intercepts. She tries to schoolgirl Tsukka from the top. Tsukka hangs on, so Uno supports herself sideways on the middle rope to put all her weight into it, eventually breaking Tsukka’s grip and completing the rollup off the turnbuckles for 2. But as Tsukka kicks out, Uno holds on and rolls her over again for another 2.999. Tsukka comes up with a great scared, “what on Earth is happening here” look on her face, and the crowd is SOLIDLY behind the underdog Uno’s effort.

Uno’s got Tsukka over her shoulder, and connects with the faceplant this time for 2. Uno hits the ropes, Tsukka on her back and pushes Uno back with her legs and spins around for her trademark rollup, but off the rebound Uno rolls forward onto Tsukka for a cover and another incredibly close 2. Uno whips Tsukka into the ropes and gets caught in a wheelbarrow rollup off Tsukka’s rebound. Instead of rolling through for the kick Tsukka cinches down for a tight cover using both her arms and legs to trap Uno’s legs over her shoulders … and gets the 3. Tsukka comes up looking extremely relieved, then cheerfully reclaims her belt.

 

This was a masterclass in storytelling. Tsukka, Uno, and the wrestlers outside did EVERYTHING they could to get the crowd behind the outmatched challenger. The dynamic of Tsukka working almost heel with literally the entire roster cheering against her was a refreshing way to add layers to what could have been a squash otherwise. Then the match structure of having a resilient Uno get closer and closer nearfalls as the match went on built wonderfully until the champ, who never should have been in any danger, felt vulnerable.

As I talked about in my spotlight on exceptional Joshi rookies, Uno has great natural ability to engage the crowd and was already showing flashes of that talent here, a mere couple of months and under 15 matches into her career. Most of her offense wasn’t anything more complicated than slams and rollups, and yet this was a fantastic match with a lot of drama. I’ve said many times I think Tsukka’s one of the best and most versatile wrestlers in the world, and performances like this only serve to strengthen that opinion.

 

Couldn’t understand much from the roundtable but Maruko was really emotionally choked up about something, and Risa and Kurumi had a bit of a face off.

 

Overall

I really enjoyed this DVD. Each show had about 40 minutes of wrestling, but as I often find myself saying about Ice Ribbon’s dojo shows the quality of action and pace are such that the shows never feel short. There was good variety with several visiting wrestlers on vol 40, the mix and match tag team encounters all had points of interest, and the four singles matches were a nicely diverse bunch and all varying levels of very good to excellent. Cap it all off with a sleeper hit of a title match and this disc is an easy recommendation.

Ice Ribbon Vol. 739 DVD Review

 

Vol 739: July 30, 2016 in Tokyo, Japan

This is a theme show produced by Tsukasa Fujimoto and Mochi Miyagi celebrating their birthdays, which ties into some of the stipulations of the various matches. Tsukka and Mochi introduce the show and chat a bit to open.

 

 

1) Team Tsukka (Uno Matsuya, Maika Ozaki, & Risa Sera) vs Team Mochi (Maruko Nagasaki & Kurumi Hiiragi) **1/2

The participants are wearing various gear of Tsukka and Mochi respectively. Uno’s in Tsukka’s white gear, Maika the red and blue, and Risa the gold. Maruko’s in Mochi’s purple and black outfit and Kurumi in her orange one.  Participants must use a move of the person they’re dressed as for a pin or submission attempt count.

This match was interestingly pretty much split into three major phases. Early on Maruko and Maika “struggled” with the concept and went for invalid covers to get the idea over. In the middle Maruko and Risa were more in tune with the match, trying to mimic moves of their respective inspirations, but with little effect. Towards the end Kurumi and Uno went all out and were successfully channelling their inspirations. Interspersed throughout were other pairings and spots playing up the cosplay, like Maruko doing Mochi’s signature taunts and (ridiculously) trying the stomach smother spot in the corner and Risa getting booed for doing her double knees to corner spot when it seemed she was setting up Tsukka’s dropkick spot.

Other highlights included Team Tsukka playing janken to determine which two of them would attack their tied up opponents in Tsukka’s dropkick to the back spot, Risa being “unable” to do the Venus Shoot and getting “stuck” on the top turnbuckle, Risa’s rather ridiculous “Tsukkadora” attempt, etc.

Kurumi makes a really good Mochi, and picked up the victory for her outnumbered team after a Styles Clash and frog splash on Uno. Fine, lighthearted opener. I’ve seen IR do this concept better, but this was still amusing.

 

 

2) Loser of the fall reveals their age: Miyako Matsumoto vs Tequila Saya vs Maya Yukihi ***

Safe money’s on the rookie falling victim to this stip, although Miyako’s always a target in triple threats. Speaking of Miyako being a target, they start off with an amusing sequence of the three trading forearms except Saya only hits Miyako and whenever Maya’s forearms Saya she clearly and purposefully pulls back and “strikes” with the impact of a feather. After a little of that they drop the pretense altogether and just attack Miyako as a team. Amusingly Miyako outsmarts them (?!) and uses them against each other, just to tire herself out doing a giant swing to Saya and collapse to mat and allow them to take back over.

Saya and Maya tie Miyako up in the ropes and give her 40 double chops on Miyako in ropes as ref stands to side (apparently also not a big fan of the Dancing Queen). The crowd seemed a little confused as they blew through the 30’s, perhaps expecting them to stop at someone’s age (which would come into play later).  With that Miyako collapses to floor and Maya and Saya legit attack each other for first time in match.

It continued back and forth in that vein, with Miyako occasionally interjecting to face the ire of both opponents and powdering back out. One great moment saw Miyako lay them out and go up for the Super Mama Mia, only for both of them to simply stand up and continue fighting amongst themselves with Miyako stranded on the top turnbuckle posing.

Eventually Miyako lands the Shining Wizard on Maya to take her out of the equation and gets the better of a rollup exchange with Saya with the Miyacoco Clutch … for the win! YAY!

Honestly this was better than I initially expected, with them making the most of the triple threat format for some really fun spots. The flow could have been a little better, but Saya showed good fire, Maya’s improved a lot and displayed sharp offense here with some nice double pins and holds on both opponents, and Miyako was classic Miyako, so this ended up quite entertaining.

 

Afterwards, as per losing the fall, Saya’s license is shown and she tearfully reveals she is 32 while Maya and Miyako mock her from the corners. Crowd was laughing and clapping, so whatever Saya was saying seemed to have the intended effect.

 

 

3) Hardcore Ribbon: Mochi vs GENTARO *

 

There’s a ladder already in one corner and a stack of chairs in the opposite to start, with the competitors in opposing open corners. Great visual.

They engage in the most hardcore of exchanges, the pose-off, to open. Gentaro eventually tires of it and knees Mochi in the back of the head, then goes right for a chair. That didn’t take long afterall. Mochi takes a boatload of chair shots for a long while, eventually throwing the ladder at Gentaro to take control. She wears her whip out on him on the outside and through the crowd, but he quickly regains control and it’s time for more chair shots. Mochi’s attacked and choked with a spike of some kind, takes over with whip again and then chokes him with a chair of her own. Earthquake splash with chair on the outside and she’s finally getting a bit of sustained offense.

Back in, Vader Splash on chair on Gentaro, but Mochi’s clutching her arm and Gentaro takes over again with the whip. And back to the chair. Actually two, and he hands one to Mochi and they duel. Odd choice. He eventually knocks hers away and hits her in the throat. More chair. Fisherman Buster. He lifts up the half dead Mochi and does another on the chair. One handed cocky cover, and Mochi kicks out at 2.

Gentaro sets up the ladder and goes up, and it’s so rickety Risa comes in to steady it from underneath. Mochi gets up and dumps it so Gentaro lands on the chair. Mochi collapses the ladder and rides it down onto him. Styles Clash teased, but Gentaro backdrops out of it. He gets the chair again but Mochi counters with a running splash that sends it back into his face. She piles chairs on him and climbs the ladder (with Risa and Maruko in to hold it), standing on the very top step and nearly hitting the ceiling. Leg drop onto chairs on Gentaro for 2 (although his shoulders were never actually down).

Styles Clash attempt reversed into a sharpshooter. Gentaro breaks inexplicably, gets a chair, and chokes her with it for the submission. And then the ref and several wrestlers had to pull him off her after the bell as he continued to choke her. Ugh.

Cut to an interview afterward with Gentaro lounging in a chair showing no effects while Mochi sells on the canvas. I didn’t understand what was said, but the audience was laughing and clapping at points. Handshake to end it and Gentaro carries Mochi to the back piggyback style. Given the post match this makes no sense to me (although again I acknowledge I’m obviously missing the context of their promo).

 

I can’t fault the effort, but this was pretty much everything I dislike about both hardcore wrestling and intergender matches (both of which can be incredible when done right). 80% of the match was a larger, stronger male wrestler attacking his female opponent with a weapon, with little in the way of transitions or a story. Again he’s so dismissive of her he hands her a weapon at one point, and still kicks her ass. I know the idea is “look how tough Mochi is for lasting this long before being beat,” but it wasn’t done well and that story alone wasn’t nearly enough for me here.

 

Risa (still dressed as Tsukka) and Miyako come in for a seated promo segment while the ring ropes are taken down around them for the main event. It’s fairly amusing to watch the two of them bicker/banter even without understanding what they’re saying.

 

 

Main Event) No rope match: Misaki Ohata & Kyuuri vs Tsukasa Fujimoto & Tsuksuhi ****1/4

The only no rope matches I’ve seen previously are hardcore grudge matches from Dragongate USA. This one seems to be set up in the spirit of competition, which makes it quite interesting. Three of my favorite wrestlers are involved with it (plus another extremely talented one) so my expectations are high. This match is what I got this DVD to see.

Misaki and Tsukushi start (with their partners crouched near the posts in opposite corners) with some mind games, then a few strikes. They jockey back and forth trying to whip each other towards the ropeless edges of the ring then transition into counter holds and come up with a stalemate. Nice, fast sequence to open.

Wholesale changes. Collar and elbow lockup, then Kyuuri and Tsukka take turns rolling out of arm wringers, then back to standing counter wrestling. Kyuuri whips Tsukka towards an edge and Tsukka stops just in time (making baseball’s “safe” sign as the audience chants the word with her). Now the reverse with Kyuuri being whipped to opposite side of ring and coming up just “safe” herself, and they go back to the counter wrestling and an eventual stalemate. Loving what they’re all doing here already.

Knucklelock tie up this time and they fight over a test of strength. Tsukka wins and forces Kyuuri into a bridge then tries to use her body weight to break it. Kyuuri shows great neck strength and maintains the bridge, so Tsukka gets off her and just kicks her instead. Figure 4 by Tsukka. Kyuuri rolls over immediately, Tsukka returns the favor, repeat for each and they’re right near the edge of the ring with the crowd ooh-ing in anticipation of them falling to the floor. Tsukka uses Kurumi (crouched outside as a second) to brace herself, and just before Kyuuri falls Misaki comes over to push her back towards the center (which also saves Tsukka, as their legs are still tangled). Nice tease.

Kyuuri applies a figure 4 this time and Tsukka immediately scoots backwards towards an edge trying to pull herself over to break in a nicely different counter from what they just did. Misaki stops her just shy though and applies a figure 4 style headscissors on Tsukka and leans over the edge herself, with Tsukka now being stretched between Misaki’s headscissors and Kyuuri’s figure 4. The ref counts and Kyuuri hilariously releases first, sending Tsukka and Misaki tumbling to the floor.

Tsukka’s dragged back “in” and Kyuuri tags Misaki. Hair toss into the corner and Misaki presses a seated Tsukka against the post. Looks really painful without the turnbuckles there, as Tsukka’s back is being pushed into the eyelets. Back to the center and Misaki slams Tsukka’s head into the mat as the crowd counts, slowing down with each slam until she stops around 20, acts tired, and calls for Kyuuri to bring her a drink of water. After receiving said drink, she continues reenergized and completes a full 33 head slams in honor of Tsukka’s 33rd birthday. Yes, that rest break in the middle was an (good natured) age joke.

Misaki tags out to recover from that exhausting experience, and Kyuuri puts Tsukka in a camel clutch to do funny / mocking poses (pinching Tsukka’s cheeks, pulling back on her nose, etc). They’re having a lot of fun at the birthday girl’s expense.

Tsukka fights off the fisherman buster, then in a great spot runs towards the edge and Tsukushi acts as proxy “ropes” (putting her hands out and pushing Tsukka back towards the center) to give Tsukka momentum to run back at Kyuuri and land a wheelbarrow rollup for 2. Tsukka finally tags out for a breather and Tsukushi comes in with a hard dropkick to Kyuuri, but Misaki comes running in to save her partner. Double team suplex attempt (mostly) converted by Tsukushi into a double neckbreaker, then she scoops slams each opponent in sequence. Misaki rolls out and we get a nice forearm exchange from the legal combatants.

Kyuuri ducks Tsukushi’s last forearm attempt, monkey flips her to the mat, and tries to convert into a cross armbreaker, but Tsukushi reverses into a surfboard. Kyuuri flips out of it and into a cover for 2, which Tsukushi bridges out of then runs for the “ropes.” She realizes just in time there’s no ropes to bounce off of and stops herself, but Kyuuri kicks her from behind and sends her off the edge anyway onto Kurumi (who needs to find a safer spot to crouch 😉 ).

A followup kick puts Tsukushi down on the floor and Kyuuri cartwheels over the edge into a doublestomp.  Nice. Back to the center of the ring Kyuuri gets a judo trip for 2 then tags out to Misaki. Misaki takes Tsukushi down with a dropkick, but as she tries to hit more to a seated Tsukushi the latter keeps rolling out of the way of 3 attempts so Misaki finally abandons that plan and grabs a facelock. Scoop slam attempt off the edge, but Tsukushi floats out to save herself and tries to dropkick Misaki off the edge. Ohata moves though and ties up Tsukushi as she lands in curb stomp position right on edge of ring. She completes the curb stomp and sends Tsukushi face first to the floor. That looked vicious.

Tsukushi stumbles back in and is seated against the ringpost. Misaki’s signals for the crossbody (?!) but Tsukushi moves and Misaki goes flying stomach first into the eyelets/post. Tsukka comes in for a double suplex, then puts her partner into Crossfire powerbomb position then flips Tsukushi up into essentially a spinebuster onto Misaki for 2. Tag to make Tsukka official and she kicks at Misaki’s back, then comes around for the chest kick. It’s ducked, but as Misaki comes back up Tsukushi catches her with the crossbody. Great use of having no ropes in the way of people going in and out there.

Tsukushi and Tsukka double whip Misaki towards corner. She stops herself but turns around into a Tsukushi dropkick that sends her back first into the eyelets. She drops down to her knees and it seems she’ll be double dropkicked against the post but she charges out and catches both with a crossbody instead. Tsukka ends up seated against the far ringpost and Misaki HITS THE CROSSBODY AGAINST THE POST. Ouch! Tsukka turns around to accusingly point at the eyelet as she sells to make sure everyone knows what just happened and appreciates the pain she’s in. Cover by Misaki gets 2.

Misaki whips Tsukka towards the edge and she jumps off it and SCALES THE PILLAR ON THE WALL to save herself. So. Awesome. At the top of the pillar is a fan, so Tsukka hangs out up there for a moment enjoying the breeze in her face. Once she comes down she soaks in a well deserved round of applause (including from her opponent), but then Misaki hits her with a kick to the gut and a stunner as she gets back in the ring.

Misaki then pulls Tsukka to another edge and grabs a waistlock, teasing a German to the floor. Tsukka appropriately sells like her life is in danger and counters with a wheelbarrow roll, which they keep reversing in turn until they almost go off the far edge, then they reverse direction and eventually roll  (sideways) off the original edge they were perched on. Fun sequence there that made the most of the unique match type, teased danger, and ended with something that paid off the sequence but was reasonably safe for the two of them.

They eventually get up and celebrate surviving with a cheer, then shake but Misaki kicks Tsukka and sends her towards the post. Then she dropkicks Tsukka and the latter’s head visibly bounces off the post. Misaki back on the apron, and dives off to the floor (presumably onto a laid out Tsukka, but it was on the far side of the ring from the camera so I didn’t see the landing). She drags Tsukka back in and tags Kyuuri.

Three slingblades in rapid succession get 2, and Kyuuri does her cool conversion where she uses Tsukka’s momentum from the kickout to lock in an arm bar. Tsukka tries to roll out but Kyuuri hangs on and reapplies it. Tsukka claws to the edge for a break.

Tsukka counters the Fisherman, but her enzugiri is ducked and Kyuuri rolls into armbreaker. Tsukka counters that into leglock, then floats into a headlock, which Kyuuri counters into a Rings of Saturn. Great counter wrestling from both. Tsukushi comes in to break the hold. Misaki chases her off and Kyuuri goes for arm trap submission on Tsukka but gets rolled up into position for the kick to the back. Kick to the chest followup gets 2.

Tsukka locks in the stranglehold but Misaki saves. Everyone in now fighting. Tsuksuhi goes up on Tsukka’s shoulders, STANDS, and hits a missile dropkick on Misaki (which was so cool I’ll forgive it taking so long Misaki had to stand there selling being out of it for a bit waiting for it).

Tsukushi tries to return the favor to her partner by bending over to make a platform for Tsukka to get on and attack Kyuuri from, but as soon as Tsukka puts weight on Tsukushi’s back the latter collapses face first and they both go down in a heap. Intentional or not that was amusing and fit in with the match nicely.

Kyuuri takes advantage with the rolling Fishermans on Tsukka as Misaki intercepts Tsukushi and gets 2. Armtrap submission tried again, but Tsukka counters again into a rollup for 2. Kyuuri ducks a Tsukka clothesline and Misaki nails Tsukka with the spinning double sledge. Kyuuri with a butterfly roll, then rolls back the other way for a pin attempt that gets another 2. Tsukushi saves Tsukka by dropkicking Kyuuri right out of the ring. Misaki dropkicks Tsukushi, then Tsukka dropkicks Misaki. Kyuuri climbs back in and Tsukka tries one on her, which Kyuuri swats away.  Kyuuri tries a rollup, which is reversed for 2, but Kyuuri reverses that for 2, but Tsukka reverses again for 2. Love those kind of sequences.

Tsukka hits a seated dropkick as Kyuuri starts to get up for 2, then calls for the end. She climbs the POST (with steadying help from Tsukushi) and hits a missile dropkick for 2 as Misaki saves. A double dropkick from Tsukka and Tsukushi takes Misaki out, and another on Kyuuri gets 2. Tsukka’s looking for the Infinity but Kyuuri fights it off, lands a judo trip, and goes for the arm trap for a third time. Tsukka escapes, slides under Kyuuri’s legs, and stands up. Uh-oh, not a good development for Kyuuri as Tsukka’s got her in electric chair position, and indeed there’s the Ocean Cyclone suplex for 3.

 

Talk about making the most of a stipulation. The psychology, teases, and drama were all excellent and I absolutely loved seeing these four work a technical, competition based match within such a unique format.

 

There’s a fairly extensive roundtable afterwards which ends with birthday cakes and a surprise appearance by Arisa, who comes in, hands her partner flowers without saying a word or breaking a smile, then turns around and marches back out.

 

Overall

So I really didn’t like the Hardcore Ribbon match, but the opener and the triple threat were decent, and the main excellent, so this show still gets an easy recommendation. The main in particular is a wonderful example of what can be done when approaching constraints as a chance to be creative.

Match Review: Jumonji Sisters vs Best Friends 12/27/15 (DVD)

I’ve finally gotten the DVD containing one of the very best matches I’ve ever seen live, and am excited to revisit it and do a review of here. The entire event (JWP Climax 12/27/15) was quite good, but I’d like to focus on just the tag title match for this entry (both as a spotlight and because I intend to due full play-by-play).

 

JWP Tag Title Match: Jumonji Sisters (c) (Dash Chisako and Sendai Sachiko) vs Best Friends (Tsukasa Fujimoto and Arisa Nakajima) ****3/4

 

 

 

This was tied for my favorite match of the eighty-four I saw the first time I went to Japan, so as mentioned I’ve really been looking forward to rewatching it.

Handshakes all around. Arisa and Dash start. Knuckle-lock tie up, Dash kicks out of it and grabs a headlock which Arisa reverses into a waistlock, then a front facelock. Dash tries to twist out but Arisa keep hold of the arm and arm drags Dash down into a headlock on the mat, but the latter gets a headscissors. Arisa kips out and we have a stalemate. Smooth counter wrestling sequence from two pros and we’re off to a great start.

Collar and elbow this time, mutually broken after some jockeying, Dash emphatically swings at Arisa with a clothesline attempt which is ducked, and Tsukka comes in with a kick to Dash to give her team the advantage. I always find it interesting in Joshi tag matches that partners come in regularly for double teams unbothered by the ref but when actual tags happen people generally just switch and head right out to the apron. Almost the opposite of what’s expected over here.

Dash sent to the ropes and caught with a double dropkick, but she flips to counter the following double arm ringer and drags both opponents over, setting up stereo shotgun dropkicks as Sachiko comes in to help out.

Rapid fire offense from the champs on Arisa: Dash whips Arisa into the ropes and drops down, Sachiko kick off the rebound, Dash knee to the face, Sachiko faceplant, Dash basement dropkick. The Jumonis are so quick and fluid with this type of offense it’s an absolute joy to watch.

Dash nails on last kick to Arisa’s face before tagging out. Then Sachiko hits one and sends Arisa into the corner. As fast as Dash left the ring she’s back in for the double team, and is alley-ooped by Sachiko into a beautiful shotgun dropkick in the corner. Tsukka’s knocked off the apron by Dash as Sachiko hits a bridging suplex on Arisa for 2.

 

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An angry Tsukka comes in to kick away at Sachiko, but the latter ducks ducks a clothesline and Tsukka eats a Dash forearm and rolls right back out of the ring. Scoop slam on Arisa by Sachiko and Dash just stands on her for a bit. Awesome way for the confident champs to both taunt and damage the challenger at the same time.  Sachiko gets her own partner in suplex position and slams Dash down on Arisa facebuster style. Dash walks over Arisa again and then Sachiko hits a gorgeous summersault senton off the ropes for 2.

Sachiko up top with a shotgun missile dropkick for 2.  I didn’t remember Arisa taking this much of a beating so early on. Sachiko hits the ropes and Tsukka with a cheapshot kick to the back to give her partner a chance to nail a couple of kicks and tag out, which brings Tsukka in officially for the first time. She goes up to the top turnbuckle and hits her own missile dropkick, knocking Sachiko back into the far corner which allows Tsukka to follow up with her running seated dropkick. Tsukka looks for a suplex, but Dash is in to break it up and the Jumonji’s whip Tsukka into the ropes, but she catches them both with a dropkick on the rebound (nicely landing one foot on each opponent, even if the shot was glancing on Dash).

Trio of hard kicks to a seated Sachiko’s back by Tsukka, then she hits the ropes for one to the chest but Sachiko ducks and rolls her up for 2. Savate kick to Tsukka’s face then Sachiko hoists her up for a suplex, but Tsukka adjusts midair to escape, lands on her feet, returns Sachiko to a seated position with some kicks, then hits the ropes and nails the kick to the chest afterall for 2.

Tsukka back to the top, but Dash delays her from the apron and Sachiko uses the second rope for a sweet handstand headscissors to bring Tsukka back into the ring. Knucklelock Northern Lights suplex with a bridge gets 2.

Tag to Dash, who goes up and hits a missile dropkick sending Tsukka into the far corner. Sachiko whips Dash at Tsukka, but Tsukka ducks Dash’s clothesline, then ducks one by Sachiko, then turns and throws one at Sachiko (which is ducked), and ducks another by Dash. But she turns right into a double dropkick by the champs and is back in the corner. Sachiko goes outside and Dash rebounds off the far corner super quick to hit a shotgun dropkick on the seated Tsukka.  The counters and strikes are coming so fast it’s taking me a paragraph to describe ten seconds of action.

 

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Dash pulls Tsukka up and climbs to the second rope with Tsukka trapped between her and the corner and hits a rope assisted shotgun dropkick to Tsukka’s chest for 2. Back up for a double stomp but Tsukka rolls out of the way and Arisa attacks, but Dash ducks the clothesline attempt and sends Arisa crashing into Tsukka. Sachiko in and the champs each hit a running forearm on their double stacked opponents in the corner.

Arisa whipped to the far corner, but dumps a charging Sachiko to the apron as Tsukka kicks Dash to take over. Tsukka and Dash fight for a suplex as Arisa jumps down to the outside from the top rope, grabbing Sachiko in a DDT on the ring apron on the way down (ouch!!). Tsukka fights off the suplex, ducks a clothesline, hits the ropes, then hits her wheelbarrow rollup into a seated chest kick. Arisa comes in and they hit a double kick on Dash for 2. Arisa up top, now tagged in officially, and a connects with a missile shotgun dropkick.

 

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Dash fights off a waistlock with back elbows, but Arisa knees her into the corner in response to keep the challengers in full control. Whip to the far corner, charging knee strike, Dash drops to seated position and Arisa lays in more knee strikes, then breaks off to knock Sachiko down and Tsukka comes in for a running dropkick to the still seated Dash. Another running knee strike by Arisa follows, then she rolls Dash to the center of the ring and as the latter stands up Arisa and Tsukka go up in adjacent corners for a double missile dropkick. Gets 2.

Full nelson by Arisa (presumably for a dragon suplex). Dash powers out and eats a forearm for her trouble.  She throws a clothesline in response, but Arisa ducks and   finally nails a snap German and then holds on for two more. Dash tries to block the fourth so Arisa just headbutts her in the back of her head and hits a deadlift version with a bridge. Sachiko saves at 2. Arisa signals for the dragon to end it, but in a beautiful bit of teamwork Dash calls for her partner to superkick at her and ducks at the last second so Arisa eats the shot. Dash hits the ropes and lands a diamond cutter, Sachiko with a basement dropkick that sends Arisa into the ropes, Dash with one against the ropes, then drags Arisa out to the center for a 2 count. Again, all the rapid fire double teaming the champs do is just so smooth.

Dash kicks at the downed Arisa but the latter avoids it and gets up, then the two trade yakuza kicks to the face. Unreal. Arisa hits the ropes and runs into Dash basement dropkick to make her faceplant (the crowd felt that one), then another right to Arisa’s face as she tries to get up. Gets 2. Tag to Sachiko. She hits a shotgun dropkick followed by a backdrop suplex, then another of her swank summersault sentons for 2.

Dash in and whips Arisa into Sachiko (who’s seated on the turnbuckles in a corner). She catches Arisa with a boot, tornado DDT, Arisa rolls up after the hit towards the far corner and Dash is waiting with a missile dropkick, which knocks Arisa back into a Sachiko German with a bridge for 2. They knocked Arisa back and forth like a ping pong ball in that sequence, which was incredible.

 

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Dash up top with Sachiko preparing to climb the same corner for their sequential frogsplash finish, but Arisa gets the boots up as Dash comes down (man that looked brutal) and Tsukka attacks Sachiko to hang her up in the ropes. Arisa climbs and nails Sachiko with a double stomp to the midsection to bring her down hard. Arisa up again, and another double stomp to the prone Sachiko gets 2.  Arisa drags her out to the center of the ring. Sachiko tries to fight back but a hard forearm ends that and Arisa hits a release German suplex, then Tsukka joins in for another double kick for 2. Arisa up top again but Dash intercepts, goes all the way up with her and lands a diamond cutter off the top!

 

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Arisa’s in major trouble. As Sachiko hits a beautiful release German of her own, Dash is already in position in the corner and nails an immediate frog splash. Sachiko goes up for hers, also nails it, and Arisa looks dead. 1, 2, and at the very last second Tsukka DIVES from out of sight on the floor outside the ring through the ropes and gets by Dash to save the match. Phenomenal sequence from the champs (and Arisa), and flawless timing for maximum drama from Tsukka on the save.

 

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Sachiko looking for another German. Arisa claws at the ropes and reverses into a waistlock of her own when Sachiko pulls her away, but the champs counter again as this time Dash charges at her own partner and Sachiko ducks in the nick of time for Arisa to eat the kick to the face. The precision of all four competitors is unbelievable. Superkick from Sachiko to follow up but Arisa’s still standing. Sachiko hits the ropes … and runs right into a bridging Cutie Special for 2. Arisa with a series of knee strikes to the face to continue momentum as Tsukka and Dash tie each other up in the corner.

German attempt which Sachiko tries to roll forward to counter. Tsukka hits the sliding kick through Arisa legs to Sachiko’s face to seemingly set up the completion of the German (I so adore that spot), but as Arisa lifts Sachiko back up Dash comes out of nowhere to land a dropkick to Arisa’s back sending her forward and Sachiko rolls her up for 2.999. They were both struggling like mad during that cover and the audience erupted for the kickout as that was totally buyable as the finish.

Sachiko just waylays Arisa with a trio of superkicks to the face as the latter tries to stand, then follows with a German suplex with a bride for 2. Arisa’s suffering a lot at the hands of one of her own signature moves this match. Dash in and the champs go for an assisted Shiranui, but Tsukka dropkicks Sachiko as she tries to boost Dash and Arisa uses the opportunity to hit a release German on Dash that sends her rolling out of the ring. Tsukka with an enzugiri on Sachiko followed by a FLURRY of forearms by Arisa. Sachiko ducks the big one, but Arisa spins around and nails it anyway for a close 2.

Sachiko struggles to her feet and tries to create some distance between her and Arisa, but she stumbles towards the corner and Tsukka’s waiting to scramble up the ropes and hit the Venus Shoot, which knocks Sachiko back into a picture perfect bridging German by Arisa. 1, 2, 3 and new champs.

 

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Just a phenomenal match from start to finish by four masters of the craft. It kept going back and forth in glorious and captivating fashion. In addition to feeling incredibly lucky to have seen this live in general, it was privilege to see Sachiko wrestle before her retirement shortly after this match.

I wrote the following about it live, at I totally feel the same on the rewatch: “They threw everything they could at each other for fifteen action packed minutes, including a variety of innovative and impressive double teams. This was exactly the fantastically worked, logical, and wowing spectacle I wanted, ending in a huge title change to boot.”