Japan Wrestling


This is something I honestly never expected to write about. But for a variety of reasons a look back is in order.

Regardless of what anyone already knows or feels, I’d ask those who’ve stumbled upon this to please read to the end.

Yoshiko is a professional wrestler currently with a company called SEAdLINNNG. Last year she went viral and became know among non-wrestling fans due to her cooking videos on Tik Tok. The juxtaposition of this tough wrestler with rough language and mannerisms excitedly making cute, delicate sweets made her a sensation.

But for people even passingly familiar with joshi pro-wrestling, Yoshiko is primarily known as the culprit in a match turned real at the expense of a fellow competitor.

On February 22, 2015 Yoshiko was set to defend the top title of World Wonder Ring Stardom against Act Yasukawa. Instead of the professional wrestling match everyone expected, things immediately devolved into chaos as Yoshiko decimated Act with very real punches leaving her face bruised and bloody in a matter of seconds (pictured above on the cover of ShuPro coverage of the incident).

The competitors were separated to their respective corners so Act could be checked on, then the match went on in start and stop fashion for almost eight minutes. All of it was a continuation of Yoshiko brutalizing Act, until Kyoko Kimura had enough and took it upon herself to throw in a towel in from Act’s corner while restraining Act from getting back into the ring yet again.

I was not yet actively watching joshi promotions then, but was familiar with some joshi wrestlers via a US company called Shimmer. I only knew of Stardom by name and didn’t know of the two wrestlers involved so had no preconceived notions or attachments, but everyone watching any kind of women’s wrestling at the time heard about this. I subsequently watched it, which was viscerally difficult and disturbing. In Japan it’s become referred to as “The Ghastly Match” and its infamy endures with mentions and discussions repeatedly reemerging to this day.

Stardom management’s stubborn inaction when the match clearly should have been stopped immediately after the first separation is now often glossed over in retellings. But whether motivated by kayfabe, business interests, or something else entirely, they completely failed in their duties to protect their wrestlers by letting things go on so long when it was apparent the real fight was continuing. This is not to take any responsibility off of Yoshiko for what happened, but I feel it worth mentioning that the scope of it could have and should have been mitigated. They did try to address things after the fact, taking temporary pay cuts and instituting some new rules in the wake of it all.

The match was retroactively declared a no contest, and Yoshiko was stripped of her title and suspended indefinitely from Stardom. Act suffered multiple fractures and would require surgery, leading her to vacate her own title she already held going into the match.

Nanae Takahashi, one of Stardom’s founders, left the company to go “freelance” a few months after the incident amid rumors that she disagreed with Yoshiko being punished. She announced the creation of her own company just a month after that, and SEAdLINNNG would have its first show in August of 2015.

Defenders of Yoshiko were quick to point out that Act threw the first punch as an indication that it was an agreed upon shoot / not instigated by Yoshiko. However they were having a wrestling match and Act’s punch could very well have been a working punch. Also given the extent to which Yoshiko’s beating of Act continued, the “who swung first” idea is largely irrelevant. There were of course also many rumors about the general situation between the two wrestlers beforehand and speculation about what led to the incident.

I by no means claim to know every detail, or even most. It is not my purpose here to speculate on what’s unknowable or investigate rumors but rather to consider how what is apparent should be approached, particularly now.

Act returned to Stardom at the end of September, but a combination of the injuries sustained and her having Graves’ disease led to complications that prompted her to retire in December at Stardom Climax 2015 (which happened to be one of the first shows I saw during my first ever trip to Japan). It was sad to see her retire but the match(es) was an appropriate way to bid her well and I was glad she got to come back for a little while and leave somewhat on her own terms.

Whatever led to the altercation, what was clear about the situation was that one wrestler brutally assaulted another, repeatedly after separations presumably meant to try to get them back on track to the title match they were supposed to have, leading to the end of her career. I was certainly among those that didn’t think Yoshiko had a place in wrestling, no matter the surrounding circumstances.

And even if she did, it felt like her second chance came too soon.

Around the time of her retirement, Act stated that she forgave Yoshiko and hoped she would return to the ring. For a number of people that was the end of it. Act forgave her, fans would never know the behind the scenes details, and that was that. Others, including myself, didn’t share that opinion.

Act’s forgiveness was of course extremely important to consider, an a wonderful sign that she was able to move on, but in isolation I didn’t see it as sufficient with respect to Yoshiko returning. Yoshiko had still assaulted someone and come away with what felt like no real repercussions. The nature of kayfabe and the wrestling business in general meant no charges were filed. Just a couple weeks after Act’s retirement Yoshiko was back in an appearance for SEAdLINNNG, officially joining the company a month later and returning to the ring a month after that. She was out of wrestling for only a year, and returned not to the company that had suspended her while trying to address the incident but instead to one that felt like it had been specifically formed so she’d have someplace to return to. What happened was public (and horrific), and there wasn’t any public indication of Yoshiko having to earn her way back.

So given my personal views on the whole thing it wasn’t until a full year and a half after Yoshiko returned that I saw my first SEAdLINNNNG show in August of 2017. I was in Tokyo for a week primarily to see the rematch series of one of my favorite matches of all time. While I still had no interest in seeing Yoshiko I grudgingly decided I was not going to allow her presence on the card prevent me from attending to see two of my favorite teams in the world wrestle and support them. Besides, she was starting to show up in so many joshi promotions she’d be unavoidable anyway unless I just stopped attending shows in general.

Yoshiko happened to be facing my favorite rookie at the time, Mio Momono. Again I had never seen Yoshiko wrestle before. The match was great. So much so that it was actually my second favorite of the trip despite myself. And I’m specifically mentioning this to point out that it didn’t matter AT ALL to the subject at hand.

Too often athletes, entertainers, etc get passes on things because of their talent. It can easily cloud fans’ judgement. So I want to be clear that the fact that I discovered that night that Yoshiko was an extremely good wrestler did nothing to change my opinion on her actions or her place in wrestling. But there was something about that match and ones that would follow that DID matter in that respect, although I didn’t consciously realize it at the time.

That conscious realization solidified the following spring when I saw her wrestle Asahi from Ice Ribbon in another great encounter of the larger, brutish Yoshiko taking a fiery, determined rookie. Though the number of companies willing to work with her was significant, even more significant was the fact that they weren’t just working with her. Like Marvelous with Mio Ice Ribbon, a company I particularly personally trust to take care of their wrestlers from things I’ve observed over time, trusted her to work safely with their rookies. It really underscored that no one was afraid of anything like what happened with Act ever happening again. More and more companies that had no obligation to use Yoshiko or let their wrestlers face her had absolutely no issue doing so on any level.

Moving forward to present day, the last six months or so have seen a couple of surprisingly relevant, positive events related to the now six year old incident. In late 2020 Act returned to a wrestling ring as a participant in ACTRING, a show that combines theatrical performance and wrestling elements produced by Actwres Girl’z. In March this year both Yoshiko and Nanae returned to Stardom in special appearances for their big 10th anniversary show. Yoshiko, while reigning as SEAdLINNNG’s singles champion, was defeated by Stardom’s ace Mayu Iwatani (in a non-title match).

It is of course fantastic to see Act able to come back in some capacity, and somewhat fitting that shortly thereafter Yoshiko returned to the promotion where it all took place and in some sense faced her comeuppance.

What happened in Act and Yoshiko’s match will be remembered and revisited forever, and rightfully so. It was a horrible occurrence that shouldn’t be forgotten. But the issue with newer fans finding out about what happened primarily via things like What Culture’s article on brutal women’s matches, etc is that context about what’s happened since is usually lost. Again it’s totally appropriate to mention it in those discussions, but it’s a six year old event that doesn’t exist in isolation.

I can understand the perspective of those who think she shouldn’t have been forgiven, and again I was among them, but at this point she has been by all the people involved, by her industry, and of course by Act. I said earlier that I felt Act’s forgiveness was important but insufficient on its own. It’s not on its own anymore. The primary arguments that Yoshiko shouldn’t have been able to return to wrestling were the incident showing she was unsafe and that she didn’t face proper repercussions. There’s now five years of experience contrary to the former, and with every conceivable benchmark that one could have wanted before she returned now reached the timing of her return and other aspects of the latter becomes moot. Act’s back in wrestling. Yoshiko returned to the company who suspended her. Yoshiko’s trusted to work safely with companies’ most vulnerable employees. I don’t know what else could possibly be asked for at this point.

I don’t begrudge anyone who doesn’t feel comfortable watching Yoshiko given the incident happened at all, and the point of this is not to try to dissuade them. I’d just ask them to keep in mind when talking to people who have moved on that there are many valid reasons for having done so.

It’s not 2015 anymore. Talking about this like the incident just happened and Yoshiko is a currently a dangerous, untrustworthy monster is doing both her and the joshi wrestling scene in general a huge disservice.

To me Yoshiko has proven worthy of the second chance given to her, and like Act I wish her well with her continued career in wrestling.

Art Comics Japan Manga Video Games Wrestling

Beautiful Dreams 4: More Art of Juri the Dreamer

It’s been almost two years (wow 2020 threw off my sense of time) since my last spotlight on the work of my favorite artist, and I’d like to share and talk about more of her incredible work and some of the inspirations behind the pieces. See Beautiful DreamsBeautiful Dreams 2, and Beautiful Dream 3 for more about Juri H. Chinchilla’s art, including past pieces I’ll be mentioning in this write up.

Juri’s Personal Sketch Cards (PSCs) have been a great opportunity to request particular subjects and design elements. One of the more unique requests I’ve made was a card featuring one of my favorite professional wrestlers, and I adored it so much that I’ve followed up with several more since. Juri’s done an AMAZING job depicting these previously unfamiliar to her subjects and these are in many ways the pride of my entire art collection. See Another Wonderful Way Pro-Wrestling is Art 3 for more about the above works featuring Jenny Rose & Sareee and retired Ice Ribbon wrestler Tequila Saya.

Gatoh Move is one of my favorite wrestling companies, and it’s so wonderful to see the roster represented in absolutely stunning form on the above six card PSC puzzle by Juri. The top row of cards feature Sayaka Obihiro & Mitsuru Konno, Emi Sakura & Riho, and Chie Koishikawa & Tokiko Kirihara. The bottom row has Yuna Mizumori & Mei Suruga, Sayuri & Sayaka, and Lulu Pencil & Rin Rin.

The timing on these cards ended up being suitable in many ways. They were completed shortly after Sakura’s 25th Anniversary in wrestling and shortly before a personal favorite of mine, and the wrestler I’ve requested Juri draw the most, Mitsuru Konno retired.

Riho is Gatoh Move’s former ace, and shortly after she left to go freelance the company the core roster doubled in size with the debut of six rookies (Chie, Tokiko, Sayuri, Sayaka, Lulu, & Rin Rin). I love the encapsulation of the company’s past, present, and future around that time on this batch of cards and Juri knocked this out of the park. As usual I only specified the subjects and an occasional small detail like particular gear. The layout, poses, and incredible way these all fit together into a larger scene is all Juri and I couldn’t possibly be happier with how it all came together.  

One of the first PSCs I got from Juri was an incredible depiction of the Darkstalkers “sisters” Morrigan and Lilith, two of my favorite fighting game characters to play. In the last Beautiful Dreams feature I showed a larger, equally amazingly done drawing of the former. Later on Juri revisited and completed a wonderful Lilith companion piece I am very happy to add to my collection.

Juri’s range in styles and subjects is highlighted in striking renditions of video game, comic, and movie characters such as Nakoruru from Samurai Showdown, X-men’s Psylocke & Emma Frost, and DC’s Enchantress.

I discovered Perna Studios‘ high quality card sets through Juri’s art, and her work for them continues to be incredibly perfect for the subject matter. Her hauntingly beautiful black and white ghost from the Hallow-Ink set and fantastically playful Alice in Wonderland Artist Proof (AP) from Classic Fairy Tales 2.

Iconic Creations (which I hope to write about in more detail soon) has been releasing incredible card sets based around literature and legends. Juri’s sketch cards for the sets have been wonderfully evocative of the subject matter, particularly the stunning Snow Queen and swordswoman APs I got from the Christmas Literature and Way of the Sword sets.

Iconic’s sets feature a variety of way to showcase the stunning art they include, including special cards like wood sketch cards and other inventive variants. The prize centerpieces of their sets are the oversized wooden “box toppers.” I was lucky enough to have an opportunity to get Juri’s box topper AP from the Christmas set, and pull her box topper sketch card from Treasure Hunters. Both my requested Ghosts of Christmas AP and Juri’s mermaid are absolutely breathtaking.

I mentioned another favorite company of mine, Ice Ribbon, above in relation to Tequila Saya. Their ace is featured on one of the newest PSCs I’ve gotten from Juri. It’s part of a duo of cards I’ve had planned for a while. During my first trip to Japan I saw a match between two phenomenal teams that remains one of my favorites of all time, and Juri’s renditions of the two pairs are simply incredible.

SEAdLINNNG’s Arisa Nakajima & Ice Ribbon’s Tsukasa Fujimoto, known as Best Friends, are two top tier singles competitors who are even more fearsome as a team. I adore Juri’s illustration of the pair with Ice Ribbon’s International Tag Ribbon Championship Belt.

The Jumonji Sisters, consisting of the since retired Sendai Sachiko & her sister Dash Chisako, were the epitome of poetry in motion. It was a privilege to get to see them in action live a couple of times before Sachiko retired, and the casual confidence and closeness Juri captured in their card is absolutely perfect.

Dash still wrestles for Sendai Girls and is simply incredible. She was previously featured in a solo PSC by Juri mid flight of her jaw dropping Hormone Splash (top rope frog splash).

Tokyo Joshi Pro is an incredibly fun promotion filled with a wide variety of characters and styles. I’m a huge fan of Hikari Noa, and Juri captured both her idol and wrestler aspects showing off the wonderfully cute side of the deathmatch loving Up Up Girl.

Yuka Sakazaki is arguably the best high flyer in all of wrestling, and always a joy to watch. I love the sense of motion Juri achieved in her beautifully detailed depiction of TJPW’s Magical Girl.

The last card I’ll talk about here card is special, as well as sad. Hana Kimura was an incredible young wrestler who tragically passed away last year due to suicide amid a myriad of online harassment and other factors. Hana was one of my favorite performers in her home promotion and had striking charisma. She was always fun to watch in the ring and always seemed to go out of her way to be friendly to fans and make sure everyone was having a good time

Juri wonderfully captured Hana in a gorgeous card that is a great remembrance to someone dearly missed.

Rest in Peace Hana.

More information about Juri’s art can be found on her artist page. I hope to continue to follow and collect her wonderous creations for a long time to come. ūüôā

Japan Wrestling


I barely know where to begin here. Part of me doesn’t want to write this. And part of me has to.

A short while ago it was confirmed that Hana Kimura has passed away.

Hana wrestled for Stardom and was the daughter of retired wrestler Kyoko Kimura. She had been wrestling for four years and was one of my personal favorites in the promotion. She always made an impression, and seemed to have all the potential in the world. The last time I saw Hana was at Stardom’s American Dream 2019 show in NYC. I commented about how over she was, how far she had come as a performer since I’d seen her in her rookie year, and how impressive her character work in particular was. Her charisma was striking and she always seemed to go out of her way to be friendly to fans and make sure everyone was having a good time.

Earlier in the day Hana posted some worrying tweets indicating self harm. She had been the target of extreme cyberbullying, in part in relation to her appearances on the show Terrace House. Her tweets were shortly removed (possibly by Twitter, who has a reporting function for self-harm tweets to try to extend help) and numerous fans and others who knew Hana tried to reach out to those who could contact her as well as tweeting messages of love and support.

Further details about her passing have not been official released at the request of her family and I won’t speculate further, but felt it important to mention the circumstances briefly.

Her loss is beyond tragic, particularly so young. Underneath the rising wrestling superstar and reality tv personality was a 22 year old woman having a harder time than anyone knew. Please think of the person on the other side of the computer screen, and never wish or encourage harm on anyone. Words cannot express my anger and total lack of comprehension towards those who would wish such things on another. There are also important issues to look at in entertainment industries and the presentation of and support systems available to performers.

On the other side of things, if anyone is ever in trouble and things seem hopeless, please know that you are not alone and there is hope, and please reach out for whatever help and support you need.

I feel a terrible sense of loss and heartache for Hana and wish things had been different. My thoughts are with her family.

Rest in Peace Hana. You will be greatly missed.


Edit 1/21/21:

Since I wrote this Hana’s mother Kyoko has spoken out about a variety of factors potentially contributing to Hana’s suicide and is pursuing legal remedies for justice in Hana’s name, as well as setting up a non-profit to help prevent such things. Those who wish to help can purchase official Hana t-shirts and/or other merchandise (proxy required for international shipping) to directly support Kyoko.

Japan Reviews Wrestling

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

April 5, 2019 in Brooklyn, NY

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




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

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


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




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

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


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

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

Hana was CRAZY over, but her & Bobbi were also able to get boo’d as needed for the story of the match. Excellent work by both. This was a bit rough in parts, but nicely energetic and chaotic in largely good way leading to a fun encounter overall. Crowd seemed to be waiting for a little more of a spotlight on Konami, but she looked good in what we saw of her. Hana picks up the win, and goes CRAZY and starts throwing things at the ring announcer when the wrong music plays. She was on point and in character every second she was visible (more on that later) and it’s really cool seeing how far she’s come as a performer since I last saw her in her rookie year.




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

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




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

Excellent, and even more impressive once discovered that Utami chose to work through a broken thumb here. This completely lived up to expectations, while leaving room for the inevitable rematch to take things a step further. It’s also a nice illustration of Stardom following through on giving NYC an authentic, worthy show, as this was a big, important first time singles title match for them between their current reigning tag team champions. The hype around Utami seems justified, and it’s nice to see Momo excelling as (one of) Stardom’s ace(s). It took a lot, but Momo eventually prevailed with a clean pin over her rookie partner and retained her title. Just the start of the story though I’m sure. This was the match I was most hyped for, and it delivered big time.




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

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

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




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

STARS called the rest of the roster back to sign off with in a one time show of unity to represent Stardom and thank the fans. Hana alone remained lurking on the stage off to the side where she watched the main event from, dismissively staring at her various former compatriots. Nice touch.





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

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




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

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

Japan Wrestling

The NXT Step for a Pirate

The signing of Stardom’s Kairi Hojo in early 2017 by the WWE created immediate buzz and excitement. It was wonderful to see that feeling build in anticipation as the Mae Young Classic and her debut as Kairi Sane approached.


Kairi is a masterful ring technician, measuring everything she does carefully and exerting expert body control for maximum visual impact. Her trademark diving elbow from the tope rope looks as beautiful as it does devastating. Her excellent selling draws the audience in and invests them emotionally in her matches, yet she always believably feels like a threat to her opponent no matter how much punishment she’s taken or how much bigger her opponent is. She brings something special and unique to WWE, and the hype surrounding her debut as it approached showed they realized it.




My own perspective on Kairi’s pre-WWE career was bit different from when I wrote about Kana (NXT Step for a Legend) and Johnny Gargano (NXT Step for an Icon) heading to NXT, as I’d only seen her live on two occasions (though she essentially wrestled twice on each show). Even¬†from that small sample it was easy to see the command she has of her craft.


My first time seeing Kairi live was under unique circumstances, as she was involved in Act Yasukawa’s retirement match at Climax 2015.




Act’s retirement match and ceremony had an incredible atmosphere around it, and the entire spectacle was awesome to be at live. Kairi teamed with Act & Haruka Kato vs. Holidead, Kris Wolf & Kyoko Kimura in a match that went on for about 10 minutes, with back and forth action that saw Act and her teammates, particularly Kairi, more and more at odds. Both Act and Kairi did a phenomenal job at portraying two people who thought they had reconciled but were just never meant to get along. Things eventually exploded and the two fought into the crowd with everyone else along for the ride, resulting in a double countout.




Then the ‚Äúreal‚ÄĚ match began, as Act rejoined her former Oedo Tai stablemates leading to¬†Act Yasukawa & Kyoko Kimura vs¬†Haruka Kato & Kairi Hojo. This was a fitting send off, with Act and her teammates clearly enjoying themselves against long time rivals. Kairi was clearly genuinely emotional as she helped bid farewell to her fellow wrestler’s career.




The following year I was back for Climax 2016 and saw Kairi in a pair of equally impressive matches at opposite ends of the spectrum. In a special contest model¬†Nana Suzuki¬†made her debut in a singles match against Hojo, one of Stardom’s aces.¬†Nana actually played her role as an overmatched but determined underdog well and the match was quite good, due in no small part to Kairi playing her own role of dominant veteran absolutely perfectly. She knew exactly how to rightly control most of the offense and avoid reducing her own standing yet still make her rookie opponent look strong. That takes an incredible amount of skill and a deft touch, and the two told a great story here.



Later that night Kairi told a completely different story as she and partner Yoko Bito looked to regain their Goddesses of Stardom Titles from Oedo Tai (Kyoko Kimura & Kagetsu). This time Kairi was in some sense the underdog, as there was a lot of interference from the Oedo Tai entourage outside the ring. The stacked odds and again excellent awareness of the story being told combined to generate quite the conquering hero reception for Hojo & Bito when they finally overcame it all and took their belts back. It was a treat not only seeing Kairi perform twice, but in such different (but complimentary and consistent) circumstances.




Fast forward back to a few months ago and Kairi entered a WWE ring for the first time as part of the Mae Young Classic. It was certainly no surprise when she provided several of the best matches of the whole thing, including a show-stealing first round encounter with Tessa Blanchard, great bouts with Bianca Belair, Dakota Kai, and Toni Storm, and a fitting finale to the whole thing against Shayna Baszler. Seeing her joy at becoming the well deserved first ever MYC winner was wonderful. Since then she has become an integral part of NXT’s women’s division, and is likely to feud with Shayna Baszler and eventually progress to a one on one challenge to champion Ember Moon.


Incredible art print depicting (and signed by) Kairi by Rob Schamberger.


Kairi Sane is the epitome of the cliche “a joy to watch,” and I wish her all the best as this exciting new phase of her career continues.

Japan Reviews Wrestling

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 РMarvelous 12/25/16



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) РIce Ribbon 12/31/16

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 РNJPW 1/4/17



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 РStardom 12/23/16



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 РNJPW 1/4/17



… so here it is. In what I‚Äôm 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‚Äôs rock star. Definitive win for Naito too, which was 100% the right call.




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 Reviews Wrestling

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 РWave 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‚Äôs a favorite of mine) and thus give me one opportunity to see her wrestle. This was a fitting and fun ‚Äútribute‚ÄĚ 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 РIce Ribbon 12/31/16



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


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) РGatoh Move 12/24/16


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.




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 Kyuri vs Maika Ozaki vs Mio Momono vs 235 vs Tequila Saya vs Uno Matsuya РIce Ribbon 12/31/16



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 ūüėČ ), 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 Kyuri 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  РGatoh Move 12/31/16


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.




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.

Japan Reviews Wrestling

Stardom 12/22/16 Live Thoughts

December 22, 2016 in Tokyo, Japan

I¬†was¬†lucky¬†enough to also be at Stardom’s big year end show in 2015, which was quite unique as it featured Act Yasukawa’s¬†retirement. I was curious to see how this year’s would be different being perhaps a more “typical” year end show for them.

The show started just a couple hours after my arrival in Japan, so while I made decent time from the airport I still unfortunately missed the first two matches of Azumi vs Arisu Nanase vs Ruaka and Konami vs Hiromi Mimura.

So the first match I saw was a three way tag between Oedo Tai (Kris Wolf & Hana Kimura), Jungle Kyouna & Natsuko Tora, and Kaori Yoneyama & Saori Anou. One member of each team (Hana, Tora, and Saori) was new to me.

There was some comedy early on as the teams taunted each other, then things progressed into back and forth between the three teams and some multiple person spots. Wolf is so charismatic the crowd popped for her surprise win despite her heel status.They kept it short and energetic here, leading to a decent, if unremarkable, triple tag.

The NWA Western States Tag Team Titles¬†were on the line next as Twisted Sisterz (Thunder Rosa and Holidead) (c)¬†defended against¬†Queens Quest (HZK and Momo Watanabe).¬†With Queen’s Quest being a new big heel faction associated with Io, I was honestly was hoping for more from them. All four wrestlers were clearly giving good effort and there were some bright spots, but the chemistry between the teams as opponents just generally seemed poor and there was a lot of awkwardness and things not connecting / coming across quite right. I feel like these teams are capable of more. The heel vs heel dynamic also kept the crowd rather tepid, and QQ’s¬†puzzling loss seems to cut off the relatively new¬†team’s momentum.

A pair of dark matches featuring models/actresses against career professional wrestlers were next.

In her debut match¬†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 quite well and the match was 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.

Stardom’s reigning¬†champion Io Shirai¬†teamed with the other visitor,¬†Mariko Seyama,to face Hiroyo Matsumoto &¬†Jungle Kyouna. To be honest, Mariko did not come across nearly as good as Nana did, seeming awkward in the ring. The vets held it together well enough, but it wasn’t nearly as good as the previous match. Also, dark match or not, it was¬†odd seeing Io try to play face here and her normal heel character later. The result was the crowd just cheered her in both matches, which perhaps took a little away from the story she was telling with Mayu.

In the semi-main Oedo Tai (Kyoko Kimura & Kagetsu) defended their Goddesses of Stardom Titles against former champions Kairi Hojo & Yoko Bito. There was a lot of interference from the Oedo Tai entourage outside the ring, which generated quite the conquering hero reception for Hojo & Bito when they finally overcame it all and took their belts back. Really good match.

In the main event of last year’s Climax Io Shirai claimed the World¬†of Stardom title from ¬†Meiko Satomura in one of the top five matches I saw my entire 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 excellent main event.

I was slightly surprised at the outcome, as once Queen’s Quest lost earlier in the evening I figured we’d get Mayu victorious here to culminate her redemption / revenge story before the heels regrouped and established dominance at a later date. Of course, cocky Io seeming unbeatable is also a compelling¬†story hook.


This was an interesting show for Stardom. There were some issues with storytelling, blurry face-heel dynamics, and occasional missed spots and clunky ringwork. Yet there was also some excellent action and overall things came together and I found the show fun and entertaining despite those weaknesses, which is what really matters. Top two matches in particular are well worth seeking out.

Japan Reviews Wrestling

Japan Trip 2015: Top 5 Matches (Live)

I was lucky enough to spend two and a half weeks in Tokyo to close out 2015 / start 2016, during which I saw 17 shows from 8 promotions with 84 matches featuring 144 wrestlers. The vast majority of it was extremely good, so it was VERY difficult to cull down to 5 or so matches. There are a lot of worthy wrestlers and matches that won’t be mentioned here.

Match reviews copied from my show specific blogs when possible.

Honorable mentions:

Paksa and Riho vs Emi Sakura and Masa Takanashi

This was¬†another great main event in a series of them from Gatoh Move. What helped set this one apart is that it was at their Ichigaya location. I’m incredibly impressed with what they can accomplish wrestling-wise in such a small space with no ring. This held its own with some of the best matches I saw my entire trip.


Miyako Matsumoto and Risa Sera vs Tsukasa Fujimoto and Maya Yuhiki


This match was scheduled to be Miyako Matsumoto and Tsukasa Fujimoto vs Azure Revolution (Risa Sera and Maya Yukihi). I was looking forward to seeing two of my favorites team against an established duo, but it wasn’t to be (and I have no complaints about how things turned out). As the match started Miyako got the mic and apparently had some complaints about teaming with Tsukka. She grabbed Risa and rebooked the match herself through force of will and it became Miyako Matsumoto and Risa Sera vs Tsukasa Fujimoto and Maya Yukihi. Classic Miyako and it led to a ton of amusing moments. Tsukasa’s face when Miyako offered her the traditional pre-match handshake after ditching her was priceless. Tsukka’s incredible in every aspect of pro-wrestling and it was a treat to see her so many times during my trip.

There was an ongoing stipulation where the ring announcer would state a letter, and pinfalls could only be attempted after a move starting with it. One of the highlights of it was Tsukasa and Maya pulling out Miyako’s own Mama Mia on her, then an irate Miyako retaliating with Super Mama Mia once the letter changed. Miyako was easily one of the most entertaining parts of my trip, as she knows exactly how to work her gimmick for maximum effect and amusement. Her running laps around the ring in excitement as a victory celebration (with Tsukasa trying to trip her on each pass until successful) was magnificent.


Top 5:


5. Stardom Title: Meiko Satomura (c) vs Io Shirai

This was fantastic, with highlights that included Io performing an INSANE moonsault off of a staircase overhang, and of course the end which saw Stardom’s biggest star capturing their main title from an outsider.


4. REINA World Women’s Title Match between Tsukasa Fujimoto (c) and Maki Narumiya

This was originally advertised as the main event of its show, and honestly should have been. Even the ring announcer seemed to be going off old notes, as it was announced as the main instead of the semi-final. Tsukasa Fujimoto is incredible, and easily one of my favorite wrestlers in the world. She can do comedy, but is at her best when going all out in no-nonsense competitive wrestling.


Thankfully that‚Äôs what we got here, as she and Maki went to war for the REINA¬†title (after some early mind game attempts by the challenger). This was my first (and likely¬†only) time seeing Narumiya, who definitely impressed. She kept up with Fujimoto brilliantly and¬†it’s a shame she’ll be retiring soon.


3. Arisa Nakajima vs Kayoko Haruyama

Simply phenomenal. They beat the high holy hell out of each other, with forearm shots that thundered through the crowd. Haruyama’s guillotine leg drop from the top rope with Arisa standing on the second is one of the most brutal looking moves I’ve seen, and I was totally marking out for every German suplex variation they threw at each other. Was extremely lucky to have seen a few of Haruyama’s last matches, and Arisa was everything I’d heard and more.



1 (tie). JWP Tag Title Match: Jumonji Sisters (c) (Dash Chisako and Sendai Sachiko) vs Best Friends (Tsukasa Fujimoto and Arisa Nakajima)

This was perhaps the most anticipated match of my trip, and it did not disappoint.

I’d only seen the Jumonjis and Arisa once before, but that was enough to know how good they are and what they’re capable of. As I’ve mentioned incessantly, Tsukasa Fujimoto is one of the most consistently incredible wrestlers on the planet. Put the four of them together and you get magic.


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. Would have easily been alone on top as my favorite match of the trip, if not for Best Friends tearing it up in another title match on a later show.


1 (tie). Ice Ribbon Tag Title Match: Best Friends (c) (Tsukasa Fujimoto and Arisa Nakajima) vs Avid Rival (Misaki Ohata and Ryo Mizunami)

In addition to my adoration of Best Friends I am likewise a huge fan of Misaki Ohata, so was VERY excited for this tag title match at Ribbonmania.  It was as excellent as expected, and is neck and neck with Best Friends vs Jumonji Sisters as my favorite match of my trip.




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 the best of the best.

Japan Reviews Wrestling

Stardom 12/23/15 and Wave Young OH! 12/25/15 Live Thoughts

December 23 and 25, 2015 in Tokyo, Japan

I’ve been lucky to see a huge variety of different promotions so far during my trip. Here’s two more with shows that were both unique in their own way


Stardom’s year end show was good, although with over half of it devoted to Act’s retirement I’m not sure I have any idea of what their shows are normally like. It opened with a fair amount of ceremony and a big dance number. Once the show proper got underway the three undercard matches were all 5-10 minutes long and it certainly felt like they were moving things along quickly to get to the last two matches.

Azumi vs Starlight Kid was a nice spotlight for two very young wrestlers who both clearly have potential. Azumi’s mannerisms and character in particular shined. Kaori Yoneyama and Mayu Iwatani vs¬†Alex Lee and Datura¬†was good, but the outcome never seemed in any doubt which took a bit away from the short encounter.

Hyper Destroyers (Evie, Hiroyo Matsumoto and Kellie Skater) (c) vs¬†Hiromi Mimura, Jungle Kyouna and Momo Watanabe for the Destroyers’ Artist of Stardom¬†titles was a mix of action and comedy, with the Destroyers’ various confetti shooting implements teased and used throughout. Was quite entertaining, but it was also clear the combined talent in that match could have done a lot more given proper time.

Act’s retirement match and ceremony had an incredible atmosphere around it, and the entire spectacle was awesome to be at live.¬†Act Yasukawa, Haruka Kato and Kairi Hojo vs. Holidead, Kris Wolf and Kyoko Kimura went for about 10 minutes, with back and forth action that saw Act and her teammates more and more at odds. Things exploded and Act and Hojo fought into the crowd with everyone else along for the ride, resulting in a double countout.

The the “real” match began, as Act rejoined her former Oedo Tai stablemates leading to¬†Act Yasukawa and Kyoko Kimura vs¬†Haruka Kato and Kairi Hojo. This was a fitting send off, with Act and her teammates clearly enjoying themselves against long time rivals. The traditional spot of the entire roster (and then some) splashing the retiree in the corner was amusing to see.

After the match was a ceremony where numerous people came in and presented with gifts / congratulations. At the end was a ten bell salute, a ton of streamers, and a lap of Act being carried around the ring. It was extremely interesting to experience a Japanese retirement match live for the first time. Best wishes to Act in the future.

After intermission was the main event, a huge World¬†of Stardom title match that saw¬†Io Shirai challenging Meiko Satomura (c). This was fantastic, with highlights that included¬†Io perform an INSANE moonsault off of a staircase overhang, and of course the end which saw Stardom’s biggest star capturing their main title from an outsider.


On Christmas Day I was back at the Ice Ribbon Dojo, but for a Wave Young OH! show featuring newer talent. Veteran Yumi Ohka was at the show working the ticket table, but the actual matches were (almost) entirely young wrestlers.

The first 3 matches were about what I would have expected – rookie talent getting a chance to work each other and gain more experience in matches that weren’t great but weren’t bad either. I could definitely tell the difference in performances here compared to when I’ve seen these same wrestlers in the ring with veterans. They have a lot of potential though and matches like these are important chances for them to continue to grow and hone their craft.

Side note: I still don’t know exactly how I feel about the lightsaber vs feather fan duels in¬†Akane Fujita and Natsu Sumire vs¬†Fairy Nipponbashi and Yako Fujigasaki.

The main event was a different story, as the Young OH! Tournament Final of Meiko Tanaka and Sareee vs Kaho Kobayashi and Rina Yamashita was phenomenal. All four looked great, and like they have far more experience than they do.

The night didn’t end there however, as the “almost” I mentioned above showed up in a bonus match seeing¬†Rina Yamashita pulling double duty against the soon to retire¬†Kayoko Haruyama. This was a real treat and was just as good as the announced main. Excellent performance by Rina against the much more experienced Kayoko. Got a variation on the roster run in spot again, and poor Rina’s chest was bright red from all the hard chops she took. Nice surprise addition to the card.



Another fun pair of diverse shows. I’ve been really lucky with both the variety and overall quality of what I’ve seen on this trip. ūüôā