Wave 8/30/11 Live Thoughts

August 30, 2017 in Tokyo, Japan

The final show of my week long trip I caught was “Weekday Wave” at Shinjuku Face.

 

 

The opener was a bit of a pleasant surprise for me. I was glad to see a favorite of mine, Aoi Kizuki, added to this show a few days before as I wouldn’t have seen her otherwise. I was even more excited to see her put in the ring opposite my favorite tag team (whose matches with Best Friends were the reason I made this trip) as So on Flower (Aoi & Moeka Haruhi) faced Avid Rival (Misaki Ohata & Ryo Mizunami).

 

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This was a short but great opener with strong structure and story. Moeka and Aoi jumped their decorated and certainly favored opponents during their entrance pose and never let up, going full throttle trying to prove themselves in Avid Rival’s league. Misaki and Ryo fought back of course but couldn’t ever quite get full control of their opponents nor stop the underdogs’ onslaught. Aoi and Moeka essentially overwhelmed AR and Moeka eventually pinned Mizunami for the upset. This was action packed and really well worked to the point it was satisfying despite (and felt longer than) the literal few minutes it actually ran.

 

 

 

Kaori Yoneyama & Cherry were the obvious heels in mannerisms and anctics in their match with Yuki Miyazaki & Nagisa Nozaki, but were too amusing for crowd to boo. This wasn’t bad per se, but there was nothing to it really. As opposed to the opener this felt every bit it’s short length (under three minutes).

 

 

 

The next match was another surprise for me, and another extremely pleasant one. I knew Yumi Ohka would be on the show (and was happy I’d get to see her), but didn’t have any idea Mio Momono would be. What a great pairing. Mio’s the hottest rookie there is right now (as I’ve mentioned many times), and Yumi’s a consummate veteran and the perfect opponent for her.

 

 

I’m noticing Mio working in nice touches of humor into her matches lately too. For example she has one “playing mind games” spot where she goes outside and under the ring, then appears on the opposite side to mock her opponent (who of course was looking for her on the original side). The key is she does it a second time, and “smartly” Yumi decides to ambush the youngster on the far side instead of following. So Mio goes out the side instead and again gets into the ring and mercilessly mocks the vet.

 

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It’s silly but amusing and adds a nice bit of cleverness and attitude to Mio’s act. I’ve seen her do it in two matches so far and it will get old eventually, but I trust she’ll find a way to mix things up and keep it entertaining. Best of all, Mio does this to annoy her opponent into leaving an opening for Mio to attack, making a logical part of the match that enhances rather than derails the action.

 

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They got a decent bit of time here (a little under ten minutes I think) to tell the story of upstart Mio giving Yumi all she could handle until the more experienced wrestler could only just keep leveling Mio with kicks until she stayed down. This was exactly what I hoped for from them and tied with the opener for my favorite of the show. The tension and hostility between the two continued after the match.

 

 

 

Sometimes comedy in wrestling can be overdone, and honestly that’s how I generally feel about both Fairy Nipponbashi’s and her partner Sakura Hirota’s ring styles. Their match here, with Fairy’s magic malfunctioning due to not having her regular wand and Hirota’s usual offense based around striking at her opponents’ backsides, did little to change my mind (though admittedly the rest of the audience seemed entertained).

 

 

What was amusing however was Hirota’s impersonation of her opponent Saki’s usual partner Mizuki, which led to great impatience from Saki’s partner here Rin Kadokura at Saki’s hesitance to attack “Mizuki.” Both Saki and Rin are quite good in the ring, so this did have periods of solid action when they went on offense and things got more serious.

 

 

Afterwards the announcer had a rather lengthy statement to deliver to Fairy and then someone came out afterwards who had Fairy’s wand and tossed her around with her own magic before making his escape. Sure whatever.

 

 

 

This probably goes without saying in a Wave review, but this semi main event features Wave’s Asuka, not the former Kana who’s using the name “Asuka” in WWE. Here she faced Hikaru Shida in a decent contest that served as good way to build up Asuka as a threat. She’ really hitting her stride and kept up with the more experience and polished Shida nicely, and they wrestled to a draw that made both look good.

 

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The main event was and interesting tag title match featuring champions Kaho Kobayashi & Hiroe Nagahama defending against Wave’s singles champion Rina Yamishita and her partner Natsu SumireKaho is another extremely good wrestler that just keeps improving, and it’s wonderful to see her in the spotlight and a champion in several companies. I’m also a big fan of Rina and it’s a joy to see her come out with the Regina di Wave belt. 

 

 

Sumire’s still a bit awkward at times (including not completely tucking her head when taking a Northern Lights suplex and coming within inch of being spiked in a scary moment), but she has has improved and played a fine role in what ended up being a solid match. This was rightfully the longest match of the show and suitable both as a main event and a title contest.

 

 

To close the show there was announcement of the Dual Shock Wave tag team tournament with various teams from the show excitedly volunteering for spots. The tag champions were involved too and the titles were announced as on the line. In addition to established teams, Yumi Ohka wanted to be involved and begged her earlier opponent Mio Momono to team with her.

 

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Mio was initially have none of it, and as far as I could tell she essentially called Yumi washed up and old enough to be her mother (to the howling amusement of everyone else in the ring as Yumi crumpled to the mat in shock at the scathing words). She eventually agreed, but only if she was the “the boss.” Yumi’s exaggerated delight and trying to placate Mio with nods and flattery was amusing. The gist of it all was pretty easy to follow even without understanding Japanese, which is a testament to the wrestlers’ delivery and reactions.

 

 

There was also a promo clearly setting up Asuka as Rina’s next challenger, building off the spotlight match she had with Shida earlier in the night.

 

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Fun show overall, although it did feel like they tried to cram a little too much in. Shorter promo segments and slightly longer undercard matches would have been nice. But they used the format they chose well, with generally engaging angles integrated with the matches. Even the super short early tag matches ended up having important significance in setting the stage for Dual Shock Wave. Add in good effort and a pair of matches I adored and this was a nice way to wrap up my trip.

 

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Photo with Msiaki Ohata while wearing her awesome new Sky Blue Suplex t-shirt.

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.

 

——-

 

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.

 

——-

 

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.

Wave 12/29/16 Live Thoughts

December 29, 2016 in Tokyo, Japan

My only Wave show this trip was thankfully their big one: Thanksgiving Wave 2016. It felt a little more serious overall than the Wave show I saw last year, although there were still comedic antics in the undercard.

 

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Note: My camera broke the night before and I hadn’t replaced it yet, so I unfortunately don’t have any action photos for this show.

 

1) Moeka Haruhi & Hiroe Nagahama vs Yako Fujigasaki & Yuki Miyazaki

I honestly don’t have much to say about this one. Solid but unspectacular, with nothing that particularly jumps out in my memory either in negative terms (botches, etc) or in exceptional ones (a standout performance or compelling hook). Serviceable opener.

2) Ai Shimizu vs Fairy Nipponbashi

Things opened with an amusing idol worship angle, as Fairy was starstruck with Ai and once she had greeted the voice actress she left the ring satisfied and headed towards the back. Ai, wanting her match, talked to the ref and whatever was then conveyed to Fairy (and the crowd) convinced Fairy to come back and start the contest.

I wasn’t familiar with Ai, who won Ice Ribbon’s Triangle Championship since my last trip and would be defending it at Ribbonmania a couple days after this show, so was very curious for my initial look at her. To be honest as far as first impressions go this wasn’t the best. Most of her offense revolved around her strikes, which looked extremely weak and unconvincing.  Her offense looked a lot better in the subsequent matches I saw featuring her on other shows though. She also does a fantastic rope walk spot (in the style of the Undertaker) halfway around the ring that’s a striking signature.

Fairy’s end of the match was all comedy, from “magic” hip tosses to use of a lightsaber. Nothing offensive, nothing I personally found that entertaining. Meh match for me overall, but was kept mercifully short.

 

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3) Elimination Match: Yumi Ohka, Mika Iida, & Hikaru Shida vs Kaho Kobayashi, Rina Yamashita, & Natsu Sumire vs ASUKA, Kaori Yoneyama, & Sawako Shimono

All three trios were nice, complimentary combinations. I was especially glad to have an opportunity to see more of Iida, and she was impressive here. She was also paired with two wrestlers I’m quite familiar with and like a great deal, so I was behind her trio despite them being the defacto heels here. I was surprised then they were the first eliminated, although it made sense given where the match was going.

I saw Kaho & Rina tag last year, so this was nice extension of that. They work well as a unit. Great back and forth interaction between teams both in the first segment and after Ohka, Iida & Shida were eliminated.

 

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After getting the  team’s victory Rina appeared to move on to other issues and challenged her teammate, effective immediately.

 

4) Kaho Kobayashi vs Rina Yamashita  

This was as good as it could be for being so quick (literally a couple of minutes). Kaho fought valiantly but Rina put her away in pretty short order. These two could tear the house down in a “real” match.

Kaho’s other teammate wasn’t to be left out, and challenged the exhausted youngster to yet other match.

 

5) Kaho Kobayashi vs Natsu Sumire

A touch longer than the last, and Kaho pulled out the victory here to the crowd’s delight.

There was a longish segment afterwards with Gami coming in and presenting something to Kaho, which I later got clarification was due to Kaho going on a tour wrestling in Mexico. Should be a great experience for her.

 

6) Ayako Hamada & Gran Hamada vs Kyoko Kimura & Hana Kimura

The generational angle here was of course immediately obvious despite not being privy to the buildup. Beyond the parent / child teams facing off, the dynamic of one “child” member (Ayako) being of similar age to the opposite “parent” (Kyoko) and the resulting age range of participant going from 19 to 66 and experience range from 9 months to just under 45 years made this a unique spectacle.

Everything was all about the intrigue and the people involved much more than the actual action. A suitable and notable occurrence that was a privilege to be at no doubt and I certainly understand the limitations on Gran Hamada at 66 and appreciate him still performing for us, but I found they didn’t quite create the drama needed to overcome the slow pace of the match, possibly due to going a bit too long.

 

7) Misaki Ohata 10th Anniversary Match: Misaki Ohata & Mayumi Ozaki  vs Hiroyo Matsumoto & DASH Chisako

As no Sendai Girls shows fit my trip, 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.

 

Main Event) Regina Di Wave Title Match: Yuu Yamagata (c) vs Ryo Mizunami 

I’ve seen Mizunami a fair bit both as part of Avid Rival (her team with Misaki Ohata that held both the Wave and Ice Ribbon tag team championships at the time of this show) and her trips to the Shimmer promotion in the US. She’s a powerhouse with great charisma in the way she performs and carries herself in general. They built to the right outcome here, with Mizunami toppling Yamagata to claim Wave’s top prize.

The match itself was decent and allowed Mizunami to properly shine at points, but I find Yamagata’s ring style slow and not compelling when she’s on offense. So her playing dominant champion in contrast to Mizunami’s perseverance wasn’t a story that played to her strengths and I felt it could have been better given the talent levels involved.

 

To close the show Ohata was announced as the winner of Wave’s annual “Zan-1” tournament / belt and became the #1 contender to her own tag title partner’s just won Regina Di Wave singles championship.

 

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Fun photo op with me wearing a Misaki t-shirt and Misaki wearing her newly won Zan-1 title belt.

 

As with last year, a lot of the appeal of this show was seeing numerous wrestlers I didn’t get to see elsewhere. The quality was up and down, but there was a point to everything and the angles were interesting even when not executed perfectly.  I also particularly enjoyed the trios tag and subsequent angle with Kaho, Misaki’s match, and getting to see the well deserving Mizunami crowned champion.

Wave 1/3/16 Live Thoughts

January 3, 2016 in Tokyo, Japan

My sole show at Shinjuku Face was also the only main roster Wave show I managed to see: Happy New Year Wave 2016. It felt somewhere in between REINA and JWP in tone and approach. Like the Wave Young Oh! show, the lighter antics were confined to the undercard and the main event remained an intense, competitive match.

The opener, ASUKA vs Hiroe Nagahama, was mostly fine on a technical level but seemed to be lacking something. Could just be a matter of experience.  ASUKA does stand out a bit against the rest of the roster, despite efforts to blend in.

Aoi Kizuki made her first Wave appearance teaming with Moeka Haruhi against Akane Fujita and Natsu Sumire in what could have been a hint to her announcement later the same day of going freelance. She had a good showing in a decent tag match, although is capable of more than she was able to show. There was a promo after the match that may have laid ground work for her future appearances.

Sumire’s gimmick is fine for her, but I’m not digging the pairing of her and Fujita. Akane was much more impressing in wrecking ball mode in the first match I saw her in than as Sumire’s twin.

Ryo Mizunami and Sawako Shimono vs Kaho Kobayashi and Rina Yamashita was a nice showcase for the younger team, who got a decisive and surprising upset victory. Both Rina and Kaho have been extremely impressive in every match I’ve seen them in. It was also interesting to see Mizunami in a tag match without her Avid Rival partner. The dynamic was quite different, which made sense and is a nice touch.

Given what an incredible technical wrestler Tsukasa Fujimoto is, it was different to see her in what was essentially a comedy / angle match against Yuki Miyazaki. She proved as adaptable as expected and as adept at this as everything else.

I couldn’t understand the mid-match promos, but the gist of what embarrassment Tsukka was trying to avoid was conveyed, and the match ended in a double countout when her “fears” were realized. Fine for what it was.

Fairy Nipponbashi, Hikaru Shida and Mika Iida vs Ayako Hamada, Yumi Oka and Yuu Yamagata was a well booked 6 woman tag, with the younger team dominated and overmatched but making the most of their openings and opportunities. Hamada seemed limited (possibly her shoulder injury lingering) and the heel edge didn’t really suit Yamagata’s style, but it was a good semi-main none-the-less.

The main event saw one of my personal favorites, Misaki Ohata, go one on one with the legendary Nanae Takahashi, who left Stardom, went freelance, and started her own promotion (Seadlinnng) summer 2015.

This was an excellent, hard hitting main event. Avid Rival’s tag title shot at Ribbon Mania was perhaps my favorite match of my trip, but it was also great to see Misaki in a high profile singles match. She went toe-to-toe with Nanae for an action packed 15 minutes.

After the match Ryo Mizunami came out, presumably to challenge the opponent her partner couldn’t defeat. Misaki had some things to say about that and there appeared to be Avid Rival’s usual banter going on. The show ended with a birthday celebration for Misaki, Akane, and Gami, including the traditional cake to their faces.

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A fun show featuring several wrestlers I didn’t get to see elsewhere with spotlights on several great performers. Didn’t quite achieve its full potential, but that’s mild criticism at best.

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

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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 Yuki 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. 🙂

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