Categories
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

Categories
Art Wrestling

Another Wonderful Way Pro-Wrestling is Art 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Satsuki Totoro sketch by Yappy.

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

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

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

Nao Ishikawa by Yappy.

——-

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

Categories
Japan Wrestling

The NXT Step for the Sun God

WWE and AEW have both signed a number of incredible wrestlers lately. But with all due respect to the rest, none are quite as exciting as the confirmation that Sareee is headed to the US as part of WWE.

My first time seeing Sareee was during my first trip to Japan at the end of 2015. She was a few months under five years experience at the time, and featured in matches spotlighting young talent with fellow Diana rookie Meiko Tanaka against Rina Yamshita & Kaho Kobayashi at Wave’s Young Oh! Oh! 12/25/15 and against Yuuka at Ribbonmania 2015. She displayed great innate ability and instincts, and I was excited to see what the near future would hold for her.

Unfortunately, my opportunities to see Sareee for the next few years were sparse. In summer of 2017 I caught her during her brief tenure in SEAdLINNNG in hard hitting tournament semi-final against Marvelous’ Takumi Iroha. In spring of 2018 I lucked into seeing her at Pure-J in an interpromotional tag team main event alongside Actwres girlZ’ Mari against Manami Katsu & Rydeen Hagane. She was definitely showing all the hallmarks of fully capitalizing on her potential and was an obvious superstar in the making.

I was thrilled to get to see her regularly in 2019. Her tightly contested, visceral title match at Sendai Girls’ 1/6/19 show against Chihiro Hashimoto might have been my top match of that entire trip, yet was just a glimpse of how fully Sareee’s mastered a variety of aspects of her craft. She was wrestling’s next big thing, and it was only a matter of time before everyone noticed.

My best matches of 2019 list reads like Sareee’s resume, and I imagine I sounded like a bit of broken record last year repeating my belief that she’s one of the most compelling and impressive athletes and the biggest rising star in all of wrestling.

Her grasp of the nuances of technical skill, timing, etc is really amazing, as is the intensity she brings to it all. Similar to another personal favorite of mine recently signed (Timothy Thatcher), one of the keys making Sareee so incredible is that she fights over EVERYTHING. The smallest exchanges are still struggles towards getting an edge progressing to the ultimate goal of winning the match. It makes such a difference in believability, and Sareee’s one of the very best at it. Of course she can also hit just the right notes in lighter, more comedic matches, and that versatility will undoubtably also serve her well.

A clear indication that I’m not alone in my opinion of Sareee is the apparent and repeated shows of confidence in her from veteran Japanese wrestlers. During a chunk of 2019 she was simultaneously reigning champion of both Kyoko Inoue’s and Meiko Satomura’s promotions (Diana and Sendai Girls respectively). She even won the Diana title back from the person who took it from her, the legendary Aja Kong.

In my write up of Diana’s 5/12/19 show at Korakuen Hall that Kong vs Sareee main evented, I commented:

“Sareee is wrestling‚Äôs next big star, and everyone clearly knows it. She recently won said double title match so is currently a reigning double singles champion across two companies. On her way to the Sendai title she pinned their legendary owner Meiko Satomura, as well as DASH Chisako and other top competitors. And of course any sort of victory over Kong is a huge deal, let alone a singles pinfall. The important part of course is Sareee‚Äôs completely believable and natural in this role, with both the technical skills and charisma/mannerisms to pull it all off.”

The mentioned match against DASH Chisako happened a few weeks prior at Sendai’s 4/27/19 show and was yet another stunning display. This featured two of my absolute favorite wrestlers and I actually traveled out to Sendai specifically to see it. It was an incredibly hard-hitting, wonderfully escalating contest that was everything I hoped for. They would meet again in a title defense for Sareee at Korakuen Hall in a match that from all accounts was somehow even better.

I was also lucky enough to see Sareee in a variety of great tag matches that paired her up with unusual opponents and showed even more of her variety and skills. One fun one of note saw her teaming with Pro-Wrestling Eve’s Yuu against Meiko Satomura & Gatoh Move’s Mei Suruga at Sendai’s 5/18/19 show.

During the summer it was reported that Sareee had met with HHH, and the rumors started in earnest. With heavy indications that her time in Japan might be wrapping up, she held a special self produced show in early December entitled Sareee’s Special Night. And it certainly was. ūüėČ

In addition to tearing the house down in the cross promotional main event dream tag team match (Sareee & Syuri vs World of Stardom Champion Mayu Iwatani & Regina di Wave Champion Takumi Iroha), Sareee also showed she could put together a compelling and thoroughly enjoyable card from top to bottom. There was a little bit of everything, with multiple match styles and stories being told, special significance to things such as Jenny Rose’s return to Japan to face Marvelous’ Hibiki (formerly Diana’s Meiko Tanaka) and the injured Natsumi Maki still appearing as the ring announcer, and generally great action all around.

In early January Sareee officially announced she’d be leaving Diana in February and going to the United States. Today it became official that she is indeed WWE bound.

So in what ended up being my last time to see Sareee wrestle live for a while, I attended my first Diana dojo show on 1/19/20. It was a blast and Sareee’s excellent tag encounter alongside her trainer Kyoko Inoue against Actwres girlZ’ Champion Miyuki Takase & Diana rookie Haruka Umesaki was a great note to go out on for now.

There’s some admittedly justified trepidation among fans when independent talent gets signed by WWE considering their less than stellar track record with using people to their full abilities, but I’m still extremely happy for Sareee and hopeful that she will excel in the all the ways she’s clearly capable of. Best of luck to the Sun God in the next phase of her career.

Categories
Anime Art Comics Manga Video Games Wrestling

Beautiful Dreams 3: More Art of Juri the Dreamer

It’s been a year and change 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 Dreams¬†and¬†Beautiful Dreams 2¬†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 2¬†for more about the above works featuring WWE’s reigning Smackdown Women’s Champion Asuka, Sendai Girls’ phenomenal high flyer Dash Chisako, and the recently retired Happy Maker Aoi Kizuki.

 

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Misaki Ohata PSC by Juri H. Chinchilla.

 

Another favorite of mine also retired in 2018, and Juri’s strikingly posed Misaki Ohata with a wonderful background of venue lights is a great keepsake.

 

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Reika Saiki PSC by Juri Chinchilla.

 

Tokyo Joshi Pro’s Reika Saiki¬†is known as the “Muscle Idol,” and all aspects of her strength and charisma as a wrestler, idol, and body builder are gloriously highlighted in Juri’s drawing.

 

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Mitsuru Konno PSC by Juri Chinchilla.

 

The last wrestler in this batch was also the first of all. Juri’s first rendition of Mitsuru Konno from¬†Gatoh Move¬†for me featured a great action pose¬†capturing and combining Mitsuru’s strength, determination, grace, and beauty in a remarkable rendition. Equally wonderful is Juri’s quite different recent depiction, featuring Mitsuru in her newer wrestling outfit with a palpable sense of celebration and excitement captured.

With the exception of Dash doing her trademark frog splash, I didn’t specify poses and the layouts, details, and way Juri captured each subject are just wonderful. I couldn’t be happier with how these all turned out.

 

 

Juri’s work have are as diverse in creation method as they can be in subject matter. I’ve added a pair of wonderful paintings of hers to my collection, including a striking abstract and an atmospheric, haunting image of night in Rainy Gotham.

Another unique piece is Aquatica, which shows off Juri’s wonderful use of color in a gorgeous image of an original character.

 

 

As always Juri’s work for¬†Perna Studios‘ high quality card sets is pitch perfect for the subject matter. I was lucky enough to get some Artist Proofs (APs)¬† from her for their most recent sets. For¬†Witchcraft, I requested a female grim reaper from several artists, and I adore the delicate yet powerful feel Juri brought to her version. In the past I got a witch from Juri with some amazing ravens, so loved the idea of getting Celtic goddess Morrigan for her Classic Mythology III metal AP. Rounding out this group is a graceful moonlight scene featuring my favorite Greek goddess, Artemis, with just a touch of lurking menace as she hunts.

 

A very different Morrigan was part of one of the Personal Sketch Cards I got previously from Juri, an incredible depiction of the Darkstalkers character with her “sister” Lilith. Morrigan’s an old favorite and one of my most played fighting game characters ever, so I was thrilled to add this larger, equally amazingly done drawing of her to my collection.

 

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Continuing the video game theme are three new PSCs from some of my favorite game series. Makoto from¬†Persona 5¬†joins my previous PSC of Elizabeth from the third game in that series, with a bold red background complimenting the deep blues of the other card. The wonderful balance of a sense of motion while still posing is a wonderful touch not only in the two¬†Persona¬†cards, but also accentuates Juri’s drawings of¬†Fire Emblem’s¬†Tharja, and¬†Valkyria Chronicles 4’s¬†Riley, as well as the¬†Bombshells¬†version of DC’s Raven and Clare from the manga/anime¬†Claymore. Finally for this time around is a beautiful depiction of two of Juri’s original characters. The cards are all excellent and unique works showcasing Juri’s attention to detail and mastery of color in their own different ways

 

 

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

 

 

 

Categories
Japan Wrestling

YYYYYYYAAAAAAAYYYYYYY!!!!!!!

That is all.

 

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Categories
Art Manga Wrestling

Another Wonderful Way Pro-Wrestling is Art 2

In¬†Another Wonderful Way Pro-Wrestling is Art¬†I talked about the the wrestling centric work of Rob Schamberger. Here, in addition to featuring more from Rob, I’d also like to spotlight another artist who specializes in wrestling related creations as well as an artist readers of this blog will be well familiar with who has entered the realm of drawing professional wrestlers as the result of commission requests from me. ūüėČ

 

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A mix of originals and prints of Rob Schamberger’s striking work.

 

WWE’s Asuka (formerly Kana) is a longtime favorite of mine, and was the subject of first wrestling related commission request I ever made (top left above). She has remained central to collection (and will come up again later), particularly in terms of Rob’s wonderful mixed media creations which generally start with a framework from a photo of the subject and grow from there via Rob’s creativity, expert techniques, and incredible use of color. I’ve also added an original painting (as well as signed print) of current NXT Women’s Champion and Stardom alumni Kairi Sane (formerly Kairi Hojo) that nicely capture the unique presence and charisma of the Pirate Princess.

 

More information about Rob’s art can be found on his website.

 

 

 

As I mentioned in¬†Beautiful Dreams¬†and¬†Beautiful Dreams 2, I’ve been a fan of Juri H Chinchilla’s amazing art for several years and have been fortunate enough to develop a nice collection of her work.

One of the more unique requests I made among a plethora of video game and anime characters was a card featuring one of my favorite professional wrestlers, Mitsuru Konno from¬†Gatoh Move. I thought Juri’s style would be perfect for this and it came out far beyond my high expectations.¬†I specified only the subject here, and I adore the incredible way Juri captured and combined Mitsuru’s strength, determination, grace, and beauty in her remarkable hand drawn rendition. From there I got even more excited about having her draw more wrestlers.¬†Asuka of course was on the list, and Juri wonderfully depicted her striking presence and style.

Aoi Kizuki is a personal favorite of mine who recently retired, so Juri’s fantastic rendition of her will be a treasured momento of a wrestler who will be greatly missed. The little details, like the patterns and textures on both Aoi’s and Asuka’s outfits and the highlighting use of metallics really make these incredible works come to life.

 

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Dash Chisako PSC by Juri H. Chinchilla.

 

Sendai Girl’s Dash Chisako is my favorite high flyer in all of wrestling, and I’m amazed and ecstatic with how perfectly Juri captured Dash mid flight performing her trademark frog splash. Having Dash performing one of her flying moves is the most specific I got with any of my wrestler requests for Juri, and she absolutely knocked it out of the park. The likeness, colors, sense of motion, etc are all pitch perfect.

 

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

 

 

 

Shining Wizard Designs is another artist who specializes in depictions of wrestlers, in this case wonderfully stark, hyper realistic black and white ink drawings he regularly shares on social media. I adore the striking assortment of pieces of his I’ve gotten, and have been lucky enough to get a few of them signed by the wrestlers. In addition to excellent versions of the previously mentioned Asuka and Dash, SWD drew the reigning Wave Pro Tag Team Champions Bossy to Mammy (Marvelous’ rising star Mio Momono and Wave veteran Yumi Ohka) as well as Ice Ribbon’s MMA trained rookies Team DATE (Hana, Nao, Nori, and Karen) for me.

Aoi isn’t the only wrestler I follow retiring this year, so in tribute I commissioned a combination piece featuring Aoi, Wave’s Mika Iida, and Tokyo Joshi Pro’s Maho Kurone, as well as a stand alone piece of Wave’s Misaki Ohata (who will retire in December) doing one of her gorgeous flying cross bodies. Of course later even more retirements were announced, which gives subjects for the future I suppose. ūüėČ I will miss all of these wrestlers greatly but wish them the best.

 

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Gatoh Move (Mitsuru Konno, Sayaka Obihiro, Emi Sakura, and Riho) by Shining Wizard Designs.

 

Finally, I had a piece done featuring some of the core members of Gatoh Move, a small, wonderful company run by the incredible Emi Sakura. In addition to Emi and Mitsuru (from Juri’s work above), Gatoh’s ace Riho and lynchpin Sayaka Obihiro are also pictured. I’m extremely happy with SWD’s work and greatly appreciate the opportunity to get these done.

 

More information about Shining Wizard Designs art can be found on Twitter.

 

——-

Thanks again to all three of these artists for their impressive creations.

Categories
Reviews Wrestling

Mae Young Classic 2018 Episode 4 Review

Former Shimmer champion’s up tonight, and Io makes her debut.

Oh, and MATSUMOTO. HIROYO. DESTROY.

 

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Previous episodes:

Episode 1

Episode 3

 

Round 1 continued:

13) Hiroyo Matsumoto vs Rachel Evers  **1/2

Cole puts over Hiroyo’s character in addition to her in ring skills. Loves wrestling because it makes her happy. Problem is¬†Rachel’s familiar to the crowd, so Hiroyo’s a defacto heel whenever she gets aggressive and actual gets some booed at various points in the match.

Rachel’s the “One woman Minnesota Wrecking Crew.” Eh, as nicknames go there are worse, but it feel forced.

They run down Rachel’s power lifting history and other accomplishments. ¬†“Does that make Rachel the favorite in this?” No. No it doesn’t.

This fed into the match being structured/presented as a power vs power contest, which is an interesting approach. Hiroyo actually displayed more speed and agility than Rachel overall as a result. They¬†did everything they could to make Rachel seem Hiroyo’s equal (including Evers doing a strong style no sell of a German suplex), and it still didn’t quite feel right. Hiroyo eventual advances with the backdrop driver, which was a relief. Good match with some nice spots from both, although I thought they tried too hard to get Rachel over in defeat, and all it did was emphasize how far above her Hiroyo actually is.

 

14) Jessie Elaban vs Taynara Conti *1/4

“I just sort of throw my body at people.” Being a clumsy goof (her words) is certainly a unique gimmick for Jessie.

Jessie got a few flashes of offense, but this was all about establishing Conti’s new heelish attitude. She wins in pretty short order amid some pretty basic action. Effective for what it was, but the match itself had nothing to it.

 

15) Isla Dawn vs Nicole Matthews **3/4

Matthews is an ex-Shimmer¬†champion, and was an¬†alternate for last year’s MYC. ¬†“If I wasn’t in that tournament your weren’t showing the best of the best.”¬†Heel vet with a chip on her shoulder is a pretty perfect role for Matthews. ūüėČ

Isla’s the new to me competitor I’m most intrigued by, and her look, the way she carries herself, etc all combine to make her immediately striking.

Handshake? From Matthews? O_o Ah, she is going dismissive/condescending to start:¬†she pats Isla’s head on first break, etc. This becomes a story of Dawn’s strikes against Matthews using short bursts of offense to gain control and then just grinding Isla down. They¬†worked the formula well, and this had¬†markedly different style and pacing than other matches in tourney in an appreciated way. Nice showing for Isla and a well deserved win for Matthews (via the Liontamer).

 

16) Io Shirai vs Xia Brookside **3/4

They’re treating Io’s signing as big deal it is, which is great to see. I’m unfamiliar with Xia, but have heard good things. Clearly she’s well thought of since she’s getting the spot as Io’s opponent.

Kairi’s shown cheering Io. ūüôā

Xia charges Io to start (in a show of determination, not as a cheap shot or anything), which is an awesome character moment. Io later counters a headscissors by landing on her feet, and the crowd is hers. Great point from Cole about Io being all smiles throughout but not in a mocking way, just because she’s enjoying what she does.

Xia makes enough of a fight of it to get chants herself at points. Io’s explosive offense, counters (that ducked strike turned into a crossface was a thing of beauty), and general star presence just wows the crowd. She wins with the moonsault of course, and helps Xia up post match. Can’t go higher on the rating do to the short length and dominant structure, but this great for what it was (a quasi-squash) and provided a hell of an emphatic intro for WWE audiences to one of the best in the world. Xia should be proud of her performance here as well.

 

——-

Most of today was story first, but that’s fine and there was enough great action sprinkled in to make it a breeze to watch. And we saw Hiroyo, Matthews, and Io in WWE, which alone is worth checking out. Fine end to the first round.

 

I’ll likely be unable to watch live (or possibly at all) the next couple weeks, so will hopefully catch up on the quarters (and maybe the round 1 episode I haven’t reviewed yet) after the fact.

Categories
Reviews Wrestling

Mae Young Classic 2018 Episode 3 Review

This year’s Mae Young Classic got off to an impressive start with good matches, improved production and commentary over last year, and the introduction of legend Meiko Satomura to the WWE universe. I was only able to watch last week’s episode peripherally, so in terms of these reviews I’m skipping to this week’s episode 3.

 

Previous episodes:

Episode 1

 

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Two big rivalries exploding in the first round tonight, a former champion returns, and a wrestler from last year’s tourney faces off with someone I’m familiar with from outside WWE in four intriguing matchups.

A really nice quick intro to all eight of tonight’s wrestlers opens the show, which will be built upon with the longer packages later. The presentation this year has been top notch.

 

Round 1 continued:

9)  Kaitlyn vs Kavita Devi **

Devi loss last year to Dakota Kai is highlighted and she’s determined to win this time. Kaitlyn’s this year’s Serena-like return story. Nice package on her focusing on her being a former champ and her personal redemption/transformation.

Cole admits he’s not impartial here because of excitement for Kaitlyn’s return after all she’s overcome. She looks quite different, and comfortable. Davi seems to be playing quasi-heel, but her importance and fame as the first Indian woman superstar is also emphasized. Cole owns up to past problems with WWE’s presentation of women during Kaitlyn’s original run and his own part in it, and apologizes.

Kaitlyn, referred to as the “Hybrid Diva,” trying to overcome Devi’s power and size was the focus here. The spear eventually ends it and sends Kaitlyn on. “Will she be the Cinderella Story of this tourney?” Basic but decent, with the story more the point here, and it was a good one. I’m happy for Kaitlyn, and while Devi’s still green she’s improving. Kaitlyn will face the winner of tonight’s main in the next round.

 

10) Toni Storm vs Jinny **3/4

The Fashionista has arrived. “My style is ruthless. I don’t care about my opponent.”

Toni made the semis last year, and “got a taste of my dream.” Presented as a rock star to Jinny’s haughty refinement, Toni gets a longer package and is clearly being positioned as a tourney favorite. I hope we get more of the Toni I’ve heard so much about on the indie scene around the world and less of the one who I honestly thought underperformed last year.

Big crowd reaction for Toni.¬†Jinny has fantastic heel presence, body language, etc. Curiously there really isn’t much mention of the history between these two. Jinny wants no part of Toni’s handshake and slaps it away. Throughout the match the more vicious Jinny became, the better this got. Both looked decent, and this was the most I’ve liked Toni so far. One highlight was a beautiful snap German by Toni. Toni wins with the “Storm Zero” (tiger driver). She doesn’t get much height on it, and honestly it looks dangerous to me as it seems her opponent could easily under rotate and come down on her head. Decent, but this could have been more. Seems to be a theme with me and Toni’s tourney matches. We’ll see how next round goes.

 

11) Karen Q vs Xia Li ***

Karen Q looked good when I saw her at Shimmer, and it’s nice to see her get a chance here. It’s stressed that Xia debuted at last year’s tourney (against Martinez), and she’s the clear favorite from the way things are being presented.

Both square up for martial arts immediately and the crowd goes wild. Karen discards respect early and slaps Xia, which backfires a bit as Xia unloads on her, but then the ref pulls Xia back and Karen ambushes her with a kick to take control. Mocking bow and Karen’s gone practically full cocky heel in attitude, but is still using speed and martial arts back ground for some crowd popping strikes. The mixture actually works well here, given the two showed respect again once the match was over. Anymore heel work by Karen and that would have felt odd.

Xia’s kicks look brutal. She’s come a long way in a year. These two hit the hell out of each other and put on a really nice little match. Both should be proud, and I’d love to see a rematch when both have more experience. Karen missed a frog splash (that had shades of Dash Chisako in its beautiful form), and Xia capitalized with a flipping axe kick for the win. Heat of competition aside, Karen congratulated Xia afterwards.

 

12) Mia Yim vs Allysin Kay ***3/4

Pinkies up! Great intro package for Kay, including background on Mia breaking her nose and how they’ve feuded all over. Her discus lariat finish is stressed. Mia talks about bringing a whole different game this year. Unlike with Toni and Jinny the history between these two is greatly emphasized.

Via Shimmer footage of Mia’s matches Aja Kong and Aoi Kizuki appear up on WWE tv, which is an amusing little treat for a Joshi fan like me, particularly with Aoi retiring in a couple weeks.

Allysin Kay is constantly refining her craft, and has really evolved and grown over time. She went from someone who I found ok to someone I get excited to see and cheer for. Really happy to see her included.

Glad to hear commentary bring up Mia Yim’s history as a domestic violence survivor and her efforts to spread awareness and encourage others to break the silence.

Tense stare off, no handshake of course. “Let’s go Mia!” “Pinkies up!” dueling chants throughout. This was intense, well worked and paced, and had a great underlying story. Neck and neck with Kelly vs Meiko for best match of the tourney so far. Kay hits the lariat but was slow to cover, so Mia survived. They kept going toe to toe until Mia got the better of an exchange on the turnbuckles and nailed a sweet second rope Seoul Food for the win. Mia will face Kaitlyn in round 2, which I’m quite interested to see after tonight.

 

——-

I really enjoyed this week’s episode overall, and the tournament is nicely living up to its potential thus far.

Categories
Reviews Wrestling

Mae Young Classic 2018 Episode 1 Review

Been psyched for the return of the WWE’s women’s tournament after its inaugural edition last year (check out my thoughts¬†starting here). The taping format limited the matches in certain respects and the presentation and commentary was hit or miss, but it was a decent showing overall leading to a strong final and deserving winner (who just recently won the NXT Women’s Championship). This year the lineup is even more impressive, with several returns as well as numerous exciting WWE debuts.

Instead of the episode dump of last year the tournament is airing weekly after NXT. Episode 1 will start things off in a big way, as one of the biggest names will main event.

 

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Round 1:

 

1) Tegan Nox vs Zatara ***

Nice video packages to hype both wrestlers. Zatara’s got into her background as 10 year vet and WWE’s first Chilean wrestler. Tegan’s focused on her missing last year’s tourney due to an acl tear and being inspired by Molly Holly.

Renee Young, Beth Phoenix, and Michael Cole calling this, which with all due respect is a big step up from last year’s team. They all talk up Tegan as a possible favorite for the tourney, while also commenting it won’t be easy because she had a tough draw in the first round of a physical vet who’s looking to make a statement.

Great to see Nox back from the injury. I’m familiar with her from Shimmer (as Nixon Newel), while this is my first look at Zatara. The latter started in sportsmanlike fashion but slowly allowed the heel tendencies to emerge as the match continued, reacting to Tegan’s hot start and the crowd’s lack of support for her against the darling Nox. Solid, well worked match with an easy to follow story that culminated with Nox overcoming trouble with her previously injured knee to nail the Shiniest Wizard to advance. Both looked good and this was a great choice to start with.

 

Ember Moon and Alexa Bliss are shown watching in the crowd.

 

2) Rhea Ripley vs MJ Jenkins **3/4

Rhea’s been repackaged, claiming to be a darker, better version of herself and is out to make up for “making a fool of myself last year.” Interesting angle. MJ’s charisma comes across instantly, and although there seems to be no real hope for her here she’s getting the crowd involved and generally playing her part well. Rhea mentioned as a darkhorse. Commentary is excellent so far, sounding informed about the competitors and genuinely interested in what’s happening.

Rhea won’t shake hands to open. Jenkins shows a bit of fire early, but Rhea takes over with a HARD dropkick counter to a springboard that sends MJ to the floor. Rhea’s all heel here but the new look and aggressive attitude has the crowd behind her for a bit. The two do get the crowd behind MJ later on, which is a credit to both. ¬†Rhea grinds Jenkins down little by little and while the newcomer got to look tough for holding on as long as she did and had a couple of nice flurries Rhea eventually picks up the expected victory with a SWEET pumphandle sitout powerbomb. Solid.

 

 

3)  Lacey Lane vs Vanessa Kraven **1/2

Kraven’s a¬†Shimmer¬†mainstay who I’m thrilled to see getting a shot here. Nice use of Shimmer footage in here intro package matching up with a calm, even delivery from Kraven about here ambitions. Lacey’s new to me. She has a unique look and comes across well in her video. As she comes to the ring it’s mentioned she’s signed to the performance center, which doesn’t bode well for the Mountain. ūüė¶

Lio Rush is shown in the crowd.

Big size advantage for Kraven, and the commentators go right for the David vs Goliath comparison. Cole mentions though that it’s not just that: there’s also a big experience advantage for Kraven. Nice touch. They mention Lane’s intergender wrestling background, which is good context for her taking on an opponent who has 100 pounds on her. Lane flubs a rope bounce early, but recovers well (and again Cole, Phoenix and Young explain/cover it well talking about big match nerves). Kraven catches Lane on a dive outside and then dominates with nice power style for a bit. Some of Lane’s stuff didn’t quite hit clean and the pacing was off, but she looked decent overall with some real fire and flare. She picked up the victory with a crucifix bomb, and is on to round 2. It was sold as a huge upset over the 14 year veteran, which is at least a good amount of respect for Kraven and a good story even if I’m disappointed to see the Mountain out so quick. Lane’s your Cinderella story at this point.

 

Natalia gives an interview backstage and says she’s rooting for Io and Mia.

 

4) Meiko Satomura vs Killer Kelly ***3/4

Meiko is a legitimate legend and quite possibly the best wrestler in the world. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to see her wrestle several times live in Japan, including against another MYC participant in an incredible match on a show¬†by Meiko’s promotion Sendai Girls this past April. Footage is show from 22 years ago when Meiko wrestled a match for WCW. Killer Kelly comes across as no nonsense and seems a good choice for Meiko’s opponent just from her attitude and style alone.

 

Funaki’s in the audience with Tye Dillinger.

Meiko being presented as the legend she is (Cole even uses the word). Crowd explodes for her too. Handshake and a bow before the match. Strikes and chain wrestling early, and I can’t stress how much of a treat it is to see Meiko ply her craft. Kelly holding her end up wonderfully and the crowd’s well invested. Meiko wow’s the crowd with some of her incredible transitions and counters and gets Kelly in a STF that puts Cena to SHAME. Kelly forces a rope break but Satomura continues to pick her apart bit by bit. Kelly gives the vet all she can handle at times though, including locking in a dragon sleeper on the tope rope, and getting a 2.9999 off a fisherman’s. Meiko’s just too much however, and the Death Valley Driver puts Kelly away. Meiko pulls Kelly up afterwards to hug her and bows to an emotional Kelly who congratulates Meiko on the win. Kelly clearly know what an honor she received being able to wrestle Satomura in a main event. And she looked great. Meiko of course is Meiko, and this was a blast.

 

——-

Fantastic first impression here. And we’re just getting started…

Categories
Reviews Wrestling

NXT Takeover Brooklyn IV Live Thoughts

August 18, 2018 in Brooklyn, NY

NXT Takeover Brooklyn is a highlight of the year for me, and this show looked quite good going in.

 

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Before Takeover “proper” a pair of matches were taped for this week’s NXT (so these first two matches I’ll talk about are technically spoilers).

Taping for 8/22/18:

1) Bianca Belair vs Deonna Purrazo

 

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Nice way to start, and a very good showing for both competitors. Well structured match that ended with an¬†important win for Belair as she perhaps gains momentum towards a title shot. There’s time to build up Deonna later.

 

2) UK Championship: Pete Dunne (c) vs Zack Gibson

 

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Gibson’s a fantastic heel and NYC loves the Bruiserweight, so this was heated from the word go. They viciously picked each other apart in between unique moments like getting their legs tied up, pushing into dual headstands, and then slapping each other. Dunne can do it all, as he demonstrated here with some beautiful arial offense. In the end they fought over Dunne’s mouthpiece, leading to just enough an opening for Dunne to hit the Bitter End and retain. Excellent match.

 

Takeover

1)¬†NXT Tag Team Title: Undisputed Era (Kyle O’Reily & Roderick Strong) vs¬†Moustache Mountain (Trent Seven & Tyler Bate).

 

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With the recent trading of the titles and War Raiders on the horizon there seemed no chance of a switch here, but predictable is fine if done well, which this was. I’m not the biggest fan of UE, but they can rise to the level of their opponents reasonably well, and MM is one of the best tag teams in the business. Great match overall that saw a lot of changes in momentum and played off of their previous encounters in interesting ways. UE eventually retained with their version of Chasing the Dragon after a long sprint that kept pace throughout. Afterwards War Raiders send the champs packing to make a statement.

 

2) Velveteen Dream vs EC3

 

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EC3 is has a heel gimmick and attitude, wrestled like a heel here, and yet was cast in the babyface role storyline-wise. Unsurprisingly the NYC crowd was firmly in Dream’s corner. This was way too long for the styles involved and what they were doing, but had an extremely¬†hot finish with Dream hitting the top rope elbow to EC3 on the outside apron then rolling him back in for a¬†well deserved and needed win. Didn’t expect that outcome, but it was the right one.

 

Matt Riddle was the front row “surprise” plant, and I’m beyond happy for him and can’t wait to see him tear it up in NXT.

 

3) North American Championship: Adam Cole (c) vs Ricochet 

 

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Again¬†not a big fan of Cole, and he was a bit limited here, but when it counted most he admittedly nailed things (like a beautiful superkick counter to an Asai moonsault) and he mostly committed to playing the proper heel role (outside his ridiculous crowd pandering for his catchphrase).¬†Ricochet is so incredibly smooth with everything he does, and dropped the crowd’s jaws several times including an INSANE¬†rope clear hurricanrana to the floor with Cole standing on the apron. 630 gives Ricochet the win and the title to counter Cole’s “you’re not special” claims and send the audience through the roof despite being split throughout the match. Extremely good match, and this was the right time for the switch.

 

4)¬†NXT Women’s Championship: Shayna Baslzer (c) vs Kairi Sane

 

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Speaking of the right time for a switch, I was convinced coming in that because of the incredible way Shayna ran down Kairi leading into this, along with the likelihood of Shayna being called up soon, that Kairi had to be winning the belt. It’s a testament to the skill of both wrestlers and the wonderful escalating match they had that I doubted it at a couple of points. They both played their parts perfectly, building off their previous encounters as well as Shayna’s claims of Kairi lacking the killer instinct needed to win.

In a call back to the finish of one of my all time favorite matches, after having the Seven Seas (top rope diving elbow) countered into the Rear Naked Choke Kairi immediately rolled her weight back over Shayna’s shoulders for the pin and the championship. ¬†It was a beautiful bit of storytelling. Kairi didn’t win with her trademark elbow, NOR her brand new submission finisher (which was still made to look threatening and dangerous). She beat the shoot fighter with a wrestling counter. Loved this, and it was probably my match of the night against some very high level competition.

 

5) Last Man Standing for the NXT Championship: Tommaso Ciampa (c) vs Johnny Gargano. 

 

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This feud is going on rather long and these two need some space from each other for a while after this. That being said, NXT made the most of being in a tough spot because of Black’s injury and Gargano and Ciampa’s battles are always interesting. They heavily played off of previous encounters, with the crutch and handcuffs being brought out, the ring mat being removed, etc.

The finish was clever to an extent with Gargano’s anger getting the better of him (again), causing him to taunt Ciampa by doing the latter’s move instead of his own which cost him the match when a near dead, handcuffed Ciampa simply rolled off the stage to “stand” and win. But the lead up to it was too drawn out and Ciampa’s position made it obvious what the finish would be. A little tightening and tweaking would have helped this, as would have the interference I honestly expected, but it was still an intense, engaging main event. As great Gargano is, Ciampa’s gone nuclear as a heel champ and I want to see what he can do in a different feud.

 

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Overall

Takeover Brooklyn is always great, and this year was no exception. Nothing actively bad and several excellent matches make this an easy recommendation.