The Future is Now 5

I’ve done a number of The Future is Now blogs featuring developing wrestlers I felt had big things ahead of them. In my latest one I specifically featured some of the young Joshi stars that made huge impressions on me during my first trip to Japan at the beginning of last year. Professional wrestlers can start (much) younger in Japan than the US, and though they were all 20 years old or younger (at the time) the wrestlers in that column ranged in experience from 2 years to over 10.

In a similar (but somewhat reversed) vein I want to spotlight wrestlers from the trip I took at the beginning of this year, but in this case I’m going to focus on rookies. Though ranging in age from 18 to 33, everyone here had less than a year in wrestling when I saw them (a few months ago). They all showed great potential and devotion to their craft, and I’m extremely excited to see what the future holds for them.

Aasa Maika

img_6020

The best way I can describe Gatoh Move’s Aasa is as a “pintsized powerhouse.” At first glance the 21 year old doesn’t seem suited to such a gimmick, but then she starts throwing herself at opponents like she’s Big Van Vader and it’s glorious.  The power style works surprisingly well for her, and the devotion to the gimmick and enthusiasm she brings to it give her a captivating presence. She really got a chance to shine during Gatoh Move’s Greenhall show on 12/24 in an interpromotional 6-woman match between Gatoh Move and REINA.

Mitsuru Konno

img_5312

Another impressive rookie in the Gatoh Move promotion is the 26 year old Mitsuru. Though only 3 months from her debut when I saw her, putting her at the least experienced of this group, she already projects a distinct no-nonsense aura in the way she carries herself in the ring that is a nice compliment for the intense strikes and smooth holds that form the base of her arsenal.

Mitsuru’s my personal favorite of the new wrestlers I saw this trip, and I look forward to seeing her skills further develop and seeing what she can do in longer and more challenging contests in the future.

Mio Momono

img_5559

Mio’s a special case here, as unlike the rest of this list I had seen her wrestle once before my trip. She made her wrestling debut in February 2016 in Queens, NY, which I was fortunate enough to be able to attend. She looked good in that first match, but even more striking is how far she’d come in just 10 months. Her confidence and comfort in the ring have clearly grown, and she was fantastic in both matches I had the opportunity to see her in this trip (a show stealing opener on Marvelous’ Christmas show and an incredible 7-way from Ribbonmania I’ll discuss more in a later entry).

From what I’ve seen, she’s the currently best of the bunch, which is high praise considering everyone on this list impressed in the few matches I’ve seen from each so far. At just 18 years old she certainly has a long, bright future ahead of her if she chooses to stick with wrestling.

Tequila Saya

The immediately striking thing about watching Saya is her infectious charisma. She seems to be having fun and excited about whatever she’s doing and there’s a engaging quality to her performances. Her expressions and body language are great in helping to tell the story of her matches, such as during Survival Ribbon when she entered the ring obviously confident and psyched up but crumpled in the corner in resignation when it was announced she’d be facing Ice Ribbon’s resident powerhouse in Kurumi. In 5 seconds with no words she completely put over the notion that Kurumi’s a monster. Saya’s decent in the ring if still a bit tentative (which is course perfectly normal at her experience level), but has a distinct style and personality that already make her a compelling performer.

Uno Matsuya

There’s something about the way Uno wrestles that thoroughly engages the audience. Little mannerisms, the way she sells, etc. She had the crowd absolutely rabid in support of her during the aforementioned 7-way at Ribbonmania, where she was thrown over the top and fought halfway around the ring apron valiantly trying to avoid falling to the floor and being eliminated. She showed similar ability to drawn support in the other matches I saw, which will be a huge asset to her going forward. Like Saya she’s still a little hesitant at moments and will benefit greatly from continued experience, but she’s already showing a very strong foundation.

Honorable mentions:

Model Nana Suzuki made her wrestling debut at Stardom’s year end show against Kairi Hojo and looked (perhaps surprisingly) great against the superstar, playing the “overmatched but determined underdog” role to perfection (and of course benefitting from being in the ring with someone the caliber of Hojo).

Mika Shirahime just barely missed the cutoff for this, being a tad over a year in the sport when I saw her wrestle Mio Momono in a the fantastic opener for Marvelous’s Christmas show I mentioned above.  Rin Kadokura is another good rookie wrestling for Marvelous. She honestly hasn’t gotten to show too much yet and is a little overshadowed by Mio, but has a solid foundation and a lot of potential.

——-

That all for now. Hope I’ve brought a new wrestler or two to attention. Everyone mentioned is well worth checking out and, perhaps even more importantly with the rookies, keeping an eye on in the future as they continue to learn and grow as performers.

Ice Ribbon 12/31/16 (RibbonMania) Live Thoughts

December 31, 2016 in Tokyo, Japan

The buzz for this year’s RibbonMania was firmly centered on the final rounds of the tournament to crown a new Ice Cross Infinity Champion after the title was held up due to a time limit draw during Tsukasa Fujimoto’s defense against Tsukushi in November.

The development was interesting, as Tsukka had successfully defended the championship against a majority of the roster and seemed on pace to be challenging her own previous record for most defenses during a reign right around the time she’d be facing the woman she defeated to win the title. Instead, a few matches short of that the title was held up and a tournament to crown a new champion begun.

 

img_5763

 

There were no surprises in the early rounds, so coming into Ribbonmania the remaining competitors were the vacated champ (Tsukka), the opponent that forced the vacating of the title (Tsukushi), the prior champion Tsukka had won the belt from (Risa Sera), and the wrestler who ended Tsukka’s prior reign (Kurumi).

 

1) Ice Cross Infinity Championship Tournament Semi-Finals: Risa Sera vs Kurumi Hiiragi 

 

The vacating of the title instead of continuing on course for Tsukka attempting to break her own record seemed to open significant potential for some sort of shake up. Kurumi in particular looked like a monster in the last dojo show before this event.

Which made it even more surprising that she never felt like threat to Risa here. This was a good match, but didn’t have the urgent edge it needed. Risa felt in control during throughout, when her surviving a dominant Kurumi would have been a much more suitable, better story.

In a nice touch Risa remained at announce table to watch the match unfold and see who her opponent would be in the main event.

 

2) Ice Cross Infinity Championship Tournament Semi-Finals: Tsukasa Fujimoto vs Tsukushi

Coming into Ribbonmania I found the semi-final matches being determined by random draw to be quite telling. I was certain it meant we’d get this match in the semis, and that it’s winner would fail to win the title in the finals. Otherwise the brackets should have been set up for a possible rematch of the bout that vacated the title to happen in the finals.

 

This was the spirited contest expected from these two, who know each other extremely well and have styles that mesh nicely. Tsukka winning with the Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex, a move inherited from the mentor of both competing wrestlers, seemed rather definitive. Unfortunate, as Tsukka solidly winning here begs the questions of why Tsukushi was the one to force the vacating of the belt in the first place.

Also, Tsukka’s victory unfortunately killed any remaining drama in the tournament. Risa vs Tsukka is the match that definitely should have headlined had the title never been held up, but as a payoff for a tournament that seemed to promised at least some unpredictability it was by far the least interesting way for things to turn out. The result of the main event instantly became a forgone conclusion, and I could feel a lot the energy go out of the crowd. The post match staredown between Risa and Tsukka got minimal reaction.

 

3) 7-way: Hiroe Nagahama vs Kyuuri vs Maika Ozaki vs Mio Momono vs 235 vs Tequila Saya vs Uno Matsuya  

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, so was quite excited for her Ice Ribbon debut.

 

img_5679

 

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.

 

4) Triangle Ribbon Title: Ai Shimizu (c) vs Maruko Nagasaki vs Manami Toyota

This was a straight up slaughter, which made sense but also meant not much interesting was going on, particularly when the champion was one of the people being dominated. Adding to the awkwardness was an uncharacteristically botched move off the ropes from Toyota early on, but she acknowledged it and played it off to keep the match moving as smoothly as she could.

 

img_5711

 

Both defending champion Ai and challenger Maruko were just outmatched by Toyota, who powered through everything either tried on her and simultaneously pinned them both with a moonsault to win the Triangle title. Very short and effective for what it was, but Maruko in particular could have been made a star here by hanging in better against the legend.

 

 

It’ll be interesting to see what’s done with Toyota as champion. The very nature of the title means she’ll likely eventually lose the championship without being pinned for it, so the value to the roster of her reign will be in how her challengers in the meantime look in defeat.

 

5) Miyako & Jun Kasai vs Tank Nagai & Kengo Mashimo (w/ Mio Shirai)

Like last year, Miyako’s Ribbonmania match was a mixed tag affair. The action was quite strong until end, with Miyako being (perhaps unwisely) fearless in the face of her larger, male opponents. They brawled into the crowd early, then returned to the ring to trade some pretty high impact slams and strikes for a bit.

 

 

Unfortunately things veered into uncomfortable territory for the finish, with Miyako taking Mio Shirai hostage with a pair of scissors held to Mio’s throat. Ugh ugh ugh. It of course eventually backfired, Mio got free, and Miyako was chokeslammed to give her opponents the victory.

REALLY not a fan of realistic weapons being used (particularly with blurred levels of humor), even with Miyako’s usual ineffectiveness in using them.  Would much prefer Miyako stick to her comical weapons (beachballs, etc) instead of exaggerated ones (knife-like objects, guns, etc). Match was good until then though.

 

6) Maya Yukihi Trial Series Match 7 of 7: Maya Yukihi vs Nanae Takahashi  

Throughout 2016 Maya underwent a “trial series” of matches against high profile opponents. She’d previously faced Manami Toyota, Mayumi Ozaki, Dynamite Kansai, Kyoko Kimura, Hiroyo Matsumoto, and Risa (her regular tag partner and only victory of the series), leading to this final match against SEAdLINNNG’s Nanae Takahashi.

This was exactly what I expected: an ok match with Nanae dominating. Maya was never portrayed as having any real chance of pulling off the upset.

 

7) International Ribbon Tag Title Match: Avid Rival (Misaki Ohata & Ryo Mizunami) (c) vs The Lovely Butchers (Hamuko Hoshi & Mochi Miyagi)

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.

 

 

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 clutcth tiger suplex) on Mochi. Kudos to all four here.

 

Main Event) Ice Cross Infinity Title Tournament Finals: Tsukasa Fujimoto vs Risa Sera

So as a result of winning the semi-finals earlier in the evening, Tsukka and Risa faced off here for IR’s top title.

 

 

Technically speaking, I thought this was a great match. The atmosphere and lack of crowd heat really hurt it though, 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.

 

img_5839

 

However without Tsukka’s streak still in tact to add drama and uncertainty not one person in arena bought a Tsukka win here. Now predictability can actually be an advantage when done well, as I praised Ice Ribbon for regarding their New Year’s Eve show.

But 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).

 

img_5872

 

Risa’s a great champion for Ice Ribbon, and she and Tsukka worked a strong match here. But the ringwork and stories must work together, and the booking let them down resulting in a lukewarm crowd for what should otherwise have been a huge moment.

 

 

As usual the Ice Ribbon roster spread among the fans after the show to thank everyone for coming. Always a nice touch.

Overall I enjoyed myself quite a bit, but some of the booking decisions worked against the action and as a result live Ribbonmania came across as a good show that should have been a great one. It’s very likely it will play better on DVD though.

Ice Ribbon 1/3/17 Live Thoughts

January 3, 2017 in Tokyo, Japan

Like last year, my last Ice Ribbon event during my trip was their New Year’s show. The show itself though this year was a bit different, as I was lucky enough to see one of IR’s most interesting themed shows.

 

img_6041

Photo op with the roster from this show. 🙂

 

The opening segment set up this show as Survival Ribbon (YAY!), with teams led by Tsukasa Fujimoto and Ice Cross Infinity Champion Risa Sera respectively. It was pointed out to me by a friend that the teams were divided by time in Ice Ribbon, with Tsukka heading up the veterans and Risa leading the less experienced competitors.

So it split up as Tsukasa Fujimoto, Miyako Matsumoto, Hamuko Hoshi, Mochi Miyagi, Tsukushi, & Kurumi on one team and Risa Sera, Uno Matsuya, Tequila Saya, Kyuuri, Maruko Nagasaki, & Maya Yukihi.

The rules were as follows:

  1. There would be six matches between randomly paired opposing team members.
  2. All winners would advance to the main event, which would be a tag match between whoever won the preliminary matches to determine the overall winning team.

All the undercard matches had five minute time limits, leading to a quick pace and a sense of urgency.

 

The entirety of each team came out to start things out and remained at ringside to cheer each other on, leading to an incredible atmosphere for all six initial matches. Everyone on the outside was highly invested and constantly provided encouragement to those in the ring. It made such a difference and  showed how important it is the have competitors care about the stakes, even if it’s “only” bragging rights.

 

 

 

1) Uno Matsuya vs Mochi Miyagi

Good choice for an opener, with the least experienced member of the roster against a larger, formidable opponent. This match introduced the previously mentioned frantic pace and electric atmosphere, and both were kept up throughout the show. Uno plays a great underdog and looked good here, taking the fight to Mochi at times and persevering to force a time limit draw. Neither wrestler moves on to the main event.

 

 

2) Tequila Saya vs Kurumi

Saya was announced first, and she entered the ring enthusiastically until her opponent was announced, at which point she collapsed in the corner in realization of the task in front of her. Totally put Kurumi over as a monster in five seconds flat before any contact was even made.

The story was similar to the first match, yet the personalities and styles involved made this something distinctly different. Saya survives the assault long enough for time to run out, forcing another 5 minute draw.

 

 

3) Maya Yukihi vs Hamuko Hoshi

This is the point at which IR gives a master class in the theory that predictable is perfectly compelling when done right (as opposed to my complaints about how they handled Ribbonmania’s main). I had an inkling here, and by the end of this match I was 99% sure I knew where everything was going. But between good matchup choices, great action, and logical progression the ride was just as satisfying as if they’d pulled out surprises.

The story for this match was Maya being the equal to former IR champion Hammy, and while both had close calls neither was able to put the other away and once again time runs out without a winner. So halfway through and so far neither team has any representatives in the main event, with both captains left to compete.

 

 

4) Kyuuri vs Tsukasa Fujimoto

So Kyuuri is the one who draws the opposing team captain. I never get tired of this matchup, pitting IR’s biggest up and coming star against its ace. They have incredible chemistry, and they made the most of the available time to put on an a phenomenal contest. Kyuuri matches Tsukka all the way and we have another time limit draw. The teams outside are getting desperate, again adding to the tension and conveying a real sense that these matches are important.

 

 

5) Risa Sera vs Tsukushi

So Tsukushi’s the one who gets to face the reigning champion, in a matchup of the title tournament winner against the one semi-finalist she didn’t have to go through. These are two of IR’s top stars at the moment and like the previous match they make the absolute most of their allotted time. Tsukushi hangs in with the champ and this ends in yet another 5 minute draw.

These preliminary matches needed to be action packed and show desire on the part of all competitors to push as hard as possible to get a win for all these time limit draws to avoid falling flat, and all of them definitely were.

 

 

6) Maruko Nagasaki vs Miyako Matsumoto

And it all comes down to Maruko and Miyako, with whoever wins this being the only person to advance to the finals and thus winning for her team by default. As such the wrestlers on the outside are going INSANE cheering their representative on. On one side is the perennially overmatched underdog Maruko, and on the other the overconfident and mistake prone Miyako. Wonderfully amusing choice for the all important final preliminary contest.

Playing off the urgency, theres a fun part in the middle that’s classic Miyako as she takes her sweet time firing up the crowd and slowly striking Maruko as her teammates flip out over the clock running down. This was a little off formula from the earlier matches, as Miyako just couldn’t stop being Miyako despite the time pressure. Good story to pull out at the end.

The crowd had been seriously engaged throughout each match and as things wound down here the anticipation was palpable. But this too ended in a time limit draw (to the exasperation of both team on the floor), and the ref announced no one had advanced and thus there would be no main event. Risa quickly decided this wasn’t acceptable, and set up a tag match involving the full teams against each other. Logical and well done.

 

As everyone had been at ringside or wrestling for the entirety of all six preliminary matches, they all needed time to go into the back and prepare for / take a momentary break before the “impromptu” main event. So the injured Akane Fujita came out an talked/stalled for a bit until it was time. The crowd seemed engaged with whatever Akane was saying, and it’s nice to see her involved with IR as much as she can be while she recovers.

 

Main Event) 12-Women Tag: Risa, Maya, Kyuuri, Maruko, Uno, & Saya vs Tsukka, Hammy, Mochi, Miyako, Kurumi, & Tsukushi

To everyone’s credit, they managed to match the level of engagement and excitement of the earlier matches and provide a fun, fast paced main event. My memory wouldn’t do justice to the details of twelve wrestlers flying around. Was great though, and the champ’s team was victorious when Kyuuri rolled up Miyako for the pin. Between wrestling Tsukka to a draw and getting the win for her team here Kyuuri came out of this show looking like a million bucks, which makes me very happy.

 

 

img_6044

 

Just a fantastic show overall from IR. Loved the concept, execution, and energy they kept up from start to finish.

Merry Joshi Christmas! Part 2: Ice Ribbon 12/24/16 Live Thoughts

December 24, 2016 in Tokyo, Japan

Between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day I was lucky enough to see three Christmas shows, all with some celebratory elements. First was Gatoh Move at Itabashi Green Hall at 1pm on Christmas Eve. That evening I headed over to the Ice Ribbon Dojo for their Christmas show.

 

During the opening Maya Yukihi sang a (rather spectacular) rendition of “All I Want For Christmas” before the usual welcoming comments by various roster members.

The first match was Uno Matsuya & Kyuuri vs Tequila Saya & Maika Ozaki. Everyone except Kyuuri was new to me here. As I wrote about in The Future is Now 4, Kyuuri really impressed me last year and I’m hoping to see her get more chances to advance. Here she showed even more of the instincts and skill I noticed last year, along with clearly being the veteran lead of the match among the three relative rookies.

All of the newer wrestlers looked good, despite getting a little lost at times (which with Kyuuri’s help they recovered from nicely). Uno and Saya are already showing disctinctive styles and personalities, and seemed to be solid additions to the roster. Ozaki showed great flashes of power and has a ton of potential as a wrecking ball style wrestler. She was made to look strong defeating Kyuuri for the win.

 

 

On the first show I saw during last year’s trip I was introduced to Miyako Matsumoto by seeing her team unsuccessfully and hilariously with Maruko Nagasaki, so I was extremely amused to find them teaming again here on my first IR show of this trip. Given their opponents were International Tag Ribbon Championship #1 contenders The Lovely Butchers (Hamuko Hoshi & Mochi Miyagi), there seemed little chance of the former team’s record improving.

Sure enough this unfolded exactly as expected, with some self serving antics from the Dancing Queen and and eventual victory for Hoshi & Miyagi. Miyako predictably hit at her opponent in frustration after the loss. The Butchers looked good as a team, keep their own playing around to a minimum and focusing on hard hitting tag team wrestling (which is where I think their strength is). Their performance here definitely increased my excitement for their upcoming title match against my personal favorite team, Avid Rival.

 

 

Tsukasa Fujimoto & Maya Yuhiki vs Kurumi & 235 was an intense tag encounter built entirely around the undercurrents of ICE Cross Infinity Championship semi-finalists Tsukka and Kurumi facing off. Their tense staredowns, one upmanship games, etc all worked well to crank up anticipation for RibbonMania and actually seemed to be teasing a Tsukka vs Kurumi final. Kurumi got to look like a bit of a beast here, using her power to get the better of Tsukka on quite a few occasions. Maya and (the rather underrated) 235 were on here as well, leading to a strong, compelling tag match.

 

 

Rabbit Miu’s last match at Ice Ribbon was the main event, where she faced Tsukushi.  Decent main event and a fitting send off for Rabbit. She was clearly having fun out there wrestling a friend. Both are accomplished wrestlers so action was good too.

 

 

After the matches there was an extended roundtable with Tsukushi giving a goodbye speech to Rabbit in addition to the usual promos/comments.

Seemed to be some bluster from the remaining tourney participants, and that along with the semi-main tag provided good build for RibbonMania. Although the absence of one of the four semifinalists due to Risa performing in a play did hamper that momentum a little.

 

img_5530_trim

 

Overall this was one of the stronger top to bottom dojo shows I’ve seen, with great action and a lot of intriguing underlying stories.

The Future is Now 4

In addition to excellent matches and an incredible number of highly talented wrestlers, I love watching independent wrestling to see people develop and grow and get a glimpse of tomorrow’s stars today. I’ve previously featured Timothy Thatcher, Dalton Castle, and Nicole Savoy in my first The Future is Now blog, Su Yung, Leah Vaughn (then Leah von Dutch) and Takumi Iroha in my second, and Courtney Rush, Matt Riddle, Shayna Baszler, and Rhia O’Reilly in my third.

This time I’m going to narrow the focus a bit, doing a feature on some of the young Joshi stars that made huge impressions on me during my trip to Japan at the beginning of this year.

Professional wrestlers can start (much) younger in Japan than the US, leading to some interesting situations with standout young talent already being established and accomplished veterans while still in their teens, in addition to young rookie talent getting an early chance to develop into fully rounded performers. All of the wrestlers in this column are 20 years old or younger.

This column is long overdue and in some ways outdated, but I decided it’s still worth it to share my impressions as they were when I saw these athletes live. I’ve added some further context where needed, but for the most part the following information and opinions are rooted in the beginning of 2016.

Kyuuri

IMG_7288

It’s easy to tell that the (seemingly) diminutive Kyuuri already has an extensive understanding of her craft. She’s an amazingly smooth, masterful submission wrestler who always seems the equal to her often larger and more experienced opponents. Even in her frilly, bright green gear (that reminds my niece of Tinkerbell) Kyuuri conveys a sense of being a competent threat to her opponents in a way beyond several wrestlers I’ve seen with far more time in the business.  If she continues to acclimate and excel as much as she has so far in her 3 years in wrestling, this 18 year old is easily going to be a huge star by her mid-twenties despite her size. An ICE Cross Infinity Championship reign for her sooner rather than later would be entirely justified.

Yuuka

IMG_5786_trim

Yuuka is another young star whose instincts far outshone her 2 years of experience and 17 years of age. She carried herself in a way that made an immediate impact, including a ring style that showcased hard strikes and fierce determination in a thoroughly compelling manner.

Unfortunately Yuuka has spent the latter half of this year on hiatus for undisclosed reasons. But is still listed as part of the Ice Ribbon roster on their webpage, so here’s hoping she will return at some point. Of the wrestlers I was previously unfamiliar with she left perhaps the greatest impression, and she certainly has the potential for a big career ahead of her if she continues.

Kotori

IMG_7040

Kotori is a 18 year old wrestler based in the Gatoh Move promotion who has an exuberance and enthusiasm to her wrestling that’s downright contagious. She’s a captivating performer and more than held her own in all the matches I saw, usually against opponents with a great deal more experience. Her unique charisma and already well honed skills and instincts will certainly only continue to develop and expand as her career goes on beyond its current 3 years.

Riho

img_4893

I’d like to finish this feature talking about two wrestlers who are on the other end of what I mentioned in the opening than those discussed so far. In contrast to showing poise and skill beyond their experience, these wrestlers already HAVE an incredible amount of experience at an extremely young age.

First is Riho, who like Kotori currently works for the Gatoh Move promotion. She began wrestling an the age of 9 and thus has an astonishing 10+ years in the business at only 19. A natural, likable underdog, Riho effortlessly rallies the crowd behind her with a bright personality and expert timing and execution in her wrestling. She is so masterful at her role I actually get the impression branching out a bit in terms of style and opponents would be good for her, as she comes across as someone who has all the tools to succeed at anything she wanted to.

Tsukushi

IMG_5950

Finally we have Tsukushi , another example of the unique situations in which a very young wrestler can already be a long established veteran. At 19 years old she’s already been wrestling for over 6 years, and it shows in her instincts, polish, and overall performance.

Tsukushi’s extremely smooth in the ring and knows how to make her offense look believable, even though she’s usually smaller than her opponents (often quite significantly). Her ring style is generally strike and high-flying based, so she approaches the size disadvantage in a distinctly different way than what I mentioned about Kyuuri. She comes across as a threat even when at first glance it seems she should be horribly outmatched, which is both a result of and a testament to her experience and devotion to her craft.

She’s always a stone’s throw from Ice Ribbon’s main title and is an invaluable utility player that can help the less experienced wrestlers, elevate others into title contention, or challenge the reigning champion herself to establish their worthiness. Tsukasa Fujimoto is the ace of Ice Ribbon, but Tsukushi is just as important to the promotion at present. And given her age they could build the promotion around her (and others mentioned here) for a long time to come.

Honorable mentions: 

Narrowing this list was tough, as I saw numerous young talents with bright futures.

Maruko Nagasaki might have been the most surprisingly impressive wrestler I saw relative to her experience. She was clearly still “earning her stripes” so to speak, but was solid in the ring and held up her end of matches so well I was shocked to learn she had debuted only 3 months prior to my seeing her wrestle. Also, Kurumi was recovering from injury during my trip, so I haven’t seen her wrestle yet. From what I understand if I had she would have been a certain inclusion in this list.

There are some excellent young wrestlers outside of my favorite promotions that I didn’t get to see as much of as I would have liked, so hopefully my path will cross more with wrestlers such as Sareee, Meiko Tanaka, etc going forward.

——-

That all for now. Hope I’ve brought a new wrestler or two to attention, and everyone mentioned is well worth checking out.

RibbonMania 2015 Review

December 31, 2015 in Tokyo, Japan

This was Ice Ribbon’s big year end show, and I thoroughly enjoyed it live.

 

Roster is introduced to open and champion Aoi Kizuki speaks to hype things up. After everyone heads back tag champions Arisa Nakajima and Tsukasa Fujimoto give a well received singing performance that further fired up the crowd to start the event.

I continue to love the video packages that run before the matches start running down the entire card with a little background for each. It sets the stage for the dvd wonderfully and I wish American wrestling companies would do it.

1) Hiroyo Matsumoto, Makoto and Maruko Nagasaki vs Cherry, Hiroe Nagahama and Mika Iida **3/4

Entrances are skipped as usual and we cut right to the opening bell, with both teams in chicken fight position. Seeing a little of the lead up to that might’ve been a wise inclusion. Still, fun start with an amusing visual as Hiroyo and Makoto with Maruko on their shouldrs charge Cherry and Mika carrying Hiroe. Maruko gets the better of it and shoves Hiroe off balance, toppling her whole group. As Maruko’s team turns to celebrate, Cherry attacks from behind to similarly topple them. And thus the match proper begins. 😉 

IMG_7120

Cherry’s team isolates the only IR roster member in the match and Cherry rips bunches out of Maruko’s hair (while Hiroyo gives thumbs down from the outside) then proceeds to repeated back raking. No mystery as to who the heels are here. Tag to Hiroe who hits a couple dropkicks in the corner then tags out to Iida. Iida gleefully beats on and twists Maruko into knots for a bit then tags out to Cherry, who taunts Hiroyo and Makoto by bringing Maruko’s hand within inches of the tag then pulling back. As much as I like the usual “spirit of competition” feel to most of IR’s matches, it’s nice to see clear, committed heel work like this sometimes too.

Maruko eventually hits a running dropkick to stun Cherry and make it to Hiroyo for the tag. The Lady Destroyer levels Iida and Hiroe with shoulder tackles and powers Cherry into a backdrop suplex from a waistlock, then calls Makoto and Maruko in to climb onto her for extra weight as she drops the double knees to Cherry. Iida and Hiroe drop Hiroyo with a double dropkick however, then Cherry drop toeholds and slams her own partners into a pile on Hiroyo and splashes the top of it. For some reason the ref counts this as a legit cover, but Hiroyo powers a shoulder up from under her three opponents at 2.

Iida tagged in, but Hiroyo clotheslines her and tags Makoto, who goes up top for a crossbody followed by a bicycle kick on Iida for 2. Cherry helps Iida take over, then a tag brings in Hiroe, who wears Makoto out with running dropkicks until Hiroyo grabs Hiroe from the apron to allow Makoto to tag. Maruko’s turn to hit repeated running dropkicks, and they get 2. Forearm exchange ends when Hiroe tries a Northern lights suplex, which Maruko tries to counter into a sunset flip. Hiroe maintains balance until Makoto comes in with a… running double overhead chop I guess to knock Hiroe back and allow Maruko to complete the sunset flip for 2.

Hiroyo splashes Hiroe in the corner and she’s small packaged by Maruko for 2 (broken up by Iida and Cherry). European uppercut by Iida into a … double backhand slap something by Cherry into the previously attempted Northern lights by Hiroe which gets 2 as Makoto and Hiroyo save. Maruko hits a surprise uranage for a close 2 to pop the crowd, but Hiroe responds with a wheelbarrow rollup for the win.

Decent enough opener and an effective way to use numerous non-regular roster members to fill out the card, but this really played like a match on fast forward. Each segment pairing different opponents was maybe thirty seconds. Felt like a really good fifteen minute 6-woman tag crushed into half that. Fine for what they had to work with though. Was my first time seeing any of the winning team. Particularly interested in seeing what Iida can do with more of a spotlight. 

 

2) Yuuka vs Sareee ***3/4

Teens single match spotlight here. Nice to get a glimpse at a couple of rising stars in an environment like this. Yuuka with a slightly creepy stare towards Sareee during the handshake that she holds a little too long. Nice touch of attempted intimidation there without being disrespectful or heelish. Fun back and forth stalemate sequence to start, with the usual chain wrestling, arm drags, etc. 

Despite both being teens at this point, Sareee has a couple years both in age and experience on Yuuka, as well as a slight size and strength advantage, and definitely plays the “testing out the upstart” mannerisms here and there. Yuuka fires back each time, lending a nice backbone story to the match. After a hairmare and some choking in the corner, Sareee applies a nice Muta lock which Yuuka eventually gets out of by biting Sareee’s hand. The latter isn’t amused and boots Yuuka repeatedly as the she tries to get up. Corner whip is revered by Yuuka and she hits a running dropkick followed by a DDT for 2. Saree bridges out of the pin and hits some dropkicks of her own for 2.

Sareee up top with a missile dropkick for 2. Crowd’s into Yuuka’s resilience. Yuuka reverses  a whip and catches Sareee against the ropes with a forearm, then hits the rebound one to knock Sareee down as she staggers to the center, then the diving one on a prone Sareee for 2. Love that sequence. Yuuka goes up top for her own missile dropkick, then across the ring to the far turnbuckle for a crossbody for 2. Crosslegged fisherman’s suplex attempt fought off, and Sareee responds to a Yuuka forearm to the chest by NAILING Yuuka with one of her own across Yuuka’s face. Big crowd gasps for that. They lay into each other with alternating forearms to the chest, which ends when Yuuka hits the ropes for one and Sareee hits a dropkick. Yuuka’s laying against the ropes and Sareee hits the far side for a running dropkick to the seated Yuuka.

Yuuka counters a German attempt into a wheelbarrow rollup for 2, then catches Sareee as the latter tries a jackknife cover with another pinning combination for 2, then gets her floatover backslide for 2. Sareee waistlock countered into a 120% schoolboy attempt which Sareee tries to counter into a pin but they’re in the ropes. Yuuka leans against the ropes again for a second and eats another running dropkick in that position. Sareee up to the top again, but gets caught and Yuuka brings her down with a super-hurricanrana. Crosslegged fisherman’s connect for a believable nearfall.

Yuuka hits the rope but her forearm is ducked and Sareee finally hits the German for 2. She jaws with the ref for a second about that not being 3. Sareee calls for the and and pulls Yuuka up by her hair. Defiant roar by Yuuka, so Sareee hits another HARD forearm to knock her down. Yuuka back up and charges, but runs right into and overhead uranage for the pin.

Nice showing for both. Haven’t seen much of Sareee, but she looked good here. Yuuka has instincts and skills well beyond her experience, and should be a huge star someday.

 

3) Miyako and Jun Kasai vs Antonio Honda and Mochi Miyagi vs GENTARO and Yuji Hino ***1/2

Miyako Matsumoto’s band Black DPG provided the second live singing performance of the night as an entrance ceremony of sorts for Miyako and partner Jun Kasai (who amusingly sat on the turnbuckle in the background “encouraging” people to clap). Miyako and company had a “slightly” different feel to their music and dancing than Best Friends’ song. 😉 Entertaining enough. Miyako and Kasai are both wearing a contact in one eye

We cut right to the opening bell after the performance ends, where special ref (and retired IR wrestler) Mio Shirai is checking the participants. Mio, Honda, and Gentaro start, with the two men shaking hands, then Honda offering a hand to Miyako only to draw it back with a Ric Flair “Woooo” when she reaches for it. Miyako responds with her usual good nature and pounds Honda to the mat. Gentaro decides to greet Miyako with a slap to the face. Miyako responds in kind with a hard shot, gets swatted on the head by Gentaro, and this time straight up punches him in the face in retaliation (nice hard shot too).

Gentaro swings back at Miyako, who blocks the shot, hits another slap, then gets a side headlock for a second before being sent to the ropes. Miyako gets the better of him for a few seconds with pose enhanced armdrags, but when she poses in celebration Gentaro double swats the back of her head and she rolls out of the ring. Honda’s back up and he and Gentaro counter wrestle for a bit, then Gentaro trips Honda after agreeing to a square up, so Honda just pokes him in the eyes. Then does the same to Miyako, who of course chose the worst possible time to come back in the ring.

His opponents are outside the ring so Honda hits the ropes for an apparent dive (doubtful) and sure enough his knee “gives out” before he can dive and he tumbles to the mat, then rolls outside clutching his knee. With the original combatants all in disarray outside of the ring their three partners enter it to face off. The crowd is clearly behind Kasai. Mochi takes exception and does the Lovely Butchers’ posing routine to win the crowd back, but halfway through Kasai simply kicks her in the head to a hero’s ovation. Mochi ducks a clothesline and continues the posing, so Kasai kicks her in the head again. I like. Hino has just stood in a corner watching all of this so far. Mochi dodges a Kasai charge into the corner and… more posing. You’d think she’d have learned by now. This time Hino attacks here during the pose with a slap to the back.

Mochi rolls out of the ring and Hino follows, but gets caught by Honda who holds him while Mochi grabs her whip. Hino moves and Honda takes the shot. Not to be deterred, he then grabs Gentaro and holds him for the whip, but of course Gentaro also moves and Honda eats another whip shot from his partner. As stubborn as his partner was with her posing, Honda decides it will surely work on Miyako, and grabs her for yet another attempt. And the same results again as Miyako gets free at the last second. Oh wait, there’s one more opponent to try, so Honda rolls into the ring where Kasai’s been watching from and grabs him. Mochi comes in and do I even have to type it? No? Good. Apparently Honda’s not satisfied with that last hit he took, and has Mochi hit him again as Kasai stands off to the side (with an appropriate WTF? look). Still no good, as he takes the whip from Mochi, hands it to ref Mio, and presents his backside her to hit with the whip. After Mio does so Honda shakes her hand. OK THEN.

Kasai ends the … festivities… by knocking both Honda and Mochi out of the ring, where Miyako attacks them with a giant plastic ball. Yes, really:

IMG_7230

Kasai goes with the slightly more effective weapon choice of a table, and after bonking Mochi square in the head with it goes into the crowd and sets up the table next to a stairwell overhang. He and Miyako drag Hino up and lay him out on the table, then Kasai does a diving splash OVER THE STAIRWAY onto Hino sending him through the table.

After that everyone fights back down to ringside, where Kasai chokes Mochi with hula hoops and Miyako bounces her ball off Honda’s head. Miyako and Kasai lay out Honda and Mochi in the ring and it’s time for posing of the entertaining variety. 😉 Kasai trying to match Miyako’s poses is hilarious. Simultaneous splash gets 2, as Honda kicks out and Gentaro dives in and grabs Mio to prevent Mochi being counted out. Kasai slams Gentaro and he and Miyako don goggles, go up to opposite top turnbuckles, and… Hino crotches Kasai on the turnbuckle while Miyako dives and gets caught with Gentaro’s raised knees.

Hino grabs Miyako and just tosses her over his head from slam position for 2. Honda and Mochi in but Hino reverses a double suplex and suplexes them both at the same time. This leaves poor Miyako alone with Gentaro and Hino. Gentaro holds her for a big Hino chop, which Miyako escapes from and Gentaro eats. Kasai saves Miyako from a Razor’s Edge, then calls for a lariat only to eat one from Hino instead. Hino then stalks Miyako, as the crowd chants their support for her as she panics. Powerbomb attempt and Miyako tries a ran reversal, but Hino is too powerful and pulls her back up, only to have Miyako go up and over into a sunset flip for 2.

IMG_7239

Hino’s had enough and levels Miyako with a chop for 2. Kasai saves by dropkicking MIO, which can’t possibly end well. Mio slaps Kasai, then kicks him low. Well, he certainly had it coming. Honda in and Hino goes to chop him, which Honda keeps blocking / begging off. Finally Honda bows to Hino, says something and salutes Hino. After a moment Hino returns the salute instead of chopping Honda. As they stand there Mochi hits a Thesz press on Hino, who then rolls out of the ring. Reverse DDT from Honda on Miyako sets up a Mochi top rope frog splash for the win. Odd that Miyako’s band never got involved, given the match was no-DQ and they were sitting near the ring the whole time.

That was ridiculous, but in most of the right ways. I didn’t follow (nor like) everything, but overall it was a fun combination of absurdity and intense brawling, and never pretended to be anything else.

 

4) Tag Team #1 Contendership: Buribato (SAKI and MIZUKI) vs Azure Revolution (Maya Yukihi & Risa Sera)   **1/2

Buribato impressed my quite a bit the first time I saw them (in the main event of a Gatoh Move show), so I was pretty excited to see them here against IR mainstays Risa and Maya with a shot at IR’s tag titles on the line. Handshakes all around before the bell.

Mizuki and Risa start, kind of, as Maya comes back in at the bell and knocks Saki off the apron so Azure Rev can doubleteam. Mizuki’s whipped to the corner and hit with the double running elbow right away, but Saki’s back and “fights off” Maya by kicking her once and having Maya run away outside for some reason as Buribato attacks her partner. Double faceplant on Risa followed by a double arm wringer and they hit their trademark pose.

IMG_7258

NOW the one on one starts between Risa and Mizuki… nevermind again, as Mizuki hits a couple boots and then immediately tags out. Scoop slam by Saki then she locks in an abdominal stretch with headlock on Risa. She lets that go after a few seconds and ties up Risa’s arms and legs and suspends her in the air. Impressive hold that the crowd murmurs in appreciation of.

Once she drops Risa the latter takes the opportunity to trip Saki and apply her suspended Boston crab, likewise drawing crowd noise. Every hold in the match so far has only been kept on for about five seconds each, which makes sense with the supporting your opponent’s weight ones but overall is giving the match an odd feel and pace. Wish the partners were breaking them up or something. Triple running double knees to the back gets 2, but after a little back and forth Saki hits a suplex and tags Mizuki.

Risa’s receives a drop toehold against the ropes and Saki grabs her feet and holds her up for Mizuki to hit WGTT’s old leapfrog move (kind of: Mizuki BARELY cleared Saki and landed on Risa’s legs instead of her back). Mizuki presses the advantage until Risa creates an opening and hits the double running knees in the corner followed by her spinning side slam for 2. Tag and Maya’s in for the first time. Elbow followed by a kneedrop that clearly misses Mizuki’s head gets 2. Mizuki swats away a kick, but gets sent to her knees by one to her legs then one to the chin gets 2.

Mizuki rolls under a clothesline then has one of her own ducked, then kind of staggers in place for a second until Maya remembers to grab her in a waistlock from behind. She fights out and gets an awkward body scissors takedown into a (nice) pinning combination for 2. Mizuki with a wheelbarrow rollup but she rolls right off Maya into the corner, jumps to the middle turnbuckle and twists around to jump into a doublestomp for 2. Nice spot. Tag to Saki who hits a trio of running shoulder tackles for 2.

Saki keeps control and goes for a giant swing, but only gets about a revolution before losing Maya. Don’t know if that was a bad grip on her part or lack of cooperation. She does it again and gets the move for an appropriate length of time, though clearly doing it through power and struggling to keep it going. Gets 2. Scoop slam in the corner and Saki goes to the middle turnbuckle, but Maya rolls out of the way of the Vaderbomb. Risa in and Azure Rev with a couple of doubleteams featuring Maya setting up variations of Risa’s running double knees then Maya hits her standing leg drop for 2.

img_7269

Slam by Maya as Risa holds Mizuki back but the swanton misses. Crossbody by Mizuki on both opponents into Saki schoolboying them both gets 2. Mizuki and Risa brawl outside and Saki hits a a pair of Vaderbombs on Maya for 2. Risa back in to intercept and Azure Rev hit a double chokeslam  for 2 (Mizuki saves). Mizuki and Risa back outside and Saki puts Maya down with a shoulder tackle, then tries a suplex but Maya barely goes off the ground. Saki does it again, all power, and hits the move … for 3?!

This was a weird match, with these two teams not having nearly the chemistry they should have. The pacing was off throughout the match, right up to the anticlimactic pin after a vertical suplex. Risa’s exchanges with Buribato were decent, but even those were a little more awkward in parts than I remember them being live. Maya’s timing was off and she also seemed to be literal deadweight for all of Saki’s moves. Now don’t let my criticism give the wrong idea: this was not horrible by any means and there were some fun sequences. But there were also obvious issues and these four are certainly capable of better.

5) Neko Nitta retirement match: Neko Nitta and 235 vs Akane Fujita and Kyuuri ***1/2

I feel honored to have been at this event live to see Neko’s last match and retirement ceremony. More thoughts on that here.

Neko and 235’s entrance is shown, as are the ring intros. Neko comes to the ring wearing Pantera Rosa’s mask, which she removes to reveal silver hair for the occasion. Neko gets to play in a lot of streamers during her intro. 🙂

Akane calls for Neko to start, but they refuse and 235 is in for the opening bell. Akane charges her and knocks her back into their corner, and repeats her desire for Neko to come in. Neko obliges and Akane gets the advantage then has Kyuuri come in for some doubleteams. They try one too many and Neko takes over, then hits a lungblower on Akane landing essentially into a senton on a prone Kyuuri. Tag to 235, but Akane powers her into a slam to take over and Kyuuri tags in and applies a nasty submission hold where she’s essentially sitting on the back of a folded in half 235 while pulling back on both arms.

After Kyuuri releases she and Akane take turns working over 235 for a while, with Kyuuri always going back to the arm and Akane wearing her out with power moves. This ends when Neko breaks another vicious submission hold of Kyuuri’s and angrily slaps 235 around a bit to get her back into gear. 235 then hits FOURTEEN of her running crossbodies in succession as the crowd gets more and more fired up the longer she goes. She gets 2 off the last one as Akane breaks by Neko and saves.

An exhausted 235 crawls to her corner and tags Neko, who pulls Kyuuri into a camel clutch and scratches her face when she refuses to give up. More face scratching with Kyuuri in the ropes, but the latter reverses a scoop slam and tries to make the tag. 235 comes running in to knock Akane off the apron and end that, then she and Neko doubleteam with corner strikes, a 235 crossbody to a seated Kyuuri and a Neko senton for 2. Kyuuri fights back however with judo throws to both and tags out.

Akane and Neko exchange forearms in a heated sequence that leads to Neko hitting a series of shots with her tail to get the advantage. She goes up to the middle rope and hits a shotgun dropkick then a wheelbarrow rollup for 2. Neko then tours the turnbuckles hitting a middle ropes shotgun dropkick from each on Akane. Last one gets 2. Neko goes up top but Kyuuri stalls her enough for Akane to recover and slam Neko off the turnbuckle. Delayed back body drop gets 2. Neko scratches Akane’s eyes then hits the ropes, where Kyuuri hits Neko in the back but Neko ignores it, then Neko lightly runs into Akane, who’s halfway to her feet. No bump off that and Neko did no actual strike and seemed to be expecting something else. So she simply beats on Akane a few times and iits the far ropes again, where indeed Kyuuri hits her in the back again and this time Akane drops Neko with a double sledge off the rebound. Not usually a fan of repeating blown spots but Neko covered that nicely and the repeat wasn’t as obvious or awkward as it could have been.

 

Running powerslam by Akane on Neko gets 2. Kyuuri hits the fisherman’s then runs over to block 235 as Akane locks in a sharpshooter. 235 gets by Kyuuri to break it up, but gets sent outside the ring by Akane. Double whip into the ropes on Neko, but she jumps to the middle rope and comes off it with a double reverse elbow to drop both her opponents. She whips Akane into a corner where 235’s waiting to hit a tornado DDT, then the lungblower gets a close 2 for Neko. Neko picks Akane up and 235 comes off the top with a flying crossbody, then Neko off the opposite corner with a shotgun dropkick for 2 when Kyuuri saves.  Kyuuri and 235 brawl outside and Neko hits a trio of uppercut palm strikes… for 1. Big pop for Akane’s kickout there.

She wipes Neko out with a shoulder tackle for 2, but Neko reverses a fireman’s carry into a sunset flip for 2 of her own. Another palm strike into another lungblower looks to be it, but Akane kicks out at 2.999. Neko drags Akane into posiition near the corner and finishes her with a moonsault to win her last match. All four wrestlers embrace on the mat and then bow together afterwards and are all understandably emotional.

Solid match that was exactly what it was meant to be: a fitting farewell to Neko during which she got to wrestle with the roster members she learned with.

IMG_7349

Parts of the ceremony where people from Neko’s career came out to present her with gifts and flowers were shown while piano music played. Miyako hitting her over the head with a rose before hugging her was particularly amusing, as was Kasai going for a kiss after shaking Neko’s hand and getting slapped. Then a video message was played from someone who couldn’t attend, and after which Neko stood center ring as the announcer went over career highlights (for which clips played for us dvd viewers), then Neko gave a speech. Neko then received a ten bell salute for the end of career.

Another, greater avalanche of streamers met her at the end of the salute, and once she untangled herself Kyuuri, 235, and Akane carried her around the outside of the ring.

The ceremony was an incredible thing to be able to attend love and share with Neko as she retired, and the dvd captured the emotion and highlights of it all wonderfully.

 

6) Tsukushi vs Ayako Hamada ***3/4

Hamada’s shoulder is heavily taped. Tsukushi looks beyond tiny next to Hamada, who has about 6 inches and 50 lbs on the younger competitor. Collar and elbow tie up to start and Tsukushi really works it trying to back Hamada up, but the latter powers Tsukushi back a couple of steps then pushes her away and into the ropes. They lock up again with similar results, then the third time Hamada finally pushes Tsukushi all the way against the ropes. She breaks clean but Tsukushi grabs her, spins her around, and hits a forearm. Nice show of intensity so far from Tsukushi kind of acknowledging she’s got an uphill battle while not being intimidated and holding her own.

IMG_7375

They go back and forth for a bit with Hamada trying to use her size and power advantage along with her own speed to get the better of Tsukushi, and the latter being just a little quicker and avoiding most of it while getting a couple shots in here and there. Once Hamada catches Tsukushi she hits a trio of slams and goes into a Rings of Saturn variation to wear Tsukushi down. Once Tsukushi reaches the ropes they do a forearm exchange with Hamada leveling Tsukushi each time and shrugging of the retaliations until Tsukushi hits THIRTEEN in rapid succession to stun Hamada briefly. She tries to follow up with a wheelbarrow roll, but Hamada powers her over into a nice wheelbarrow suplex instead.

Another forearm lays Tsukushi out and Hamada goes up for the moonsault, but Tsukushi rolls inside and it misses. Double rotation flying headscissors (during which Tsukushi lost momentum in the middle but they managed to right themselves without being too obvious and finish) sends Hamada outside. Tsukushi climbs the turnbuckles and hits a crossbody to Hamada on the floor. Back in, after a missile dropkick Tsukushi targets Hamada’s leg, including a sweet counter of a Hamada spin kick into a knee bar. Hamada makes the ropes to break but Tsukushi then hits a dropkick as she lays against them.

Tsukushi then hits a tiger suplex(!!), but can’t keep the bridge for the count. So she goes for it again, which makes total sense within the match context and doesn’t come across as a redone spot,  and just nails it with a perfect arch and bridge for 2. Looked crazy impressive on the much larger opponent and the crowd “oooh”ed appreciatively. Hamada fights off a third then sits down on a Tsukushi victory roll attempt for 2. Tsukushi tries another wheelbarrow, but just gets spun away through the air. Tsukushi attempts to counter Hamada’s powerbomb with a hurricanrana, but Hamada’s too strong and lifts Tsukushi back up to complete the move, but Tsukushi goes up and over instead and gets a sunset flip for a very close 2.

A clothesline by Hamada as Tsukushi comes off the ropes ends Tsukushi’s momentum, and Hamada press the advantage with a couple of strikes before putting Tsukushi on the top turnbuckle. The latter fights off the slam attempt however and executes the vistory roll she was going for earlier for 2. Then the wheelbarrow roll for 2. Nice callbacks to her earlier strategies. Tiger attempted again but Hamada counters into a big backdrop suplex.

Tsukushi goes through Hamada’s legs to avoid the powerbomb, but Hamada leg lariats (the general area kind of near) Tsukushi’s head to put her down again. The youngster looks to be out but when the sitout powerbomb finally connects it only gets 2. Big applause for that kickout. Hamada’s shows a mixture of disbelief and respect on her face, but that was all Tsukushi had left and a spin kick to the head puts her down for 3.

Don’t know if it was the taped shoulder or just the passage of time, but Hamada was definitely more methodical here than I remember. The structure was somewhat odd, as Hamada never really paid for taking Tsukushi a little lightly here and there (and in fact won with a lackadaisical cover) and never sold Tsukushi’s legwork. That said, they did build to believable nearfalls to sell a possible upset and the counters and Tsukushi’s going back to things until they worked gave a strong backbone to the action. This played a little better on dvd than I remember it being live.

 

7) Tag Title Match: Best Friends (Fujimoto and Nakajima) vs Avid Rival (Misaki Ohata and Ryo Mizunami) ****3/4

I adore all four competitors and this was tied for my favorite match out of 84 I saw while visiting Japan. Let’s see how it holds up.

Champions’ entrance is shown, coming out to the same song they sung to open the show. Their wearing all their belts, which is quite the awesome sight. Introductions are shown too, a nice touch for title matches. Knowing Misaki can play the energetic, “bubbly” babyface, it’s highly amusing to see her play the more serious “straight man” in Avid Rival counter to Mizunami’s exuberance. The charisma Mizunami has developed in the couple years since I last saw her is incredible. She was always solid in the ring, but now she’s absolutely captivating in her mannerisms and expressions.

Stern faces on all four during the pre-match portion, but handshakes all around regardless. Tsukka and Mizunami start. They trade waistlocks with Muzunami having a slight advantage due to her power and she takes Tsukka down and trasitions into a front facelock, but Tsukka immediately rolls into one of her own and they trade reversals on that for a few go rounds. Mizunami once agains starts to establish and advantage, so when Tsukka escapes that time she goes back to the waistlock, but Mizunami cinches in a side headlock to counter. Interesting storytelling here early on, as they’re practically even but Mizunami is just getting the slightest little edges here and there to subtlely establish she’s a threat to the champion.

She flips Tsukka over in a side headlock takedown, countered with a headscissors, Mizunami kips out and rushes Tsukka, legs swept and a cover for less than 1, Tsukka rushes Mizunami now, legs swept and a cover for less than 1 as Tsukka bridges out, Mizunami rolls under Tsukka’s kick, and there’s the stalemate square up as they eye each other wearily. Counter wrestling like that is so much fun when done properly, and of course these two did.

Switch on both sides and now it’s Misaki vs Arisa. It’s formulaic but “different sets of opponents facing each other” is always a great way to start big tag matches. In contrast to how their partners started, these two go straight into a collar-and-elbow tie up and simply try to power each other backwards. No go either way so they mutually break after a few seconds. They circle and Misaki gestures for a test of strength, but Tsukka comes in and attacks her from behind (BOO!). The rest of the audience doesn’t mind the illegal assist, as BF’s double dropkick to Misaki gets applause, as does their subsequent double kick to the chest.

Mizunami is intercepted by Arisa trying to come to Misaki’s aid, and BF’s throw Avid Rival into opposite corners. However Avid Rival do-si-do when whipped toward each other and splash BF’s back into the corners. Misaki and Mizunami then do Mizunami’s trademark fire up / pose of kissing their knuckles and splash their opponents again, then criss cross and Misaki nails Arisa with the seated crossbody while Mizunami lariats Tsukka in the opposite corner. Crowd equally happy with that sequence so we’ve got a hot title match here with the audience into whatever awesome wrestling they see and no obvious favorites or heels so far.

Misaki goes up to the top turnbuckle as Mizunami wrangles both BF’s on the outside, but they move and Misaki nails Mizunami with the crossbody to the floor. As AR gets up Arisa hits them both with a dropkick from the apron, then Tsukka follows with her own crossbody from the top to the outside. Amusing side note: this all happened about ten feet from me live, which was so awesome.

Arisa rolls Misaki back in and she and Tsukka go up in opposite corners to hit missile dropkicks in sequence. As Misaki rolls from the impact of Tsukka’s Arisa has already gotten up and grabs Misaki from behind to go straight into a German suplex for 2. The only wrestlers I can think of that throw Germans anywhere near as good as Arisa are Akira Tozawa, and Arisa’s opponent here in Misaki. I could watch any of the three of them hit nothing but German variations for an entire match (although I probably wouldn’t want that to happen to their poor opponents). Arisa kicks at Misaki’s face, which fires the challenger up and she catches one, gets to her feet, and starts a STIFF forearm exchange. They’re laying into each other gloriously. Misaki eventually ends the back and forth with a flurry of around ten rapid fire shots, but when she hits the ropes to press her advantage Arisa catches her with a Cutie Special for 2.

Then Arisa hits the ropes, but this time Misaki counters and levels her with the spinning double sledge for 2. The energy level of this back and forth is incredible, and the crowd is loving it. Another switch in momentum, and Arisa slips behind Misaki and hits a release German, but when she charges Misaki afterwards the latter swats away a kick and hits her own release German. Shotgun dropkick sends Arisa into AR’s corner, and Misaki follows with the seated crossbody to finally establish a little bit of a sustained advantage. Tag to Mizunami.

The powerhouse stalks Arisa and nails her with a spear. She then picks Arisa up into running powerslam position, but Arisa drops down behind Mizunami, ducks a clothesline, then hits the ropes… to run right into a powerslam for 2. Nice sequence. Running Guillotine Drop misses, and Arisa goes for a German, but Ryo sets her weight to block, then hits a back elbow to break the waistlock. This leads to a forearm exchange to each others’ faces and the crowd is WAY into it since Mizunami’s hitting even harder than Arisa does. She eventually hits a flurry for the advantage, but Arisa ducks the last one and Tsukka slips in and hits her rollup into the kick to the chest. Arisa follows with the rollup into a doublestomp, then they hit their version of 3G’s Hangover for 2.

Back to just Arisa and Ryo, and the latter fights off a full nelson, but then eats SIXTEEN rapid fire forearms from Arisa. Arisa backs up for a big clothesline, which Mizunami ducks, but Arisa spin right around into another forearm shot that ROCKS Ryo. STRAIGHTJACKET GERMAN!!! Love that move, and Arisa nails a beauty here. Gets 2 as Misaki saves.

Tag to Tsukka and she sprints along the apron to a neutral corner and climbs for a missile dropkick, then nails the running dropkick in the opposite corner (which Mizunami rolled into from the impact of the missile). Misaki interrupts a suplex attempt and AR whips Tsukka into the ropes, but she catches them both with a dropkick on the rebound. Exquisitely done too, catching each opponent with one of her feet square in the center of their chests. Tsukka does a forward rollup kip up and plays to the roaring crowd for a second, then hits a trio of hard kicks to a seated Mizunami’s back. Rebound kick to the chest is ducked, but Arisa’s in and plants a savate kick right to Mizunami’s jaw as she gets to her feet.

Best Friends with a double whip to the ropes, but Mizunami levels them both with a double spear off the rebound. She calls Misaki in to knock Arisa out of the ring, then Mizunami ties Tsukka up in the ropes and AR take turns splashing her. When she stumbles into the center Mizunami hits the running Guillotine Drop for 2.

Mizunami lifts Tsukka into torture rack position, but when she looks to turn it into a burning hammer Tsukka does a beautiful flip off Mizunami’s shoulders to counter and lands on her feet. She hits the ropes, but Mizunami catches her and spins her up into a torture rack while Misaki dashes along the apron to a neutral corner. Sitout burning hammer  sets up a diving splash from the top by Misaki (on a perpendicular Tsukka, so Misaki does a sweet turn in mid-air to land properly).

Misaki blocks Arisa and Mizunami nails the lariat on Tsukka for 2. Mizunami seems to signal the end and gets a full nelson, but when she tries to suplex Tsukka the latter breaks the holds and whips Mizunami into a yakuza kick by Arisa (who broke free of Misaki). Hurricanrana rollup gets 2 for Tsukka. She hits the far ropes for momentum and run right into a HUGE lariat from Mizunami. Gets 2, with Arisa just BARELY getting free of Misaki in time to break up the pin. Great stuff.

Misaki sends Arisa out and runs back to her own corner to tag in and give Mizunami a breather, and hits Tsukka with a sweet deadlift German with a perfect bridge for a close 2. Tsukka fights off a fisherman’s suplex, but Misaki whips her to the ropes and Mizunami comes back in to help hit a 3D on Tsukka for 2. Great dramatic moment there as Arisa was trying to run around the ref and Mizunami and couldn’t make it in time, but Tsukka kicked out at the last second anyway to keep the match alive.

Ohata hits the ropes as Tsukka rises but gets caught with a double dropkick by both member of Best Friends. She ends up sitting against the ropes and Arisa hits a running kick to the face followed by a dropkick from Tsukka. They both go up and Misaki stumbles to her feet and eats a double missile dropkick (with Arisa clearly hitting first and hard but Tsukka still mostly connecting so it still looked good overall) for 2.

Tsukka calls for the Venus Shoot, but Misaki steps into the corner to block and hold up Tsukka for a second for Mizunami to knock Tsukka down with a nasty right hand from the apron. Misaki hits a trio of rolling bridging Germans (and I have to put her up neck and neck with Arisa on her execution of them all match) and holds the last one for 2.999 as Arisa breaks free of Mizunami and hits Misaki out of the bridge with a dropkick to save the titles.

Misaki directs her partner to take care of Arisa, then gets a fisherman’s buster on Tsukka for another extremely close 2. Tsukka just willed her right arm / shoulder up at the last second there. Misaki pulls a largely lifeless Tsukka up and gets into crucifix position, then Mizunami seems to be about to pick them both up like that, but Arisa comes flying in with a missile dropkick to Mizunami to stop it. Misaki drops off Tsukka and tries to attack Arisa, but takes a release German for her troubles.

Misaki tries to block another German from Arisa by settign into wheelbarrow position, but Tsukka hits a sliding kick to Misaki’s face THROUGH ARISA’S LEGS, then rolls out out the way as Arisa uses that momentum to complete the deadlift German. Since Tsukka’s legal, as Arisa holds the bridge Tsukka flips over Misaki into a jackknife cradle for 2. AWESOME sequence. Tsukka jumps into crucifix position and converts into the Infinity. Misaki’s going NOWHERE but Mizunami saves the match.

Tsukka hits a strike combination and jumps into code red position, but Mizunami LEVELS her with a lariat to counter. Misaki with a floatover rollup for 2. Both up, Misaki hit a trio of spinning double sledges, but Tsukka follows her into the ropes and surprises her with the Tsukadora! Mizunami saves at the last second and the crowd’s going nuts. Arisa runs in with a release German to take Mizunami out of the equation. Enzugiri by Tsukka on Misaki sets up the Venus Shoot! 1, 2… kickout! Crowd erupted for that unexpected escape and Tsukka’s selling complete shock. Arisa calls for the end though, and a release dragon suplex from her leads to the Tsukka-chan Bomb (Code Red) by Tsukka to retain.

Yeah, this held up big time. Four fantastic wrestlers going all out in a championship match and really embracing and taking advantage of the tag team format. So many awesome doubleteams, reversals, back and forth spots, etc. Everything I love about pro-wrestling, and a MOTYC for me.

 

8) Ice Cross Infinity Title Match: Aoi Kizuki (c) vs Hamuko Hoshi ****

Big fan of defending champion Aoi, but the challenger hadn’t impressed me much leading up to this, so my expectation were middling.

IMG_7509

Full entrances for both competitors for the first time tonight. Don’t know if that’s because it’s the main or a telegraph of the finish.

Tentative circling to start then they lock up hard only to stalemate. Hoshi baits Aoi and she charges, only to have Hoshi roll under the clothesline and start her posing. Well, at least were getting that out of the way early. Aoi slaps Hoshi’s hand in annoyance during the routine and hits the ropes, but eats a lariat on the rebound for 2. Hoshi with a bunch of overhand chops, which Aoi absorbs as she flexes and walks forward to back Hoshi up a bit. She then responds with her windmill double chops, then sends Hoshi into a corner for machinegun chops. Double claw to the belly and she tries to toss Hoshi, but the latter send Aoi spinning away instead. I think that’s the first belly spot from Hoshi I’ve actually found amusing.

Aoi with a nice cartwheel out of a hairmare attempt, then lands a dropkick. Hoshi catches Aoi charging into the corner with a kick to the gut, then goes up for her belly rub to the face spot. She whips Aoi to the opposite corner, follows with a splash, then hits the buttblocks (which honestly look particularly ridiculous here since Aoi’s so much taller Hoshi’s impacting her thighs instead of her midsection), but Aoi explodes out of the corner with a faceplant as Hoshi celebrates. Senton followed by a twisting splash gets 2.

Both up, and after a Hoshi clothesline is ducked Aoi forces her back in STO position over Aoi’s knee for a submission attempt. Aoi reverses direction and tosses Hoshi away to break. Aoi attempts the crossbody in the corner, but Hoshi runs out to meet her Vader vertical splash style and Aoi’s knocked out of the air. Running belly to the face gets 2. Hoshi hits a shotgun missile dropkick and a folding press for 2, then converts right into a STF when Aoi kicks out.

Aoi reverses by rolling over into her own STF (nice counter I don’t think I’ve ever seen before). It’s in for a while until Hoshi claws to the ropes to break. Aoi ducks a clothesline and gets a wheelbarrow drop toehold to go right back into the STF. Good strategy. Aoi tries to grab Hoshi’s hand when she gets close to the ropes to prevent the break but can’t do so without losing the hold, so Hoshi does indeed make the ropes again to break.

Aoi sets Hoshi against the ropes and hits the opposite side for momentum for the crossbody, then gets a Northern lights suplex with a bridge for 2. She goes up to the top turnbuckle and Aoi’s swivel splash gets 2. She pulls Hoshi to her knees and turns to hit the ropes, but Hoshi grabs Aoi’s ankle to block. Aoi fights free, kicks Hoshi, and hits the ropes, but Hoshi catches her with a lariat for 2. Samoan drop lays out Aoi for Hoshi to go up top, but Aoi rolls inside of the splash attempt and Hoshi eats canvas.

Hoshi to her feet and “bongs” her tummy to indicate she’s fine. Aoi with a leaping clothesline, but Hoshi doesn’t move. Hoshi hits the ropes and Aoi takes the clothesline and rolls right back up to show her own toughness, then ducks another and hits a release German on Hoshi(!!). Hoshi responds in kind and they’re both slow to get up. Simultaneous clotheslines and neither goes down, then Aoi hits the ropes and does a spinning leaping clothesline for 2. Both are down and the ref gets to 9 before they both get back up.

Nice forearm exchange on their knees as both sell exhaustion yet not backing down or giving up. They stumble to their feet and Hoshi hits standing back and forth clothlines to Aoi’s chest and back to get the advantage. Aoi ducks the big one though and nails a beautiful bridging German for 2. Scoop slam and Aoi goes up for the Happiness Splash, but Hoshi moves and the champ hits the mat hard (looks like harder than she thought too: might have been the first few time she’s missed that move and it seems she smacked her face on the landing).

Hoshi follows up with an exploder, then puts Aoi on the turnbuckles. They exchange shits as Hoshi climbs up with her, then Hoshi gets Aoi on her shoulders and gets a super Samoan drop from the second turnbuckle. Hoshi goes up and hits a splash fro mthe top turnbuckle for 2.999. Live I thought that was it. Aoi ducks a clothesline but Hoshi adjusts and hits one to Aoi’s back, but when she goes to the ropes to capitalize Aoi catches her with a small package off the rebound for 2. Aoi tries to spin Hoshi around into a rollup, but Hoshi sets down on her for 2. Hoshi does her roll over downed opponent, but instead of getting a cover out of it Aoi leverages herself up just enough to put Hoshi’s own shoulders down for a close 2.

Aoi calls for the end and looks for a straightjacket German, but Hoshi gets a hard short lariat instead. But Aoi kicks out at 1. Hoshi hits the ropes and another lariat but Aoi kicks out at 1 AGAIN, then unloads with forearms to Hosi’s face, then a slap. Aoi’s playing this like she’s using any and all of her reserves / remaining energy. She goes for the ropes, but jumps into a spinebuster and Hoshi gets 2. Another lariat gets 2. One final lariat and the champ is done. Hoshi gets 3 and the IR title.

img_7590

This was much better than I expected live, and I think it plays ever better on disc. It felt off formula, with them going for some signature moves early and then just pulling out all the stops as they pounded on each other back and forth until someone couldn’t get up. Great, well told story. Wish Aoi had retained, but given her subsequent leaving of IR the outcome obviously makes sense (wonder which decision was made first though…). Easily the best match I’ve seen from Hoshi, and I definitely would like to see more lariat throwing, tough as nails Hoshi and less Lovely Butcher belly wielding Hoshi going forward.

Mochi attacks Hoshi as the latter basks in her moment to make a point and challenge her for a title match. Seems like a competition thing and not a full heel turn / breakup of the team though. Weird.

Footage is shown of the roster going through the crowd shaking hands and thanking everyone for coming. They announce their biggest attendance ever for the show, and the champ leads the “Happy Ice Ribbon” cheer to finish up.

 

Overall

Suitably awesome show for IR’s biggest of the year with a fun undercard, an emotional retirement ceremony, and two great matches on top. As I mentioned in my live thoughts, when the only criticism I have of a show is that given the talent involved I know a few undercard matches could have been even better I’d say things went well. 🙂

 

Ice Ribbon Vol. 707 & 708 DVD Review

Vol 707: February 11, 2016 in Tokyo, Japan

First time in a while I’m reviewing a disc without knowing any results (as usually it’s somewhat unavoidable due to either passage of time, having seen the shows live, or researching what to buy – the cards alone sold me here). Should be fun. 🙂

Everyone comes out in turn for a few words to open the show (while IR’s standard music plays), ending with new Ice Cross Infinity Champion Hamuko Hoshi.

1) Yuuka vs Kyuuri

This will be an interesting matchup as it features two of IR’s biggest rising stars. Yuuka pushes Kyuuri against the ropes off the initial lockup, and we get a clean break. She then gets the better of some chain wrestling and follows by taking Kyuuri down with a dropkick. Scoop slam sets up a high angle Boston crab and it’s all Yuuka so far. Forearm with Kyuuri in the ropes and Yuuka attempts the running one to follow, but Kyuuri with a great counter right into a Fujiwara armbar. Yuuka rolls out but Kyuuri adapts and modifies into a crossarm submission. Yuuka makes the ropes with her left leg to break.

Hard kick to Yuuka’s arm then a running forearm in the corner for Kyuuri, but Yuuka reverses a second into a running dropkick in the corner then hits another in the center of the ring for 2. Yuuka tries the crossleg scoop slam but Kyuuri blocks and they go into a heated forearm exchange. Nice spot at the end where Yuuka hits three of them, then Kyuuri ducks a big one, but instead of Kyuuri getting control off of that Yuuka adapts, spins around and catches Kyuuri with another forearm anyway. Occasionally varying the normal formulas even a little can really add to the immersion of a match.

Kyuuri takes over with a trio of slingblade style clotheslines for 2. Cartwheel splash gets another 2, then Kyuuri goes for a cross armbreaker, but Yuuka keeps her hands clapsed and momentarily elevates Kyuuri then slams her back down to break. Even though she didn’t get the full powerbomb style counter there it was still a very impressive feat of strength. Yuuka up top and hits a shotgun missile dropkick for 2. Scoop slam and she goes up again, but Kyuuri moves out of the way of the super diving forearm. Yuuka ducks a kick and tries a schoolboy, but Kyuuri grabs Yuuka’s arm, pushes it up, and locks her own legs around it in a great counter hold.  Yuuka claws to the ropes to break.

Fisherman suplex attempt is blocked by Yuuka, but Kyuuri ducks a clothesline attempt and nails a lungblower then goes back to the fisherman’s and gets 2. Kyuuri fires up the crowd and goes to the top with a flying crossbody for 2.999. Scoop slam sets up the crossarm submission, but Yuuka cradles her for 2, then ducks a clothesline and gets her floatover backslide for 2. I totally bought that as a slight upset win for Yuuka.

Kyuuri ducks a running forearm and gets a small package for 2. Yuuka rolls through to avoid a rollup attempt, then gets the 120% rollup for 3! Kyuuri is shocked. FANTASTIC selling and attention to detail by Yuuka as she directs the ref away from her injured arm to raise the other one. Nice win for Yuuka over the heir apparent for the Triangle title. Great little match that made the most of the time given. These two have bright futures ahead of them.

 

 

2) Miyako Matsumoto vs Misaki Ohata

These are two of my favorites and I personally haven’t seen them in the ring together before, so I’m quite looking forward to this. Lockup and Ohata immediately pushes Miyako back to the ropes and double slaps her chest dismissively on the break. Miyako sells this like she just received Misawa shotgun chops, holding her chest, dancing around in pain, and giving the ref the same slaps to show him what it felt like. After shaking it off and psyching herself back up, we get another lockup during which Miyako runs her mouth and pumps her legs trying to move Misaki and the latter just holds her ground and smiles. 

Miyako finally backs Ohata up a couple of steps, so Misaki boots her in the midsection and grabs a wristlock. They roll through each other’s attempts a few times, then Miyako cranks Misaki’s arm for three revolutions, to which Misaki responds by calmly reaching forward with her other hand and covering Miyako’s nose and mouth. Miyako ducks a clothesline and tries to grab the arm again and pose, but Misaki covers her mouth again to Miyako’s dismay.

Another clothesline by Misaki ducked and Miyako tries to force Misaki to pose, but gets caught with a snapmare instead and eats the seated dropkick. Misaki finally realizes she’s not necessarily happy with the results of placing her hand over Miyako’s mouth, and wipes it off on the ref’s shirt. Misaki calls out something to the crowd’s “oohs,” then hits a double sledge and an elbow drop, then bows to the crowd to applause. Misaki turns the prone Miyako around on the mat, then chops her chest to flip her over, then spanks her with chops a couple times. Miyako tries to roll away, but it only results in Misaki standing on her stomach near the ropes. Misaki’s just decimating and toying with Miyako thus far.

Face slam to the mat and Miyako complains loudly and constantly as Misaki sets up a camel clutch. Tiring of it quickly, Misaki applies the hold over Miyako’s mouth to shut her up. Amusing bit as neither Misaki nor the ref are certain whether Miyako’s giving up because her mouth is covered, so Misaki removes her hands slightly, but Miyako starts screaming again so they go right back into place. Misaki  tires of this and slams Miyako’s face into the mat again to break the hold.

Misaki fires up the crowd and hits a curb stomp for 2. Miyako shows signs of life by reversing a whip into the corner, but Misaki completely laughs off her subsequent running forearm and avoids a running dropkick by swatting Miyako away on her backside. Misaki finally seems to take it one step too far by calling Miyako names, as the latter immediately catches Misaki with the running doublechop afterwards. Only gets 1, as appropriate for Miyako’s first effective offensive move of the match. Miyako absurdly argues with the ref that the 1 count was in fact 3. She tries to position Misaki on the mat but Misaki stands up despite Miyako’s efforts to push her back down.

A Miyako forearm prompts a look of annoyance from Misaki who nails one of her own to send Miyako back to the ropes and doubled over. The next several exchanges go the same, until Miyako ducks one of Misaki’s and makes her pose. Misaki looks dejected that she fell for that, and Miyako gets a schoolboy rollup for 2. Misaki lays on the mat in frustration and Miyako sort of applies a spinning toehold, and asks Misaki to give up prompting a very flat “no.” So she reapplies it four more times with the same result, with Misaki’s “no”s getting louder more out of annoyance than pain. Miyako drop an elbow across the leg and pulls back, finally seeming to cause Misaki some pain. Misaki still emphatically refused Miyako’s pestering to give up.

Miyako slams Misaki after a rope break and Misaki starts to bring her knees up as Miyako jumps over her to start Mama Mia posing. Miyako turns back around and despite Misaki’s knees still being half up she kind of goes for a splash and kind of gets kicked away by Misaki. Rare awkward sequence from these two. Miyako crawl to the corner and gets hit with Misaki’s awesome seated crossbody. Misaki goes up top as Miyako stands and beckons her into the corner. Miyako foolishly charges and get caught in the over the ropes hanging armbar. Nice athleticism shown by Misaki as she keeps her legs hooked in the ropes when releasing the hold, then essentially does a situp to get back on the top turnbuckle. Missile dropkick gets 2, and Misaki grabs Miyako’s arm as the latter kicks out to go right into a Fujiwara armbar variation. Miyako eventually rolls out of it, so Misaki simply kicks her in the same arm.

Several standing switches on Misaki’s German suplex attempt, until Miyako drops down and rolls Misaki up for 2. Small package gets another 2 for Miyako. Misaki kicks at Miyako, but the latter then ducks the spinning double sledge, hits the ropes, then very slowly and awkwardly twists through grabbing Misaki’s leg. Once she has it she forces more posing and drops Misaki with an STO for 2. Miyako positions Misaki and goes to the top, poses with the refs help, and of course jumps right into Misaki’s raised boots. Misaki follows with a running crossbody to a seated Miyako for a close 2.

Spinning double sledge hits and Miyako just crumples, and Misaki goes up. She amusingly calls the ref over to try her own Super Mama Mia, and gets the pose for a split second before splashing Miyako for the win.

This was exactly as expected, with Miyako getting her antics and a couple of offensive flurries in in between Misaki mopping the floor with her. I could have gone for something slightly more even and as mentioned Miyako struggled with a couple of spots which broke the flow a bit, but that all goes along with her gimmick and overall this was quite fun.

 

3) Hamuko Hoshi and Maruko Nagasaki vs. Tsukasa Fujimoto and Tsukushi

I believe Tsukushi had been announced as Hoshi’s next challenger (in March) at this point, but I’m not positive. Wait, now I’m pretty positive as Tskushi pulls her hand back from Hoshi’s pre-match handshake (after shaking with Maruko just fine). Hoshi and Maruko ambush their opponents with running dropkicks to start the match. Tsukka and Tsukushi are whipped into the same corner for a running forearm by Maruko, splash by Hoshi, then double team buttblocks.

Stereo slams, but Tsukka and Tsukushi both bridge out of pin attempts and land stero dropkicks. Tsukka and Hamuko leave the ring and Tsukushi works over Maruko for a minute before cheapshotting Hoshi on the apron and calling in Tsukka for alternating “running on opponent’s back” spot. As usual Tsukushi messes with her partner during this, attempting to drop toehold Tsukka onto Maruko. Tsukka half stumbles instead, pushes Tsukushi out of the way and finishes the spot. Amusing.

Tsukushi with a surfboard, then a dropkick into the ropes, but Maruko dodges the seated version and ties Tsukushi up for a running dropkick of her own. Maruko with a nice spinning sunset flip for a close two after a whip into the corner reversal. Tsukushi forearms Maruko, then when the latter returns the shot Tsukushi uses the momentum to turn around and nail Hoshi on the apron with one. It’s little touches like that that make Tsukushi so good. Maruko falls into the ropes after a stunner by Tsukushi and nails a dropkick off the rebound to give her enough space to tag Hoshi. The champ comes in with a big shoulder tackle, but Tsukushi kips right up with a kick to the midsection… which doesn’t have any effect because belly power.

Hard forearm exchange and another nice touch: Tsukushi being vicious and aiming all of her forearms for Hoshi’s face instead of her chest. Tsukushi eventually gets the best of it but then rushes Hoshi who does a standing Vader splash and sends Tsukushi flying. Running belly to the face countered with a dropkick, but whatever Tsukushi had in mind to follow is countered with a big lariat for a close 2. Tag by Tsukushi after some more back and forth brings in Tsukka, and in a great sequence Tsukushi missile dropkicks Hoshi into the opposite corner and Tsukka hits the running seated dropkick as soon as she stops rolling, which Tsukushi follows with a seated crossbody seconds later. Hoshi staggers to her feet and Tsukka hits her own missile dropkick for 2.

Tsukushi comes in again but Hoshi flashes the power and reverses a double suplex attempt to put both Tsukka and Tsukushi down. Scoop slam on Tsukka sets up a second rope splash, but Tsukka moves then wears Hoshi out with kicks for 2. Tsukka jumps back up top, but Maruko grabs her until Hoshi can recover and pull Tsukka into a fireman’s carry. Tsukka tries to wiggle into a sunset flip, but Hoshi sets down on her for 2. Reversed to complete the sunset flip for 2, which is reversed back again for 2. Tsukka ties a rollup from the mat but Hoshi sets down again to surprise her for 2.999. Crowd bought that as a possible finish. Enzugiri puts Hoshi down, and Tsukka hits the ropes to do Hoshi’s own “rolling over downed opponent” spot to her. Doesn’t really have the same impact given Tsukka’s size, but it amused the fans.

Perhaps a little too confident, Tsukka turns her back on Hoshi to tag, but gets leveled with a German suplex instead. Hoshi tags Maruko and the latter hits a trio of running dropkicks on Tsukka for 2. Tsukka reverses a scoop slam to take over, calls Tsukushi in, then lifts her partner from crossfire powerbomb position into essentially a spinebuster onto Maruko for 2. Tsukka immediately locks in a crossface while Tsukushi holds off Hoshi, and makes Maruko claw and scrape to get to the ropes to break. Double dropkick by Tsukka and Tsukushi gets 2 when Hoshi breaks up the pin. Attempt of the same on Hoshi is countered with a double clothesline and Tsukushi rolls outside.

Hoshi and Maruko go up top in opposite corners and hit subsequent missle dropkicks on Tsukka for 2. Tsukushi comes in to help, but gets caught with a spinning uranage by Maruko, then Tsukka eats one as well for 2. Tsukka pushes Maruko into the ropes from the mat but the followup rollup is again countered, this time by Hoshi hitting her “rollin over downed opponent” as Tsukka spun around for the rollup. Maruko tried to follow with a roll of her own but Tsukka had brought her legs up so the two just kind of got tangled. Maruko pulls her up and hit a uranage for a close 2. Tsukushi and Hoshi fight to the outside and Tsukka counters another uranage into a rollup for 2. Tsukka tries to cave Maruko’s chest in with a kick for 2. Unfortunately for the resilient Maruko, the veteran immediately locks in a double arm stranglehold and Maruko has no where to go and no choice but to give up.

Decent tag match with Tsukushi doing a ton to forward her issue with the reigning champ and Maruko showing a lot of heart before succumbing to Tsukka’s onslaught. Not everything clicked here, but it was a strong, well worked match regardless with great effort all around.

 

4) Risa Sera vs Maya Yukihi

Both members of Azure Revolution seem a little tentative to lock up against each other here, starting with a double overhand wristlock that Risa initially gets the better of but Maya begins to power back out of. Risa doesn’t like the way that’s going so boots Maya in the midsection, snapmares her over, then locks in a bodyscissors. Risa really works it by bridging up repeatedly a few times, then breaks goes into a camel clutch. Maya makes her fight to apply it and then struggles to escape. Slow beginning but they’re telling a story with it and it’s working so far.

Risa just pounds on her partner for a bit, including forearms to the back and dismissive kicks to the chest when Maya tries to strike back from her knees. Several hair-mares and choking in the corner from Risa follow. Interesting to see Risa playing the dominant, uber-confident veteran putting here partner in her place a bit here. Wonder if this was already foreshadowing subsequent Risa’s climb up the card.

Boston crab cinched in for a while, then converted into Risa’s sweet hanging version (holding her opponents arms) when Maya tries for the ropes. Once Risa breaks and picks Maya back up the latter tries to reverse a whip, but Risa simply stomps on Maya’s foot. Risa off the ropes, but Maya levels her with a shoulder tackle for Maya’s FIRST offensive move of any kind in the match a good five minutes in.

Whip into the corner followed by a running knee to Risa by Maya, then a scoop slam and an elbow drop for 2. Seems a bit early for a chokeslam attempt and sure enough Risa fights it off easily, however after she hits the ropes Maya counters with an STO for 2. Hitting the ropes seems to be a bad idea in general for Risa this match. NICE transition by Maya, grabbing Risa’s arm into a cross armbreaker attempt as Risa kicks out. Risa keeps her hands clasped and reaches to the ropes with her feet for the break. Risa counters a hammerlock with a drop toehold and hits her signature repeated running knees to the back for 2.

Forearm exchange, with Risa largely absorbing Maya’s and her own knocking the latter back the ropes each time. Risa drops Maya to her knees with a trio of shots, but Maya jumps up and rolls Risa into a full cross armbreaker this time for a split second before Risa’s long legs get the ropes. Maya staying on the arm, slamming it repeatedly into the mat. She whips Risa towards the corner, but it’s reversed and Risa hits a running elbow followed by the running knees to the downed Maya, then pulls her out of the corner for 2.

Fireman’s carry reversed into a sunset flip for a close 2 for Maya, then she savate kicks Risa in the head as the latter rises for another 2.  Maya rolls Risa into another crossarmbreaker, and they both sell it like crazy as a possible finish with Maya cranking it and Risa screaming in pain and bouncing around as much as she can until her legs finally get the ropes. Maya selling exhaustion, which delays her just enough for Risa to catch her with a dropkick. Swinging side slam follows for 2. Fireman’s carry slam and Risa goes for the cover, but Maya with a surprise small package for 2. Running double knees against the ropes by Risa sets up the Ayers Rock (sitout Fireman’s carry slam) for 3.

Interesting match. They worked a lot in and made it feel fuller and longer than its ten minute length. Maya looked better than I’ve ever seen her here, selling well and working the arm the whole match with laser focus setting up one big moment where it felt the obvious victor might actually be in jeopardy. Risa dominating the entire first half of the match was something different and made her seem a dominant force, something that was presumably built on on their way to crowning her champion. These two are capable of more, but good, tight main event here.

 

Roundtable

As usual couldn’t follow the discussion, but there seemed to be a lot going on. Yuuka was pouting and giving Misaki a hard time about something (with Misaki laughing) until Tsukka stepped in and said something that cheered Yuuka up. Misaki and Yuuka then cheerfully shook hands and slid back off to the side together. Maruko was really emotional about something a little later. Tsukushi taunted Yuuka about something, leading to the latter standing up and the two facing off for a second. Once everyone’s had a chance to speak, Maruko leads the “Happy Ice Ribbon” cheer to wrap things up.

 

Short show, with just 40 minutes of ring action, but as usual Ice Ribbon packed those minutes and it was quite enjoyable. Nothing really must see, but four good matches that all felt different and highlighted different styles

 

Vol 708: February 13, 2016 in Tokyo, Japan

 

1) Exhibition match: Saya vs Yuuka

Exhibition matches in IR are 3 minute time limit contests for trainees to face regular roster members in preparation for matches on the main show. This was Saya’s first exhibition match, so the first look at her work for any audience. Her opponent is Yuuka, who I’ve often complimented as one of the most impressive rising stars in the business.

Nice touch as since this is an exhibition Saya is in sweats and Yuuka is wearing an IR t-shirt over her normal gear. A fair bit of  quick counter wrestling early followed by Yuuka putting the newbie through the paces with snapmares, strikes, whips, etc. Saya did get flashes of offense here and there: scoop slam, dropkick, etc. Also did a great reversal of a Yuuka forearm into a backslide and several close rollups as the match ended. Saya was tentative in the opening seconds (outside of the counters, which looked great), with really weak elbows and a few glances towards Yuuka to get her bearings, but she got past that quick and looked very good overall in this short showcase. Looking forward to seeing her matches as part of the main roster.

2) Miyako Matsumoto & Risa Sera vs Tsukasa Fujimoto and Akane Fujita

The team of Miyako and Risa will always amuse me greatly now after Miyako’s force conscription of Risa during IR vol. 701. The shenanigans start right away, as it looks to be Risa and Akane to begin, but Risa wants Tsukka, but when Tsukka obliges Miyako decides she wants to start as well and pushes Risa back into their corner.

At the bell Miyako runs past a confused Tsukka and knocks Akane off the apron as Risa runs in and hits Tsukka with a forearm, then they doubleteam Tsukka. Amusing. Doubelteams go as normal for Miyako’s partners: Tsukka is whipped to the ropes and hit with a kick from Miyako as Risa holds her partner in the air, then they try the reverse and Miyako is too weak to keep Risa up and drops her on her head. The way Miyako’s cracking up I’m not sure that was planned, but it certainly fit Miyako’s character either way.

Tsukka shows the traditional IR respect given to Miyako by her opponents, namely hair-maring her all over the place then choking her in the corner. Match slows down just a little bit as Tsukka and Akane take turns working over Miyako. The Dancing Queen eventually tries to fight back with the world’s weakest forearms (character detail, not a screw up). Tsukka responds with a hard double chop that sends Miyako scurrying around the ring, to the outside, then trying to crawl towards the back. She runs back towards the ring… check that, AROUND the ring, but Tsukka catches her and it’s back inside for more punishment.

Miyako eventually comes off the ropes with her flying double chop for 2 on Akane and then finally gets the tag to bring Risa in. Risa gets her opponents set up in opposite corners and bounces back and forth between them doing her running elbow followed by running knees in the corner spot on each in turn. Fun sequence. Tsukka sent out and Akane faceplanted for Risa’s triple running double kneedrop spot for 2. Akane reverses a whip and hits Risa with a double chop to create an opening to tag and Tsukka’s back in.

Dropkick in the corner by Tsukka sets up the running version, but Risa charges out of the corner and catches Tsukka with a dropkick of her own. Intense forearm exchange leads to dodging each other off the ropes, then Tsukka tries a rana but Risa holds on and pulls back into a Boston crab variation. Running double knees against the ropes after a rope break, but Tsukka fights out of the Ayers Rock and hits her rollup into a kick to the chest spot.

Tsukka up top and Akane runs over to block Miyako, but the latter amusingly comes in the ropes as Akane was going out to block her and gets in between Tsukka and Risa. Tsukka just nails her with the missile dropkick instead, and Risa boots her partner back out of the ring. BOO to Risa’s lack of gratitude for such a self sacrificing angel.

Another hard strike exchange which Tsukka gets the better of and then whips Risa to the corner for a running dropkick followed by a running forearm by Akane, then Risa falls down in the corner and Tsukka hits the running dropkick again. However as soon as she’s back up Risa hits the spinning side slam for 2. Tsukka’s out of it and Risa nails Ayers Rock, but Akane comes in to break up the pin at 2. Miyako chases Akane out and Risa goes up top in her own corner where Miyako tags in. This can’t be good.

Sure enough, Miyako slams Risa to the mat even though Tsukka had already moved, then rolls forward (still holding Risa’s arms) so she ends up sitting on the mat with Risa in the same position directly behind her. Tsukka kicks the generously presented back (Risa’s) repeatedly while Miyako covers her head as if she’s the one at risk (while being shielded by Risa). Eh, serves Risa right for booting Miyako after she took the missile dropkick in Risa’s place. 😉 Tsukka hits the far ropes and aims to kick Miyako’s chest, but Miyako rolls out of the way. Of course Risa was still right behind her so she took the full force of Tsukka’s kick. Tsukka tries a cover but the ref explains there’d been a tag and Risa’s not legal.

Miyako emphasizes that Tsukka needs to pay attention to her with another baby forearm, so Tsukka pounds on her. Tsukka hits the ropes, but Risa’s still in the ring so Miyako shoves her partner into a shoulder tackle on Tsukka. TEAMWORK, YAY! Miyako puts Tsukka into a corner and directs Risa into a doubleteam version of Risa’s running elbow, then Risa hits the spinning side slam as Miyako goes up top. The ref wants nothing to do with helping Miyako balance, so she calls Risa over. This has taken so long that Tsukka ALREADY has her legs straight up to block as Miyako poses.

Before we can see if Miyako would jump anyway Akane comes in and attacks. Tsukka knocks Risa out of the ring, Akane nails the powerslam, and a Tsukka kick to the chest gets 2. Tsukka locks in a double arm stranglehold and wrenches back. Miyako looks to be fading when Tsukka loses grip on an arm and Miyako frantically tries to escape, but Tsukka gets the hold again. I expected the end right there (especially with Akane blocking Risa from coming in at every turn), but Miyako struggles close enough to get her feet on the ropes to break. Big audience reaction for her endurance there.

Tsukka calls for the Venus shoot, but Miyako ducks underneath and gets her trademark rollup… for 2, as Akane gets by Risa and saves. That would have been quite the upset. Shining wizard gets 2. Tsukka fights back with an enzugiri, but Risa comes in. Ayers Rock, but she hit Miyako with Tsukka’s feet while spinning around. She drags Miyako into a cover for 2 as Akane’s back in to save again.

Risa sends Akane back out and Miyako tries to hold Tsukka in place for Risa’s top rope double knees with a rather gingerly applied armbar.  Risa lands on her feet as Tsukka rolls out, but she blames Miyako and Tsukka dropkicks Risa from behind as they argue, sending Risa into Miyako. Tsukka floats over both and uses Risa’s weight to help pin Miyako, but still only gets 2. Akane shoulder tackles Risa and sends her back outside. Miyako tries to get her pinning combo on Tsukka, but it’s reversed and Tsukka pins Miyako with her own move for the victory. Risa sympathetically yells at an already visibly upset Miyako after the match. If only Miyako had had a more understanding, less selfish partner. 😉

This was a ton of fun, with everything I like about Miyako’s style of comedy in matches interwoven with fantastic action from Risa and Tsukka. Akane’s role was limited, but she did well with what she was given. Some great false finishes in there too that added to the immersion.

 

3) Kyuuri and Tsukushi vs The Lovely Butchers (Hamuko Hoshi and Mochi Miyagi)

Tsukushi gets another opportunity across the ring from the champ, but this time Hoshi has her regular partner in her corner. Kyuuri and Mochi start and the latter uses her size advantage to control her tiny opponent for a bit until Kyuuri escapes a headlock with a headscissors, gets up, and simply kicks Mochi in the head when the latter tries to pose. Disclosure: I am generally disposed against the Butcher’s gimmick and their posing routines so get a big smile on my face whenever anyone attacks them during it. Yay Kyuuri!

Tag brings in Tsukushi, but Mochi levels them both with a shoulder tackle off the ropes. Hoshi in and stereo whips set up stereo splashes and butt blocks in opposite corners, but Tsukushi and Kyuuri hit dropkicks to their opponents backs during the gloating portion. Tsukushi lines the Butchers up face down and she and Kyuuri take turns running on both of their backs. Then Tsukushi pushes the ref into doing it. Might be the one time I don’t complain about an interfering ref. 🙂 Pig face in the ropes on both Butchers, then double chops with them still tied up.

Kyuuri and Hoshi head back out and Tsukushi decides the best way to press her commanding advantage is to try to scoop slam Mochi, who has 50 lbs on Tsukushi. Unsurprisingly this tactic does not work, and Mochi reverses the slam and tags Hoshi to completely reverse the momentum of the match. Hoshi splashes for 2, but Tsukushi counters with a headscissors, dropkick, and scoop slam on Hoshi. Ok, it was a good idea that time. Also reminds us how deceptively strong Tsukushi is.

Tag to Kyuuri, who hits a shotgun dropkick and then tries to power Hoshi over in back bodydrop position.  Not so much. Hoshi gets her Boston crab variation and turns so she faces Tsukushi on the apron, who looks on in disgust. Kyuuri struggles to the ropes for a break. She then absorbs some Hoshi palm strikes and tries to judo throw the latter, but Hoshi sets down to block and tries a short arm clothesline, only to have Kyuuri duck it and hit a stunner then complete the judo throw for 2. Great sequence.

Kyuuri tries to grab Hoshi’s arm out of the kickout, but Hoshi rolls through and whips Kyuuri to the corner. Splash attempt is reversed into a one legged monkey flip and Kyuuri goes for a cross armbreaker. Mochi comes in and splashes Kyuuri, but Kyuuri just stacks Mochi on top of Hamuko and locks the cross armbreaker on BOTH. Ref allows it, but is clearly only asking Hoshi if she gives up. Mochi rolls back onto Kyuuri trying to get the ropes, and it moves the whole pile just enough that Hoshi gets her leg there for a break.

Kyuuri hits the ropes but gets caught by a Hoshi shoulder tackles, then a tag leads to Mochi’s triple Earthquake splashes for 2. Kyuuri flips out of torture rack position into a Fujiwara armbar. Mochi fights to the ropes as Tsukushi holds off Hamuko. Back and forth a bit until Kyuuri hits her slingblade like clothesline three times in succession for 2. Tag and Tsukushi hits a high crossbody from the tope, but rolls all the way to Hoshi’s corner and attacks her, allowing Mochi to get up and ambush Tsukushi from behind. Splash in the corner misses when Tsukushi escapes to the apron  and she goes right back to beating on Hoshi.

The annoyed Butchers bring her back in the ring for a doubleteam, but she catches them both with a dropkick, and goes back to beating on Hoshi. She ducks a retaliatory clothesline and pushes Hoshi into Mochi, knocking Hoshi out of the ring and leaving Mochi in the corner for a running forearm from Kyuuri follwed by the seated crossbody from Tsukushi. Tsukushi hits the ropes but gets caught by Mochi on a crossbody attempt, and Mochi hits a nice spinning side slam.

And we’re back to the nonsense, as Mochi hits the running belly to the face then tags in Hoshi for one of her own for 2. They fight over a waistlock until Tsukushi rolls forward with Hoshi and floats around into a seated abdominal stretch. Hoshi eventually powers into a roll toward Tsukushi to get out of it. Tsukushi up to the top rope, but Mochi grabs her from the apron and Hoshi pulls her into position for a Samoan drop. Hoshi up to the middle rope, but Tsukushi rolls inside the splash attempt. Crossbody from the top on Hoshi by Kyuuri, then a missile dropkick from Tsukushi from a different corner for 2. Codebreaker by Tsukushi into a lungblower by Kyuuri, who holds Hoshi over her knees for Tsukushi to hit a double stomp off the top rope. Fantastic. Gets 2 as Mochi saves.

Tskushi hits the ropes to attack Hoshi, but Mochi cuts her off with a Thesz press. Sandwich splash on Tsukushi, then a double backdrop suplex for 2. Northern lights get 2 for Hoshi as Kyuuri saves. Kyuuri clothesline takes out Mochi, then a Hoshi lariat returns the favor. Hoshi caught off the ropes by a Tsukushi dropkick for 1, then a Hoshi lariat gets 1 on Tsukushi. Tsukushi hits the ropes and runs into a standing splash for 2. Running belly to the face counters with a rana rollup for 2. Sweet move as Tsukushi jumps into a doublestomp on Hoshi’s chest as Hoshi kicks out.  Tsukushi tries a headscissors roll, but Hoshi sets down on it for 2. Hoshi hits the ropes and does her horizontal roll over Tsukushi… for the win?! Huh.

Wasn’t that into this at first, but it really picked up as it went. The Butchers are a good tag team when their not playing to their gimmick. The last phase of the match was all about the champ and her upcoming challenger, and I REALLY didn’t expect either to drop a fall here. Not sure whether it hurt Tsukushi’s momentum going into the title shot (no one really expected Hoshi to lose in her first defense anyway and there was still a month to build it) and some unpredictability is nice, so I’ll call this a reasonable choice. I’d like to see more of Tsukushi and Kyuuri as a team. Tsukushi is pissed after the match, and Hoshi taunts her a bit as we fade out.

 

4) Yuuka vs Maruko Nagasaki

Thrilled to see these two get a main event spotlight. Maruko attacks Yuuka from behind during the latter’s entrance and hits a dropkick in the corner as the bell rings. She sends Yuuka to the outside and grabs a chair (?!) and this is already way off from what I expected. Yuuka ducks the chair strike and hits a forearm to put Maruko against the apron, then goes all the way to the backstage entrance for a running start for another forearm. Maruko moves and Yuuka hits the apron. Scoop slam, then Maruko picks Yuuka up and slams her into the seats in the crowd as people scatter. She then drags Yuuka to the backstage entrance and slam her head into some scaffolding.

Maruko marches her opponent right back down to ringside for another head slam (into the apron this time) and we’re back into the ring with Maruko in complete control. Scoop slam, then Maruko grabs Yuuka legs and forces her shoulders down for 2, then flips over into a Boston crab as Yuuka kicks out. Yuuka twists her body around trying to force herself to the ropes, but Maruko drags her to center of the ring and sets back down just as she gets close. Yuuka claws back to the ropes for the break. Maruko up to the top, but Yuuka cuts her off with a forearm and slams her down, then nails a running dropkick in the corner. Maruko forearm ducked and Yuuka locks in an abdominal stretch. Yuuka has her arms locked and is rocking back and forth with it as Maruko screams in pain to actually sell this as a legitimate attempt to win. Small things like that make a huge difference.

Maruko brushes the ropes with her fingertips, but Yuuka falls back without letting go to turn it into an upside down Gargano Escape. Maruko makes the ropes to break. Running forearm against the ropes for Yuuka, but Maruko fights out of the crosslegged fisherman’s suplex and hits a forearm. Maruko keeps ducking Yuuka’s attempts to retaliate and hitting more of her own forearms, but Yuuka lands a running one to put Maruko down, but the latter rolls out of the way of Yuuka’s diving version. Rollup gets 2 for Maruko. Small package for another 2. Another small package for another 2. She just wearing Yuuka down here. Dropkick lands and Maruko goes up to the top rope and hits a missile dropkick for 2. Uranage in the center of the ring and Yuuka just barely kicks out before 3.

Yuuka shifts her weight to avoid another Uranage, so Maruko with a forearm strike and hits the ropes, only to eat a dropkick. Yuuka with a crossbody from the top for 2, then tries the crosslegged fisherman’s again, but Maruko breaks and counters with a spinebuster for 2. Both slow to get up. Maruko with some forearms, but hits the ropes and is LEVELED by a Yuuka forearm off the rebound. Yuuka’s beautiful diving forearm off the ropes gets 2. Yuuka  finally hits the crosslegged fisherman’s for a close 2.

Scoop slam and Yuuka goes up for a moonsault, which connects for 3! Aftermath is cut short and we fade out quickly as Yuuka seems to be grabbing the ref and pointing to her knee. Looked like she came down on it hard during that moonsault.

Great little main event. It started hot with an unexpected brawl then turned into the heated in-ring contest I expected letting two young wrestlers with HUGE potential show what they can do. I enjoyed this a lot and they packed a ton into a seven minute spotlight while still telling a strong in-ring story and without resorting to an illogical spotfest. Looking forward to longer matches between these two in the future.

 

Roundtable

Seemed it’s usual amusing comments with setup for future events and matches from what I could tell. Tsukushi definitely had some choice words for the reigning champion (after which Tsukka was cracking up). Risa leads the “Happy Ice Ribbon” cheer and we’re out.

 

Overall

These two dojo shows are quite short, but they don’t FEEL short and they pack a ton of action in without feeling rushed, as well as showcasing numerous different styles. These honestly aren’t really important shows, but they are good shows with interesting matchups and I recommend this as another thoroughly enjoyable disc from IR (as well as a particularly strong pickup for Yuuka fans).