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

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

Merry Joshi Christmas! Part 3: Marvelous 12/25/16 Live Thoughts

December 25, 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 1 pm on Christmas Eve, and later that night was Ice Ribbon at the IR dojo in Warabi. On Christmas day I headed to Shin-Kiba First Ring for the last of the three, from Chigusa Nagayo’s Marvelous promotion.

 

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The show started off in festive fashion, with Chigusa coming out dressed as Santa and her core roster joining her in various costumes. The highlight was Takumi Iroha as a Christmas Tree (which I sadly didn’t get a good pic of). My meager Japanese skills didn’t catch the meaning of the longish promo / exchanges between the wrestlers, but it seemed well received.

 

 

The opener, Mio Momono vs Mika Shirahime, was great, and if not the match of the night certainly neck and neck with the main event. Incredible instincts and craft shown by both rookies, who built drama expertly through the 15 minutes encounter and had the crowd going crazy at the end. There were a couple awkward spots, such as an instance from each where they essentially forgot to roll up their opponent, forcing the other to kind of roll herself up and wait for the other to get in proper position. But otherwise this was smooth and well executed. And even in the places I mentioned the ability of the other wrestler to adapt and keep things on track was impressive, particularly given their experience.

I was at Mio Momono’s debut in New York, and it’s wonderful to see her capitalizing on the potential she showed even then. Can’t wait to see what the future holds for this extremely talented youngster.

 

 

The show slowed down quite a bit from there. Another Marvelous rookie, Rin Kadokura, wrestled freelancer Konami in the second match. While Konami has a fair amount of experience from wrestling in several different promotions, she’s only been in the business a couple of years herself. Both were fine here, leading to the perhaps expected decent but basic match.

Aki Shizuku came to the ring festively attired to the crowd’s delight, which I unfortunately have to admit was probably the best thing about her match with Yuiga. I understand the style they were using, but there was just way too much stalling that made this match seem much longer than it was. While nothing was really wrong from a technical standpoint, the pacing was way off and it didn’t come together for me.

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Kaoru vs Yako Fujigasaki vs Chikayo Nagashima vs Hamuko Hoshi vs Mochi Miyagi was a reasonably fun match, with lighthearted taunting and antics early on giving way to more competitive sequences as the match progressed. Ice Ribbon’s Lovely Butchers looked good here, and mostly worked together despite the 5-way format. Yako was the target of the other combatants for most of the match, and a specific underlying rivalry between her and Kaoru got a strong focus towards the end. Kaoru’s favorite foreign object, the wooden board of doom, of course became involved. Felt like the underdog should have gone over here, but it appears the feud is still building / ongoing.

 

Tomoko Watanabe didn’t know quite what to make of the eccentric Cassandra Miyagi as their match began, and I don’t think things were any clearer for her by the end. This was my first time seeing Miyagi, who I’d heard a bit about, and she certainly has a unique and rather captivating charisma to her. The match was fine, but did feel like it could have been better and the structure led to an anticlimactic feeling when Miyagi lost.

 

I’d been extremely impressed with Takumi Iroha in her appearances at Marvelous USA’s New York shows, and was happy to see her get this main event opportunity against veteran Kyoko Kimura. I’d seen them interact before as part of an intergender tag team match at Marvelous USA’s third show, so this encounter was a nice followup to that.

This played out as would be expected, with Kimura largely dominating and Iroha toughing it out and fighting from behind. The formula worked well, and Iroha got to show some of her incredible power at points. Solid main and a nice spotlight for the up and comer.

 

 

Chigusa and the core roster came back out after the main to thank Kimura, talk some more, and raffle off a few things to the audience as part of the Christmas celebration.

Middle of the road show overall I think. It had a different feel from the rest of the promotions I saw, with a somewhat more traditional sense of build throughout the card and in the matches. It was great when it worked and cooled the crowd significantly when it didn’t. The things that didn’t excel here were more bland than bad, but it was half the card. That said, the high points were great and they started and ended with the best of the night.

Marvelous and DIANA 12/20/15 Live Thoughts

December 20, 2015 in Tokyo, Japan

It’s been interesting how different the three Joshi shows I’ve seen so far have been from one another. Marvelous has been the biggest surprise so far, because it was also VERY different from their USA shows.

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The Marvelous show featured three matches, and struck me as “a bit of something for everyone.” Before the matches most of the roster came out and all had some time on the mic with Chigusa. Then they each signed a few foam balls and tossed them into the audience as they left the ring. I was lucky enough to be thrown one. Neat keepsake.

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The opener, featuring Kyoko Kimura vs. Megumi Yabushita, had heavy comedic overtones and was decent for what it was. A mostly straight up tag match was next as Takako Inoue and KAORU faced Alex Lee and Ray. All four had slightly different styles but it meshed well and this was quite good. Big fan of Ray from her time in Shimmer so was nice to see her here. Sad I didn’t get to see her cartwhell bomb, but she’ll be at other shows. Alex Lee kept up well and I’d like to see more of her. Amusing side note for me was that she came out to one of my favorite songs, which I had recently remarked would make great entrance music for someone.

Takako and KAORU made a good heel team and were both about what I expected from their reputations. After the match Takako stayed behind and sang for the crowd.

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Greco-Roman top-rope wooden board drop.

Intermission was a nice little break. Not many of the wrestler were out (that was after the show) but I did get to talk to Ray for a minute and it was great to watch Alex Lee and some other bring a bunch of the kids from the audience into the ring, let them run around a little, and do some simple “drills” with them.

After intermission was the main event, a 6 on 2 handicap match featuring Chigusa and 5 teammates against Dump Matusmoto and Yumiko Hotta. Yes, I’m glossing over the faces, but they were just there to be cannon fodder for Dump to hit with a kendo stick and other objects over and over. The only one who did anything noteworthy was the one who turned on Chigusa late in the match (whose name I don’t know). Hotta came to the ring with numerous pairs of handcuffs hanging off her gear, so it was obvious where things were eventually going. This was an ECW style weapons brawl that went all over the arena.

On the one hand this was disappointing because I saw Takumi Iroha wrestle in NY for Marvelous’ US show and she’s amazing. Was really hoping to see her in a traditional match where she could show what she could do. Instead I saw her handcuffed to the ropes and periodically beaten with a kendo stick. And these type of brawls aren’t exactly my cup of tea. On the other hand this was great for what it was. The heat coming from sections of fans for both Dump and Chigusa was incredible, and the mid-match surprise of legend Manami Toyota coming out to help Chigusa was fantastic.

All the wrestlers came out to meet fans and sell merch after the show, and the lines for both Dump and Chigusa were INSANE. Really glad I caught this, as it’s their only show while I’m here.

At night I went to DIANA. Cool venue on the 5th floor of a giant open shopping center.  I was seriously jetlagged by this point and had to walk around during intermission to try to shake it off, but still enjoyed the show.

The opener was already my third time seeing Hamuko Hoshi wrestle, here against Yuiga. Honestly I didn’t enjoy this match. Hoshi’s character doesn’t click with me and she did not sell pain AT ALL while in Yuiga’s submission holds. Totally killed the match for me. Really hope this was an anomaly, as I’ll be seeing a lot more of her on this trip.

In a great bit of luck I was able to see Jenny Rose vs Kagetsu in Jenny’s last match of her current tour of Japan before she heads back to the states. Both looked good here and Jenny is clearly making the most of her time spent in Japan. She recognized me and my friend from Shimmer shows and it was great to get to chat with her during intermission. I was excited to hear about the Aspire promotion she setting up in the PA / NJ area.

She was back out immediately seconding her CRYSIS seniors Jaguar Yokota and Yumiko Hotta vs Megumi Yabushita and Mima Shimoda. This was more of the one sided illegal tactics from the heels I’m still getting used to over here. Everyone looked good though, and watching veterans who are clearly masters of their craft against younger wrestlers is always a treat.

After intermission was the main event: Kyoko Inoue, Kaoru Ito and Meiko Tanaka vs. Chikayo Nagashima, Keiko Aono and Mask De Sun. Mask De Sun’s hair looks very familiar from earlier in the day. This was a high energy, chaotic main event with the heels doing everything they could to triple team and gain momentary advantages over the powerhouses that are Inoue and Ito. Kudos to setting up a countout finish that actually felt main event worthy, as the veterans trusted their 16 year old rookie teammate to get back into the ring after everyone was brawling through the crowd and concentrated on keeping the other team occupied. So with a single second left Meiko dives into the ring and wins for her team. Kyoko sells this as being a huge accomplishment and being extremely pround of Meiko, which made the moment effective.

Another fun pair of shows, and I’m thrilled to be starting my trip out with a good variety of match types, wrestlers, and promotions (except for too much Hammy).