Wave 12/29/16 Live Thoughts

December 29, 2016 in Tokyo, Japan

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

 

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

 

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

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

2) Ai Shimizu vs Fairy Nipponbashi

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

4) Kaho Kobayashi vs Rina Yamashita  

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

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

 

5) Kaho Kobayashi vs Natsu Sumire

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

As no Sendai Girls shows fit my trip, it was a real treat to see Dash chosen to be a part of this match (which I was already excited for as Misaki’s a favorite of mine) and thus give me one opportunity to see her wrestle. This was a fitting and fun “tribute” match.  All four wrestlers were clearly enjoying themselves, particularly Misaki having an absolute blast playing heel alongside Ozaki.

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Wave 1/3/16 Live Thoughts

January 3, 2016 in Tokyo, Japan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 23 and 25, 2015 in Tokyo, Japan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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