Into the Indies 06.15.10: Golden Ribbon
Posted by Ryan Byers on 06.15.2010
Women's wrestling company Ice Ribbon returns to I2I for a look at one of their major shows, featuring crossover appearances by Jun Kasai, Kota Ibushi, and Munenori Sawa, as well as a performance by a ten year old and a performance by a thirteen year old that both blew my mind.
Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to Into the Indies, the column that is just starting to notice boys.
Back in October, I2I took its first look at Ice Ribbon. For those of you who may not know or recall the story behind the promotion, it is a women's professional wrestling company in Japan that began when retired female wrestler Emi Sakura decided to teach gymnastics lessons in order to make a little bit of extra money. It wasn't long before her young gymnastics students, girls in their childhood and early teens, discovered their instructor's past and began asking a few too many questions. Believe it or not, this resulted in the young ladies' gymnastics lessons turning into professional wrestling lessons, and, before long, the troupe trained by Sakura was putting on shows in small gyms without a ring before crowds of literally ten or fifteen "fans" in attendance.
Perhaps even more surprising is the fact that things grew and grew to the point that some of the girls who were originally just goofing around with their gymnastics coach started to become passable professional wrestlers, and occasionally there would be bigger and bigger shows held under the Ice Ribbon banner until present day, where Ice Ribbon is able to book Tokyo's Korakuen Hall, the home of most major indy events in the country, once or twice a year and draw a respectable crowd with some guest stars wrestling in addition to the promotion's core roster.
My first look at Ice Ribbon back in October was at "Ice's Adventures in Wonderland," one of their earliest cracks at Korakuen, which is lovingly recapped in video form below by a YouTube user calling himself billzeroism:
The company recently returned to the Korakuen venue for another major show, this time entitled GOLDEN RIBBON~! as a result of all the championships that were on the line on the card.
Between my last column and the last several paragraphs, that's probably enough background on the promotion itself. Let's see what Golden Ribbon, held on May 3, 2010, has to offer the professional wrestling world.
Match Numero Uno: Minori Makiba, Hikaru Shida, & Kurumi vs. Hiraki Minami, Sayaka Obihiro, & Tsukushi in an elimination match
We've got six woman tag team action to open up the show, and this match is noteworthy because it is the "official" debut of Kurumi, who had previously put on a series of exhibition matches on various cards with Tsukushi, one of her opponents in this bout. Kurumi and Tsukushi are among the youngest members of the roster and probably among the youngest pro wrestlers in history, as they are ten and twelve years old, respectively. The elementary school students' partners are also Ice Ribbon regulars. Tsukushi's partners are former baseball player Sayaka Obihiro, who is the oldest wrestler in the match at age twenty three and Hiraki Minami, a fifteen year old who already has four years of experience thanks to Ice Ribbon's habit of starting grapplers young. Kurumi has two impressive partners as well, the first being relative rookie Hikari Minami and the second being Minori Makiba, who has popped up several times in I2I now and is most notable in my mind for looking EXACTLY like Takeshi Morishima.
All six competitors shake hands to begin the match, and it's Kurumi and Tsukushi who begin the grappling with a collar and elbow tie-up. They hit the ropes for a clean break and start trading arm wringers, with Kurumi getting the advantage and a full nelson until Tsukushi cradles her. Kurumi responds with a slam, and then all three members of Kurumi's team are in to dispatch their opponents from the apron, hit Tsukushi with a triple kick, and put her into the old KDX HUMILIATION POSE~! Makiba tags in officially at this point and gets the younger girl into a Boston crab for a little while, though Tsukushi makes the rope and hits a series of dropkicks before tagging out to Obihiro. She attempts to slam Makiba, but Mini Mori is JUST TOO FAT and won't go up. She responds by hitting a pump splash on young Obihara, but there's a bridge out. Hikaru Shida makes her presence known at this point, immediately engaging in a forearm battle with Obihara before Hikari runs in out of nowhere for a save. That sets up Shida being slammed by Obihara for a series of nearfalls, but ultimately it is the full-sized wrestler who hits a pairs of knees to the gut and a full slam to retake the advantage over the young girl. Shida connects with a vertical suplex at this point, and that's enough to get the elimination on Obihiro as Shida's partners prevent Tsukushi and Hiraki from interfering.
The action does not let up after the elimination, as Hiraki eats a series of corner attacks from her opponents and then a weird spot in which Mini Mori keeps rebounding her off of the ropes to hit a series of shoulder blocks. Makiba armdrags Shida on to Hikari for two, but Shida manages to slip away to tag Tsukushi. Tsuki comes off the top rope with a high cross that gets two on Mini Mori and continues to land grounded versions of the same move until Makiba catches her in a cross arm breaker. Everybody runs in for the save, and, in the confusion, Tsukushi gets a victory roll on Makiba to eliminate her. Tsukushi immediately goes for another rollup on Shida, but it only gets two. An INSANE bodyscissors-esque rana off of the second rope catches her, though, and earns Tsukushi her second elimination of the match. I cannot begin to describe how unique and slick that move looked. Imagine the same whirlybird motion off of the ropes associated with a tornado DDT, but replace the DDT with a bodyscissors and have the bodyscissors turned into a rollup in midair. I'm not a big "move mark," but THAT was awesome.
Kurumi is the last wrestler in for her team, and she manages to take advantage of some miscommunication between Tsukushi and Hiraki to get a flash pin on Tsuki and eliminate her from competition. That leaves Kurumi and Hiraki to finish the match, and Kurumi immediately tries to put things away with numerous rollups. Neither of them get the job done, so the ten year old goes to the second rope for a big splash that also gets two. She's up to the top now, but Hiraki pulls her off and connects with the Finlay roll. It gets two as Kurumi BRIDGES out. Kurumi rolls through a Hiraki rollup attempt for a CLOSE nearfall and hits a TEN YEAR OLD GERMAN SUPLEX for yet another two count. The fans are chanting Kurumi's name at this point, but, as she runs off the ropes, Hiraki catches her with a bridging version of the blockbuster suplex to score the final elimination and the win for her team.
Match Thoughts: I'm probably a bit biased towards this match because, for some reason that I still don't fully understand, elimination tags have been my favorite stipulation bout ever since I became a wrestling fan. Despite the fact that I'm a fan of the gimmick, I can admit that I've seen some bad ones, and this certainly doesn't fall into that category. The action was incredibly fast paced but not so much so that the match felt overbooked or like it was trying to hard. All six of the wrestlers moved with a fluidity in the ring that is absolutely amazing given their ages and levels of experience, as they were light years ahead of some of the wrestlers that we have recently seen on a show like WWE NXT. I was a particularly big fan of the story the match told about Kurumi, as it did a great job of putting her over without having her win in the end. ***
Match Numero Dos: Hamuko Hoshi & Kiyoko Ichiki vs. Chii Tomiya & Masa Takanashi
Last we reviewed a Kiyoko Ichiki match in this column, she was holding the ICEx60 Title, the top championship in Ice Ribbon. She's a veteran with experience going back to the early 1990's as opposed to a trainee of the promotion, which makes her a good choice of partner for Hoshi, a trainee of the promotion with just over two years of experience. They're up against Tomiya, who is in her second year in the promotion, and Masa Takanashi who is, um, a man in a skirt and a wig. He's generally a part of the DDT roster and works a mean comedy match.
OOO HEAVEN IS A PLACE ON EARTH~! Um, sorry, some of the entrance music got me going there.
Tomiya and Hoshi get things started for their respective teams, but Tomiya makes it clear that she wants Ichiki in the ring. Her wishes are obliged, and she goes on the offensive as soon as Ichiki steps through the ropes. Unfortunately, it's Kiyoko who winds up with the advantage thanks to a series of kicks and a variation on the Fujiwara armbar. Hoshi comes back into the match after that, but Tomiya manages to roll out of harm's way and tag out to Takanashi. The man grabs a headlock and starts doing a series of shoulderblocks off of the ropes with Hoshi, though it's the (real) woman who wins in the end. She stops to showboat, however, giving Masa an opportunity to dropkick her in the back before Tomiya tags back in. That sets up a big kneelift in the corner from Masa and an attempt at the Poetry in Motion, but Hoshi plucks Tomiya out of the air and slams her down across Takanashi's back. Hoshi and Kiyoko get to double team Tomiya for a bit, and then Hoshi gets a two count on her opponent for two. Tomiya responds by reversing a snap suplex into one of her own, setting up a tag to Takanashi and a dropkick to Hoshi leading in to a strike exchange followed by a series of lariats. It's Hoshi who wins that, taking Masa off his feet for a two count before tagging in Kiyoko again. She gets a top rope rana for a nearfall and then badly botches an attempt at a springboard cross body. Masa lands a big kick and brings Tomiya back in for a missile dropkick from the top rope and a Fujiwara armbar. Ichiki barely makes the ropes and gets repeatedly dropkicked by Tomiya, who then just starts brutally stomping and choking her opponent. Ichiki fires back with some boots of her own, and Hoshi joins in on the fun not long after, with both women taking turns kicking Tomiya in the head. The youngster somehow kicks out of a pin attempt at two, only to be hit with a northern lights suplex from Ichiki and a top rope splash from Hoshi. Ichiki comes off the top as well, landing a double stomp to the abdomen which can also only get two. Ichiki takes a blind charge at Tomiya and is caught in the Fujiwara armbar again, but Hoshi makes the save. That draws Takanashi's ire, and he goes after Hoshi. He doesn't prevent Hoshi from blasting Tomiya with a lariat, though, and seconds later Ichiki comes off the top rope with a KNEE STRAIGHT TO THE FACE that finally puts Tomiya away.
That is one tough little girl.
Match Thoughts: For a match that featured a man wrestling in drag, this match was surprisingly light on the comedy and worked pretty much like a straight tag team encounter. Also, despite the fact that it had one very seasoned veteran in their to presumably call the match and keep things together, it didn't come off quite as well as the prior bout. That is mainly due to the fact that Tomiya's motion was a bit more clunky than anybody in the six woman tag, which lead to a few spots that looked just a little bit off, and, as noted above, one that was completely blown. It was not a bad little midcard match but not one that I would ever go out of my way to watch again. **
Match Numero Tres: Mai Ichii vs. Emi Fujino
Though both of these women are trained professional wrestlers, they also have legitimate mixed martial arts backgrounds and are doing what is billed as an MMA exhibition with two rounds, each one three minutes long. However, as you'll see from the play-by-play, the match starts to look less and less like a shoot as it goes on.
The ladies stand up early, but then Fujino grabs a waistlock and takes her opponent down. Both competitors manage to regain a vertical base before anything of note happens, and more innocuous strike attempts are thrown. Fujino briefly gets Ichii in a version of the guillotine as we go to the mat again, but a rope break is forced and the ladies are stood up again. Emi gets another takedown and tries to go into the mount, but Ichii works to turn that into a version of the triangle choke. She never quite sinks it in all of the way, and Fujino plays her foot across the bottom rope for a break. Emi gets a double leg at this point but winds up taking her opponent down right in to the ropes, which forces a break. The competitors go back to the strikes to begin round two, and, though they're throwing them with a lot more force, they're not doing any better when it comes to actually connecting. Just as I finish typing that sentence, Mai hits a spinning backfist which causes Fujino to fall into something that looked suspiciously like a flat-backed bump. Emi responds by charging her opponent and getting some punches in a semi-mount, but Ichii is able to roll her off and attempt a cross arm breaker. Fujino hercs Mai up off the mat and slams her from that position, which pretty much destroys any illusion of this one being a shoot. Now Emi looks for a triangle choke of her own, but Mai picks her up and slams her back first into the turnbuckles. Another flurry of punches from both women begins, and Ichii tries her backfist again, this time to a much lower level of success. The fisticuffs are still flying as round number two comes to a close. Then music plays, everybody hugs, and the match comes to a close as a draw.
Match Thoughts: If you work MMA-inspired spots into professional wrestling matches, they can look good and add a dimension to the worked bouts that you don't normally see. If you take a standard MMA match and do MMA moves throughout it but have a pre-planned finish or a series of pre-planned spots, it can often be just as entertaining as a completely legitimate fight. However, if you only go halfway with either of the concepts, the results aren't nearly as entertaining because getting yourself into the midset of watching a professional wrestling match and then seeing it turn into an MMA bout or vice versa is really jarring and kills your suspension of disbelief. That's sort of what happened here. The women were working hard and appeared to be tagging each other with strikes at points, but there were a couple of spots that were just "too wrestling" that took me out of the bout. No rating.
Match Numero Cuatro: Munenori Sawa & Bambi vs. Kota Ibushi & Makoto
It's time for mixed tag team action. If you've been paying any attention to this column since its inception, you know who the gentlemen involved are. Sawa is a man who calls BattlArts his home promotion though he's gotten most of his exposure lately in DDT, while Ibushi is a man who calls DDT his home promotion though he's gotten most of his exposure lately in New Japan (or in Ring of Honor and EVOLVE if you're a US indy fan). Sawa's partner Bambi is one of a handful of women who has been trained by TAKA Michinoku in his Kaientai Dojo, and she pops up in all sorts of independent promotions these days. Ibushi is teaming with the only true Ice Ribbon star in the match, with Makoto being probably number one or number two in terms of popularity among the group's trainees. Also, I'm fairly certain that Makoto and Ibushi use the same hair stylist.
We get the men in the ring together right out of the gate, with Ibushi scoring a single-leg takedown, only to have Sawa reverse out of all his attempts at various holds. Both men pop up to their feet after an Ibushi kick misses, and now boots are traded with both men at a vertical base. Sawa somersaults away from his opponent to avoid losing the battle, after which both wrestlers tag out to their female counterparts. The women begin their segment of the bout with a Greco-Roman knuckle lock, which Bambi dominates before Irish whipping Makoto. Not to be outdone, Makoto takes her woman down with a series of running kicks and heads into a chinlock. Bambi bites her forearm to escape and tags in Sawa, who slaps his young female opponent across the face and applies a chinlock of his own before turning it into a Fujiwara armbar. He holds it for an unrealistically long period of time until Ibushi makes the save. In a great moment, Sawa goes to get in Ibushi's face for interrupting, and, in doing so, he steps right on Makoto's back. That fires up the Ice Ribbon representative, though, as she puts a few foearms in Sawa's chest and starts trading chops with him. Munenori wins the sequence when he slaps Makoto across the face again and hits a power drive elbow for two. The KO-D Tag Team Champion brings Bambi back in to the ring, and she repeatedly puts her boot into Makoto's head. A slam gets two for the woman from K-Dojo, after which she goes to the camel clutch. Anyone heard any good jokes about that move? Sawa heads back into the ring and connects with slap number three on Makoto, then daring her to slap him back. She does so to no effect, and he decks her one more time. This process repeats itself several times until Makoto clenches her fist and Sawa is actually rocked by a series of straight right hands by the young lady. Eventually he regains his composure and responds in kind, but she reverses a side slam into a tornado DDT to set up a tag to Ibushi. Kota immediately does all sorts of wacky springboards and hits a standing version of the phoenix splash for two. Sawa goes up to the second rope, but Ibushi brings him off with an AWESOME handspring version of the Pele kick before being hit with Sawa's enzuguiri.
Bambi tags back in at this point, giving Ibushi a Yakuza kick right to the mush and a second kick to the head before he dispatches her with a boot to the gut. There's a tag to Makoto, who comes off the top with a missile dropkick for two and a bridging vertical suplex to the same result. Makoto and Ibushi team up for a double pump kick and then hit a series of moves off the ropes on Bambi, including a standing shooting star by the DDT rep. Sawa runs in for the save and dragon screws both members of the opposing team, though it's not long before Makoto levels him with a dragon screw of her own and a charging kick to the face. She slams Bambi and hits a sloppy version of the senton atomico for a two count, which Bambi immediately answers with a Yakuza kick. A float-over DDT from Babmi connects, as does a gordbuster . . . but they only get two thanks to a save by Ibushi. Sawa is back to deal with him and locks Kota in an octopus hold while Bambi hits Makoto with a shining wizard. She kicks out of that one, but Bambi follows it up with another Yakuza kick to score the three count for her team.
Match Thoughts: I could tell what they were going for in this match. It seemed like what fans were supposed to remember most about it was Sawa, a stiff wrestler who does a worked-shoot style, dominating poor little Makoto and slapping her silly, after which she displays her fighting spirit and gets over with the crowd by making a huge comeback and almost winning the match despite all of the abuse that she had taken. That's what they were going for . . . but it didn't quite work in my eyes, and I think that is mainly due to the level of punishment that Sawa gave Makoto. He just struck her so many times and treated her so roughly that, even within the realm of professional wrestling, the fact that she was able to make any comeback at all looked hokey and cartoonish, even if she did drop the fall in the end. Had they done half as much, the bout would've been a bit more effective. However, it wasn't a total waste, as I'm never going to turn up my nose at Kota Ibushi being given an opportunity to bust out some of his pretty, pretty offense. **1/2
Match Numero Cinco: Natsuki*Taiyo (c) vs. Tsukasa Fujimoto for the NEO High Speed Title
We've got another Ice Ribbon vs. outsider match here, as Fujimoto is a product of the promotion with roughly one year of experience and one of the small handful of Ice Ribbon girls who is branching out and starting to make appearances in higher profile joshi promotions. Her opponent, meanwhile, has been wrestling for roughly five years for a variety of promotions, most recently NEO Woman Pro Wrestling where she is one of only two women to hold the company's relatively new "High Speed Championship," which is similar to TNA's X Division Title in that it is generally put on the line in matches between wrestlers who work a relatively fast-paced, highspot-laden style.
Fujimoto refuses a pre-match handshake and hits a couple of dropkicks to Taiyo's knees before going into an ankle lock. Taiyo escapes and puts the boots to her opponent, going for a dropkick as Fujimoto is up against the ropes but missing. Tsukasa places her opponent's knee across the bottom rope and jumps on it, then going to a leglock at center ring. Taiyo tries to use her free leg to kick out of the hold, but Fujimoto refuses to break and Taiyo is forced to roll to the ropes to get out of the submission. Both women get back up to their feet at this point, and forearms to the chest are traded. That doesn't go anywhere, but it does lead into an INSANE sequence in which the women repeatedly bounce off the ropes at one hundred miles per hour and miss clotheslines directed at one another. That turns into a bit in which Taiyo is finally able to establish control on her opponent for a bit coming off a complex sequence of reversals. The champion gets the challenger into a version of the half crab in which Fujimoto's arms are simultaneously trapped by Taiyo's legs. Eventually one of those arms gets free and makes the ropes. The woman with an askterisk for a middle name repeatedly rams her opponent chest-first into the ropes and hits a full body slam for a series of two counts. In an interesting variation on the lateral press, Taiyo was actually hooking Fujimoto's NECK and not her leg to prevent her from bridging out, which is almost as common as a kick out in joshi. Taiyo gets a little complacent, though, and the result is her eating a series of many, many standing dropkicks before the challenger goes to the top rope and comes off with a wacky front flip into a rana. A second rana leads into a series of kicks by Tuskasa, and she goes up top again . . . this time being pulled off with a snap mare and kicked HARD by Taiyo. Fujimoto tries to duck the last kick of the series but gets hit by one anyway . . . though it's not long before she starts connecting with several boots of her own for a nearfall. Taiyo mounts a comeback and looks for Code Red, but Fujimoto grabs the ropes to block it and reverses into an ankle lock. The champ is positioned right in the corner, though, so it's easy for her to get the rope break. Tsukasa reapplies the ankle lock at center ring, this time with Taiyo doing a military crawl to the ropes to force the break. She had to make no fewer than three attempts at that one, too, as Fujimoto was constantly pulling her back to center ring. Tsukasa tries to stay in control with her version of the 619, but Taiyo ducks it and kicks her.
Taiyo attempts to go to the top rope, but she has trouble climbing because of her injured leg, so Fujimoto cuts her off. Taiyo winds up draped stomach-first over the top rope, so Tsukasa knocks her out of the ring with another 619 and flattens her with a tope from the top rope to the floor. Back on the inside, Fujimoto connects with a missile dropkick from the top and a rana, though she still can't put Taiyo away. A ropewalk rana is attempted, but Taiyo blocks it and turns it into a kinda sorta powerbomb before looking for a German suplex. Fujimoto is able to block it and hit another dropkick, which almost looks like it will send Taiyo to the floor for a second time. However, in an awesome spot, the champ grabs the bottom rope and pulls herself back into the ring, using her momentum and the element of surprise to sneak up behind Fujimoto and finally hit that German. Fuji tries to come back with a top rope kick to the face, but Taiyo starts to catch her in a series of cradles, including the kiwi roll, a personal favorite spot of mine. A kick to the face also won't put Fujimoto away, as she just keeps bridging out of pin attempts. Taiyo connects with a spinning doctor bomb, but that also doesn't get the job done. Taiyo goes to the top rope for a frog splash, but that also doesn't do the trick. A series of victory-roll type pins get several two counts for Fujimoto, and she hits the one-two punch of an enzuguiri and a boot to the face, but she still can't put the titleholder away. A wacky satellite sunset flip fails to win the match when Taiyo grabs the bottom rope while she's in the hold, and now the champion blocks an attempt at some Fujimoto top rope offense and looks for what I assumed was going to be a superplex. However, what it actually turned out to be was a ONE-WOMAN SPANISH FLY, which looked awesome and was enough to put Fujimoto away.
Match Thoughts: This is the third match on the show where the theme was "We'll have an Ice Ribbon girl lose but have her get over based on her performance." I would say that it didn't work quite as well as when they did it with Kurumi but better than when they did it with Makoto. Fujimoto, a relatively inexperienced wrestler, wound up looking like somebody who can hang in a style of wrestling that is VERY athletically focused and complicated. She had moments where she looked out of place for a matter of seconds, but, by and large, she did much better with the match than I would expect ninety percent of the people with her level of experience to do. Granted, this isn't exactly my favorite style of wrestling because I think that it involves the wrestlers doing too much, but I still have to respect the talent that it takes to put a match like this together. ***1/2
Match Numero Seis: Nanae Takahashi & Kazumi Shimouma (c) vs. Jun Kasai & Miyako Matsumoto vs. GENTARO & Keita Yano for the International Ribbon Tag Team Titles
The focus of the match here is the International Ribbon Tag Team Titles, a championship that is unique because teams consisting of two men, two women, or one man and one woman are all allowed to contend for it. In this particular three-way match, we've got one of each of those pairings competing for the belts. Takahashi and Shimouma, the champions, are a team consisting of a joshi veteran and a joshi novice, the former being a wrestler trained by All Japan Women with almost fifteen years experience and the second being an Ice Ribbon graduate who is closing in on three years in the wrestling business. Their all-male opposing team is made up of GENTARO, who long-time readers of this column will know is an FMW product who continues indy wrestling to this day and Keita Yano, a BattlArts trainee who wrestles in what looks like a surfer's body suit and has popped up several times throughout the life of I2I, always in matches where I never expect to see him.
It's the third team that is really the focus of the match, though. Miyako Matsumoto is an Ice Ribbon wrestler and the one member of the roster who really captured my attention when I watched the promotion for the first time. She's not the best technical wrestler of the crew, but she does a dancing gimmick and has this cutesy charisma that is impossible not to fall for. Her partner for this match is somebody on the entirely opposite end of the wrestling spectrum, long-time Big Japan wrestler and deathmatch specialist JUN KASAI, who has a nutty charisma of his own. Let me just say that this may well be the best "beauty and the beast" style tag team that I have run across in my years watching wrestling.
I guess we're doing this one under tornado rules, as all six wrestlers stare each other down once the bell rings. Naturally, that breaks down into a six person brawl with plenty of man on woman violence. Eventually GENTARO and Yano wind up in the ring with the champions, who they shoot into the ropes for stereo boots to the gut before whipping Shimouma into Takanashi in the corner, setting the ladies up for a Poetry in Motion by GENTARO. The champions dodge it, however, and it's not long before they're dropping elbows on Yano. That leads to Kasai and Matsumoto hitting the ring, and the Crazy Monkey has some short of spray can with him. He blasts both of the champions with the spray and gets ready to dance with Matsumoto until Yano intervenes. Unfortunately for him, he's just cut off and slammed by Kasai. Bickering between Kasai and Matsumoto leads to GENTARO getting them out of the ring, setting up more brawling between GENTARO, Shimouma, Yano, and Takanashi. Nanae sees her legs brutalized with chairs by the all-male team, followed up by Yano slapping on a leglock while GENTARO holds Shimouma at bay. Eventually Shimouma is able to make the save, but she's slapped across the face by GENTARO for her trouble and given a brainbuster at center ring. Kasai and his spray can interrupt the ensuing pin attempt, though he drops the weapon to go after Yano with an armbar. Shimouma gets involved as well, hitting both of her opponents with a stereo jawbreaker and then suplexing Kasai on to Yano. GENTARO hits the ring to go after the woman, though, catching her with a British Bulldog-style running powerslam and going after Matsumoto for good measure.
Yano drops a first across Matsumoto's face and GENTARO steps on her head, but things start to fall apart when Yano accidentally dropkicks his partner in the face and Kasai reenters the ring. Jun and Matsumoto fight over their posing some more, though it works out in their favor as it culminates in Kasai giving the young lady a wheelbarrow slam down on to their opponent. The fight goes to the outside at this point, with Kasai pulling a table out from underneath the ring and setting it up near a balcony. As the Crazy Monkey goes after GENTARO, Matsumoto climbs to the top of the balcony . . . and I'm afraid of where this one is going. Fortunately the balcony dive doesn't occur, as by the time she gets atop her perch GENTARO and Yano have taken over on Kasai and placed him on the table. Try as they might, they can't convince Matsumoto to leap off the balcony and on to her own partner. Brawling amongst the crowd continues, and it's hard to make out a lot of what's going on due to the camera work . . . though we do get a not-so-nice shot of GENTARO bodyslamming Matsumoto on the concrete floor. Eventually Yano is placed on top of another table, and Matsumoto does get to put him through it with a big splash, though it's only off the top of an entranceway and not a balcony . . . probably the rough equivalent of jumping off the second rope.
We head back to the ring at this point with Kasai, Matsumoto, and Shimouma. Shimouma looks for a German suplex on Jun, and he tries to low blow his way out of it several times, which Shimouma comically no-sells. Takanashi hits the ring at this point and actually gets rid of Kasai with some palm strikes, though GENTARO slams her over the head with a piece of broken table to put her out of commission for a bit. It's not long before she's recovered, though, and once she does she puts an innovative submission hold on Kasai and Yano in which Kasai is face down and Yano is laying on top of Kasai, also face down but with his chest over Jun's buttocks. Shimouma applies a Boston crab to Kasai, which also by default puts Yano into a crude camel clutch. Well, that was the longest description of a move in my many years of writing about professional wrestling on the internet.
The champions continue their run, laying Yano and GENTARO out next to one another so Takanashi can come off the top and hit them both with a superfly splash. She looks to follow up with a suplex on Yano, but GENTARO cuts it off with a sleeper. Shimouma cuts THAT off with a series of kicks, and then the FMW alumnus sees himself slapped silly by the two women. They try for a wacky double team maneuver, but Yano interrupts and slingshots Shimouma face-first into an upright chair. Here comes Kasai now, dispatching GENTARO and placing Yano in a seated position on the top rope before hitting him with a chair. He prompts Matsumoto to climb the ropes . . . AND SHE GERMAN SUPLEXES YANO SO THAT HIS HEAD LANDS ON THE SEAT OF THE CHAIR! Absolutely sick and probably not what they were going for. Unfortunately for Matsumoto, the suplex causes her to fall in a tree of woe position, which leaves her open to attack by Takanashi. Unfortunately for Takanashi, she is ambushed by GENTARO. Unfortunately for GENTARO, he is cut off by Kasai. Unfortunately for Kasai, Yano decks him. Unfortunately for Yano, he gets cradled a lot by Shimouma. Unfortunately for Shimouma, GENTARO slams her face repeatedly into the canvas. Unfortunately for me, this gag stopped being funny three lines ago.
Anyway, GENTARO ascends the ropes but is cut off by Takahashi, who wants a superplex. Matsumoto gets involved with a LADDER, though, slamming it into her opponents' backs and then giving them a stacked up powerbomb off the ropes. She and Kasai finally get on the same page regarding their dance moves and prance around their prone opponents before whipping Yano and Shimouma at one another. They wind up in a wacky prawn hold applied by Matsumoto, which gets a two count. Matsumoto then climbs to the top rope and hits a frog splash while wearing Kasai's trademark goggles to get another nearfall. The Crazy Monkey follows that with an angel's wings on Shimouma, and Matsumoto hits her with a pump splash to finally log the three count and win the championships.
The visual of Jun Kasai of all people celebrating a title victory to the strains of Matsumoto's theme song "Dancing Queen" may rank among my ten favorite things of all time. I'm pretty sure that I heard one of the announcers namedrop Mama Mia. The post-match promos get even more bizarre, as I'm fairly certain that Kasai called out Akebono and Ryota Hama, which would be one of the greatest matches in professional wrestling history if it were ever to occur.
Match Thoughts: I'm not entirely sure where to start with this one. It was almost reminiscent of al old ECW tag team three way dance, with hard-hitting wrestling in between the ropes and a ton of "hardcore" style spots out amongst the fans. There was virtually nonstop action, which I'm sure many fans will enjoy . . . though the tradeoff here was that there wasn't much in the way of structure or logical transitions. The match just jumped from segment to segment to segment whenever one group of wrestlers decided that it was their turn to rest for a while, regardless of what everybody else in the match was doing. However, don't let that criticism lead you to believe that I disliked the match more than I liked it. To the contrary, there was more than enough to keep my attention and keep me entertained here despite the fact that this style of professional wrestling isn't exactly my favorite. For example, as I have said in the past about their matches, both Kasai and Matsumoto were thoroughly engrossing, as the two of them individually have ten times the personality of the average professional wrestler and the two of them combined will never lose my attention. I also have to give a lot of credit to Shimouma, who worked very hard and looked as polished as she could in this match. More than anybody else on the card thusfar, she is the one Ice Ribbon trainee who fit into a match and looked like a professional who had been doing this for years as opposed to somebody who still had a thing or two to learn. **3/4
Match Numero Siete: Riho (c) vs. Emi Sakura for the ICEx60 Title
And here we are with the main event. This is quite the intriguing match for anybody familiar with Ice Ribbon's history and a strong part of the reason that I decided to check out the show. Sakura, as mentioned at the top of the column, is the joshi veteran who inadvertently founded this company and trained all of its regular roster. Riho may be her prize pupil. Riho, who is now thirteen, made her professional wrestling debut when she was only eight years old and was seen by many as merely a novelty or comedic wrestler. However, as the years have gone on, she's not only matured as any young woman would, but she's also developed significantly as a wrestler and has become competent to the point that the company has made her its champion. This is the ultimate student versus teacher match, as the cagey veteran challenger Sakura goes after the experienced but still young champion, Riho.
There is a looong staredown to start us off, before Riho goes after her mentor with an armdrag, some chops, and a series of jumping knee strikes in the corner. Sakura finds herself trapped in the camel clutch after that, and, when she attempts to reverse, Riho puts her into a body scissors. Emi is able to escape, however, and she puts her pupil into an elevated surfboard hold. Sakura connects with several snap mares and some boots tot he small of the back, all setting up an attempt at a bodyslam. Riho blocks it and comes back with a dropkick and numerous boots of her own, culminating in a Yakuza kick-style blow to the kneeling Sakura. Riho can't muster the strength to hit a bodyslam, so Sakura takes her opponent down and hits a senton. Riho bridges out of the pin attempt, and Emi does the same when Riho hits her with a cross body block. The champion attempts another slam and this time connects despite the size difference between the wrestlers. A version of the monkey flip sees Riho transition into a crossface and then a variant of the STF, which isn't locked in quite that well simply because Riho's body is not nearly long enough when compared with Sakura's. The challenger gets out of the hold after a bit and starts dishing out some of her trademark Mongolian chops, but Riho isn't going down easily and fires back with forearm strikes across the chest. It is Sakura who wins the sequence, though, as she catches Riho while she runs the ropes and applies a neck vice. Riho escapes and gets the challenger in a Fujiwara armbar, but Sakura gets her foot across the bottom rope. A sleeper hold is applied by Riho, but Sakura is able to break it by ramming her opponent into the turnbuckles while the hold is still on. Riho will not be deterred, however, and she soon reels off three rolling vertical suplexes before going to the top rope for a DOUBLE STOMP. It gets two. Riho now tries a cross body block, but Emi catches her. Riho escapes and goes back up for a superfly splash that barely connects. She climbs to the top rope again and completely blows whatever she was going for, landing on her feet in front of Sakura. Her reaction is to just jump up and bury her knees into Emi's gut, so presumably that's what the top rope move was supposed to be.
Riho continues with her aerial assault, leaping off the second strand with a kneelift to the face before coming off the opposite top turnubckle with the exact same move. A northern lights suplex is attempted by the young teen, and, when Sakura won't go over, Riho simply converts the move into a cradle for two. Emi finally gets in some offense in the form of a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker, but, seconds later, Riho has ahold of her again and has applied a submission hold which appears to be the bastard child of a headscissors and a triangle choke. Emi manages to roll the dice to retake the advantage, after which she connects with a MASSIVE butterfly backbreaker. Roderick Strong, eat your heart out. Sakura attempts a Boston crab, but she is rolled up by Riho for two. This leads to an awesome spot in which the champion applies a half Boston crab variation in which she BRIDGES BACK so that her head is touching the mat. Emi forces a rope break to escape the hold, but she's immediately caught by Riho's northern lights suplex. It gets two. Emi collapses when Riho tries to Irish whip her, but a second Irish whip attempt is reversed and Riho is superkicked. The challenger connects with a Vader bomb on her prone opponent and then FLATTENS Riho with a cross body block in the corner. Sakura's moonsault press is next, but Riho manages to kick out of it at two. Emi signals that she's headed up top again for a 450 . . . but Riho moves! Diving double knee strike by the champion . . . but Sakura is out at two! Double knees from the top rope are BLOCKED! The regular diving double knee strike connects . . . TWO! Cradle by Riho! TWO! Now it's a swinging rana and a satellite cradle by the youngster, but that doesn't put Emi away either! The double knee strike is attempted one more time, but Sakura blocks it and somehow maneuvers Riho into a la magistral cradle . . . which earns her the three count and the ICEx60 Title.
Match Thoughts: Yowza. I am flat-out amazed by what I just saw in this match. Yes, there was one spot that was blown pretty badly, and I noted it in the play-by-play. However, even that was covered well . . . and, if you throw it out, you're left with an AMAZING bout, especially when you take into consideration the fact that one of the wrestlers is all of 4'9" tall and isn't even as old as the average US high school freshman. These two were doing many things that I would expect to Sakura doing only with a much more mature and experienced opponent, and they were largely doing it without any major flaws. I'm not just talking about the execution of spots, either. Don't get me wrong, that's impressive. However, what really blows me away is the fact that Riho at such a young age is able to hold her own in terms of conveying the emotion of the match. A significant part of professional wrestling is actually acting, and her ability to act and tell the live audience and the television cameras what is on her character's mind through her facial expressions and body language is nothing short of amazing given her age and the number of years that she has spent in wrestling. The last three minutes or so of this bout in particular were incredible, and this is the kind of match that is going to stick with me for a very long time. If you're not a fan of Ice Ribbon or not a fan of women wrestling in general, I would still suggest that you try to take a look at this one, because it's the kind of match that I could see converting somebody who is a wrestling fan but isn't familiar with or otherwise interested in this particular genre of wrestling. Just great stuff. ****1/4
The show closes with – and I am not making this up – literally every wrestler who was on the show coming out from the locker room and doing their best to shake hands with every fan in attendance. If that's not indy, I don't know what is.
This is probably my favorite independent wrestling show thusfar in 2010 . . . and I'm not just talking about Japanese wrestling. No, it's not as super-series and as workrate-centric as something that we'd see out of Ring of Honor or even Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, but Ice Ribbon in my mind is currently firing on all cylinders when it comes to offering up a pro wrestling product that is a great hybrid of exciting in-ring action, wacky comedic endeavors, and charismatic, compelling personalities. There was not a single bad match on this show, which is an incredible statement to make given that many of the wrestlers involved had three years or less of experience and an even more incredible statement to make given that my last major review was the King of Europe Cup featuring many male wrestlers who are considered world class performers, and even that event included a couple of outright stinkers. Granted, part of the fun of Ice Ribbon is probably the novelty, as they don't have the opportunity to run major shows more than once every couple of months, but a fun novelty show is still worlds better than a boring show from a promotion that cranks them out regularly. If you're even marginally interested in women's wrestling, hunt this one down. I don't see how you could not have some fun with it.
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