The world is fucking weird at the moment and, as of today, I don’t have a job, so if you like my rambles, get ready to see a lot more of them. With that weirdness, there are suddenly a lot of people with a hella lot of time on their hands. Now, I don’t normally do listicles on this website because, well, why would I? I spent some time in the trenches of making money by writing for WhatCulture, and it ain’t much fun. However, what better way to spend all that free time than by getting into everyone’s favourite pseudo-sport, wrassling! Usually, when people try to get you into wrestling, they’ll go straight to WWE. There is a decent chance they’ll show you Mick Foley being thrown off a cage because of the wrestling fan’s innate need to prove it’s not fake. However, that’s dumb, and WWE sucks. So, I’ve decided to put together a list of matches, all of which you can watch for free, that might tempt you to fall in love with this world that gives me so much joy.
Chris Brookes, Masahiro Takanashi and Rin Rin vs Mei Suruga, Antonio Honda and Yuna Mizumori
If I wanted it to be, this entire list could be populated by Gatoh Move. I adore that company, and I’m looking forward to using all my newly discovered free-time to have a big catch up on everything they’ve released. However, I’m going to restrict myself to one match per a company, and this is the one that pushed me towards that love.
Now, the first thing you’ll notice is the lack of a ring. Gatoh Move is a small company and this space, Ichigaya Chocolate Square, has become something of a trademark for them. I believe it’s an old dentist’s office, but I’ve heard pharmacy too. Either way, it’s part of their charm, and hopefully, you’ll quickly forget about the lack of bells and whistles. Instead, sit back and watch a match that sums up what makes them great.
As a new fan, I suspect the comedy is what will attract you to begin with. I won’t spoil the main spots because then they’ll be less funny, but they do a fantastic job of playing off the fact that Chris Brookes (the English one) is a lot taller than everyone else. You also have the start of a still-running feud between him and Mei Suruga (the short lass in red) which is well worth following up on if you get a taste.
For a final point, you might notice that Rin Rin is a literal child. This is not unusual in joshi (Japanese women’s wrestling), and it’s treated much like playing any other sport would be here. The younger wrestlers are protected and receive training from some of the best (Suruga is one of Gatoh’s Move trainers, but it’s all under the watchful eye of Emi Sakura, a legendary trainer and wrestler).
Outside of that, I think this is something you can sit back and enjoy, free of worrying about intricate backstories or complicated motivations. It is a group of incredibly talented people putting together something fun, and if you do like it, Gatoh Move has a whole load more matches on their YouTube and an On-Demand service with a free trial. Feel free to ask for more recommendations or just follow the people from this match.
Raku, Maki Itoh and Pom Harajuku vs Miu Watanabe, Rika Tatsumi and Suzume
This one requires a bit more context, but I think it’s a beautiful example of why I love wrestling.
The Up Up Girls are an idol group, aka a Japanese girl band. If you’re unaware of the ins and outs of idol, well, that’s far too long a conversation to get into here and you’ll have to do that research yourself. However, it has long had connections with Japanese women’s wrestling. Companies like Tokyo Joshi, Stardom and many more will open with a song and dance number, while plenty of people have made the leap from being an idol to wrestling. It’s a weird mishmash, but all you need to know is that both Raku (gold, yellow and white gear) and Miu Watanabe (pink gear on the other team) are members of that group.
The thing about the Up Up Girls is that they weren’t that bothered about wrestling. These were girls who wanted to be idols, and the wrestling was a side-effect of that. That might be even more true of Raku than it is the others. While her partners, Miu and another wrestler called Hikari Noa, took to wrestling quite quickly and began to get wrapped up in this world, she never seemed that bothered. She wasn’t bad. She has a comedy spot called the Goodnight Express which everyone loves, and people liked her (she’s also a massive train geek, which is just perfect), but no-one thought she was going to be a great wrestler.
However, earlier this year, that suddenly began to bother Raku. She could feel her partners pulling away from her and over two years into her wrestling career she’d never actually pinned someone. So, she turned to Maki Itoh (tartan skirt) a former idol and a shitload of personality crammed into one human being (Maki is a whole other discussion). Like Raku, Maki struggled when she first turned to wrestling but had now found her feet. In Maki, Raku saw someone who could teach her how to get better.
All of which leads us to this match, a six-women tag that, well, just watch it. I’m not sure a newbie will personally get caught up in the emotion of it, you don’t have the connection to the characters yet, but I can’t imagine you won’t be able to see how much it means to those involved. It’s a beautiful piece of storytelling that shows how wrestling like cinema or music can be a machine for empathy, and that’s the stuff that makes me tick.
If you like the look of Tokyo Joshi (the company this match took place in), they have a YouTube channel with some more stuff on it while all their shows are included with DDT Universe. I also recommend checking out ddtpro_eng on Twitter, who provides translations for most of their shows (I’ve linked to the Tweets about this particular match).
Kota Ibushi vs Yoshihiko and Kenny Omega vs Haruka
I wrote an article recently about how wrestling can be anything (why not give it a read?) and few things sum that up better than Kota Ibushi wrestling a blow-up sex doll. I’m going to link this together with another match, so I’ll just shove that in now.
The title of that video is pretty self-explanatory, but yes, it’s Kenny Omega wrestling a nine-year-old girl.
There is an old saying in wrestling that a great performer can get a good match out of a broom. This is because, in truth, wrestling’s closing relation is not MMA (although it shares DNA with martial arts) or boxing, but dance. A great wrestler, like a great dancer, can lead their opponent through a match, be they sex doll or small child, and create something extraordinary. Ibushi and Omega have their detractors (Kenny in particular), but they are talented, athletically gifted men who know how to dance this dance alone. Although, it should be said that the lass (whose name is Haruka) is quite good, so you can’t heap all the praise on Omega.
These kinds of matches are obviously at the fringes of wrestling, but in many ways, they are this ‘sport’ in its purest form. Like a film that asks you to believe the CGI raccoon is talking to a Norse God, these matches ask you to suspend your disbelief and buy into the idea that a man is wrestling a sex doll or a small child. If you can get over that little hurdle, a whole new world will open up to you.
The Ibushi match takes place in DDT which is where you will see a lot of stuff like this (they once held a retirement ceremony for a ladder). You can find more of their stuff on Youtube or the previously mentioned DDT Universe. Let’s throw in another plug for ddtpro_eng while we’re at it because the man does stunning work.
Mayu Iwatani vs Takumi Iroha
This one is a fucking great match with an easy to follow story.
Mayu Iwatani (the one with the slightly less brightly coloured hair), is Stardom’s Ace. That means she’s their locker room leader, the person they expect to lead the company and the wrestlers within it. She’s also, at this moment, their champion. In this match, she’s coming up against an outsider in Takumi Iroha. She used to wrestle for Stardom but is now the Ace of a smaller promotion called Marvellous. With that in mind, she’s entering enemy territory and has something to prove.
And that’s it. This is all about Iroha trying to show that she’s not just as good as Iwatani, but better, and you can watch to see how that goes down. It’s hard-hitting, fast-paced and is one of my favourite matches this year. I’ve chosen to include it on this list because it’s a perfect example of what two brilliant wrestlers can do when they are let loose on each other, and if you like this, then you’re already a wrestling fan. Sorry.
So, there you have it, five matches that I think could convince a new fan to love wrestling. You’ll probably quite quickly figure out my taste (aka joshi) although, truthfully, I’m also a big fan of big boys hitting each other and slightly smaller boys stabbing each other, and I haven’t put any of that on here. If this goes down well, I might put up a second one. And, if you do watch these, and (perhaps more importantly) like them, please let me know in the comments or on Twitter. I’m more than happy to point you in the direction of more stuff or just talk about wrestling with you because that is pretty much my favourite thing to do.