If wrestling keeps being so great, I am going to have to ditch the top-ten element of this and make it even more rambling because there are at least another ten matches that I would like to have on this list. That doesn’t even take into account the Ice Ribbon that I need to catch up on! (I still haven’t seen Suzu vs Maya, hence its exclusion, I’m sure it’s great.) Gosh darn it, there is too much wrestling. Oh well, there are worse problems to have.
10. Queen’s Quest (Momo Watanabe and AZM) vs Queen’s Quest (Utami Hayashishita and Saya Kamitani), Stardom Is Again (21/6/20), Stardom
Stardom makes its return with a Queen’s Quest battle that had some underlying tension. As a match, this was everything you’d expect. You had three brilliant wrestlers who know each other inside and out, plus one ridiculously talented rookie. They hit hard, fast and everyone got their moment to shine. We even got a brilliant closing stretch from Momo and Utami, proving that the three month break hadn’t watered down their stunning chemistry.
However, what was intriguing here was the future it hinted at. Before the enforced holiday, Momo’s hold on her QQ leadership seemed to be slipping. Now, coming out of lockdown, her partner Utami was marching to the ring in matching (and awesome) gear with the new rookie. On top of that, they’re going after the titles that Momo and Utami failed to win. The potential for all not to be well in Queen’s Quest rages on, and if the inner-faction warfare is going to resemble this, I’ve got a lot of time for it.
9. Yuji Nagata vs Minoru Suzuki, New Japan Cup (17/6/20), NJPW
New Japan is back and, to be honest, I’ve struggled to give a fuck. I did love this, though. It was two hard old bastards beating the shite out of each other while Suzuki played the ridiculous, over the top parody of evil that he excels at. Every bit of it was dumb as hell, but that never stopped it being fun. Let the violence loose!
8. Eruption (Kazusada Higuchi, Saki Akai and Yukio Sakaguchi) vs DAMNHEARTS (Tetsuya Endo, T-Hawk and El Lindaman), DDT TV Show #7 (20/6/20), DDT
The first of a few matches on this list that I have already dived into, so I’ll keep it short. However, this was Saki Akai stepping up. Although, to be honest, I think that does her a bit of a disservice. She stepped up a while ago, but this was her doing it on a bigger stage, winning her first serious DDT title in the process. It was not only a brilliant match and performance but a moment that clearly meant the world to her. You can read more about what I thought here.
7. Konosuke Takeshita vs Yoshihiko, Wrestle Peter Pan (6/6/20), DDT
Everything you can do, DDT can do better. With cinematic wrestling becoming the buzz topic in the West, it was only going to be a matter of time before DDT got their hands on the idea. Unsurprisingly, they took everything that AEW and WWE had done, and amped it up, putting on a spectacle that only they could. If you want more of my thoughts, click the link.
6. Mitsuru Konno vs Emi Sakura, ChocoPro #27 (28/6/20), ChocoProLIVE!
While the feud that defined the first few months of ChocoPro seems to be coming to a break, if not an end, Emi Sakura has been quietly building her next project in plain sight. Since coming back from injury (she had wisdom tooth issues), Mitsuru Konno has been untouchable in-ring. Unfortunately, great performances haven’t led to impressive results. Victories against Otoki and Lulu Pencil aside, people she’d expect to beat, she’s found herself falling to all of ChocoPro’s big hitters.
This match was no different, as Emi Sakura did eventually pick up the win. However, it also unveiled another side to Mitsuru. Partway through, something snapped, and she went full fucking badass. In an awesome moment, she delivered boot after boot to Sakura-san, seemingly determined to cave her mentor’s skull in. It was a brutal assault that felt so at odds with the beer lover who delivers vlogs from her bathtub.
Sadly, that anger would probably contribute to her downfall, her frustration getting the better of her and letting Sakura catch her off-guard. However, it hinted that there is a well of frustration building up inside Mitsuru, one that could be ready to burst out at any moment. I, for one, can’t wait to see what it brings with it.
5. Lulu Pencil vs Kaori Yoneyama, ChocoPro #25 (20/6/20), ChocoProLIVE!
When someone new comes into ChocoPro, there is always a slight question as to whether they are going to get it. It’s such a unique environment that it would be easy for someone to smash up against it rather than gliding into its slipstream of joy (too much?). However, there are certain people you know are going to fit. Kaori Yoneyama is one of those people.
Honestly, I could have picked any of Yoneyama’s ChocoPro matches as her encounters with Mei, Akki and Mitsuru were also brilliant, but it was the battle with The Final Boss that shone brightest. Lulu and Kaori turned out to be the perfect match, The Pencil coming to the aid of ChocoPro in an attempt to turn away this invader in the only way she knew how, by being a pencil.
I could pick out ten moments from this match that made me laugh out loud. Whether it was Lulu grabbing the opportunity to get some writing done, the vicious pencil-based assault or Yoneyama blowing out the eardrums of everyone wearing headphones, it was a riot from start to finish. None of that would have worked, though, if it wasn’t for the fact that people love Lulu. The moment towards the end where she pulled down the straps of her dungarees, flashing those massive guns, kicked off the equivalent of a YouTube chat riot. People believe in the Pencil, and they are desperate for her to get that first win.
Sadly, this wasn’t it. Yoneyama beat back ChocoPro’s biggest bad, and as things stand, she’s left the promotion unbeaten. Fingers crossed she’ll be back sooner rather than later.
4. Arisa Nakajima vs ASUKA, Delivered To You! (13/6/20), SEAdLINNNG
I think everyone has those stories that will always tick their boxes. Personally, I’m an absolute sucker for coming of age stuff. No matter how far removed I get from my teenage years, I will dive into and fall in love with it, regardless of quality. It’s an obsession that might explain my love for matches like this one, matches that follow the trope of a hot newcomer coming up against the grizzled vet, giving them everything they have, but not quite managing to get the job done.
For despite being defeated, ASUKA was brilliant in this match. I mean, she’s always brilliant, so that should be news to no-one, but even by her lofty standards, she shone. Going up against Arisa, she looked like a motherfucking badass, taking the champ apart and overpowering her at every turn. You felt like you were watching the future step-up, headbutt the Ace and take her crown.
However, you don’t become an Ace without picking up a trick or two, for this was not yet ASUKA’s time. It was the story of her coming close, of chipping Nakajima’s armour, but not having enough to shatter it. On this day, the champ was just that little bit smarter, that little bit more aware and had enough to sneak out with the win. It was a match that hinted at a future, a future when ASUKA would follow through with her dominance, but it’s a future that Arisa is holding at arm’s length for a while yet.
3. Miyako Matsumoto vs Cypress Uno, Nobody Show (5/6/20), Gake No Fuchi Joshi Pro-Wrestling
If you had asked me to choose a wrestler to construct not just a no-fan show, but a no-people show, I wouldn’t have thought twice before answering. It’s Miyacoco. It was always going to be Miyacoco. Wrestling’s avant-garde psychopath idol genius can be relied on to take the wrestling bubble and push it right to the point of going pop. However, even for her, this idea felt like a step too far.
It seemed to be puzzling Miyacoco too. In the build-up she took to perching on a rock, attempting to connect with people telepathically. Unfortunately, it would turn out that, thanks to her guardian spirit, her telepathy is super powerful and was enacting her vengeance on people who made her sad whether she asked it to or not. Some days you can’t catch a break, eh?
One should never doubt Miyacoco, though, and the final product would prove to be a masterclass in deconstructing wrestling. As I’ve said before, I don’t speak Japanese (at least not to any degree of fluency), so the commentary being piped into the room during her invisible battle with rapper Cypress Ueno was useless to me. And yet, I could picture every second. A twitch of the ropes, the positioning of the camera or the tone of the commentary, they all worked to fill in the gaps. Miyacoco had harnessed wrestling’s tropes, using them to craft something that literally wasn’t there. She understood that her fans are fucking nerds, and with the slightest suggestion, she could have them seeing everything she wanted them to.
There will be people who tell you this isn’t wrestling, and whatever, they’re welcome to their dumb opinion. I’d argue, that Miyacoco understands wrestling better than 99% of its so-called stars. Only someone who has grappled with every facet of it could rip it apart and put it back together this successfully. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, but I love that there is a part of our world that gives people like her a voice. She’s that lone wolf who doesn’t give a damn about the rules and will do what she wants. As long as she’s doing that, I’ll keep supporting her.
2. Chris Brookes vs Mei Suruga, ChocoPro #19 (5/6/20), ChocoProLIVE
Since Chris Brookes walked into Ichigaya Chocolate Square, his dynamic with Mei Suruga has been gold. They’re two bickering siblings, more similarities than differences, but too interested in winding each other up ever to notice it. It’s a relationship that is only accentuated by the height difference, Mei coming across as the annoying wee sister and Brookes as the exasperated older brother who can’t resist getting his digs in.
It was a feeling that extended into their first one-on-one encounter, Brookes at one point trussing Mei up like a pinata and beating her with an inflatable. Their differences make them a perfect match, Mei trying desperately to escape those long arms and get Chris in a place where he can’t reach for a rope break or pluck her into the air. She has to chip away at him, metaphorically and literally kicking him in the shins.
The finish was perfection too, Brookes finally managed to get a hold of Suruga and tying her up, giving her no choice but to tap. The Kicker? There were only seconds remaining. If she’d held out just that little bit longer, she’d have got the draw. It gave Brookes the bragging rights, but one suspects that Mei isn’t done yet. She’s going to beat that dummy no matter what it takes.
1. Emi Sakura vs Yuna Mizumori, ChocoPro #28 (30/6/20), ChocoProLIVE!
I feel bad for ending the list so bluntly, but I think it’s fair to say I’ve written enough about this match. It was the perfect way to end a feud that has raged for months. If you want to know more, click the link.
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