Another month, another list of my favourite matches. This feels like the first full post-COVID four weeks of wrestling we’ve had, which doesn’t make any sense when you consider two of the biggest joshi companies had to cancel shows, but there was a hell of a lot of wrestling! That means there are a fair few impressive bouts that didn’t make the cut, but they’ll have to forgive me because what is there, was brilliant. Enjoy.
Miyako Matsumoto and Chris Brookes vs Rina Yamashita and Drew Parker, Summer Festival (1/8/20), Gake No Fuchi Joshi
What more can I say about Miyako Matsumoto? I mean, seriously, if you haven’t got the message by now, will you ever get it?
This was one of the two matches that she and her reluctant partner Chris Brookes competed in this month, but this one made the cut by virtue of the spot where Brookes put Miyacoco in a box. Seriously, I don’t want to spoil it, but if you haven’t seen that, go and watch it now. I’m still laughing.
Box related shenanigans aside, what I love about that pairing is that it plays perfectly into the world Miyacoco is creating. She is that spoilt child, running riot while demanding everyone around her do exactly what she says. Unlike that spoilt child, those around her get to ram bamboo skewers into her head and ruin her plans. In her mind, all these matches are set to go a very particular way, one that ends with her standing victorious over everyone else. Instead, she’s usually left rolling around on the ground, screaming that she’s been murdered while demanding they call a combination of an ambulance and the police.
And yet Miyacoco always recovers. She recovers because that world she’s created is unbreakable. By the time she’s got backstage, she’s already forgotten that they lost. When Brookes says she got serial killed, she happily agrees that yes, she is a serial killer, and has no wish to be corrected on her misunderstanding. Miyacoco has the kind of brain that fixes the world, creating it in the image she wants. Even more impressive, is her ability to drag others in. People like Chris keep saying they don’t want to be a part of it, yet he keeps coming back.
I love Miyacoco. I will follow and support her in everything she does because those things take wrestling and do, well, whatever the fucks she wants with it. Traditional, straightforward ‘wrassling’ is great, but sometimes you need someone to burn it all down. Miyacoco is that someone.
Risa Sera vs Rina Yamashita, Yokohama Bunka Gymnasium Final (9/8/20), Ice Ribbon
I reviewed these next two matches at the time, so if you want to glance at my original thoughts, click the link.
Imagine your starting point being Rina Yamashita riding out on the back of Manami Toyota’s motorcycle wielding a bundle of light tubes. I mean, how the fuck do you go up from there?
Thankfully, these two are the perfect people to do so. This was one of those matches that balanced perfectly on the line between badass and ridiculous, which is a pretty good description of both these women. You had moments like Yamashita hitting a Lariat from the back of Toyota’s motorbike sitting comfortably next to the light tubes and blood. It leaned into the silliness of deathmatch, but never tottered over, keeping it in the perfect spot to produce the most fun.
By the end, Rina was soaked in blood while they delivered the kind of death-defying finish that the action deserved. They set themselves up to have to top that entrance, and they might just have done it.
Suzu Suzuki vs Maya Yukihi, Yokohama Bunka Gymnasium Final (9/8/20), Ice Ribbon
I don’t care what your passion is. It could be football, music or film, and I still think this this next statement is true. Everyone loves to see the youngsters succeed. That local footballer who is making their debut at sixteen, the band you saw in a pub bursting through to support the globe-trotting megastar, the plucky young director being handed the budget to finally put their vision on the screen with no compromises. It’s exciting and fresh and made all the better if you’ve watched the struggle.
Sadly, as a relatively new Ice Ribbon watcher, I can’t claim to have watched all of Suzu Suzuki’s struggle. But I’ve seen enough. I’d seen enough to have me on the edge of my chair as I watched this match, eyes glued to the screen as for the third time she went up against Yukihi and tried to best someone who seems to almost be perfect. I watched that seventeen-year-old putting her heart and soul into this, and I was terrified that it once again wasn’t going to be enough.
And when you feel that, that feeling of fear and excitement, then you know it’s got you. It’s the best fucking thing on the planet and Maya and Suzu danced that dance to perfection.
Yuka Sakazaki vs Hyper Misao, Princess Cup (10/8/20), TJPW
Another match that I’ve spoken about before, but one I loved dearly. Hyper Misao is one of my favourite wrestlers. She’s this incredible force of nature, bursting with ideas and able to spice up any middle of the card tag she’s dropped into. This, however, was something different. It was Misao placed in the main event against the champ, and while I had no doubt she could pull it off, I was intrigued to see how she pulled it off.
The answer was perhaps unexpected. Misao started by throwing every gimmick she had at Yuka, only for Tokyo Joshi’s Magical Girl to deflect them all. That left everyone’s favourite superhero with only herself, and a closing stretch that some might not have expected her to be capable of pulling off. It was a simple slice of storytelling crafted to perfection. I’m going to discuss later on in this piece about the best comedy wrestlers not staying still, and that’s a compliment you can pay to Misao every day of the week.
CDK (Chris Brookes and Shota) vs TropikaWild (SAKI and Yunamon) vs Tokyo Heartbreak Hotel (Antonio Honda and Minoru Fujita), Emi Sakura’s 25th Anniversary (17/8/20), ChocoProLIVE!
There is an alternate version of this list where all six matches from Emi’s anniversary are on it, and it wouldn’t be wrong. However, now and then I do like to push people towards wrestling that isn’t ChocoPro, so I decided to keep it to my two favourites.
The first of those captured my heart when they chose to open it by everyone grabbing Arm Wringers and wandering around screaming while Honda plugged the sponsor. Here was a show where ChocoPro were desperate to get as many fans as possible, and yet they were still happy to deliver this pure blast of unfiltered ChocoProness. I can only imagine what new viewers were thinking, the screams emitting from their speakers as Honda did what he’s been doing since the beginning.
When that madness calmed down, it was also a brilliantly fun tag. There were moments where it was perhaps a bit too choreographed, built around spots involving as many people as possible, but I’m not sure how you have this match in that environment without doing that. Plus, the spots they had crafted were executed to perfection, from the seamless string of roll-ups to Yunamon deciding the best way to stop a five-way submission was just to Splash the whole lot.
It’s one that doesn’t require much in the way of analysis, sit back, relax and enjoy the chaotic fun.
Emi Sakura vs Sayaka Obihiro, Emi Sakura’s 25th Anniversary (17/8/20), ChocoProLIVE!
You’d have thought after twenty-five years as a wrestler, the one thing Emi Sakura would have earned, was an anniversary that went off without a hitch. Sadly, it wasn’t to be. She’d planned to do this show in a big building, but then COVID struck, forcing it into the confines of ChocoPro. It’s safe to say that Emi has fallen in love with that project, though, so it was okay. She could deal with that. Then, just a few days before the show, it struck again, a positive test for Stardom pulling Riho from a tag and, more importantly, Kaori Yoneyama from Sakura’s main event.
It put Emi in a pretty tough situation. You can’t just conjure up someone suitable for an occasion like that, certainly not on that short notice. She needed history, a person who it made sense for her to be standing across the ring from after a quarter of a century. Thankfully, there was one person available – Sayaka Obihiro.
Obi was undeniably the right choice, but it made for a very different contest. Yone is Sakura’s equal, the person who once took her hair, and someone who I could imagine may well have won that main event. As brilliant as Obi is, she couldn’t give this match that. What she could provide, though, was years of love and devotion. From the second she walked into Ichigaya you could tell this meant everything to her. She was fighting back the tears before they’d even began and was clearly determined to make sure Emi got the celebration she deserved.
She did it too. The match was incredible, dripping with emotion as Obi threw everything into it. She hadn’t wrestled in months, a combination of injury and her job pulling her away, but she gave every inch of herself to this. By the end, she could barely stand-up, throwing open the window in an attempt to gulp fresh air as her legs wobbled beneath her. Yet she kept trying. She threw herself at Emi, swinging wildly as you got the impression that if she stopped, she’d collapse. It was a performance that appeared rooted in love, a need to keep going even as her body was clearly telling her that it couldn’t get up any more.
I’m sure there is a part of Emi that still wishes she got the main event she’d originally booked, and I still want to see it. However, for the occasion, this was perfect. It was an unleashing of emotion, a display of passion and a glimpse at how much Sakura means to those around her. Sayaka Obihiro proved a more than worthy replacement and gave us a celebration that I can’t imagine I’ll forget anytime soon.
Best Friends (Arisa Nakajima and Tsukasa Fujimoto) vs Yoshiko and Hiroyo Matsumoto, SEAdLINNNG’s 5th Anniversary (26/8/20), SEAdLINNNG
Another match I’ve written about before and one that was fairly recent, so I’ll keep this short and snappy. What this was, though, on SEAd’s fifth anniversary and their first-ever YouTube live stream, was four people walking out and showing the world exactly who they are. Hard-hitting and worked at a speed that should not have been possible with the time they went, you had four brilliant workers doing everything they could to make an impression. I can’t imagine a new fan tuning in and not wanting to see more.
Tokiko Kirihara vs Minoru Fujita, ChocoPro #42 (28/8/20), ChocoProLIVE!
The day after we found out via ChocoTalk that Otoki might be the coolest person on the planet (seriously, is there anything she hasn’t done?), Emi Sakura handed her a hell of a task for her first anniversary. Minoru Fujita, one of the few people who can match her on coolness and a man warming up for his shot at the BJW Deathmatch Title.
If he thought taking on this rookie was going to be an easy freshener before that, he thought wrong. Otoki is at a stage in her career where every outing has a chance to be her best yet. Since ChocoPro started, we have watched her confidence soar, allowing this incredibly well-rounded wrestler to fly up with it. She’s become someone who has no qualms about out-grappling a veteran of Fujita’s standing. We learnt in the aforementioned ChocoTalk that alongside her judo past she’d done some MMA, so it made perfect sense that she’d drag this deathmatch brawler to the floor.
I already spoke about Suzu and the excitement of something young and fresh, but perhaps young is the wrong word. Otoki is in her mid-forties and is enough of a badass that she’s not only leapt into this new, weird world but has found herself going up against a grizzled, scarred deathmatch warrior and standing her ground. That is fucking awesome. ChocoPro has a lot of success stories, but secretly, she might be its biggest one. Who knows if wrestling will be something she does for the next ten years or will be added to the list of incredible things she’s done in her life when she moves on fairly soon, but either way, she’s come far enough that she can already look back on this with pride.
Antonio Honda vs Lulu Pencil, ChocoPro #42 (28/8/20), ChocoProLIVE!
How can you capture a match where the opening lock-ups were not only soundtracked by the two wrestlers dueting on ‘Can’t Get No (Satisfaction)’, but were timed to fit within the rhythm of the song? Amazingly, that wasn’t even the best duet in the match. There were three, but the highlight was number two where Honda’s now traditional give up gag developed into a rendition of ‘Give Peace a Chance’, Lulu and Anton wrapping their arms around each other as Emi Sakura looked on disapprovingly in the background. I won’t spoil the punchline, but fucking hell, it was perfect.
A word I think you can use to describe every match that Lulu Pencil and Antonio Honda have. In the third bout of their series, and on Lulu’s first anniversary as a wrestler, they pushed their sublime ridiculousness a step further, taking us down a surreal path that only they could. Comedy wrestling is often built upon repetition, and there is a degree of that to both Lulu and Honda. However, they also have this incredible ability to morph what they’ve done before, to build on their own blocks. Wrestling fans are obsessed with callbacks and 99% of the time they’re dumb as hell, but when Lulu slipped effortlessly into a Backslide (the move she tapped out to in their first match), I was out of my seat, captured for a second by the possibility that she might win. I can’t think of two comedy wrestlers who have ever made me feel that way before.
There is a part of me that wants to pick this apart bit by bit, but jokes are never as funny when discussed in-depth by a nerd on the internet. For the third time, Honda vs Lulu crafted the kind of genius that only they could. Give it your time, and I promise it’s worth it.
Mizuki vs Maki Itoh, Princess Cup (29/8/20), TJPW
I put up a pretty extensive review of this match yesterday, so no-one really needs me to do another few hundred words on it today. However, this was the perfect next step in the story between Itoh and Mizuki. It was the chapter of Itoh’s improvement, the one where she gets so close to being as good as her old friend, but can’t quite get over that hump. Historically, that’s the chapter that knocks our hero down before they get up and win the fight. I guess we’ll have to wait till the next one to find out if that’s the case.
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Heh, your list is split about half and half with matches I really liked, and matches that feature people like Honda, Lulu, and Miyacoco who I will full on refuse to watch a match if they are even in it.