Another month is done, and this hell year ticks on, providing us with little joy. One thing it has given us, though, is plenty of fantastic wrestling. There are a lot of big tournaments going on right now, but not a single one made this list because, well, I honestly haven’t watched a second of them. There is a lot more fun to be had elsewhere.
Saori Anou vs Mayumi Ozaki, Plum Hanasaku ~ OZ No Kuni Buntai Final (28/8/20), Oz Academy
Alright, technically this happened last month, but I didn’t see it then, so it’s been bumped to September.
And wow, it was a bit intense, wasn’t it? I’ve watched little to no Oz Academy, so I didn’t have an emotional connection to this match, but it was an easy one to get caught up in. From the second Saori dropped her cloak, revelling her pristine white gear, you knew this was going places.
The place it went to was Saori being destroyed. Ozaki-gun didn’t hesitate before swarming the ring, setting off a genuinely brutal beatdown. Anou was bleeding within minutes, but they weren’t content with that. The onslaught kept coming, wave after wave of attacks as Anou’s gear didn’t stay white for long. Ozaki could have won at any time, but that wasn’t the point. She wanted to teach her subordinate a lesson, remind her of who was in charge.
It all meant that when Anou did get that chance, powering back into the match and fighting through the whole faction, it was thrilling. I knew the result coming in, so can’t sit and claim I thought she was going to win, but still, I was gripped. What must have that been like to watch live? To have that thrill as you dared to believe she might win it.
In the end, though, this wasn’t really about Anou winning. In its twisted narrative, it was about her accepting her role underneath Ozaki. For one day, she stepped out and was taught a firm lesson about her role in proceedings. Afterwards, she bowed down to Ozaki, pledging herself to her and content, at least for now, to step back into line.
Chris Brookes vs Lulu Pencil, ChocoPro 44 (2/9/20), ChocoProLIVE!
I don’t even know where to start with this match, but I loved every second. It had me before it even began, Lulu first trying to challenge for Chris’s title (he said no) before putting her hat on the line to get them the main event spot of Gatoh Move’s first ring show. Suddenly, we had stakes, and the Pencil was fighting for part of her identity.
And what a fight she gave! This was a Lulu Pencil match where she was doing Necro Butcher spots, dragging two chairs into the ring for a bar fight. Brookes did a fantastic job of selling it too, the shock on his face when a Lulu blow actually hurt, the way he gave her enough to show her improvement, but kept it within reason, never removing that quintessential Pencilness. Although he did give Dropkicking it out of her a go, a blow that would have snapped most people in half connecting sweetly.
On the Watch Party for this show, Akki and Brookes told a story about Lulu on the train afterwards, staring off into the distance in a way that had them worried something was wrong. It wasn’t. She was merely reflecting on this wild world where she’d somehow become a wrestler. She’s done more than that, though. Yes, she lost her hat in this match, Brookes lording it over her afterwards, but if you still harbour some belief that Lulu is a mere meme or a flash in the pan, then it’s time to pay attention. The Pencil is brilliant and, right now, this might well be her masterpiece.
Mayu Iwatani vs Death Yama-san, 5STAR Grand Prix (12/9/20), Stardom
If you read a lot of my reviews, you might have noticed that one of my favourite things is brilliant wrestlers engaging in nonsense. That’s what this was. There wasn’t much more to it than that, but every minute was gold. From Death being wheeled out on a trolley by Konami (it was her second match of the show) to Mayu before forced to give us an impromptu reading from her new book. I left this match feeling happy, and that was enough to make sure I remembered it.
Momo Watanabe vs Utami Hayashishita, 5STAR Grand Prix (12/9/20), Stardom
Stardom’s newfound love of drawing their matches out and aiming for the epic is a pain in the fucking arse. However, if there are two people that it’s okay for them to do that with, it’s Utami and Momo.
It’s a pairing you can rely on, two wrestlers who are not only brilliant in their own right but have incredible chemistry. Between them they crafted a match that seemed to capture Momo’s last year in wrestling. She came out the gates the leader of Queen’s Quest, dominating her number two and putting her back in her place. Watanabe was all lethal swagger, booting Utami around the ring and reminding people just how good she is.
As the match went on, though, Utami began to shove her way back into the action. In turn, Momo’s confidence seemed to waver, her stride disrupted by the power she was up against. With the time-limit ticking nearer and nearer it was Utami who was on the front foot, never quite having enough to push through to get the win, but also not in danger of taking a loss.
It was a lovely encapsulation of what’s happened with Momo recently. She’s gone from the dominant badass who destroyed everyone in her path to someone who, while she still one of the best, is beginning to struggle. Queen’s Quest is rising around her, and she’s looking less and less like a leader and more like an equal.
Sareee vs Madeline, Diana (13/9/20), Diana
Someone recently tweeted about how lucky we were to have an MMA fighter who wrestles the way Madeline wrestles. It was a thought that was going through my mind watching this match. In reality, Madeline is the legit fighter out of these two, the one who has actually done it, yet if you’d asked someone who knew nothing about the two to guess, they wouldn’t have chosen her in a million years.
Because Madeline was out there selling the fact that Sareee is terrifying. She opened the match by attacking her with her baton, looking to get the upper hand and twirling away in celebration afterwards. An expression of joy that might have been a bit early as Sareee wasn’t quite as hurt as Madeline believed she was. It set them up perfectly, Sareee the cold-eyed killer vs the jester who was trying to take her out.
It wasn’t a long match, or one that I think will particularly go down in history, but as a summation of both these women, it was perfect. They caught what makes them special, and that’s something I believe the very best wrestling matches do.
Shoko Nakajima vs Raku vs Yuki Kamifuki, Wrestling Of My Mind (13/9/20), TJPW
Watching Raku have fun is one of life’s great joy, and she was having a blast in this one. She kicked things off by having a nap, leaving a baffled Shoko to ponder what the hell was going on. Raku was committed to the bit too, rolling out of the ring to sell that she was indeed catching forty winks.
What followed was Raku nipping back into said ring every minute or so, sneaking in a pin before vanishing again. It left poor Shoko baffled and was hilarious, while the massive grin on Raku’s face suggested she was having the time of her life.
Like Mayu vs Death, this was a match that gave me joy. Something that kept me laughing all the way through and had three charismatic wrestlers having a lovely time. It wrapped me around its finger and left me with a huge smile on my face.
Risa Sera vs Syuri, Knights of Ribbon (20/9/20), Ice Ribbon
I reviewed these next two matches fairly recently, so I’ll be keeping it short.
Up first is yet more proof that putting the FantastICE title on Risa Sera was 100% the right move. She can do everything from that incredible deathmatch with Rina to the baseball shenanigans with Fujita to this, a match that captured both her and Syuri being equal part dumbass and badass.
Right from the opening that saw Sera begging Rebel X Enemy to be her lumberjacks to the finish that saw her leap from the ring with Syuri clasped behind her, this was great. We got battles for hats, suitcases being used as weapons and everything else you’d want these two to deliver. I am so glad that they exist and that I get to watch them do their thing.
Tsukushi vs Suzu Suzuki, Knights of Ribbon (20/9/20), Ice Ribbon
It’s the old cliche, the only thing harder than reaching the top, is staying there. Suzu finally achieved her dream, still aged only 17, at the final Bunka show, beating Maya and stepping up to be champion of Ice Ribbon. Now, it was up to her to prove it wasn’t a fluke.
In Tsukushi she had a hell of a tough challenge, everyone’s favourite goblin setting out to ruin the party. Some of the treatment she dished out to Suzu in this match was downright nasty, the thud of her forearms or the way she went straight through her with a Dropkick. If you want a test, Skoosh is happy to deliver it.
And Suzu stood up, taking that beating, but never looking out-gunned. She kicked out of loads, showing that she had the will to defend this belt. In the end, a trio of Germans was enough to do the job, Skoosh falling and Suzu showing that she very much deserves to be here.
BeeStar (Mirai Maiumi and Suzume) vs Daydream (Rika Tatsumi and Miu Watanabe), Live With Your Time (21/9/20), TJPW
In a month where Tokyo Joshi lost three wrestlers who I had pinned as being crucial to their future, this was the match that suggested they were going to be just fine. Mirai and Suzume were handed the opportunity to step-up, proving to be one hell of a team in the process.
It was a match bursting with youthful promise. In some ways, it reminded me of watching a young footballer take to the pitch for the first time, terrifying opponents who know nothing about them as they take flight, charging at defenders twice their size. We watch Suzume and Mirai all the time, but this was them in the big time, a chance to see if pressure makes or breaks them.
In the end, Daydream had too much, Miu and Rika’s experience putting the rookies to bed. This wasn’t a match about winning, though. It was a chance to prove that you belong. BeeStar did that and more, leaving me both delighted by their performance and very excited about what is going to happen next.
Yoshiko vs Sareee, Fall In Love With D! (29/9/20), SEAdLINNNG
I wrote about this match yesterday, so I’ll keep this short. Plus, it’s safe to say it was what you’d expect Sareee vs Yoshiko to be. They beat each other up, every blow harder than the last. It was a timely reminder of just how incredible Sareee is, that arrogance she displayed as she stomped on her opponent working to perfection against this unusual semi-babyface Yoshiko. Sareee being stuck in Japan and able to work a bunch more shows is one of COVIDs few positives, so if anyone can convince her she doesn’t actually need to go to WWE, that would be grand.
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Usually my list matches up about 50/50 with yours. This month we’re a bit further apart, with only Suzu/Tsukushi, Sareee/Yoshiko, and Momo/Utami making my list, though I do enjoy a couple others on your list..