Joshi Assemble! There was always going to have to be a response from the smaller wrestling companies to the effects of COVID and, in a heartening move, joshi decided the best way to deal with it was together. Assemble might be more of a showcase for the different companies involved rather than an inter-promotional supershow, but it is still easy to get excited about. Throwing matches from Oz Academy, Sendai Girls, Pure-J, SEAdLINNNG, Marvelous and T-Hearts (even if we’re not quite sure what that is yet) together sounds like a jolly good time, no matter how it’s done.
Akira Hokuto opened the show by talking to the crowd before the heads of the various promotions came out to take part in the draw to decide match order. There was a fair bit of wrestling talent stood in that ring by the time they were all in there. I wonder how well they all get along? It would be fascinating to sit in on a conversation between them all. Even if I’d only understand one word in twenty.
We also got Nanae and Hokuto instructing the crowd how to use the rattles they’d been given while Bolshoi used Hanako Nakamori as a prop in the ring behind them. I’m not sure what Hanako did to earn that role, but it seemed a bit harsh. She ended up being pinned, Bolshoi picking up wins even in retirement. Her sacrifice wasn’t in vain, though, the rattles proving a nice addition to the atmosphere.
T-Hearts: Yumiko Hotta, ASUKA and Saki Akai defeated Sareee, Riko Kawahata and Tomoka Inaba
Of all the matches on this card, the opener was perhaps the most interesting from a structural point of view. The promotions were looking to impress, putting their best foot forward to draw in new fans. For the freelancers, this is a slightly different game. They’re looking for solo attention, to pick up a few new bookings and spread their name a bit further.
That would be particularly true for someone like Inaba. It’s probably safe to assume everyone knows who Akai and ASUKA are, but the JTO rookie is a relative unknown and looked good throwing stiff kicks at Hotta. She was never going to be the focus of this match (it was essentially built around her and Kawabata being bullied until Sareee could tag in and even the odds), but she grabbed her chance, putting her best foot forward in-front of most of joshi’s biggest independent promoters.
Of course, those well-known names also didn’t let us down. ASUKA was my highlight, as this is the year we stop calling them a prospect and accept they’re here. I adored the dismissive way they no-sold Kawabata’s flurry of Dropkicks, eventually granting her the honour of a bump only to kip straight back up. Unsurprisingly, their interaction with Sareee also ruled, a pairing that I hope we get to see again before Sareee joins the devil.
It was a damn good match capped off by ASUKA, Saki and Hotta having a wee boogie to Beyonce, something that you’re not going to see every day.
Verdict: Great Start
Incredibly, the between match disinfecting saw Hokuto and Chigusa enter the ring, strapped up with packs and looking like the joshi ghostbusters. I’m not sure I can put into words how happy that made me.
Oz Academy: Ozaki-gun (Mayumi Ozaki & Saori Anou) defeated MISSION K4 (Sonoko Kato and Akino)
Dynamite Kansai did the ring introductions as they are doing a lovely job of dragging in as many recognisable faces as possible.
As I said above, you would assume that every promotion came into this determined to give the crowd a glimpse of what they are, and even as someone who has only watched one Oz Academy show, I think I can safely say that’s what this tag did.
Right from the start, Ozaki-gun were at their nonsense, Police on the outside helping them swarm MISSION K4. Kato and Akino were left grasping onto opportunities, looking for those openings where they weren’t being choked by a chain or having a chair smashed over their head.
And I used to fucking hate interference laden matches, but I found myself enjoying this. I think when you go in knowing that’s what’s going to come, it’s a lot easier to go with it. It also makes it very easy for those of us unaware of the promotion to pick up on the story. There’s nothing subtle about this, an obvious pair of heels being set-up against a couple of defiant babyfaces trying to overcome them.
From an individual standpoint, I thought Anou stood out. She’s overflowing with charisma and in the small sections of clean wrestling that we did get, looked great. I was a big fan of the finish too, as K4’s confusion as to who was the legal women in Ozaki-gun left Ozaki free to roll into a flash pin and get the three.
If you’re not an Oz Academy fan, this isn’t the match that’s going to change your opinion. However, as a snapshot of what they are, it summed it up perfectly.
Verdict: Lot Of Fun
Chig and Hokuto were back and I would 100% watch a sitcom about them starting a cleaning company.
Sendai Girls: Chihiro Hashimoto, Manami and Natsuho Kaneko defeated Meiko Satomura, DASH Chisako and Yurika Oka
From the chaos of the previous match to Meiko and Hashimoto grappling it out, it’s safe to say the tone had shifted.
You know you’re going to get good wrestling from Meiko’s lasses. I don’t pay much attention to Sendai, so I can’t pretend I knew who the rookies were, but they were as solid as you’d expect them to be, running through their basics well. There was a nice moment where Oka was facing off with Manami, and you could see Meiko shouting words of encouragement in the background. At least I hope it was encouragement. I have seen the clips from that GAEA Girls documentary.
The highlight, though, was DASH vs Hash, which just ruled. Those two are so good that you almost take it for granted, but it doesn’t stop it being loads of fun. Plus, I always love watching Meiko do her thing. When I don’t see her for a while, I almost forget how brilliant she is, then she shows up, and it all very quickly comes flooding back.
I struggle to get invested in Sendai Girls, as it’s not a company that grabs me on an emotional level. However, a match like this will nearly always impress. You don’t need to worry about the story in a fast-paced, hard-hitting six women tag. You need merely sit back and appreciate the action.
Verdict: Trust Meiko
SEAdLINNNG: Yoshiko and Honori Hana defeated Arisa Nakajima and Riko Kaiju
I think if you asked me, I’d have said that Sendai Girls and SEAd work a somewhat similar style. However, it took all of five seconds of this match for me to realise that’s kind of bollocks. Watching them back to back you can appreciate that yes they both wrestle hard, but where the last match took its time, SEAd hit the ring and instantly rammed their foot on the accelerator.
It proved that while their roster is small, it’s a fucking brilliant one. How many matches has Beast Kid had now? Five or something? Well, she started this off like she was made to be there, duking it out with Hana before yelling at Arisa to get in the ring so they could do a double team. Honori Hana is a hell of a rookie, but she’s in danger of being overshadowed by this cocky and brilliant kid.
Then again, they’ve both got two big acts to catch-up with. Yoshiko and Arisa weren’t about to let the bairns show them up, their interactions proving to be fucking vicious. I said this after the Sareee match on the last SEAd show, but I genuinely don’t understand how they’re not just killing each other. Every strike looks like it would knock me out. The forearms are reminiscent of two giraffes beating their necks into each other, all force and little sense. Poor Taiyo had to get in-between them at one point and must have been wishing she was back with her nice wee High Speed pals.
It added up to probably my favourite match so far as they gave me everything I wanted in a war of an encounter. Not that Yoshiko and Arisa were satisfied, the fight continuing after the bell with Taiyo and Honori handed the rough job of separating them. Rather them than me.
Pure-J: Leon and Rydeen Hagane defeated Manami Katsu and Mari Manji
Pure-J is the back to basics company, Bolshoi preferring a style that is no-thrills. It’s also another one that I don’t pay much attention to, tuning in incredibly rarely.
However, with that knowledge of their style, this match was what you’d expect it to be. It was a rookie vs veteran battle and was built like that suggests it would be. Katsu and Manji were the underdogs, looking to upset Leon and Hagane. It was solid. All four women looked good and delivered a performance that was always pretty enjoyable.
Unfortunately, it was also probably my least favourite match on the card. Now, that’s not necessarily a criticism on a show which I enjoyed the hell out of. Honestly, I think they might have been served better coming earlier in the night, as being plunked between SEAd and Marvelous did them few favours. If this had kicked off the show or been match number two, it probably would have clicked with me that little bit better.
Still, there was enough there to make me think I might give Pure-J a chance. Within the confines of their own show where everyone was working a similar style, this feels like the kind of wrestling I could relax into.
Verdict: Solid, If A Bit Unremarkable
Incredibly, pre-main event Chig and Hokuto didn’t only do their disinfecting, but gave us a dance routine too. My god, if those two messing around had been the entire show, I’d have gone home happy.
Marvelous: Mio Momono, Mei Hoshizuki and Mikoto Shindo defeated Takumi Iroha, Rin Kadokura and Maria
Mio Momono is a star, isn’t she? She grabbed the attention before the bell, attempting to lead a sneak attack only for Iroha to turn around and cause her to come shuddering to a halt, reversing as she pretended that she would never do such a thing. If you weren’t aware of her coming into this match, you certainly were by the end, as every time she stepped through the ropes things got that little bit more exciting.
Not that everyone else wasn’t pulling their weight. This was another wild six-women tag, the combination of rookies and veterans making for a thrilling blend. I’m not a Marvelous regular, so I only know bits and pieces about most of these wrestlers, but they all looked fantastic. Whether it was the rookies Maria, Shindo and Mei or Takumi as the badass Ace, they were going all out to impress. Aware that not only did they have to represent Marvelous, but do it on the back of a pretty awesome show.
The final interaction made it clear they were worthy of the honour of closing us out, though, Iroha and Momono taking centre stage for an incredible back and forth. It was Mio’s pesky pace vs Takumi trying to boot her head into next week and if that didn’t convince you Marvelous is a promotion you should be keeping an eye on, nothing will.
It also gave us our only upset of the evening (at least I assume it’s an upset), Momono looking like she’d been murdered only to find a way to somehow bundle Iroha into a pin. I don’t mean that somehow in the kayfabe sense either, I’m genuinely a bit baffled as to how those final kicks didn’t kill her. Thankfully, she was still alive and breathing as Marvelous made sure to see us out in style with one of the matches of the night. Lovely stuff.
Verdict: Perfect Closer
Mio and Takumi both cut promos afterwards, Chig looking on proudly from ringside and Iroha calling out to Hokuto in the stand. Momono then closed out the show and that’s got to have been some moment for the young wrestler. We weren’t quite done, though, the date of Big Egg flashing up on the screen before revealing that Assemble Vol.2 will be happening on the anniversary with Stardom joining the party. Sadly, it’s not at the Tokyo Dome, but keep this up and they might get there one day.
Everything about Assemble made me ridiculously happy. It was a group of brilliant wrestling companies coming together and putting on something that gave them all a chance to show what they can do. Throw in all these utter legends of joshi seemingly having the best fucking time, and it filled me with a warm fuzzy feeling. I’m delighted that they’ve already booked show number two and it’s an instant purchase in my eyes.