It’s time for a slight tangent in our run through Stardom’s history. Before the next show on Stardom World, they sent a team to Sendai Girl’s Flash Tournament. Featuring entrants from JWP, WAVE, Stardom, Ice Ribbon, Sendai Girls, Reina, Diana and a freelance team, it was the Assemble of its day, making it a fitting show to cover at the moment. Plus it gives us a chance to have a wee peek at what was going on in different companies.
Team JWP (Command Bolshoi, Leon, Kaori Yoneyama and Hanako Nakamori) defeated Team WAVE (GAMI, Toshie Uematsu, Shuu Shibutani and Moeka Haruhi)
I suspect I’m going to need to get on thesaurus.com and look up the words wild and frantic because if this opener is any indicator, I’m going to be using them a lot. The match kicked off with GAMI leading the WAVE team in an attempted cheap shot, and away we went. There were a lot of people in that ring with not much time to impress, so they weren’t about to give you a chance to look away.
Despite that, they did a decent job of giving everyone at least a moment to shine. Not that the company heads were too generous. GAMI and Bolshoi both made sure to grab a chunk of the spotlight for themselves, putting together a fun spot based around some competitive rope-walking that ended badly for poor Hanako.
That wasn’t the end of GAMI and Hanako’s interactions as they were given the home stretch, a physical showdown between the two that would see others nip in and out of the ring to assist. It was a tough fight, but Hanako was ultimately victorious, a big Lariat giving her revenge for the rope-based agony of earlier in the match. It was a nice rub for her in a fun match packed with some big names.
Verdict: Cracking Start
Team Sendai Girls (Meiko Satomura, DASH Chisako, Kagetsu, Miyako Morino and Sendai Sachiko) defeated Team Ice Ribbon (Emi Sakura, Tsukasa Fujimoto, Hikaru Shida, Hikari Minami and Tsukushi)
Well, here’s someone who will important for this series in the future. Maybe in about twenty years, I’ll get around to the part of Stardom’s history where Kagetsu turns up, but at this point, she’s at Meiko’s side. Meanwhile, this is still Emi Sakura’s Ice Ribbon, but we’re only a couple of months removed from her leaving the company. Not that you can tell, as Meiko and Emi presumably saw the opener and decided they had to follow the trend. Within roughly twenty seconds of the bell, Sakura is hitting a 450 Splash onto Satomura, setting the tone for what was to come.
I’m not even sure how to begin reviewing this. It is all over the place but in the best possible ways. People are charging around the ring, the action proving a perfect blend of Sakura and Satomura, hard-hitting, but streaked with the personality that Emi is known for. Weirdly, the thing that stood out most for me was Hikari Minami, who appears to be an early version of Chie, running around seemingly without thought, doing it for the sake of doing it. It’s the only time I’ve seen her, so maybe I’m connecting dots that aren’t there, but there certainly seemed to be some similarities.
When Meiko and Emi get together, though, sparks really fly. Emi hits the ring after Satomura has dismissively booted a thirteen-year-old Skoosh into next week, and war breaks out. As someone who interacts with ChocoPro and Sakura regularly, it’s easy to forget just how brilliant she is, but as she and Meiko fight it out, it comes flooding back. While those two could not be more different in the way they approach wrestling, that doesn’t stop them making magic together.
I thought that opener was going to be hard to top, but my god, they’ve done it on the first try.
Team Stardom (Natsuki Taiyo, Yoshiko, Yoko Bito, Mayu Iwatani and Saki Kashima) defeated Team Reina (Yumiko Hotta, Aki Kamabayashi, La Comandante, Aoi Ishibashi and Zeuxis)
The folks we’re here to see! Although judging by the way they start this, Team Stardom didn’t spend much time discussing tactics. I admire Saki for demanding Hotta, but that would be a daft thing to do now, never mind back in 2011 when she had a handful of shows under her belt.
After the wildness of the opening two matches, Stardom and Reina made the sensible decision to slow things down a bit. I can’t pretend I know much about this Reina team, but they were perfectly positioned to play the big bullies. While it was a good plan, it didn’t take into account Natsuki Taiyo. The way she danced around people like Zeuxis and La Commandante was fantastic, expertly displaying how someone her size could deal with giants who looked like they could squash her.
It also built brilliantly to the awesome moment where Yoshiko tagged in, the crowd roaring as Stardom’s muscle finally got involved. She and Hotta unleashed on each other, much to the delight of Korakuen who clearly saw Yoshiko as the biggest deal of the Stardom rookies. A feeling that was rewarded when some Reina in-fighting saw her free to pick up the win.
This didn’t have the wow factor of the previous two matches, but it was still solid. The Reina team had a few awkward moments, their teamwork not quite coming together, but when the likes of Hotta were in there that wasn’t a problem. If you were watching these women for the first time, though, I could only imagine it would be Yoshiko and Taiyo who you would come away wanting to know more about.
Verdict: Yoshiko The Star
Team DIANA (Kyoko Inoue, Kaoru Ito, Keiko Aono, Annie Social and Jennie Rose) defeated Team Freelance (Manami Toyota, Jaguar Yokota, Mio Shirai, Sakura Hirota and Nancy Mari)
Hirota waving Jaguar Yokota and Manami Toyota out of the ring because she has this is why she’s the best. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t quite go to plan.
It set up a match which was a mixture of some of the greatest wrestlers of all time doing their thing and utter nonsense. Those legends are smart enough to understand that while Hirota’s greatness comes from a different source, it’s greatness all the same. So yea, we get Inoue and Toyota having a thrilling back and forth, but we also get Hirota marvelling at the size of Annie Social’s breasts, seemingly baffled as to how that works.
Honestly, it’s the kind of wrestling that is made for me, a combination that works to perfection making for a match that had me either laughing or gripped the whole way through. There is still a daft idea among certain sections of the wrestling fanbase that wrestling can either be funny or good, this is proof just how silly such an assertion is.
Verdict: A Lovely Time
Team Sendai Girls (Meiko Satomura, Hiren and Ryo Mizunami) defeated Team JWP (Tsubasa Kuragaki, Kayoko Haruyama and Nana Kawasa)
Our teams are getting smaller and mixing up the personnel as only Meiko remains from the first round.
The dynamic of this one was established instantly, Kuragaki hoisting Meiko and Hiren up into a double Torture Rack. Kuragaki follows me on Twitter, you know. No idea why, but I can only assume she’s an avid reader. Anyway, that’s probably not important.
This was back to ramping up the physicality as these two teams had the shortest match so far but went hard for it. Meiko, in particular, was out there throwing bombs, her and Kuragaki having no issue with hurting each other. Then again, when does Meiko ever go light? It’s not really in her wheelhouse, is it?
Poor Nana Kawasa would be the one who suffered most from it, as she was bleeding from the nose by the end. She’d take the fall too, Hiren putting her away to end an alright match, that was probably the most forgettable one so far.
Verdict: Twas Alright
As a wee side note, there are backstage interviews between most of these matches. Now, normally that is what it is, I don’t expect to understand it. However, I watched this on Independent Wrestling TV, a predominantly English website. It would have been a nice touch if they’d made an effort to subtitle these shows – the kind of touch that might have convinced me to stick around after the free trial ran out. Just an idea.
Team Stardom (Nanae Takahashi, Natsuki Taiyo and Yoko Bito) defeated Team Diana (Kyoko Inoue, Kaoru Ito and Sareee)
Sareee would have been around 15 at this point although she doesn’t look that different to the way she does now. She only lacks the swagger that nine-years of kicking people’s heads off will give her.
I don’t think I will ever tire of watching Natsuki Taiyo wrestle. With Nanae and Inoue trading blows, Takahashi tagged her pal in for a bit of support, and it was like a mini bomb went off. Everything she does is exciting, and I can’t think of anyone who moves around the ring with the ease and fluidity that she does.
Meanwhile, Yoko looked good in the role of Stardom’s rookie, although she probably didn’t enjoy it much. She tried to trade kicks with Ito and was taught a bit of a lesson in return in a moment that summed up the match. We had four veterans doing their thing, with the helping hand of a couple of rookies. Said rookies were given chances to impress but were ultimately the whipping girls, there to take the fall when the time came. Whether they had a good time is debatable, but I did.
Verdict: Good Stuff
I didn’t need subtitles to understand Nanae picking Yoshiko to be her partner in the final.
Team Sendai (Meiko Satomura and Kagetsu) defeated Team Stardom (Nanae Takahashi and Yoshiko)
After a varied and at times wild tournament, the final is a damn good wrestling match. Not that it needs to be said, but how fucking brilliant is Meiko? This was her third match of the day, yet you would never know as she started by putting Yoshiko in her place, proving that no matter how much the fans loved her, she was still below Satomura.
Despite that opening, both Kagetsu and Yoshiko were given their chance to shine. As noted, Yoshiko was the crowd’s darling, getting hot reactions even when she’s bickering with Nanae over who gets to start the match. That wild brute force draws only love. Kagetsu is no slouch, though, as while she perhaps doesn’t quite have Yoshiko’s personality yet, she is deeper into her career, and the more rounded in-ring worker.
Unsurprisingly, it’s Meiko and Nanae who steal the show, though. As good as those youngsters are, those two are better. I almost don’t feel like I need to say anything more. Nanae Takahashi vs Meiko Satomura sells itself, surely? If you don’t want to watch them go at it, you’re probably in the wrong place.
Ultimately, though, our heroes fell short to the promotion that put it all together. Yoshiko fought valiantly, holding off Meiko with a Lariat, but Kagetsu was there to pick up the pieces, a big Dropkick followed by a familiar Death Valley Driver giving the hosting promotion the win and earn her a wee hug from her mentor.
Verdict: Lovely Stuff
In the aftermath, Kagetsu and Yoshiko had words for the veterans on their opposing teams, Yoshiko even slapping Meiko. As far as I can tell, that sadly never went anywhere, but it did nothing to quell the crowd’s desire for more Yoshiko.
As an overall show, this was fantastic – an utter blast from start to finish. If we’re looking at it purely from a Stardom point of view, you’d have thought they would come away from this planning to make Yoshiko their star. She was probably the most over wrestler there and stood out in all the right ways. Did they do that? Well, I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
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