February was a more innocent time. Yes, the world was already a shithole, but you could at least go to the pub or have a wee holiday to deal with the ever growing sense of dread. It was also when Takumi Iroha rocked up to Stardom and gave Mayu a good old-fashioned beating in front of a packed Korakuen Hall. In a match that is still held up by many as one of the best of the year, she looked a step ahead of Stardom’s Icon. Of course, we know what happened next. COVID struck, and we’ve had to wait a bit longer than we expected to see round number two, this time with the title on the line.
Sadly, Korakuen wasn’t quite as full this time around, but the match did start much like the last. Iroha is bigger and stronger than Mayu while also being armed with a vicious array of kicks. In the opening minutes, she was physically dominant, attacking Iwatani’s leg and looking like she was out for a walk in the park. Takumi screams badass, and if you were going to believe that anyone was going to stroll into Stardom and squash Mayu for the title, it would be her.
Of course, that wasn’t to be the case. For if the last match was about Takumi coming in and letting people know who she is, this was Mayu fighting back. Her performance was brilliant, even if she did do her usual shrugging off of the early leg work. While that might not be her forte, what she does sell incredibly is the feeling of someone who has been beaten down. Every time she pulls herself up, it looks like it takes all the effort in the world and yet, she keeps doing it, she keeps getting up and fighting on.
On top of that, we saw a viciousness from Mayu that harked back to the cold-blooded way that she dispatched Saki Kashima at No People Gate. After a seated slap exchange, they found themselves on their feet, trading blows, Mayu laughing off Iroha’s thunderous strikes. Then, her eyes went blank, as it was her turn to deal it out, retaliating just as hard before kicking away at Takumi’s head. Ibushi and Iwatani are normally compared because of their presumed hatred for necks, but this was Mayu taking a leaf from Murder Kota’s book.
Despite that, it wasn’t Murder Mayu that lead to her victory, but instead, a slither of hubris on the part of Iroha. A side note in this feud was the Running Three, a move that Iroha’s mentor and trainer, the legendary Chigusa Nagayo, had taught to Mayu earlier in the year and which Takumi has used throughout her career. Iwatani would pull it out as they headed into the final stretch, getting a long two as Iroha refused to go down to her move. Perhaps fuelled by that perceived slight, Takumi seemed determined to make Mayu eat that Powerbomb in return. Time after time she lifted Iwatani for it, and repeatedly Mayu rolled through into a pin, showing she had her counter well-prepared. Yet, Iroha refused to be put off and having near murdered the champ with a handful of other Powerbomb variations, decided to go to the well one last time. If you don’t learn your lesson, sometimes you’re going to get got.
It was no surprise this match was good, but I loved how it played off the previous one. There, for a lot of more casual fans, Iroha was an unknown property, one that came in and pulled off the upset on a show that she wasn’t even supposed to be on (Sareee was initially booked). This time around, Mayu was prepared. She took the same licks, was dominated physically and had the shit beaten out of her, but went deep and found what she needed to get the win. That puts them 1-1-1 in recent years (they also faced off in Marvelous in 2018), so the tantalising thought of match number four is still hanging there.
It might be a bit before we see that, though, as Mayu, unable to stand from the beating, used her post-match promo to make it clear that she would rather team-up in the future. As far as I’m aware, the nature of the relationship between Stardom and Marvelous hasn’t been revealed, but if it leads to more of these two working together, then whatever it is, it gets the thumbs up from me.
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