It is time for Ice Ribbon to be RE:BORN! This time last year, it was RE:BORN that kicked off Suzu Suzuki’s run to the title as she retired chirin chirin and went off to live in the woods for a bit. A year on and Suzu is reinventing herself again, as having lost the belt to Tsukka she is off to the deathmatches. The more things change, the more they kinda stay the same.
Hamuko Hoshi, Miku Aono and Nao Ishikawa defeated Satsuki Totoro, Ibuki Hoshi and Banny Oikawa
Nao wins! Nao wins! Nao wins! Did I mention Nao wins? This was Ishikawa’s first pinfall, meaning she officially crossed the barrier which so many rookies must bang their head against for so long.
Regardless of who got the fall, this was a fantastic opener. When considering these random, thrown together tags, I often think the best way to evaluate them is to figure out how much of it you’re going to remember. These matches are so often throw-away, which doesn’t necessarily stop them from being enjoyable but does make it hard to scream and shout about them.
Apart from when one like this comes along, which was packed full of lovely little moments. Whether it was Aono kicking the shit out of Hoshi’s leg, leaving her hobbling around the ring, or Nao assisting her partners’ attempts to hit a double suplex on Totoro by sneaking between her legs and standing up, giving them the extra leverage they needed, this was packed full of exquisite touches. Small, inventive pieces of wrestling that made me smile and applaud.
The highlight among highlights, though, was the finishing stretch between Banny and Nao. It was a stretch Nao was only involved in because she’d loudly insisted Ham tag her in, a move that usually leads to the rookie getting pinned. Here, though, she was brilliant, slipping between wonderful intricate sequences with Banny before eventually hitting a cool Spin-Out Spinebuster for the three, catching me off-guard and giving us the big feel-good moment.
That’s how you start a show!
Verdict: A Delight
Thekla and Yuuki Mashiro defeated Tsukushi Haruka and Tae Honma
Thekla is on the wind-up, getting into Tsukushi’s head before her IW19 Title shot by expressing her undying love for the champion. She’d even roped Yuuki into her mind games, the two of them sporting their matching I Love Tsukushi t-shirts. It might shock you to hear that everyone’s favourite devil child was not amused.
That showdown many have been the focus of this match, but I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t talk about Yuuki instead. She was in inspired form, as she seems to have figured out that poking people in the eyes is the best way to get out of any situation. There was also a moment where she bamboozled Tae by dropping ‘dead’, which might be the most Yuuki move to ever Yuuki. Every time I watch her wrestle, I’m blown away by her ability to come up with new ideas that nibble away at the unwritten rules of wrestling, never breaking them but bending them to the point where it’s impossible to guess what she’s going to do next.
As mentioned, this was really about Skoosh vs Thekla and Thekla proving to be a pain in Tsukushi’s arse as she revealed her wind-up tactics aren’t only for outside the ring. She managed to avoid the worst of Tsukushi’s onslaught before Tae surprisingly dropped her partner with a DDT, making the victory a little bit easier to pick-up. It turned out that Thekla had been shopping, bribing Honma with a lovely present and an I Love Tsukushi t-shirt. I’m not quite sure I’d be working that hard on winding the devil up, but it’s certainly making for a fun feud.
Verdict: Run Before She Snaps
Yuko Miyamoto defeated Suzu Suzuki in a Hardcore match
With Suzu losing her title, there was only one place for her to go next. Yup, she was off to follow in the footsteps of her hero, Risa Sera, by challenging some terrifying deathmatch wrestlers. Up first in her trial series of death (not the official name)? Two-time BJW Deathmatch champion and 183-time DDT Iron Man Heavy Metal Champion, Yuko Miyamoto.
And if you had any doubt as to Suzu’s ability to hang in this world, then your worries will have been quashed by this match. It’s maybe not a word often associated with deathmatch, but they worked this smartly. They knew coming in that the very sight of young Suzu stood across the ring from the scarred, hulking body of Miyamoto was going to be enough to sell the challenge she had in front of her, and they built everything else from that image.
It meant that they didn’t have to go crazy with the hardcore spots. Instead, this felt like Suzu testing the waters while also making it clear she’s no pushover. She was the one who went for a chair first, while she’d already come prepared with her signature weapon, a bucket full of small bells (the word for which in Japanese is ‘suzu’), which looked like they’d be hell to bump on. And while this may have eased her in, it also made it clear that these wrestlers aren’t being asked to take it easy on her. There was one Powerbomb bump onto a ladder that looked like hell on earth, and I can only imagine Suzu is still feeling this. Although, as she spent part of the match continually booting Miyamoto in the balls, let’s not pretend he was the only dishing out the pain.
If it’s not clear, I thought this was a brilliant match. I love that people like Suzu and Risa have this respect and adoration for wrestling’s bloody side because it is directly opposed to the labels people want to slap on them. It would be easy for companies and other wrestlers to pay no attention to these wishes or never give them the time of day, but Ice Ribbon have faith in their young, future ace and are letting her explore that passion. If it’s going to lead to more matches like this, then sign me up because it was great.
Verdict: Suzu’s Hard As Nails
In the aftermath, Suzu cut an impassioned promo before her next opponent was revealed to be Takashi Sasaki.
Hiroyo Matsumoto, Saori Anou and Ram Kaichow defeated The Frank Sisters (Hiragi Kurumi, Akane Fujita and Mochi Miyagi)
Kurumi and Matsumoto have met before (in fact, they teamed on last year’s Be a HERO GIRLS’ show), but there was magic in the ring when those two hosses kicked things off together. The grin that spread across Matsumoto’s face as Kurumi proved capable of matching her power said it all. She was a fan.
It would also be Matsumoto, making her first Ice Ribbon appearance since 2019, who was involved in a lot of the match’s best moments. Not only did she and Kurumi hoss it out, but Akane proved willing to try and match her too. Their battle got violent quickly, the two of them trading stiff blows as they tried to see who could take the most damage. Unsurprisingly, the answer would turn out to be Lady Godzilla, who is a bit of a tough one.
Despite those cool face-offs, this was perhaps my least favourite match on the show so far, which is more of an insult than it sounds because I still thought it was good. I think my problem mainly stemmed from it lacking the emotional hook that everything else had, as it felt like filler. Annoyingly, that hook would then emerge in the aftermath, Matsumoto proving how taken with Kurumi she was by inviting her to form a team, and if you don’t want to see that, then you’re dead inside. Unfortunately, life gives and life takes, and when you combine that new pairing with the news that Akane Fujita is taking part in AJPW’s fledging joshi division, it would seem to signal the end, at least for now, of The Frank Sisters. To be honest, that was a flat way to go out, as poor Miyagi was left alone in the ring looking confused. Fingers crossed they have plans for her too.
Verdict: Decent Match, Great Future Tag Team
Risa Sera defeated Itsuki Aoki to retain the FantastICE Title
I wasn’t sure what the rules for this one were, but Aoki came out with a table and Sera a ladder (while wearing her deathmatch gear), so picking them up on the fly wasn’t too hard. It also meant they were building on one of the themes of Sera’s title reign, as Aoki attempted to match her in a hardcore environment. Unfortunately for them, that also meant they were coming up against some stiff opposition. Sera vs Yamashita and Sera vs Fujita were both violent, bloody spectacles that I loved, so trying to match that was always going to be a challenge.
And they didn’t go anywhere near as far as those matches. I don’t know if it was billed as such, but it was basically a TLC, as they kept to the less stabby brand of hardcore items. That didn’t mean it didn’t look painful as hell (Sera went through one of those horrible looking tables), but it spent most of the match sitting below those levels of violence, never feeling quite as unhinged. While that’s not necessarily a problem, I don’t need my wrestling to be blood soaked, I’m not sure it ever found its alternative hook. That thing which made it stand out and feel important.
Perhaps I would have enjoyed it more if it hadn’t been on the same show as Suzu vs Miyamoto. They were operating in very similar territories, but this lacked the excitement of seeing Suzu change things up. Aoki did have some flashes of inspiration, her late defiance as Risa blasted her over the head with chairs and bits of tables was great, but it wasn’t quite enough to push things to the next level. Instead, it settled into being a fun wee hardcore match, something enjoyable but ultimately nowhere near the level of Sera’s best.
Verdict: Good, But Not Great
Rebel Enemy (Maya Yukihi & Maika Ozaki) defeated Joint Army (Matsuya Uno & Cherry) to retain the International Ribbon Tag Titles
From a Rebel X Enemy point of view, this match was almost a puzzle. They knew Joint Army were looking to tie them up in knots and tap them out, but much like a football team facing Arjen Robben and his cut inside and bang it in the top corner technique, that didn’t necessarily mean they knew how to stop them.
And early on, that looked to be the case. Yes, Ozaki was able to power out of holds, using brute force to get through gaps her technical ability couldn’t, but you sensed it was only a matter of time till her strength let her down. Meanwhile, Yuki’s technical skills got her further, but she was still finding herself being outclassed, tied up and scrambling to escape through rope breaks or via a helping hand from her partner. On top of that, they were unable to string together a sustained period of offence, Uno and Cherry having a bagful of tricks to cut them off at every pass.
It all made for a fascinating title match, as Renemy struggled against their twisty opponents. They managed to wrap me up in it to the extent that I was wracking my brain, trying to figure out how the hell they could win. I’d well and truly bought Cherry and Uno as a pairing too powerful to overcome, even if coming into this match, I’d have bet the house that I don’t own on them not winning. Their offence is so different to everything else on this card, that it’s easy to convince you they’re a threat, purely because it’s not what a team like Renemy are used to dealing with.
Of course, Yuki and Ozaki eventually found their way through, the old-fashioned method of kicking people hard in the head proving a good leveller (the answers are always the obvious ones that you’ve overlooked). They were made to work for it, though, and this was a hell of a match.
Verdict: Boot ‘Em In The Head, That Will Work
Tsukasa Fujimoto defeated Rina Yamashite to retain the ICExInfinity Title
Power vs smarts. It’s a wrestling storyline that’s been done a million times but which never gets old. Rina Yamashita is a hoss, someone who Tsukasa Fujimoto could never hope to out-muscle. However, Tsukka happens to be one of the best wrestlers on the planet, so if anyone could find a way around that strength, it was her.
And I loved the way this built, as the ebbs and flows were timed to perfection. Rina came out strong, barrelling through Tsukka and forcing her to get dirty as she responded by going after Yamashita’s hair and even tying it to the ropes. However, when the champ was able to go on the offensive, her moves weren’t doing enough to put Rina down, and every time the momentum twisted back in Yamashita’s direction, she came closer and closer to getting the win.
That led to some great moments. Spots such as Rina spinning Tsukka round as if she was setting up for a Black Hole Slam only to drop back into a choke, trying to grind Tsukka into the mat and strangle the title off of her. Or the multiple times she set up for a Splash Mountain Bomb, each one getting closer and closer to being hit only for Fujimoto to slip out at the last second, escaping by the skin of her teeth. I came into this match with no expectation of Rina winning, but as she held Tsukka in the air, inching her towards a long drop, the thought started to cross my mind.
Except, Tsukka always found a way to stay alive. This was a perfect first title defence in that while it challenged her, it also allowed her to show a side of herself the Suzu match didn’t. There, Fujimoto asked all the questions, questions that would prove too much for her young challenger, but this time she was the one being forced to come up with answers. In the end, she fell back on wrestling Twitter’s newest favourite GIF, a beautiful Tsukadora making sure she came out with her title intact.
The aftermath saw Tsukka and Maya Yukihi playing a bit of janken and, probably more importantly, setting up a title match. That’s a pairing you can rely on.
Even with the two matches that I thought were good rather than great (which is hardly a massive insult), this is one of my favourite shows of the year so far. It was packed full of exciting moments from young rookies getting their first-ever wins to Suzu going off on a hardcore adventure. Ice Ribbon are always brilliant, but even by their standards, this was a home run.
Watch Ice Ribbon on niconico: https://ch.nicovideo.jp/iceribbon