WAVE isn’t a promotion I’ve ever gone in deep on before, as the somewhat erratic nature of how easy their shows are to watch has meant I’ve only dipped my toes into the water. However, it’s Catch The Wave season, kicking off with the ‘Young’ side of the tournament, and I figured why not? If I’m going to jump in, I might as well do it now.
Yumi Ohka defeated Waka Tsukiyama 3-0 in a Challenge Match
As far as my limited Japanese can tell, WAVE billed this as a Challenge match, but it was essentially a Ten-Minute Iron Woman or even an Exhibition, and certainly felt more like the latter. Waka has been spreading out and getting a bit more attention recently, charming everyone who watches ChocoPro, so it’s easy to forget how inexperienced she is. Cagematch has this down as her 26th match, which is in stark contrast to 19-year-vet Ohka, who has had, well, more than that.
And Ohka made relatively short work of Waka. She didn’t have to try too hard to start torturing her with submissions and booting her head off, but even while taking three falls in ten minutes, Tsukiyama managed to look good. She’s not yet an incredible wrestler (although she’s not bad either), but she does have tonnes of personality. Whether it was her crying after the first fall, luring Ohka in to stab her with her pitchfork, or the more straightforward fighting spirit that she showed towards the end, kicking out when it looked like she should have been done, Waka is easy to root for her. You want to see her do well, which is half the battle.
This Catch The Wave tournament is a big opportunity for Tsukiyama, a chance not only to impress but to wrestle a whole host of new people and improve through doing so. This was a rough start results-wise, but as a performance, it hinted that she could get a lot out of it.
Verdict: Waka Looked Good
Momo Kohgo and Ami Miura fought to a 2-2 draw in Young Block A
It seems that every match in this tournament is fought under the same rules as the opener, with the winner being whoever gets the most falls in a ten-minute time limit. I’ve no idea if that’s the norm for the Young Blocks in Catch The Wave or a new thing that they’ve introduced for this year, but it does change the dynamic somewhat. Whether that’s a positive thing or not, I’m yet to decide.
I did enjoy our first tournament outing, though, as Momo and Ami did AWG proud. This was the kind of simple, well-worked wrestling that I’ll often praise, as we had a battle of Miura’s power vs Kohgo’s faster, more technical skill-set. Momo did a good job attacking Miura’s arm early on before the stronger woman held up her end of the bargain with some impressive selling. I liked that she didn’t stop going for forearms but did make them softer, putting over the idea that it might be hurting her more to use them than it was Momo to take them.
As the match went on, though, that power would come to the fore, Miura managing to bully her way back into the lead through brute force, only for Momo to even things up with a roll-up before the time ran out with them locked in a draw. The early arm work was my favourite part of the match, and I felt Ami let her selling slip a tad too much with the comeback, but overall, this was a solid showing. They both played to their strengths nicely and impressed me by doing so.
Verdict: Strong Showing
Chie Ozora defeated Sumie Yanagawa 2-1 in Young Block B
One of the reasons I decided to tune into this tournament is the chance to see young wrestlers I haven’t watched before. Chie is from Pure-J, and while I did catch her match in Diana during Golden Week, that’s all I’ve seen of her. Yanagawa, meanwhile, is new to me as I have watched zero JTO. Despite that, I feel safe going out on a limb and saying that she probably has a dance background, her somewhat elegant entrance suggesting that might well be the case.
As for the match itself, my opinion of this swung kind of wildly. In the beginning, I wasn’t particularly sold, as it felt a lot like these two were simply taking it in turns to do stuff. Sumika hit a bodyslam and went for the cover, but by the time they’d stood up, Chie was in control because it was her turn. The wrestling itself wasn’t bad, they were doing simple stuff well, but the structure wasn’t there.
However, the deeper we got into it, the less that bothered me. Not because I necessarily believe they sorted those issues, but because they blasted through them with pure rookie enthusiasm. Yes, it felt a bit over the top that they were engaged in big forearm exchanges mere minutes into the match, but you could tell that these two were giving their all, and that’s hard not to get caught up. There is a reason that I often gravitate towards less-experienced wrestlers, and this kinda summed it up. If you convince me you give a shit, I’m willing to overlook a lot.
Verdict: They Battled Through The Flaws
Tomoka Inaba defeated Shizuku Tsukata 3-0 in Young Block A
I thought that I hadn’t seen Inaba wrestle before, but then I discovered she was on one of the Assemble shows, so I have. Unfortunately, she clearly didn’t make much of an impact, even if I have seen a lot of people praise her, so fingers crossed this tournament will stick with me a bit better. She was going up against WAVE’s own, Shizuku Tsukata, who is the least experienced wrestler in a tournament built around inexperienced wrestlers. With her having made her debut last month, this was my first time seeing what she can do.
And because of that, Shizuku stood out as being the most noticeable rookie we’ve seen yet. She’s already not a bad worker, matching Tomoka well in the grappling and showing some fire after going behind, but she still has a lot of nervous energy to her. Dressed in her basic gear, she doesn’t quite look comfortable in the ring yet, her brain still whirring as she faces a new opponent.
It meant this perhaps wasn’t the best spot to get a full impression of Inaba, but she put on a nice dominant performance. I liked that she continually went after the ankle and leg, working it over for a shortcut to victory. Early in her career, she already looks comfortable controlling a match and being on top (I’ve no idea if she’s booked as such in JTO), which is a good thing if that’s what you plan on doing going forward. If nothing else, she had a solid showing against a very inexperienced wrestler, which is generally a good sign.
Sakura Regina Hirota, Nagisa Nozaki & Yuki Miyazaki fought Miyuki Takase, Rin Kadokura & Itsuki Aoki to a time-limit draw
With the kids finishing up, it was time for the veterans to step in for the main event. Then again, even this match had a rather large experience gap between the two teams involved, with Nagisa, Miyazaki and Hirota all having longer careers than their three opponents combined.
And this was a summer blockbuster of a main event, as these six went out and leaned into the crowd-pleasing antics. Normally, I’d baulk at something like that going to a thirty-minute draw, and it probably didn’t need to be that long, but it was nicely balanced. They gave us a lovely combination of great wrestling and nonsense, with Hirota providing plenty of the latter. My favourite spot saw Yuki setting up for Super Shy Hold on Rin, only for a scrum to break out around her, somehow leaving us with Hirota in that spot instead. It was so masterfully done that I had to rewind to see where the switch happened, although I’ll accept that might just be me being inattentive.
It’s the kind of match that, despite me having an absolute blast with it, doesn’t require much in the way of analysis. It was a joyous, jam-packed thirty minutes, and you’d have to be a proper miserable bastard to put it on and not have a good time.
Verdict: Great Fun
That was a watchable, fast-paced (even with a 30-minute draw) and fun show. While I had a few nitpicks with the younger wrestlers, I thought they all brought something to the table before the adults came in and gave us the crowd-pleasing main event. I’ve no idea if I’ll continue to review all of the tournament going forward, but I’ll definitely be making an effort to watch it.
WAVE stream their shows on Confetti: https://s.confetti-web.com/search_result.php?btn_submit=%8C%9F%8D%F5&search_text_post=wave