Ice Ribbon have been nailing the show titles this year, and this one is particularly lovely. This show was about saying goodbye to Matsuya Uno, finishing off Suzu’s trial series and watching Risa and Rina go to war once more. How’s that for a packed show?
Tsukushi Haruka defeated NATSUMI
NATSUMI is the first product of Wrestle-1’s new joshi division and is in the enviable position of having been trained by Aja Kong (who seconded her). She made her debut in May, so it is still early days, but judging by this, she’s someone to keep an eye on.
For this wee rookie came out and gave Tsukushi a fight. There is nothing everyone’s favourite devil child likes more than tormenting people, so when she was in control of this match, you could see the gleam of joy in her eye. However, NATSUMI was determined not to let her get into her bullying ways. She’s a joshi rookie, so there was, of course, plenty of dropkicks, but she also moves around the ring brilliantly, bounding up turnbuckles and cartwheeling out of danger. NATSUMI already looked at home, comfortable wrestling a goblin vet like Skoosh.
As you’d expect, she’d end up losing, a nasty looking Double Stomp taking her out, but this was a good example of the rookie vs veteran genre. NATSUMI went in there and gave Tsukushi a scare, showing off what she can do and taking her beating well. She’d obviously impressed her opponent, Skoosh inviting her to join P’s Party in the aftermath, and there are few better places to get your reps right now. Ibuki Hoshi, meanwhile, turned up with some words for Aja Kong (much to the panic of her mum), and it looked like they set up Team Hoshi vs Aja and Natsumi.
Verdict: Another Impressive Rookie
Mochi Miyagi & Miku Aono defeated Akane Fujita & Yuuki Mashiro
I did a big Ice Ribbon catch-up this week, and I don’t think it’s purely my preferences that cause me to say that Yuuki Mashiro’s undercard matches are often the best things on these shows. She has come on leaps and bounds as a wrestler, all while maintaining the inherent weirdness that made our Gacha King so special in the first place. I don’t know many people who could pull off demanding her opponents leave the ring because she needs to challenge her partner to a match to avenge the destruction of her homemade title, but Yuuki does it with ease.
This match would prove to be no different, Mashiro providing a mix of ‘ingenious’ ideas and pure panic when those plans went wrong. The first time she entered the ring, she dropped onto her back into Inoki mode despite Aono having already been knocked down, sticking to what she had in mind no matter the circumstances. Even that paled next to her horror when it turned out Miyagi was wearing a wig (caused by Takeda going after her hair on Risa Sera’s produce show), which unfortunately came off while she was doing a roll. Yuuki would not only start screaming but ended up slipping on the hair that had been left behind, going pure slapstick in her terror.
It all makes it sound a bit like the Yuuki Mashiro show, which in some ways, it was. However, it is worth saying that everyone else played their part, and I particularly like that Akane has joined Rina in the role of Yuuki’s big pal. She’s great at it, selling both her bemusement and fascination with this weirdo well. Mochi, meanwhile, (who looked great with her new shorter hair) is always underrated and the flurry of flash pins with Yuuki that led to the finish was well done. Put simply, it was a blast, and I had a lovely time.
Verdict: Yuuki Steals The Show
RebelXEnemy (Ram Kaicho & Maika Ozaki) & Thekla defeated Banny Oikawa, Ibuki Hoshi & Rina Amikura
Having Rina, Ibuki and Maika all in the one match gave us a lovely trio of hosses to play with. Rina and Maika were particularly getting into the swing of things, engaging in the classic hoss art of running into each other until one of them fell over. That’s not to dismiss Ibuki, though, who, like Yuuki, has impressed me lately. She’s the rare teenage wrestler who acts like a teenager, a barely suppressed combination of arrogance, anger and anxiety.
Outside of that, this was a solid, enjoyable six-person tag. I like everyone involved in it, and watching them wrestle each other is fun even if there isn’t a whole lot to say about it. Ram would pick up the win and afterwards be announced as the debut opponent for Trainee Grape. Amusingly, when they faced off, Grape was already nearly as tall as Kaicho despite being twelve years old. Still, small stature or not, Grape is in good hands with someone who knows what it’s like to be a kid surrounded by adults.
Verdict: Hoss Fight!
Joint Army (Matsuya Uno & Cherry) & Totoro Satsuki defeated Tsukasa Fujimoto, Maya Yukihi & Hamuko Hoshi
It’s a moment that comes up in nearly every joshi retirement, the spot where the retiree is thrown into the corner, and suddenly most of the roster is there, getting a final hit in before she says goodbye. It shouldn’t be emotional (in no other industry do you beat up your retiring pal), and yet, no matter how many of these things I watch, it will still always get me crying as, weirdly, it’s the point where everyone gets their chance to say goodbye. Sure, it’s quite a wrestling-centric goodbye, but it’s a goodbye all the same.
And this was a lovely retirement match even outside of that. Uno is clearly beloved, tears threatening to escape before the bell even rang (although Tsukka did later use them to lure her in and rake her eyes, so we maybe shouldn’t trust them). It’s rare you get a goodbye that feels rooted in hate, but this was one that felt particularly heavy on the affection, everyone desperate to see their friend out on a high. In some ways that makes the action almost becomes irrelevant, but it was still good, giving us a greatest hits set from Uno and a lot of fun moments.
They even gave her the rare honour of going out on a win, as she bundled up Ham for the three, leading to celebrations from everyone (including Tsukka and Maya). You could argue she’s broken one of the old rules there, but let’s face it, Tsukka, Maya and Ham don’t need the win and if they all love her enough to give her that final victory, who are we to complain? All the best to Uno. I hope her next life is as brilliant as this one was.
Verdict: We’ll Miss You!
After carrying Uno around the ring to say her goodbyes, Ham, Maya and Tsukka popped back into the ring to announce Ice Ribbon will be running Ota-Ward in November! Lovely stuff, although it does worryingly coincide with a future retirement that I was hoping we’d forgotten about it.
Yuko Miyamoto defeated Suzu Suzuki
In a nice twist on the format, Suzu’s hardcore trial series ended where it all began, as she took on Miyamoto for the second time in an attempt to prove how far she’s come. When these two first faced off, it felt like Yuko was testing Suzuki, seeing what she could do. Now it was time to see if she could face him as an equal.
And it is remarkable how much Suzu has improved throughout this series. Her love of deathmatches was never in doubt, but she has thrown herself into this world in a way that still caught me off-guard. There was no hint of nervousness here as her response to Miyamoto cutting open her forehead with barbed wire early on was to return the favour with a fork not long after. She’s fully immersed herself in the violence and shown an incredible aptitude for it.
It’s also, bizarrely, made me appreciate how funny Suzu is. Of course, I knew she had comic chops, but her timing is even better than I gave her credit for. In this match, we saw her bouncing up after bumping on the variety of objects scattered across the ring, running around in a circle yelping. Even better, though, was the moment where she accidentally broke a board while going for a Sunset Flip Powerbomb, her later attempt to fix it earning an arms-raised howl of frustration that was laugh-out-loud funny.
Ultimately, this has all proven that Suzu truly is the generation-defining talent that we all thought she was. The fact of that matter is that whether you put her in a deathmatch, a comedy match or just a straight-up match, she is going to make it brilliant because of how good she is at this shit. Her timing, her selling, it all comes together perfectly, and the weapons and everything else are merely props to be hung off that ability. By the end of this, as she desperately kicked out of big moves, forcing Miyamoto to put her away properly, it didn’t matter what the window dressing was. It was just great wrestling, and Suzu is a great wrestler.
Verdict: Deathmatch Legend, Suzu Suzuki!
Rina Yamashita defeated Risa Sera to win the FantastICE Title
As Rina and Risa stared across the ring at each other, Sera couldn’t stop herself from grinning. It didn’t matter that she was about to be in a bloody, violent brawl with the person she beat to win this title last year; that woman just fucking loves violence. To be in a ring, surrounded by glass that she knows will soon be smashing, it’s her happy place, and Rina Yamashita might be one of the few people mad enough to agree with her.
Because watching Rina and Risa fight, you get the impression that they love hurting each other. Not in a nasty way. It’s a shared experience, finding joy from going out there and coming up with inventive ways to inflict pain on each other, bumping in glass and leaving coated in a mixture of each other’s blood. This was the first time Risa has had a full-blown light tube match (although she’s no stranger to them), and she made sure to use as many as possible, piling them up in the centre of the ring for a horrifically crunchy final act.
And the match was obviously great. When you put these two together, it is always going to be so. I’m not sure it quite lived up to that first FantastICE encounter, perhaps lacking the magnificent spectacle that it brought, but then I could probably also argue as a straight match, it did improve on it. Since then, Rina has gotten a lot of deathmatch experience, and it showed as that combination of gritty violence and pageantry came to the fore. Her back was coated in blood by the end, the wounds it came from impossible to pick out among the red.
Sadly, it did lead to the conclusion of one of my favourite title reigns in wrestling, but Risa went out the way she’d have wanted to, a Splash Mountain through a lattice of light tubes ending a title defining run. Then, in the aftermath, Suzu Suzuki came out to make her challenge over the body of her fallen hero. If, as she has previously said, Risa will be retiring soon, then she’s left the future in good hands.
Verdict: Bloody Brilliant
That’s the first Ice Ribbon show I’ve watched live in quite a while, and it was brilliant. From an impressive NATSUMI through the emotion of Uno and right up to the violent end, that was a hell of a showing. With the Yokohama Budokan not too far away, this left me very excited for where Ice Ribbon goes next, and I’m going to have to start making an effort not to fall behind again.
Watch Ice Ribbon on niconico: https://ch.nicovideo.jp/iceribbon