Twenty-five years is a long time to do anything, never mind something as physically demanding as wrestling. That’s doubly true when you are Nanae Takahashi, who hasn’t exactly taken it easy. Thankfully, she’s made it this far in one piece and chose to celebrate her 25th Anniversary by putting together one hell of a card. Although, I would question the logic of booking herself against Arisa Nakajima, who, let’s face it, probably wants to hurt her. But hey, what do I know?
Now that Citrus Wind is no more, Nanae opened the show by herself and played a video package featuring messages from Meiko Satomura, Great Sasuke and Kyoko Hamaguchi. Presumably, they were all saying nice things about her, but I can’t confirm that.
Honori Hana & Yuna Mizumori defeated Las Fresa de Egoistas (Ayame Sasamura & Riko Kaiju)
There was a moment early in the match where Yunamon charged across the ring to knock Sasamura off the apron. So far, so wrestling, but rather than dropping off weakly as so many do, Ayame chose to stand and trade blows with Yuna, forcing her to earn the advantage she was looking to get. It was a small moment, but it summed up the attitude of these two teams. This may have been an opener where one came out wearing strawberry shirts and the other feather boas, but there was tension simmering under that flamboyant surface.
A lot of which comes from the bad blood between Kaiju and Hana. Ever since Riko chose to join those damn strawberries, they have been at each other’s throats, and this was no different. While you can tell they’re both wrestlers young in their career, they manage to blast through that with pure enthusiasm as everything they do feels like a fight. That means that even when it gets a bit sloppy, you go along with it, accepting that they’re more interested in beating each other up than making it look beautiful.
It’s also worth pointing out that while they lost this one, Honori pinning Kaiju, the Las Fresa de Egoistas pairing look like a great team. They’re both small but powerful wrestlers who have a burst of pace and the potential to push each other up a level or two. Having praised Sasamura in my recent Sendai Girls review, I think I liked her performance here even more, as she and Kaiju played a big role in why this match was as enjoyable as it was.
Verdict: Aggressive Rookies
Rina Yamashita & Riko Kawahata defeated Makoto & Yumiko Hotta
I don’t think Makoto ever gets enough credit for how good she is. The attention here was on Hotta, forced into a Las Ego’s shirt and incredibly unhappy about. Initially, it seemed she was in no mood for the fight, then Riko and Rina started hitting her, at which point she found the mood. Even then, though, she showed no love to her partner, at one point tagging out by clocking her in the face with an elbow.
All of which was a lot of fun, but it was Makoto who made this. From the early comedy, walking off to the other corner as Hotta tried to tag out, to her frantic exchanges with Kawahata, the younger wrestler desperately trying to get the pin, she was all over this match. Makoto is someone who makes those around her look better, often allowing herself to the butt of the joke as she does so.
Throw in Rina Yamashita, who is rather good at this stuff, and it was a really fun tag. I do wish I knew what they were talking about afterwards, as I feel like I’m missing a lot of what is happening in this ongoing feud, but it looks like it’s not ending anytime soon. Then again, if the matches are going to entertain, why should it?
Verdict: Makoto Is Great
Nanamomo (Momoe Nakanishi & Nanae Takahashi) fought Emi Sakura & Natsuki Taiyo to a draw in an Exhibition Match
Technically two of these wrestlers are retired, but if you showed someone this match, they would never be able to guess who. That’s not surprising in Taiyo’s case, she’s the most active referee in the world, but every time Momoe pops up, I’m caught off-guard by how brilliant she still is. She and Taiyo showed off some High Speed stuff here that was genuinely breathtaking, and even when it didn’t quite go to plan, the speed at which they were able to readjust and get back on track was outstanding.
And considering this was a seven-minute exhibition, they all went hard. Poor Nanae already had a date with the devil in the main event, but that didn’t stop her from taking a beating while you’d never have guessed that Emi is struggling with a shoulder injury. Even Kumiko Maekawa got involved, first delivering a boot to Emi’s chest and later chasing Momoe around after she accidentally slapped her, managing to hit everyone apart from her intended target. It served as perfect proof that not only has Nakanishi not lost her touch in-ring, but her comic timing is exquisite too.
Yet, even as they beat each other up, you could tell they were having the best time. Every time you hear one of these veterans talk about Momoe, their face lights up, as they all clearly adore her while she is the reason Taiyo became a wrestler. It was also lovely to see Emi and Taiyo on the same page, as they admitted on Natsuki’s recent ChocoTalk that their relationship had been strained at times. Despite that, they didn’t seem to have missed a beat from their Gatokunyan days, Emi at one point dropping down in the corner so Taiyo could acrobatically bounce over her and hit a Moonsault. With so little time on the clock, everyone was grabbing the chance to show off.
I can’t imagine watching this and coming out the other end with anything except a massive grin on your face. It was four legends of the game showing why they attained that status, and the only downside is that it wasn’t longer.
Ryo Mizunami defeated ASUKA to win the Beyond The Sea Title
I love ASUKA and would have been more than happy if they’d held this title for a long old time, but it is hard not to be overjoyed for Aniki. Not that long ago, she was contemplating retirement. Now, she’s arguably getting more opportunities and more exposure than she’s ever had before. Considering how brilliant and full of life she is, you’d have to be a right horrible bastard to begrudge her that.
Her time in America hasn’t made her any softer either, as she spent this match beating the shit out of poor ASUKA. Aniki wrestles like a badass, so whether it’s lariats or throws, everything looks like it hurts. There aren’t many people who can hang physically with ASUKA, but she is one of them, and it forced the champ to get creative, using Las Egos to go after Aniki’s arm. It was enough to take some of the threat out of those lariats, as even when Mizunanmi was able to throw them, she was hurting herself at the same time.
On top of that, ASUKA is extraordinary and has that beautiful combination of speed and power. It allowed her to always stay in this fight, matching Mizunami in power while being a step or two quicker than her, and she fought right up to the final seconds when a devastating double headbutt saw the tide finally turn. From there, Aniki still had to drop the champ on their head a couple of times to make sure she’d stay down, but it was eventually effective, putting to bed a war of a title showdown. Christ, I don’t imagine anyone wants to follow that.
Verdict: Damn, That Looked Sore
Arisa Nakajima defeated Nanae Takahashi
If you were to ask 99% of wrestlers to follow that ASUKA vs Aniki match with something even more violent, they’d have told you to fuck off. However, Arisa Nakajima and Nanae Takahashi aren’t most wrestlers. They have perfected beating the shit out of each other, and by the end of this match, the title showdown felt like it had been a nice wee stroll in the park in comparison.
But it’s not that simple, is it? If simply hitting each other hard for twenty minutes was all it took to have an incredible wrestling match, more people would probably do it, but Nanae and Arisa do all the other stuff brilliantly too. It’s easy to get caught up in the slaps and the forearms, all of which sound like they would knock me out, but it’s the timing and the escalation that makes this work. If everything is painful, it’s easy for nothing to become painful. However, they make sure to keep the big spots for the right moments, be it Arisa jumping from the top to drive Nanae’s head into the apron or Takahashi booting the younger wrestler in the head, firing her up for the home stretch. The violence never blurs into one but instead feels like a natural progression, a necessity if one of these women was to come out on top and feel like a worthy winner.
And while Nanae is a wily old fox, Arisa is the master of violence. When it comes to hitting people, few, if any, do it better than Nakajima, and this was a particularly sadistic performance. The final headbutt that she delivered (to the back of Nanae’s head!) drew gasps from the crowd, the dull thunk making me wince thousands of miles away. She’s an unrepentant bastard in the best sense of the word, and watching her murder is one of life’s great pleasures.
So yea, if you haven’t guessed, this match was rather good.
After the match, Funkist performed the song that SEAd use as their theme while everyone partied around them. Well, nearly everyone. Even Las Ego made their way out, but Arisa was absent, choosing to stay away from the lovely time. Then, after the pictures were taken and the ring cleared, she reappeared, grabbing the mic and challenging Aniki. One suspects that will be quite good.
That whole show was fantastic, but from the exhibition onwards, it was on a different level. The SEAd main event style is not my favourite kind of wrestling, and I sometimes find myself not loving their hyped matches as much as others, but when they hit, they hit hard, and this was them at their very best. Go out of your way to see it, folks.
Watch SEAdLINNNG on PPV: https://seadlinnnglive.com/