Well, this was a big old day for Marvelous, wasn’t it? Not only were they in Korakuen Hall, but it was their 5th Anniversary, and the Ace was back, Takumi Iroha making her return from injury to take on Hibiki. With that much going on, you’d think there wouldn’t be much room for anything else, but they also had some visitors from Stardom! Jesus, it’s all very thrilling.
Kaoru Ito defeated Ai Houzan
Kumi Goto was supposed to make her debut on this show, but unfortunately, she picked up an injury, so it’s been delayed. I don’t know if the plan was for her to face Ito, but if it was, Ai stepped into the breach.
Ito’s not the easiest person to face whether it’s planned or not, but there were a couple of moments here that sum up young Ai’s career so far. Early on, after she realised her flurry of dropkicks wasn’t budging her much bigger opponent, she decided the natural next step was to try and slam her. Now, that might not be the smartest move, but it does nicely capture the relentless determination that seems to run through all of Marvelous’s rookies. They don’t accept that a fight might be a losing battle, choosing to barrel on regardless of circumstances. It pays off sometimes, like Ai hit a successful crossbody through what can only be described as excessive wiggling, but there are some situations you can’t barrel your way through. However, while everyone watching knew Houzan didn’t stand a chance, someone forgot to tell her.
That never-ending supply of enthusiasm gave Ito an easy afternoon outside of kayfabe, as she left the rookie to do the hard work before taking control and out-muscling her. It made for a match that was everything it needed to be and had the nice touch of Ito giving Ai a hint of respect afterwards, pulling her to her feet before raising her arm. It’s not much, but it was well earned as that kid is only getting better.
Verdict: This Rookie Doesn’t Know When She’s Lost
Hartley Jackson defeated Leo Isaka
I’ve never seen Hartley Jackson wrestle before, but he looked great here. He played to his size brilliantly, bullying the much smaller Leo by throwing him around the ring and eventually dropping him on his head.
And while watching a big bastard drop people on their heads is always good, it’s worth saying that this was a well put together match. He gave Leo precisely the right amount of offence, allowing him to create a bit of distance and take off before crushing his hope. I also loved the moment where he refused to let Leo roll him back into the ring after a Moonsault to the floor. It’s a simple idea, a big man being tough to move, but it’s something you rarely, if ever, see. But why should he let Leo get him back to the place where he can pin him?
I’m often critical of Leo matches, not because they’re bad, but because they’re locked in a vacuum with no stakes. In many ways, this was no different, but Jackson made it feel different, bringing with him a style and physicality we don’t normally see. That was enough to draw me in, and they left me impressed.
Verdict: Leo Takes A Beating
KAORU, ASUKA & Chikayo Nagashima defeated Tomoko Watanabe, Yuki Miyazaki & Mikoto Shindo in a Hardcore Match
A dark cloud hung over this match as KAORU took a bump from a ladder to the floor, getting injured in the process. Sadly, it was a bad one, and she’s facing a pretty lengthy recovery just a few weeks before she planned to retire. Thankfully, though, we can trust in Big Chig, who has made it very clear that she should take as long as she needs to heal up, and when she returns, they’ll do her retirement show properly. Get well soon, KAORU. We’ll wait!
It’s hardly the most important thing, but it was a double shame because this was shaping up to be a really fun match. They worked an enjoyable combination of big hardcore spots and silliness, with ASUKA Moonsaulting off ladders onto piles of chairs but also being wheeled around the ring on a trolley while in Yuki’s Super Shy Hold. KAORU’s injury must have messed up their plans, and like most hardcore matches, not everything went right, but the likes of Nagashima worked her arse off to keep them on track.
So yes, while it got a bit messy at times, and you could see some of the cracks, I think they did a cracking job in the circumstances. It must have been as gutting for them to see KAORU go down injured as it was for all of us, but they soldiered on and hopefully did her proud.
Verdict: Horrible Luck
Mayu Iwatani defeated Rin Kadokura
Mayu Iwatani is one of Rin’s heroes and a big part of why she became a wrestler, so this match meant a lot to her. On top of that, I’ve stopped watching Stardom recently (although I think I’ll have to dip back in for Takumi’s 5STAR), so on a personal level, it was lovely to see one of my favourite wrestlers pop up in my favourite promotion.
Strangely Rin’s hero-worship would be more critical to the action than my feelings, but I guess I can accept that. Seeing her in the ring with Mayu, it clicked how much she has modelled herself on Stardom’s Icon. From the colours she wears to the moves she uses, there is a clear line between them, which added a lot to this. It felt like Rin was chasing her hero, trying desperately to show that she has caught up to her, but not having enough in the tank.
And they didn’t go all out here, it went a bit under eight minutes, but that was probably the right decision. They were third from the top on a show that wasn’t about them, so they kept it simple, working in the story of Iwatani being too good for Rin at this point in her career. However, I hope this proves to be the first chapter rather than the end because, with time and space, I can picture these two having a brilliant match. I want to watch Rin chase her hero for a while yet, and if she’s allowed to do so, there’s no reason she can’t eventually overcome her.
Verdict: Fingers Crossed This Is The First Chapter
Mio Momono & Starlight Kid defeated Mei Hoshizuki & AZM
Mei’s instinct to hold the hand of everyone she stands near for more than a second is one of my favourite things. She was wearing her Queen’s Quest style mask here but still grabbed AZM’s hand as they made their entrance, something I’m not sure would sit naturally with the coolness of the QQ dynamic. Mio, meanwhile, looked a bit bemused to find herself teaming with the suddenly evil Starlight Kid.
And perhaps this is my bias showing, but I came out of this impressed with how Kid and AZM handled stepping into a Marvelous ring. Don’t get me wrong, they are great wrestlers, particularly in this high speed style, but not many people can keep up with Mio and Mei. However, they both looked great out there, slipping into those intricate, pin-laden sequences and managing a bit of that wee tank style that Marvelous deploys. I think AZM is a slightly more natural fit for it than Kid, as she traded blows with Mio, but they both looked at home.
It also reminded me how frustrating it is that Stardom doesn’t do stuff like this more often. They don’t have that many wrestlers who work this style and while learning from Yoneyama is great, Kid and AZM would benefit greatly from working a bunch of Marvelous (and SEAd) shows. Plus, the matches would fucking rule, with this providing a pretty tasty appetiser of what some of these pairings could do with a bit more time working together. Still, whether we get that or not (and AZM didn’t look like she was done with Mio), this was a blast, and I had a lovely time.
Verdict: Let Them Out, Rossy!
Takumi Iroha defeated Hibiki
Nine months ago, Iroha picked up an injury that forced her to have surgery and miss out on a feud with Sendai Girls that she would have taken centre stage in. You don’t have to have paid much attention to realise how hard Takumi has worked to come back from that, but, if you didn’t know, the pre-match video made it clear, charting the journey beautifully. While it’s been a long old road, it finally ended on this show with Takumi being played to the ring as she set out to give Hibiki the kicking she’s been asking for.
Not that Hibiki was going to make it easy. With Andras Miyagi in her corner, she was a fantastic pain in Iroha’s arse, testing out that freshly healed leg at every opportunity. You wouldn’t have blamed Takumi for wanting to get in and out quickly, but this was structured to be a gruelling experience for her, Hibiki controlling the tempo as she worked over the injury. It left me wishing this match had taken place in front of a normal crowd, as while they enthusiastically clapped along to every teased Iroha comeback, it would have been great to hear them shouting in support of their hero.
And it was designed to make Iroha look like a hero. For over twenty minutes, she had to put up with Hibiki and Miyagi bending every rule in their attempts to maintain control. Iroha wanted to let loose, to stretch her legs and show what she could do, but they made it a niggly, difficult affair. At one point, Hibiki slowed the action by simply lying on top of Iroha’s leg, the time it took her to wiggle out allowing Hibiki to recover. They were brilliant at it as well, keeping it on the right side of interesting as both Takumi and the fans’ frustration built, everyone praying that she’d get the space she needed.
Thankfully, she would eventually find it. That build hit its crescendo when Takumi unleashed on Hibiki, peppering her with brutal kicks before hoisting her into the air for the Running Three. It was a moment of catharsis, not only for Iroha’s return but also for the pain in the arse heel being vanquished (although it’s worth reiterating once more how brilliant Hibiki was here). The Ace is back, and judging by this, she hasn’t lost a step.
Verdict: Welcome Back!
In what was a big show for Marvelous, I think they smashed it. Takumi came back looking fantastic, the Stardom connection pulled in a couple of good to great matches, and even Leo had a big show performance. The only downside was KAORU’s injury, which was a bit of a sickener, but it sounds like they’re making all the right choices with that. Marvelous are my favourite company for a reason, and this wasn’t the moment that changed my mind.