I feel like I’ve had a weird relationship with Ice Ribbon in 2021. A combination of things not airing live and a lack of time and money has had me constantly playing catch-up or missing out on a lot of what they’re up to. Still, when I do tune in, I tend to have a lovely time, even with the rather major caveat that I’ll get into later in this review.
Ibuki Hoshi, Asahi & Saran defeated Tae Honma, Banny Oikawa & Yappy
Because of said in and out relationship with Ice Ribbon, I haven’t seen much of Saran and the returning Asahi, so I made sure to keep an eye on both in the opener. That meant I came away particularly impressed with how Saran is developing. She already looks a lot more comfortable than she did in her exhibitions and is growing into a promising young goblin. I particularly enjoyed her breaking a Honma submission by hooking Tae’s nose and she seems to trust the older wrestlers to pick her up and throw her around. As for Asahi, she’s only recently returned but already looks like she’s getting up to speed. She reminds me a tad of Marika Kobashi when she returned to TJPW, where you can see the instincts were still there, but will need a bit of oiling before they’re running smoothly.
The match as a whole, meanwhile, was fun without being anything special. It was cool to see Ibuki presented as the veteran of her team while Tae, Banny and Yappy played the bullying bigger wrestlers well. Yes, that was the obvious story to work with, but it was the obvious one for a reason, and it made for an enjoyable opener.
Suzu Suzuki & Saori Anou defeated Mochi Miyagi & NATSUMI
Suzu-tan and Anou-tan are back together, with Suzuki looking thrilled at the return of her pal. Those two were building a delightful partnership before Saori’s injury, so I’m glad to see them return to it now that she’s back (I particularly enjoyed their double ‘bridge’ pin, which featured Anou bridging and Suzu basically lying on top of her). Saori didn’t look like someone coming off an injury, showing off that incredible flexibility and being drawn into striking contests with NATSUMI. It wasn’t her first match back, she’d done a couple in Oz, but it looks like she’s got straight back on the horse.
The other interesting note in this one was NATSUMI, who has looked impressive in the few appearances I’ve seen of her so far. You can tell that she’s green, wit there being some awkwardness to her movement, but she has a lot of potential. That said, there was one dodgy moment, as she leapt off the turnbuckle for a Crossbody far too early, catching Anou off-guard in the process. Thankfully, it turned out alright, and I think it can be chalked down to a moment of miscommunication with Miyagi, who she was expecting to have positioned Saori for her. If nothing else, it might have taught her the value of slowing things down now and then. Plus, one mistake does not a match ruin, and this was another entertaining tag.
Verdict: Welcome Back, Anou!
Tsukushi Haruka defeated Rina Shingaki
I’m not sure why, but at the start of this, I was very aware of how small Skoosh is compared to Rina. Why that stood out now, I can’t say. It’s not like Tsukushi has got any smaller, and Rina isn’t a noticeably big opponent, but for whatever reason, my brain decided to fixate on it. Thankfully, any idea that said size difference would lead to Shingaki holding a natural advantage was blown away the first time Skoosh planted two boots into her chest. Tsukushi might not be about to get any taller, but she’s got a lot of violence to help her bridge the gap.
And I think that violence played havoc with Rina’s game plan. She’s generally someone who leans towards the technical side, but she seemed determined to meet Tsukushi blow for blow, exchanging slaps and headbutts. Unfortunately, that’s not a good idea when you’re facing one of the devil’s children. There are very few people who Tsukushi can’t hit harder than they can hit her, and by the time Rina figured that out, transitioning towards attacking the leg, she’d already taken a beating, her naivety putting her in harms away.
Still, I thought this was an impressive, if kayfabe misjudged, performance from Shingaki. I don’t watch enough P’s Party to comment on how she’s getting on there, but she looked at home on this bigger stage. Tsukushi must have agreed, sharing a rare moment of respect in the aftermath as she hugged her underling tight and whispered a few words. It was a lovely wee touch, causing Rina to get emotional, and a nice way to finish what was the best match of the show so far.
Verdict: Don’t Trade Blows With A Devil Child
Hamuko Hoshi defeated Totoro Satsuki to retain the IW19 Title
I’m not generally one to moan about booking, as I find it all a bit dull, but the decision to give the IW19 title back to Ham was a strange one. Skoosh was in the midst of a long, impressive reign, and I’m not quite sure what the switch achieved? Still, there was potential in this match-up as Totoro celebrated winning her first title by attempting to add a second one to the collection.
It also started really well, Satsuki coming out the blocks fast as the two of them got down to the ancient art of running into each other. If anything, I’d have liked them to have kept it up a bit longer. This was a short match, coming in at under nine minutes, so if they’d leaned into that hoss sprint a touch more, I think it would have paid off nicely. Unfortunately, things did slow down in the middle, getting a bit plodding as they struggled to hold my attention. It meant that by the time the final minute or so picked things up again, my investment in the action had waned.
Still, this wasn’t a shit-show, and I enjoyed bits of it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t help thinking that Skoosh vs Rina was better, and that I’d have much rather seen the belt on the line there. Tsukushi must agree, as she popped up during Ham’s celebration to send her flying with a dropkick and make what I assume was a challenge to get her title back.
Rebel X Enemy (Rina Yamashita, Ram Kaicho & Maika Ozaki) defeated Cherry, Thekla & Yuuki Mashiro
It is a cruel, cruel booker who separates a Gacha King from her big pal. Thankfully, Rina proved a loyal subject, proudly carrying her own Gacha Title to the ring and ruffling Yuuki’s hair before they began. She wasn’t quite as kind in the actual match, dishing out a reminder to Mashiro that she is very much the wee pal in their relationship, but I guess we can’t have everything. Plus, their brilliant chemistry as a pairing proved just as potent as foes.
We also saw why the best kind of roster is one filled with weirdos. Ice Ribbon, like TJPW, are able to throw matches like this together and leave the wrestlers to it because they’re all fucking mental. That means when you put them in the ring, you can almost guarantee they are going to come up with something memorable, whether it’s Cherry single-handedly outsmarting all of Renemy or Thekla being, well, Thekla.
Sadly, Yuuki would end up losing, but she came close to pulling the upset over Yamashita. Then, afterwards, Thekla made it clear that she has her eyes on Rina’s FantastICE Title (although Rina did momentarily act like she thought she was challenging for the Gacha belt). That will be another match heavy on the weird, and I’m sure it will be just as enjoyable, if not more so, than this one.
Verdict: Embrace The Weirdos
Azure Revolution (Maya Yukihi & Risa Sera) defeated Young Beauty Express (Nao Ishikawa & Miku Aono) to retain the International Ribbon Tag Titles
Poor Nao has had no luck since she debuted a year and a bit ago. Every time it feels like she gets a bit of momentum, injury strikes, so her picking up yet another in her first title match is sadly reflective of her first 15 months. Fingers crossed it doesn’t keep her out for too long, especially as she was due for a trip to Mexico.
This match wasn’t defined by that injury, though, and Young Beauty Express put in a strong performance. They were the clear underdogs, with Azure Revolution being more experienced individually and as a team. The champs knew it too, getting a bit cocky early on as Risa invited Nao to hit her in-between their seamless tagging in and out, never giving their youthful opponents a chance to breath. It looked like they were headed for a routine defence, their grip on the match looking unbreakable.
That was until Aono and Nao refused to let that be the case. They might not have had Maya and Risa’s well-earned chemistry, but they were scrappy and determined, desperate to prove themselves on a big stage. While they never took control, they found openings, and whenever one appeared, they threw themselves into it. It didn’t make for the kind of performance where I was convinced they were going to win the belts, but it was the kind of performance where that didn’t matter. The pleasure was in watching how far they’ve come and cheering them on as they rocked two Ice Ribbon veterans, even if it was just for a second.
Verdict: Get Well Soon, Nao!
Our next challengers made themselves known post-match, Ram and Maika coming out to challenge as we’re getting a bit of Rebel X Enemy vs Rebel X Enemy.
Tsukasa Fujimoto defeated Akane Fujita to retain the ICExInfinity Title
Right, confession time. I haven’t liked Tsukka’s title reign. Okay, that’s a bit harsh, I haven’t disliked it, but it also hasn’t made me feel anything. Perhaps I was spoilt by the emotion of Suzu’s last year, and I don’t think seeing most of Fujimoto’s significant title defences on a delay has helped, but I’ve found most of it a bit meh. It all feels like a victory lap, Tsukka showing off how brilliant she is while racking up wins (seemingly heading towards breaking her own defence record) against people that I never bought as viable champions. And don’t get me wrong. Tsukasa Fujimoto is brilliant, and you will never hear me say otherwise, but I personally need something more than that. While every one of her eight defences has been at least good, I can’t imagine ever watching them again.
And all of those issues continued into this match. It was solid, telling the logical story of Akane’s power vs Tsukka’s genius, and was worked at a brisk, engaging pace. Yet, at no point did I get emotionally invested in it. Unlike most of her defences, I didn’t come into this spoilt, but despite a strong performance from Fujita, I never believed she had a chance at winning. As I said for the tag match, that’s not always a necessity, but there has to be something to make up for it, and I don’t think they had that something. It was a decent performance that I never hated but never cared about either.
I want to repeat that I think Tsukasa Fujimoto is a brilliant wrestler, and I don’t begrudge her this title reign. If anything, I feel a bit left out, like I’m standing outside the window watching everyone else have a good time while not understanding what’s preventing me from joining in. It’s not like I have an issue with dominant champions (see anything I’ve written about Miyu Yamashita), but for whatever reason, Fujimoto’s reign is leaving me cold. I’ll keep trying, though. Standing at the window, peering in and hoping that the next party is the one I get to be part of.
Verdict: Everyone Else Will Like It More Than Me
It turned out that Skoosh was challenging everyone on this show as she repeated her trick from earlier on and popped up to dropkick her Dropkickers partner. Now, I should say that the Skoosh match is one of the Tsukka defences that I did love, so if they’re doing that again, I’m not going to complain. She wasn’t the only one that wanted to make an impact, though, Ibuki coming out and dismissing Tsukushi in a very Tsukushi way before presumably making a challenge of her own. It looked like she’ll be going first, and I can only imagine the mood that left the devil child in.
You’re never going to get a stinker of a show from this company, and there was more than enough here to keep you going. Plus, odds are you’ll like the main event more than me, which will probably bump it up a few notches in comparison.
Watch Ice Ribbon on niconico: https://ch.nicovideo.jp/iceribbon