If you put Aja Kong vs Yuuki Mashiro on a wrestling card, I will be there. Honestly, that could have been the only match on this show, and Ice Ribbon would still have earned my money, so the fact there are some other exciting looking tidbits is a bonus. C’mon, Yuuki, it’s time to take down a legend!
Before the show, Tsukka introduced a couple of new trainees. I don’t know much about them, but Yappy mentioned on Twitter that Kaho has been working behind the scenes and is now transitioning to getting in the ring.
Suzu Suzuki & Saori Anou defeated Mochi Miyagi & Akane Fujita
Suzu-tan and Anou-tan were wearing the gear that I believe came from winning the Lords Mobile stuff, and while it’s not quite matching, it’s definitely been made to make them look like a team. In fact, this whole match felt designed to highlight their pairing, as it showed their growing chemistry and gave them a solid win.
Sadly, Miyagi and Suzu did have a couple of awkward moments, but it was nothing too egregious, and this was an enjoyable enough match. However, the main takeaway was that continuing growth of Suzu-tan and Anou-tan. They’re a really entertaining pairing, Suzu’s scrappiness contrasting well with Anou’s elegance, and I won’t be surprised if we see them challenging for the tag titles sooner rather than later.
Verdict: Decent, With Suzu And Anou Stealing The Show
Miku Aono, NATSUMI, Asahi & Saran defeated Cherry, Satsuki Totoro, Yappy & Banny Oikawa
Every time I see Saran, she’s got a little bit better. The kid’s still green, but that’s not surprising because she’s literally a kid, and a lot of that early awkwardness has vanished. She’s starting to look at home in the ring, working well with veterans like Cherry, and that’s a fair chunk of the battle.
Outside of her, it was Aono who impressed me in this one. Her interactions with Totoro were particularly great, as there was a brilliant spot where she dropkicked a crossbodying Satsuki out of the air. Miku’s got a touch of the Takase to her, as she’s not someone you would assume hits as hard as she does, but she really leans into her blows. Throw in the continually impressive NATSUMI (who would end up pinning Yappy for the win) and Asahi looking like she’s quickly shedding her ring rust, and this was an impressive showing from the younger team that made for a fun match.
Aja Kong defeated Yuuki Mashiro twice
Like any right-minded wrestling fan, my love and affection for Aja Kong are already sky-high. If there was a way to make me love her more, though, it is her recent run of going out and interacting with all the weirdos she can find. Not only has she been involved in some beautiful nonsense in TJPW, but now she’s facing off with Yuuki, and that’s a dream match and a half.
And, okay, it didn’t quite go to plan for our Gacha King. The first time around, she lost in about 5 seconds, a lock-up proving enough to cause the submission in a very Lulu Pencil moment. However, she appealed to Aja to go again, putting a Gacha Title on the line and giving it a slightly better showing. Sure, the threat of a backdrop driver was still enough to get her to tap, but honestly, that seems more like common sense than weakness.
It was also a match that showed just how incredibly funny Aja Kong is. Her badassery works to her favour in these situations, allowing her to swat off Rina and Akane’s attempts to aid their boss, all while looking utterly bemused by this strange child with her homemade title. Kong simply has to interact with these people to get laughs, but she’s willing to go along with it and go the extra mile, standing staring at Yuuki as she fired away with a hundred ineffectual dropkicks. It would be easy for the legend to believe all of this was beneath her, but like all the true greats, she gets it. She is willing to use her reputation to not only elevate badasses but weirdos too.
In the aftermath, Kong shockingly did not want the Gacha Title. Still, with a helping hand from Rina and Akane, Yuuki managed to get a picture of her ‘holding’ it, which is basically the same thing, and definitely means she’s now a member of the Garcha Kingdom. My favourite weirdo will continue onwards, and who knows, maybe someday she can face Kong again and show her how far she’s come.
Tsukushi defeated Hamuko Hoshi to win the IW19 Title
Tsukushi was relentless in this match. She kicked things off by flying in with a cheap dropkick and never seemed to stop from that moment on. That’s hardly a new thing, Skoosh long ago perfected her goblin art, but this was constant even for her, as she bounced up from every hit, battling through the pain to keep going.
That meant Ham was fighting from underneath from the start, and while from a purely physical point of view that wouldn’t seem to make a load of sense, it worked. Hoshi is good in that role, her innate likeability making it easy to get behind her, while her power advantage played into her using every opening to hit Skoosh as hard as she could. Tsukushi, meanwhile, excels at violence, unleashing a whole lot of it as she fought to get her belt back.
And she would do exactly that, eventually getting Hoshi down for the three to get back the title with which she has such a strong emotional connection. Then, in a lovely touch, Ham insisted on putting the belt on Skoosh, the two of them sharing a moment. It was a lovely way to end a really good, fast-paced match that I enjoyed a lot. I’m still not entirely sure why Ice Ribbon decided to have these two trade the belt between them again, but hey, I guess I can’t complain too much.
Verdict: Skoosh Got Her Title Back
Rina Yamashita defeated Thekla in a Chain Attack Only Hardcore Match to retain the FantastICE Title
If Thekla, sporting awesome new gear, didn’t know what she was in for fighting Rina, then Yamashita quickly made it clear. She opened this match by piling all the chains up in the centre of the ring and bumping on them, engaging in some deathmatch oneupmanship right from the off. Sure, you could argue it’s not the brightest way to intimidate someone, but it is pretty badass.
And this was a fight. While it never went full deathmatch, Rina and Thekla were laying into each other, and those chains certainly couldn’t have been pleasant to be hit with. It meant this wasn’t anything particularly fancy, but it didn’t really need to be. We had two people beating each other up, and if one of those people is Rina Yamashita, then it’s probably going to be a good time.
That’s not to downplay Thekla, though, as she gave an impressive performance. She’s been on a steady upward trajectory for the last couple of years, and you can see that work paying off. Rina is one of the very best hardcore wrestlers around right now, and while the kayfabe story saw that lead her to victory, the actual action never saw Thekla fall behind. Sure, Rina being one of the best must make working with her easier, but Thekla still had to bring the fight, and while she lost, this is one she can be pleased with.
Azure Revolution (Maya Yukihi & Risa Sera) defeated RebelXEnemy (Ram Kaichow & Maika Ozaki) to retain the International Ribbon Tag Titles
Azure Revolution’s recent success has felt like it’s come around because they’re better than everyone else. That might seem like an obvious point, but with two great single wrestlers who have years of experience of teaming together, it is being put in particular focus. Even when facing off with a tag as potent as Tsukka and Hiroyo, you bought that Maya and Risa were simply too good a pairing to lose. It’s given us a situation where if someone is going to beat them, they will have to be at their very best.
And Maya’s RebelXEnemy pals were very good. Ram’s tricksiness and Maika’s strength gave them a real chance. It was that strength that was put front and centre, though. This whole match was built to put over Ozaki as a force to be reckoned with, as she thundered into the champs again and again. There was a moment where Risa simply resorted to repeatedly punching her in the face, doing anything she could to try and neutralise the threat.
In the end, though, when it came down to Maika vs Yukihi, there was only going to be one winner. That power could get her so far, but Maya is still a step or two ahead of the person she shared the belts with not that long ago, hitting a vicious looking Tiger Drive for the three. However, even in defeat, this made Maika look brilliant, and when you combine that with the aforementioned title run, she’s having a quietly impressive year.
Verdict: Maika’s Looking Great
Tsukasa Fujimoto defeated Ibuki Hoshi to retain the ICExInfinity Title
In my last Ice Ribbon review, I talked about how Tsukka’s title reign has so far failed to connect with me. It’s not that I think the matches are bad, they are mainly fantastic, but the emotional hook hasn’t been there. Thankfully, that wasn’t a problem with this one because what emotional hook could be easier to sell than a young wrestler getting their first shot at the big time?
And Hoshi was out there to prove she deserved that shot, but that wasn’t all. She seemed determined to prove that she’s not only ready but that she’s tougher than Tsukka too. Ibuki quickly turned this into a chopfest, the two of them teeing off on each other’s chests until they turned a burning red colour. Towards the end, Hoshi even pulled Tsukka’s top off, taking away the small protection it provided to have those chops cause maximum damage.
What I liked about this is that it showed that yea, Hoshi is tough, but also that she’s still inexperienced. Going out there and trading shots with Fujimoto is not the best way to beat her. This is a woman who has teamed and battled with Arisa Nakajima; she knows how to take a strike. Hoshi, though, had her plan, and she was going to grit her teeth and stick to it, the two of them clearly suffering by the end of the match as every blow brought a new wave of pain.
And, of course, Ibuki would eventually lose, Fujimoto putting away the lass she’s known since she was a bairn. However, whether it showed inexperience or not, Ibuki had proven her point, and I’ve no doubt that this isn’t going to be the last time we see her challenging for that belt.
Verdict: The Kid Stepped Up
After Tsukka and Ibuki shared some words, it looked like Fujimoto was about to talk to the crowd. Someone had different plans, though, as a wild Skoosh appeared, repeating her trick from the last Ice Ribbon Korakuen and dropkicking her Dropkickers partner in the back. This time, there was no one else around to get in her way, and if Tsukasa wants to break her own defence record, she’s going to have to go through Skoosh.
Okay, so Yuuki didn’t take down a legend, but this was still a very enjoyable Ice Ribbon show. We got one of my favourite Tsukka defences, a fun tag title match and Tsukushi challenging for the big one. While I may not have been as hot on Ice Ribbon’s 2021 as their 2020, things are still bubbling away nicely, and I’m excited to see where they’re going in the next few months.
Watch Ice Ribbon on niconico: https://ch.nicovideo.jp/iceribbon