September is behind us, and I’m starting to think that this year will never slow down. Still, whether the days are speeding past or not, there is always wrestling to watch and rambles to be had, so here’s my round-up of my favourite matches from the last month. Enjoy!
My favourite Mei Suruga is the chaotic, pest version of Mei Suruga. The one who embraces her Apple Goblin tendencies and buzzes around opponents, being a right pain in the arse. We saw a lot of that Mei in this match, as she kicked things off by dropkicking her partner into Masa and attempting a flurry of moves on the much larger Hoshitango. Of course, none of it was effective because, well, he looks like a large inhale might see him accidentally swallow her, but, still, she persisted. Mei was going to unleash her stubborn swarm of chaotic energy whether Hoshitango played ball or not, and the fact she ended with a swift slap to his bald head was perfect.
It all somehow left me wanting a Hoshitango vs Mei match. Not to be harsh, but as a general rule, I’m not bothered about watching Hoshitango wrestle anyone, but for a moment, Mei made him exciting. It doesn’t matter whether she’s gleefully torturing an old man, charging around the ring at a million miles an hour or bouncing off a former sumo wrestler; Mei makes everything exciting. We’ll probably never get that match (although they have faced-off in another tag), and we probably don’t need more than the few minutes of it that we saw here, but the fact Suruga convinced me it might be a good idea tells you everything about how brilliant she is.
Eddie Kingston vs Miro, All Out (5/9/21), AEW
I haven’t watched anywhere near enough of Eddie Kingston’s career, yet he comes across as such a solidly decent dude that I find myself having a lot of affection for him. He strikes me as the kind of guy I could sit in the pub with, shooting the shit and having a lovely old time. I should also probably check out more of his wrestling because I enjoyed the hell out of this one.
In the opening slot of All Out, he and Miro went out and threw stiff strikes and suplexes. Eddie is a big tough lad, but Miro was being sold as a monster, and it raised the question of whether Kingston’s All Japan-inspired move-set would be enough to slay that particular beast. It also allowed the other side of Kingston to shine through, for despite being a hard motherfucker, he’s also someone who isn’t afraid to show weakness. A bit like Tomohiro Ishii, he excels at selling through his toughness, bouncing up and stumbling around to show that his brain and determination are pushing ahead while his body says no. It all helped to put Miro over as an unstoppable force and cemented my feelings of affection towards Kingston at the same time.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how perfect the booking of this mini-feud between 121000000 and The Bakuretsu Sisters was. Not only did it add some fire to Itoh and Miyu’s upcoming title match, with Maki getting frustrated at her partner for losing to Aino and not being on top form, but it gave us two singles matches (Itoh also faced off with Nodoka) and, perhaps most importantly, threw some love Yuki’s way ahead of her challenge for the International Princess Title.
It would have been easy to have Yamashita pin Marika (who was teamed with Yuki in the original match), but TJPW was smarter than that. And sure, it was only a show later that Miyu got her win back, but beating The Ace in any form is a rare thing. It was enough of a spark that it gave Aino the momentum to make her challenge for the International belt, mimicking Hikari Noa’s own road to the title where she lost to Miyu not long before winning it. The match also showed why TJPW have chosen to give Yuki that role, as she delivered, serving as an imposing figure for Yamashita to take down and get her groove back ahead of facing Itoh. That’s a lovely concise bit of booking which left me even more excited for Wrestle Princess than I already was.
I loved Yuna’s performance here. She was on a DDT show, representing Ganbare, and you could feel her pride at being in that position. It meant that even as Saki took control, kicking Manase around the ring, Yuna kept fighting, refusing to go down without doing her company proud. I’ve talked a lot about how any match can be important if the wrestlers involved make it feel so, and this was the perfect example of that. Yuna knew she wasn’t going to win, but she was damn well going to make sure she took a chunk of Akai with her, and that was enough to make this feel as pivotal as any title shot or main event.
I don’t know how hot of a take this is, but I think I prefer Warm Caterpillars to Best Bros. That’s not to say that Akki and Mei aren’t a fantastic team, they obviously are, but Mei and Chie wrestle that chaotic goblin style that I adore. They can be summed up by the moment in this match where, having run rings around Brookes, they decided the natural next step was to start flicking his forehead. It was pure annoying little sister energy, and it made me laugh a lot.
Talking of Brookes, it’s been a while since I’ve raved about his chemistry with Mei. Since the day he walked into Chocolate Square, those two have brought the best out of each other, melding together brilliantly. Brookes excels at working with smaller wrestlers, sending Mei twisting and turning around him, allowing her to stay a step ahead right up till the moment he catches her. I could watch them wrestle all day, and while Chie and Yunamon were brilliant too, they stole this match away from them.
I’m not sure I’ve been giving Masa Takanashi enough credit. The fact he’s a great technical wrestler was never in doubt, but it’s only since his return from injury that I’ve come to appreciate the more out of the box side of his abilities. For his 18th anniversary, this match had the simple premise that anything was legal as long as it would be at home in a Jackie Chan film, which turned out to be an excuse for chaos. Taking advantage of a Sakura-less Choco Square, they shared drinks, battled in stairways and leapt off walls for Double Stomps. It was reminiscent of the anarchic madness of Mei Suruga vs Aniki, as Choun and Masa took advantage of both the inside and outside of Ichigaya, showing off the chemistry they’ve established over years of friendship and facing off. It was an absolute riot of a match, and I’m never going to underestimate Masa again.
Ice Ribbon’s 2021 has been a bit up and down for me, as while there’s been plenty to love, it’s not quite had the consistency of their 2020. However, the reason I will never turn my back on them can be summed up by this match. Where else in the world are you going to see weirdo genius Yuuki Mashiro vs legendary killer Aja Kong? If there is such a place, let me know, because I want to give them my money.
My thoughts on Yuuki are well-established, I think she’s incredible, so I wanted to use this to pay tribute to 2021 Aja Kong. Between this and her recent work in TJPW, she’s recently been leaving me grinning from ear to ear everywhere she pops up. It’s a very different kind of grin than the violence inspired one I usually get from Kong, but it’s just as valid, as she seems to be on a mini-weirdo tour, facing off and teaming up with as many as she can find. It might not be what you expect from the woman god created when the devil wasn’t enough, but I love it, and I hope it never ends.
I’ve been quite open about Tsukka’s title reign not clicking with me. Too many of the defences feel like filler, while there has been a sense of it being based around showing how brilliant she is rather than a bigger story (don’t get me wrong, she is brilliant). Her match with Ibuki was different, though. Here, the younger Hoshi was stepping up to the champ, and while she was never going to win, that was irrelevant. What was exciting was seeing how she handled the pressure and what she would bring to the table in the biggest match of her career so far.
It turned out that Ibuki brought chops. So many fucking chops. This became a battle of endurance, the Ace and the youngster standing in the centre of the ring and chopping the shit out of each other until their chests turned an ugly red colour. Hoshi hadn’t perhaps picked the smartest strategy, Tsukka hits hard and can take a beating, but she’d gone down a road that proved without a shadow of a doubt how tough she is. This was a war, and by the end, every blow looked like it must have been sending waves of pain running through their bodies.
And, as expected, Tsukka won. However, this was the rare match in her title run that felt like it wasn’t about her. Instead, it was all about young Hoshi, as she showed she was more than ready to step up to the best of them. This won’t be the last time we see her challenge for that title, and I’m already excited for attempt number two.
I often say that out of the promotions I try to stay up to date with, SEAd is the one whose main event house style sits furthest from my taste. It’s not that I dislike their brand of hard-hitting, fast-paced matches, but that it doesn’t quite align with my love of goblins, chaos and nonsense. As a result, the SEAd division to which I am most likely to attach myself is Natsuki’s High Speed capers.
And yet, when matches like this come along, I begin to doubt myself. Because when that style is done well, it’s very hard not to get excited about it. This tag title showdown followed another tag (Arisa and Rina vs Tsukka and Hanako) which I thought was going to steal the show, and yet somehow this came out and one-upped it, building towards an all-out war of a final act perfectly. It was the kind of wrestling you can’t rip your eyes away from, ASUKA and Makoto trying to prevent Nanae and Hiroyo from picking up steam, only for the two veterans to be released with violent consequences.
It wasn’t the only great match on this show either, I have already mentioned the previous tag, but the main event between Yuu and Aniki was fantastic too. They delivered the kind of wrestling that reminded me that while everyone will have preferences in style, the real difference maker will always be the execution. I might not seek out the SEAd stuff the way I will Marvelous’s goblins or ChocoPro’s chaos, but when you have wrestlers as talented as they do, you’re going to have a good time, no matter the framework they’re working within.
The sight of Jun Akiyama making his entrance with Yoshihiko made me so happy. Okay, he made sure to check that Riki Choshu had left the building before the match started (Choshu had been a guest announcer in a match between a team of gods and a team of men earlier in the show), but he has truly embraced the DDT nonsense. The more grizzled old wrestling legends who do that, the better, and not just because it annoys all the right people on Twitter. Jokes aside, it’s been really nice seeing Akiyama accept his new home, weirdos and all, and teaming with Yoshihiko felt like the final part of welcoming him into the family.
As for the match itself, I feel the need to throw some praise towards Hirata. Kota Ibushi’s match with Yoshihiko is the one that has gone far and wide, but if there were any justice in the world, it would be Hirata receiving that acclaim. No one is better at going out there and wrestling whatever dumbass thing DDT have decided to put in front of them this week. I still have fond memories of him opening up a delayed entry battle royal with a mochi during my trip to Tokyo, only to fail to defeat it before another entrant had arrived. The sequence here where Yoshiko repeatedly suplexed him, somehow ending up in a perfect bridge for the final one, was pure art, and Hirata is a master artist.
I know I’ve spent a lot of the last year or so calling Chris Brookes a bastard, but in my defence, he was really mean to Lulu. In reality, though, I have a lot of affection for that very tall man. He’s spent his time in Japan following the road that I imagine I would want to follow if I was ever a wrestler in that position. Not only has he made his home in DDT, but he’s leapt on opportunities to wrestle with and against the likes of Onita, Jun Kasai and Mecha Mummy, all while spending his days off in Ichigaya Chocolate Square. If that’s not the dream, what is?
On top of that, he continually goes out of his way to give opportunities to others and put them over. Whether it’s his determination to get Akki into DDT or, yes, his feud with Lulu Pencil, the guy is as generous as it gets. So, watching the pre-match package and seeing how much this meant to him, it was impossible not to be caught up in its wave. In his own words, this was the biggest match of his career, and right from the start, you could tell he wasn’t going to let it pass him by.
Unfortunately, he was also in there with a Takeshita on top of the world. Coming off his defeat of Jun Akiyama, Konosuke feels like he’s well and truly cemented his position as the Ace of DDT. He and Brookes went at each other hard, their friendship shining through with every stiff strike and dangerous move, but Takeshita refused to budge an inch. Brookes brought everything he’s learnt over the last two years, including a wee shout-out to Emi Sakura and Mei Suruga, but the champ took it all and gave it back stiffer. Chris even managed to hit the Praying Mantis Bomb, but Takeshita did not fight as hard as he did to beat Akiyama to lose the title straight away.
And yet, even if Brookes lost, this match still felt special. It felt special because, through it, you could see not only his friendship with the Ace but the connection he’s made with DDT as a whole. The fans might not have been able to cheer, but they’ve accepted Brookes as one of their own, while the sight of Antonio Honda and Masa Takanashi in his corner told its own story. Brookes might not have won the big one, but his journey with DDT is far from over, and while he’ll always be a bastard, I reckon I’m willing to follow him a little longer yet.