Recently, I’ve moved away from reviewing shows that haven’t aired live because, to be honest, there are only so many hours in the day. However, some things are worth ignoring made-up rules for, and Tsukushi Haruka going after the big one is one of those things. It didn’t matter when this aired. I wasn’t going to miss the chance to talk about a match like that one.
Cherry, Banny Oikawa & Saran defeated Ram Kaicho, Yappy & Kiku
As is the norm with these Samurai broadcasts, the opener had been heavily edited, so giving it a full review isn’t fair. Thankfully, they did focus on the exciting stuff, showing us as much of Kiku’s debut as possible (I don’t believe we saw Yappy or Ram tag in at all). She’s a 42-year-old rookie who already has two kids, keeping the Ice Ribbon tradition of welcoming everyone who wants to wrestle going, and from what we saw here, she did alright. You can tell she’s still a bit awkward, particularly when working with 12-year-old Saran, but that’s to be expected. It was her first match, and I am amazed by anyone who gets through that experience without freezing in terror, especially on a show as big as this one.
Welcome to the gang, Kiku! I can’t wait to see what you do.
Verdict: Hello, Kiku!
Asahi defeated Kaho Matsushita
Ice Ribbon is introducing us to all the new rookies. Kaho Matsushita isn’t quite Saran levels of young, but at 18, she is closer to her than Kiku and is a high school friend of Asahi’s, making this a particularly fitting debut.
And while this match had also been for a haircut, what we saw of it had Kaho looking impressive. Being in there with a close friend looked to have done its job, as she looked calm and confident moving around the ring. Then, when Asahi got rough with her, welcoming her to wrestling in the traditional way, she responded in kind with a stinging slap.
You never want to get too carried away after only one match, but it was hard not to feel like this was the start of something. If things go to plan, these two could be together for years to come, and there was enough there to leave me excited to watch them grow up in wrestling together.
Verdict: An Intriguing Start
Lovely Butchers (Hamuko Hoshi & Mochi Miyagi) defeated Miku Aono & Momo Kohgo
According to Cagematch, this went about ten minutes, and we saw two of them, a chunk of which was Aono combating Ham and Mochi’s sexy poses with some of her own. What we got was alright, if nothing extraordinary, but honestly, there wasn’t enough here for me to say anything beyond that. I do like Aono and Kohgo as a team, though, and with what’s going down in AWG, Ice Ribbon would make a lovely home for them going forward.
Verdict: Too Edited
Makoto defeated Yuuki Mashiro
Annoyingly, this match had also been cut down, meaning we only got a sprinkle of Yuuki’s brilliance. Thankfully, what we did see included some touches of Gacha King genius, including her and Makoto standing on opposite corners yelling at each other until Yuuki enlisted the ref to help her rope walk (on the second rope) around to her opponent and knock her off. Okay, she then got too scared to follow up with a crossbody to the outside, but it’s the effort that counts.
So sure, we only got three or four minutes of an eleven-minute match, but I feel a lot happier recommending this one. Even in a short burst, Yuuki’s unique stylings stand out, and Makoto looked to be a perfect foil. Fingers crossed that we get to see it in its full glory someday, but this was enough to keep me happy for now.
Verdict: Genius Gacha King
Maika Ozaki defeated Rina Shingaki and Totoro Satsuki in a three-way match to win the Triangle Ribbon Title
With Rina heading towards retirement, her dropping the Triangle Title was a bit of a foregone conclusion, but that didn’t stop her from having a clever wee bout on the way out. Shingaki was stuck between a hoss and a hoss place, so she tried to wrestle her way around it.
And that’s a strong plan, but there was two of them, and that’s a lot of hoss. She’d wrap one up in a submission or seem like she was about to sneak out with the win, and the other would appear out of nowhere, ready to drop her on her head. Eventually, it caught up with her, a beautifully-brutal Angle Slam by Ozaki seeing her off.
Again, this had been heavily edited, but there was enough there to give you a feel for the action, and I really enjoyed it. They had a simple, well-thought-out idea, which played through to its logical conclusion. Plus, Ozaki picking up her first-ever singles title is a fitting reward after a strong year.
Verdict: Smart Stuff
Ibuki Hoshi defeated NATSUMI
Another match that had been for a fair old trim as we got about half of this battle between these two talented young wrestlers.
Still, what we did see was yet another impressive performance from NATSUMI. She’s had under twenty matches, and while you do occasionally get glimpses of that inexperience, they’re nowhere near as prevalent as you’d expect. She’s already an impressive wrestler, showing off some flashy offence and not looking out of place against the younger but more experienced Ibuki.
In the end, Hoshi would put her away definitively, showing that NATSUMI’s still got a bit of a way to go, but the big hug they shared afterwards suggested these two have found a connection. Hopefully, that means we’ll be seeing them working together for a long time to come.
Verdict: Impressive Glimpses
Akane Fujita defeated Thekla to win the WUW Underground Title and become the number one contender for the FantastICE Title
I loved this match opening with Thekla being her weirdo self (100% a good thing), only for Akane to decide she had no time for that, grab a baseball bat and start swinging. Sometimes you just can’t be arsed with people, right?
Unfortunately, I don’t think it quite lived up to that start, and I’m not entirely sure it was the wrestlers’ fault. I enjoyed the first half, as the two continued the tradition of the WUW Title being a part hardcore, part grappling belt. It’s a good fit for them as a pairing, and you have to be a grumpy person not to enjoy watching someone have a bucket placed on their head and whacked with a baseball bat.
Sadly, the switch came after an edit point, as when we came back, it lost me. The final few minutes were filled with ref bumps and false finishes, which never drew me in the way I would have liked. It all felt flat and unearned. However, there is every chance that those moments would have clicked in the context of an entire match, and I have no idea how much of it had been pulled out. I can only talk about what I saw, though, and it all felt a tad disconnected.
Still, I don’t think this was a disaster or anything like that, and I enjoyed enough of it that if the full version pops up somewhere, I’ll be happy to go back and give it my time.
Verdict: Hurt By The Edit
Azure Revolution (Maya Yukihi & Risa Sera) defeated Suzu Suzuki & Saori Anou to retain the International Ribbon Tag Titles
Suzu has recently learned to drive, so being Suzu Suzuki, she ‘drove’ her way to the ring. Judging by the arm and hand motions going on there, I’d maybe leave it a few months before getting into a car with her, imagined or not. Let her calm down a bit.
Away from Suzu being a goof, Azure Revolution’s title reign has been defined by their experience as a team. It’s not necessarily that they’re individually better than their opponents (although they often are, they’re Risa Sera and Maya Yukihi), but that after six on and off years together, their pairing is too strong to be taken down. With that in mind, it was interesting that there were points of this match where it felt like they’d been split apart. We got to see Suzu and Yuki have a long one-on-one section, reliving their brilliant feud, followed by Risa and Anou doing similar. It almost felt like Suzutan and Anoutan wanted to separate them.
And yet, the difference was made in the small moments of unity. Spots like the one where Anou was unleashing on Risa only for Maya to sneak in behind her, ready to deliver a kick the second she turned to hit the ropes. Anou and Suzu are proving to be a good pairing, but they don’t have that bond built on years of togetherness. Maya and Risa were always in the right spot to provide a wee helping hand and turn the tides in their individual battles.
It made for a hell of a semi-main, and not only because it was the first match we saw the majority of. Azure Revolution are in fantastic form, and with Lovely Butchers coming out to make the next challenge, there’s every chance it will continue. As for Suzu and Anou, I reckon their time will come eventually.
Tsukushi Haruka defeated Tsukasa Fujimoto to win the ICExInfinity Title
It’s not often that someone’s second major title run is the one that hits you in the feels, but with Tsukushi, that might just be the case. The last time she held this belt was in 2013, and since then, wee Skoosh has been right to the bottom and clawed her way back to the top. It was all captured rather brilliantly by Flupke on Twitter, so I’ll point you towards that rather than regurgitate it myself (you should also subscribe to his awesome newsletter). To sum it up, though, it’s the kind of tale that you can only get when wrestling and reality intermingle.
And yet, this wasn’t all about Tsukushi Haruka, and there was a hell of an opponent standing between her and the end of that journey. I haven’t loved Tsukka’s title reigned the way others have, but this match justified the whole thing. She needed to be that awe-inspiring, taking on and defeating all-comers (including Tsukushi) champion because it was building to this moment. The moment where Skoosh went out there and refused to let her be that. She’s hardly known for her gentle, whisper touch wrestling at the best of times, but Tsukushi was next-level vicious in this match. There was a moment where she was standing on Tsukka’s shoulder in the corner while simultaneously booting her in the head. We also saw her forego the usual pins between her foot stomps, instead choosing to repeatedly leap onto Fujimoto’s chest in an attempt to cave it in.
Where the match was going to be won, though, was in how Tsukushi reacted to the Fujimoto comeback. Tsukasa is too good to be bludgeoned aside, and when that momentum shifted, every instinct told you Skoosh’s time was up. I watched this a week after it happened and had even heard that she kicked out of the Japanese Ocean Cyclone Supex, but when Fujimoto hit it, a part of me still accepted that we were done. The combination of that move and that champion made the end feel inevitable.
And in some ways, it was the end, just not in the way you would usually expect. When Tsukushi kicked out, Fujimoto’s face said it all, shock and confusion taking over. It was a moment so rare that you could tell she didn’t know what to do next, eventually going into autopilot and going for it again, a rare mistake that would ultimately be her downfall. When Tsukushi countered, she hit back harder, refusing to let Fujimoto get her strikes in on an exchange before unleashing a series of moves that ended in a Japanese Ocean Suplex and the three. As it washed over her, all she could do was clutch the title to her chest and cry.
Coming to the end of a journey like the one Tsukushi has been on always has the possibility of disappointment. It’s hard to live up to the weight of history, but Tsukushi and Tsukka did that and more. Even without that context, this was one of the matches of the year, and with it, it’s one that will stick with you forever. Manami Toyota placing that title around Tsukushi waist is one of those wrestling moments we hear so much about, and damn, it was a special one.
Afterwards, we discovered that Suzu would be Tsukushi’s first challenger (Skoosh literally dragged her into the post-match press conference by her hair, so Suzu didn’t have much choice about it), and I think it’s safe to say that will rule too.
Even with the heavy editing, this is a must-watch show. The undercard flew past (partly because of that editing) with a couple of gems hidden away in there. However, even without that, the main event (and to a lesser extent the semi-main) make sure that you can’t be missing this one. Skoosh and Tsukka delivered not just a match of the year contender, but one that we’ll be talking about for a very long time.
Watch Ice Ribbon on niconico: https://ch.nicovideo.jp/iceribbon