Rookie tournament alert! Sendai have got a load of rookies together, and we’ve got the first round on this show, so there was no chance I was going to miss that. Honestly, they could have just left it at that, but they’re giving us a Saki Akai ASUKA team and a tag title showdown, so we’re spoilt, really. Should I get on with it? Yea, I should get on with it.
Yurika Oka defeated Madeline in the Jaja Uma Tournament First Round
For the umpteenth time, I must point out that Madeline’s commitment to having as large a variety of gear as possible is extraordinary. I can’t imagine it’s great for her bank balance, but you’re never entirely sure what she’s going to look like when she comes through the curtain. I also love the purple hair she’s rocking at the moment.
On top of that, she excels at mixing it up in-ring, and this match was no different. Up against Oka, who has to go down as one of the favourites for the tournament, we saw serious wrestling Maddie. She leaned heavily on the kicks before trying to pull Yurika to the mat. In response, the Sendai Junior champion essentially tried to bludgeon her way through Madeline, firing off with dropkicks at every opportunity.
The only downside was that they didn’t have a load of time, and you could tell they were rushing through certain spots, which in turn made things a bit sloppy. It was nothing egregious, and it didn’t majorly hurt my enjoyment of the match (I’ve zero issues with a scrappy rookie), but it left me feeling like these two have a better one in them. In fact, I can almost guarantee that’s the case. This was only their second time sharing a ring (and the first was a tag), so while I enjoyed it, I’m already looking forward to the rematch.
Verdict: Good, But They’ll Have Better
Riko Kaiju defeated Kanon in the Jaja Uma Tournament First Round
Because Kaiju works in a promotion with a very physical, intense house style, I almost take for granted what a wee tank she is. However, the way she flew into Kanon for the opening dropkick in this match, practically decapitating her before picking her up and slamming her with ease, really brought it home. Beast Kid will beat the shit out of you.
It was a style that Kanon seemed to flourish against, as she played the smaller, lighter, high-flyer, hitting a lovely Springboard Dropkick. With Japanese rookies tending to work off a tiny moveset, the way you execute those moves becomes so important. Kaiju and Kanon were pulling from the same toolbag, but where Riko was a battering ram, Kanon was a more precise, accurate instrument.
In the end, the battering ram won out, but both of these rookies came out looking great. They’re teenagers, for christ sake! It’s unfair that they’re already this good, and, once again, we can only hope this is a match that we’ll see a lot of over the years.
Verdict: They’re Going To Go Far
Haruka Umesaki defeated Chie Ozora in the Jaja Uma Tournament First Round
Chie is probably the participant in this tournament that I’ve seen the least of, and I came away from this impressed. As you’d expect from someone coming out of Pure-J, she does the simple stuff well, with everything she does appearing to hurt (in particular an armbar over the ropes, which looked even more painful because of Haruka’s lack of height). On top of that, while I’m not a huge fan of her bin bag style gear, she has a bit of a physical presence, giving some added oomph to her strikes.
Luckily for Haruka, she is more than used to dealing with people who hit hard. She might not look it at first glance, but you can tell she’s come from a company that’s produced the likes of Sareee. Plus, out of all the participants so far, she might be the one who holds themselves least like a rookie. You could feel her confidence radiating off her in this match, even when Chie was in control. It brought a top football team to mind, sitting back and letting the plucky lower league players tire themselves out before going for the kill.
And the match wasn’t perfect, there were a couple of moments where Haruka had to usher Chie forward to get in position for a Missile Dropkick, but that’s nitpicking. Ultimately, these two came away looking really good, and if I was coming up with the odds, Haruka would be right up alongside Yurika as one of the favourites.
Verdict: Good Stuff
Ami Miura defeated Ai Houzan in the Jaja Uma Tournament First Round
If Haruka looks the least like a rookie, then Ai looks the most like one. Still clad in her yellow and white swimsuit gear, she feels like a throwback, especially in there with Ami, who has recently had a massive upgrade on her costume. However, someone may have forgotten to tell Houzan that. Aye, she’s still only wee, but she has the attitude of someone much bigger.
And Miura was somewhat caught off-guard by that. Houzan was a brilliant pest in this match, buzzing about and refusing to stay down. There was a moment when she realised that her forearms had little effect on her much bigger opponent, so instead decided to stamp on her toes, gleefully embracing her inner goblin. It wasn’t so much that Ami ever looked in particular danger (she was the clear favourite for this match), but that she couldn’t get Ai to stand still long enough to make her aware of that fact.
Sadly, eventually, Miura’s power came to the fore and once Ai was caught, her buzzing days came to an end. Still, she left Ami gasping for breath, and this was the latest in what is becoming a long line of performances in which that rookie leaves me grinning from ear to ear. I can’t imagine I’m the only one that’s noticed that, and Ai’s time will eventually come.
Verdict: Pest Power Wasn’t Quite Enough
Hiroyo Matsumoto defeated Sakura Hirota and Manami in a three-way
Sakura Hirota is an upstanding member of the community, so I don’t want to tarnish her good name. However, I think she might have been a bad influence on Manami. It started light, as she seemed to ask Manami to redo her entrance, which she ended up doing three times, bringing a whole different set of vibes with each one and lots of dancing with a fan. Honestly, I’m not quite sure what was going on there, but it seemed innocent enough.
It was later that my worries began. Manami has never exactly been the shy, retiring type, what with all the screaming and dancing, but Hirota seemed to spur her onto new levels. She started this match with her hair tied up, looking like a typical young rookie, and ended it crazy-haired, wild-eyed and kanchoing everyone in sight. Of course, I’m not saying that’s solely Hirota’s fault, but, well, if the shoe fits.
Outside of my worries about her losing her place in polite society, it should be noted that this was Manami’s match. It takes a hell of a performance to steal the show away from Hiroyo and Hirota, but she did it, and if anything, they helped her do so. It was like everyone went out with the express intention of making that kid look good, and while she took the pin, they pulled it off. I’m not going to pretend it was the normal way to pull it off, but it happened.
Verdict: Glorious Nonsense
ASUKA & Saki Akai defeated DASH Chisako & Mika Iwata
Any match that features DASH and ASUKA taking turns to kick each other in the head is probably going to be a good match. This couldn’t have been a bigger tonal shift from the previous nonsense, but it was just as joyous in its delivery as these four went out intending to hit each other very hard.
That is business as normal for three of these wrestlers, but it’s not quite that for Saki. It’s not that she’s never had hard-hitting matches (she most definitely has), but it’s not her bread and butter the way it is the other three. She could easily have become the weak link. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case. I was impressed with how she handled herself in this match, dishing out some brilliantly stiff kicks and forming a wonderfully haughty team with ASUKA. As I said, I’m not actually surprised she could do this, but to keep up with Iwata, DASH and ASUKA requires more than just doing it. That’s excelling.
Sendai must agree, as they apparently want her around again. The final act was handed over to her and Iwata (who she fought to a time-limit draw in the first round of a one-day tournament last year), teeing off on each other with kicks. Akai would go a step further this time, trapping Mika in a Triangle Choke and wrapping up her arm to seal the deal, giving her no choice but to tap. Judging by the interactions the two of them had post-match, it wasn’t the end either, and it sounded like we’re getting a singles somewhere down the line, which has the potential to fucking rule.
Verdict: Really Good
Team 200KG (Chihiro Hashimoto & Yuu) defeated Andra Miyagi & Hibiki to win the Sendai Tag Team Titles
I adore these teams. In Andras and Hibiki, we have two unashamed weirdos living on their own wee planet and not giving a fuck. Team 200KG, meanwhile, are a pair of hosses who want to come out and be bigger and stronger than you.
And what makes these teams work is their personality. This wasn’t a comedy match, but it had spots that leaned that way. Andras and Hibiki whipping Yuu and Big Hash into each other only for them to no-sell it is comedic enough. That it was followed up by the hosses being smacked around the head with traffic cones pushed it fully into that territory. And yet, it worked here. It worked because you have four people who understand that comedy and serious aren’t different things. Sticking to a character and playing that through is much more beneficial than putting on a totally straight wrestling match.
And by doing that stuff, it means that when we get into Hibiki and Big Hash bashing into each other, it feels awesome. They’ve earned it because we’ve seen those weirdos try all the other tactics and then decide that is the best one. Sure, you could have gone for that straight from the beginning, and it would have been cool for a bit, but the build-up makes it even better. Hash forces Hibiki, someone who never wants to try, into being a badass, and when she unleashes it, she almost convinces me to cheer for her.
Of course, if you’re going to try and out-badass Yuu and Hash, you’re going to struggle, and this ended the way you might expect. Ultimately, power trumped weirdness, and our two hosses took the belts home. As much as I love Team Weirdo, who could ever complain about that? Fucking look at Team 200KG! They should have all the belts.
Verdict: Hosses Kill Weirdos
Hey, this show ruled. I tend to dip in and out of Sendai because there is only so much time, but the combination of the rookie tournament plus some great guests made this particularly special. Throw in the fact that it ended with Yuu and Big Hash chomping down on a couple of big old rice balls, and you’d have to be a right prick nae to be a happy cunt coming out of this.
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