December’s matches of the month is a tad shorter than usual because I’ve spent a lot of the month home for Christmas and was working on putting together my end of year stuff. However, there are still a few gems here, so I’m sure you’ll find something to enjoy. If that’s not enough, well, fuck you. Happy New Year!
Sayaka is a bit over two years into her career and didn’t wrestle for roughly half of that, so how the fuck is she this good? Honestly, it doesn’t make sense.
Sure, it would be easy to put how impressive this match was down to Rina. Sayaka wouldn’t be the first person she’d led to a strong showing, and I’ve mentioned before that if I needed someone to make my uncoordinated arse look talented, she’d be right up there. However, that’s not what happened here. In fact, Sayaka almost refused to let that happen, making sure to put her stamp on the match by challenging Rina at her own game. This rookie, who has barely strayed outside her own company, was more than happy to trade forearms with Yamashita or battle on the concrete outside, taking a DDT on the ground but also leaving Rina’s back cut open. Even if she lost, she made this a fight and etched her name into the action.
It all seems to stem from Sayaka’s boundless reserves of optimistic confidence. Mei Suruga once mentioned that she feels like Sayaka is almost too comfortable in herself, her ability to take everything in her stride getting a bit annoying, but it pays off for her in the ring. While we’ve watched people like Chie and Sayuri have to grow comfortable with hitting and being hit, Sayaka has never once flinched away. She carries herself like a great wrestler, which helps hide the flaws, and if she’s already this good, then she might just turn out to be right.
Inspiration has been a highlight of 2021 as it’s become the experimental branch of TJPW. This episode alone gave us Hikari and Nao facing off in a deathmatch, Tropikawild battling the Sugar Rabbits and, most importantly, Pom Harajuku and Trans AM Hiroshi unleashing the weird.
Let’s be honest, I was always going to love this match. If you’d asked me to name a thousand dream pairing, I very much doubt I would have got to Pom vs Trans AM, but the second I saw the graphic, I knew it was genius. It’s two slightly awkward weirdos being sent out there to be a bit awkward and weird together. How can that not be incredible? Every chance I’ve had recently, I’ve been espousing the opinion that wrestling is at its very best when you let weirdos be weird, and no one can stop these two from being so.
The match quickly became a game of oneupmanship, Trans AM doing something strange only for Pom to prove that no one can out Pom the Pom. She was in a whole different world of bizarre here as they escalated from extravagant hand gestures to a full-blown duet. (It turns out Pom has quite a nice voice.) It was balls to the walls nonsense wrestling, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Look, I’m not saying all wrestling companies should divide their roster up based on the colour of their gear, but I’m also saying that it couldn’t hurt. People always claim that the best wrestling is the simplest wrestling, and what could be more simple than yellows fighting blues or reds fighting blacks? You don’t have to be a genius to figure that out.
Of course, not all wrestling companies are Marvelous, and while it might sound simple, I’m not sure anyone could do it the way they do it. This whole mess of a feud (mess being used in the most positive way possible) has seemingly come out of Chigusa giving everyone free reign to have fun, and my god, does it work. From Team Yellow’s full choreographed entrance, complete now with a big flag, to Ai Houzan trying to win a fight with Yuu, this stuff makes me so happy. I could watch them unleash chaotic nonsense every day of the week and never get bored.
I don’t think it’s any secret that Marvelous has been my favourite promotion in the world in 2021, which is saying something in a year where TJPW has been as good as it has. Their ability to balance the line between serious and nonsense is beautiful. Nowhere else can give us the long build to GAEAISM with Mio Momono and Chihiro Hashimoto being untouchable, but also have Mio face-off with Hirota in a nonsense battle for custody of the twins. This war between various colours is just the latest chapter in that. A feud that could be so simple, unstructured and dull has become this hilarious, bizarre world from which blossom these beautifully chaotic matches. Thank fuck for Marvelous.
Ever since Yuki Arai debuted, I, and many others, have been raving about how much potential she has. She’s a natural who has stepped up to every challenge placed in front of her. However, I already went into that in my original review, so let’s throw some words Miyu’s way this time around.
Because it would be easy to dismiss Miyu’s performance in this match as typical of her, she went out, kicked the shit out of some rookie and got the win. But I often feel like people don’t give Miyu credit for how good she is in these situations. She excels at giving just the right amount to her opponent, teasing the potential of an upset, even if we all kind of know it isn’t going to happen. People often mistake her stoicism as a lack of generosity, but I think it’s the exact opposite. Like all those legendary Japanese Aces before her, Yamashita’s stoniness only serves to highlight the moments where someone rocks her all the more. If you can shake her, even for just a second, that means more than beating many others. The fact that she is near-invincible meant that Arai dropping her Finally Axe Kick on her head was all the more impressive.
We still don’t know for sure whether Yuki Arai sees wrestling as a long-term or a short-term thing, but we know we’ve got her into 2022, and if she keeps improving at the rate she has, fingers crossed this is a match they return to. Miyu gets the best out of everyone, and Yuki looks like someone who has a lot of best to give.
Has Hyper Misao ever half-arsed anything? Whether it’s turning evil, getting engaged or doing a hardcore match with Shunma Katsumata, you will always get 100% pure Misao. Everyone’s favourite superhero did not need to go into this match and bump in barbed wire, have skewers stabbed into her head or be Superplexed off ladders, but if she didn’t, she wouldn’t be Hyper Misao, and that would be a damn shame. It fucking ruled and was further proof that Misao is one-of-a-kind. Not that anyone needs that anymore.
I reckon roughly five different matches were going on in this one, as Suzuki, in particular, was engaged in a comedy match with his partners while also trying to stiff it out with Sakaguchi. I know that sounds like it should be a total mess, but trust me when I say it wasn’t. Putting MiSu with Itoh and Brookes felt like a random (if cool) idea, but holy shit, it worked to perfection.
A lot of that was down to Suzuki’s performance. He went total deranged psychopath here, as his only worry was getting into the ring and murdering Sakaguchi. Even when Saki got in, trying to help her partner out, Suzuki only had eyes for Yukio, Akai having to lay into him to get the slightest reaction. Then, when he did turn his attention towards her, Brookes ended up tagging himself in, hoping to play peacemaker and prevent this deranged bastard from going too far. It was an awesome little moment that made Saki look fantastic for being brave enough to fight this prick while putting Suzuki over as so unhinged that his own partners didn’t know how to deal with him.
And it all plays into something I mentioned before, which is that Suzuki will turn up in your company and be the exact wrestler you want him to be. He can grapple with Sakaguchi, go full psycho on Saki and also spend a few minutes repeatedly interrupting Itoh’s cutest punches for laughs, causing Brookes to try and keep the peace once more. He also does all that while remaining Minoru Suzuki, never once breaking character or feeling like he’s stepping out of his comfort zone. It’s an incredible gift and one that I think shone brighter in this match than it has in nearly anything else I’ve seen him do.
There was a shitload of other stuff to enjoy too. Be it Higuchi and Itoh engaging in a headbutt off or Saki and Brookes continuing their brilliant chemistry. This was a match where everything just worked, all the bits coming together to create magic. You don’t get many of those, but when they do happen, there are few things better.