I don’t think Ice Ribbon’s year is ending the way anyone expected it to. With a host of faces leaving the company, Ribbonmania 2021 feels like a changing of the guard, and I’m not entirely sure what their 2022 will look like. However, I know that I am more than happy to follow them along for the ride and have full faith in Tsukka and co figuring it out.
Asahi, NATSUMI, Saran & Kaho Matsushita defeated Cherry, Banny Oikawa, Yappy & Kiku
I enjoyed the dynamic of our opener. The teams were essentially split via age, a group of youngsters taking on a quartet who might not all have much more wrestling experience than them but definitely had more life experience.
And as we’ve come to expect from Ice Ribbon openers, they went at a fair old pace. This wasn’t always smooth and crisp, but with a literal child and a couple of wrestlers who are still very young in their career involved, that’s no surprise. There were a lot of people who are still figuring themselves out in there, so if someone like Kiku occasionally looked awkward, I’m not that bothered. What was important was that they could keep up and recover from any slight mistakes.
Highlights included Yappy mercilessly using her ‘big ass’ to take out wee Saran, an impressive run on offence from NATSUMI, who still has the occasional sloppy moment but is incredibly impressive for someone as inexperienced as she is, and Matsushita continuing to look like a real gem. It all made for an enjoyable, snappy match that I had a lovely time with.
Verdict: Fun Opener
Saori Anou & Maika Ozaki defeated Young Beauty Express (Nao Ishikawa & Miku Aono)
With Aono making the somewhat surprising decision to stick around in whatever it is that AWG will be next year, this was her last appearance in Ice Ribbon and with Young Beauty Express partner Ishikawa for the foreseeable future. Damn, she made the most of it, though. This match ruled.
The tone was set early on when Saori got pissed off at Young Beauty Express posing over her and started raising the temperature (further fuel to which was added by Tae Honma interfering on the outside). From there, these four went hard. Whether it was Aono and Ozaki hossing it out together, Saori putting her two less experienced opponents through the wringer or Ishikawa creatively attempting to bundle Maika up only to end up in a Reverse Giant Swing, it was lovely stuff.
It added up to a fitting send-off for Aono, who has all the potential in the world. She’s made a real habit this year of stealing the show, and this was no different. As I hinted above, no one is quite sure what AWG is about to become, but if she’s involved, I’ll be keeping an eye on it.
Verdict: Sneaky Wee Banger!
Yuuki Mashiro defeated Miyako Matsumoto
It’s not often that either of these two meets someone who is as big a weirdo as they are, but they might have been found their equal in this pairing. It was time for the battle of the oddballs, and while I’m not saying it was the only reason I chose to wake at 2.30 am to watch this show, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit it was a big part of it.
And they delivered. Right from the start, this was a battle of ideas as much as it was wrestling, the two of them being as fixated on hitting the moves they wanted to hit as they were winning. At one point, they climbed opposing corners to pull off their signature poses and, upon realising neither was going to budge, leapt into the void anyway, almost causing a double knockout. It’s obviously total nonsense, but it also makes sense where Yuuki and Miyacoco are concerned. They have a different set of priorities to most wrestlers.
By the end, chaos had broken out as Miyacoco decided they were going to have a boxing match. Of course, once the gloves were on, it was Yuuki who was doing the face-punching because that’s the general theme of Miyacoco’s life, even if she would never admit it. It also meant the final roll-up exchange, which would have been impressive anyway, was conducted while wearing said gloves making it even more so. They might be weirdos, but they’re talented ones, and I’m very glad they’ve found each other.
Afterwards, Yuuki called out Maika and challenged for the Triangle Ribbon title at Ice Ribbon’s next Korakuen, with Miyako making up the third. That should be fun!
Tsukasa Fujimoto & Totoro Satsuki defeated Suzu Suzuki & Mochi Miyagi
While I am very excited to see what 2022 holds for Prominence, it’s a bittersweet excitement. An Ice Ribbon without the likes of Suzu Suzuki and Mochi Miyagi is hard to imagine, even if there is a chance they’ll pop by to say hello in the future.
While I think there is a good chance of that happening, this match was still set out as a goodbye, particularly between Suzu and Tsukka. A big chunk of the action was given up to them, letting that brilliant chemistry shine and even seeing Suzu appear on a bike, giving out one final chirin chirin only to have it backfire and end in Tsukka running her over. It was kinda beautiful, or at least as beautiful as someone being run over by a bike can be.
The final act saw them bow out and hand things over to Totoro and Mochi to bounce off each other and do big lass things. It was all very nicely judged, giving everyone their moment as they said goodbye and delivered a really good match at the same time. In the aftermath, Tsukka hugged them both, making it clear there are no hard feelings going forward. As I said, I’m very excited to see what they do next, but I hope it’s not too long before we see them in this ring again.
Verdict: Not Goodbye, But See You Later
Akane Fujita defeated Rina Yamashita to win the FantastICE Title
I hadn’t even considered that Thekla left the WUW Title with Fujita when she left Ice Ribbon, and I am very intrigued to see if that makes its way back to Austria. Then again, I would also be 100% behind it morphing into one of those roaming Japanese indie titles which people only dimly remember the origins of. Twenty years from now, I want to see people on Twitter expressing shock that it originally came from a tiny Austrian promotion.
In the here and now, Fujita and Rina have matches that I can only describe as gruelling. They hit each other hard, and while this wasn’t a deathmatch, that didn’t stop them from laying into things. I wasn’t entirely sure how the Falls Count Anywhere stip would work in a COVID world, and honestly, it did turn out to be a bit irrelevant. They fought on the outside but never strayed far from the ring, the bulk of the action taking place between the ropes.
And while I enjoyed watching them stiff it out, it also took a while to get going. There was a point where it felt like I was waiting for something that wasn’t going to come. Then, they started headbutting the fuck out of each other, and, well, what I can say? I’m a sucker for violence. Sometimes all it takes is that one spot to turn your feelings on a match, and some wanton destruction was enough for that. To put a cherry on top of that cake, Fujita only went and won, putting any doubts about Ice Ribbon and Prominence’s relationship to bed. I’m fascinated as to where that’s going, and while this match wasn’t up with the best of the belt, you can’t deny the violence they dished out.
Hamuko Hoshi & Ibuki Hoshi defeated Azure Revolution (Maya Yukihi & Risa Sera) to win the International Ribbon Tag Titles
There is no doubt that Azure Revolution are a much slicker team than the Hoshi family, and if you were to judge this match purely on the stats, it would have been a whitewash. What Ham and Ibuki had, though, was chaos. They reminded me of someone who has never played poker before, causing a pro issues. It’s not that they’re good (although, in this case, Ham and Ibuki are both very good wrestlers). It’s that their actions contain little to no logic, making them really hard to figure out.
And sure, that did sometimes backfire. Early on, the mother and daughter pairing lost the advantage they gained from a cheap shot because they were so busy bickering, but it also gave them moments like Ham turning the tide by bashing everyone with her belly. When you live by chaos, it will occasionally hurt you, but you trust in it to come around again. It certainly kept Risa and Yuki on edge, as they were never quite able to control this match. As I said, it was obvious they were the stronger team, but there was also the feeling that they were on the cusp of slipping up.
And slip up they did. It was Ibuki who got the better of Risa, bundling her with Good Ibuning for the three after a standout final exchange. Even with what I said about feeling like this match was primed for an upset, and knowing that it was Risa and Maya’s final day as full-time members of the company, it was a result that caught me off-guard. I just assumed chaos would be calmed, but as a lover of all things chaotic, I have no complaints. Plus, who could possibly hate the sight of a mother placing a tag belt around the waist of her kid? That’s a special moment.
Verdict: Chaos Reigns
Tsukushi Haruka defeated Ram Kaicho to retain the ICExInfinity Title
Few things annoy me more than wrestlers smoothing out their own weaknesses. For example, someone who has never shown any talent for grappling going hold for hold with an expert, ‘catching them off-guard’ and proving they can keep up. It’s fucking dumb, and it instantly makes that character boring because you’ve removed an essential flaw. Thankfully, Ram didn’t do that in this match. She knew that if Skoosh started hitting her, she was in trouble, so she did everything she could to stop that from happening.
Kaicho didn’t always get it right. She made the mistake of flashing the fingers after dodging Skoosh’s early attack, not taking into consideration that Tsukushi would simply ignore that and boot her in the chest. However, she learned from her mistakes and focused on neutralising those strikes by going after the champ’s arm. It was smart, well-thought-out wrestling that showed Ram accepting her flaws and dealing with them rather than ignoring them.
Unfortunately, with Tsukushi in the form that she’s in, there was only so much she could do. She might have avoided the forearms, but the stomps and the dropkicks started coming, and with them, the pain. At that point, Ram realised she had to fall back on plan B, grabbing hold of the ref’s arm and throwing him into the champ before depositing a handful of chalk into her face. The wee goth wasn’t going to go down easy, and if that required a wee bit of cheating, then it required a wee bit of cheating.
It all made for a good match that suffered not from anything they did but because of something I mentioned above. Tsukushi has been in incredible form recently, and coming off her title win and that outstanding defence against Suzu, it was near impossible for this to live up to them. You can’t really blame Ram or Skoosh for that. Not every match can be an instant classic, and this was still good. It just suffered in unfair comparison. It means that while I liked it now, I suspect if I go back to it a month from now in a bubble, I’ll like it even more. Still, either way, the devil’s reign runs on, and that’s always a good thing.
Verdict: It Was Still Really Good
That show didn’t quite reach the levels of Ice Ribbon’s best, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t plenty to enjoy. We got weirdo battles, violence and chaos, all wrapped up in one enjoyable package. Who knows what 2022 holds for them, but if it is a year of shows of this quality, they’re going to be alright.
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