Marvelous’s first Korakuen of the year had the potential to be one of their best, as they had packed this card with all kinds of goodies. The big one was the main event, Big Hash vs Iroha, with the AAAW titles on the line. Could Takumi rewrite the wrongs of GAEAISM and take the belts home to Chig? Time to find out.
Makoto defeated Maria
Makoto coming out with her SEAd title to face a fellow Las Egos’ member is hopefully a sign that whatever tension had arisen between Marvelous and SEAdLINNNG might be thawing. Or perhaps I’m reading too much into it. Either way, Makoto presumably assumed it was safe to shake the hand of a friend and nearly lost her arm in the process. I’m not saying you should never trust Maria, but it’s probably the safer option.
Once Makoto had regained the use of her limbs, she quickly set about trying to take this younger wrestler to school. Perhaps because she spends most of her time in a company that includes Arisa Nakajima, I kind of underestimate how hard Makoto hits. Maria is unlikely to make the same mistake, though, as she was treated to several well-aimed boots to the face. Luckily, If there is one thing Maria isn’t, it’s an easy pupil, and she made sure to give some back. She never controlled this match, but you always bought into the idea that she could snatch an arm at any moment and steal away with the win.
Sadly for her, that wasn’t to be, but this was still a great opener. I’m always a big fan of that veteran vs rookie dynamic, and Makoto was great in that hard-kicking punisher role. However, It was Maria who shone brightest for me, continuing the excellent form she showed at the end of 2021 and managing to look a threat in a match that she never really stood a chance in. She did enough to earn a hug from Makoto afterwards, keeping the dream of a proper Strawberry reunion alive.
Verdict: Great Stuff
Chikayo Nagashima defeated ASUKA and Hibiscus Mii in a three-way
Poor Hibiscus Mii. She finally managed to turn up to a Marvelous show with all of her gear, only for Chikayo and ASUKA to pay no attention to her. Then, when she pointed out how unfair that was, they took it even further and teamed up on her! It was awful.
It meant this match became ASUKA and Nagamshima wrestling around Mii’s antics which, well, is basically perfect. You’d have ASUKA do something incredible only for Mii to wander in, try and team up with someone and inevitably have it go wrong. Even when she did fire up a bit, shoving ASUKA from the top to the floor, she only succeeded in over-shooting her splash on Nagashima and crashing and burning. It was, well, sad obviously, but also hilarious.
They also gave us one of my favourite finishes of the year so far, as ASUKA set up for a Moonsault only for Nagashima to tap Mii out behind her, leaving poor ASUKA perched on the turnbuckle not quite sure what to do. It was one of the rare moments where they didn’t look like the coolest person in the room but quickly redeemed themselves by backflipping off anyway. It was a fitting ending to a match that was a whole lot of fun and confirmed that the Mii nonsense tour is continuing into 2022. I hope it never ends.
Verdict: So Much Fun
Leo Isaka defeated Shoki Kitamura
I stayed off Twitter on the day of this show to avoid spoilers, so I was somewhat surprised that Shoki Kitamura wasn’t Daisuke Sekimoto (he dropped out with a fever). Still, Leo was probably at least a little relieved. Kitamura didn’t hit quite so hard.
Surprise change or not, I enjoyed this match for what it was. Shoki is on the long list of Japanese indie guys who I know nothing about, but he looked like a nice wee wrestler from what I could see here. He and Leo kept it simple, Kitamura dominating a lot of the action with Isaki getting the occasional hope spot, but for a one-off match with no story support, that usually works best.
Sadly, the finish didn’t quite go to plan, as Leo’s attempts to kick off the top rope into a flash pin went a bit awry. Still, he recovered relatively quickly, and it wasn’t a total disaster. As Leo matches go, this was still a good one, and let’s hope he gets his outing with Daisuke somewhere down the line.
Verdict: Solid Fun
Team Red (Riko Kawahata & Saki Akai) defeated Team Blue (Rin Kadokura & Itsuki Aoki)
I respect Team Red’s commitment to having the most chaotic entrances possible. Hibiscus Mii, for reasons unknown, decided that she needed to be part of this one, making a full entrance alongside her red pals. They were rubbing off on Akai, too, as we learnt that perhaps the one thing she can’t do is dance. Her attempts to join in with Riko were, well, let’s go with flawed. Still, it’s nice to know that even she isn’t perfect.
In more cohesive news, Rin and Itsuki have turned into an outstanding team. They’ve been paired up a lot recently, and it’s starting to pay off as they compliment each other well. The over the top Aoki works nicely alongside the more restrained Kadokura, and I like how they gel together in the ring. There was a period where they worked over Riko and did a great job of keeping it interesting as we built to Saki coming in and booting them in the face.
It wasn’t just them, though, as everyone in this match performed well. Akai is always great in these guest spots, tagging in and teeing off with kicks while Riko is really beginning to pick up speed. The very fact she was given a pinfall over Rin here (when it would have been easy to have Akai do the honours) says a lot for how highly she’s thought of, and it was just a shame that she overshot what was supposed to be the winning Moonsault. Still, respect to her for not panicking, quickly double stomping Rin before going up again and connecting sweetly on the second try. It was nowhere near enough to dampen a great match and a massive victory for everyone’s favourite dancer.
Verdict: Impressive From All
Team Yellow (Yurika Oka & Ai Houzan) defeated Team Black (Kaoru Ito & Tomoko Watanabe)
Look, I’m not saying keeping me happy is easy, but I could watch Ai Houzan try and beat up Kaoru Ito all day. Everyone knows it isn’t going to work, but does she care? Of course not! In Ai’s mind, she is more than ready to climb that mountain. At one point, she resorted to repeatedly headbutting her in the chest, throwing everything she had into trying to hurt this brick wall of a woman.
And that was basically the theme of this match. Ai and Oka were two pests, trying to take down a pair no one thought they had a chance of beating. At best, they made Tomoko and Kaoru flinch. At worst, they bounced off them. And I fucking loved it. I adored watching these two rookies desperately try to inflict damage on these women who could literally squash them. The moment where they teamed up and, with a hail of dropkicks, managed to get Ito off her feet was my favourite moment of the year so far.
The was is the crucial part of that sentence because they only went and fucking won! A bickering session between Tomoko and Ito played its role, but Ai capitalised, bundling Watanabe up for the three and a genuinely colossal upset. I was ready to come on here and write about Watanabe deserving full credit for bumping around for these rookies, but then she only went and put them over! Incredible. If I hadn’t already loved this match, that would have been enough, but this was honestly perfect. ‘Mon the Team Yellow.
Takumi Iroha defeated Chihiro Hashimoto to bring the AAAW Titles home
Ever since the first foot was set on the Road to GAEAISM, Big Hash has been the monster no one can beat. To my memory, the only fall she’s taken this whole time was in the gauntlet, which came after she’d already dispatched two people and saved Sendai blushes. Whether it was a single, tag or handicap match, Hashimoto has consistently been the person to send Marvelous packing.
You can see why, too. Early on in this match, Iroha fired off with a mid-kick, and Hashimoto grabbed her leg like it was nothing, brute-forcing her round into a Crab. It didn’t look like a battle between Aces but a veteran teaching a young rookie the ropes, punishing her for leaving herself open. Not many people bully Takumi Iroha, but Big Hash made it look easy, powering through everything she attempted. Then, when Takumi did get her openings, she went for the kill, missing an early Swanton and failing to pull off the Running Three. You got the impression that Iroha wanted to get this done, scared of going deep against this monster of an opponent, but Hashimoto wouldn’t let her. One way or another, this was going to end with them standing face to face, finding out who was the strongest the old-fashioned way.
When it did, it was everything you’d expect. The final act flew by in a blur of suplexes, lariats and kicks as they exploded into each other. Then, when Iroha did hit the Running Three, it wasn’t enough. Somehow Hashimoto survived, the shock on the face of Takumi and everyone at ringside telling the whole story. Chihiro proved that if you want to beat her, you would have to kill her. It was the beginning of the end, though. Hashimoto got one final desperation sleeper but a flurry of kicks set up a second Running Three that somehow twisted her through the air to land on her face. I’ve no idea if that was the plan or not, but it was perfect. If you want to put down someone that good, you have to do something special, and Chihiro earned that final flourish.
If you haven’t guessed, I loved this match. It felt like the culmination of everything Marvelous and Sendai have been doing over the last year, and considering how brilliant that’s been, it’s a big compliment to say that I think they pulled it off. Now those belts are finally back in the right hands, Chigusa strapping the AAAW title around Takumi’s waist, and I am very excited to see what they do with them.
Verdict: They Nailed The Landing
I’m not sure how you could have made it this far and not figured it out, but I adored this show. Marvelous’s 2021 means a lot to me, but this was an incredible way to kick off the new year and has left me stupidly excited for what comes next. And it’s all without Mio! Imagine how good they’ll be when she comes back? Thank fuck for Marvelous.