I love a live Ice Ribbon Korakuen. We don’t always get them, so they feel like an extra special treat when they do come along. They’re even better when the card looks great, and this was an intriguing blend of guests, youngsters and old favourites. Let’s get into it!
Saori Anou & Totoro Satsuki defeated Yuuki Mashiro & Yukari Hosokawa
The artist formerly known as Rin Rin being in Ice Ribbon will take some getting used to, as will referring to her as Yukari Hosokawa, a name I’ve so far failed to drill into my head. Still, it’s great to see everyone’s favourite radio engineer/rapper/sumo wrestler carving out a wee spot for herself in the world of wrestling.
Yukari hasn’t lost any of her self-confidence either, looking at home even as Totoro and Anou dealt out the usual wrestling welcome of a beating. It included a double Muta Lock that had Totoro lifting Anou off the ground so she could pull back a little further on the hold, which looked very uncomfortable. Hosokawa’s own attempt at Brainbustering Totoro wasn’t quite so successful, but it did show ambition, and there were some hints that she and Yuuki could make an entertaining oddball pairing.
It all made for a strong introduction for Yukari that should earn her an invitation back. I can’t imagine her former teacher will be too impressed by that, but hey, she’s crossed the river now, and I’ve no doubt that she’ll make a success of it wherever she ends up.
Verdict: Yukari Impresses
Nao Ishikawa & Rina Amikura defeated Cherry & Kiku
Rina and Nao were on opposite sides of a tag match recently and bounced off each other wonderfully, so I was delighted to see that continued here. They’re two big personalities, and having them paired up makes a lot of sense, especially now that Ishikawa’s tag partner has left the wrestling game for the Actwres one.
On the other side of the ring, it felt like Cherry helped Kiku out a lot. I haven’t seen every match she’s had (it’s only now that Club Ice Ribbon exists that I’m able to keep up with smaller shows), but she didn’t seem to take to everything as quickly as the younger rookies. However, having the guiding hand of veteran Cherry alongside her, plus some snazzy new gear, helped her put on one of the better performances I’ve seen from her.
She came close to picking up a scalp at the end, too, getting within milliseconds of pinning Nao only for Ishikawa to recover and bundle her up for the three. Still, regardless of the result, I hope we see both these pairings again down the road, as they looked like they had a lot of potential.
Verdict: Two Exciting Teams
Maya Yukihi, Ram Kaicho & Saran defeated Yappy, Banny Oikawa & Yuko Sakurai
I can’t claim to know much about how thirteen-year-old girls think, but it’s got to be pretty cool to spend your weekends hanging out with people like Ram and Yuki? If Saran’s going to pick up some bad influences, they’re a damn good place to start, right?
On top of that, Saran’s steadily improving in-ring and building up a lovely rapport with the likes of Yappy. I think you can tell a lot about a wrestler by how they wrestle the wee ones, and Yappy was brilliant with her here, even if there was a bit of miscommunication around the finish (something that seemed to upset Saran until Yuki and Ram joined in with her happy jumping up and down celebration and distracted her in a properly lovely moment).
Outside of that, this was mainly a nice, fun tag match. I did want to mention that Yuko Sakurai has impressed me recently. Starting last year, she has been working all over the place, and now that she’s freelance, that’s only going to continue. It’s doing her a world of good, as she’s flourishing in her newfound freedom and gaining confidence with each performance, so fingers crossed that she keeps heading in the right direction.
Verdict: Saran’s Great
galaxyPunch! (Hikaru Shimizu & Saki) defeated Asahi and Kaho Matsushita
The speed at which Kaho and Asahi have clicked as a tag team seems to suggest that joshi companies should be asking every rookie who turns up if they have a mate who fancies it too. I’m working slightly off assumption here, but Kaho having Asahi ahead of her, a goal and a friend in one, appears to have fast-tracked her development.
I also think that galaxyPunch! were inspired opponents for them. SAKI and Shimizu are a brilliant team in unbelievable form, and they were the perfect pairing to challenge the young friends. With SAKI beating them up and Hikari kicking the shit out of them, they raised the bar for Kaho and Asahi and dared them to try and leap over it. It meant that while I never bought into the idea of the youngsters winning, I was more than gripped by watching them try to prove themselves.
Which I think they did. Ice Ribbon is in a weird place right now, forced to put younger wrestlers in bigger spots than they might have liked, but this is proof that more than one of them is ready to do so. This talented pairing has a long way to go yet, and who knows what will happen, but it feels a lot like we’re looking at the company’s future, and it’s a bright one.
Verdict: More Exciting Kids
Hamuko Hoshi & Ibuki Hoshi defeated Tsukasa Fujimoto & Makoto to retain the International Ribbon Tag Titles
Makoto has joined the elite Rina Yamashita and Miyuki Takase tier of people who can be dropped into a tag-team with anyone and instantly make things better. Sure, you could argue that pairing up with Tsukka isn’t the most challenging job, but she is killing it everywhere she goes at the moment, and this was no exception. She was consistently brilliant, whether she was using her impressive power to take the fight to Ham or selling for both Hoshis.
My other big takeaway from this one was further proof of how good Ibuki and Tsukka are together. They played off Ibuki’s title shot from last year brilliant, Tsukka avoiding her early attempts to start teeing off with chops and then grabbing every chance she got herself to punish the younger Hoshi’s chest. They seem to be engaged in a constant battle of oneupmanship, and it’s the kind of thing that feels like it could happily go on for the next ten years of both of their careers.
And then there is Ham, who I feel bad about leaving to last, but it’s also kind of fitting. She is the model of consistency and seems to have accepted that her role in this tag team is to let her daughter shine. That meant she was a supporting player for the bulk of this, but it’s a role she excels at, helping make everyone around her look a little bit better. Ham is one of those wrestlers who will probably never get the credit she deserves, but in matches like this, she proves how good she is, and the homestretch she had with Tsukka was fantastic. They both had me convinced they had it won at various points, but Mama Hoshi pulled it out the bag, and this was a cracking match.
An old friend popped up afterwards. Well, she turned up via video because apparently she couldn’t be arsed coming to the venue, but Hikaru Shida is returning to Ice Ribbon! She asked her pal Tsukka if she’d be willing to team up, which sounds like a lot of fun.
Tsukushi Haruka defeated Maika Ozaki to retain the ICExInfinity Title
In many ways, this was a simple match. Maika is bigger and stronger than Tsukushi, even doing a lap of the outside of the ring with her in a Torture Rack position. However, the champ has more experience, a shotgun for a forearm and a handful of devilish tricks up her sleeve. Would pure power be able to find a way through? Or would the devil have yet another lovely day?
Well, if you’ve read the above result, you already know the answer. However, this felt like a huge match for Maika, even in defeat. The last time she was in this position was the end of 2019, against Maya Yukihi, and this was her being established as someone who could easily be there again. Tsukushi is not easy to thump around, but Maika was doing it, looking hella impressive in the process. She’s a hoss in every sense of the word, and watching her do her thing is incredibly entertaining.
However, as we all know, you’ve got to be better than incredible to beat Tsukushi at the moment. She’s been untouchable since winning that belt, and that didn’t change here, as she not only sold her arse off for Ozaki but believably put her down in the end. Her reign on top of Ice Ribbon has taken place in turbulent times so far, but with SAKI coming out to make the next challenge, I can’t see her dropping the ball anytime soon.
Verdict: Lovely Stuff
I think it’s probably about time to stop worrying about how losing a chunk of talent has affected Ice Ribbon. Yea, it’s forced them to change things up a bit, but they haven’t so much as stumbled while doing so, and this was another cracking show. It feels like they’re maybe lacking one or two credible challengers for Tsukushi, but that’ll come, and SAKI is a fantastic outsider to call on to do the job until they do.
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