After an incredible start to the year, February 2022 suddenly had some pressure on its shoulders. Could it keep it going? In wrestling terms, the answer is yes, in the rest of the world, well, let’s not think about that too much (although if you have any spare cash, do consider donating to humanitarian causes in Ukraine). February was a fun month of wrestling, with a whole lot to talk about, so let’s get to it.
What could be better than watching a twelve-year-old rookie (now thirteen) getting their first win and literally jumping up and down with joy before promptly bursting into happy tears? I generally don’t get my entertainment from watching children cry, but Saran’s victory was a lovely moment that only the biggest wanker could find anything to be cynical about. If you’re looking for something to put a smile on your face at the end of a tough day, then I recommend watching a wee lass live out one of her dreams.
If I can celebrate my 43rd birthday by dressing up as an oni with my pals and confusing the hell out of a bunch of deathmatch wrestles, then I’ll be doing just fine. Okay, I admit, it’s unlikely, but it’s nice to have a dream.
Look, any match in which Hibiscus Mii ends up perched on the second rope, doing a song and dance routine before leaping off to crossbody her opponents, only to end up several feet short of them, is going to get the Ramblings About seal of approval. It was utter nonsense from start to finish, and I loved every second of it.
Growing up, I had a dog called Kaz, who, in the vein of childhood pets the world over, was the greatest dog in the world. Now, Kaz wasn’t particularly big or much of a fighter, but she was a golden lab, so she could look after herself if push came to shove. However, at the time, two tiny wee pups lived just down the road from us. I can’t remember their names or what breed they were, but the important thing is that if Kaz had breathed in a bit heavily, she could have swallowed them whole. And yet, she was terrified of them. You see, those tiny wee things were total menaces, running around her ankles, yapping away and leaving her baffled as to how to respond. It got to the point where if you were walking towards their house, Kaz would insist on crossing the road. This match reminded me of that.
Because in a straight fight, Rina and Hiroyo could demolish both members of MomoRingo. They’re bigger, stronger and more experienced. However, when you put those two pests together, they become a royal pain in the arse. There were moments in this match where MomoRingo were crawling through people’s legs and leaping out to frighten them. It was tiny wee pup tactics, and it was glorious.
It left me wanting to see those two pests unleash their unique style on the world at large, and the bigger the foes, the better.
(I’d also recommend checking out MomoRingo’s match with Haruka Umesaki and Kakeru Sekiguchi from the 13/2 Oz show.)
Have I mentioned that I adore the Colorful World of Marvelous? Yea? Alright then, what about the fact that I think Ai Houzan is the best rookie around? Multiple times, you say? Hm, well, fuck it, let’s do it again. I fucking love the Colorful World of Marvelous and Ai Houzan rules. If, for some daft reason, you aren’t watching this stuff, then start doing so right now. Otherwise, you’re just going to have to pretend you were watching Ai when I’m proven right, and she’s kicking ass all over the place. I feel comfortable in that prediction, too, because I’m clearly not the only one who thinks it, seeing as she’s now been booked to pin both Tomoko and Ancham. Ai is headed for the top, and I am very excited to watch her get there.
It’s sometimes easy to forget how incredibly vicious Tsukasa Fujimoto can be. Unlike an Arisa Nakajima, who has never woken up and chosen anything but violence, Tsukka has a friendlier gear. It’s the one we see when she’s teaming up with Yuuki Mashiro, for example. Yea, she’ll still kick the shit out of opponents, but she doesn’t make you feel like she’s trying to see what their insides look like. However, now and then, a match like this comes along, and Tsukka convinces you she didn’t just want to see Kaiju’s insides but fancied kicking them too.
As brilliantly brutal as Tsukka was here, though, much credit also has to go to Riko. It can’t be easy to portray a fiery babyface rookie while someone is attempting to break every bone in your body, but she was fantastic at it. I say this all the time, but I want to believe that someone like Kaiju goes into this match thinking she can win, even if no one else gives her a chance, and I bought that here. I bought it from the way she threw herself into every dropkick and kept battling even as her soul left her body, too scared to stick around for the rest of the beating.
Of course, she didn’t win, but that’s irrelevant and always is. What mattered is that she took the kicking and got a few licks of her own in too. If you can do that, you’re going to go far, and I don’t think anyone has ever doubted that Beast Kid will do precisely that.
(Ryo Mizunami vs Riko Kawahata from this show was also a great example of the badass veteran beating up a plucky youngster genre.)
As you’d expect from a TJPW Korakuen, there were a lot of great matches on this card (and if you want my full review, click here). However, the one that’s stuck with me was, unusually, the opener. This simple battle between two rookies ended up feeling like one of the more important moments on the show.
That importance didn’t come from anything fancy or revolutionary but from how Arisu and Moka approached it. They wrestled like it was the biggest match of their careers so far, every hold and every move feeling like a battle. Whether it was Arisu hammering on Moka’s arm to lock in the Camel Clutch or Moka having to pry Endo’s hands apart to get her winning hold, they made wrestling look hard, and as I always say, that’s what it should be.
And that’s all I need to get invested in a match. There doesn’t need to be a title or a stipulation. I just need to believe that it matters to the people in the ring. Plus, if Arisu and Moka keep going at the rate they’re going, it won’t be too long till they’re back here with something slightly more weighty on the line.
Anyone who has been paying attention may have noticed the lack of ChocoPro on my monthly round-up in recent times. There’s nothing sinister or complex about that, life simply got busy again, and I fell behind. However, with them hitting episode 200, it felt only right to skip ahead and check this one out in real-time.
And watching this match, the opener from day one, I was reminded why ChocoPro used to be appointment viewing for me. Few things in life give me as much joy as watching a group of people piss about in Ichigaya Chocolate Square does. From the second that SAKI and Obi made their entrance, clearly delighted at a rare chance to team up, the chaos levels were turned up to eleven, and I was grinning from ear to ear. By the time Hiroshi was reviving everyone else in the match via the power of song (they’d all got electrocuted), I was fully in love with ChocoPro once again.
I’m slightly exaggerating there because I never fell out of love with ChocoPro. It is a special wee company that was invaluable to me during some dark times in the last couple of years, but I think I have taken it for granted. They are always there, producing shows at a staggering rate, so it’s an easy one to let get away from you. While I can’t promise that won’t happen again (I still have to go back and fill in the gaps), I definitely won’t let myself forget just how much I love it.
February saw the launch of Club Ice Ribbon, a YouTube membership that will have Ice airing Dojo shows live behind a paywall, and I couldn’t be happier. I love that company, but having to pay for every tiny event (or waiting ages for it to show up on their Nico) was too much. A bunch of those for £9.00 a month, though? Sign me right up.
And if there were any worries about the value, show number one blasted them away. Coming in at around an hour twenty, this was a perfect small wrestling event featuring a bunch of fun tags and a standout showing between Tsukushi and Nao. Of course, Skoosh having great matches is par for the course, but it really should be highlighted how good Ishikawa is getting. It felt like her early career was blighted by injuries, but she’s finding her rhythm and almost seems to be turning into a powerhouse, which is really cool to see.
Throw in Tsukushi doing Tsukushi things (at one point, she pulled off Nao’s hair bobble, threw it at her and then stood on her chest while waving at the crowd), and you had a perfect advert for this new service.
WAVE has quietly shifted from a promotion that I watch bits and pieces of to something that I always make sure to check out, and matches like this are why. Harassment vs galaxyPunch was a title showdown, a good one at that, and also one that understood that two metal belts being on the line doesn’t mean the laughs should be left at the door.
Now, that shouldn’t be a surprise, Sakura Hirota was involved, but I think there are a lot of wrestlers who have a mental split between comedy stuff and serious stuff. If they’re in an undercard opener, they can mess around and have a lovely old time, but when they’re nudged to the top of the card, that all gets put to one side. For these four, however, getting laughs is yet another tool in their arsenal. One that didn’t take away from the battle for the belts but aided it, making it all the more enjoyable.
Of course, I’m not trying to suggest that every title match needs to be funny. They don’t, and I wouldn’t want them to be, but at the same time, I don’t think every single one needs to be deadly serious. This match, and WAVE as a company, get that, and it’s a big part of what’s drawn me to them this year.
If ever a moment has summed up a wrestling match, it’s the one in this where Chris Brookes picks up two sticks, holds them next to his head like antlers, and charges at his opponents. Beautiful, perfect nonsense.
And it also captured what made this brilliant. It didn’t feel like a professional production or even something DDT had much of a say in. Instead, there was a whiff of these two teams having a few beers, nicking some cameras, roping a few production people in (plus Shota to ref) and heading down the park for a wee scrap. It’s soundtracked as much by their giggling as it is anyone bothering to sell the silliness they inflict on each other.
It all ended up being perfect proof of why companies like DDT are so important. They’re willing to let people do this stuff, even if there is no real end game to it. The fact that everyone involved, and those who end up watching it on YouTube, had a good time is enough. It’s why even now (when I’ve fallen off keeping up with what they’re doing), I will always be glad of their existence and the brilliant idiots who are willing to take advantage of it.
Have I ever mentioned that I’m a big fan of these two? Because I am a massive fan of these two.
You can shove your thirty-minute epics up your arse because Ai and Oka in a scrappy sub-nine minute match in which Ai gets lost under the ring is everything I want from wrestling. These two just get it. It’s one of those situations where I don’t entirely know what it is, but they have it in abundance at this ridiculously early stage in their careers. It’s in Ai’s dogged determination that would have her headbutt her way through a brick wall and in Oka’s assurance that goes far beyond her years. They haven’t been doing this long, but they’re already fully rounded characters, and while not everything they try works perfectly, that only adds to my enjoyment. We’re watching them figure it out, and isn’t that a massive part of what makes wrestling great? Ai and Oka feel like the future, but we’ve got them now, and I am having the best time watching them do their thing.
When I finished writing up my review of RE:BORN, I decided that it would be the last time I would ever mention Ice Ribbon going through a rough period and needing to rebuild after the exodus of talent at the end of last year. That’s not because that’s stopped being true (it hasn’t), but because the more I watch, the more I realise that it doesn’t matter anymore. Because in the absence of Suzu, Risa and co, we’re seeing the likes of Asahi and Kaho Matsushita step up to the plate. Kaho only made her debut in November, while Asahi has spent as much of her career not wrestling as she has in the ring, but those two are already a formidable wee team. Okay, maybe not on galaxyPunch’s level yet, but at least able to bloody their noses. If they’ve already got to that point, how far are they going to go?
They’re not alone either. Saran is showing potential, Yuuki’s a genius, Nao’s improvement is relentless, Ibuki is growing into her role as a tag champion, and Maika had one of the best matches of her career with Tsukushi in the main event. So yes, there are holes in the Ice Ribbon roster, but there is a lot of potential bustling around, too, trying to be the one that fills them. It might be different to what it was before, but it’s no less exciting.