At the end of my last Ice Ribbon review, I promised that I would stop talking about the transitional period the company was in. Of course, since then, Tsukushi has announced her retirement, and I got a fright when I glanced at Twitter in the pub on Friday and thought Tsukka was following her. Thankfully, that’s not the case, as she’s simply taking some time off to enjoy married life, but it would be nice if Ice Ribbon could have a quiet period. Anyway, no matter who is coming or going, the wrestling continues, and they were in Korakuen over the weekend, which is nearly always a good time.
Before the show, Tae Honma announced that she’ll be making her return on the May 4th Yokohama Budokan show, and that’s the kind of news I can get on board with. She’s been out a fair old time, so it will be great to have her back.
Saori Anou & Maika Ozaki defeated Ram Kaicho & Saran
Saran is already basically the same height as Ram, which tickles me. Maybe in a few years, when she overtakes Kaicho and hits her rebellious teen stage, they can form a wee goth, big goth partnership.
Talking of Saran, she’s been a highlight of recent Club Ice Ribbon shows and continued that into this match. She and Anou were a brilliant combination, Saori’s arrogant bullying at the start almost seeing her walk into trouble when Saran caught her off-guard. They danced around the potential banana skins well, Saran flying into roll-up after roll-up before a lovely moment where she kicked out of a suplex, and you could see she’d earned Anou’s respect.
It was the centrepiece of a fun opener that didn’t overstay its welcome and gave everyone a chance to do their thing. Saran aside, there wasn’t a lot memorable about it, but what she did was good enough for that not to matter.
Verdict: Future Big Goth Impresses
Rina Yamashita defeated Kaho Matsushita
Talking of talented young Ice Ribbon wrestlers, here’s Kaho. It’s wild that she’s only been doing this for a few months, as she already feels like someone you can trust to put on a solid match. That’s doubly true when you get her in there with Rina Yamashita, who would probably be able to drag a plastic bag of socks to an impressive outing.
And before we get onto Kaho, I do want to talk about Rina. Someone mistakenly reported that she was injured recently, and my first thought was just how many promotions that would be a pain in the arse for. She’s become one of those freelancers that every scene needs as she can be dropped in anywhere, be it SEAd or ChocoPro, and relied on to be brilliant. Unsurprisingly, that was true in this match, too, as she played the perfect badass veteran for Kaho to attempt to overcome.
And there are specific beats that a match like that has to hit, but as I’ve said before, they’re beats I’m a sucker for. I love watching rookies throw themselves at an impossible challenge, desperate to prove themselves but never standing a chance of getting the win. Kaho sold me on that desperation, showing the fire I wanted from her before eventually being picked off by the more experienced Rina. She even gave us a little bit of attitude in the aftermath, slapping away Yamashita’s hand and showing that she’s not going to be satisfied until she wins. With how her career’s going, it might happen sooner than anyone would have expected.
Verdict: Good Stuff
COLORS (Hikari Shimizu & Yuko Sakurai) defeated Cherry & Kiku and Ibuki Hoshi & Asahi in a three-way tag
Yuko has added some tartan to her gear (it’s possibly not new, but I haven’t seen it before) so she can officially join Pom Harajuku in being an honorary Scot. Welcome to the gang! We meet on Tuesdays.
I always enjoy these matches a lot more when people attempt to come up with inventive ways to keep everyone involved. It doesn’t matter if they don’t quite work. The effort is enough to keep me on their side. There was plenty of that here, with Cherry, in particular, tying people up in interesting ways. Then, when the action sped up, it felt like we had a constant flurry of people sliding in and out of the ring, keeping the pace up and the fun with it.
It also had a lot of people I’ve been really enjoying recently. Asahi and Ibuki are at the top of the current pile of young Ice Ribbon wrestlers, Shimizu is brilliant, Sakurai’s career has been on a steady upward trajectory, Cherry is always a joy, and Kiku has really improved since being paired up with the veteran. The match itself probably wasn’t anything spectacular, but when there is that many wrestlers you like involved, it’s hard not to have a good time.
Verdict: I Had Fun
Totoro Satsuki defeated Rina Amikura
I think this was my favourite Totoro match in a fair old while. Thanks to her placing in the Ice Ribbon pecking order, she doesn’t always get to play to her strengths. However, in there with Rina, this was a chance for her to be the more dominant party, showing some real powerhouse confidence. The fact it was against someone who also leans towards that hoss style only made it more effective.
It’s also not to say this was a one-sided affair. Having just praised Sakurai’s steady improvement, it’s worth saying Amikura has followed a similar trajectory. She’s an incredibly entertaining wrestler, and where Totoro exuded confident power, Rina brought a more chaotic blend to her performance. She felt like the less experienced wrestler (although there isn’t that much between them), barging her way into the moments she was given before finally being brought down with a thump.
That made this some of the best work I’ve seen from these two. They gave us a big old hoss fight, but with some subtle touches, weaved into the narrative. It earned them two thumbs up from me.
Verdict: Great Stuff!
Yuuki Mashiro defeated Riko Kaiju and Nao Ishikawa to retain the Triangle Ribbon Title
Seeing Ice Ribbon and SEAd rookies in the same match fascinates me. Yes, the two companies work together a lot, but their DNA is radically different, so I’m always intrigued to see them combine. How would the hard-hitting Kaiju fare against the erratic weirdness of Yuuki and Nao?
Well, the answer was pretty damn well. This did get scrappy at times, but never to an extent where it bothered me. In fact, I quite like a scrappy three-way, as it feels a lot more real than any series of flawless combinations. However, what really made it work was finding common ground between those two styles as Rico’s attempts to batter her way through her opponents came up against their more tricksy plans to roll her up and sneak away with the win. Each wrestler managed to play to their strengths without diminishing those around them.
It also continued whatever is going on with Yuuki at the moment. Having seemingly been confused by her winning of the Triangle title, her first successful defence generated only anger, stomping across Ishikawa like she wasn’t there and trying to continue the fight with Kaiju. Tsukka has challenged her to show more fire, which certainly seems to be happening, but I’m intrigued as to how it shapes her development. I am happy for our Gacha King to step up, but I also want her to remain the weirdo she is at heart.
Anyway, this was a good match from three talented young wrestlers. With Ice Ribbon and SEAd’s relationship seemingly only getting stronger, I want to see this kind of thing happen as often as possible, as these rookies rubbing off on each other can only be a good thing.
Verdict: An Angry Gacha King
Muscle Venus (Tsukasa Fujimoto & Hikaru Shida) defeated Makoto & Hamuko Hoshi
After four years away, Hikaru Shida is back in an Ice Ribbon ring, and she’s celebrating by getting the band together. While this isn’t a match made up of people who have been there since day one, it’s probably as close as you can get without Tsukka and Emi having a long chat.
And this felt a lot like the first tour of a band that had just reunited. It was all about playing the hits because, quite frankly, Shida and Tsukka haven’t had a chance to write any new material, and no one wants to hear it if they have. Of course, it would be different if Shida were back for good, but this was a flying visit, so it was all about keeping the people happy.
That’s also not to suggest that it was entirely light and fluffy. People like Fujimoto and Makoto don’t know how to play softly, and I actually thought Ham put on a great show, grabbing her chance well. It’s more just that this wasn’t designed to be a big match of the year style tag. Instead, they went out to have a fun time, celebrating Shida making a momentary return and leaving everyone with a smile. There ain’t nothing wrong with that, and while it’s probably not one I’ll ever go back to, I enjoyed it while it was on.
Verdict: A Nice Time
Tsukushi Haruka defeated SAKI to retain the ICExInfinity Title
The announcement of Tsukushi’s upcoming retirement added an interesting wrinkle to this match. Before that, I was looking forward to it, but I would have bet my house on Haruka retaining. However, with the knowledge that she’s now going to have to drop that belt eventually, the inkling of a possibility started to grow in my head. Could SAKI pull off the upset?
Well, no, but this was still a fantastic showing. In fact, I thought it was a near-perfect sequel to Tsukushi’s defence against Maika Ozaki. SAKI is an underrated powerhouse, so like Maika, she was able to dominate the champ physically. However, the difference between her and Ozaki is that SAKI is also willing to be a bastard. She was more than willing to drag a boot across Tsukushi’s face or stamp on the back of her head, which is generally Haruka’s domain. So she not only had to deal with a powerhouse but one who was as big a prick as her (meant in the nicest possible sense of the word).
How did she do it? Well, incredible skill, that’s how. This came down to Tsukushi just being too good. Yes, SAKI controlled a lot of the action, but when the champ did attack, it was lethal. Her dropkick in the ropes had so much momentum to it that she rolled out to the floor while she also delivered a hell of a headbutt while they were perched on the turnbuckle. Tsukushi doesn’t need one particular thing to beat an opponent because she’s so damn good that her bag of tricks is neverending.
It all made for a hell of a main event and further proof that Tsukushi is one of the very best right now. I’m going to miss her a lot when she goes, but at least we all get a little longer to appreciate her before she does.
Verdict: Tsukushi Supremacy
After the match, Totoro popped up with a lariat for the champ. She then laid down an emotional challenge for their upcoming show in Osaka, and after her performance on this card, she deserves it. We also got the retirement ceremony of referee Hifumi Saito, who was presented with some presents and a chance to talk to the crowd.
It doesn’t matter what announcements come out of Ice Ribbon, the actual wrestling never stops being good. This was an enjoyable show that highlighted how many talented young wrestlers they have. It might look slightly different than expected, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. In fact, it’s great.
Watch Ice Ribbon on niconico: https://ch.nicovideo.jp/iceribbon
Or become a member of Club Ice Ribbon: https://www.youtube.com/user/iceribbon/featured.