Six beautiful years of Marvelous. Okay, I haven’t been there since the start, but everything I’ve seen is beautiful, so I’m willing to bet the rest is too. They celebrated their birthday in Korakuen Hall by crowing a new era of AAAW tag-team champions, so their seventh year was getting off to an exciting start.
You can tell it’s a big show because Chig splashed out to get an idol group in to kick things off. Sadly, I couldn’t make out their name (if you’re more up on these things than I am, let me know in the comments), but I enjoyed them. They seemed very pleasant.
Shigehiro Irie & Shoki Kitamura defeated Leo Isaka & Junya Matsunaga
Irie is someone who, at a particular time in my wrestling fandom, I probably used to see at least once a week. Nowadays, I probably see him once a year. Still, he’s a decent guest to bring in alongside the ZERO1 lads Matsunaga and Kitamura.
As you’d expect from a tag opener, they kept this short and worked the whole thing at a decent pace. There wasn’t an attempt to do anything complex, as everyone just focused on being entertaining and warming the fans up, and in that sense, I think it was a success. In fact, I’d say the final few minutes verged on overdelivering as Irie and Isaka went one-on-one and looked good together. Even Leo slightly mucking up an attempted counter didn’t ruin their flow as they meshed well.
In the end, Irie demolished young Leo with some brutal-looking lariats to finish off a solid opener. Like most Leo matches, it’s probably not essential, but I had a fine enough time with it.
Chikayo Nagashima, Makoto & Ancham defeated Miyako Matsumoto, Yurika Oka & Ai Hozan
I’m not saying Marvelous are catering purely to my tastes, but pairing Miyacoco with Mystic Young Fox won’t stop the rumours. Everyone’s favourite psychotic idol was in great form here, providing her usual blend of chaotic nonsense. It appeared to be rubbing off on Ai and Oka, who happily joined in on an extended stompy train on Makoto, complete with a Miyacoco pose at the end. I guess when you’ve had Nagashima marching around with a toilet brush, making you do a dance, meeting another weird veteran is par for the course.
Unsurprisingly, considering my love of them, Oka and Ai were my standouts. Forced to dance or not, that time working with Nagashima has paid off as they both meshed nicely with her, including a great home stretch from Ai. Oka and Makoto also showed some chemistry that I’d like to see explored more, Makoto bringing the best out of the youngster by trying to boot her in the face.
Throw in some Miyacoco nonsense (she spent most of her time in the ring with Nagashima screaming) and some reliably good work from Ancham, and this was an entertaining tag. It didn’t stand up to the best of the tag league, but as a fun romp, it was perfect.
Verdict: A Nice Time
Maria and Riko Kawahata fought to a time-limit draw
After these two fought to a draw at the Korakuen Anniversary Show, Maria declared that the next time she faced Kawahata, she’d get the job done in five minutes. Marvelous then stepped up, giving her a chance to show she’s not all talk, as we got the latest chapter in a rivalry that is already shaping up to be something special.
And while this match had a ten-minute time limit, Maria’s vow hung heavily over it (and not just because they’d shoved a big timer up on the screen). She was desperate to fulfil her promise and came out the gates hard, repeatedly booting Riko in the face before moving on to attack her leg. As the five-minute mark drew close, she got ever more desperate, diving into roll-ups before locking on an ever-tightening hold as the time ticked away. If anything, she perhaps got too into the clock. When the clock inevitably went past five, she let her frustration bubble over, letting go of the submission (which she had locked on in the centre of the ring) and returning angrily to her face booting tactic. Her attempt at an onslaught was always going to leave her open, and when Riko returned a kick in kind, we had a more even match on our hands.
That set us up for another frantic five minutes, as these two gave everything they had to one-up each other. Marvelous played into it, too, piping in music as the final minute ticked down, and while I’m not sure it was needed, it did add something to the tension of the moment as they gave their all. I found myself perched on the edge of my seat, nerves bubbling up as they threw themselves at each other, neither able to find the killing blow.
It was further proof that these two are brilliant together. Their feud already feels like it’s burning with competitive tension, and with neither willing to budge an inch, I only want to see more. Thankfully, so do they. In the aftermath, Maria had a proposal. Chigusa Nagayo and her vs Kawahata and Yumiko Hotta, an idea that appeared to catch her trainer off-guard. Thankfully, Maria wasn’t the only one who liked the plan and a whole room, including GAEA nerd Kawahata, quickly ganged up on Chig to make sure it happened. Fuck, that’s going to rule.
Takumi Iroha defeated Yuu to retain the AAAW Title
The theme of this match felt like it had been established in the opening lock-up. Yuu didn’t only manage to overpower Takumi and push her into the ropes but caused her to lose her footing, ending up underneath the bottom one and in danger of falling to the floor. With Yuu very much playing the challenger of the month, it felt like the perfect setup for her power to be a threat that Takumi would struggle to overcome.
And, to a certain extent, that was the case. Yuu being able to take the fight to Takumi in a way that no one else in Marvelous can was key, but I think it suffered from them not going far enough with it. Yes, Iroha couldn’t take her off her feet with shoulder blocks, and her first attempt to get her up for the Running Three ended badly, but I wanted it to be even tougher. Takumi sold her shock when Yuu kicked out at one after her first flurry of kicks, but I wanted her to look shocked because Yuu had shrugged them off and thrown her across the ring.
Which, if I’m honest, is a problem I have with a lot of Yuu’s single work. I think she’s close to being a brilliant wrestler but lacks a killer edge. She gives her opponents too much, letting them take her off her feet and match her with big moves rather than dominating them. Takumi would have lost nothing by momentarily looking powerless, especially as she eventually hit the Running Three and kept that belt around her waist.
Despite everything I just said, it is worth pointing out that this was good. Takumi and Yuu had a back and forth battle which the fans bought into, and even if I would have gone further with Yuu’s dominance, Takumi looked like a badass. I’m probably guilty of comparing the match to the one I wanted it to be rather than reviewing what we got, but hey, I’ve never claimed to be objective.
Verdict: Good, But Flawed
Rin Kadokura & Itsuki Aoki defeated Black Swallowtail (Kaoru Ito & Tomoko Watanabe) to win the AAAW Tag Team Titles
I won’t lie. I was a bit nervous about this coming in. Yes, I trust Marvelous and think moaning about booking is silly, but Rin and Itsuki have been the right option to win this tournament since day one (if we’re ignoring my massive bias towards Mystic Young Fox). The temptation to put the belts on two trusted veterans in Tomoko and Kaoru makes sense, but with how good they’ve been over the last few months, the Cool Needlefish and her loud pal deserved the win.
Thankfully, I needn’t have worried. Marvelous didn’t only put the belts on the right people but did so in a brilliantly structured match. From the start, this made sense, as Tomoko and Kaoru used their extra bulk and experience to control the action. They could isolate Rin and cut off any attempt from the younger wrestlers to build up a head of steam. However, as it went on, Rin and Itsuki got more and more chances. Their extra speed and endurance came to the fore as Black Swallowtail began to tire.
That tiring wasn’t only in kayfabe, and it led to a couple of sloppy moments like Kaoru stumbling while she pulled Rin up for a powerbomb, but thankfully, neither was hurt, and they recovered quickly. Plus, to focus on that would take away from how selfless the veterans were. There was no refusing to bump, as they did everything they could to carry their weight, Ito even taking an Avalanche Rana from Rin. Yes, they’re not as silky smooth as they once were, and Rin and Itsuki’s new assisted Crucifix finish perhaps didn’t come off 100% perfectly, but I’m more than happy to forgive that. Ito and Watanabe were in this match to put over the younger wrestlers, and they did that job well. Our first AAAW tag team champions in 17 years got their reign off to a good start.
Verdict: Brilliantly Done
As I’m sure everyone now knows, Rin wasn’t content with winning the titles and used her post-match to reveal she’s now married, an announcement that seemed to legit catch Itsuki off-guard. The news of the marriage was obviously warmly received, but the follow-up announcement that while her husband isn’t a wrestler her mother-in-law is Akira Hokuto, caused the crowd to break the no noise rule. All the best to Mr and Mrs Cool Needlefish whose future children have the potential to be scarily talented.
That was an interesting Korakuen from Marvelous. On the one hand, I think the highlight from an in-ring point of view was Maria vs Riko, as neither title match blew me away. However, I wouldn’t let that stop me from recommending them. I reckon some people will get more from Yuu vs Takumi than I did, and while the main wasn’t a match of the year contender, I think it was what it needed to be. So, all things considered, it still gets two thumbs up from me.