Day two of Marvelous’s trip to Hokkaido was the big one, with the main event seeing Rin Kadokura and Itsuki Aoki defend their AAAW Tag Titles for the first time. Would they be able to hold onto the belts? Or would the young team of Riko Kawahata and Maria pull off the upset? Let’s find out.
SAKI defeated Chikayo Nagashia and Chie Ozora in a three-way
Poor Chie learnt a few valuable lessons in this one, but mainly that you shouldn’t trust anyone. She was such an innocent wee rookie, happily teaming up with Nagashima only to be betrayed at the first opportunity and constantly finding her good work being taken advantage of by one of her two seniors. She battled away valiantly but got nowhere.
Not that I was complaining too much, as it was nice to see SAKI get the win. On the previous show, I complained that Marvelous were a tad quick to have Takumi pin her, so I was pleased to see her getting a bit of shine, even if it was pinning a rookie in the opener. SAKI and COLOR’S have been a joy to watch this year, and with Marvelous somewhat lacking in numbers, booking them to be a force isn’t a bad idea.
Anyway, that’s big picture stuff, and in the here and now, this was a pleasant opener. It wasn’t particularly memorable or spectacular, but it bounced along at a decent pace and generated a few smiles, so I can’t complain too much.
Leo Isaka defeated Noriyuki Yoshida
Having faced off with Yoshida the day before, I was intrigued to see what Leo had learnt. On that show, he was chopped to shit by the bigger man, and for this match to be a success, I wanted proof that he’d gone away and come up with a game plan.
And I got it. This time, Leo flew out the blocks, determined not to let Noriyuki bring his superior strength to the fore. Within minutes, he was coming off the top with a Swanton, trying to stun his opponent and sneak out with the victory. It didn’t work as Yoshida did eventually take control, but then Isaka changed tack again, bundling him up for the three.
I liked this a lot, not because it was a particularly great match (it was alright), but because it showed progression. Leo and Yoshida treated these two encounters like a mini-series, and Leo’s delight at getting the win (he was so excited he fell off the turnbuckle while celebrating) was infectious. They made what could have been an issue, having two matches in two days, a strength, and that’s some damn fine wrestling.
Verdict: Good Stuff
Tomoko Watanabe defeated Yurika Oka
Oka started this match in classic rookie fashion by bundling Tomoko up in a series of pins, clearly forgetting that Watanabe was on her holidays and wanted to take things a bit easy. When she finally got away from the persistent rookie, the veteran gave a contrite Yurika a talking to before taking a seat on the bottom rope to have a sip of water. At that point, Oka revealed she might have been faking that contrition because she dropkicked Watanabe off the bottom rope and down to the floor.
And if you want me to love something, basing it around a cocky wee menace getting on the nerves of a grumpy veteran is a great way to start. At one point, Tomoko chased Yurika backstage, only for the two of them to return with Oka somehow dragging Watanabe by her hair, causing me to start giggling with glee. It was a match in which Tomoko allowed the joke to be firmly on her (even if she did win), and Oka relished the chance to make it so.
In the end, the only way Tomoko could get Yurika to stop was with pure power, a fast and hard Lariat doing the job of swatting the pest. Still, this was a shitload of fun and made Oka look great while being so.
Takumi Iroha defeated Ai Houzan
With Oka having done the persistent pest thing, I was intrigued to see what Ai and Takumi had planned. Would they have a similar match or try and do something completely different?
Well, they went for answer number two. The one piece of advice you hear veterans wrestlers dish out more than any other is ‘slow down, kid’, and this match was basically that in physical form. Ai kept trying to buzz into action, even attacking Iroha before the bell, but Takumi was a soothing presence, stepping to one side or smacking her to the ground. She refused to let Houzan unleash the pest, and while I love watching pest Ai, it was exciting to see her taken out of her comfort zone.
Mainly because I think she did a fantastic job with it. When her bluster proved ineffective, we got to see Ai do things we’d never seen before. There was the leg kick she threw that was hard enough to catch Takumi off-guard or the moment she was trapped in a Single-Leg Crab, screaming in agony as she dragged herself to the ropes, willed on by an audience who believed in her pain. For all that I love rookie bluster, you eventually need more than that, and this gave us hints of the wrestler Houzan can be.
Plus, when push came to shove, we still got that Ai defiance as she refused to die, throwing forearms and screaming bloody murder even as the world knew she was a goner. She forced Takumi to pull out the big guns to finish her off, kicking out of head kicks, escaping sleepers and eventually getting put to bed with a Liger Bomb. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but that lass is going places, and I can’t wait to watch it happen.
Verdict: Fuck Yes!
Rin Kadokura & Itsuki Aoki defeated Maria & Riko Kawahata to retain the AAAW Tag Titles
Realistically, there was no chance of Maria and Riko winning the belts. Rin and Itsuki were on their first defence, facing a young team with less than a handful of matches. To make the switch would have been a brave move, so it was unlikely to happen, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be great. It was up to Maria and Riko to make me forget all logic.
And to begin with, I thought they were struggling. It wasn’t that there was anything wrong with the match, it was trundling along nicely, but I didn’t get any sense of what the challengers were bringing to the table as everything felt a bit by the numbers. However, the deeper into this we got, the more they hooked me. Riko and Maria were at their best when things got a bit chaotic, allowing them to catch the champs off-guard and open up the tiny opportunities that felt likely to produce an upset. The more frantic the action, the more I was hooked.
I think part of that was also down to Aoki and Kadokura. Unlike Iroha, who, as the company Ace, feels fairly unbeatable, they can be pinned. The flurries of roll-ups and Maria’s submissions felt dangerous because Rin and Itsuki have allowed them to be so, and they sold it all well. In fact, by the end, you got the impression that Itsuki was desperate to put the action away, a touch of panic escaping to the surface.
With all that in mind, it has to go down as a solid first defence from the champs. However, it’s also worth saying that these teams still have space to grow. If we give them another six months together, I reckon they’d run laps around this one.
Verdict: Very Good, But Could Be Even Better
As predicted, if you were picking one of these shows to watch, night two was the better pick. Not only did it have a strong main event, but Ai vs Takumi was brilliant, and I got a lot of Oka vs Watanabe, too. Marvelous’s trip north goes down as a success, and if they want to do a few more double-headers, I’ll be right there watching along.