Marvelous had zero luck coming into this show. A few days before, Chigusa Nagayo tested positive for COVID, taking her out of the cross-generational tag match they’d been building up to for a few months and preventing her from being at KAORU’s retirement. Then, to add a bit of sting to that kick, Rin Kadokura and Ai Houzan were also pinged, sending Marvelous into Korakuen with a depleted roster. However, with injury already putting KAORU’s retirement off for a year, the show must go on, and they were determined to see her out in style!
Mio Momono, Ayame Sasamura & Kyusei Ninja Ranmaru defeated Tomoko Watanabe, Yuu & Hibiscus Mii in an Elimination Match
With Ranmaru and Mii in the ring, you always know that the nonsense had the potential to flow, and it quickly did. Mii was singing, Ranmaru was stopping time, and it wasn’t long till everyone else decided they couldn’t be bothered with their antics. With Mii’s teammates happy to leave her to it, Mio eliminated her mid-song. Then, not long after, Sasamura and Momono got fed up with Ranmaru bossing them around and were more than happy to feed her to the wolf that is a Yuu lariat. It was a fun way to structure the match as we got a taste of the silly before getting down to business.
And when we did get serious, this was a cracking time. With Mio and Sasamura working as the rapid underdogs against the tank-like Watanabe and Yuu, it had a natural flow that they played off well. When the action was quick, Mio and Ayame were on the front foot, but the second Yuu got her hands on them, they were in trouble, as she was quite capable of launching Mio at her partner. When Yuu took Sasamura out, it seemed like she would be too big a mountain for even Mio to clamber over. However, only a fool underestimates Momono as she bundled her over the top to leave herself one-on-one with Tomoko.
It turned out to be a hell of a pairing, as Mio was extraordinary, putting together a frantic piece of wrestling that hid the fact Tomoko’s days of going at that pace are generally behind her. It was a thrilling conclusion that convinced me both were about to pick up the win on more than one occasion. It also meant this match had a bit of everything: comedy, hosses chucking folk around and an exhilarating final act. That’s a hell of a way to kick off a show.
Verdict: A Lovely Old Time
Shigehiro Irie defeated Leo Isaka
Leo is at his best when he’s up against someone who will bully him, making Irie a perfect opponent. Sure, he’s a big cuddly Winnie the Pooh lover behind the scenes, but Big Shig has a monster side, and he was more than happy to try and flatten Isaka.
Credit also has to go to Leo for selling the hell out of that beating. He bumped his ass off for Irie, making him look like a badass which, in turn, made those firey comebacks all the more impressive. He might have eventually lost, but he showed a lot of fight, getting off a few big high-flying hits (including a spectacular counter to a pop-up Samoan Drop) and feeling like he’d put up more of a battle than anyone could have expected.
Unfortunately, Irie was too strong a tank for him to overcome, as some incredible powerhouse moves (including a Cannonball while Isaka was lying against the ropes) put Leo down. Still, this was up with some of the best Leo matches and is one that I might even recommend going out of your way to see, which is not something I say often.
Verdict: A Top Tier Leo Match
Maria defeated Riko Kawahata
As sad as I was that we weren’t getting the tag match with Hotta and Chig, Maria and Riko are a fantastic pairing, so this was a strong replacement. There was also no need to worry that their time teaming as Magenta had taken the sting out of their rivalry as Maria used the handshake to pull Riko straight into an armbar.
That was a relief as the kernel of hate at the centre of this feud is key to making it tick. They appear to be good friends outside of the ring, but when they’re facing off, these two go hard, delivering kicks and forearms with added crunch. Being two people at similar stages in their careers, it looks like they’re desperate to prove themselves the better wrestler, and becoming a great tag team has done nothing to dull that. With all three of their previous matches going to a draw, there were a lot of bragging points to be gained by pulling ahead.
And Maria ultimately did so by dropping Riko on her head with a vicious Michinoku Driver. She was willing to be that bit more violent, and while you’d think that might put a dent in the friendship, she still pulled her partner to her feet afterwards, the two sharing the fist bump of no hard feelings. They’ll go back to being Magenta, but I suspect this won’t be the last time we see them fight (plus, fingers crossed that tag is re-arranged), and I’m already excited for round five.
Verdict: Great Stuff
Takumi Iroha defeated Itsuki Aoki to retain the AAAW Title
Takumi changed this to a title match in the ring, but with Itsuki making her entrance flanked by dancers and Iroha upgrading to two guitarists, it wasn’t the biggest shock in the world. Still, whether they played their hand a bit early or not, it was a decent way to make up for the tag titles not being around because of Rin’s positive COVID test.
The one downside was that it seemed unlikely Iroha was about to drop the title in a match put together at the last minute. Itsuki’s brilliant and, as a tag-champ, is a worthy challenger, but the last-minute nature of it meant she didn’t feel like a huge threat. If this match was going to get over big, it either had to make me forget that or be so good that I didn’t care about the lack of tension.
They tried to do that by having Itsuki go all Rika Tatsumi and attack the leg, which is a pretty solid way to do it. I thought she was good here, doing an impressive job of trying to take Iroha’s base from underneath her. I also think Takumi did a decent job on the selling front. There were a couple of moments where she left it behind, moving a bit too freely, but she never forgot it, and you can buy flurries of offence being a by-product of adrenaline.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite enough to get me hooked. I enjoyed it, and if it hadn’t been for the title, I might have bitten on the Figure Four or one of Itsuki’s near falls towards the end, but as it was, I never got caught up in it. That’s not to say it was shite, it wasn’t, but that it will go down as a very good match rather than an incredible one. Still, that’s never something to turn your nose up at, and it was cool to see Itsuki get a chance to have that big title showdown and trade blows with Takumi. If nothing else, this was an excellent performance from Aoki that proved this shouldn’t be her last shot at that belt.
Verdict: Still A Very Good Match
Team Marvelous (Takumi Iroha, Mio Momono, Maria & Leo Isaka) defeated W-FIX (KAORU, DASH Chisako, Chikayo Nagashima & Megumi Yabushita) in KAORU’s retirement match
Our main event was everything a retirement match should be as they delivered a glorious clusterfuck in which KAORU got one last chance to mess around with her friends via a combination of violence and fun. We got W-FIX shenanigans, KAORU leaving her mark on the ring before she left, and Mio kicking a panda in the balls. In short, it was what someone with KAORU’s CV deserved.
And what a CV it is. There are better people than me to break it down, but thirty-six years across AJW, GAEA, Oz, Marvelous and countless others. Cagematch has her down as having a touch over a thousand matches, but considering how dodgy their records are with older joshi (and current-day Marvelous), there will be a fair old chunk on top of that. KAORU has been around for the ups and the downs and has been consistently awesome throughout them all.
Fittingly, this beautiful clusterfuck ended with Takumi hitting the Running Three, making sure Chig was at least there in spirit. Then, in the aftermath, everyone piled on for a hug as the tears started to flow. As someone prone to crying at the drop of a hat, it wasn’t long till I joined them even as ‘Meiko Satomura’ came out, looking just a little like Hirota in cosplay. She wasn’t alone either, as the rest of the WAVE roster joined her (sadly, Cohaku wasn’t there), and Miyazaki grabbed one last chance to put KAORU in the Super Shy Hold. It was nothing if not tasteful.
Most importantly, you could feel the love in that room, and everything else kind of pales in comparison to that. From younger wrestlers like Maria and Mio to old hands like Tomoko, everyone clearly adores KAORU, so even if she hadn’t left behind countless great matches and moments, she’d have still done alright. It’s safe to say she was brilliant, and I’ll miss her a lot.
Verdict: I Miss Her Already
Their luck might not have been great coming into this show, but Marvelous still delivered. A great opener, Irie bringing the best out of Leo, Maria and Riko continued their streak of great matches, and (even if I had some slight issues with it) Itsuki and Takumi delivered a showdown worthy of the title. Most importantly, they saw KAORU off in style, seeing out an extraordinary career with a brilliant main event and a beautiful retirement ceremony. She’ll be missed, but she’s left one hell of a legacy behind her.