It’s worth mentioning at the start (mainly so I don’t have to keep repeating it throughout) that Marvelous had some technical problems on this show. That meant the video quality was a bit dodgy, and matches occasionally skipped ahead a few seconds or went into fast-forward as they tried to catch up. It wasn’t enough to make it unwatchable, at least for me, but your mileage may vary. Anyway, that aside, this looked like a stacked card on paper, so let’s see what went down.
Ayame Sasamura defeated Ai Houzan
Anyone who has read one of my Marvelous reviews before will be able to have a decent stab at how I felt about our opener. If you cast Ai Houzan as a plucky rookie and get her to show more fire than sense, I will probably give you a positive review. Few things in life are better than watching Ai scream as she desperately throws herself into a move, and they gave me plenty of that.
However, this wasn’t solely the Ai show, and it’s probably time to give Sasamura some credit. She’s an almost ever-present fixture in the joshi scene, popping up all over the place, which makes it easy to take her for granted. That’s unfair, though, because it’s rare that Ayame lets you down. Whether being a pest with Mio or hammering Ai with forearms, she can be relied on to be good at the very least, and she’s often better than that.
And this match was a perfect example of why. Ai’s fiery performance was the flashy one, but Ayame decided when to let her loose and to cut her off, and she nailed that. She’s also key to convincing the world that Houzan has a chance, and while I never believed she’d win, I also didn’t feel like she stood no chance, which was enough for me.
Verdict: Preaching To The Converted
Kenta Hattori defeated Leo Isaka
Kenta Hattori is one of wrestling’s many ninjas and a Japanese indie guy with a very sparse Cagematch page (which suggests he’s mainly working in small companies). Still, he has a catchy theme and a likeable demeanour, which had me hoping I’d enjoy his work.
And on the whole, I did. Everything started amicably, but a chop exchange in front of each section of the crowd upped the violence. From there, Hattori’s kindly nature drifted away, and things began to develop a bit of edge. As with most Leo matches, it wasn’t enough to turn it into an instant classic, but it allowed Isaka to work from underneath, and Hattori proved he’s more than just a catchy tune.
The bridging German that got the win was a nice cherry on top, as it looked great, and this was a decent time. It’s nothing you need to see, but if we were ranking Leo matches, it would at least make the upper middle section.
Verdict: A Nice Time
Tomoko Watanabe defeated Momoka Hanzono
Have you ever had a nickname that you hated? Because I think Tomoko picked one up in this match. Not long into it, Momoka clambered onto her stomach, made herself comfy and called her Totoro. At that moment, Watanabe made the worst mistake you can make, lashing out in anger, and just like that, she’d earned herself a new name. One which Chigusa (in particular) was only too happy to help get over.
That was one moment of many in the latest example of Momoka Hanazono popping up somewhere, being a massive pest and winning everyone’s heart. Not only did we end up with all the seconds at ringside chanting Totoro, but poor Tomoko got driven to literally chase her around the ring, eventually falling on top of her when they both ran out of breath. It was pure Tom & Jerry, as they did a fantastic job selling the physical comedy.
And while this is what Momoka does, it’s worth pointing out that Tomoko fully embraced being the punchline. She doesn’t have to do this stuff, but she throws herself into it with gusto, accepting the role of the grumpy veteran being driven up the wall by an enthusiastic youngster. It’s one she excels in, too, proving the perfect foil to Momoka’s nonsense. Together they delivered a match that had me grinning from ear to ear, and I suspect this is one I will be returning to more than once over the next few months.
Rin Kadokura & Ituski Aoki defeated Nippon Ganbare Union (Yuna Manase & YuuRI)
Manase and Itsuki embraced their inner hoss in the semi-main, having a lovely time bouncing off each other and exchanging big blows, which left me wanting a singles match.
Outside of individual encounters, this was between two teams who have honed their shtick. That’s particularly true for Manase and YuuRI, who have nailed their veteran-and-rookie double act. I’ve said it before, but I don’t think many people are better at drawing sympathy than YuuRI, who has an innate talent for being beaten up. When you combine that with Manase’s unending well of passion, they’re always a fun team to watch.
The match also made me happy because it was proof that the pairing of Rin and Itsuki won’t be going anywhere after losing the belts. Not only did they get a win, but they showed why they should stick together, as they always bring the best out of each other. I’m not suggesting that either gives up on singles action (Marvelous don’t have enough wrestlers for that), but let’s hope they continue to come together as a team whenever the opportunity presents itself. Plus, the matches are always at least decent, and this wasn’t the exception to that rule.
Verdict: Good Stuff All-Round
Takumi Iroha, Mio Momono & Chikayo Nagashima defeated Maya Yukihi, Maria & Riko Kawahata
I love that Maria’s response to Mio coming back has been: ‘fuck you, I’ve worked my arse off while you were injured, and you’re not walking past me.’ Every time the two of them get in the ring right now, there is a frisson of tension in the air, generally expressed through them throwing each other about by their hair. Fingers crossed that it leads to a single match on a Korakuen because I think they have the potential to put on something special.
Another pairing that I liked the look of was Yukihi and Takumi, who grabbed the opportunity to start teeing off on each other with kicks. Maya hadn’t appeared in Marvelous for a while, but with her now working freelance, one would hope this becomes a more regular occurrence, and she’d be the perfect person to build to a title shot. Perhaps less likely to get a shot at the belt anytime soon is Riko. However, she and Takumi still looked great together (although the technical problems were particularly bad for their section), and I’d like to see them get a few more chances to boogie.
Honestly, though, there was nothing about this match that wasn’t good. At the start, I thought everyone might be taking it easy, and I wouldn’t have blamed them if they had, but as it went on, the action started to fly up the gears, and it turned into a bit of a banger. Not that I’m surprised. These six are stupidly talented, so it would have been more surprising if they didn’t have a good match. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case, and if you can deal with the dodgy quality, this is well worth a watch.
Verdict: Great Stuff
The show wasn’t over yet, as one Unagi Sayaka made her way out to get in Takumi’s face. Unfortunately, she hadn’t accounted for the rest of the Marvelous roster refusing to let her go straight to the top. Ai would make her case the loudest, and they’ll be going head-to-head later this month in Shinkiba, a match I’m already excited for.
Technical issues aside, that was a great show. Tomoko vs Momoka has a decent shot at being one of my matches of the year, and both the opener and the main event were great too. Throw in a solid Leo match and a fun tag in the semi-main spot, and everyone is going home happy.