Marvelous’s latest trip to Shin-Kiba was a sneakily big show for them. With Unagi Sayaka making her debut for the company (having turned up at the last event to assess Takumi Iroha), there was every chance there would be a few new eyes on the product. Could they do enough to keep them around? Let’s find out.
Before the show, Takumi Iroha and Chigusa Nagayo chatted with the crowd, letting them know they were allowed to make noise and leading them in a couple of chants. Chig hasn’t been able to indulge in her stand-up sets recently, what with COVID and all, but she always does a brilliant job of warming her doting fans up.
Itsuki Aoki defeated Maria
Itsuki Aoki appeared to be in a good mood, messing around and taking delight in Maria agreeing to shake her hand. To begin with, Maria seemed happy to go along with that, popping the fluffy Halloween ears she’d worn to the ring on Itsuki’s head and starting to relax. However, when Aoki used a second handshake to try to roll her up, that mood changed, and as she stalled outside the ring, Maria grabbed the opportunity to boot her in the head.
That start felt like a natural extension of Maria’s recent levelling up. Someone like Itsuki still doesn’t view her as a threat and goes into matches with her expecting to have fun and pick up a relatively comfortable win. Maria has different ideas. She might not be racking up victories, but there is a sense that she is picking up momentum and is on the brink of getting that first massive result. There was no chance she would let Itsuki have a chill afternoon, and there were points where she looked on the verge of pulling off the upset.
Even her defeat didn’t come easily, Itsuki hitting a stiff lariat out of nowhere and barely managing to hold a struggling Maria to the mat for a three. Both the quickness of the move and the nature of the pin made it feel like she’d caught Maria off-guard, taking advantage of being that little more experienced. Her defeated foe felt similar, as she remonstrated with Referee Tommy afterwards and gave Itsuki a few more digs when she tried to for another handshake. Still, while it was another frustrating afternoon for her, it was also a good match, and Maria is getting closer to taking those next steps.
Verdict: She’s Getting There!
Leo Isaka defeated Takumi Saito
Honestly, I don’t have a lot to say about this. Takumi Saito is a Heat-Up rookie, and like most people who come out of TAMURA’s company, he looked decent. However, he didn’t have enough personality or talent to make this anything special. As with most Leo matches, there was nothing awful about it (although the long forearm exchange in the middle was unneeded), but there also wasn’t anything to get me invested. It was a solid match, nothing more, nothing less.
Mio Momono & Riko Kawahata defeated Tomoko Watanabe & Rin Kadokura
Mio gets the win! Having been struggling for form since her return from injury, the frantic final minutes of this match finally saw Momono get over that hump as she bundled Rin up for the three before leaping off in joy. It may not have been the most dominant victory ever, but they all count.
The match before that moment was also great, blending a nice mix of fun and serious action. Whether it was Riko laying into Rin with vicious-looking kicks or Tomoko continuing her habit of booting Mio in the shin at every opportunity, these four clicked together wonderfully. Of course, Mio being great with Tomoko and Rin is nothing new, but I was particularly impressed by Riko here. Kawahata has had a fantastic year, and she now looks at home in these matches. Sure, there was a little bit of miscommunication with Mio early on, but they were able to laugh that off, and Riko’s comfort in doing so is yet more proof of how she’s become a part of the extended-Marvelous family.
And I think comfort is the perfect word to describe this match. These four know each other well enough to relax and have fun together, which is comforting to watch. I spent the whole thing with a smile on my face and even did a wee cheer when Mio got her victory, so how could I ever complain about that?
Verdict: Very Enjoyable
Unagi Sayaka defeated Ai Houzan
Coming into this match, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I’ve been a fan of Unagi since her TJPW days, and I like the brash and chaotic character she’s become, but it’s been a while since she had a match I loved. While her persona is great, when she stepped into a Stardom ring, she became another one of their mid-carders, a solid wrestler with little to distinguish her from everyone else.
All of which perhaps means I approached this with a different mindset than most, as Ai had nothing to prove to me, but Unagi did. Thankfully, I came out the other side cautiously impressed as she did a decent job of playing the almost heelish veteran, taking the fight to the outside early on and eventually getting a relatively dominant win. I liked the touches of arrogance she displayed throughout, as not only did it fit her coming into Marvelous determined to assess the ace, but it played to Ai’s strengths, giving her a mountain to overcome. On the flip side, they couldn’t resist throwing in an entirely pointless forearm exchange, but I don’t think I can blame Unagi for that, as those fuckers pop up everywhere.
Despite all that good, I would be lying if I claimed I enjoyed anything Unagi did as much as I enjoyed Houzan’s gusty underdog performance. She was out there defending Marvelous with all her heart, and it brought a bit of edge out of wee Ai, as she even slammed Unagi on the entrance ramp. Then again, I am aware that I could be accused of being incredibly biased when it comes to Houzan, making my opinion somewhat redundant. Whether that’s true or not, Unagi did enough to keep me excited about her future as a freelancer, and I’m hoping she can continue to convince me that her wrestling is as good as everything else she does.
Verdict: I’m Glad Marvelous Can Help Wrestlers Stardom Were Wasting
Unagi blathered away on the mic afterwards, presumably saying nice things about Ai (it ended with Unagi hugging her even if Houzan wasn’t having any of it) and demanding a title match, which led to a showdown with Maria, more of which later. It’s also worth mentioning that Unagi’s promos get a lot of chuckles out of Nagayo, so she’s probably going to be welcome in Marvelous for as long as she wants.
Takumi Iroha & Chikayo Nagashima defeated Yuu & Ayame Sasamura
Unagi might have got chuckles out of Chig, but Yuu got raucous laughter when she chopped the shit out of Takumi. I can almost guarantee that there are many worse people to work for in wrestling than Chigusa Nagayo, but if you’re hoping for sympathy when you get beat up, you’re probably not built for Marvelous. If anything, the closer you are to her, the more enjoyable she’ll find it.
Those vicious chops weren’t Yuu’s only highlight, as the main event almost felt like a showcase for her. I sometimes find how she wrestles frustrating, as she doesn’t play to her hoss potential, but that was far from the case here. Yuu looked like a beast, with Sasamura accepting that her role was to unleash her on opponents and run interference. When Chikayo and Takumi did manage to turn the tide, it took them going big, Chikayo hitting a Double Stomp from the top to the floor before they unleashed a series of double teams. Even then, they couldn’t get the job done, only doing enough to force her out of the ring so Chikayo could get a straight shot at Ayame.
In those final seconds, Ayame got a chance to show what she could do and held up her end of the bargain with a great back-and-forth against Nagashima. It meant that even though it ended in defeat for them, both Yuu and Sasamura came out of it looking fantastic, and this was an impressive main event.
Verdict: Badass Yuu
Unagi popped up again afterwards, as she’s still got her eyes on Takumi’s title. Unfortunately, she made the mistake of coming out just as it looked like Nagashima vs Takumi was going to be booked, which somewhat annoyed Chikayo. That means she’ll be facing off with both Nagashima and Maria next month in the hope of earning the right to face Takumi in December. I am very intrigued to see how those matches go.
There wasn’t a bad match on that show, as even the worst was watchable, and if some new fans were tuning in, they would have had a good time. On top of that, it was a storyline-heavy time, with the Unagi stuff continuing, Mio getting an important win and Maria inching closer to the top. Fingers crossed that the newbies will stick around because they’d be more than welcome.
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