Show two of the Kizuna Tournament took place hours after the first, so there was no rest for those involved. However, with a big old trophy and a couple of wishes on the line, I’m sure they were all fired up to impress. Who would come out as the winner? Well, it was a few days ago, so you probably already know, but if you don’t, read on to find out!
Mashiro Ishikawa (Yuuki Mashiro & Nao Ishikawa) fought BuriPuri (Maya Yukihi & Misa Kagura) to a time-limit draw
If you want to know why I’m going to miss Yuuki Mashiro terribly, watch the moment where Maya Yukihi blocks both of her attempts to do some eye-poking. Mashiro responded by staring at her own hands in shock, baffled as to how such a thing could happen as Maya watches on, caught off guard by this young oddball. Then, having apparently remembered where she was, Yuuki rolled her up instead. It’s a spot most people couldn’t pull off because most wrestlers don’t have the cast-iron confidence of Yuuki Mashiro, who I 100% believe is unable to comprehend how anyone could stop her poking them in the eye.
Outside of Mashiro’s antics, this match reminded me how talented Maya Yukihi is. Having not watched her in many high-profile spots this year, it had kind of slipped my mind that she was the person who sat on top of that stacked Ice Ribbon roster for most of its existence. You can see why, too. In a match packed with wrestlers still young in their careers, Maya’s calmness stood out, as she never looked like she was anything other than in control of the situation. You got the impression that, at any moment, she was capable of turning it on and taking them all to school.
That wasn’t what happened, though, as the final act came down to Misa vs Mashiro, with Kagura coming very close to picking up what would have been an upset win. Unfortunately for her, with the time ticking away and a deep crab locked on tight, Yuuki managed to hold on and drag her team to the draw. The match would be decided via a tiebreaker (more on that below), but it was a damn good showing in its own right.
Verdict: Good Stuff
Nao Ishikawa defeated Misa Kagura in a two-count match
After the draw, both teams had to put forward one person to compete in this two-count to a finish match. With Yuuki struggling after being in Misa’s crab at the end of the tag, Nao stepped forward to take on the challenge, but I would love to get a translation of what they said to each other while they were figuring it out. My Japanese wasn’t good enough to catch it, but all clues pointed toward Yuuki voicing something that didn’t impress her partner.
Whatever was said, Nao would go on to win this quick blast of a match, but not without some struggle. Misa came out the blocks hard, going straight back to the crab, but I always forget what a bruiser Ishikawa has become. While she’s not quite Yuka Sakazaki, there is a real toughness to her, and she soaked up a lot of damage in this three-minute match before hammering away a pair of Misa lariats and bundling her up for the two.
I’m a huge fan of gimmicks like this, as two-count matches go a hundred miles an hour and have a real sense of jeopardy. It’s the perfect tiebreaker for a tournament like this, and these two can be very pleased with the performances they pulled out after having already wrestled a pretty tough match.
Verdict: A Great Blast Of Action
Yellow Checkers (Ibuki Hoshi & A~Min) defeated Mega Sunrise (Asahi & Yuko Sakurai)
They neatly captured the energy of our second semi-final in the opening seconds, both teams charging out of the blocks and meeting in the centre of the ring as they fought to strike first. It was the first move in a battle between two young, hungry pairings who seemed desperate to impress.
That feeling meant they wrestled at an almost frantic pace, the action never stopping to take a breath. That was both to its credit and its detriment, as it never got boring, but there were a couple of moments where a second to sit and sell what had happened would have been nice. As it was, everything felt a bit like it was on fast-forward as they flew from one spot to another, constantly looking for the next thing.
And yet, I can’t pretend I didn’t enjoy it. It was eleven minutes of whirlwind action with A~Min, in particular, looking brilliant. I’ve adored her transformation into a hoss princess, and I hope it continues, but it shouldn’t overshadow that she’s also becoming a cracking wrestler who uses her power well. In fact, everyone in this match was great, and my nitpicks aside, it was a fantastic eleven minutes of action.
Verdict: A Bit Too Fast, But Very Good
Makoto defeated Saran
Having gone full wee goth on the first show, Saran leaned towards the kawaii with her evening costume, as she dressed up as a wee cat instead. Not the TJPW wee cat, though. Another one.
Anyway, whatever costume she’s wearing, I love watching Saran. I’ve made this point before, but she’s nailed wrestling like a kid. It’s the way she waves her arms around while running over Makoto’s back or the little hops of pain whenever she’s hurt. Yes, you can occasionally see her trying to be an adult, displaying a touch of arrogance when she got Makoto in a headlock, but in the thick of the action, she can’t help reverting to the thirteen-year-old girl that she is.
Credit also has to go to Makoto, as there is a real art to this style of match. Everyone knows she’s bigger and stronger than Saran, so you can’t go blow-for-blow. It’s about finding ways for the youngster to realistically hurt her, like stomping on her toes or leaping on her back to lock in a sleeper. Saran can wrestle like a kid because someone like Makoto knows how to create those opportunities and craft a match where it’s not totally ridiculous that it goes over ten minutes.
On top of all that, it’s really fun. Watching Saran wrestle makes me smile, and Makoto is quietly brilliant at making the people around her look even better than they are. Put those two things together, and you’re going to struggle not to have a good time.
Verdict: Two People Working Together Brilliantly
Kaho Matsushita won the Halloween Costume Battle Royal
I love these wild Halloween costume battle royals because they’re an excuse for everyone to dress up, be very silly and have a laugh. Unfortunately, the bulk of it doesn’t particularly lend itself to being written about, as it’s packed with wrestlers, chaotic as hell and full of cultural references that I don’t understand. Beyond explaining jokes (and what’s the fun of that), I think the only thing to say is that it was a load of fun, and if you’re at all into this kind of nonsense, you should definitely give it a watch.
I can, however, talk about the final act, where everything suddenly got a bit serious, despite the costumes. That was true for the last few participants, but especially when Anou and Kaho were left in the ring, as Matsushita sensed an opportunity to pull off the upset. It led to a surprisingly gripping back and forth that eventually found its way to the apron, where Kaho took advantage of Anou’s outfit to steal out with the win. I don’t know if beating the champ in a costume battle royal earns you a title shot, but it should certainly put you in contention.
Anyway, I enjoyed this all an awful lot, and even if you’re a weirdo who doesn’t like the nonsense, you should probably still catch the final four.
Verdict: I Had A Lovely Time
Mashiro Ishikawa (Yuuki Mashiro & Nao Ishikawa) defeated Yellow Checkers (Ibuki Hoshi & A~Min) to win the Kizuna Tournament
I’m in awe of anyone who can have one wrestling match without curling up into a ball and crying, so to have three in a single day blows my mind. Even putting the physical stuff to one side, the adrenaline highs and lows would be enough to take me out of action, so I came into this ready to give these four a bit of slack.
Of course, they didn’t need it. No matter how tired they might have been, both teams managed to put that aside and craft an impressive story. They stuck with the obvious, Ibuki and A~Min using their power to control Mashiro early on before Nao came in and did a bit of bruising to get her team back into it. However, it’s a classic case of it being the obvious story because it works, especially when you take into account Yuuki and Nao’s bickering throughout the tournament. They were forced to rely on each other and come together to overcome the challenge.
And despite being on the back foot for most of the match, they managed to do exactly that. Nao carried the home stretch, working her arse off as she went blow for blow with Ibuki, but there was no doubt this was a team effort. In those final minutes, it felt like Mashiro Ishikawa found their groove, knowing exactly where they needed to be to get each other over the line, and when Nao hit the winning German Suplex, it was 100% earned.
It also felt like this wasn’t only a good final for the tournament but a lovely capping off of Mashiro and Nao’s arc. They came in as the two bickering rivals, getting one last chance to team up before Mashiro retires, and came out the other side having found their common ground. When you put it like that, it’s kind of beautiful. Well done to them.
Verdict: Lovely Stuff
The aftermath was no less lovely than that arc, as the two of them struggled to hold back the tears. Nao then went on to wish for Yuuki to take back her retirement, and if that isn’t possible, for one final match with her rival. Sadly, she’ll have to settle for option two, but I’m glad they’ll at least have another chance to get in the ring together. As for Yuuki, well, the Gacha King blessed us all one last time, bringing the wayward problem child back into the fold by asking for her retirement match to be against Suzu Suzuki. That makes me very happy.
What a great pair of shows this was from Ice Ribbon, with the tournament also throwing up a surprisingly touching story as Nao and Yuuki managed to come together to get the win. Throw in the promise of a future return from Suzu, and I was left very happy with pro wrestling.
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