For Marvelous’s penultimate show of the year, they gave Queen Aminata a shot at the big one as she went up against the new AAAW champion Chikayo Nagashima. Even in the relatively modest confines of Shinkiba, that’s a decent opportunity to impress and a chance for her to come away from this Japan trip with a standout performance under her belt. Let’s see how she did.
Tomoko Watanabe defeated Mari Manji
Hoss fight! Well, sorta. Our opener started how you’d expect, as these two sized each other up and tested the water with a little bit of human conkers. However, things slightly veered away from that the first time Mari Manji threw a chop, and Tomoko realised she wanted none of that. Mari was hitting hard, and Watanabe found herself at ringside, desperately trying to convince Mio, Maria or even Tommy to take her place. Then, when she endeavoured to return with some of her own, she discovered they hurt her hand, only adding to her problems.
Yes, this was another example of Tomoko Watanabe embracing being the punchline, and if you’ve read any of my reviews before, you’ll know I am a fan of that. She’s brilliant in these matches, putting over younger opponents by playing the fool, a surprisingly effective tactic. Mari Manji had a 33-year veteran on the run, terrified by the prospect of being chopped, and that’s a pretty good look.
It also meant Tomoko had a nice arc in this match, as she plucked up the courage to face those strikes and return to the hoss battle they’d hinted at. The final minutes saw these two slamming into each other hard before Watanabe picked up the win, but Mari had made her mark (literally, Tomoko’s chest was rather red), and this was a fun opener.
Verdict: Tomoko Does It Again
Noriyuki Yoshida defeated Leo Isaka
One of my wrestling pet peeves is people breaking pins or submissions because someone has lightly elbowed them in the stomach or ineffectually stomped on them. In the grand scheme of things, it’s probably not that important, but it’s a streak of laziness (much like dropping off the apron every time someone lightly touches you in a tag match) that can be a bit frustrating. It was also why I appreciated Noriyuki Yoshida holding onto a humble headlock even after Leo had hit a backdrop in an attempt to escape. He’d worked hard to get that submission on, so he wouldn’t let go without a fight.
This match was the third meeting between Yoshida and Leo this year (they had a doubleheader back in June), and, as enjoyable as it was, the headlock spot probably wasn’t an accurate reflection of what they do. Yoshida is a big lad, and once they got all that grappling out the way (which was generally pretty good), he picked up where he left off six months ago by laying down some heavy chops on Leo’s chest. Much like the opener, this had everyone gasping in sympathy with young Isaka as he tried desperately to survive all attempts to cave his chest in.
And it made for a pretty fun match. As I always say, Leo is at his best in that underdog role, and Yoshida is a solid big man. I would have liked to see that early grappling play a bit more of a part, as they forgot it quickly, and the finish was a bit scrappy and out of nowhere, but neither of those killed my enjoyment. Yoshida and Leo have shown themselves to have good chemistry this year, and with Noriyuki taking a 2-1 lead, I hope we see this again.
Verdict: Slightly Flawed, But Overall Good
Cosmic Angels (Unagi Sayaka & Rina Amikura) defeated Rin Kadokura & Ai Houzan
The crowd were weirdly apathetic for this match. It built to a big showdown between Unagi and Rin, but when that came around, the fans gave them nothing, watching on in silence, not even clapping (and they were allowed to make whatever noise they wanted), as they booted each other in the face. I don’t know what that tells us, but it took a bit of the sting out of their battle, leaving it all feeling a bit flat.
I don’t think it helped that Rina and Unagi didn’t feel like a natural team. Yes, they did the Cosmic Angel’s entrance, complete with the song and dance routine, but once they were in the ring, you could tell they were not actually that used to working together. It wasn’t a disaster, but most of what they did was just a bit off, making it clear they hadn’t quite clicked.
Interestingly, the crowd then picked up when the match pivoted to Rina vs Ai, the relentless energy of those two managing to succeed where Rin and Unagi had failed. I understand why, too, as they are hard to dislike. There was a touch of the frantic to their pairing, making it easy to get caught up in their wake. It meant that while the post-match brawl returned the attention to Rin and Unagi, their partners were the real highlight of the match.
None of which means Marvelous should ditch the Unagi experiment (it’s one crowd), but it was an intriguing development that prevented this from being a standout match. Still, there was some good in there, and I enjoyed watching Rin and Unagi boot each other in the face more than those in attendance appeared to.
Mio Momono defeated Maria and Riko Kawahata in a three-way
With Itsuki getting COVID (I hope she gets well soon), this match changed from a tag to a three-way, or at least it was supposed to. It probably wasn’t a good sign for Mio that Magenta made their entrance together before taking up residence in the blue corner. For the first half of the action, before one too many Maria misfires caused them to implode, Momono had to fend for herself as Magenta sensed the opportunity to pull off a big upset.
Thankfully, at least for us, this is the kind of situation that gets Mio’s creative juices flowing. It didn’t always go to plan, but this was my favourite genre of Mio outing, as it played to both her wrestling and comedic strengths. Whether she was sitting outside the ring, having a breather as she watched the partners fight, or deciding that she would use today to try out her new lariat, this was Momono at her genius best. She has a magic touch for unpicking matches and coming up with inventive spots that leave me grinning as moments like Momono and Kawahata bundling back and forth between roll-ups over the body of an increasingly distressed Maria was a great way to keep everyone involved.
The cherry on top was Mio sneaking out with the win, Maria staring off into the distance in shock at having been outsmarted by that wee menace. With Momono and her having clashed on more than one occasion this year, it feels like that result will only add to the tension, which I am delighted to see. I remain very excited to see them eventually go one-on-one, but in the here and now, this match was a blast.
Verdict: A Lotta Fun
Chikayo Nagashima defeated Queen Aminata to retain the AAAW Title
Aminata was never going to win the AAAW title. Even if she was a regular member of the Marvelous roster who was going to be around month after month, there was no chance they would have Chikayo triumph in that tournament and then drop the belt on the next show. It would have made no sense. So, this match wasn’t about that. Instead, it was about her getting the chance to go out, battle a respected wrestler and show what she could do.
And, on the whole, I think Aminata did well. She had the opportunity to be the dominant figure for the bulk of this match, using her size and power advantage to bully Chikayo, and she did an impressive job. There was even a heelish streak to her work, particularly in the early going, where she was barking at Tommy to ask Chikayo if she gave up while they sat in a hold. That Tommy seemed to have no idea what she was asking for only added to the moment.
It wasn’t perfect, though, as her strikes perhaps lacked the impact to really stand out. There was also an awkward moment on the top rope that caused the two of them to tumble to the floor, which thankfully didn’t seem to end in injury. However, there was more good than bad, as Aminata proved she was capable of moving up the card and impressing. Of course, in the end, Chikayo’s experience paid off, and she came through with the win, but that was always going to happen, and Aminata did enough to make me more of a fan than I was coming in.
Verdict: Aminata Did Good
Unagi and Chikayo exchanged some words after the match, Nagashima drawing some big laughs from the crowd as they did so (I believe Unagi is still annoyed that Chikayo won her money), so it seems likely we’ll return to that at some point.
It was no surprise that the last two matches on this show delivered, as I came in expecting them to, but I am still intrigued by the reaction to the Rin vs Unagi stuff. I’m not sure if that was just a one-off or a hint that the Gyan Period doesn’t interest people as much as we thought. Either way, it was food for thought and something I’ll be keeping an eye on in the future (not because I think my opinion is important, I just find it interesting). Judging by the post-match, Marvelous still appear intent on putting her centre stage, so we’ll get plenty of opportunities to see. Anyway, the rest of the show was at least entertaining, and even that match was pretty good, so it’s still worth your time.