Ramblings About’s Match Of The Year: Best Of The Rest Part 1

A perfect moment. Credit: TJPW

According to some, 2020 has been a lousy year for wrestling, an opinion fuelled by New Japan not doing what people want them to do and an aversion to the dreaded clap crowds. Unfortunately, no-one told my match of the year list, which was quite frankly unwieldy. So yes, this is part one of the best of the rest because when I started writing it very quickly got out of hand. Excessive? Perhaps, but despite its many faults, wrestling is still the best, so a bit of excess isn’t too bad.

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Ramblings About’s Wrestler Of The Year: Best Of The Rest

I never know who to pick for the main picture in these things, so I went with the person most likely to murder me. Credit: Gake No Fuchi

Picking a wrestler of the year is dumb. How can anyone sit down and compare two people who work in different companies doing a different style with any degree of accuracy? A champion that puts on great matches every week is important, but so is the comedy wrestler who opens up the card, working their arse off to earn those giggles. Of course, in the best companies, those can be the same people, but that’s a different topic. And, despite it being dumb, I’m still going to do it because it’s also fun. However, for all that 2020 has sucked, there has still been a shitload of good wrestling, so I couldn’t pick just one. So, here’s my list of ten wrestlers who could have been wrestler of the year, but for whatever reason weren’t. Except, it’s not really because there are another twenty or thirty people that could also be on this list. Let’s stick with it being ten brilliant wrestlers. That work for everyone? Good.

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Tokiko Kirihara: ChocoPro’s Success Story

Don’t mess. Credit: ChocoPro

ChocoPro might not have been around long, but it can already lay claim to a success story or two. Both Yunamon and Mitsuru have benefited from long arcs that have seen them grapple with who they are as a wrestler (while season three has hinted at a similar role for Mei). Meanwhile, Emi ‘Oni’ Sakura stirs the pot, looking on as the likes of Lulu Pencil grow in confidence, finding themselves in the ring. Nearly everyone involved has had something for fans to grasp hold of, and yet, ChocoPro’s greatest success story is none of that. Instead, it’s been the growth of one Tokiko Kirihara, known to fans as Otoki.

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Hyper Misao vs Jun Kasai

The first attempt did not go to plan. Credit: TJPW

You don’t have to dig deep to see the differences between Hyper Misao and Jun Kasai. One is a crazed lunatic, dealing out violence with an increasingly bizarre collection of weapons and the other is Jun Kasai. Jokes aside, it’s safe to say that the superhero antics of PaMi and the scarred deathmatch torso of Kasai don’t look like they belong in the same world. And yet, it was Kasai that inspired Misao to become a wrestler. To push off from a life where she was wasting away, living on bags of chocolate cream puffs, and become the superhero we now know and love.

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Wrestler Mixtape: Mio Momono

Happy! Credit: WAVE

Having done my first two mixtapes on wrestlers I know very well, I thought number three should go in the opposite direction. I have seen plenty of folks gush over a certain Mio Momono recently as she made her return from what I assume was injury. Sadly, as she generally works promotions I either don’t follow or have only just started watching, I have never seen her wrestle. Perhaps it’s time to fix that.

Quick note, these are listed in the order I watched them. Would it have made more sense to go chronologically? Yes. Did I do that? No.

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Emi Sakura: The Perfect Wrestler

‘You hate me? That’s okay.’ Credit: ChocoPro

Emi Sakura has been wrestling for twenty-five years. That’s longer than some of modern-day joshi’s biggest stars have been alive and covers a period where the scene has changed in countless ways. In that time, Emi has been an erratic constant. Despite having worked for some of the biggest companies and alongside the biggest stars, Sakura-san has ultimately ploughed her own path, doing things in a way that only she could.

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Wrestler Mixtape: Lulu Pencil

Credit: ChocoPro

The second person to have the dubious honour of taking a spot in my wrestling mixtape series debuted nearly a year ago. However, it’s safe to say that over the last 11 and a bit months, Lulu Pencil has made a hell of an impression, proving that freelance writers and wrestlers are basically the same thing…

Despite the limited options (Lulu hasn’t had that many matches), I’ve decided not to include the obvious (so, no Honda) and instead pick out a few other Lulu efforts. Enjoy!

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Natsumi Maki vs Miyu Yamashita: Progression Through Defeat

One more time. Credit: TJPW

Since returning from injury, Natsumi Maki has been determined to prove herself. She might not have gone after the biggest dogs in the yard, but she definitely went after those who kick the hardest. Up first, was her close friend Sareee, with whom she had a fantastic match based on mutual respect. Maki lost, but she came out the other side feeling like she’d taken a step forward and was emboldened to challenge The Mega Champ, Miyu Yamashita.

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Jushin Thunder Liger: The Perfect Wrestler

One final time. Credit: NJPW

On January 6th, New Japan said goodbye to Jushin Thunder Liger. By wrestling at the Tokyo Dome on both the 4th and 5th Liger had made sure that during his thirty-five-year career (and he wasn’t far off hitting thirty-six) he’d wrestled in five decades. According to Cagematch, those five decades included 4205 matches (and let’s be honest, they’ll have missed a few) 113 of which took place in 2019. During that time, he arguably redefined the role of the Junior Heavyweight, becoming a star recognisable to anyone who has ever shared even a passing interest in the world of pro-wrestling.

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Maki Itoh vs Thunder Rosa: The Quest For Acceptance

Itoh falls. Credit: TJPW

When you strip it down to its bare bones, Maki Itoh’s journey through the world of wrestling has been a desperate quest for acceptance. She entered this weird and wonderful form of entertainment feeling like idol had rejected her, chewing her up and spitting her out. To recover, she sought to prove herself in a different medium, one that bore similarities but allowed Itoh to be a lot more, well, Itoh.

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