wrestling / Columns

Into the Indies 10.06.09: Ice Ribbon

October 6, 2009 | Posted by Ryan Byers

Banner Courtesy of John Meehan

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to Into the Indies, the only column in which you can read about a wrestling promotion in which the combined age of the entire roster is less than that of Terry Funk.

A month and half or so ago, I did the first I2I look at modern day joshi puroresu with a review of a show from SENDAI Girls. In that column, I opined that, though women’s wrestling in Japan used to be one of my favorite genres of this fake sport that we love so much, it appears that there is very little in the way of today’s joshi that could match up with the classic matches that were produced in the early and mid-1990’s.

In the feedback that I received to that column, there were two basic comments: 1) you should stop expecting the new stuff to be like the old stuff because if you do you’re just going to be disappointed by matches that in reality aren’t too bad and 2) you should check out a few more promotions before you make any final judgments. Both of these are valid comments, and I was perfectly willing to accept them. However, there was one thing which caught me a bit offguard. Of all the comments that were made about checking out a variety of joshi promotions, the name that I saw mentioned the most frequently was ICE RIBBON.

The reason that I was surprised was that I had read about Ice Ribbon before. In fact, I believe that I had even checked out one of their matches. Quite frankly, based on everything that I had read and the one match that I saw, I got the impression that this promotion was something that I was going to steer as far away from as possible for as long as possible. You see, Ice Ribbon is a lot like most joshi promotions these days in that it’s tied to a school which trains ladies to be professional wrestlers. However, the thing about Ice Ribbon which made it seem a bit unsettling on paper was the fact that the young women that the company trains are VERY young women. Stories of fourteen, thirteen, and even twelve year olds training the company made me wonder if it was a professional wrestling promotion or some sick puppy’s way of producing a product that the worst kind of pervert would enjoy. Combine that with the fact that most of the company’s early shows took place in dimly lit gymnasiums and without a wrestling ring (matches took place on mats) and I began to lean more towards my latter theory about the company.

However, given people’s suggestions in the wake of the recent SENDAI column, I decided that I would rethink my position on Ice Ribbon and maybe even take a look at one or two of the more recent matches from the promotion. Much to my surprise, the cards seemed to be legitimate. The teenage trainees remained, but they were joined by legitimate wrestlers from other promotions whose names that I recognized. They were also running venues that I had heard of previously as opposed to sheds and empty lots. As a result, I decided to take a look at the promotion’s August 23, 2009 show, which appears to have been one of the biggest in company history if not THE biggest in company history.

Let’s see if Ice Ribbon can restore my faith in joshi, or, at the very least, not make me feel like I need to take a shower after I finish the show.

Match Numero Uno: Makoto & Seina vs. Mai Ichii & Chii Tomiya

This is an interesting little crew. As far as I know, none of the women involved have more than three years of experience and are all Ice Ribbon trainees. Of the group, Makoto has become the biggest star of the lot, holding the promotion’s singles championship on one occasion. On the other side of the ring, Ichii is the oldest of the crew (she’s damn near thirty) and has a 3-1 mixed martial arts record in addition to her professional wrestling background.

Makoto is double teamed at the opening bell, given a two-woman dropkick by her opponents before firing back on the much smaller Tomiya with a series of boots. Tomiya tries to come back with forearms and does succeed in taking her opponent down for a nearfall. Makoto gets a rollup off a charge in the corner, though, and that sets up a tag to Seina. She’s essentially useless, as she gets taken down and double stomped several times before Ichii is tagged in. Ichii lands something on the order of ten dropkicks in a row, but they are no-sold by Seina, who hits her on dropkick and a spinning fisherman’s supelx for two. Makoto is back in after that, but Tomiya hits her from behind while she’s running the ropes, allowing Ichii to take the advantage with a missle dropkick. Things briefly break down in to a four-woman brawl, after which Makoto hits a northern lights suplex and a cartwheel in to a double knee drop. A bridging butterfly suplex for Makoto also gives us a two count, and she gets three immediately thereafter with a cradle.

Match Thoughts: We had roughly three minutes worth of action here, so there is not too horribly much to comment on. I will compliment the girls in that it appeared that they knew they were doing a short match, so they packed in as much action from bell to bell as they could instead of taking the easy way out and blowing the bout off because it was not given much time. However, despite the speed with which the bout came to an end, you could tell that all four women were not the most experienced wrestlers in the world. Tomiya in particular had some movements in the ring that looked like a child playing wrestler as opposed to a polished athlete, which isn’t exactly what you want to see on a card like this. 3/4*

Match Numero Dos: Yuki Miyamoto & Chairman Ramu vs. Riho & Yuki Sato

This is the kind of match that put me off of Ice Ribbon when I first heard of it. Ramu and Riho are both twelve years old. That’s no exaggeration. In fact, many of you have probably seen Ramu in the ring, even if you don’t realize it. She’s not an Ice Ribbon trainee but rather a part of a company known as 666 (or Triple 6) where she has been putting on comedy matches for almost three years now. Highlights of those matches, especially the ones that feature her hitting her chokeslam on grown men, became a bit of a YouTube phenomenon with online wrestling fans not that long ago. Here she’s wrestling a more serious match. Meanwhile, Riho is a product of the Ice Ribbon dojo who made her debut in 2006. Yes, when she was NINE. Yikes. The girls’ partners here are low-level male indy wrestlers who are grown adults.

It’s Riho and Ramu to start the match, and the crowd pops when they realize that they’re getting ready to see this epic showdown. A “Riho” chant breaks out, and the two girls lockup and trade armbars. They take things to the mat and exchange headscissors, after which Ramu offers a handshake. Of course, she double crosses her opponent, though Riho quickly escapes and tags Sato in. He teases bodyslamming the child but gets kicked low, setting up a tag to Miyamoto. It’s Yuki on Yuki violence as Miyamoto slams his man and drops the elbow before missing a Stinger splash. Sato gives him a missile dropkick and brings Riho back in the match. She gives the adult a couple of jumping kicks and catches him with a satellite sunset flip for a two count before bringing Sato back in to the squared circle. He slams Miyamoto and ascends the ropes, though Miyamoto blocks his cross body with a dropkick to the gut before tagging in Ramu. The demon child is cocky, kicking Sato low again and following it up with a vertical suplex of all things. Sato gets some heat for hitting the girl with a forearm across the back, which causes her to cry. The audience laughs, and they laugh a bit more when Riho and Miyamoto tag in and the smaller combatant attempts to forearm her adult male opponent in to oblivion. Miaymoto places Riho in to the Tree of Joey Lawrence and military crawls toward her (I don’t get it either), but Sato cuts him off with a dropkick and tags in. This sets up Riho and Sato attempting the DOOMSDAY DEVICE, but Miyamoto catches Sato in a victory roll.

The pinning combination only gets two, though Miyamoto manages to dispatch Riho from the ring while Ramu runs in to give Sato the 619. Sato falls back immediately in to a German suplex from Miyamoto, but it only gets a two count. Ramu’s chokeslam is next from Sato, after which Miyamoto gives him a moonsault press to end the match.

Match Thoughts: Given the age of two of the wrestlers in this match, it was surprisingly decent. As with Tomiya in the first match, there were points at which they were clunky and childlike in their motions, but you can’t exactly fault them for that given that they’re children. (Of course, you can always bring up the point that they’re too young to be in the ring in the first place . . . but, once you accept that they’re in there, you certainly can’t fault them for wrestling like kids.) I am not horribly certain as to the level of experience of the male wrestlers in the match, but somebody who was involved in putting this together, whether it was the Yukis, the referee, or perhaps an agent, was very wise about structuring it so that the girls’ got in and out quickly for just a few key spots, allowing the full-grown wrestlers to carry the day. The result was something that, even though it was clearly a gimmick match, didn’t feel overly gimmicky. **

Match Numero Tres: Fuuka, Hikari Shida, & Mika Nagano vs. Kazumi Shimouma, Hamuko Hoshi, & Haruna Akagi

Here we have a crew of five Ice Ribbon wrestlers and Fuuka, who is one of the bigger stars in joshi these days, though, from what I understand, her star status has a lot more to do with her looks and her personality than it does with her actual ability in the ring. She even manages to promote many of her own shows, including a recent “Fifth Anniversary Show” in which she celebrated being a professional wrestler for half a decade by coming out to the ring in a pink version of the Darth Vader costume from Star Wars. She is one of the last trainees of joshi legend Jaguar Yakota and worked for quite some time in Yakota’s JD Star promotion, though currently she’ll seemingly sign on with any joshi company which is running a card that works with her schedule.

It’s a six woman brawl at the bell, with team Akagi getting the advantage and hitting some corner attacks before Haruna pairs off against Nagano. Nagano scores an early sunset flip for two and gets the same off of a schoolgirl before hitting a dropkick. She brings in Fuuka, who trades kicks with Akagi before the two go to the mat and fight over a cross arm breaker. Fuuka escapes it but gets tripped up and monkey flipped, allowing Akagi to hit a dropkick in the corner before Shimouma runs in and bodyslams her opponent on to Fuuka. Hoshi joins the fun to double suplex Akagi down on to Fuuka, but all of that can only muster a two count. Fuuka is immediately recovered and hits a boot, only to be dropkicked again by Akagi before Shimouma tags in for one of her own.

Fuuka reverses a Shimouma air raid crash attempt into a crucifix and then lands a rana followed by a weak 619 for a two count. Fuuka’s partners simultaneously run in at this point, and Shida gives Shimouma a missile dropkick for two. She attempts a suplex after that but has it blocked by the larger Shimouma, and the two women begin attempting to take each other down with forearms. Neither is successful, so Shimouma goes back to the dropkick and hits a Samoan drop for a two count. Team Fuuka saved on that one, so we again have all six women in the ring. Fuuka gets a cheap kick on Shimouma, but it has virtually no effect as she immediately goes back to beating on Shida. Another attempt at the Samoan drop is rolled through by Hikari, as she turns it in to a cross arm breaker in a nice counter. Somehow, seconds later, Hoshi and Nagano wind up in the ring together, and Nagano applies the exact same hold to Hoshi even though the Shimouma-Shida version has broken up by that point.

Things eventually come down to Shimouma being isolated with Team Fuuka, and they all take turns kicking her before Shida butterflies her arms, rolls through as though she is going to apply a submission, and then rolls back through the other way so that Shimouma winds up in a pinning combination. That bizarre little move gets us a three count.

Match Thoughts: As with the opener, this was quick, but it was pure, unadulterated action from bell-to-bell. Unlike the prior two matches, everybody involved appeared to be in their 20’s (or, at the very least, late teens), so everything appeared to be significantly more polished even if they weren’t exactly Kurt Angle level workers. The women were in and out of the ring at such a rapid pace and some were featured so little that it is difficult to get a read on how proficient any of them are as professional wrestlers, but I suppose that you have to give all of them some credit for being involved in a match that moved as quickly as this one did for as long as it did with nothing coming off as horribly botched or mistimed. **1/4

Match Numero Cuatro: Toshie Uematsu & Bigfoot w/ Hull Miyako vs. Aika Ando, Miyako Matusmoto, & Death Worm w/ Tatsukuni Asano

Here we have what looks like one promotion’s angle crossing over on to another promotion’s show. A few weeks ago, this very column focused on IWA Japan’s 15th Anniversary Show, which featured manager Hull Miyako leading her gorilla-suited wrestlers Bigfoot and the Yeti into action against a team that included Tatsukuni Asano, the financial backer of IWA Japan. It appeared that Miyako and Asano were involved in some sort of feud.

Here, Miyako is lending Bigfoot to Toshie Uematsu, one of the last great heels to come out of the glory period of joshi. Their opponents are the Ice Ribbon team of Ando and Matsumoto. A pre-match video package indicates that Matsumoto’s gimmick is that of a dancing fool, who focuses more on prancing about the ring than she does winning matches. In the corner of Ando and Matsumoto is Tatsukuni Asano, and he has brought the DEATH WORM with him. The Death Worm is a man in a large rubber suit, who I’m assuming from the way the angle is going is the monster that Asano is using to counter the Bigfoot of his rival Miyako.

Matsumoto makes her entrance to Abba’s “Dancing Queen,” and she’s wearing perhaps the girliest outfit to ever be donned by a professional wrestler. In an attempt to keep up with her motif, both Asano and the evil-looking Death Worm are adorned with comically oversized hair ribbons. In short, this entrance is pretty damned awesome.

The babyface team goes for the three-on-one attack on Bigfoot as soon as the match begin, but the missing link quickly dispatches the women and goes one-on-one with the worm. The primate dominates, but his partners break up a pin attempt. Uematsu tags in and dominates the worm (that’s dirty) with missile dropkicks, but it manages to take her down with a shoulderblock before tagging in Ando. Ando hits many a dropkick of her own and then goes in to a series of strikes that Uematsu completely no-sells before hitting a brutal knee and some boots. Bigfoot pulls her off and gets slapped for his trouble, and the distraction allows Ando to put Toshie into a rolling prawn hold while Miyamoto dances in the ring. A great visiual. The prawn hold ultimately winds up getting two, and Uematsu is isolated in the ring while all three babyfaces dance around her. Miyamoto ultimate hits a splash for two, after which Bigfoot hits the ring. He lands a series of short-arm clotheslines on Miyamoto, but Death Worm breaks up the subsequent pinfall. The ape responds with a lariat on the worm, after which Ando runs in and leaps into Bigfoot’s arm. That allows Miyamoto to schoolboy him for two. After that, Miyamoto and Ando both catch a piggyback ride on Death Worm, who splashes Bigfoot with both women on his back for a close two count. We clip ahead to Miyamoto hitting a top rope double stomp on Bigfoot for two. More clipping leads to Bigfoot reversing a vertical suplex attempt by both of his female opponents in to a suplex of his own. Shortly thereafter, he gets a double chokeslam for the double pin on Miyamoto and Ando.

Match Thoughts: This was too clipped and too comedic to provide much in the way of technical analysis or a star rating, but the five heavily edited minutes of match that we got were fairly entertaining. Miyamoto’s “dancing fool” gimmick has been done by several other wrestlers in several other promotions, but she’s got a kind of irrepressible charisma that allows her to pull it off, and, perhaps more impressive still, to pull it off as a babyface without the entire crowd turning on her for being a complete idiot. She’s the kind of wrestler that could probably get over in the United States as a midcard comedy act if presented properly, even though the likelihood of that happening is somewhere between slim and none. Ultimately, she wound up being the star of the match, which is surprising given that usually wrestling bouts featuring men in rubber suits focus on the guys in the rubber suits.

Match Numero Cinco: Kaori Yoneyama & Io Shirai vs. Natsuki Taiyo & Tsukasa Fujimoto

And now we’ve gotten to the point in the evening at which Ice Ribbon has seemingly given up on its own wrestlers. Fujimoto is one of their girls, but the real focuses of this match are outsiders Taiyo, Shirai, and Yoneyama. Io Shirai, for those of you not familiar with her, is one of the two “Sexy Purple Thunder Sisters” of wrestling alongside her sibling Mio. The two of them are all over the place on the women’s end of the Japanese indy scene, competing regularly for companies like IBUKI and Pro Wrestling WAVE. Yoneyama, meanwhile, is one of the most experienced wrestlers on this entire card, having been active in the business for a little over ten years and wrestling for larger joshi promotions like JPW an LLPW. Taiyo has probably received more exposure than any of these wrestlers, as she was involved at one point with Pro Wrestling SUN, which was in theory a joshi promotion but was in reality more like the women’s division of ZERO1.

Taiyo and Shirai kick it off, doing some incredibly quick exchanges off of the ropes, including missed dropkicks and hiptosses, culminating with stereo handsprings. Yoneyama joins Shirai in the ring to take Taiyo down, with the end result being a two woman leglock. Fujimoto makes her presence felt by clearing out Shirai and Yoneyama with a top rope cross body. Then, for good measure, she gives them a version of the same move from the top rope down to the arena floor. Not to be outdone, Taiyo immediately follows it up with her own version of the same move. Taiyo and Fujimoto then isolate Io in the ring for a series of double team moves culminating with a two woman leg lariat. A Fujimoto dropkick series is up next, but Io ducks the final move and hits one of her own, setting up the tag to Yoneyama. Fujimoto gives her a springboard rana and tags out to Taiyo, who brings the SHOTEI but gets hit with several Yoneyama forearms. The two women then do a GREAT lariat ducking sequence which ends with a Yoneyama rollup for two. Taiyo also gets a rollup for two but is knocked out of the ring by a Yoneyama dropkick. She sort of skins the cat back in but is taken down with a SICK Yoneyama kick for another two count. Shirai tags in and immediately gives Taiyo a leaping rana, then heading up to the top rope. Taiyo follows her up, though, cutting off Io’s attempt at offense and bringing her off of the cables with an armdrag. That sets up a tag to Fujimoto, who assists Taiyo in applying a double ankle lock to Shirai. Yoneyama makes the save, after which Fujimoto stays on her opponent with a rana for two. Io blocks a 619, though, and Yoneyama dropkicks Fujimoto as Io holds her in 619 position. This results in everybody going to the floor before Shirai flattens them with an Asai moonsault. Back in the ring, Io and Yoneyama give Fujimoto a series of missile dropkicks, which Io follows up with a 619 for two. What is it with modern joshi and that move? Shirai gets an impressive standing shooting star, but it only results in a two count thanks to a Taiyo save. Yoneyama neutralizes Taiyo, though, and the result is Io’s moonsault press getting her team the win.

Match Thoughts: I am having a hard time remembering when I have seen four wrestlers in a tag team match moving as quickly as these women did for as long a period of time as these women did. They quite literally rivaled some of the faster men from Dragon Gate in that regard. The pace was absolutely breakneck, with action beginning as soon as the opening bell ring and continuing literally nonstop until the pinfall was registered. Granted, they only went about eight minutes and probably would have slowed down significantly if they had to fill more time, but running at the speed that they were is impressive for just about any amount of time greater than thirty seconds. Of course, the pace and the short time frame meant that there wasn’t much of a “story” told in this particular contest, but, sometimes in professional wrestling, you need a quick athletic exhibition to round out a card. That’s exactly what this was, and it was a success in just about every way imaginable. ***1/2

Match Numero Seis: Kiyoko Ichiki (c) vs. Makoto for the ICEx60 Singles Title

Okay, so maybe Ice Ribbon didn’t completely give up on their roster. The ICEx60 Title is their primary championship. Here, Makoto (who you may recall wrestled earlier on the card) is locking it up with champion Kiyoko Ichiki. Ichiki has a rather storied career, kicking things off in IWA Japan in 1994 and working in GAEA, which I would consider to be the last of the “glory days” promotions of joshi. What she as a thirty-six year old veteran is doing as the champion of a promotion consisting largely of teeny boppers I do not know . . . especially when you consider what her championship belt looks like.

Over the last year or so, I have heard a lot of people complaining about the design of the WWE Divas Title belt, with the argument being that a butterfly-shaped belt devalues the concept of the championship. Everybody who derides that belt needs to take a look at what Ice Ribbon has to represent its primary singles champion, and I have a feeling that the complaints about the divas belt would immediately stop. The Ice Ribbon belt appears to not have a single metal plate on it, instead being a hunk of blue fabric cut to generally resemble the shape of a traditional pro wrestling title belt. It is covered in LACE of all things and also looks as though an eight year old girl with a severe case of ADHD took a Bedazzler to it. In short, it is hideous.

Makoto brings the flying kicks as soon as the bell rings, dropping Ichiki with a series of them. The champ is quick to respond, though, taking her opponent down with a snapmare and applying a chinlock. She voluntarily releases the hold so that she can drive her knee in to the back of Makoto’s head, which she follows up with what I can only assume is an attempt at a northern lights suplex. Makoto is successful in blocking it but gets slapped across the face and sells it like she’s been nailed with Lex Luger’s loaded forearm. Ichiki postures to the crowd for a while and then walks on Makoto’s back, which I see done as a massage technique more often than I see it done as an offensive tactic in a fight. Ichiki ascends the ropes and gives Makoto a flying knee from the top, but it’s no sold as the challenger is immediately able to respond with a kick and a figure four leg lock. Ichiki, not surprisingly, makes the ropes, but she does come away from the hold selling her leg a fair deal. Makoto stays on her opponent with another of her trademark flying kicks and then climbs the ropes, missing a moonsault. Ichiki capitalizes with a dropkick that misses by a country mile . . . but it gets sold anyway. It’s the champ’s turn to head to the top, and she gives Makoto a double stomp for a nearfall. She then heads to the top rope in the opposite corner, where Makoto tries to cut her off but fails. She succeeds in sidestepping the top rope knee strike that follows, though, giving the champ a quick kick to the head and landing a missile dropkick in response. A second rope cross body from Makoto then gets a one count as Ichiki rolls through for two. Makoto looks for a tiger driver, but Ichiki fights out of it, setting up a forearm battle. Ichiki wins that, taking Mokota off of her feet but running in to a double chop for a nearfall. Makota follows up with a butterfly suplex for another nearfall and climbs the ropes again, this time landing a moonsault press for two. A fisherman suplex gets her the three count and the title seconds later.

Match Thoughts: I liked the fire that the women exhibited in the latter half of this match, but I had a hard time getting in to what they were doing because it did not match up with the first half of the bout at all. As you can no doubt tell from reading the play by play, the offense in the first four to five minutes of the match was very pedestrian, looking like something you’d see in the 1970’s in Memphis as opposed to on a joshi card. They went from this relatively weak looking schtick of chinlocks and standing on your opponent IMMEDIATELY in to fast paced, higher end traditional joshi offense. There was no build to it, no sensible transition . . . it was as though somebody just flipped a switch that changed this bout from a Jerry Lawler squash into a bout from the undercard of Wrestle Marinpiad. Granted, what the two women ultimately wound up doing was very solid professional wrestling, but the proverbial jump cut from Point A to Point B left me with a bad taste in my mouth. **

Match Numero Siete: Emi Sakura vs. Nanae Takahashi

Here are two more veterans, with careers that were perhaps even more significant than that of Ichiki from the last match. Sakura, who from what I understand is the head trainer of Ice Ribbon, has ties back to promotions like FMW and IWA Japan in the mid to late 1990’s under her prior ring name of Emi Motokawa. Takahashi, meanwhile, is one of the final women who is still active to come out of the training system of the vaunted All Japan Women’s promotion, and she has more recently been a part of Pro Wrestling SUN. This bout was set up by a recent singles match between the two women in another promotion, in which Sakura was legitimately KO’ed by a Takahashi powerbomb out of the corner.

It looks like we’re going to get a handshake from the women early, but Sakura turns that into an Irish whip that sends Takahashi in to the buckles. It doesn’t get her too much of an advantage, though, as quickly afterwards she is on the losing end of a Greco-Roman knuckle lock. Emi fights back, though, eventually powering Takahashi to the canvas and following up with some Mongolian chops before giving her opponent some knife edges in the corner. Sakura then charges in with a cross body in the corner, and her next trick is a surfboard hold. She voluntarily relinquishes that fairly quickly and gets kicked for her trouble, setting up Nanae’s own version of the surfboard. (For the record, Takahashi did it better.) That surfboard is also given up early on, as Takahashi opts for a bodyscissors instead. She tries to transition in to a cross arm breaker, but Sakura prevents the arm from being fully extended and attempts escape. She is kicked in the face, though, setting up a nice shoulderblock from Takahashi and a corner lariat. Nanae misses a second version of the move, getting backdropped on to the ring apron. Ultimately, Emi knocks Takahashi down to the floor with a cross body THROUGH the ropes, and a plancha by Emi connects as well. Before long, the women are duking it out amidst the audience, where Sakura whips Takahashi in to a wall and gives her a cross body up against it. She repeats the same spot using a guardrail as opposed to a wall, after which Takahashi fires back with chops. She sends Sakura into a chair a couple of times, and now the women have worked their way back to the squared circle. Takahashi gives her opponent a second rope clothesline that knocks her to the floor, and a tope suicida follows. Nanae immediately puts Sakura in to the ring and gives her Mikey’s old Whippersnapper (there’s a blast from the past) followed by a German. Takahashi goes to the second rope for a Vader Bomb, but Sakura gets her feet up and lands a Vader Bomb of her own for two. Takahashi responds with a sidewalk slam, but, before she can stand up after hitting the move, Sakura grabs an arm and a leg for a submission hold.

Nanae rolls in to the ropes to escape but quickly finds herself perched on the top rope, where Emi tries for a rana. Takahashi blocks it and leaps at her opponent, though Emi is ready for it and catches Takahashi in a Fujiwara armbar. Nanae reverses in to a crossface, but Sakura makes the ropes. Chops and slaps are exchanged, and then the women run in to each other’s forearms. Nanae puts an end to that sequence with a Saito suplex, but Emi blocks the follow-up lariat and gets a trio of rollups for close two counts. Sakura then goes for the cross arm breaker, but Takahashi forces the rope break. Sakura sets up for a tiger driver, but it gets blocked. A rolling submission hold does not, but Nanae does manage to slip out of it and in to the ropes fairly quickly. Emi then hits her tiger driver, but it’s only good for a two count. Aerial offense is next, as Emi goes to the top again, only to be met by Takahashi. Sakura gives her woman a running powerbomb out of the corner, and his a flipping senton from the opposite turnbuckle for two. A 450 splash also fails to put Takahashi away. Emi tries to wear down her opponent a bit more with kicks but walks in to a pair of lariats for a one count. A quick kick to Emi’s head sets up an Oklahoma roll for another nearfall, and Sakura responds with her own version of the move for another two count. A Takahashi backdrop driver also fails to end the match, and her follow-up lariat also will not do the trick. A falcon arrow finally does it, allowing Nanae to get the decisive pinning combination.

Match Thoughts: This bout was essentially a hybrid of the best aspects of the two matches that immediately preceded it. It took the passion and fire of the good five minutes of the Makoto-Ichiki match and eliminated the ridiculous opening sequence and then combined that fire and passion with a pace similar to that found in the tag team encounter from earlier on the show. (Granted, the pace was slightly slower here, but that is to be expected when the match is longer and there are two fewer wrestlers involved.) It was patently obvious that these two women had more experience than anybody else on the card, as they were able to put together the smoothest looking match and the one that did the best job of conveying the feeling that the wrestlers involved were competitors there to settle the issue of who was the better performer in their chosen sport. Though it was hardly the type of product that we would have seen during the glory days of joshi, it was without a doubt the best “modern” women’s match that I have seen from Japan and well worth checking out if you’re interested in seeing some of the better action from the current crop of main eventers on the women’s side of things in the Land of the Rising Sun. ***3/4.


Coming out of the SENDAI show that I watched a little over a month ago, I was very disappointed in joshi. However, Ice Ribbon has given me a little bit of renewed faith in the product that I used to enjoy so thoroughly. Was this show like a show from the peak of AJW with dramatically booked half hour long main events? Absolutely not. It was a completely different type of wrestling card, but, at the end of the day, it was still an ENTERTAINING wrestling card, and that’s all that matters. The matches were all relatively short, but they were high energy affairs that for the most part involved young ladies who did a fine job of conveying distinct personalities. It was essentially the professional wrestling version of candy . . . there may not have been all that much of substance, but it gave you a highly concentrated blast of everything that you like about wrestling in a sweet, brightly colored package. If you’re not necessarily a women’s professional wrestling fan, you probably shouldn’t watch the entire show, but you at least owe it to yourself to watch the main event, the Shirai match, and the comedy match to see if these ladies can sway you towards changing your views. If they don’t do it, I don’t know if there is anybody in today’s joshi scene who can.


Luke7766 wrote in after my column about EAW Mexico and asked:

Wacky . . . can we have some pictures of the rings?

Luke is, of course, referring to EAW’s unique setup in which they take one ring, place it on stilts, and then stand it up next to a ring of regular height. Pictures of the rings themselves with nothing going on in them are difficult to come by, but here is a good action shot that gives you an idea of what the whole shooting match looks like:

The Cubs Fan of TheCubsFan.com cleared up the identity of one of the wrestlers on the EAW show who I couldn’t quite put my finger on:

Voltage is IWRG wrestler Freelance, working under the mask and name because he probably wasn’t supposed to be working this show (and may have gotten suspended for it.)

EAW ran a lot of shows in late spring/early summer, and then just stopped. Seemed like they ran out of money (or got bored with losing money), but they’re talking about running again sometime this month.

From what I understand, EAW has run since and has done some shows featuring my SHIMMER favorites Jennifer Blake and Rain, who are in the country anyway, primarily competing for the much larger AAA promotion.

J-Stack has a pretty basic question:

You know what bothers me about this column? It’s called “Into the Indies” but only ever covers Japan. Now, maybe it’s only supposed to be the Japanese indies and I’ve got the concept all wrong, but when the hell are places that the people who read this site can see live (and support) gonna be covered?

You’ve got the concept all wrong. It’s only supposed to be Japanese indies, as was pretty clearly stated in the first column.

Looking forward to the next instalment of Into the Indies? Keep an eye on 411’s Twitter accounts, and you just might see it pop up!


See you all next week!


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Ryan Byers

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