Review: ICE Ribbon "RibbonMania" (31 Dec 2012)

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ICE Ribbon present their year-end big show from Korakuen Hall, their first RibbonMania without founder Emi Sakura, and look to the future right from the opener to the main event.

Results
1. New Wrestler Elimination Match: Risa Sera, Hiroko Terada (debut) & 235 (debut) beat Rutsuko Yamaguchi (debut), Eri Wakamatsu (debut) & Ayano Takeda (debut) (8:26).
537970_579846458699586_772706423_n – 
Takeda eliminated 235 with a Fisherman Suplex (3:46). Terada eliminated Takeda with an Anaconda Vice (4:31). Sera eliminated Wakamatsu with a modified Shubain (6:31). Yamaguchi eliminated Terada with a Heel Drop (7:16). Sera eliminated Yamaguchi via over-the-top-rope elimination (8:26).

2. Duel 120Kg!!: Jaiko Ishikawa beat Kuzira Oshima (4:31) with an Abdominal Stretch.

3. 4 Way Match: Makoto Oishi & Neko Nitta beat Cherry & Meari Naito and Hailey Hatred & Kurumi and Aki Shizuku & Shoko Hotta (8:21) with a Cross Kneelock from Nitta on Naito.

4. Yumiko Hotta vs. Hamuko Hoshi – Time Limit Draw (15:00).

5. Kazunari Murakami beat Miyako Matsumoto (5:19) with a Haraigoshi.

6. International Ribbon Tag Team Title & REINA World Tag Team Title: Aoi Kizuki & Tsukushi beat Kyoko Kimura & Sayaka Obihiro (c) (17:36) with a Denden Mushi from Tsukushi on Obihiro – New Champions.

7. Special Tag Match: Nanae Takahashi & Natsuki*Taiyo beat Hikaru Shida & Tsukasa Fujimoto (20:51) with a Taiyo*Chan Spanish Fly from Taiyo to Fujimoto.

8. ICEx60 Title: Maki Narumiya beat Mio Shirai (c) (13:28) with the You’ll Never – New Champion.

Notes
• With the departure of Emi Sakura from ICE Ribbon (and the subsequent defections of Riho, Seina and – after this show – Sayaka Obihiro, all to Sakura’s Gatoh MOVE promotion), and with Ray leaving the promotion to go freelance and Hikari Minami concentrating on studies, ICE Ribbon has been struggling this year – leaving Tsukasa Fujimoto to go out and train a bunch of new young girls to keep the promotion going. The opening six woman has a startling five debuts.
423197_579799108704321_1586568964_n• The second match is between ‘Jaiko Ishikawa’ (which is male wrestler Shuji Ishikawa in drag as a cheerleader) and 40 year old Kuzira Oshima in a “heavyweight” battle at 120KG (approx 265lbs)
• Speaking of random intergender wrestling, Nekko Nitta is teaming with male wrestler Makoto Oishi in the four way tag team match.
• Big test for Hamuko Hoshi, getting a big singles match with her idol, Yumiko Hotta. Hoshi had fought Hotta once before in ICE Ribbon, back in 2009 when Hoshi was only a year in the business. Hoshi lost in four minutes.
• I don’t think I’ve seen Kazunari Murakami wrestle for years and years. I last saw him regularly in New Japan Pro-Wrestling about ten years ago. He always played the bad-ass (he had a legit MMA background), which makes a match with the adorable Miyako Matsumoto seem like some weird matchmaking… but then that’s what Matsumoto appears to thrive on these days.
• Sayaka Obihiro & Kyoko Kimura unexpectedly won the International Ribbon and REINA Tag Titles from champions Hailey Hatred & Hamuko Hoshi twelve days prior to this show – and while short reigns and quick switches are the norm in ICE Ribbon, Obihiro & Kimura’s win seemed particularly strange as Obihiro had announced her “retirement” at the end of the year.
• Nanae Takahashi & Natsuki*Taiyo are from the STARDOM promotion – where Takahashi is the top title holder (the World of Stardom champion) and Taiyo is both one half of the tag team (Goddesses of Stardom, w/ Yoshiko) and High Speed (think X-Division) champion.
• Freelancer (and member of Triple Tails.S) Mio Shirai won the ICEx60 Championship on September 23rd’s “Knights of Ribbon” event, and is making her third defense of the title here against Maki Narumiya, who is very talented, but still only in her second year as a pro.

Observations
• The first thing I can say is that I had no idea who anybody was in the opener. At least on the TV broadcast I watched, all six started by running at each other – so nobody got an individual introduction, so I had to piece together who was who from the results. Some of these girls looked quite young (not exactly out of the ordinary for ICE Ribbon), and being a multi-debut match, everybody looked brand new and raw. I quite enjoyed the athleticism of Ayano Takeda, and the final apron-based struggle between Risa Sera & Rutsuko Yamaguchi was nicely done. ICE Ribbon really needs to find some new stars out of this batch of rookies.
393065_579818448702387_878561563_n• The one minute or so of the near five minute Ishikawa/Oshima match shown on the TV broadcast was still one minute more than I needed to see. I don’t get this match at all.
• The four way tag team match in the third slot didn’t last long, and with so many people running around, that meant that it was difficult for anybody to stand out. Looked to be plenty of comedy mixed into this one. Sadly only saw a little bit of Hailey Hatred. Nekko Nitta has never been anywhere near my favourite member of the IR roster, but she looked decent here, en route to victory.
• Yumiko Hotta was tremendous in the first part of her match with Hamuko Hoshi – her face and demeanour displaying that she had little or no respect for her younger “fan”, disrespecting her and dragging her all over Korakuen Hall, using weapons where possible. Hoshi rallied with increasingly desperate lariats until she forced a 15 minute draw. Post match, Hotta was impressed enough at Hoshi’s growth to throw her a “Hotta” t-shirt and shake her hand. Nice. Match was decent.
• Miyako Matsumoto looked *tiny* beside Kazunari Murakami. I’m not entirely sure what the match was supposed to achieve other than to showcase how Matsumoto wouldn’t take a back-step from the intimidating Murakami. She slapped him repeatedly, but as soon a Murakami became physical with her, he finished her quickly. There wasn’t a lot of physicality, but watching Murakami kick or throw down Matsumoto was a bit disturbing.
• Aoi Kizuki is a joy to watch. Her team with Obihiro earlier in the year was called the “Happy Makers”, and she always looks to be having a ball in there. If you thought Hiroyo Matsumoto lived happy, check out Kizuki. Good tag match here, albeit overshadowed in retrospect by the following tag match. Obihiro was pinned – in her last night with the company – a fact that was not lost. There were tears, hugs, flowers, smiles (from Kizuki, naturally) and a final call of “Bye bye, Obi” from the roster.
• See below for thoughts on Muscle Venus vs Takahashi & Taiyo
537764_579835342034031_496998575_n• Maki Narumiya’s ascension to main event level has been swift (and in the current ICE climate, deserved) and her match with Mio Shirai was good, though not as good as the preceding tag team match. To be fair, they didn’t try to work the same high octane style as Muscle Venus, Takahashi & Taiyo – preferring to work a more deliberate babyface/heel style. Shirai was all bitchy heel, pulling at her opponent’s hair and standing on her head, while Narumiya made comebacks. Narumiya’s finish – an Argentine backbreaker swung around into a spinebuster – was spectacular, and her facial expression on winning was priceless. Great job.

Match of the Night: Tsukasa Fujimoto & Hikaru Shida vs Nanae Takahashi & Natsuki*Taiyo
Edging out the main event for ‘Best Bout’ honours on this show is the “Special Tag Match” semi-final of the show – and really it’s to be expected given the talent involved. I don’t see enough Nanae Takahashi to say with absolute conviction, but it wouldn’t take too much convincing to settle my mind that she’s the top joshi talent working in Japan at the minute… and Natsuki*Taiyo is certainly one of the top high-flyers around. Match those up with ICE Ribbon’s two shining stars? Yes please. The match was fought at a tremendously high pace throughout, but for me, the highlights of the match were often the interactions between Fujimoto & Taiyo, who seemed to have a natural chemistry. Good drama, believable near-falls and plenty of energy made this a really fun (if exhausting) watch.

Final Analysis
This has been a year of upheaval in ICE Ribbon, with defections and retirements. Last year’s RibbonMania was the big show send-off for founder Emi Sakura, and a lot of credit has to go to the remaining members of the office, along with the new faces of the promotion Tsukasa Fujimoto & Hikaru Shida for keeping the promotion alive. Cruelly, the coronation of the new ICEx60 Champion Maki Narumiya was short lived, as she suffered a spinal injury just six days later in a tag team match, necessitating the vacating of the title. It never rains, but it pours. RibbonMania 2012 was, like many major ICE Ribbon shows, a mixed bag of great joshi puroresu, fun and some strangeness. Only the top two matches are real “must sees”, but most of the rest of the card gives some insight into possible future stars.. except for match 2, naturally.

— Stew Allen

(credit to Youji Kawauchi for photography, and http://www.PuroLove.com for results)

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