So that’s it. After announcing in March that she would be retiring, embarking on a farewell tour which would start in SHIMMER in April and making final appearances in OZ Academy, WAVE, Diana, Ice Ribbon, Gatoh Move and Sendai Girls, Ayumi Kurihara has made her final appearance as an active wrestler.
Despite citing nagging injuries for her reason for bowing out of her eight year career, the 29-year old certainly didn’t hold back or take it easy on herself as she did her farewell rounds. She made the promise in her blog where she revealed her intentions to walk away that she would “continue to fight with all her strength and all her heart until August 4th”, regardless of the damage that it could do to the clavicle injury which was forcing her out. As a result she took part in more than 40 matches in 5 months, including some hard-hitting contests with the likes of Mercedes Martinez and Mayumi Ozaki – something which earned her a recognition in our Good Half Year series last month.
The former NEO, NWA Women’s Pacific, CMLL World Women’s and SHIMMER Tag Team Champion wrestled twice on her retirement show at Tokyo’s Korakuen Hall, defeating Mika Iida in the opener and getting the pinfall in the 6-woman main event, putting down Aja Kong for the three to see out her wrestling days. After the matches, the traditional ceremony where she stands in the middle of the ring while the bell tolls ten times took place to signify the end of her career – at which point the ring was showered in ribbons and she was carried out of the ring on the shoulders of Kana, Tsukasa Fujimoto and Mio Shirai.
JoshiFans.com has provided accurate results of the show, which was standing room only and drew a mammoth 1,813 fans to produce a Super No Vacancy Full House:
1. Ayumi Kurihara beat Mika Iida in 9:04 with a Wrist-Clutch Uranage.
2. Shu Shibutani & Mio Shirai beat Sakura Hirota & Kana in 12:59. Shibutani pinned Hirota with a Time Machine Roll.
3. Dynamite Kansai, Sonoko Kato & Carlos Amano beat Ryo Mizunami, Aya Yuki & Sawako Shimono in 12:46 when Kato used a Diving Guillotine Drop on Mizunami.
4. Misaki Ohata won a 12 person battle royal in 18:13, which also involved Hikaru Shida, Kyoko Kimura, Moeka Haruhi, Yumi Ohka, Shuri, Tsukasa Fujimoto, Cherry, Yuu Yamagata, Hiroyo Matsumoto, Mii Hibiscus (Apple Miyuki) & Ranmaru.
5. Ayako Hamada beat Sareee in 9:10 with the Pyramid Driver.
6. Ayumi Kurihara Retirement Match: Ayumi Kurihara, AKINO & Mika Iida beat GAMI, Aja Kong & Tomoka Nakagawa in 24:05 when Kurihara used an Uranage on Kong.
Reader Steve Rich was in attendance at the show and has sent us a rundown of the show.
After a 10 bell salute to legendary ring announcer Nagaharu Imai who sadly died last week of stomach cancer at just 53, the show started, with a video package on Ayumi and a personal welcome from the lady herself. She went backstage for final preparations for the first match, which like the last match, she would be competing in.
Kurihara’s protege Mika Iida emerged first with tears positively streaming down her face. Ayumi in contrast was beaming at the start of the match, which soon wore off when Iida nailed her with some very hard forearms in the early going. There was no shortage of roughness, in particular when Mika put her idol in an armbar with her leg putting pressure on the neck, which from my vantage point convinced me Ayumi’s shoulder was about to pop out. Iida also nailed her trainer with some of her own vicious dropkicks with Kurihara wedged in the ropes – she would come to regret this. Soon Ayumi rallied and returned the favour with some equally harsh dropkicks and then her trademark uranage which Iida survived. Ayumi kept up the pressure and won this emotional contest after a second uranage, a headbutt, and then the wristclutch/hammerlock variant of the uranage.
Former Triple Tails partners faced off against each other in the second match, with Kurihara’s former Wave Tag Team Championship partner KANA teaming up with Sakura Hirota in full-on Ayumi impersonation mode, against Mio Shirai and another wrestler important in Kurihara’s career (not to mention a friend), Shu Shibutani. This match was played mostly for laughs (obviously, with Hirota in the ring) and KANA and especially Shirai had problems keeping a straight face. Shu primarily played spoiler, interjecting to prevent Hirota doing anything amusing, most of which centered around the babyfaces hitting the heels with, for want of a better description, a running double-handed poke in the crotch. Hirota’s impersonation of Ayumi backfired on her, especially when she tried a headbutt, and even managed to hurt her own knees with a running attack in the corner, then crotching herself quite badly while attempting a backwards rope walk, after the initial forward walk had gone so well! Ultimately Sakura ran out of luck and Shibutani wrapped her up in a Time Machine Roll.
Things got more serious in the third match as The OZ Academy trio of the legendary Dynamite Kansai, Carlos Amano and Sonocko Kato took on the bullish Ryo Mizunami, Aya Yuki and Sawako Shimono. Haircut aside, Kato hasn’t changed a bit since her GAEA days and Kansai was in a particularly grumpy mood. Yuki took an absolute pounding, and when Mizunami took the hot tag she faired little better, with a couple of attempts at the Mizunami Coaster thwarted by the more experienced team. In the end, Ryo absorbed a terrific uranage from Kansai before Kato put her away with a diving guilotine legdrop.
Shenanigans were the order of the day in the last match before intermission, the “timed entrance battle royal” – essentially a Rumble but with a referee in the ring and pinfalls allowed for elimination too. The timings seemed fairly erratic and often two girls came in at once, most notably Apple Miyuki and Kyusei Ninja Ranmaru. There was so much going on, all I should add of note is the beginning was a perfectly heavy way to start with former Black Dahlia comrades Ohka and Ohata (understandably) tearing strips off each other, and Shida spicing things up by bringing a kendo stick into the ring with her. Speaking of Shida, hers was the only elimination to take place before all 12 ladies had entered, occuring mere seconds after Miyuki and Ranmaru (numbers 9 & 10) entered the ring.
Order of entry :
(1) Yumi Ohka
(2) Misaki Ohata
(3) Kyoko Kimura
(4) Hikaru Shida
(7) Tsukasa Fujimoto
(8) Moeka Haruhi
(9) Apple Miyuki
(11) Hiroyo Matsumoto
(12) Yuu Yamagata
Order of elimination :
(1) Shida by everyone in huge group pile-on pinfall,
(2) Kimura pinned by everyone, mind-controlled by Ranmaru,
(3) Haruhi pinned by everyone,
(4) Ohka dropkicked off the apron by Shuri & Fujimoto moments after dropping Ohata’s throat on the top rope,
(5) Shuri pinned by a Fujimoto cradle (and help from others),
(6) Fujimoto pinned by a Cherry sunset flip (and help from others),
(7) Cherry pinned by everyone,
(8) Yamagata pinned by Miyuki & Ranmaru together moments after delivering a suplex,
(9) Matsumoto pinned by Ohata via Blue Dahlia,
(10) Miyuki throws herself over the top rope, mind-controlled by Ranmaru,
(11) Ranmaru pinned by Ohata after a top-rope missile dropkick.
After intermission in the fifth match the 17 year old Sareee was in for the fight of her life with the grumpy veteran Ayako Hamada. She took a fierce pounding but made a spirited comeback after taking some blows that had Yamagata (of all people) wincing at ringside. She rallied and seemed to err in repeatedly trying to uranage her much bigger opponent. Eventually after Hamada missed a moonsault, Sareee slapped her hard – twice – and completed the move, which got her only a two count. She then hit three more uranage but was still unable to pin Hamada, who regained control shortly after with a series of kicks and looked like she had won with a thunderous sitout powerbomb/Ligerbomb, but Sareee survived. The game was up however and after a stunning backwards roundhouse kick Hamada finished her off with a cross-armed powerbomb/Pyramid driver.
In the final match of the night, and of Ayumi Kurihara’s career, the girl we had all came to see teamed up with her trainer Akino and her protege Mika Iida to face the legendary Aja Kong, Wave boss GAMI and modern day rival Tomoka Nakagawa (who incidentally, I have to thank for my tickets). The match was a mix of comedy and drama. In the beginning the babyfaces were able to tie up Kong to allow first Iida and then Kurihara to pose on her back – at this point GAMI and Nakagawa made sure they got in the shot too, humerously. Not long after, the heels were able to corner Ayumi and each took a turn running in with an attack. Suddenly the whole show roster got in on the act, and Ayumi was given an absolute beating on her final night, including Hamada hitting a forward roll into a slap, and a hard knee from Shida. Particularly vicious too were Ohata and Kimura, they held nothing back.
The middle of the match was a prolonged heat spell on Akino before (inevitably) Ayumi took the hot tag. In a real “this is where we came in” moment, it took six missile dropkicks to finally take Aja off her feet, and then Ayumi added two more for good measure. Aja was able to tag out to Nakagawa though and in the following chaos nearly took the pin on Kurihara with a 200% Schoolboy. Aja came back in and absorbed an uncountable number of forearms from Kurihara, but then she ran straight into a Uraken for a two count. The drama hit boiling point here as Korakuen chanted “AYUMI! AYUMI!” desperate to not see their girl beaten in her final match. Kong hit her with a second Uraken, and even though her attempt at a pin was reversed into a small package for two, the third Uraken seemed to kill off everyone’s hopes of the dream happy ending – but Kurihara kicked out.
There was still time for one more comedy spot as the whole roster ran in to beat GAMI up – but she managed to escape leaving poor Shibutani on the bottom of the dogpile. When the ring cleared, GAMI and Tomoka turned on Kong, with all four other ladies administering a blow to Aja – including a bold headbutt from Iida – before Kurihara wrapped her with a uranage to capture the final pinfall of her career.
After the match came a lengthy and moving ceremony where Ayumi was presented with flowers and gifts from the show roster and other notable figures from the world of Joshi and friends and key players in her career, including the badly hobbling Lin Bairon/RAY, Michiko Ohmukai, Toshiyo Yamada, and even a video message from Akira Hokuto. Akino strapped the M’s Style championship belt around Kurihara’s waist. Kayfabing to the last, Ayumi even backed away a little from Shibutani before accepting her hug, expecting a cheap shot. As expected, KANA, Mio and Iida each hugged Kurihara like they didn’t want to let go. Afterwards, several of the wrestlers including GAMI, Kong and Ohka each had a turn ringing the bell once for Ayumi, before the ring announcer gave the big thank you announcement which was the signal for us all to throw our streamers into the ring. As “Kibouhou” played one last time, the wrestlers gave Ayumi a lap of honour around the ring with her riding on Shibutani’s back, and back up the aisle, as the choked up spectators started to file out.
– Lee Burton
– Photos by Youji Kawauchi