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FOUR DAYS IN APRIL: ALL JAPAN, NOAH, AND THEIR TROUBLED HISTORY

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April 2018: Naomichi Marufuji (left) and Toshiaki Kawada (centre) holding a memorial for Motoko Baba.

By the 22nd April 2018, two events had already been planned, Naomichi Marufuji, the vice-president from Pro-Wrestling NOAH, would face the President of All Japan, and old colleague, Jun Akiyama in All Japan’s Champion Carnival. The next day he would have a “talk battle” with old All Japan veteran, Toshiaki Kawada, who was a stranger to him.

Fate, which had played such a role in the lives of three, would play another card to make these events all the more poignant. After a long struggle with liver failure, Mokoto Baba, the widow of Giant Baba, died at the age of seventy-eight on the 14th April 2018. Her death, like much of her life, was kept secret until the 22nd.

What bound these four together from the All Japan days was more of a question of who, rather than what and where.

To understand the story, and to discover the significance behind what happened in April 2018, we need to go back to the source. We need to follow the river upstream, past the ring, the dojo and wrestling politics, newspapers, internet journalists, TV stations, reporters and fan opinion, back to Ashikaga-kodai High School, where Mitsuharu Misawa met Toshiaki Kawada in the late seventies. Both men would go on to join the All Japan Dojo, and train under the watchful eye of Shohei “Giant” Baba. They would become two of the “Four Pillars of Heaven” (as Giant Baba named them, the other two being Akira Taue and Kenta Kobashi), and their wars against each other would be epic, their rivalry on a scale that would never be replicated. Former friends, had to turn into rivals, and the ripples from this would turn into a wave that would blow itself out decades later when the water finally calmed.

Mr & Mrs Baba

Into this masculine world of wrestling with all of its traditions and testosterone, had stepped a young woman called Mokoto Baba in 1972 when All Japan was founded. The Japanese have a private face and a public face, and even now it is very rare to hear wrestlers talk about their personal lives (obviously with some exception), and so it wasn’t known to the public until the early eighties that Baba even had a wife. If the public didn’t know it, then All Japan did.

Puro can be very paternal, (especially in relationships between student and teacher), and so while Baba was the father to the dojo, Mokoto had to be the mother. Baba tended to be the indulgent dad and was beloved by the boys; Mokoto had to be out of necessity, the strict mom, and so wasn’t much liked.

In the early nineties, Jun Akiyama joined the All Japan dojo. He was followed by Naomichi Marufuji six years later. It was management who decided who would train who, and it was fate that put Marufuji with Misawa. Toshiaki Kawada knowing the rules of the game, had to completely withdraw from Misawa, and this meant from Marufuji too. His behaviour was often seen as hostile or perhaps downright rude as he pretty much had to ignore him completely. “Kayfabe” had to be maintained; rivals could not have any contact with each other outside the ring (just as at award ceremonies, promotions were then forbidden from talking to anyone outside the promotion), they were forbidden to give advice to even their rival’s trainees.

However, this did not stop Marufuji reflecting that while all the veterans had something to teach, Kawada was the one who “taught fear.”   

So for two years our four were together in All Japan, but they were tough years by the late nineties. It wasn’t just the strict hierarchy that existed in the dojo (Marufuji would later comment that it was something he had never come across before, there was naturally a hierarchy in Japanese society, but this was something else), it wasn’t the fact that puro was changing (promotions were becoming a little less insular as technology grew, the internet was born and the world began to open up digitally); it was the fact that Baba was dying. A heavy cigar smoker, he succumbed to cancer in 1999. 

Into the void left by his death, stepped his widow, and much to his surprise stepped Misawa, who as per the term of Baba’s will, was now appointed president of All Japan. It was to be both an unfortunate and a remarkable pairing; no woman before had ever headed up a wrestling promotion. Mokoto Baba may have been business savvy, but she was also grief stricken, and determined to keep All Japan as it was under her husband. She knew how to fight, and fight she would.  

Despite his upbringing in the cloistered world of the All Japan dojo, Misawa had been overseas (and had always had a penchant for gaijin wrestlers), and looking around at the new century, he saw new opportunities to take All Japan into the millennium by taking the company in a new and different direction. Friction arose with Mokoto almost immediately. Nothing would change in All Japan; it would remain how it always had been. 

The relationship between the woman who had been the mother to the boys, and the man who had experienced a family life in All Japan, that he had never had in reality, reached the breaking point. Both could be infuriatingly stubborn, both knew how to fight, and neither would give way. Therefore the only option open to save All Japan, was for Mokoto to remove Misawa and he was stripped of his presidency by a majority vote of executive board members. 

Out of the bitterness, the humiliation, the frustration, Misawa decided to create his own promotion, and what is known as “the first exodus” was staged whereby Misawa walked out of All Japan taking with him many of his colleagues, including Jun Akiyama, and his trainee, Naomichi Marufuji. Toshiaki Kawada elected to stay with All Japan. 

Furious and humiliated, Mokoto issued a statement which basically said Misawa had acted rashly and inconsiderately. Misawa also released his own statement at a press conference with those who had elected to follow him out of the safety of established All Japan and onto the small raft that was heading out for unknown waters, NOAH; he praised Baba, acknowledged the difficulties he had, and ignored Mokoto completely. He never spoke publicly of her.  

Mokoto would have her revenge. Misawa was to be left off of any subsequent DVD release, no matter how much the fans wanted to see it, and no matter how much it would have benefited All Japan. His memory was to be airbrushed as much as possible. In a radio interview soon afterwards she spoke of him in a way that sounded as if a mother had lost a son, saying that when Baba was alive they got a long, but after Baba died, Misawa changed. 

All Japan were facing a crisis; Misawa had walked out with the majority of the top talent, and the majority of the future talent, and days later, office workers and admin staff quit to join him. Their TV deal was also cancelled and Noah took their slot. Mokoto, the woman who had been so strict about her husband’s wishes, now shocked everyone by bringing back Genichiro Tenryu, who had left All Japan in 1990. People didn’t leave promotions to go to other promotions. It wasn’t done, and Baba swore that he would never let this wayward son back in the house, but yet here he was, shaking hands with mother. It didn’t make too much of a difference, All Japan found that they were now half selling shows in places they had originally been able to fill to the rafters.   

There would be one more conflict between NOAH and All Japan, and this harked back to the old days with the no contact rule, when NOAH and All Japan participated in four tour dates together in July 2000. NOAH wrestled NOAH, and All Japan wrestled All Japan. Neither side met in the ring or outside of it. There was no friendly meeting with old friends. Nothing. Toshiaki Kawada mentioned that it was unnecessary for NOAH to be there and Misawa was unnecessary for All Japan. NOAH never said anything (although Steve Williams took it upon himself to goad him), and at the end of the tour, Misawa took everybody back to Differ, not even waiting for the show to finish. By this time even Mokoto realised that All Japan could no longer function as barricaded fortress, and a deal was struck with New Japan. 

This would have been unheard of in Baba’s era. Still, the stone had been thrown into the water, and the ripples were turning into waves that would one day reach the shore.

Toshiaki Kawada (left) and Mitsuharu Misawa (right) in high school before the days of promotions, dojos, trainees or rivalries on a grand scale.

With the passage of years, and his decision to freelance (ironically involving difficulties with All Japan), time had done much to mellow the relationship between Misawa and Kawada and on July 18th 2005, they wrestled their final match together at the Tokyo Dome, the place where long ago, their epic wars had taken place. It was a reconciliation of some sorts, but the ice was never properly broken between them.

Following an accident in the ring, caused by years of postponing his own retirement, and an accumulation of injuries, Mitsuharu Misawa died in June 2009. NOAH held memorial shows, on which Toshaki Kawada appeared. Ironically, he also found kind of a home in NOAH, feuding with Takeshi Morishima (who had been one of the trainees who had walked out of All Japan), and participating in the first Global League. The death of Misawa shocked him, and although he never publicly announced that he was going to retire, he did admit that with Misawa gone, his heart was no longer in wrestling. He would reignite his passion in 2018, but in a different way.

Fate decided that it was now time for NOAH and All Japan to cross paths again, this time involving Naomichi Marufuji and Jun Akiyama. Fate was about to repeat itself.

In his will, Misawa left the position of vice president in Noah to Naomichi Marufuji. It had been said that Misawa was planning to retire, and therefore would have started to introduce the man who was like son to him, to the business world, but there hadn’t been time, and so Marufuji found himself not only thrust into a role that he didn’t know, but also faced with angry seniors. Those who had been in All Japan during the days of Misawa and Mrs. Baba now felt the same thing. Who wanted to work with this young man? He knew nothing of business? He was going to change things, things they didn’t like, things Misawa didn’t like. Several of the veterans quit, and Naomichi Marufuji spent the next few years learning the ropes and with a pounding headache.

In December 2012, Pro Wrestling Noah took the decision to terminate the contract of Kenta Kobashi due to injuries. Furious at this insult to their teacher, Jun Akiyama, along with four other wrestlers refused to renew their contracts with NOAH, and all left for All Japan. It was a similar repeat of what had happened years before, and while it was on a much smaller scale, it was to have devastating consequences for NOAH. With Misawa gone, the promotion had managed to stay afloat for a few years, but a scandal involving the Yakuza had ruined their reputation (something which NOAH are still feeling the effects of in 2018), and they could not afford the walk out of such talent. The waves from the stone thrown in 2000 had reached the shore.

While Kenta Kobashi seemingly later made peace with NOAH, Jun Akiyama was not forgiven and his actions were seen as a betrayal. Another rift began between NOAH and All Japan, which was not made better when Akiyama became president in 2014 which was perceived as a too close threat to NOAH at a time when NOAH could barely afford such competitors or to have someone who had been once one of their own and a symbol of the company, one of their rivals.

Both companies however were now entering their dark years. NOAH was suffering through scandal and loss of talent (plus the disaster of the New Japan alliance), and All Japan were experiencing the after effects another mass walkout, again due to the company leadership. These walkouts have become known as “The Exodus” and are even numbered. To complicate things even further, the former president of All Japan, became the president of NOAH. The two companies settled into bitter resentment on both sides as they faced their mounting problems and picked up the pieces from the wave that had been waiting to come since 2000.

On February 3rd 2018, Naomichi Marufuji out of the blue announced on a rainy day, that he had been invited to take part in All Japan’s “Champion Carnival”. The news caused outrage, not only amongst wrestlers, but also amongst fans. It had been five years since Naomichi Marufuji and Jun Akiyama had had anything to do with other, five years since NOAH lost their talent to All Japan. To All Japan fans it was a question of why on earth NOAH was being allowed back to All Japan? Why was their vice-president here? What was going to come of this? Where All Japan and NOAH going to merge? Rumors and misconceptions flew around.

What came of it was peace. It was finality. It was acceptance.
It was a much needed burial of the past.

On 25th April 2018, after five years, Naomichi Marufuji and Jun Akiyama met in the ring. They had an epic battle. In this match everything came out, the difficult years, the dark past, the resentment, the bitterness, the lid blew off and the miasma scattered as they hit each other (the bruises could be seen the next day very clearly). Fans of both NOAH and All Japan, were in tears as it was emotional. Like the ghosts of Taira clan watching Hoichi The Earless play “The Tale of The Heike”, they saw it all; the shared past of Misawa and Kawada, Baba, Mokoto, Jumbo Tsuruta and the old guard, then the upturning of Puro and the new way it was taken in the new century, the return of Kobashi and “The Burning” stable made up of those who walked out of NOAH, all of it.

At the end of it, the demons exorcised, the past was laid finally to rest by a simple gesture of a fist bump between the two.

Nothing more needed be said. NOAH was here, All Japan was here.
Both were still here.

Toshiaki Kawada and Naomichi Marufuji in April 2018. The last lingering ghosts of the past were laid to rest.

There was a final closure to be had the next day when Toshiaki Kawada and Naomichi Marufuji met in the ring. By this time long out of action, Kawada had turned to producing. He too wanted to show the new generation against the older generation, which was a story that Puro knew so well, at his first event “Holy War”.

Unable to wrestle, he and Marufuji basically sat down and talked about All Japan. Kawada noticing that Marufuji was using a lot more psychological techniques, now that he realised that nearing forty he couldn’t really moonsault anymore, and a lot of those techniques where his. Kawada told the bruised and battered Misawa protégée, that his hostility in the dojo stemmed from the way things had to be back then, he couldn’t have helped him, even spoken to or properly acknowledged him, and he didn’t want things to be like that anymore.

It didn’t need to be.

Not now.

There has been a long bitter struggle between All Japan and NOAH for many years, but now both promotions can look to the future. NOAH will never again rely on another promotion only on themselves, and it would be a hideous contradiction of Misawa’s wishes which are held sacred in NOAH, for them to merge with All Japan and vice-versa in All Japan with Giant Baba, but with the rise of the younger generation in both companies, there is nothing now to stop a co-operation between them which can only benefit everybody.

NOAH and All Japan are still here. Let’s keep it that way.


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International Coverage

AJPW Super Power Series 2018 Results & Review (5/24/2018)

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We are back with some All Japan Pro Wrestling coverage again! Finally, we get the much anticipated rematch with our Champions Carnival winner, Naomichi Marufuji taking on the current Triple Crown Champion, Kento Miyahara. The last time these two fought was at the Carnival final where they both won their respected blocks and Marufuji would come out the winner to get a future title match despite him saying he had no desire to go for the belt at this time.

However, they still gotta follow rules and keep the ball rolling, so here we are now. We got what looks to be a stacked show tonight and even the return of Jake Lee, something to look forward to. So let’s not waste anymore time and just…dive right in.

 

Singles Match
Yohei Nakajima vs. Ishikiri

Review: Before the majority of the show gets covered in tag matches, we get a singles matches to kick the show off between Yohei and Ishikiri. I see Ishikiri wearing the Mortal Kombat logo on the side of his pants there, thumbs up to you. The match started really fast paced and fairly impressive might I add. Both of these men have done well for the opening bout and was mostly impressed with Ishikiri as he stood out for me a little bit more than Yohei, which I’m not saying he’s bad either. Around six minutes, Yohei would hit a spinning back kick which he calls Tobiushiro-Mawashigiri and then get the win in a pretty solid opener.

Recommended: Good match to get the crowd going.

 

Tag Team Match
Jun Akiyama & Osamu Nishimura vs. Takao Omori & Masanobu Fuchi

Review: This tag match is special to them since this is also a tribute match to one of All Japan’s greats, Jumbo Tsuruta who has passed away eighteen years ago this month. So this match between the people that remember this legend is for the respect they had for him and how much he meant to these four men right here.

I think it’s amazing that the crowd reaction whenever Fuchi is in the ring is one of the loudest in the company right now next to guys like Kento, Suwama, Shuji, etc. Whenever Jun would hit Fuchi with an open fist or move out of the way when he goes for a dropkick, the crowd showers Jun in a ton of boo’s an it’s just entertaining and a bit heartwarming to see that they still love Fuchi. The match wasn’t great, but it was exactly how I expected it to go with four vets working together to give people still something entertaining at least and it was all in good fun, so what more could you ask for? Jun would do the Wrist Clutch Small Package Hold on Fuchi to get the win for his team. After the match, all four of them would honor the passing of Jumbo Tsuruta who is considered one of the greatest of all time and just the great in All Japan by many people, his spirit lives on with the company to to help shine All Japan to a brighter future. JUM-BO!

Recommended: Fun match, touching tribute, and a nice call back to the stuff that happened during Jumbo’s era. Worth a watch.

 

Eight Man Tag Team Match
Suwama, Shuji Ishikawa, Atsushi Aoki & Hikaru Sato vs. Zeus, Joe Doering, Atsushi Maruyama & Black Tiger VII

Review: Up next is a eight man tag with both teams consisting of two heavyweights and two junior heavyweights with Violent Giants teaming up with Sato and current Junior Heavyweight Champion, Atsushi Aoki taking on Zues minus Bodyguard who is resting his legs finally, teaming up with Joe Doering, Atsushi Maruyama, and Black Tiger VII. Last time the two Atsushi’s were in the ring, it was for the Junior Heavyweight Championship on the May 12th show where Aoki would retain over Maruyama, but it looks like they could go again if this match goes well.

I just need to get this out of the way, but how is Zeus not won the Triple Crown Championship by now? I mean it because this guy is amazing and has a great fan following, I’m just surprised he hasn’t won their main title just yet, but I hope he does soon because I think he would be a fantastic champion if given the opportunity. Also another thing I want to point out and I feel like that it should be addressed here since it involves the junior division, and all I gotta ask is who is their leader? I ask this because the junior division is severely lacking leadership and while Aoki is probably the better one there so far, there’s still not enough that really stand out fully. When you look at WWE, NJPW, Impact, or Dragon Gate, you can see they have enough people to carry their respective division with a solid roster and giving us quality of matches, while All Japan really doesn’t and as Andrew said when we were special guests on Dave’s podcast called Uncle Jun’s Junction, there’s no spice there and when you had to rely on guys like TAJIRI and Ultimo Dragon to help carry that title and division (no disrespect to both men), then you need to rebuild it and soon.

Anyway, onto the match before I ramble on about their weak division and how Zeus isn’t champion, this is probably my favorite tag match on this show since all eight of these guys showcased their stuff wonderfully here with great action between whoever was fighting who in the ring, even Joe did pretty well for himself there despite my previous complaints while still liking him at the same time. Think my favorite part was the abuse Maruyama took from Suwama when they shared the ring together and Suwama would hit him with a stiff Lariat every time, it just made me chuckle.The Violent Giants picked up the win with their Last Mountain (Double Powerbomb) on Maruyama.

Recommended: Very good tag match, definitely worth viewing.

 

Six Man Tag Team Match
Ryoji Sai, Dylan James & Keiichi Sato vs. TAJIRI, KAI & Kotaro Suzuki

Review: I must’ve read something wrong because I could’ve sworn we were supposed to have a Tag Team Championship match between TAJIRI and KAI taking on Dylan and Ryoji on this show, but I guess I’ve heard wrong or they changed it since we’re getting a six man tag instead while the title match will take place on the June 3rd show. I will admit that the team of TAJIRI and KAI is actually going pretty well as they have a good chemistry between humor and actual tag team wrestling, and it somehow works while on paper you would think it shouldn’t, but for some odd reason it’s working and you can’t explain it. Sato and Suzuki started off the match with some fast paced action and they were very crisp with their time together which made me wanna possibly see them in the junior hunt since these two were awesome.

My one problem with the match was both teams of KAI/TAJIRI and Sai/Dylan were mostly doing their stuff outside of the ring and the fact they were away from each other, the camera had to go back and forth, and while I don’t mind stuff like it, but it did feel like it dragged on a little bit and they even did it for a brief moment a couple of minutes after that while Sato and Suzuki were just staying in their corners while these four kill each other. When everyone is finally back in the ring, TAJIRI would spray his poison mist on Sai to get him out of the ring while Kai took care of Dylan, and Sato picked up the win for his team with the Blue Destiny on Suzuki. TAJIRI and KAI now get more momentum leading in their upcoming title match and we will see if it pays off.

Recommended: Not bad. Enjoy the flow of the show.

 

Tag Team Match
Jake Lee & Koji Iwamoto vs. Naoya Nomura & Yoshitatsu

Review: After being sidelined for ten months, Jake Lee makes his return to the ring as he teams up with Koji to take on his former partner, Naoya and Yoshitatsu, so let’s see if Lee has any ring rust from the time being spent away from the ring. Jake Lee didn’t do too bad for his first time back since there were times he felt like he was a bit out of it, but he did pretty well for the other times and not gonna harp on him since he just got back from injury. I know I said in the Carnival that Naoya could be one of the bright future of the company and I also mean that with Jake Lee since he also has that untapped potential and I saw that when he fought Shuji last year for the Triple Crown Championship. these two can definitely become great in the upcoming years. The match was solid for what it was despite some sloppy moments and a botched Tornado DDT by Yoshi, but also didn’t do bad despite that, and of course Lee won in his return match with hitting a vicious High Angle Backdrop on Nomura. Welcome back, Jake Lee.

Recommended: Decent match, Jake Lee is definitely something special.

 

Triple Crown Title
Kento Miyahara (c) vs. Naomichi Marufuji

Review: Now it is time for the main event as Kento defends his Triple Crown Championship against the winner of this years Champion Carnival, NOAH’s Naomichi Marufuji. I feel like this is more of a continuation of the story between AJPW and NOAH as NOAH is already 2-0 when Marufuji defeated both the president of AJPW, Jun Akiyama and the current champion, Kento Miyahara. The history and story between these two companies is long and historic despite some of the bad blood they had over the years and I’m glad that they’re using this to help rebuild that bridge to have at least some type of closure, and also Marufuji looking to take their championship as an extra added aalt on the wounds he left there and bring it to NOAH before his GHC Heavyweight Championship match on the 29th of this month against Takashi Sugiura. Kento however is looking to avenge not only his loss to Marufuji (Which is a fantastic match and you should definitely check it out), but to avenge his companies honor since he felt like Marufuji disrespected it. So can lightning strike twice or will Kento get his revenge on Marufuji? Let’s not waste any time and see.

I’m gonna get my one complaint out of the way here so it doesn’t take away from the rest of the match and what I’m about to say, and it’s that most of the felt very similar to their previous match and I mostly mean it with the opening sequence since aside from Kento being more aggressive, I felt like I saw it before and around the same time too instead of giving us a little bit something different to make it a completely new match and to me personally it did hurt it a little, but the match is still fantastic despite the one complaint. Kento showed more of his aggressiveness in the match here since he knew he had to win here or else All Japan would look like a joke compared to NOAH and Marufuji, and even Marufuji wasn’t giving him any mercy whatsoever during this match since he felt more aggressive as well and it was a much needed element to the both of them.

Another thing I can say about this match is that it felt bigger and in a way it was since there was a bigger prize involved and the crowd was much more into this one, even gave it a New Japan type atmosphere with how the crowd was reaction to everything they would do and even with just chanting their name, and it was awesome. I felt like they hit the nail with everything they needed to do with progressing the story and adding another chapter with this rivalry, and the final five to ten minutes were tremendous and it was exactly how it should end with high impact and pretty much last resort to try and give it your all to win. Kento would finally hit the Shutdown German Suplex Hold and he avenged his loss while also retaining the title, and defending All Japan’s honor.

After the match, we have a new challenger into the mix and for some reason it’s….Dylan James. Why is it him again? What did he do to earn a title opportunity since his team lost earlier? Why are we awarding Dylan a Triple Crown match after having a weaker performance than Bodyguard in the Carnival? Did they just wanna give Kento an easy defense before the next big show? I got no faith in this match, but Jun apparently does, so we’ll see what happens. Now that Kento and Marufuji have one win against each other, when should they fight again? In the Carnival final, Marufuji did invite Kento to come down to NOAH sometime to perform and his 20th anniversary show is coming up in September, so I think we could have the final match of the trilogy there if they choose to go forward with it. It could even be a champion vs. champion bout if Kento keeps the belt til then and if Marufuji defeats Sugiura on the 29th to take his belt and keep it til then. Either way, I’m excited to see what they do with this next since you can tell it’s not over.

Recommended: I liked their first encounter a little bit better by a hair, but still an amazing match and should be viewed a bunch of times.

 

Overall: I thought the show was very enjoyable as none of the matches were bad at all and basically solid all around with a great main event to close it off. Looking forward to see what new chapters come their way except for Dylan/Kento.

Favorite Match: Kento Miyahara vs. Naomichi Marufuji

Least Favorite Match: Yohei Nakajima vs. Ishikiri (Not a bad match, but if I had to pick one.

Score: 8/10

See you all next time.


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Stardom Cinderella Tournament 2018 Final Results & Review (4/30/2018)

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Welcome to the second part of the Stardom Cinderella Tournament! If you missed part one, Cinderella Part 1. Our final eight are Hazuki, Jungle Kyona, Io Shirai, Bea Preiestley, Brandi Rhodes, Mayu Iwatani, Saki Kashima, and Momo Watanabe. Who will get their wish granted?

Well, let’s find out and…dive right in.

 

Cinderella Tournament 2018 Quarter Final Match
Hazuki vs. Bea Priestley

Review: In the first round we have Bea defeat Martina in…what I think was a match and then we had Hazuki defeat Hana Kimura in an actual good match and one of the best in the first round next to Mayu/Tam. Hazuki would come out in her Oedo Tai outfit for the first time and all of the members have their own entrance robes and masks now while even doing the dance despite it being kinda lazy, still amazing to see.

Okay…where the hell has this Bea been since I’ve been watching her? She was actually doing really well in his match and even connected a lot in more of her strikes, this is probably her best singles match in the company since I’ve been watching her, I want more of that and she would be fine. Hazuki still did great as always and had Oedo Tai try to help her out once Bea hit the Tree of Woe and would hit her Atomic Bombs Away to go for the pin, but Konami made the save to keep her alive. Bea would hit a stiff kick and a Curb Stomp to advance to the semi-finals where she will fight either Jungle or Momo.

Recommended: Yes actually, her best match here so far in my opinion.

 

Cinderella Tournament 2018 Quarter Final Match
Saki Kashima vs. Mayu Iwatani

Review: In their first round matches, Saki Kashima defeated Candy Floss to advance and Mayu defeated Tam Nakano and now the two STARS members will fight each other to advance to the next round. Saki I think is slowly becoming one of my top favorites in the promotion and these singles matches have proved that to me, I definitely think she’ll be a Wonder of Stardom Champion at least if she sticks around more, she’s very good at what she’s been doing so far and even added more submissions into the mix.

The match was very solid with back and forth action between both of these women and Mayu still proving why she’s still one of the best there. Match was around five minutes and gave them plenty of time to showcase their work with Mayu hitting her Dragon Suplex hold to advance as she now fights either Brandi or Io.

Recommended: Another solid match, I like to think it’s worth a watch.

 

Cinderella Tournament 2018 Quarter Final Match
Io Shirai vs. Brandi Rhodes

Review: In their first round matches, Io Shirai defeated Chardonnay while Brani Rhodes defeated Natsu Sumire to advance into the next round as Brandi is the only surviving Oedo Tai member left in the tournament, but she would need to defeat Io first if she wants to fight Mayu and advance.

This one is probably the weaker of the quarter final rounds and not saying that it’s bad or anything, but just compared to the previous two, this one was just average. Brandi still has a lot of growing to do in the ring and that’s perfectly fine too, and luckily Io was fighting her to help her out in the ring too and still gave a solid performance. Brandi would even hit a rather nice Cross Rhodes on Io that only Cody would be proud of, but wasn’t enough to put her away. Io would hit her Moonsault Press and advance to the semi-finals where she will fight..Mayu Iwatani and let me tell you, I am already excited and I will explain as to why when I get to them shortly, but strap yourselves in.

Recommended: This is all up to you, but may as well if you watched the rest.

 

Cinderella Tournament 2018 Quarter Final Match
Momo Watanabe vs. Jungle Kyona

Review: In their first round matches, Momo Watanabe defeated Konami while Jungle Kyona defeated Kagek- I mean Kagetsu to advance to the next round with Queen’s Quest fighting Team Jungle where the winner will advance to fight Bea Priestley in the next round.

This one might be my favorite in the quarter final with two of their underrated talent fighting each other in the ring and started exploding soon as the bell ring, playing out their strengths to get the best out of each other here and it just worked out nicely. Momo is just fantastic in the ring and it’s one of those moments where you go how was she not been a champion yet? Both would be over the top rope and onto the apron as they would each try to knock each other off since ring outs are still a rule in the tournament, Jungle would try to hit her Powerbomb, but Momo would counter it with a cradle back to belly piledriver on Kyona, and then kicks her lifeless body to the ground for an over the top win. Momo will now fight fellow Queen’s Quest member, Bea Priestley.

Recommended: Solid match, check it out

 

Cinderella Tournament 2018 Semi Final Match
Mayu Iwatani vs. Io Shirai

Review: Now let me tell you about these two right here, this is pretty much the female variant of Tanahashi/Okada when it comes to one ace holding the top spot while the other trying to take her down. Mayu and Io have been on my MOTY list for three years in a row now and they never disappointed me with their storytelling and match quality in the ring every time that they fight. I didn’t expect them to have a one on one match here, but I will gladly take this one for right now.

For those that are subscribed to the service, I highly recommend that you check out their outings together because it is some of the best that this company will ever produce.

These women would deliver once again and I’m glad they did here with Io doing the smart thing and working on her injured elbow while Mayu selling the injury. One thing Mayu is really good at is how she sells in her matches and it just enhances the stories to her matches while not being over the top with it like how Dolph Ziggler is with his selling. Io controls the majority of the match by outsmarting her every time Mayu would try to do something and it even frustrates her each time they’re in the ring, making it seem like she still can’t get one over on her at a constant basis. Eventually Mayu would get her opening by working on her back when she did a Double Stomp to her back while they were both on the top turnbuckle and that was awesome. Mayu would keep working on her back for a little bit until Io made her little comeback on her and went for the Moonsault Press, but Mayu moved out of the way just in time so she could start delivering stiff kicks on her head, seeing the frustration on her face. However, once Mayu applies her Dragon Suplex Hold and delivers it, the bell would ring leading to a no contest due to time limit before Mayu could get the actual win.

Both women are eliminated as the match between Momo and Bea is now the final round. One thing that this match tells me is that they’re definitely going to fight again and I feel like that we will get that at 5★Star GP which is later on this year and I’m very excited for it.

Recommended: Fantastic match by both of them and definitely my favorite in the whole tournament

.

Cinderella Tournament 2018 Final Match
Bea Priestley vs. Momo Watanabe

Review: Since both Mayu and Io are eliminated, these two will now meet off in the finals to see who will win the tournament with Queen’s Quest pretty much taking the win to their team since they’re both in the same unit.

The match starts off pretty quick with plenty of kicks between both of them, making them stiff enough to try and daze them long enough to get the early advantage over the other, but none of them would succeed that time. Momo would try to eliminate Bea by having another ring out like her previous match and even hit her Avalanche, but Bea found a way to avoid getting tossed out and the match would still continue. Around seven minutes, Momo would hit a Half Nelson Suplex and finally win the Cinderella Tournament. I’m glad they went with this route since Stardom needed to establish new stars in the company and this was the best way to do it without involving Mayu and Io in the final since both of them couldn’t afford a loss at this time. Momo has definitely came a long way from Stardom and has improved tremendously and having her win here was the right call.

After the match, Stardom would present Momo with her Cinderella dress and it looks gorgeous by the way. She would cut a promo about how this was the biggest win in her career and rightfully so, but before she would fully celebrate, she has made her request to fight Io Shirai for the Wonder of Stardom Championship once more.

Io would come out and would tell her that while she’s frustrated that she still didn’t get to wear that dress, she still congratulates her for the victory and accepts her challenge for the match. Kagetsu would come out after the challenge was made and finds it funny that Io thinks she’ll even make it to that match since Io’s next defense is against Kagetsu at May 5th where Io will either break the record for title defenses with that belt or Kagetsu will get what she wanted and get Io out of the picture, and Kagetsu stated that she will challenge Momo instead once she takes the belt away from Io, so Momo will get her title match regardless of who wins this match. Queen’s Quest will be in the ring for a photo shoot and they celebrate to close the show.

Recommended: It was a solid final and the right person won the whole thing as Momo has earned this big time.

 

Overall: The whole tournament was a success with some up’s and down’s sure, but definitely some matches that picked up as we had some great performances from certain people like Saki for one and very proud of her since it felt like she hasn’t left. I’m looking forward to next year and the next show coming up with Io and Kagetsu.

Favorite Match: Mayu Iwatani vs. Io Shirai

Least Favorite Match: Io Shirai vs. Brandi Rhodes

Score: 7.5/10


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International Coverage

Stardom Cinderella Tournament 2018 First Round Results & Review (4/30/2018)

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Welcome to the first part of coverage for the Cinderella Tournament and let me tell you how this works before we get started.

It’s a one day tournament involving 16 people and all matches have a ten minute time limit and you can also win by throwing them over the top rope. The winner of the match will not only get a pretty dress to wear and take home, but they also get a wish. The wish, can be any match they want of their choosing as it could be a rivalry you wanna settle, someone from another company for a dream match if allowed, or of course a title match of your choosing. Since it’s a long show, I will be splitting it up into two parts as the tag match and first round will be in this article and the rest of the tournament will be in part two. So who will advance to the next round? Let’s find out and…dive right in.

 

Ten Woman Tag Team Match
AZM, Leo Onozaki, Natsuko Tora, Ruaka & Shiki Shibusawa vs. Hanan, Mary Apache, Nao Yamaguchi, Natsumi & Starlight Kid

Review: Before we start the actual tournament, our Future of Stardom division with the exception of Natsuko Tora and Mary Apache will start us off in a tag match to give them something to do. Nothing really to talk about for this match as it was pretty standard with people doing some work on each other and not a while lot since it was like five or six minutes. Started sloppy at first and then it ended up being average with Starlight Kid hitting her Rounding Frogsplash on Leo for the win.

Recommended: Skippable really.

 

Cinderella Tournament 2018 First Round Match
Konami vs. Momo Watanabe

Review: Our tournament is starting up with two our of members from Queen’s Quest. It’s Konami’s second time while Momo’s possibly third since she doesn’t remember as she said before how she never made it past the first round and hopes to break that here tonight with some friendly competition.

Momo and Konami definitely delivered for the first match of the first round as we had beautiful kicks towards one another, nice reversals, and a crisp finish with Momo hitting the Soba Sword for the win as she advances to the next round. Great job, Momo.

Recommended: Fun match, worth the four minutes.

 

Cinderella Tournament 2018 First Round Match
Candy Floss vs. Saki Kashima

Review: For Saki Kashima, this is her first singles match since making her return in March as she looks to show she can still go and she has been doing better in tag matches, but now this is the real test to see how she’ll do. Saki didn’t do a whole lot, but she sold her moves pretty well, but I would work on that Shining Wizard to the turnbuckle a bit better since it looked really slow. Candy did pretty well for herself and I’ve been taken a liking to her lately since she’s not terrible in the ring, but mostly entertaining. Saki would advance with her first singles win since her return with the Killswitch.

Recommended: Decent match, your call.

 

Cinderella Tournament 2018 First Round Match
Bea Priestley vs. Martina

Review: Well, time to kill me since my two least favorites in the roster are fighting off against each other, but I can at least tolerate Bea more than Martina since she’s had shown progress lately. And..it’s a match and I did try to get into them, but with Bea having weak strikes and almost missing them like the Double Stomp after reversing the Sunset Flip and the Helluva Kick, that lost me a little. I will give Martina credit for giving Bea stiff forearms near and end and Bea hits another good Curb Stomp! You get points and even with winning the match with it too. Despite the plus, the match wasn’t really good.

Recommended: Skip.

 

Cinderella Tournament 2018 First Round Match
Brandi Rhodes vs. Natsu Sumire

Review: No this is not a typo and you’re reading it right, this is the same Brandi Rhodes that is married to Bullet Club member and ROH sensation, Cody. It looks like Brandi will be joining Stardom for a while to hone her skills and this is my first time seeing her in a singles match, so let’s see how she does against Sumire.

As we see in the pre-match interview, Brandi is actually considered a member of Oedo Tai and I can get behind that. Nice little comedy before the match with Kagetsu and Nao choosing to be in Brandi’s corner over Sumire and have playful banter, I love this group.

While it wasn’t a great match, it was very entertaining to say the least with Kagetsu having fun teasing Sumire by cheering for Brandi throughout the match and I gotta say that while Brandi is still green, she didn’t do bad at all and was pleasantly surprised with her performance. I think she can do good work here if she sticks around. Brandi would pick up the win after reversing Sumire’s roll up and advances.

Recommended: I had a good time with it, specially if you’re a Oedo Tai fan.

 

Cinderella Tournament 2018 First Round Match
Hana Kimura vs. Hazuki

Review: We get another Oedo Tai match-up with Hazuki getting another match against Hana as you can tell how badly she wants to get her hands on her again, and Hazuki even changed her look as she looks to be wearing white and pink now instead of her black and pink look, it looks nice.

The match started off exactly how it needed to, just Hazuki beating the crap out of Hana before the bell rings, it should be mostly treated as a fight instead of a wrestling match and they did exactly that throughout the whole thing. The match felt personal and it did what it needed to do with both of them going back and forth almost like they wanted to kill each other. Hazuki would get the win by throwing Hana over the top rope and was the best way to do it to protect Hana from an actual clean loss. After the match, Hazuki would offer her hand to Hana to end the rivalry as Hana shakes her hand and Oedo Tai hug in the ring, making Hazuki fully embrace her new home.

Recommended: Very solid match, worth a view.

 

Cinderella Tournament 2018 First Round Match
Mayu Iwatani vs. Tam Nakano

Review: Now that both Oedo Tai matches are out of the way, we now have both members from STARS fighting off with Mayu taking on the returning Tam Nakano who we haven’t seen since the Exploding Death Match. Mayu won the first two Cinderella Tournaments and now looks to win her third one this time around.

This match was actually really good as Tam actually showed progress in singles action here against Mayu and even getting some close calls in there also. Mayu still showing she’s one of Stardom’s best here as the two worked very nicely together and hardly anything bad to say about the match. Mayu got the win with her Dragon Suplex Hold.

Recommended: Probably my favorite first round match so far, watch it.

 

Cinderella Tournament 2018 First Round Match
Chardonnay vs. Io Shirai

Review: We got Queen’s Quest fighting each other this time as Chardonnay takes on the Wonder of Stardom Champion and leader of the faction, Io Shirai. Who actually, never won this tournament in her career and looks to get that accolade added to her collection here. Chardonnay is definitely one of the better gaijins in the roster next to Toni Storm and Viper since she’s a very solid worker and has been nothing but impressive since this tour started and gets to work with one of the best at the same time. Very good back and forth match, but Io would work on her legs and eventually make her tap out with the Cloverleaf to advance, but Chardonnay did great.

Recommended: Very solid match, worth a go.

 

Cinderella Tournament 2018 First Round Match
Jungle Kyona vs. Kagetsu

Review: This is the last match of the first round as Jungle looks to take on…not Kagetsu as this her identical twin sister wearing a dress and a wig named Kageko…this is awesome and the crowd loves it. Kageko wrestles nothing like her twin, Kagetsu and looks to be more clean with her ability than dirty tactics, but Jungle would ruin the fun by ripping off her wig and it was Kagetsu the whole time!

The nerve! It was entertaining while it lasted, but now Kagetsu starts to show off her aggressive side once again and even have Oedo Tai try to pull Jungle off the apron until Natsuko came in to try and fight them off. Kagetsu would run after Jungle to be thrown over the ropes with the two of them fighting on the apron until Jungle caught her with a Powerbomb and slams her onto the apron, but picks her up one more time to throw her outside, leaving Kagetsu eliminated. It was better this way since she can’t afford a pinfall loss right now with her upcoming title match.

Recommended: It was enjoyable.

 

Overall: Aside from one bad match, the first round of the tournament was a success as most of the matches were actually really solid and enjoyable to watch. Now I’m excited for the second round which is what it looks like down below.

Bea Priestley vs. Hazuki
Momo Watanabe vs. Jungle Kyona
Saki Kashima vs. Mayu Iwatani
Brandi Rhodes vs. Io Shirai

Favorite Match: Mayu Iwatani vs. Tam Nakano

Least Favorite Match: Bea Priestley vs. Martina

Score: 7.5/10

See you all for the next round and the finals!


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