365 Wrestling, Day 44: Kana vs. Meiko Satomura (Triple Tails, 2/13/11)

365 Wrestling, Day 44: Kana vs. Meiko Satomura (Triple Tails, 2/13/11)

365 matches in 365 days, each from that specific date on the calendar? Challenge accepted. Welcome to 365 Wrestling.

Let me tell you about the time that Asuka came to my small hometown in East Tennessee about 10 years ago.

She was known as Kana at the time, and was working a weekend of shows in the Southeastern U.S. for CHIKARA. They had been in North Carolina the night before coming here.

That CHIKARA card remains one of the most entertaining wrestling events, from start to finish, that I’ve seen in person. Kana headlined that night, facing Sara Del Rey in a main event back before women in main events became cool or acceptable across wrestling. What I remember most about that match (other than its general excellence) is that Kana, who, up until she signed with WWE, wrestled barefoot with kickpads on, delivered a kick to Del Rey that broke the kickpad off her shin.

That was the same trip where, according to a story told a few times by Sugar Dunkerton, Kana and the rest of her traveling party from Japan got their first experience at a buffet restaurant when Suge and friends took them to the Shoney’s just up the road from my house.

And since has closed.

And been leveled.

With a car wash being built in its place.

Depressing, isn’t it?

Anyway, in this entry in the 365 Wrestling project, we see Kana — about nine months prior to her American foray and Shoney’s experience — in action against Meiko Satumora from February 13, 2011, in Osaka.

You can watch this match on YouTube, or embedded below:

The Context

First came the Triple Tails stable, a faction that consisted of Kana, Io Shirai (who followed Kana to WWE where she has been a two-time NXT champion), and Mio Shirai (who retired from wrestling in 2015 due to concussions). Then, these three started running their own events from time to time — including this one, held in Osaka. The Kana-Satomura match was the main event.

This is the fifth time Kana and Satomura have been in the ring as opponents but just the second time in a singles match. Satomura won that prior meeting, which happened on April 29, 2010.

Satomura has the huge experience advantage here, with about 15 years’ experience as a pro at the time of this bout. Kana started wrestling in 2004, then stepped away from the squared circle only to return in 2007.

The Match

The topic of how surroundings add to the entertainment value of a match has come up before in the project and does so again here. Unlike other recent entries, where a raucous crowd or a unique setting like Penn Station helped elevate the fare inside the ring, the crowd here for Kana vs. Satomura is quiet for much of the bout, watching with silent intensity. In this case, it augments the action in the ring to a great deal. You can clearly hear the pops and smacks as strikes land, as well as the screams of pain and effort from either side of the several submission holds that are applied during the match.

From beginning to end, Kana seems driven to prove herself against her more experienced foe. She spurns Satomura’s attempt at a handshake before the bell, kicking away her hand and blasting Meiko with a forearm to promptly initiate the action. Shortly thereafter. Satomura hooks Kana in a belly-down armbar, and while Kana makes it to the ropes, the hold was applied to an extent where there’s a prolonged break while the referee checks Kana outside the ring to make sure she can continue.

There are a ton of wicked strikes in this match, especially kicks, and you can hear every single one of them. Speaking of strikes, Satomura seemingly gets annoyed with her less experienced rival midway through the match, uncorking an array of big forearms and elbows, punctuated by a back kick to the face of a kneeling Kana. This last kick, captured from mat level by a ringside camera, looks absolutely murderous in its delivery.

All this seems to do is further anger Kana. Every time Satomura gets the upper hand, no matter what punishment she exacts, Kana comes back with increasing amounts of fire. After several more minutes and several more head kicks, when Satomura goes back to the already-weakened right arm of Kana, it seems to be more out of desperation than it is a focused strategy. Even delivering her death valley driver — one of Satomura’s finishers — on two occasions isn’t enough to seal the deal.

Once again, Kana rallies, unloading more kicks before ensnaring Meiko in her chickenwing with a bodyscissors (now known as the Asuka Lock for WWE fans). Kana screams in rage and emotion as she applies the hold, sending Satomura into oblivion. The crowd responds to the victory over the more established Satomora with arguably its biggest reaction of the entire match.

Final Rating: 7.8

I’m stingy when it comes to declaring a match to be “great” but I honestly don’t know how else to classify this match. It succeeds as a classic example of what makes Satomura so outstanding. It succeeds as an example of Kana’s scintillating potential that led to her signing with WWE. It succeeds as a pro wrestling match, and a fine example of the joshi style. If you’ve only seen Asuka in WWE, this match represents a different side of her wrestling ability.

Here’s the complete, ongoing list of matches in this project.

Up Next

The next match is a suggestion from ACTION promoter Matt Griffin, who brings to the table a “big moment match” from arguably the most important wrestling feud of the 1990s.

Are YOU interested in making a match suggestion for the 365 Wrestling project? I’m accepting limited guest submissions for the remaining entries in the year. Just reach out on Twitter or fill out the contact form on the site.

365 Wrestling, Day 25: Hikaru Shida vs. Sakura Hirota (WAVE, 1/25/15)

365 Wrestling, Day 25: Hikaru Shida vs. Sakura Hirota (WAVE, 1/25/15)

365 matches in 365 days, each from that specific date on the calendar? Challenge accepted. Welcome to 365 Wrestling.

I’ve waxed philisophic from time to time on my motivations for attempting this project. One of those motivations is the chance to see certain wrestlers before they “made it big.” Such is the case with the entry for January 25, where Hikaru Shida is in action several years before she made her way to America and became champion for All Elite Wrestling. In this one, Shida is defending the Reina di WAVE Title, for, appropriately enough, Pro Wrestling WAVE in this match against Sakura Hirota from 2015.

You can watch this match on Dailymotion, by the way.

The Context

The Reina di WAVE is the top singles title in Pro Wrestling WAVE and Shida was just the second champ in the history of this title. This marked her third defense since winning the title on August 24, 2014. Shida is 26 years old here and she’s about 6 1/2 years into her pro career. Her opponent, Hirota, has nearly two decades of experience.

The Match

There’s so much negativity about wrestling on the Internet, and I don’t want this to be just another voice adding to the din of rage and complaining. Besides, life is busy. I barely have time to watch the wrestling I want to (as evidenced by the fact I am about three weeks behind on these entries), so why would I waste time watching and writing about and thinking about wrestling I don’t enjoy?

All of that said… guys and girls, this was rough. For one thing, these two did not mesh particularly well. The work is sporadically sloppy throughout the match, with Hirota the bigger offender. This is my first time seeing Hirota wrestle, and I guess she goes for a comedy gimmick, but it didn’t come across to me. She goes for some big spots in the first half of the match, and the crowd certainly likes the end result, but the set-up in a couple of instances looks like she’s moving in slow motion.

Meanwhile, Shida comes across as the champion just looking to cut off the shenanigans and retain her title. Highlights include a superplex, which begins with Hirota standing on the apron outside the ring; and a fireman’s carry into a nasty-looking backbreaker. She also does her part to make her opponent look like a threat to the title, whether it be selling an open-handed slap to the abdomen that she takes on the run like she has been stabbed with a rusty shiv, or clutching at her arm after a few arm-related submission attempts chained together by Hirota, to varying levels of success in the execution.

And then there’s the referee… a few people who know way more about wrestling have the philosophy that if the referee in a match is good, you’ll never notice them. But if the referee is bad, he or she sticks out like a sore thumb. Watch enough Japanese wrestling and you’re bound to see an official with the occasional hitch in their giddy-up when making the two count and going for the three count, providing that extra little flash of time to build drama before the three count. This… is not one of those matches. I’m not sure who the official is but they take a pause following almost every two count in the match. These pauses just seem to get longer, to the point that the hesitation lasts for a full second in some cases before going for or, in the case of Shida’s running knee that finishes the match, finally counting for three. The prevalence of these long two counts took me out of the match completely. Every attempted three count feels incredibly telegraphed. As a result, none of these big moves or near-falls feel particularly special and by the time the match ended, I was honestly glad it was over.

Final Rating: 4.5

Both wrestlers work hard and the crowd is pretty into this but I can’t recommend watching this match, even if you’re a huge fan of Shida or joshi in general. At least I’m not pausing an extra second before explaining my rating. Can it get worse from here? There are 340 more opportunities to find out. I hope you’ll stick around for the journey.

Here’s the complete, ongoing list of matches in this project.

What’s Next

Let’s go to Georgia for an old-school classic featuring four mainstays of the 1980s.

Got a match you’d like me to watch as part of this 365 Wrestling project? Agree or disagree with my take on this match? Let me know by using the contact form on this site, or reach me on Twitter.

365 Wrestling, Day 13: Lioness Asuka vs. Michiko Omukai (ARSION, 1/13/02)

365 Wrestling, Day 13: Lioness Asuka vs. Michiko Omukai (ARSION, 1/13/02)

365 matches in 365 days, each from that specific date on the calendar? Challenge accepted. Welcome to 365 Wrestling.

I embarked on this project for three reasons:

  1. To get back in the habit of original writing again. As a freelance writer and editor, I’m writing all the time, but that’s also work, so even though the subject matter is varied, like any job, it’s work.
  2. To focus on wrestling I enjoy, and the concept of enjoying wrestling, and combat the ever-present negativity in wrestling fandom.
  3. To watch wrestling I haven’t seen yet.

Like anyone in any fandom, I have gaps: New Generation WWF, the Four Pillars era of All Japan … and pretty much all of lucha libre and joshi. This week, for Women’s Match Wednesday, I take a foray into the latter for this match from ARSION in 2002 between Michiko Omukai and Lioness Asuka.

Now for the bad news… I can’t find this match for free anywhere online. However, you can buy it as part of this DVD in the Best of ARSION comp over at IVPVideos.

The Context

This is the 10th Anniversary match for Omukai, who started in wrestling in 1992 when she was 16 years old. This is less of a big deal than you’d think or than it would be most places in America, as it’s pretty common for women’s wrestlers in Japan to debut before they turn 18.

Her opponent, Lioness Asuka, already has 20-plus years under her belt. She’s also the reigning Queen of Arsion champion, which is the top title in the promotion. She’s best known for her tag run with Chigusa Nagayo as the Crush Gals. Lioness Asuka also was part of the women’s elimination tag involving several Japanese wrestlers at the 1995 Survivor Series.

The Match

So much for starting slow … Omukai launches herself at Asuka with a flying knee, over the referee’s back while he’s busy checking Lioness Asuka before calling for the bell. I wrote about escalation of violence in the dog collar match I watched on January 10, and what follows is a variation on that theme. Strikes and submissions set the tone; take special note of a sweet transition into an armbar by Lioness Asuka at the approximate 7-minute mark of the video before matters hit a new gear.

From there, the action spills into the crowd and Lioness Asuka ratchets up the intensity. First, she lays a table across her opponent and launches with a double stomp off the top rope. From there, they go allllll the way up through the crowd to the far end of the building. Lioness Asuka outstretches Omukai on yet another table, ascends a steep set of stairs to a small balcony, and jumps off with yet another double stomp that looked brutal!

Now they head alllllll the way back to the ring, where Omukai makes a comeback with a delayed axe kick, followed by a leaping kneedrop from the apron across the back of Lioness Asuka’s head. The action remains intense during the final minutes. Lioness Asuka hits a huge Liger bomb at center ring, but Omukai kicks out at one to the shock of the crowd. They keep scrapping until the bell sounds as the time limit expires, and the fight keeps on going beyond the bell, with the referee and officials having to separate them.

Random Thoughts

-Early in the match, Lioness Asuka has Omukai by the legs and is going for an apparent Boston crab. Instead, Omukai sits up in the hold and slaps her opponent in the face a few times. I dug that.

-As mentioned I haven’t seen a lot of joshi, but in what little I have watched, there’s at least one moment where someone’s going to be in a submission hold and screaming like they’re suffering indescribable torture.

-If those Korakuen Hall bleachers could talk, I wonder what they would say about all the brawls through the years …

-Lioness Asuka has a few masked lackeys at ringside, providing helpful assistance like holding Omukai in place to eat a dive from Lioness Asuka, or supplying tables. I have no idea or frame of reference for what these henchmen (hench-people?) signify.

Final Rating: 6.5

I’d never seen either of these wrestlers before so I came into this with no expectations but was pleasantly surprised with what they did in 15 minutes of work. The level of violence and intensity surpassed anything that happened in the No DQ title match from TNA I watched last week. The draw finish and their willingness to keep fighting left me wanting to see more. I’ll definitely be checking out more joshi as the year continues.

Here’s the complete, ongoing list of matches in this project.

What’s Next

An interpromotional title match ends up being the spark that starts one of my favorite feuds in wrestling.

Got a match you’d like me to watch as part of this 365 Wrestling project? Agree or disagree with my take on this match? Let me know by using the contact form on this site, or reach me on Twitter.