Last time on T&R Review, we took a look at Evie vs. Nicole Matthews from SHIMMER 2014.
2015 5STAR Grand Prix Red Stars Block: Io Shirai vs. Mayu Iwatani
Rebecca: Once again, I’m allowing Trask to guide me through our T&R review journey as he chose this match for us to review. But I’m not going to turn down not only the chance to watch two of the best from STARDOM but one of the best women’s matches from 2015. I’ve watched a lot of wrestling in my time, more than I’d like to admit, but this match may very well be the best I’ve ever seen that worked towards a draw, but not only that, one that I enjoyed. Usually, when something finishes without a clear winner, it’s almost like you feel robbed, not here. The pair work a rather steady pace at the start of the match, but it gradually builds into a quick and stiff back and forth. These two women move incredibly smooth during an opening portion of the match; I had to watch just that section back at least four times to make sure I caught everything that happened. It’s almost like a weird rule that people who are friends will inevitably work better together, and that is the case between these two. Pin attempts galore, with all of them failing to secure either of them the win was a delight to see. Something that is missing from a lot of women’s matches outside of Joshi is the use of various strikes, and there’s a great combination on display from both as they trade elbows and kicks. This obviously is from a year and a half ago, but the more I watch Io Shirai, the more I become convinced that she is the best all-around female wrestler currently. Everything that she does is entertaining to me. The blend of character work and amazing in-ring ability is scarily close to perfect at times. Mayu may have the most aesthetically pleasing missile dropkick I’ve ever seen in my life. Her strategy of just throwing herself into Io is possibly my favorite thing from this match. Especially with the knowledge that this all leads to a draw. They threw absolutely everything at each other including themselves, and neither managed to overcome the other. Not to sound like the corny white woman wrestling fan that I am but it was beautifully done. Outside of the ring saw just as much action as inside of it throughout, but after a dropkick off the top rope, Mayu ends up crashing and burning with her back hitting the side of the ring. Brutal. If that wasn’t crazy enough, Io goes up top and lands a moonsault to add to the hectic finishing stretch of the match. There’s so much that happens in the closing minutes that it’s difficult to keep up, there was a package German suplex from Io, but Mayu kicked out. Io then went for a moonsault only for Mayu to dodge that and hit a triple jump reverse hurricanrana that stunned me so much that I had to pause the match to take it all in. Wonderful. Just as Mayu is about to head to the top rope, no doubt to attempt something else crazy, the bell rings and that’s the end of the match. There are moments where I felt scared that both were going to die potentially, but the thrill of it all made sure that I didn’t remove my eyes from the screen. If I could throw all of the praise in the world, I would do so here. To anyone who may be seeking some badass crazy women’s wrestling to watch, TRUST ME, this is it. I need to lie down now and soak all of this in.
Trask: This was also my first exposure to “big match” Io Shirai at the time in 2015, as well as the fantastic Mayu Iwatani. Little did I know that they had some of the best chemistry in wrestling, going on to have a title match in May 2016, and also a MOTYC a little over a year later in December 2016. These two date back to 2012 with their origins as a tag team. There’s such a huge gap in how both matches were worked, yet, given the amount of circumstances/storytelling to be had during both, it’s awe-inspiring how these two worked both matches at a frantic, picture perfect pace while keeping to their roles. These two were Goddesses of Stardom tag team champions at the time. Not only is Io the senior of Mayu, but she’s been better on multiple occasions. She leads the tag team. It was time for the partners to clash in the co-main event of Night 1 of the Stardom 5*Grand Prix, their G1 Climax. This body of art holds up when looking back at my reactions at the time. I gave it ****1/2, citing it being an incredibly special match. I’d still agree now, when taking into context me knowing a lot in the match, including the draw finish. It still manages to suck you in with both knowing each other so well, with Io and Mayu hitting the ropes on a springboard at the same time. Mayu brought it back to Io. Io would stretch her foot out on the ropes, grating Mayu’s face. But Mayu did it with ten times more intensity in one of my favorite parts of the match. See: featured image. It kept escalating and escalating. Trademarks of each woman, snuffed to the side. The match shot above the typical put-away sequences in a Suplex de Io or Dragon Suplex. Those were both kicked out of. Instead we’d get the extra-ounce-of-oomph on the dives, a Dragon Suplex on the floor, elbows to the face like no tomorrow, a hard piledriver, Io cranking all the way back on her crossface; the girls continuously collapsing of exhaustion. All of this was exhausting, even if you were the viewer. Continuous mind-blowing substance was thrown at you, and then the finish came. Watching this unspoiled is a religious experience. Watching it back is: “wow, holy shit, it WAS that good and you had every right to freak out at the time like you did.” Mayu hit a jumping frankensteiner that obliterated Shirai, and was turned right into a cover. Io kicked out, and Mayu had the match won. All she had to do was climb to the top rope to hit something else. But the bell rang as she collapsed in between the ropes. One of the better time limit draws I’ve seen, and one of my favorite modern day joshi matches. Mayu hanged on on this day, against her senior. Against her tag team partner. The two cried as they were brought to the back, nearly collapsing because of the war. They’d have to truck on as tag team champions, looking back on this as friendly fire. Not until the next year. Io would channel her dark side. And she’d face Mayu again, with the stakes higher, and the match even better. These two define wrestling, and this tournament match was a big taste of what was to come.
T&R’s Verdict: TWO MASSIVE THUMBS UP. Best match of the series so far.