Last Sunday, Hailey Hatred made her first defence of the JWP Openweight Championship against Kaori Yoneyama, who is on the retirement trail, which is due to end in December when she hangs up her boots for good. The 4’11”, 30 year old veteran of ten years was looking to regain the title which she won on July 18 last year, and dropped it to Leon on March 4. Current champion Hatred won the belt on June 26, and had to face her outgoing friend with three of her four championships up for grabs.
Steve was one of the 957 in attendance at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, Japan, and has given his permission for us to repost his review of the show here for you. Enjoy.
Sunday lunchtime my host and I went to JWP Pure Slam at Korakuen Hall, through tickets my host had been left at the door by JWP Openweight Champion Hailey Hatred. Having a chat with Hailey before finding our seats was surreal, but there was plenty more surreal to come later. Korakuen Hall itself was smaller than I imagined; the seats were clearly not designed with the idea that a “Western” pelvis might want to occupy them – and why would they have? – but I got it. Squeeze it was, but never truly uncomfortable. I should add at this point going up the steps to our seats and looking at all the wrestlers’ (and fans) signatures/writing/doodles on the famed walls was akin to a religious experience for me. I’m taking a marker pen on Saturday to immortalize my visit, but I’m not sure what to write…
The show itself kicked off bang on time. The opener was a 2-minute exhibition between two schoolgirls making their debuts and was inoffensive. Rabbit Mito (ahhhhhhhh), the smaller of the two, sold the match-ending powerslam as though she were in the pain that, well, a girl of her stature should be after taking a powerslam. Next the wildly popular masu-me and Manami Katsu went down to Aoyi Yagami & No Kamatsu in a spirited match, but as my host commented, masu-me “needs a lot of work” as there were several botches and times she didnt know what to do next. Thirdly Command Bolshoi defeated Ice Ribbon’s Hikari Minami in a good cat and mouse tale which saw the cat eventually catch the mouse.
The top half of the card was excellent in a “something for everyone” way.
Last match before intermission was a near 15-minute six-woman between Black Dahlia and three babyfaces calling themselves The Wanted. Admittedly the build video made it seem the feud was built around Dahlia catching one of the faces stuffing their bra, but I’m sure there is more to it than that. Black Dahlia came across as the Japanese version of the Beautiful People, except whip-toting and all clad in black. The major differences being that the whips came into play, and all three seemed very competent workers. The match itself was a fun-packed combination of comedy and fierce fighting. Some of the forearms to the chest that Misaki Ohata endured resonated through the hall! She ended up getting the last laugh capturing the pin on Sachie Abe. Dahlia, in particular Yumi Ohka, will be in my dreams tonight.
Up next after intermission was Ayumi Kurihara vs Nanako Nakamori. The build video showed there was quite a history/rivalry between the two, so we expected some bad blood, and we were not disappointed. I have had limited exposure to Ayumi from her recent appearances in ROH, and she was bang on form here. Both girls looked great and registered some great nearfalls. Kurihara eventually put Nakamori away after a sick-sounding headbutt stunned Nakamori and she fell victim to a wrist-clutch/armtrap uranage. A popular result, too.
An even more popular one was to come. Leon teamed up with the JWP Tag Team Champions Kayako Harayuma & Tsubasa Kuragaki to face the outsider trio of Meiko Satomura, Toshie Uematsu & Ran YuYu, all of which I am very familiar with from (initially at least) GAEA on TWC (a British wrestling channel which no longer exists). I won’t wax lyrical on Meiko other than to say she is my favourite active lady wrestler, I never thought I would get to see her wrestle and other than Sekimoto/Tanaka seeing her was what I was most looking forward to on the day. I marked out big time for the girls, singing along to Meiko’s music. The match itself was another stormer. During the babyfaces early advantage, Leon got some good hits in on Satomura, which I was sure would come back to bite her. How wrong I was. In the end, Harayuma escaped a Death Valley Bomb/driver attempt and obliterated Satomura with the Keene Hammer (Emerald Frosien) for the win. A challenge for a singles match down the road seemed to follow.
The main event came, with Hailey defending JWP Openweight, TLW World and AIW Hybrid Fighting championships against the woman she had taken it from, Kaori Yoneyama. Admittedly we were biased, but it was hard not to cheer for the American to put down the shrieking little bitch. The match was very good and stiff, leaving Hailey somewhat of a shiner and as we came to see later, actual teeth marks down her arm. I’d have thought it was easy to work a biting spot, but guess not. Both got in plenty of heavy hits and big moves, and there were plenty of innovtive spots that could have gone wrong, but nothing did. My favourite spot was Hatred countering a top rope Yoshitonic/Code Red by shifting momentum in mid-air and simply sitting on Yoneyama for a nearfall. Hailey retained as expected after surviving a Yoshitonic then hitting a vicious lariat and the match-winning Ligerbomb on her much smaller opponent.
After the match Yoneyama made allusions to her forthcoming retirement, and her and Hatred seemed to make friends. My host and I temporarily departed Korakuen at this point and made for the New Japan shop. I bought a G1 Climax shirt but “XL” in Japan is a shade smaller than “XL” over here, so it will remain strictly a “display” piece for now. We then dashed through the torrential rain to grab some lunch after nipping to the box office to grab Zero1 tickets and waited excitedly for that show to start, while reflecting that everything on the Joshi show – our first – had entertained on some or multiple levels.
Just in case you were interested, Hailey’s choice of karaoke songs after the show were:
Now that’s eclectic.