This is a new review style for Ringbelles, and one that I’ve adopted (with blessing) from Thomas Holzerman on The Wrestling Blog. I’ve never seen the need for huge swathes of play-by-play recapping, so this format appeals to me. It hopefully will tell you all you need to know about the show, and what I thought about it in an easy to read and digest format. It’s my first time reviewing a show like this, so feel free to offer any suggestions or opinions… thanks.

“Just Starting Out In The World Of Pandemonium”
(show subtitle)

• The opening video of Emi Sakura walking along the painted lines on a road, and being joined on her journey by various members of the Ice Ribbon roster was quite lovely. Whimsical, carefree and actually quite cinematic. Emotional too, as Sakura wiped tears from her eyes over her imminent departure from ICE Ribbon (she would wrestle her last match for the promotion on January 7th, citing “personal reasons”)
• To fit the 2hr time block, some of the undercard matches are clipped/joined in progress, but there’s more than enough to enjoy about each of them, from Aoi Kizuki’s happiness, a fairly inconsequential elimination tag match (which includes over-the-top-rope elimination rules) and the bizarre nature of the Ice Ribbon vs UMA Corps match.
• The first ever ICEx60 Champion Seina retired on the show in a match with her little sister Riho.
Minori Makiba also retired, having been special referee for Seina vs Riho.
• Both Makiba and Seina had apparent farewell speeches read to them by friends from the past, each complete with dipped lights and background music. Former IR competitor Makoto returned to read Makiba’s sendoff, while Hikari Minami was apparently overcome and unable to read the her speech for Seina. Riho read it instead, and the speech apparently called for one final match between Minami & Seina.
• Seina therefore had two “retirement” matches back to back, essentially – Neither the match with little sister Riho nor the impromptu match with Minami were particularly long, but both were dripping in emotion.
• The semi main event was a three way mixed tag match – which seemed quite storyline based, and was unfortunately fairly incomprehensible to me. There was dancing. A lot of dancing. Shenanigans too. A lot of shenanigans.
Hikaru Shida overcame her peer Tsukasa Fujimoto to become the ICEx60 Champion for the first time.

Click through for the meat and potatoes of the review

• Aoi Kizuki is making a return having been inactive in the promotion since mid 2009. Not sure where she’s been, but she was very entertaining and seemed overjoyed to be back.
Meari Naito’s elimination in the six woman match was bizarre. She was run back and forward on the ropes by Dorami Nagano over and over and over until she was exhausted, then dumped over the top. All in about a minute and a half.
Maki Narumiya, who got the big push – eliminating the entire other team – throws a wicked Bull Nakano style Diving Guillotine Legdrop.
Mochi Miyagi & Hamuko Hoshi in separate bouts and not teaming as “The Lovely Butchers” is no fun. Those two (at least for now) belong together.
• Only in Japan can you have matches involving Death Worms, Rubber Men and what I’m surmising was a space alien and somehow not have it kill the promotion.
• As weird as it is, the execution of the Rubber Man gimmick is actually pretty incredible.
• That being said, Ray in particular is ridiculously wasted in what was, for all intents and purposes, a comedy bout. She may well be the best performer in the entire promotion.
• Death Worm tries the worst version of Scotty 2 Hotty’s “Worm” that I’d ever seen… until seconds later when Sayaka Obihiro manages to do an even worse version.
• Seina and Minori Makiba both returned to the promotion to basically tie a bow around their careers. Both had been inactive for a while, so I guess this was a chance to tie up loose ends – possibly brought on by Sakura’s imminent departure?
• Depending on how you look at it, Seina may have had the shortest retirement to comeback match time lapse ever, as her match with Minami happened only a few minutes after her match with Riho.
• Given that she was injured of late (and missed competing at JoshiMania in early December due to it), Meiko Satomura threw herself around with reckless abandon. Always been a favourite of mine, so I always appreciate a chance to see her work.
Sendai Sachiko looked the absolute business. Whether wrestling Sakura or Tsukushi, she looked very composed and very good.
• The three way semi-main was another of those times where I wished I understood Japanese. I know that Jun Kasai and Miyako Matsumoto have a semi-regular (if peculiar) alliance, but I have no idea why Hikari Minami is teaming with Ken Ohka or why the other team has two male competitors. I similarly have no idea what everyone kept saying on the mic, nor what was up with the dancing… What I can say is that I just watched it with a bemused smile on my face. As a wrestling “match”, this was the dirt worst, but I didn’t hate it because it was done with such good humour and creativity.
• The pre-main event video package on Hikaru Shida and Tsukasa Fujimoto was fantastically well done, charting their lives from actresses to wrestlers. Even though I couldn’t understand the interview segments, it was well enough put together to make sense. The two actually started training at IR together after transferring across from acting.

ICEx60 Championship: Match of the Night
Tsukasa Fujimoto vs Hikaru Shida
: Well, there was really only one option as far as match quality. This was a show built to showcase the stars of the main event, so much so that no other match save for the tag titles match really went for much in the way of serious in-ring work… so while the supporting card concentrated on simplicity, comedy and emotions, Fujimoto and Shida went for “epic”. The match had many puro main event staples such as duelling moves, no-selling of big signature manoeuvres and a double down. I don’t think they quite hit the mark they were setting for themselves in the fifteen minutes they had, but it was still very good. Shida in particular looked excellent, as well she should, given this was her ascent to the top. The finish came a little out of the blue, if I’m honest, but given that the final move was Shida delivering a Falcon Arrow off the top, I had no issues witht hat being the finish. Post match, new champion Shida addressed Bull Nakano at ringside. Two weeks later, Shida would headline Nakano’s “EMPRESS” show. Tsukasa Fujimoto and Emi Sakura were both seen being awarded blue “invitations” before the show went off the air.

Overall Impressions
This is an interesting show, as it walks the bizarre line between light and frothy and deep, deep emotion. For all the fun of the UMA Corps match, Aoi Kizuki’s beaming smile or that utterly, utterly bizarre semi main there was a rawness running down the show for all to see as ICE Ribbon bid farewell to some of their own. Hikari Minami, Makoto and Riho cried bucketloads over the retirement of their friends Seina and Minori Makiba, and while Emi Sakura still had a few shows to work before her departure, this was her last big Korakuen Hall event, and her tears throughout seemed very real and heartfelt too – none more so than when she gave one of her final show-ending yells. Meeting Emi Sakura last year (and for her to know what we do at Ringbelles) was an honour, and for what it’s worth, I’d like to wish Emi all the best in whatever she chooses to do next in wrestling. Is there a standout match that you *must* see on the show?: No, not really… but you’re made of stone if the show doesn’t engage you emotionally to some degree – whether it be though laughter or tears – and that’s the main thing, really. I’ve always said that wrestling is about emotional investment, and whether you’ve followed ICE Ribbon before now or not, I feel certain there’s at least something that will resonate with you. The show was on YouTube for a while (I believe it’s now been removed), but if you can get a chance to see the show, it’s worth sitting down for a couple of hours and just enjoying it.

Results (via Ice Ribbon official tumblr)
1. Aoi Kizuki Return Match: Toshie Uematsu (Freelance) beat Aoi Kizuki (10:00)
2. Elimination Match: Maki Narumiya & Neko Nitta & Meari Naito defeated Mochi Miyagi & Kurumi & Dorami Nagano. Order of elimination: A – Naito OTR by Nagano (1:40); B – Narumiya pinned Nagano (4:10); C – Nitta OTR by Kurumi (6:10); D – Kurumi OTR by Narumiya (7:10); D – Narumiya pinned Miyagi (10:37)
3. Ray & Sayaka Obihiro & Hamuko Hoshi defeated Death Worm (UMA Corps) & Rubber Man (UMA Corps) & Kappa Kozo (UMA Corps) > Obihiro pinned Worm (7:29)
4. Seina & Minori Makiba Retirement Match, Special Referee Minori Makiba: Riho pinned Seina (8:18)
5. Seina Final Match, Special Referee Riho: Hikari Minami pinned Seina (2:55)
6. International Ribbon tag team championship, Decision Match: Emi Sakura & Tsukushi defeated Meiko Satomura (Sendai Girls) & Sendai Sachiko (Sendai Girls) > Tsukushi pinned Sachiko (20:33) to win the vacant International tag team championship – TITLE CHANGE
7. 3Way Match: Makoto Oishi (DDT) & Danshoku Dino (DDT) defeated Hikari Minami & Ken Ohka (Union Pro) and Miyako Matsumoto (GakePro) & Jun Kasai (FREEDOMS) > Dino pinned Ohka (11:48)
8. ICEx60 championship: Hikaru Shida beat Tsukasa Fujimoto (c) to win the ICEx60 title (15:52) – TITLE CHANGE

– Stew Allen

Photos by Youji Kawauchi