Mariko Yoshida vs. Mika Akino (1/17)
And here is AKINO in her first appearance on the set. Feels a little weird to watch this tiny young girl pop up in a title match less than a year after her debut, , but I ain't complaining! Pretty boss match for what it is. You can totally see the pet project thing with Akino. She wasn't a mat genius or anything, but she gets to survive Yoshida for a while and gets to impress with all these swank. Yoshida pretty much takes her apart twisting from one outlandish submission into another, while Akino goes for rope climbing spots and dives that a rookie really shouldn't be doing. A little robotic from Akino at times she couldn't hit everything cleanly, but her selling was solid enough and Yoshida is stellar just doing all this nifty stuff for 15 minutes. Y'know, I think if there's one thing missing from current junior weight wrestling it's this kind of SWANK. Yes yes I know they do all kinds of crazy spots and dives and 2.99999999999 counts and whatnot, but I can't name a single wrestler active in 2017 as swanky as Yoshida. Maybe Virus or Solar or some other luchador, but nobody elsewhere. I mean look at all these preposterous, twisty leg hooking holds! That fucking wristclutch throw she did just out of nowhere! People talk about DG being spectacular, but fuck that. A basic sweep from Yoshida is spectacular.
Mariko Yoshida vs. Hiromi Yagi (2/18)
I've seen this match before and felt it was great. But watching all this stuff now has changed my whole outlook on this bout. Proof that sometimes context is everything. We've seen Mariko demolish everybody else on the mat, and everyone tries to beat her standing. But here's Yagi. Hiromi Yagi, in this match, feels like the lost great female worker. Like we all fantasybook Tamon Honda to go to BattlARTS or Carl Greco in U-Style, here is Yagi, an unusual worker in her home promotion, going into an environment that fits her perfectly, and blooming. Nobody was able to do shit to Yoshida on the mat, until Hiromi Yagi came to town. Even the opening move makes sense now: Yoshida catches Yagi and drops her, and this match is business as usual right? Well not tonight, because Yagi goes back in and proceeds to put the fear of god into Yoshida. Yoshida would show weakness and Yagi would throw herself at her, Yoshida would try a move and Yagi would get her into trouble like no one before. Not only can Yagi hang on the mat, she can win. Suddenly all of Yoshida's sweeps and grounding aren't working. Yoshida would go to the mat, and suddenly she would be the one in trouble. The bandaged arm didn't even seem that important now. In a way, knowing that made the lulls/slow parts better as the bout had a type of tension building that I don't recall seeing in many other matches. Now I understand the crowd reaction when Yoshida escapes that armbar but doesn't engage further. For the first time, Yoshida doesn't want to be on the mat anymore. They do a tremendous job teasing the big throws, and Yagi ends up meeting her tragedy. No wonder she didn't want to shake hands after the match.
Unbelievable, mindblowing, truely great contest. I've loved it before but now it's in my canon of untouchable superclassics. The swank moves, slick matwork were present as before, but the story that the match told has now been elevated in my mind. Hiromi Yagi, what an astounding young lady.