March 4, 2023/Reiwa 5
I watched this match because I saw the Shu Pro tweet featuring a BBM article where Giulia superfan, Hideki Suzuki, said this match had the potential to be Reiwa’s Akira Hokuto vs Shinobu Kandori. Hokuto vs Kandori from 1993’s AJW All Star Dreamslam and AJW St. Battle were legendary matches from the famed Hokuto/LCO vs Kandori/LLPW feud, a series famous for the palpable hatred between the two groups and the war that Hokuto and Kandori put each other through during their matches, this match also got recommended by a twitter follower so I’m giving it a review. I haven’t regularly watched joshi wrestling for a couple of years now but I’m familiar with both wrestlers from their time in Ice Ribbon, (Bushiroad cowards won’t let militant Italian Giulia return).
To Hideki Suzuki’s credit, Giulia and Maya Yukihi physically do everything to make this match into a super-heated, epic encounter but it fails to crescendo and lands on a muddled note that abruptly ends with a double count-out. In the BBM article, when asked about if the old notion that having matches with enemies is more fun, Suzuki mentions how AJW management used to lie to the talent in order to get them to distrust each other and those emotions were often felt in the matches: the Crush Gals, Dump Matsumoto, Red Typhoons and the seniors of AJW vs Akira Hokuto & Yumiko Hotta and newly pushed juniors of AJW, the list goes on. The story between Giulia, Maya Yukihi, and Ice Ribbon is one that’s easy to draw heat from and make into an intense fight between former colleagues, but between the promoter’s habit of making corny remarks about the story beats and Giulia’s inability to convey emotions through her matches the whole thing just felt empty. I should be able to like this as it has a lot of things that I like in matches between bitter rivals but there’s nothing beyond the moves that can convince me that these women are doing anything more than just going through the motions of what a hate-filled match should have. There’s two table spots, a couple of near count-outs, Maya Yukihi gets thrown into the floor seats multiple times, Giulia and Maya slap each other and you can hear each one on camera, they even do some headbutts, but my eyes glazed over because it just felt like motions from a checklist.
TL:DR I’m not a fan of the match, but from the belt shot up to when Tam walked to the ring to challenge Giulia to a title match at the big All Star Grand Queendom show, I thought about why this fell flat for me but the actual Hokuto/Kandori matches are some of my favorite. A mistake I see in Japanese wrestling media is crowning acts as ‘Reiwa’s [X]’ cause all it does is set them up for unfair comparison, no, Meltear are not the Beauty Pair of Reiwa and Giulia vs Maya Yukihi did not become Reiwa’s Hokuto vs Kandori. First: the last 15 years of Showa and the first 13 years of Heisei had some of the hottest crowds in Japanese wrestling, between the idol booms, the cross promotional boom, and the Athena years of AJW, the crowds were always vocally involved and made their excitement known. If you told me that the Triangle Derby finals still had voice restrictions, I’d believe it. Both matches start with the hometown hero quickly landing the first strike but while the 1993 Yokohama Arena crowd “Oooh” and clap for Hokuto berating her opponent on the house mic, the Triangle Derby crowd clap along and some fans chirp in their seats as the action is literally thrown at them. Second: the previously mentioned BBM article did more work to convince me of the emotional stakes of this match than either woman did during the match, it’s a shortcoming for Giulia but she has a small emotional range, and I can’t say it’s grown much from when she was teaming with Tequila Saya. I’m not the best when it comes to critical analysis of wrestling but if I was sold on something being a confrontation between two wrestlers with history from a previous promotion, one of which happened to have left that company in a very unscrupulous manner, but they go out there and give me nothing to bite on then I’d be clapping along too. There’s no sense of urgency in this match and I’m not mad at the decision for a double count-out, but it’s a wet fart under a wet blanket of a match that supposedly had the potential to be the new Hokuto vs Kandori.