So this is it. This is the beginning of the Japanese Bracket of the AEW Women’s Tournament to be the No1 Contender to face the AEW Women’s Champion. Damn, that’s a lot to write in one sentence. Eight Wrestlers competing in four matches on this episode which will be narrowed down in a few weeks to one woman who will face the finalist of the AEW American Bracket, and maybe Hikaru Shida at AEW Revolution. This is one hell of a great Tournament.

One thing I read from wrestling fans several times when the names of these wrestlers were announced, “Who are they?”, this was not said in a disrespectful manner, many fans who have been accustomed to wrestling from the West may have not witnessed the blistering action from Stardom, DDT Pro, WAVE, Tokyo Joshi Pro and ChocoPro. Personally, I would have loved it if AEW had made an introductory episode or even a segment letting fans know the wrestlers were.

But on this YouTube episode courtesy of the AEW channel, these wrestlers let there wrestling do the talking, they let you into their world and seriously… All Elite Wrestling, the fans want more from this, take note.

Besides my regular review of the matches, I’ll write a paragraph of who these wrestlers are, so that way you can go online and check more of their matches out.

“The Magical Girl”-Yuka Sakazaki vs. Mei Suruga

Yuka Sakazaki made her professional wrestling debut for Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling, as part of a tag team match back in December 2013. As part of Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling, she has captured the Tokyo Princess of Princess Championship twice, Tokyo Princess Tag Team Championship twice and won the Tokyo Princess Tag Team Championship Tournament in 2017 with Shoko Nakajima. Fans may have also seen her at Double or Nothing in 2019 when she took part in the six women tag-team match also at Fyter Fest on June 29 of that year when she participated in a triple threat match, losing to Riho. In February last year, she officially made her debut on Dynamite defeating Britt Baker.

Mei Suruga made her debut on May 27, 2018, in Gatoh Move facing Emi Sakura, even though she was defeated in that match she certainly made an impact. Despite only wrestling for a short time, she has made a name for herself in Gatoh Move, Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling, and Sendai Girls’ Pro Wrestling, even capturing the Gatoh Move Pro Wrestling Asia Dream Tag Team Championships late last year.

The match began with a handshake between the two as the Tournament officially began and Sakazaki was quick to take the advantage by locking in a wristlock, transitioning into a headlock then back into a wristlock again. Suruga, who is a skilled yet unorthodox wrestler screamed in Sakazaki’s face stopping her dead and then launched into a barrage of arm drags from the top rope. The match was fast and flowing as Suruga locked in a body-scissors, then used an Oklahoma roll to spin Sakazaki around the ring to get a near fall.

Sakazaki targeted the back of her opponent, throwing Suruga into the turnbuckle, using a scoop suplex as she came off the ropes, striking with clubbing blows to the back. Sakazaki was on a roll connecting with forearms to the face, then positioning Suruga against the ropes as she wrapped her legs around Suruga’s throat and arching her back off the top rope while posing the camera.

The match was back and forth as Suruga eventually took control, throwing Sakazaki into the turnbuckle three times, connecting with a scoop slam and then grapevine the leg while ridging her head between Sakazaki’s shoulder blades. If this wasn’t enough torture she then inverted a double under hook with the arms to inflict maximum damage on the back, it looked as though she would win but Sakazaki desperately reached the ropes.

Sakazaki fought back with a high knee to the face, and while that stunned Suruga, she struck with a delayed brainbuster. Suruga, recovered and used a reverse body-scissors to slow Sakazaki down then turn it move into a pinning combination, several times, in fact, only to get a near fall.

Sakazaki was in full control as the match drew to a close, striking with a rollover kick, a baseball lariat, a northern light bomb, and concluding with the fantastic ‘Magical Girl’ 450 Splash to get the pin.

Matches to check out:

Yuka Sakazaki and Miyu Yamashita – Race to the Ace

Mei Suruga vs Hikaru Shida, 28th July 2018

VENY vs. Emi Sakura

Some fans many know VENY as Asuka, or Asuka VENY, by whatever name to know her as she has always seized your attention in the ring. Making her debut in Pro Wrestling Wave in August 2015, she has wrestled for DDT Pro-Wrestling: capturing the Independent World Junior Heavyweight Championship and Ironman Heavymetalweight Championship. And has wrestled in Pro Wrestling Wave and World Woman Pro-Wrestling Diana capturing the Wave Single and World Woman Pro-Wrestling Diana World Championships respectfully.

Emi Sakura made her professional wrestling debut in August 1995, in a match against Kiyoko Ichiki. Now, what can you say about Sakura, if there is a wrestling promotion she has been part of, pretty sure she has won a Championship in that promotion. From All Japan Women’s Pro-Wrestling to DDT Pro-Wrestling to Gatoh Move Pro Wrestling to Ice Ribbon and even in the UK, at Pro Wrestling EVE, she has won Championships. To same that Sakura is a staple in wrestling is no understatement and the term, legend, rings true.

The match itself, before I start, I should mention that VENY was wearing the Kimono that the late Hana Kimura use to wear to the ring as they used to be in a tag team together. Kyoko Kimura, the mother of Hana, gave it to VENY after her daughter passed away. Incredible, a heartfelt tribute on this night.

The match started with Sakura in control, hitting Mongolian chops, and wrapping VENy’s hair in her hands and whipping her across the ring. As VENY crawled to the corner, Sakura began stomping on her face and launching with a strike-kick to the face. But amazingly, VENY recovered and fought back. Fighting with a backhand elbow stunning Sakura, throwing her outside and in this small venue, VENY hit a standing moonsault from the top turnbuckle to the outside back in the ring.

Like this previous match, the pendulum of the match swayed back and forth, with Sakura hitting a backbreaker off the ropes and a senton off the second rope, and connecting with a double underhook backbreaker. VENY was dazed but not out, after an uppercut, she was back in the match hitting an arm drag springboard, then running shooting star press to get a near fall.

As the match progressed, Sakura got back into the match again and kept trying to underhook the arms of VENY, looking to strike with the Tiger Driver, but VENY wouldn’t give up on her opportunity yet, as she struck with high kicks to the face and a shotgun dropkick.

The match descended into strings chops and brutal forearms from both but VENY was on the attack, connecting with a leg lariat and a sit-out chokeslam, she looked to end the match as she climbed to the top turnbuckle and launched herself for a moonsault, but Sakura seized the moment and moved and then locked in the arm-capture Dragon Sleeper and rolled up with the double undertook Tiger Driver for the win.

After the match, Sakura took VENY’s hand out of respect and then VENY slapped her across the face. I don’t need your respect, message received.

Matches to check out:

FREE MATCH – AEW Emi Sakura vs NXT UK Champion Kay Lee Ray

Kingdom Rumble: Zeda Zhang & VENY vs. Ray Lyn & Crystal

“The Cutest in the World” Maki Itoh vs. Ryo Mizunami

Maki Itoh, what can you say about Itoh? A force to be reckoned with? The Cutest in the World? Actress? J-pop singer? It’s all true, she certainly has her loyal Itoh Army and they are loyal to their Queen. Formerly part of the J-pop group LinQ she had her first experience with professional wrestling in 2013 when she was invited by president Sanshiro Takagi to participate in an “Idol Lumberjack 4 Way Match” at a DDT Pro-Wrestling show. Since then, she hasn’t stopped making a name from herself in wrestling, as she has had matches in DDT Pro-Wrestling when the won the Ironman Heavymetalweight Championship six times and in Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling capturing the International Princess Championship.

Ryo Mizunami is just a force of nature, wrestling since November 2004, she has continuously made a name for herself and bringing chaos wherever she has been. Having wrestled for GAEA Iron Heart, Gatoh Move, Pro Wrestling WAVE, Sendai Girls’ Pro Wrestling also capturing the Regina Di Wave Championship twice and the International Ribbon Tag Team Championship, as stated, Mizunami is a force of nature.

Now, if a personality could scream its way from your screens and directly into your brain, I truly believe Itoh would be the wrestler to make that happen. From the moment she appeared from the curtain then started singing and dancing her own entrance theme if you weren’t a fan before you are now.

The match was very different from the previous two, the start seemed to have a more entertainment value to it and this didn’t detract from the action either. Both wrestlers began to trade forearms, and from out of nowhere, Itoh started crying, (this happens in her matches and its something to behold) as Mizunami went to comfort her, Itoh struck, raking the eyes and stomping on foot. Itoh seized the chance and bounced off the ropes but then immediately bounced off Mizunami who had no idea what happened as she was still attending to her eyes.

Mizunami was in control, hitting a now deliberate shoulder tackle, a slam and leg drop it was only a prelude of what was to come. As Itoh was slumped in the corner, Mizunami struck with fourteen hard-hitting chops, then a running elbow strike and running club line. Pin attempted, near fall.

Itoh was down but not out, she rebelliously fought with forearms, a hammerlock transitioning into a DDT.  She relentlessly fought with a diving back elbow into a running bulldog. As Mizunami looked vulnerable, Itoh seized in a Boston crab, as the camera panned over to Mizunami’s face, there was a smile and she easily powered out.

Itoh, ever the fighter was overpowered at ever turn but continued to fight, using a single leg crab, and using her main weapon, her head. She used her windup headbutt for a near fall and even used her head to stop a connecting clothesline. Pressing her advantage, she connected with another DDT and a swinging DDT off the turnbuckle to get a near fall. Afterwards, she climbed to the top turnbuckle and launched for a diving headbutt, but Mizunami moved, and from there the match was hers. Hitting a devastating spear and then seizing in the head and arm triangle hold, there was nothing else Itoh could do but tap.

Matches to check out:

[RCW Spain] Miyu Yamashita Vs Maki Itoh – Japan Weekend Madrid 2019

Yuna Mizumori vs Ryo Mizunami, 2 July 2019

Aja Kong vs. Rin Kadokura

Rin Kadokura began her career back in May 2016, having wrestled for Pro Wrestling WAVE, a mainstay in WAVE since then, she captured the Wave Tag Team Championship twice and wrestled in multiple promotions including Marvelous That’s Women Pro Wrestling, Stardom and Ice Ribbon.

As for Aja Kong, what can you say? No, I’m serious. Kong has been wrestling since 1986 and you name a Women’s promotion she probably has wrestled for it or even founded it. Have you seen WWE Survivor Series 1995? She was the sole survivor of the women’s elimination match, pinning all 4 members of her opposing team, including WWF Women’s Champion, Alundra Blayze. The woman is an icon.

The match itself, I’m not gonna lie, I felt sympathy for Kadokura, facing Kong was going to be a mammoth task for anyone to win but once the bell rang she attacked quickly with a running dropkick. The advantage was short-lived as Kong took command with a lariat, and then a diving elbow drop.

Kong was methodical as she was dangerous, she stood in the hands of Kadokura and pressed her dominance with heavy-handed chops following up with a closed fist to the head then a palm strike to the head and followed up with spike piledriver. Kadokura wasn’t beaten though, she fought back with a DDT, then a diving dropkick and a dropkick from the top turnbuckle to the shoulder of Kong.

But despite the valiant fightback including a swinging DDT and a senton in the corner from Kadokura, Kong was waiting for a chance to end the bout, striking with a right hand to the jaw and then another lariat. As Kadokura lay on the canvas beaten, Kong climbed to the top turnbuckle and unleashed the diving elbow to get the pin.

Matches to check out:

Sareee Vs Rin Kadokura

Aja Kong (AJW) vs Manami Toyota (AJW) [V.Top Women Tournament, Round: 1

Graphics by All Elite Wrestling