Kyoko Kimura once again graced us with a memorial for the late, beautiful Hana Kimura. For me, every year around this time it is really difficult to do anything but think of her. Of a life that was so tragically cut short due to people being assholes on the internet. Now, I watched this live and I have to say that this was just as good as Matane was. It had more matches but that’s not the point of the show. It’s to showcase some of Hana’s friends and pay tribute to the beautiful flower that was plucked from this world too soon. Now, it took me a few days to get down to reviewing the show. I’m not afraid or ashamed to admit that I was extremely emotional during the show and this whole week. Hana meant a lot to me as a fan and she’s one of the women who got me really into Joshi, so losing her has been extremely hard for me. I can only imagine how hard it is for people who knew her or loved her… I’m ranting, sorry. Let’s get into the show, shall we? Welcome, to Bagus!
Bagus! | Menso-re Oyaji vs. Kenoh
Kyoko Kimura and KAIRI open the show, along with an MC, addressing the crowd for a bit. There were no subtitles so I’m not 100% sure what they were talking about, I apologize for that. They do call everyone to the ring and they have a moment of silence for Hana. Very fitting and something even I took part in at home. I digress, our first match is the beer-drinking Menso-re Oyaji taking on Kenoh. I wasn’t super aware of either man before this event, and I’m not ashamed to admit that, but this match was a lot more fun than I anticipated. Of course, Kenoh dominated most of the match, giving Menso-re a few cool spots. It was a good way to open the show and it was a perfect first match. It had comedic elements, it had serious spots, and it was just all-around good. Kenoh picked up the win after 7 minutes and changed, good way to start the show as I said. It was pretty funny watching Menso-re drinking a beer while walking the top rope – Personal Rating: 3/5
Bagus! | Inter-gender Tag Team Battle Royale: Banana Senga & Tsutomu Oosugi vs. Cherry & Masahiro Takanashi vs. Chihiro Hashimoto & Mika Iwata vs. DASH Chisako & Hiroyo Matsumoto vs. Fuminori Abe & Munenori Sawa vs. Hanako Nakamori & Tsubasa Kuragaki vs. HUB & Shisaou vs. Koji Kanemoto & Ryo Mizunami vs. Miyuki Takase & Super Delfin vs. Seigo Tachibana & Shotaro Ashino vs. Yuki Miyazaki & Yuko Miyamoto
Do you want mindless fun? This was the match for you. We had eleven teams in this match and they introduced it to the Spongebob Theme. Ram Kaicho, the battle royale winner last year, sat outside the ring for it. We had a -ton- of comedy spots here, which is quite common in Japan. As I said, we had eleven teams in this battle royale. Over the top, pinfall and submissions were all ways to earn an elimination, also both members of the team had to be eliminated for the team to be gone. In the end, any eliminated members were allowed to return if their team were in the final five.. and then it turned into a fatal five-way. It was a bit convoluted rule wise but still, a ton of fun. The match lasted just under half an hour, had a lot of cool moments and some interesting teams. Was it a five-star match? No. Not even close. But this was just a silly fun good time like last year’s battle royale and that’s what we needed from it. Your winners at the end were Chihiro Hashimoto & Mika Iwata, getting a bag full of Hana merch from Ram Kaicho for winning – Personal Rating: 2.5/5
Bagus! | Exhibition Match: Jungle Kyona Open Challenge
Up next we had a special exhibition match for Jungle Kyona, who returned to the ring for the first time in what seemed like forever. She had been dealing with some -serious- knee injuries and other ailments so it was exciting to see her coming back here. What made this match special though wasn’t just Jungle’s return, but she challenged Kyoko Kimura! So we got Kyoko Kimura in action against Jungle Kyona. Sure, both women were rusty as hell, neither have been active in the ring in forever, but this was such a good moment. Jungle was one of Hana’s best friends and I’m sure that the moment shared with Hana’s mother in the ring was something special for her. This was a tough match for both women, they looked great despite the rust and Kyoko showed that she has a lot left in the tank if she ever wanted to return to the ring. Jungle Kyona picked up a hard-fought victory that even saw interference from Yu Ishino (fka Kagetsu). This was perfect for both women, despite the rust. I didn’t think I could get more emotional for the show but this match nearly brought me to tears from how beautiful it was. Truly a special moment – Personal Rating: 4/5
Bagus! | Handicap Match:
Kyuusei Hana Kimura (Sakura Hirota) vs Kaori Yoneyama, Saori Anou & X
This one was a lot different than I anticipated. For one, there was the mystery opponent for Sakura Hirota but then she came to the ring in total Oedo Tai Hana gear and even did the dance with Yu Ishino, who donned his old Kagetsu costume. It’s weird for me seeing someone cosplaying as Hana, but she looked really good doing it. Sakura defeated Kaori and Saori at the same time, pinning them both and then the mystery partner was revealed.. and it was the Legendary Aja Kong! Sakura looked like she shit herself when Aja came out. Aja slapped her, pinned her in 15 seconds, and started to walk away. However, Sakura did not want the match to end like that and got Aja to come back in the ring for round two. This one was more of a match, though Aja did still dominate it for the most part. After a few more minutes, Aja once again pinned Sakura and the match should have been over. However! There was another surprise participant in this match and it turned out to be Mini-Hana herself from Stardom, Rina! Rina came down accompanied by Starlight Kid and then had a match with Sakura. This was a lot more competitive than the others and Rina looked really good here. I loved how she used the Hydrangea in the match too. Rina ended up winning via submission and the match was over. They shared a moment after the match and held up a Hana shirt before departing the ring – Personal Rating: 3.5/5
Bagus! | Main Event: ASUKA (Veny) vs Syuri
Perhaps the most anticipated match on the entire card was Syuri taking on ASUKA one-on-one. ASUKA was put over heavy in last year’s show and everyone wanted to see how she would do against the World of Stardom Champion Syuri. This match was a lot more physical and hard-hitting than I anticipated. This match stuck out like a sore thumb on the Bagus show – and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible. These two went all out with vicious strikes, crisp moves and countermoves, and fantastic selling. The beginning was a little slow but it built up to a hot crescendo and delivered one of the finest Joshi matches that you’ll likely see this year. ASUKA continues to be one of the best-kept secrets in Pro Wrestling and hopefully, more matches like this will change that. This was a match that played to both women’s strength and a beautiful tribute to Hana. Syuri felt like 2021 Syuri and ASUKA/Veny was a great underdog. It is one of the best matches so far this year in both a work rate and emotional level. I think everyone should go out of your way to watch this match, it was that damn good – Personal Rating: 5/5
Whereas last year’s Matane tribute show was emotional and heartbreaking, this one was more light-hearted and celebratory, which many were hoping for. The opening match was hilarious, with Kenoh being the straight man to Oyagi’s comedy, and it was a really fun way to start the show. The tag team battle royal was good for what it was, even though it did go longer than it needed to, but it was pretty fun. Kyona’s return was handled perfectly. The video package, her entrance, her challenge, the response to said challenge and the match itself was more than I could have hoped for. It’s no secret that she is still rehabbing her injury, so I kept my expectations tempered. The fact that she looked like she hadn’t missed a beat despite being out for 18 months, with Kyoko killing it too, might be the happiest surprise in Joshi this year. If not the best, it’s right up there with Kairi’s return to Stardom.
The handicap match was hilarious, especially the Aja Kong stuff. The Oedo Tai dance with Yuu Ishino (formerly known as Kagetsu) and Hirota, who was cosplaying as Hana for the match, was nice. After the match, Rina’s music unexpectedly started playing and when she came out, she got by far the biggest ovation of her career. She then had an impromptu match with Hirota and it was honestly the best singles match of her career. Her post-match promo was heartfelt and, for those who know what Hana meant to her, it was all very touching. The main event was really good and great down the stretch. It didn’t go too long, was the perfect length for the main event, was paced well and ASUKA got a lot of offence in against the reigning World of Stardom champion.
The video montage of Hana’s life was really good and pierced the heart. However, unlike last year’s beautiful yet sombre “Matane” video and subsequent 10-bell salute to end the show, this show had a much happier ending. There was another video of several notable wrestlers saying the show name like last year, but it had a happier and more celebratory tone. Last year’s tribute show was perfect for what it was supposed to be. This year’s which was supposed to be more light-hearted and celebratory of Hana was just that. It was full of comedy and chaos, with some really good wrestling mixed in, heartwarming moments and occasionally some emotional stuff as well. If we get another tribute show next year, I think this show will be a good template for it. If this show turns out to be the last tribute show for Hana, then it was a great way to go out. Either way, I’m really glad I bought it and watched it.