Sendai Girls, in association with Fight Club Pro, held their first-ever show in the UK in Manchester and we sent Matthew Roberts along to have a look.
The arrival of Bull Nakano into the WWE in 1994 quite literally changed my outlook on Professional Wrestling forever. From there I discovered the world of Joshi through the tape-trading market (all you young whipper-snappers who have the world of wrestling on their screens with the click of a mouse don’t realise how lucky you are) although 25 years ago it would have been a pipe-dream to imagine a Joshi star making their way to the UK, never mind a whole promotion.
Of course, much like Stardom’s visit a few years ago to these shores, there were a number of “home-grown additions” to the show here but that’s to be expected. And with the likes of Meiko Satomura, Dash Chisako, Chihiro Hashimoto, Yuu and Aiger making the trip there was more than enough Joshi star-power to go around.
After the usual Brit Wrest staples of the doors not opening on time, you queue up in one place only to be told to go queue somewhere else and people pushing in any way there was a one hour meet n greet with the Sendai stars before the general admission. All there were pleasant, even if Meiko and Chihiro were under orders, after a while anyway, not to allow “selfies” apparently. That Aiger (and if you haven’t seen her, do yourself a favour and check her out) stayed in character throughout was a hilarious bonus.
From there I took up my second-row seat (I missed out on a first row seat when they went on sale because one of my friends rather cruelly decided to have her wedding on the day the tickets were released) in time for the traditional opening ceremony, where the Japanese contingent was joined by Sendai Tag Team Champions Millie McKenzie and Charli Evans.
Gisele Shaw vs Isla Dawn vs Viper vs Jody Threat
We kicked things off with a Four-Way match that included WWE NXT UK stars Viper and Isla Dawn along with Jody Threat and Gisele Shaw. I was well aware of Viper and Isla but it was the first time that I had the pleasure of seeing Threat and Shaw in action, having heard great things about both. The match itself was a perfect way to kick things off.
After a comedy opening where the four were trying to make alliances for the match, this soon became a hard-hitting, high-flying affair that was fought at a breakneck pace. More than once the crowd winced at some of the suplexes and when the women took to the air. Viper wrapped things up but this was one of those matches where everyone had the chance to impress and all showed what they were capable of.
Session Moth Martina vs Aiger
Wrestling as we know it then peaked in the next match as Session Moth Martina took on Aiger. The former Mizuki Endo has a “ghost” gimmick that appears based on the film “The Ring” that has to be seen to be believed and it made for the perfect counter-point for Martina, who appeared to be scared out of her skin at the prospect of grappling with her opponent. Even when the referee told her it would be alright because Aiger was “already dead”.
After a chase reminiscent of a Scooby-Doo episode, Martina ramped things up with her impersonation of a “Ghostbuster” (complete with a Henry hoover) before Aiger snatched one of Martina’s cans and got drunk! Alas just as it seemed as if that had given the Session Moth the advantage, Aiger rallied and picked up the win. No words can adequately describe this match; just be sure to check it out when you get the chance.
No Disqualification Match: DASH Chisako vs Kay Lee Ray
After the comedy, we got the violence as the diminutive Dash Chisako tackled Kay Lee Ray in a No DQ match. Naturally, this meant that if you were sat in certain sections of the audience you missed half the match as they battled around the venue. So much so that I failed to see a table being set up on the other side of the ring. This was a nutty brawl that featured the aforementioned walk-around as well as lashing of chair shots and ramming into the steel of the ring. It was certainly one hell of an effort and when I could actually see what was going on, an exciting one too. Chisako too the win after a very hard-fought battle.
After an interval it was time for Valkyrie to make her way to the ring; her scheduled opponent Killer Kelly was injured so Val was here to issue an open challenge. And here is where I know I am going to lose 90% of the readership of this piece. But I was very underwhelmed that it was answered by the Schadenfreude trio of Chris Brookes, Kid Lykos and Kyle Fletcher.
Valkyrie vs Chris Brookes
Whilst I was not overly familiar with their Fight Club Pro shenanigans they are a trio I simply don’t “get”. I don’t hate them, I don’t dislike them, they are just not wrestlers I look forward to seeing. The heat for their entrance proves I am in a distinct minority and I’ve no problem with that. But as a result, the match was not one I was really looking forward to, even though it did drag me in with Valkyrie fighting against the odds to pick up an “upset” win over Brookes despite the attempts of Lykos and Fletcher at ringside. Not even a miscued ending (a two count that was clearly a three was followed by the actual three count one move late) could spoil the feel-good ending.
It was the right result on a “Sendai Girls” show for sure.
Sendai Girls World Tag Team Championships: The Medusa Complex (Charli Evans & Millie McKenzie) vs Chihiro Hashimoto & YUU
Next up was the Sendai Girls Tag Team Championship match as The Medusa Complex (Charli Evans and Millie McKenzie) defended against Chihrio Hashimoto and Yuu. In a world where a lot (but by no means all) of tag team matches in “mainstream” promotions seem to be like four singles wrestlers trying to get their big moves at the expense of the others, this was a total breath of fresh air. To say that it was an “old school” tag team match might seem a backhanded compliment to some but this was almost perfect. It was hard-hitting, high-flying AND had superb psychology. All four women were spot on and dragged you into the emotion of the match. It really had a little bit of everything and there wasn’t a wasted moment in the entire match. The champions retained but both teams deserved the rousing ovation they got as they hugged post-match.
Meiko Satomura vs Toni Storm
And so it was main event time and the “Mae Young Classic rematch” between Meiko Satomura and Toni Storm. With so much wrestling about these days, it becomes more and more difficult for anything to feel truly “special”. From the moment Storm made her way to the ring it was clear that this was special. The atmosphere was white-hot and we knew we were in for a treat. And both women delivered it all. It started off slowly but that was by design. The feel out period was charged with tension and emotion and meant that when they did start to pick up the pace and really start to hammer each other it meant all that much more. Again on more than one occasion fans winced at some of the really rather dangerous bumps both women took. In the end, Storm took the win, but really it didn’t matter. Everyone in the building knew that they had seemed something special, regardless of the result. If you were to tell me Meiko is the best wrestler in the world at the moment, I wouldn’t disagree.
So that was Sendai Girls UK. And it was really rather excellent. It was a show that had a little bit of everything and nothing remotely sub-par. It truly was one of the best shows I’ve been to in the three-plus decades I’ve been watching wrestling. I’d be first in line if Sendai Girls ever come back for a second visit.