Before Kana was the international superstar that she is today, she started building her career and fan base a decade earlier in Japan. After a brief break due to a health issue, Kana returned to wrestling in late 2007 and worked as a Freelancer in a variety of promotions. During this time period, a set of nine DVDs was produced by Kana of her matches from Pro Wrestling WAVE and NEO. The matches on the DVDs range from 2008 to 2010, and really show Kana’s growth from a passionate young wrestler with potential to one of the best female wrestlers in the world. I finally tracked down all nine DVDs from the set, so I figured since Kana is one of my favorite wrestlers it would be fun to watch and review them.
I’ll provide context before each match if there is anything noteworthy I can find, although of course not all matches in wrestling have a set purpose (especially with Freelancers like Kana). All the matches below took place in NEO in 2009, directly after the matches on the Kana Special #2 review.
All wrestlers on the DVD have profiles on Joshi City, you can click on their names above to go straight to their profile for additional information.
(c) Kyoko Inoue and Hiroyo Matsumoto vs. Kana and Nanae Takahashi
NEO Tag Team Championship
Event: NEO “NEO STRONG HOLD IN JAPAN”
Date: August 29th, 2009
Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium #2 in Osaka, Japan
Announced Attendance: 551
We kick off this DVD with a tag team championship match! Kana and Nanae Takahashi started teaming in 2008 as part of a group called “Passion Red,” however this is their first shot at a title together. Kyoko and Hiroyo won the titles on March 29th, 2009 against Kyoko Kimura and Atsuko Emoto, and this is their second defense of the title. Up to this point, Kana had never held a championship, and she looks to change that by winning the NEO Tag Team Championship. It should be noted this was just a midcard match on a smaller show, not the main event, which was a cage death match.
Hiroyo and Kana start the match and immediately start trading strikes, hard shoulderblock by Hiroyo but Kana drop toeholds her into the corner and Nanae runs in and dropkicks Hiroyo. Hip attack by Kana but Kyoko comes in to help, as Kana eats a double shoulderblock. Hiroyo tosses Kana down by the hair and hits a bodyblock, she gets on the second turnbuckle but Kana avoids the dropkick and kicks Hiroyo repeatedly in the chest. Kana goes for a hip attack and gets stuck in the ropes, dropkick by Hiroyo and she tags in Kyoko. Hip attacks by Kyoko and she flings down Kana by the hair, butt smash by Kyoko but Kana fights back with strikes. Kyoko puts Kana in a single leg crab hold but with Nanae’s help she makes it to the ropes, Kyoko tags in Hiroyo, scoop slam by Hiroyo to Kana and she hits a second one. Backbreaker by Hiroyo and she puts Kana in a crab hold, but it is quickly broken up. Hard elbows by Kana to Hiroyo and she hits a dropkick before tagging in Nanae, shoulderblock by Nanae and she hits an elbow drop. Nanae puts Hiroyo in the corner upside down and hits a body avalanche, crab hold by Nanae and Kana kicks Hiroyo in the chest while she is in the hold. Dropkick by Hiroyo and she makes the tag to Kyoko, Kyoko and Nanae take turns trying to knock each other over with lariats until Nanae dumps Kyoko over the top rope to the floor. Kana gets on the apron and uses a hip attack down onto Kyoko, Hiroyo wonders over and Nanae dives onto her with a tope suicida. Back in the ring with Kyoko, Kana hits a diving hip attack and Nanae follows with a reverse splash for two. Nanae hangs Kyoko over the top rope so both she and Kana and hit running strikes on her, Hiroyo comes in to help however and dumps Nanae over the top rope to the floor onto Kana. Hiroyo goes up top and dives out onto the ring on both her opponents, and she and Kyoko attack both of their opponents around the ring and into the stands. Kyoko and Nanae return to the ring, Kyoko gets Nanae on her shoulders and tosses her onto Hiroyo’s knee. She then throws Kana on top of Nanae, Hiroyo gets Kyoko on her shoulders and tosses her onto both of their opponents. Cover by Kyoko, but Nanae kicks out. Kyoko puts Nanae in submission but lets her go after a moment and tags in Hiroyo, STF by Hiroyo but Nanae gets to the ropes for the break. Stomps by Hiroyo and she tags in Kyoko, vertical suplex by Kyoko and she hits a second one before putting Nanae in a modified camel clutch.
Nanae gets away and tags in Kana, kicks to the leg by Kana and she stretches Kyoko’s leg. Kana mounts Kyoko and goes for the armbreaker, but Kyoko blocks it and gets Kana back to her feet. Kana goes for a hip attack but Kyoko doesn’t budge, she tries again but has no luck. Waistlock by Kana but Kyoko gets out of it, elbows by Kana and she sneaks in a schoolboy for two. She goes for another hip attack but Kyoko catches her and hits a release German, she picks up Kana but Kana slaps her. Kana catches Kyoko’s arm and applies a short armbar, but Kyoko gets to the ropes for the break. Kana keeps on Kyoko’s arm before applying a Dragon Sleeper, but Hiroyo breaks it up. PK by Kana, but Kyoko gets a shoulder up on the cover. Kicks by Kana but Kyoko delivers a hard lariat, she tags in Hiroyo and Hiroyo comes in the ring with a missile dropkick. Cover by Hiroyo, but it gets two. Hiroyo picks up Kana and gets her on her back, but Nanae runs in and kicks her. Hip attack by Kana and she dropkicks Hiroyo in the knee, hard kick by Kana and the referee temporarily stops the match so he can check on Hiroyo’s face. She’s determined able to continue, more kicks by Kana and she goes for an armbar, but Hiroyo blocks it and hits a series of elbows. Hiroyo kicks Kana in the face to make them even, Hiroyo gets Kana on her back but Kana slides off and applies an ankle hold, but it is broken up. Nanae hits a cutter onto Hiroyo, German suplex hold by Kana but Hiroyo kicks out. Nanae stays in and lariats Hiroyo, Kyoko lariats Nanae from the apron and Hiroyo hits a missile dropkick, but the cover only gets a two. Nanae goes for a diving lariat but Hiroyo kicks her arm, she goes off the ropes but Kana runs in and Hiroyo is hit with a double dropkick. Nanae goes for a reverse splash but Hiroyo catches her on her shoulders and hits a Samoan Drop. Kana and Nanae both kick Hiroyo, Nanae puts Hiroyo in an armtrap crossface while Kana has Kyoko in an armbar, Nanae changes her hold to a sleeper, but Hiroyo gets a toe on the ropes for the break.
Nanae goes off the ropes but Hiroyo catches her with a hard elbow, Hiroyo gets Nanae on her shoulders and hits a gutbuster but Nanae kicks out of the pin. Kyoko jumps on Hiroyo’s back to give more weight to her double kneedrop, but again Nanae kicks out. Hiroyo goes for the backdrop suplex but Nanae blocks it and hits a lariat, she picks up Hiroyo and nails the Falcon Arrow, but Kyoko breaks up the pin. Kana holds down Kyoko while Nanae picks up Hiroyo, Kana tries to kick Hiroyo but she kicks Nanae by accident. Backdrop Driver by Hiroyo to Nanae, but Kana breaks up the cover. Lariat by Kyoko to Nanae, she picks her up but Kana kicks Kyoko from behind. Nanae and Kana both attack Kyoko but Kyoko lariats both of them, Kyoko picks up Nanae and she nails a powerbomb for a two count. Kana runs in but Kyoko fights them both off, kicks by Nanae and Kana and Nanae covers Kyoko for two. Sliding Kick by Nanae to Kyoko, she goes up top but Kyoko joins her and hits a superplex. Kyoko picks up Nanae and nails a sit-down powerbomb, but Nanae gets a shoulder up. Kana runs in and hits a hip attack, Sliding Kick by Nanae but Hiroyo breaks up the cover. Hiroyo and Kana trade strikes but end up knocking each other down, Nanae hits Kyoko with a pair of backdrop suplexes and she hits a lariat, but Hiroyo breaks up the pin. Nanae goes up top and delivers the Refrigerator Bomb, but Kyoko barely gets a shoulder up. Nanae picks up Kyoko but Kyoko nails a lariat, Nanae hits a lariat of her own but Kyoko rolls her up for two. Kyoko and Nanae trade lariat attempts, Hiroyo runs in and hits a backdrop suplex on Nanae, but the bell rings as the 30 Minute Time Limit expires. The match is a Draw, Kyoko Inoue and Hiroyo Matsumoto remain the champions.
For what really was just a midcard match that was clearly not the big attraction on the show, this was better than I was expecting. They started really slow, and the first ten minutes or so of the match was pretty uneventful as they had to waste some time to get to 30 minutes, but once the match got cracking it was pretty great. Kyoko is a stubborn wrestler but she has incorporated that into her gimmick, which makes it all the more special/memorable when her opponent does get one over on her. Kana and Hiroyo, while still fairly early into their careers, were both fantastic and all four have solid chemistry. I generally am not a big fan of draws but it was part of a bigger story here, and both teams were so close to winning in the long end stretch of the match. Overall an entertaining match with a lot more highs than lows, once they got past the slow start. Recommended
Kana vs. Ayumi Kurihara
Event: NEO “BEAT UP 2009”
Date: September 20th, 2009
Tokyo Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, Japan
Announced Attendance: 948
For NEO’s event at Korakuen Hall, Kana faces off against future best friend Ayumi Kurihara. Down the road, these two became a regular tag team as KanAyu, but at this point hey were still both young wrestlers trying to march their way up the card in NEO. This was a big show for NEO, but this match was the third match on the event so it wasn’t considered a big attraction.
Ayumi and Kana quickly start trading elbows and kicks, they bounce off the ropes and Ayumi dropkicks Kana as she goes for a hip attack. Kana gets an armbar applied but Ayumi reverses it into a front necklock, Kana gets out of the hold and she applies an ankle hold. Ayumi gets to the ropes to force the break, Kana jumps on the second turnbuckle but Ayumi slaps her and joins her. Ayumi applies an Octopus Hold while on the top turnbuckle, she releases it after a moment and dropkicks Kana while she is in the corner. Ayumi goes for a springboard move but Kana kicks her in the stomach, they trade waistlocks until Kana gets Ayumi to the mat with an armbar. Ayumi gets to the ropes for the break, kicks by Kana but Ayumi catches one and hits an elbow. Kana slaps her back, suplex by Kana but Ayumi gets her hand on the ropes to breaks up the pin. Kana kicks Ayumi into the corner and kicks her in the head, cover by Kana but it gets two. Ayumi drops Kana with an uranage, they slowly get up and Ayumi rocks Kana with an elbow. Dropkicks by Ayumi, she goes up top and delivers a missile dropkick for a two count. Ayumi goes for another uranage but Kana blocks it and hits a release German. Kana kicks Ayumi in the head but Ayumi elbows her back and covers Kana for two. Back kick by Kana and she kicks Ayumi in the head, she goes off the ropes but Ayumi ducks the hip attack and cradles Kana for two. Elbow by Ayumi, Kana goes for a suplex but Ayumi blocks it and they trade flash pin attempts. Ayumi grabs Kana and hits another uranage, but Kana kicks out of the cover. High kick by Kana, she picks up Ayumi but Ayumi applies an inside cradle for two. Head kicks by Kana, she goes off the ropes and nails the Billiken, but Ayumi barely kicks out of the cover. The bell then rings, as the Ten Minute Time Limit has expired. The match is a Draw.
Even though it wasn’t a very long match, it still had a lot of fun elements to it. Kana and Ayumi have great chemistry and were always comfortable working with each other, as the match had a lot of stiff strikes and suplexes. The uranages in particular were brutal but some of Kana’s kicks had just as much impact as they just laid into each other. Even though it wasn’t an important match they still were out there to impress, I wish they had more time but they worked well with that they were given. Overall a solid match. Mildly Recommended
(c) Kyoko Inoue and Hiroyo Matsumoto vs. Kana and Nanae Takahashi
NEO Tag Team Championship
Event: NEO “TAKE ACTION”
Date: October 10th, 2009
Shin-Kiba 1st Ring in Tokyo, Japan
Announced Attendance: 242
Since their last match (the first match on this DVD) ended in a Draw, we get a re-match! The match is still not in the main event, just as it wasn’t last time, with a hardcore match featuring LCO getting the nod on this show. No real further explanation needed, as Kana again looks to win the first title in her young career.
Kyoko and Nanae immediately hit lariats to Kana and Hiroyo as the match starts, they face off and trade elbows until both are schoolboyed from behind. No idea who is legal or if it matters. Nanae goes after Hiroyo and both she and Kana connect with running strikes in the corner, snapmare by Nanae to Hiroyo and she stomps her repeatedly. Hard shoulderblock by Nanae, she tosses Hiroyo to the mat and puts her in a Camel Clutch. Nanae tags in Kana, she eats an elbow though before Hiroyo dropkicks her to the mat. Kyoko comes in and they shoulderblock Kana, double bodyblock and Hiroyo hits another one in the corner. Kyoko does the same, Hiroyo then gets on the second turnbuckle and connects with the missile dropkick. Kyoko is tagged in, snap vertical suplex by Kyoko and she puts Kana in the Mexican Surfboard. Hiroyo comes in and boots Kana in the chest, Kyoko charges Kana but Kana kicks her back and goes for Kyoko’s arm. Kyoko pushes her away, running elbow by Kana and she cover Kyoko for two. Back kick by Kana and she hits a hip attack, sending Kyoko out of the ring. Hiroyo joins Kyoko down on the floor, Kana goes on the second turnbuckle and dives down onto Kyoko with a hip attack. Kyoko is rolled back in the ring, Nanae and Kana put her hanging on the top turnbuckle before both hit running strikes. Missile dropkick by Kana, Nanae then hits the Reverse Splash and Kana finishes the series with a PK. Cover, but Hiroyo breaks it up. Hiroyo stays in but Kana spits at her and rolls up Kyoko for two. Kana goes for a hip attack but Kyoko catches her and hits a German suplex, lariat by Kyoko and she tags in Hiroyo. Missile dropkick by Hiroyo, she elbows Kana against the ropes but Kana catches her arm and takes Hiroyo to the mat. Hiroyo gets into the ropes for the break, kicks by Kana and she covers Hiroyo for a two count. Kana goes for the Billiken but Kyoko intercepts her with a lariat, but Nanae runs in and helps Kana dropkick Hiroyo. Cutter by Nanae, and Kana drops Hiroyo with a German suplex hold for two. Irish whip by Nanae and she hits a body avalanche in the corner, Hiroyo returns with one of her own but Nanae hits another one. Hiroyo tosses Nanae onto the apron but Kana comes in with a reverse DDT to Hiroyo.
Refrigerator Bomb by Nanae, but Hiroyo barely gets a shoulder up. Nanae goes for the Reverse Splash but Hiroyo gets her feet up, Kyoko comes in and puts Nanae on her shoulders while Hiroyo does the same to Kana. Gutbuster by Kana, Hiroyo then tosses Nanae onto Hiroyo’s knee for a backbreaker, hurting Hiroyo in the process. Kyoko stays on Nanae and puts her in a crab hold while the referee checks on Hiroyo’s leg, but Nanae gets to the ropes for the break. Back up, Nanae and Kyoko trade strikes and lariats until Kyoko sends Nanae to the mat, Kyoko picks up Nanae but Nanae snaps off a backdrop suplex. Kana comes in and kicks Kyoko in the head, allowing Nanae to hit a second backdrop suplex for a two count cover. Nanae picks up Kyoko and puts her on the top turnbuckle, she goes for the Muscle Buster but Kyoko punches her off. Hiroyo is back (on one leg) but doesn’t help much, Nanae joins Kyoko up top and she hits a superplex. Cover by Nanae, but it gets two. Nanae goes back up top but Kyoko joins her and hits a superplex, Kyoko picks up Nanae but Kana kicks Kyoko in the leg. Kyoko punches Kana back before powerbombing Nanae, but Nanae kicks out of the cover. Kyoko drags up Nanae but Nanae hits a jumping kick, elbows by Kyoko but Kana kicks Kyoko in the leg. Double Irish whip to Kyoko but Kyoko lariats both of them, Hiroyo limps over and hits a backdrop suplex on Kana while Kyoko hits a sit-down powerbomb on Nanae for a two count. Nanae gets up and trades lariats with Kyoko, a battle which Kyoko wins but Kana breaks up her cover attempt. Kyoko picks up Nanae but Nanae blocks the powerbomb attempt and hits a backdrop suplex. Kana and Nanae hit simultaneous kicks on Kyoko, Billiken by Kana and Nanae delivers a Sliding Kick for a two count. Nanae slams Kyoko to the mat, she picks her back up but Kyoko hits a short range lariat for two. Jumping kick by Nanae, Hiroyo comes in and elbows Nanae but Kana catches her with a German suplex. Kyoko is distracted by Kana, giving Nanae a chance to deliver a lariat. High kick by Kana to Kyoko, Nanae follows with a lariat and covers Kyoko for two. Another lariat by Nanae, and this time she gets the three count! Kana and Nanae Takahashi are the new champions!
Hiroyo was legitimately hurt with a torn ligament in her ankle (she missed about a month of action), which made the last five minutes of this match really disjointed since they had to do things on the fly. I doubt it changed the end result, but there were signs of miscommunication while they figured out what to do, and a fair amount of repeated spots. Up to that point I was really enjoying it, they didn’t waste any time getting the action sped up as they picked up where they left off a few months prior. Nanae “winning” the lariat battle and pinning Kyoko was a nice moment, and storyline-wise it kept Kyoko strong since she basically was fighting off both Kana and Nanae by herself by the end. Disappointing just due to Hiroyo’s injury, still a fun watch but not as good as the last match we saw between these teams. Mildly Recommended
(c) Kana and Nanae Takahashi vs. Natsuki Taiyo and Passion Ray
NEO Tag Team Championship
Event: NEO “NEO STRONG HOLD IN JAPAN”
Date: November 22nd, 2009
Nagoya Chigusa Sports Center in Nagoya, Japan
Announced Attendance: 373
Sometimes, your friend has something you want, and you just have to try to take it. All four of these wrestlers are in the Passion Red faction, with Nanae Takahashi and Natsuki Taiyo in particular being good friends. But championships are the most important thing in wrestling so those nice feelings are set aside as Natsuki and Passion Ray challenge for the belts. This is Kana and Nanae Takahashi’s first defense of the titles they won on October 10th from Kyoko Inoue and Nanae Takahashi.
Ray and Natsuki attack before the bell rings, they isolate Kana in the ring but she dropkicks Natsuki while Nanae hits a missile dropkick on Ray. All four trade strikes in the ring, Natsuki fights off both of her opponents before a recovered Ray hits a dropkick. The action spills to the floor, Ray gets on the apron and flips off of it onto Kana and Nanae. Natsuki then hits a triple jump plancha down onto both of them as well, Kana is rolled back into the ring and double teamed, ending with a double elbow drop. Kana drop toeholds Natsuki into the corner and tags in Nanae, dropkick by Nanae to Natsuki and she applies a front necklock, but Natsuki reverses it. Natsuki tags in Ray, Nanae and Ray lock knuckles until Nanae pushes Ray to the mat. Nanae picks Ray up with a headlock, shoulderblock by Nanae and the two trade elbows and slaps. Dropkick by Ray but Nanae kicks out of the cover. Natsuki is tagged in and she dropkicks Nanae repeatedly, she goes up top and hits a missile dropkick before putting Nanae in a modified Camel Clutch. She switches the hold to a bodyscissors but Nanae gets out of it and applies a leg lock, headbutt by Nanae and she hits an elbow drop for two. Nanae tags in Kana, she goes for a hip attack but Natsuki rolls out of the way. She tries again and succeeds this time, kicks by Kana but Natsuki knocks her down and they trade kneelocks. They end up in the ropes for a break, Irish whip by Kana but Natsuki hits a jumping elbow strike.
Kicks by Natsuki and she tags in Ray, knees by Ray and she ties up Kana in the ropes so that she and Natsuki can attack her from the apron. Back in the ring, Ray picks up Kana but Kana kicks her into the ropes, Ray charges Kana but Kana delivers a dropkick. Hip attack by Kana but Ray slides out to the apron and hits a slingshot elbow drop for a two count. Kneedrops by Ray and she hits a running somersault senton, Kana fights back with slaps before punching Ray against the ropes. Running kick to the chest by Kana and they trade holds until Kana hits a reverse DDT. Kana tags in Nanae, lariats by Nanae in the corner but Ray kicks her back and chops her repeatedly. Space Rolling Elbow attempt by Ray but Nanae catches her and slams Ray to the mat. She goes for the Reverse Splash but Ray moves out of the way, Natsuki comes in and both hit slingshot dropkicks onto Nanae. Ray goes up top, Nanae charges in but Ray jumps down to the mat and applies a waistlock. Nanae elbows out of it but Ray snaps off a hurricanrana, Tiger Feint Kick by Ray and she covers Nanae for two. Ray goes up top but Nanae gets her feet up on the moonsault attempt, high kick by Kana to Ray and Nanae hits a backdrop suplex. Nanae goes up top and nails the Refrigerator Bomb, she picks up Ray but Ray flips out of the suplex attempt and hits a hurricanrana for a two count. Ray tags in Natsuki, Natsuki picks up Nanae but Nanae avoids the powerbomb. Kick to the back by Natsuki, she goes for a sunset flip but Nanae blocks it. Lariat by Nanae but Natsuki hits a release German, Nanae quickly returns to her feet and hits a jumping kick but Ray hits her from the apron when she gets on the top turnbuckle.
Natsuki joins Nanae and hits a powerbomb to the mat, but Nanae kicks out of the cover. Hard lariat by Nanae and she tags in Kana, knees by Kana and she kicks Natsuki in the chest. Kana picks up Natsuki and hits a neckbreaker, dropkick to the knee by Kana but Natsuki catches her next kick and goes for the Iguchi Bomb. Nanae breaks it up before she can hit the move, Kana goes up top but Natsuki armdrags her back to the mat. Natsuki goes up top and hits a moonsault while Ray also hits one on Nanae, but it gets a two count. Natsuki picks up Kana but Kana kicks her and applies the short armbar, Natsuki rolls out of it but Kana puts her in a crucifix hold. Natsuki gets to the ropes for the break, kicks by Kana and the two trade slaps. Spinning backfist by Kana, and she covers Natsuki for a two count. Kana picks up Natsuki and hits a few knees, Ray come sin and delivers her cartwheel powerbomb before Natsuki kicks Kana in the head for two. A rolling cradle by Natsuki also gets two, she goes off the ropes but Nanae cuts her off with a lariat. Nanae and Kana both hit running kicks onto Natsuki, but Ray breaks up the cover. Kana goes to kick Natsuki but kicks Nanae by accident, Momo☆Latch by Natsuki but Nanae breaks up the cover. Natsuki goes for the Taiyo-chan☆Bomb but Nanae kicks her in the chest before she can finish the move, high kicks by Kana and she covers Natsuki for the three count! Kana and Nanae Takahashi retain the championship.
One of the amusing things of watching these Kana and Nanae Takahashi matches now is that they really weren’t a great team in regards to teamwork. They noticeably aren’t on the same page, sometimes as part of the match but other times not related to the story they are telling. Natsuki and Ray are both really fun to watch, they actually did show a lot of quality teamwork and they kept the pace of the match up. The ending seemed pretty sudden, not that Kana’s head kicks aren’t deadly but for a main event title match I expected more of a hot end run. Overall it was good but not great, sold action throughout but felt a bit disjointed. Mildly Recommended
Even though this DVD only had four matches, three of them were title matches so I feel I still got my money's worth. The first match on the DVD is the best, as the rematch was hindered a bit by Hiroyo Matsumoto's injury. The Kana/Ayumi match was very fun but short, and the last match was a good showcase on how entertaining Ray and Natsuki Taiyo are. All the matches shown were good, which is always a plus, although I wouldn't have minded a bit more variety in opponents. Overall, a quality DVD offering that shows an important part of Kana's career as she wins her first championship.