Event: Hana Kimura Memorial “MATANE”
Date: May 23rd, 2021
Location: Tokyo Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, Japan
Announced Attendance: 714
Broadcast: Streamed on FITE TV
Reviewing wrestling events can bring many different emotions, but an emotion you never want to have is sadness. I knew, like many others, that watching this event was going to be hard. A year ago today, Hana Kimura tragically passed away, and her death impacted people across the globe. Hana had everything – she was a great wrestler, charismatic, had a great look, and had fans invested in everything she did. But more importantly she was a great, loving, and incredible person that had her whole life in front of her. Having her Memorial show on the one year anniversary is fitting, as it brought new attention to the circumstances of her death and gave her friends a way to publicly celebrate her life, which I 100% support. But its going to be hard, the hardest wrestling event I’ve watched in 30 years of being a wrestling fan. Here is the card:
- HUB, Shisao, and Eisa8 vs. Shota, FUMA, and Mil Mongoose
- Battle Royal with Menso-re Oyaji, Tsutomu Oosugi, Hagane Shinnou, Yuko Miyamoto, Shotaro Ashino, Banana Senga, Gabai Ji-chan, Lingerie Muto, Yusuke Kodama, Super Delfin, Fuminori Abe, Miyuki Takase, Mika Iwata, DASH Chisako, Chihiro Hashimoto, Hanako Nakamori, Ram Kaicho, Cherry, Moeka Haruhi, Yuki Miyazaki, Eiger, Andras Miyagi, Kyusei Hana Kimura (Sakura Hirota), Jun Kasai, Masato Tanaka, Jinsei Shinzaki, and CIMA
- Kagetsu, Konami, Hazuki, and DEATH Yama-san vs. Natsupoi, Syuri, ASUKA, and Mio Momono
- ASUKA vs. Kagetsu
As you can see, a very interesting cast but it is filled with wrestlers that had a real life connection with Hana Kimura or her mother Kyoko Kimura (or both) as this memorial event is as much for them as it is for us, to say their final goodbyes. You’ll note only a few active Stardom wrestlers make an appearance, which is at least partly because Stardom opted to run an event on the same day, but that’s another topic for another time. I’m not going to do my typical review for this one as I’m probably going to be too emotionally into the event to be typing constantly, but I hope to not only discuss the matches but help newer fans that may not watch a lot of Joshi matches with who all the wrestlers are. As always, you can click on the Joshi wrestler’s name above to go straight to their profile on Joshi City.
After a musical and dance opening, the show began after a quick video montage of Hana Kimura.
HUB, Shisao, and Eisa8 vs. Shota, FUMA, and Mil Mongoose
Many Joshi fans are no doubt unfamiliar with the participants in the opening match, which features wrestlers from smaller indie wrestling promotions. Hana Kimura has a connection to Okinawa Pro Wrestling from before her wrestling career, and this match generally includes wrestlers that would have been regulars in Okinawa Pro when Hana Kimura was younger. On commentary they mention that HUB was one of Hana’s favorite wrestlers, HUB is also known by long time puroresu fans as Goa and Zero from his days in Osaka Pro. For what will be an emotional show, this is a good way to ease fans into it while still respecting the purpose of the event.
I haven’t watched men’s promotions in Japan with any regularity in probably five or six years, so this was a fun throwback for me as I remember these guys from when I used to review every small underground indie promotion I could find. These six all are seasoned vets and know their way around the ring, and a six wrestler tag is a pretty straight-forward opener. Shota played the Face in Peril here which made sense – its not about the quality of wrestler but everyone loves wrestlers with masks and Shota probably had the least intimidating look of everyone in the match. So he got beaten for the first third of the match by HUB and Shisao in particular until the crowd finally spurred him to get out of the match.
They wrestled this under Lucha Tag Rules, meaning a wrestler didn’t have to make a tag to no longer be the legal wrestler, they just had to bail out of the ring and reach the floor. I wish the commentators had explained this as new fans were no doubt confused on why wrestlers weren’t always tagging, but in a laid back affair like this one I doubt anyone was too concerned. After five minutes they gave up with the “focus on one wrestler” plan which was for the best as all six of these guys have cool looking moves so no reason to not show off. HUB whipping everyone with his mask tail was entertaining as was HUB in general, Hana had good taste in wrestlers as HUB was always my favorite small-time indie wrestler. Great look, great wrestler. The match ended up being the HUB Show which was the way I would I gone too, honestly he at any point in his career could have been a player in a larger promotion. In the end, HUB planted Mil Mongoose into the mat and picked up the easy three count. The winners are HUB, Shisao, and Eisa8!
For an opener, I enjoyed it, but honestly they didn’t even need the first five minutes. The Shota beatdown segment was fine but was really just filler as once that was over, they just started quickly changing the legal wrestlers while everyone got a chance to hit their moves. That part of the match was quite enjoyable, the “lucharesu” style is entertaining with its quick speed and all six know the style well so there were no hiccups. HUB was and is great, so him being featured was a big plus not just for me personally but also considering his background with Hana Kimura. Overall a fun way to kick off the show. Mildly Recommended
This match has typical Battle Royal rules, so a person can be eliminated by pinfall, submission, or being thrown Over The Top. They started with Miyuki Takase, Chihiro Hashimoto, Ram Kaicho, Cherry, Yuki Miyazaki, Hanako Nakamori, Moeka Haruhi, Mika Iwata, DASH Chisako, Shotaro Ashino, Fuminori Abe, Menso-re Oyaji, Hagane Shinnou, Yuko Miyamoto, Banana Senga, Tsutomu Oosugi, Gabai Ji-chan, and Lingerie Muto already in the ring, with more entrants to follow.
A quick run-down of the Joshi wrestlers among the opening group:
- Miyuki Takase – The Ace of Actwres girl’Z, frequently wrestles in WAVE and Diana as well
- Mika Iwata – Young wrestler from Sendai Girls’, had a feud with Hana Kimura from 2017 to 2018 that led to several fun matches
- DASH Chisako – Veteran wrestler from Sendai Girls’
- Chihiro Hashimoto – The Ace of Sendai Girls’
- Ram Kaicho – Started as a child wrestler in Triple Six and went to school with Hana Kimura, she is still affiliated with Triple Six but also wrestles in Ice Ribbon
- Cherry – Long time veteran wrestler that wrestled most of her career in DDT, currently a Freelancer
- Yuki Miyazaki – Long time veteran wrestler from Pro Wrestling WAVE
- Hanako Nakamori – The Ace of PURE-J
- Moeka Haruhi – Long time Freelancer
With more wrestlers to come, it is assumed there would be some surprise entries from Hana and/or Kyoko’s past as the match progressed. In fact before the match could even start we got our first surprise, as Super Delfin makes his way down to the match. Super Delfin is a legend from indie wrestling’s past and also wrestled in New Japan, everyone knows and loves Super Delfin which I think is safe to assume includes Hana as well. The match starts pretty standard and playful, it should be noted that Battle Royals in Japan tend to be more lighthearted affairs than those in the US. But soon we get three new entries as Eiger, Andras Miyagi, and Yusuke Kodama come down! Quick recap of the Joshi wrestlers:
- Eiger (or Aiger) – A “ghost” wrestler who officially hails from LLPW-X but mostly wrestles in Sendai Girls’, likes to scare children
- Andras Miyagi – Also known as Cassandra Miyagi, current a Freelancer but known for her work in Sendai Girls’ and Stardom
They immediately go after Moeka, who is creeped out by the group and in short order is eliminated by them. Ram Kaicho appears to join them as they all pose together, they turn to Gabai Ji-chan but he outsmarts them and with help he pins Eiger and Yusuke Kodama, so they are eliminated as well. Ji-chan loses his cane and turns it on, as everyone in the match stands around and watches his brand of comedy. They help him eliminated Miyagi, and then hold down Ji-chan so that both are eliminated. Hana Kimura’s music starts playing as someone dressed as her comes down to the ring, and it turns out to be the cosplay legend Sakura Hirota!
- Sakura Hirota – Veteran from WAVE, best known for being a comedy wrestler and sometimes cosplaying as her opponents
Once Sakura is in the ring, things settle down as we get the usual Battle Royal fare (big group moves, isolated strike-fests, and the like). We do get a Super Delfin Tornado DDT and Delfin Clutch though on Menso-re Oyaji to eliminate him, which is always a pleasure, before he is quickly pinned himself. Iwata and Hirota trade kicks which is fitting as Iwata is a wrestler that had a feud with Hana Kimura, but everyone breaks them up and Sakura is the next one eliminated (along with Lingerie Muto). While I definitely appreciate Sakura’s contribution to the match, eliminating her quickly was probably a good move as once she did her Hana tribute it may have felt a little too ‘off’ to have someone in Hana’s gear hanging around the match long term.
After Miyuki Takase is eliminated a minute later, some new music plays as Jun Kasai comes down to the ring! One of the biggest hardcore legends still active in Japan, Kasai comes in with his skewers (to jam in people’s heads) which leads to the ring clearing out. Mika Iwata returns first but asks him for an autograph, which he gives before he is attacked from behind. Chihiro Hashimoto and Shotaro Ashino pair up in a Hoss Battle, but the ring slowly fills back up as Chihiro and Shotaro slam everyone. Deadlift German by Chihiro but the blob covers both of them after the move, so both are eliminated! While this happens, more music plays as ZERO1 veteran Masato Tanaka comes down to the ring!
Tanaka cleans house a bit as he eliminates Shinnou and Kodama, Miyazaki puts him in the Shy Hold but it gets broken up. Cherry gets involved but she is covered by the wrestler blob and is eliminated. Music plays again, as another legend comes to the ring – Jinsei Shinzaki! Shinzaki is from Michinoku Pro but has wrestled in WWE and New Japan as well. He goes for one of his signature moves on the majority of the wrestlers at the same time, the rope walk, but gets pushed out of the ring for his trouble and is eliminated. No one appreciates Banana Senga and Tsutomu Oosugi eliminating Shinzaki so quickly everyone pins them, eliminating the tag team as well. We get music over the loudspeaker which means a new participant – CIMA!
That is all the wrestlers we are getting as CIMA goes after Abe and eliminates him. Miyazaki goes after CIMA but gets knocked out of the ring and eliminated, and then CIMA eliminates Nakamori. CIMA doing God’s work and clearing the ring a bit as we are down to seven wrestlers. Chisako appears with a chair but Miyamoto takes it from her, Tanaka then takes the chair from him but Kasai takes it from Tanaka. Chisako dropkicks the chair into Kasai but Mika Iwata saves him. Pearl Harbor Splash by Kasai to Chisako and he gets the three count! DASH Chisako is eliminated. Miyamoto hits Iwata and Kasai with the chair but Kasai takes it and hits Miyamoto in the head with it. Iwata cradles Miyamoto afterwards, and he is eliminated! Iwata high fives Kasai but then kicks him low and tosses him from the ring, as Jun Kasai is eliminated. CIMA and Tanaka dump Iwata out of the ring to eliminate her, leaving us with three wrestlers – CIMA, Masato Tanaka, and Ram Kaicho.
Kaicho steps right up to them while CIMA and Tanaka trade shoves, they push her out of the way and continue going at it. DDT by Tanaka but CIMA hits a Lung Blower, Tanaka gets CIMA onto the apron but Ram Kaicho pushes CIMA to the apron as well. Ram Kaicho gets a running start and she dropkicks them both to the floor! Ram Kaicho is the last woman standing and is the winner!
As I mentioned a few times, Battle Royals in Japan are not serious, as no one is really claiming that Ram Kaicho could beat CIMA or Masato Tanaka in a regular match. But there is no shame in being defeated in a Battle Royal, and giving Hana’s old childhood friend the win was a touching tribute. There were fun spots throughout the match (loved seeing Super Delfin and Jinsei Shinzaki), and the surprising Mika Iwata/Jun Kasai subplot was entertaining. These matches are a little too long for my taste considering the entertaining sections are so spread out, but there were many fun moments and for fans that are familar with the wrestlers I am sure there will be something here that fans will enjoy.
Up to this point, the event has been pretty lighthearted. We started with music and dancing, a lucharesu match, and a mostly comedic Battle Royal. The tone is going to change a bit, as while the next two matches won’t be ‘downers’ they will be more serious with wrestlers that have more of a recent connection with Hana Kimura. We knew going into the show that Kagetsu was making a one-time appearance after retiring over a year ago, but we didn’t know she was bringing a special friend with her to really honor Hana the best way they knew how.
Kagetsu, Konami, Hazuki, and DEATH vs. Natsupoi, Syuri, ASUKA, and Mio Momono
I am not sure what words to use to show how special this match is. The “Stardom” team is a combination of wrestlers that Hana Kimura teamed with in her career, and by all accounts wrestlers that she was close with out of the ring as well. Kagetsu and Hazuki retired in early 2020 and late 2019 respectively, before Hana had passed. This is their first in-ring wrestling appearance since Kagetsu’s retirement event, as both left the spotlight once their careers ended. Yet here they are, teaming together one more time to honor their old Oedo Tai partner. They are with two wrestlers from Hana Kimura’s group that she formed after leaving Oedo Tai – Tokyo Cyber Squad. Konami and DEATH actually are in Oedo Tai now, but last year they wrestled in Hana’s faction. Its exciting to see them all together, but also shows just how special Hana was to them all as in normal situations this is a foursome that would never happen in 2021.
They are against four quality wrestlers with various connections to Hana. ASUKA was the closest to Hana, as they were also a tag team (when Hana wrestled outside of Stardom) and were friends. They are joined by Stardom wrestlers Natsupoi (formally Natsumi Maki) and Syuri, along with Mio Momono from Marvelous. All eight of these wrestlers are great and I am expecting a combination of tributes to Hana and the fast paced Joshi action that we are all accustomed to.
Kagetsu and Hazuki both have incorporated tie dye into their gear as a homage to Hana, giving them a fitting different look. One thing you should know about these wrestlers is that even though its a memorial match for Hana Kimura, and they are here for her, they are also incredibly competitive and no one was going to take it easy. While it is true that DEATH is more of a comedy gimmick and she did bring that to the table, at the end of the day she was far from the focus of the match as the others went in hard on each other. Seeing Hazuki again is such a treat as she was one of the most exciting wrestlers in Stardom, and the fact she seemed to have lost her passion for wrestling but still prepared for this event just really puts over how important it was to her to take part.
Kagetsu hasn’t missed a beat either and its kinda amazing that they are so good to not show an ounce of ring rust. If fans coming into the show didn’t know about the retirements, you’d have thought they were still active competitors. They didn’t go heavy with Hana-related spots, although Jungle Kyona did make a surprise appearance to pose with Konami and DEATH as she was in Tokyo Cyber Squad as well (she is currently unable to wrestle due to an injury). The fact they opted to not just make this a tribute match from bell to bell made the moments more special when they did honor Hana. Every segment was great – Kagetsu and Syuri had a quality exchange as did Mio Momono and Hazuki, and seeing Hazuki and Kagetsu do a final double tope suicida was an incredible moment. ASUKA being the wrestler that had to “overcome the odds” was a smart move due to their close connection to Hana Kimura, and their final exchange with Hazuki was well done. In the end, ASUKA took out everyone and made the cover on Hazuki, picking up the three count! Natsupoi, Syuri, ASUKA, and Mio Momono are the winners!
For fans of Stardom back in 2018, this really felt like an Oedo Tai throwback match with Kagetsu and Hazuki leading the way (with a little bit of cheating from Kyoko Kimura). I’ve said before that eight wrestler tags can make it hard for some wrestlers to shine and that was still the case here, as while Natsupoi and Syuri both hit their spots well and contributed, there are only so many opportunities and the match was simply laid out to make others shine. ASUKA, Hazuki, and Kagetsu all looked incredible and you’d have thought from watching this that these eight had wrestled many times before, due to the fluidity and pace they kept up. Mio Momono was the stealth star of the match, she not only is fierce but is sneakily charismatic and draws attention to whatever she is doing. While this may have been a bit better as a six wrestler tag due to the length of the match, the Oedo Tai/Tokyo Cyber Squad team needed four to really salute Hana Kimura so no complaints from me. This would have been an A+ match from me regardless just for the joy of seeing Kagetsu and Hazuki again, but when taking into account the meaning behind the match both for fans and the participants, its a no-breaker recommendation to watch. Highly Recommended
On paper, that was the main event of the evening, but ASUKA had other plans. After the match, they challenged Kagetsu to a singles match, which needed approval from Kyoko Kimura and the crowd. All parties naturally agreed, so we are ending the show with a special first-time singles match between ASUKA and Kagetsu!
ASUKA vs. Kagetsu
I already discussed some of what made these two special to Hana Kimura, but since they are wrestling again I’ll go a bit more into it. Kagetsu and Hana Kimura were both friends and foes in Stardom – they started as friends when they were in Oedo Tai together and held both the Trios and Tag titles as a team. Hana eventually turned on Kagetsu, leading to them feuding off and on for the better part of a year. Overall, they had almost 100 matches either with or against each other from 2016 to 2020, and were close outside of the ring as well. ASUKA and Hana’s in-ring connection didn’t start until later in Hana’s career, as they first teamed in late 2018. As the tag team FloÜrish they never won any titles, but put on entertaining matches in both WRESTLE-1 and WAVE. Their last match together was in 2019, as once Hana signed full time with Stardom she wrestled less in other promotions. Still, judging from social media, ASUKA and Hana stayed close and remained friends. A very fitting main event for Hana’s Memorial show.
ASUKA and Kagetsu clearly felt the best way to honor Hana Kimura was to put on a banger, and that is exactly what they did. Kagetsu was flying outside the ring like it was 2019 all over again, and ASUKA laid in the strikes hard. I have to respect their cardio as both were just in a match, then immediately jumped into a singles match without missing a beat. Kagetsu went out of her way to put over ASUKA, as ASUKA handled all of her offense while dishing out plenty in return. Which shows the level of unselfishness that Kagetsu has – she frequently put other wrestlers over even when she didn’t “have” to and knowing she is retired, she lost nothing by taking all of ASUKA’s offense. That’s not to say it was a one-side match as it was far from it – Kagetsu got to use the Oedo Tai board and nailed the Oedo Coaster for old time’s sake as they went back and forth, but once ASUKA got back in control the match was over. After a Blue Thunder Bomb, heel kick, chokeslam, and the Benibana Koromo, ASUKA was able to hold down Kagetsu for the three count. ASUKA is the winner!
A really entertaining sprint as they took their short time and did everything with it. ASUKA’s kiss to the sky before drilling Kagetsu with the Benibana Koromo was the perfect tribute, as they treated the match like a “regular” match but the meaning was always there – this was for Hana. Kagetsu returning from retirement to put on two great matches is pretty incredible, and she delivered everything in this match. The strikes, the pace, the heart, everything was there. And ASUKA was able to keep up, they have really been killing it the last couple years and hopefully this will give ASUKA more attention which is no doubt what Kagetsu wanted, and also what Hana Kimura would have wanted. A fantastic match to end a very memorable event. Highly Recommended
After the main event, things got very emotional as Kagetsu spoke and a longer video package was shown with clips from Hana Kimura’s career. Once the video package was over, back to a live view of the ring, Kyoko Kimura was standing alone and holding a photo of Hana. Jungle Kyona performed the ten bell salute while the wrestlers stood at ringside, with their heads down as they no doubt were saying their own silent goodbyes. The video concluded with a video package with dozens of wrestlers from around the globe saying “Matane,” in memory of Hana.
Reviewing Memorial events is always a difficult challenge, as the standards aren’t the same. This show was about honoring Hana Kimura, which I think they accomplished to a high degree. I can only hope that the show will help give some closure to Hana’s friends and fans, or at least assist in the grieving process. As a fan of Hana this was hard to watch at times but the wrestlers I think did their best during the matches themselves to focus on putting a good show in Hana’s memory, which they succeeded in doing. I know this show will be difficult for many to watch so I won’t call it “required” viewing, everyone has to do what is best for them and their own process. But if you are up for it, this event was emotional but also delivered in-ring, and overall was the perfect tribute to someone that we lost way too soon and will never be forgotten.