NEO Ladies was a Joshi promotion that had many re-starts but was running in some form from 1998 to 2010. Originally it was a break-off promotion from All Japan Women, and the name was supposed to be Nippon Women’s Wrestling but they had a trademark issue with New Japan Pro Wrestling. So they went with NEO Ladies instead. Kyoko Inoue was the Ace of the promotion, but over the years other wrestlers made their name in NEO including Natsuki Taiyo, Nanae Takahashi, Hiroyo Matsumoto, Ayako Hamada, and many others.
This event, titled “Summer Night Fire” includes the last day of the NEO Japan Cup. The winner of the points-based tournament would go on to face Kyoko Inoue for the NEO Singles and NWA Pacific Championship. Going into today, Genki led the Red Zone with four points while in the Blue Zone Takahashi held a two point lead over her opponent Tamura. Both Taiyo and Tamura could tie their Blocks with a win, however if they lost or the match was a draw, then Genki and Takahashi would move onto the finals. Only five of the matches on the event were shown but all were shown in full, here is the line-up:
- Kana vs. Aya Yuki
- Kyoko Inoue vs. Tomoko Nakagawa
- NEO Japan Cup – Red Zone: Kyoko Kimura vs. Haruka Matsuo
- NEO Japan Cup – Red Zone: Misae Genki vs. Natsuki*Taiyo
- NEO Japan Cup – Blue Zone: Yoshiko Tamura vs. Nanae Takahashi
Let’s get to it!
Kana vs. Aya Yuki
Many of you are familiar with Yuki, you just don’t know you are. Yuki currently wrestles as Hatsuhinode Kamen in Stardom, in a comedy gimmick. Well before that however she debuted in 2006 for NEO, wrestling under her real name until 2013. Kana of course is currently known as Asuka in WWE, but back in 2008 she wrestled a fair amount in NEO even though she was a Freelancer. Kana may kill her here but that’s ok.
After trading holds, Kana gets right to it with a stiff kick to the back before dropkicking her in the corner. Yuki comes back with an atomic drop and applies a crab hold. Kana gets to the ropes and hits Yuki with a pair of hip attacks before applying a crab hold of her own, but Yuki also gets to the ropes. Kicks by Kana and they trade elbows, scoop slam by Kana and she applies the cross armbreaker. Yuki gets out of it and they trade mounted elbows, Kana gets in better position and hits Yuki with a series of stiff slaps. Back up Yuki regains control and gives Kana some slaps of her own, but Kana scores with a kick and hits a face crusher.
Yuki hits a series of shoulderblocks for a two count, she slams Kana to the mat but her cover gets another two. Kicks to the legs and ribs by Kana and she applies an ankle hold, but Yuki gets out of it. Kana does one too many kicks as Yuki catches one and applies a STF, but Kana gets to the ropes. Yuki slaps at Kana and applies a sleeper, but again Kana forces the break. Kana blocks a suplex and hits a hip attack, vertical suplex by Yuki but Kana snaps off a neckbreaker. Kana goes for a piledriver but Yuki blocks it and hits a fireman’s carry roll for a two count. Yuki goes for a suplex but Kana rolls through it and applies an ankle hold. High Kick by Kana, she picks up Yuki and hits a German suplex hold for two. Kana picks up Yuki and drills her with a piledriver, picking up the three count! Kana wins the match.
The main issue here is that Yuki isn’t very good, some of her offense was awkward looking, plus the transitions were non-existent. On the positive side, this was grumpy stiff Kana at her best as she was really laying in the kicks and slaps to poor Yuki. The piledriver finisher is one I haven’t really seen before (it started Gotch-Style, then she switched it to regular once she had Yuki up), and the match stayed exciting. Come for the badass Kana but don’t expect a lot of structure from this one. Mildly Recommended
Kyoko Inoue vs. Tomoko Nakagawa
This is a bit of a mismatch. Inoue is basically a NEO God, and at the time of this event had the singles championship for the promotion. Nakagawa was no rookie, but she had mostly wrestled in K-DOJO and was not considered a threat. Since Inoue wasn’t known for losing to wrestlers this much lower than her on the pecking order, this match was probably more about making Inoue look good in her promotion than building Nakagawa up.
Nakagawa starts as underdogs do, hitting a series of dropkicks, but the suplex attempt was ill-advised and didn’t work. Scissors kick by Nakagawa and she applies a rolling necklock, but Inoue gets out if it. Headscissors by Nakagawa and she slaps Inoue, and she finally hits the fisherman suplex hold for two count. She hits another one for two but Inoue has finally had enough and hits a lariat. Back up Nakagawa sneaks in a schoolboy which doesn’t work, Irish whip by Nakagawa but Inoue hits another lariat. Powerbomb by Inoue, and she picks up the three count! Inoue is your winner.
Nakagawa got in a bit more offense than I expected but otherwise it followed the script. Inoue basically put away Nakagawa with two moves, so even though she took some offense she surely wasn’t going to make her own offensive look weak against a lesser opponent. I have no issue with matches like this, sometimes the champion needs to beat someone easily, not only be in competitive matches. A good match for the undercard but nothing I could recommend by itself.
Kyoko Kimura vs. Haruka Matsuo
This match is part of the NEO Japan Cup. Kimura is really well known, as she currently wrestles mostly in Stardom and continues to be awesome. Matsuo is a bit more of a mystery, as since 2009 she has only wrestled on small indy shows when she wrestles at all. She was no slouch however, as in 2007 she beat Tamura for the NEO and NWA Women’s Pacific Championship, which was NEO’s top singles title. She successfully defended the title against Emi Sakura and Hiroyo Matsumoto before losing it to Kyoko Inoue. Kimura was a former NEO Tag Team Champion herself, so this was a pretty even match.
Matsuo dropkicks Kimura but Kimura dumps her out of the ring and throws her into the crowd. Kimura beats Matsuo on the floor some more before they return to the ring, and Kimura tosses Matsuo by her hair. Kimura tortures Matsuo on the mat and in the ropes, shoulderblock by Kimura but Matsuo attacks her from behind. Kimura locks on the sleeper but Matsuo gets in the ropes to force a break, knees by Kimura in the corner and she hits a backbreaker. Another backbreaker by Kimura and she puts Matsuo in a crab hold, but again she gets into the ropes. Kimura stays focused on Matsuo’s back, she throws Matsuo back out of the ring and rams her back-first into the ring post. Kimura charges Matsuo on the floor but Matsuo whips off a hurricanrana before hitting a suplex. Back in, missile dropkick by Matsuo and she delivers a diving body press for two. German suplex hold by Matsuo but that gets a two as well, she goes for the dragon suplex but Kimura elbows out of it. Spinning backbreaker by Kimura and she keeps the pressure on before covering Matsuo for two. Texas Cloverleaf by Kimura but Matsuo gets out of it, she goes off the ropes and hits a satellite roll-up for two. She goes off the ropes again but Kimura levels her with a big boot. Headbutt by Kimura, Matsuo goes for a hurricanrana but Kimura reverses it into a modified STF and picks up the three count!
A solid match, hurt more by the hard camera setup than anything else. It was hard to tell the full impact of the strikes, and the action of the floor was difficult to see, which is always a shame. But the match was structured well, with Kimura staying focused on Matsuo’s back and Matsuo relying on sneaky things to try to pick up the victory. Kimura already had everything sorted out by 2008, there were no mistakes and everything flowed well. A good midcard match. Mildly Recommended
Misae Genki vs. Natsuki*Taiyo
This match is part of the NEO Japan Cup. Taiyo is a bundle of energy, after NEO folded she went to Stardom and retired last year. They pretty much made the NEO High Speed Championship for her because she is constant motion. Taiyo held the High Speed Championship for a total of 1,203 days if that tells you how much that title was tied to her in her career. But this was before that, when Taiyo was still growing as a wrestler. Genki is a much larger wrestler than Taiyo and a 14 year veteran going into the match. Genki would actually retire at the end of the year, but that wasn’t known at the time. With a win here, Genki would win her block and move onto the Finals of the NEO Japan Cup.
They start slow with Taiyo just trying to stay away from Genki, Genki tries charging Taiyo but Taiyo dumps her over the top rope. Taiyo goes to do a dive but Genki gets on the apron and stops her before she jumps. Taiyo knocks Genki back to the floor, but Genki moves when Taiyo jumps off the top turnbuckle and Taiyo crashes to the floor. Genki beats Taiyo around the ring before they go back in, and Genki hits a series of knees. Scoop slam by Genki and she hits a second turnbuckle elbow drop followed by a backdrop suplex for two. Taiyo blocks the chokeslam and goes for a schoolboy, but Genki sits down on her. Taiyo uses her speed to avoid Genki’s attacks but Genki levels her with a big boot. Backdrop suplex by Genki and she delivers the chokeslam, but Taiyo barely kicks out of the cover. Kimura headbutts Genki a few times, Taiyo goes up top and she hits a missile dropkick. Taiyo goes for the Taiyo☆Chan Bomb but Genki blocks it and hits a hard lariat. Roaring Lariat by Genki and she picks up the three count! Genki wins the match and reaches the Finals of the NEO Japan Cup!
I liked this for what it was, Taiyo is a natural underdog because she is so small (5 feet even) and Genki played her role well. I wouldn’t have minded if it was a bit longer, with the time spent outside the ring there wasn’t a lot to sink your teeth into, but for the story they were telling it worked fine. A good match for what it was, I would imagine wrestling someone like Taiyo would be a dream for any power wrestler, she just takes all offense so well. Mildly Recommended
Yoshiko Tamura vs. Nanae Takahashi
This match is part of the NEO Japan Cup. With a win or draw, Takahashi wins her block to reach the finals, but if Tamura wins they tie, with Tamura winning the tiebreaker. Tamura was a long time veteran, starting with AJW back in the early 90s and joining NEO in 2006. Takahashi had tons of experience also, as she debuted in 1996 for AJW and started wrestling for NEO in 2006. Takahashi is still active today, formally with Stardom and recently she created her own promotion called SEAdLINNNG. Tamura on the other hand retired when NEO folded in 2010. Tamura has to win to each the Finals, and will no doubt be wrestling with a bit of urgency to try to get a shot down the road at the NEO Singles and NWA Pacific Championship.
Takahashi attacks Tamura right away, hitting a quick German suplex for a two count. They keep the pace up as Tamura hits knees in the corner but reach a stalemate and the match resets. After some mat work, Tamura gets Takahashi against the ropes and kicks her out of the ring. Tamura knees Takahashi as she gets back in the ring and kicks her in the corner, but Takahashi hits a quick Stunner. Figure four by Takahashi but Tamura gets to the ropes, kicks by Tamura and she starts focusing on Takahashi’s leg. Takahashi regains her footing and they trade elbows back up, Irish whip by Tamura but Takahashi hits a hard shoulderblock. Takahashi applies a sleeper before hitting a missile dropkick, she goes up top and she hits another missile dropkick for a two count. Reverse Splash attempt but Takahashi but Tamura gets her knees up and hits a bridging suplex for two. Tamura charges Takahashi but Takahashi dumps her out of the ring, she goes off the ropes and she sails out onto Tamura with an elbow suicida. They get on the apron, head kick by Tamura and she hits a cutter off the apron down to the floor!
Both wrestlers are naturally hurt but Tamura is up first, and she throws Takahashi into the chairs at ringside. Back in the ring, double arm DDT by Tamura and she hits two more, getting a two count cover. Reverse STO by Tamura, Takahashi tries to fight back but Tamura hits a second one. A third reverse STO by Tamura and she hits the Alabama Slam for two. Takahashi ducks a strike and hits a quick lariat, she goes for a backdrop suplex but Tamura blocks it. High kick by Takahashi, and she delivers a suplex for a two count. Sliding kick by Takahashi and she nails a Blue Thunder Driver for a nearfall. Takahashi pick up Tamura and hits a suplex, facelock by Takahashi but Tamura gets out of it and hits a neckbreaker. Backdrop suplex hold by Tamura but it gets two, as do the quick pins. Takahashi quickly hits the Original Shining Wizard (!!!) but Tamura gets a foot on the ropes on the cover. Takahashi puts Tamura on the top turnbuckle and slams her to the mat, she goes off the ropes but Tamura hits an elbow. Tamura hits stiff elbows in the corner and a high kick, cobra clutch suplex by Tamura but the bell rings as she goes for the cover as time has expired! The match is a Draw, Takahashi goes on to the Finals of the NEO Japan Cup.
Tamura and Takahashi did a great job making this match feel important, they wrestled the same match in front of 150 people in an auditorium as they would have fought in front of 10,000 people at Sumo Hall. Just a hard hitting and cohesive match, I don’t mind draws when it is during a points-based tournament and they didn’t go the flash-pin route which can be a bit boring. Both of these wrestlers have killer offense, I love the cutter off the apron and the cobra clutch suplex, and everything clicked. A great match and a fitting main event for the show. Highly Recommended
For a five match airing, I thought this event delivered. I’ve always preferred singles matches and this show obviously delivered that, with the tournament matches all being solid. Seeing Kana and Taiyo earlier in their careers was a treat, but the veterans were the ones that made this show memorable. I’ll have to track down the Finals but this is a show worth watching if you can find it.