Event: OZ Academy Sparkling New Year 2020
Date: January 5th, 2020
Location: Shinjuku FACE in Tokyo, Japan
Announced Attendance: 326
In an effort to have a more diverse selection of Joshi reviews on the website, next we will jump over to Oz Academy. I don’t watch OZ Academy too often as I am not a big fan of the Ozaki-gun antics, but on this event that should just be confined to the main event and the other matches will have room to breathe. There is a lot to look forward to here, with Tae Honma getting a big singles match and the start of a mini-tournament to find a new #1 Contender. Here is the full card:
All wrestlers on the card have profiles on Joshi City, you can click on their name above to go straight to it. As this event aired on NicoPro, it will be unclipped. It is just a one-camera setup, however there is no commentary box so that’s a plus. For information on how to sign up for NicoPro, please read my guide, only $5 a month for lots of great wrestling.
Kaho Kobayashi vs. Yuu
This match is part of the Openweight Championship #1 Contender Tournament. They called it the ‘first round’ but there is only one round before the Finals so that seems a bit extra. Anyway, Kaho Kobayashi is one of my favorite underdog wrestlers. She doesn’t tend to have a lot of success as she wrestles in various promotions as a Freelancer, but she always puts up a fight. Yuu turned Freelancer last year when she left Tokyo Joshi Pro, she hasn’t had a ton of success since leaving but has gotten a chance to wrestle around the world like she wanted. Either of these wrestlers would be a good new challenge for the Openweight Championship, and either way this should be a fun match.
They start slow as they exchange holds but neither gets a clear advantage, takedown by Yuu but Kaho switches positions with her and rolls away. Another takedown by Yuu but Kaho gets her back, which Yuu quickly rolls out of. They end up back on their feet again, Kaho goes for an armdrag but she can’t get Yuu over. Hard chop by Yuu, she pushes Kaho into the ropes and chops her in the chest again. Irish whip by Yuu but Kaho hits a crossbody followed by a dropkick. Yuu falls out of the ring, Kaho gets a running start and dives out onto Yuu with a tope suicida. Kaho slides Yuu back into the ring, she gets on the second turnbuckle and hits a diving hurricanrana. Dropkick by Kaho in the corner, she tosses Yuu to the mat and dropkicks her again for a two count cover. Kaho applies a key lock with a headscissors but Yuu gets a foot on the ropes to force the break. Kaho twists Yuu’s arm in the ropes and knees her in the back of the head, she goes off the ropes and dropkicks Yuu in the back. Kaho goes back to the arm as she twists and dropkicks it again, cover by Kaho but it gets two.
Kicks to the arm by Kaho and she hits a knee onto Yuu’s arm as well, Octopus Hold by Kaho but Yuu muscles out of it. Running elbow by Yuu and she hits a senton, cover by Yuu but it gets two. Yuu picks up Kaho and chops her in the chest, even though it hurts her own arm as well. She elbows her with her injured arm as well, Kaho quickly gets back up however and knocks Yuu to the mat. Yuu chops Kaho against the ropes, Irish whip by Yuu but Kaho applies the iron octopus. Yuu gets into the ropes for the break, running boot by Kaho but Yuu fires back with an elbow and they trade shots. Hard elbow by Yuu but Kaho gets up and elbows her back, Yuu elbows Kaho in the corner and chops her in the chest. Running senton by Yuu, she gets on the second turnbuckle but Kaho recovers and joins her. Frankensteiner by Kaho, she gets on the top turnbuckle and hits a missile dropkick. She goes up top again and hits another missile dropkick, cover by Kaho but it gets two. Kaho quickly goes back to the arm submission but Yuu gets into the ropes for the break, they return to their feet and trade strikes until Kaho goes for a hanging submission.
Yuu gets out of it and clubs Kaho in the head, hard elbow by Yuu and she covers Kaho for two. Enzuigiri by Kaho, she gets on the top turnbuckle but Yuu avoids the Gideon Splash. Kaho is up first and elbows Yuu, she goes off the ropes but Yuu catches her with a hip toss and applies a sleeper. Kaho rolls out of it and applies a crucifix, but it gets two. Kaho goes off the ropes but Yuu hits another hip toss, Irish whip by Yuu but Kaho reverses it. Yuu catches Kaho and slams her to the mat, Yuu goes for a powerbomb but Kaho reverses it into a hurricanrana for two. Elbows by Kaho, she picks up Yuu and elbows her again before hitting a dropkick. Kaho picks up Yuu but Yuu hits a backdrop suplex, running kick by Yuu and she hits a cannonball in the corner. Last Ride Powerbomb by Yuu, and she covers Kaho for the three count! Yuu is the winner and advances in the tournament.
This match was structured very uniquely. Even though Yuu has the size advantage and wrestled this match with a “I could win at any moment with a big power move” vibe, Kaho was the veteran so she controlled the action and won a fair number of the strike exchanges. Kaho sticking to submissions and high flying moves was the way to go since she wasn’t going to out-power Yuu, it was the fact Kaho won so many strike battles that threw me off as Yuu should have been winning more of those if she was the “stronger wrestler” (even with the injured arm). It led to an interesting dynamic for sure. I did like Kaho’s arm work throughout the match and her game plan was sound, and since Yuu tends to win matches like this sometimes I have no issue with Kaho staying down for three after just a couple power moves in a row since that was the story they set up from the beginning. Overall I liked it, it may not have the pacing that some prefer but it was a hell of a way to begin a show, with a 20+ minute match with a slower build. Recommended
Tsubasa Kuragaki vs. Hiroyo Matsumoto
This match is part of the Openweight Championship #1 Contender Tournament. The only other match actually, as the winner of this one will take on Yuu in February to crown the #1 Contender. Unlike Kaho and Yuu, these two are no strangers to being successful in OZ Academy. Kuragaki won the OZ Academy Openweight Championship back in 2014 and held the belt for over 200 days, while Matsumoto won the title in 2016 and held it for almost a year. But both haven’t won the championship in awhile and would love another shot at it. Both are heavy hitters, they won’t need the match time that Yuu and Kaho got to achieve the type of match that both excel at.
They both immediately try to knock each other over with shoulderblocks and elbows, they then trade lariats but both wrestlers stay standing. Finally Kuragaki knocks over Matsumoto with a lariat, lariats by Kuragaki in the corner and she stretches Matsumoto on the mat. Kuragaki picks up Matsumoto and delivers a delayed vertical suplex, cover by Kuragaki but it gets a two count. Kuragaki picks up Matsumoto but Matsumoto blocks her attack and hits a back bodydrop, Matsumoto goes off the ropes but Kuragaki kicks her in the stomach. Matsumoto knocks Kuragaki back and goes for a lariat, Kuragaki stays up but Matsumoto suplexes her to the mat. Body Avalanche by Matsumoto in the corner, she gets on the second turnbuckle and hits the reverse double kneedrop for a two count. Matsumoto picks up Kuragaki but Kuragaki blocks the powerbomb attempt, lariat by Kuragaki while Matsumoto is against the ropes and she hits a body press off the second turnbuckle for two.
Kuragaki goes all the way up top but Matsumoto recovers and joins her, she goes for a superplex but Kuragaki tosses her back down to the mat. Diving body press by Kuragaki, but Matsumoto kicks out at two. Kuragaki clubs on Matsumoto and gets her up over her shoulders, but Matsumoto slides away and finally lariats Kuragaki off her feet. Kuragaki and Matsumoto trade elbows while on their knees, they keep elbowing each other on their feet until Matsumoto knocks down Kuragaki with a spinning back elbow for two. Backdrop suplex by Kuragaki and she hits a lariat for a two count. Another lariat by Kuragaki, but that gets two as well. Falcon Arrow by Kuragaki, but once again Matsumoto gets a shoulder up on the cover. Kuragaki goes up for the moonsault but Matsumoto rolls out of the way and delivers a sliding lariat, but Kuragaki reverses her cover attempt into one of her own. Matsumoto quickly returns the favor as she reverses Kuragaki’s next cradle attempt and holds down Kuragaki for the three count! Hiroyo Matsumoto wins and advances in the tournament.
It shows the level of respect that Matsumoto has for Kuragaki that Kuragaki was the one that controlled this match. Matsumoto is still one of the top Joshi wrestlers on the scene and is very accomplished, but Kuragaki stayed in the dominant position for the bulk of this match. It really felt like Kuragaki’s match to lose the entire time as Matsumoto only had some hope spots, even having issues just knocking Kuragaki off her feet. It was a way to protect the veteran I guess, but I am not sure if Kuragaki really needs protecting, her place in wrestling is cemented regardless of her match against Matsumoto. A pretty good power-style match even if the structure threw me off a bit, a straight-forward story but one easily understood anyway. A perfectly fine ‘power’ encounter, even if it feels off to see Matsumoto wrestling from underneath and needing a flash pin to win. Mildly Recommended
Aja Kong and Kaori Yoneyama vs. Sekiguchi and Sonoko Kato
Next up is Beast Friend vs. MISSION K4. Kong and Yoneyama have been teaming as part of the faction known as Beast Friend since 2018, as a pair they have not had any title success but both are very respected veterans and are difficult to beat. They are against two members of MISSION K4, a faction where your name must start with K to even be considered a member. Or have a K somewhere. The rules aren’t too strict. Kakeru Sekiguchi is actually a member of Actwres girl’Z but comes over to OZ Academy quite often, while Sonoko Kato is a 24 year veteran.
Yoneyama and Kakeru start the match, drop down by Kakeru but Kato stomps on her back. Dropkick by Kakeru but Kong kicks her from the apron, she comes in the ring and Kong helps Yoneyama kick Kakeru to the mat. Kong and Yoneyama have a chat before Kong tries to slam Yoneyama onto Kakeru, but Kakeru moves out of the way. The action spills out of the ring as Kakeru dives off the apron with a crossbody onto Kong, she gets back in the ring with Kato and Yoneyama as Yoneyama is double teamed. Snapmare by Kakeru to Yoneyama and she applies a body scissors, she lets go after a moment and hits a scoop slam for two. Kakeru tags Kato, snapmare by Kato and she kicks Yoneyama in the back, but Yoneyama bridges out of the pin. Kato stops Yoneyama from tagging out and applies a camel clutch, but Kong comes in and breaks it up. Scoop slam by Kato and she hits a leg drop, Kakeru comes in and she scoop slams Yoneyama as well. Leg drop by Kato and Kakeru slams Yoneyama again before Kato hits another leg drop.
Kato gets Yoneyama on her shoulders and puts her in the corner, kicks to the chest by Kato and she hits a cannonball. Kato gets Yoneyama on her shoulders and hits a rolling fireman’s carry slam before tagging in Kakeru. Dropkick by Kakeru and she applies a short armbar, but Yoneyama gets to the ropes. Yoneyama finally rolls to her corner and tags in Kong, Kakeru elbows Kong but Kong absorbs the blows and clubs Kakeru. Kong picks up Kakeru and clubs her again, kicks by Kong but Kakeru returns to her feet and tries to fight back. It doesn’t work, Kong puts Kakeru on the top turnbuckle but Kato grabs her from behind and pulls Kong back to the mat. Missile dropkick by Kakeru and she tags Kato, Kato kicks Kong repeatedly and applies a full nelson, but Kong quickly gets out of it. Yoneyama runs in but Kato drops her with a German suplex, she then German suplexes Kong as well before covering her for two. Kato goes up top but Kong avoids her dive, strikes by Kato and she goes for a suplex, but Kong blocks it.
Kakeru runs in to help but Kong suplexes both of them, Kong picks up Kato and hits a backdrop suplex for two. Kong tags Yoneyama, Yoneyama knees Kato in the back of the head and hits a series of Mongolian Chops. Northern Lights Suplex by Yoneyama, but Kato kicks out. Yoneyama gets on the second turnbuckle but Kato avoids her dive, Kakeru runs in and she dropkicks Yoneyama. Kick by Kato and Kakeru dropkicks Yoneyama again, dragon suplex hold by Kato but Kong breaks it up. Kato gets Yoneyama up but Yoneyama wiggles away, Kong comes in with her paint can and hits Kato and Kakeru with it. Yoneyama goes up top while Kong gets on the second turnbuckle, Kong tries to superplex Yoneyama onto both their opponents but they move. Running STO by Kakeru to Yoneyama, Kato goes up top and hits the Guillotine Leg Drop. Cover by Kato, but Kong breaks it up. Kato charges Yoneyama but Yoneyama avoids her kick and cradles Kato for two. Yoneyama goes off the ropes but Kato catches her with a heel kick, she picks up Yoneyama but Yoneyama hits a DDT. Kong drops Kakeru on top of Kato, jackknife hold by Yoneyama to Kato and she gets the three count! Beast Friend wins!
A good enough midcard match but nothing more. Beast Friend are an odd team as they try to be too cute, which you’d think two long time veterans would be better than doing. The spots like a wrestler trying to superplex her own partner onto their opponents is something I’d expect to see in a ROH dark match, not more established wrestlers as it breaks logic and reasoning that they would find that to be a good idea. I’d much prefer they just wrestle it straight, but I guess that is hard with Yoneyama around, as she is semi-comedy and has been for years. On the plus side, Kakeru looked good when they let her do anything and Kato was her usual solid self. Some individual parts were fun, like Kato getting Kong over for the suplex, but as a whole there just wasn’t enough to it to recommend with more annoying sections than I’d prefer.
AKINO vs. Tae Honma
This match is random but doesn’t mean it won’t be good. AKINO is a long time respected veteran of OZ Academy with seven title reigns in the promotion, she mostly now is a tag wrestler and gatekeeper. Tae Honma is affiliated with Actwres girl’Z, she has been wrestling for four years but is 33 years old so she has less time to get up the card compared to many of her fellow Actwres girl’z wrestlers. Beating AKINO would be a big step but isn’t likely, however she will still want to put up a good fight against her senior.
Tae really wants a handshake to start the match, AKINO is hesitant but finally does so after much prompting, only to be cradled by Tae for her trouble. She kicks out but Tae gets in a few more flash pins without any luck scoring the quick victory. Tae throws AKINO into the corner and hits a running elbow, dropkick by Tae and she covers AKINO again for two. Tae goes for a short armbar but AKINO rolls through it, knee to the back by AKINO and she kicks Tae. Camel Clutch by AKINO as she pulls her on nose, showing each side of the ring before letting go and kneeing Tae in the back again. Scoop slam by AKINO and she facewashes Tae in the corner, spinebuster by AKINO and she hits a leg drop for two. AKINO quickly applies an armtrap crossface, but Tae gets a foot on the ropes for the break. Irish whip by AKINO but Tae reverses it and elbows AKINO, AKINO elbows her back and they trade blows. Waistlock by Tae but AKINO elbows out of it, Tae rolls AKINO to the mat and puts her in an ankle hold. AKINO gets out of it and applies a headscissors, but Tae reverses it into a cross armbreaker attempt.
AKINO blocks it and applies a cross kneelock, but Tae reverses it into a kneelock of her own. AKINO gets out of it and goes back to Tae’s leg, but Tae gets into the ropes for a break. Snapmare by AKINO and she kicks Tae in the back a few times but Tae catches a kick and slaps AKINO in the face. Tae goes off the ropes and hits a tilt-a-whirl headscissors, she goes up top and hits a missile dropkick for a two count. Tae quickly applies a Fujiwara Armbar, AKINO tries to rolls through it but Tae keeps it applied. AKINO eventually makes it into the ropes for the break, Tae goes off the ropes and hits a dropkick. Tae goes off the ropes again but AKINO kicks her in the head, kick combination by AKINO and she covers Tae for two. More kicks by AKINO, she picks up Tae and hits a backdrop suplex, but Tae barely gets a shoulder up. AKINO picks up Tae again but Tae gets away from her and sneaks in a quick flash pin. Tae goes for a few more but AKINO quickly reverses it, and she eventually holds down Tae for the three count! AKINO wins!
That is two matches on the card that ended with a cradle cutback of some sort, not overly creative here. I’m not completely sure what this match was going for, as AKINO didn’t really give enough to Tae to give her any type of rub. Sure, she had a few close submissions and close flash pins, but to be the semi-main you’d think it would have been more of an even affair. Tae was clearly over-matched here and they didn’t do anything to really convince me she could overcome the odds. This really should have been the opener and the Kaho/Yuu match in this spot, OZ Academy has weird match ordering sometimes. Not a whole lot to it and disappointing overall.
Ayame Sasamura, Shingaki, and Syuri vs. Maya Yukihi, Ozaki, and Yumi Ohka
Time for the main event, which means it is time for Ozaki-gun. Ozaki-gun is probably my least favorite faction in all of Joshi wrestling, as I’ve never been a fan of constant cheating and outside interference in matches if its extremely lopsided in one direction. It annoyed me in 1996 with the nWo and it annoys me in 2020 with Ozaki-gun. Having a “heel” referee (MIO) just puts it over the top, and with Police at ringside it will minimally be 5 vs. 3. So there is going to be a lot of that here. They are against two young wrestlers and the former MMA fighter Syuri. Ayame and Rina both wrestle out of 2AW (formally K-DOJO), Ayame has been in OZ Academy before but this is the first tour for the less experienced Rina. Its an interesting main event spot considering the teams, but it is safe to assume there will be a lot of chaos and not much else.
To the surprise of no one, Ozaki-gun attacks before the match starts and they immediately take it outside the ring. Police (the guy, not the music group or law enforcement) is there to help make the odds uneven of course, as they stay in control around the ring. All four eventually get in the ring with Rina, Ozaki slams her on the mat and they stack chairs on her before tossing more at her. They focus the chair attacks on her leg before putting Rina in the ropes and taunting her. Ozaki gets her chain and chokes Rina with it, Syuri finally has seen enough and comes in to break everything up, but Maya knocks her out of the ring. Ohka comes in and hits Rina with a cat o’ nine tails a few times, she gets on the second turnbuckle and hits Rina with it again before choking her. She tags in Maya who has her own more standard whip, and she chokes Rina with it while tossing her around the ring. Syuri breaks it up again, Maya whips Rina as the rookie beatdown continues for several more minutes, with Ohka eventually being tagged in so she didn’t feel left out. Rina finally dropkicks Maya and Ozaki to hit her first move of the match and smartly she tags in Syuri, Syuri kicks everyone (including Police but not including MIO), Irish whip by Syuri to the corner and she hits a jumping knee on Ohka. Another knee by Syuri, she covers Ohka but it gets two.
Syuri applies a kneelock but MIO helps Ohka get to the ropes for the break. Ohka knees Syuri and hits a quick DDT before delivering a heel drop for two. Ohka tags in Ozaki, she hits Syuri with the chain a couple times, Syuri tries to get the chain from her and they play tug of war. All six wrestlers eventually join in the tug of war, with Ozaki-gun winning once Police comes in to help. Ozaki throws Syuri into the corner and hits her with the chain, lariat by Police and Ohka hits a big boot. Jumping knee by Maya, Rina tries to help but Syuri elbows her by accident. Snapmare by Syuri to Ozaki and she kicks her, cover by Syuri but it gets a two count. Syuri tags in Ayame, hard shoulderblock by Ayame to Ozaki but Ozaki elbows her and they trade blows. Ayame gets Ozaki against the ropes and jumps down on her back, cover by Ayame but it gets two. Backfist by Ozaki to Ayame and she tags in Maya, Maya elbows Ayame and Ohka boots her in the head. Running kick to the chest by Maya, she throws Ayame but Ayame reverses it. Maya boots Ayame in the face but Ayame hits a dropkick off the second rope before tagging in Rina. Rina dropkicks Maya into the corner, another dropkick by Rina and she covers Maya for two. Armbar by Rina to Maya but Maya gets to the ropes for the break.
Rina goes off the ropes but Police pulls her out of the ring, he takes Rina up into the crowd and throws her into a row of chairs. Rina is eventually brought back into the ring, where Ozaki-gun is waiting as they take turns hitting her with weapons. Scoop slam by Maya in front of the corner, she goes up top but Syuri runs in and hits her before she can jump off and pulls her back into the ring. Rina goes up top and hits a diving crossbody, but Ohka breaks up the pin. Ohka eventually whips Maya by accident as things break down further, STO by Ayame to Maya and Syuri hits a running knee. Jackknife hold by Rina, but Police breaks it up. Rina slaps Police and with Ayame they both slap her again before Syuri kicks him. They set up Police so that Ayame can dropkick him in the uh lower groin area, Rina goes back to Maya and she puts Maya in a short armbar. Maya gets out of it, they trade flash pins with MIO counting much faster one way than the other way, but neither gets the three count. MIO trips Rina when she goes to go off the ropes and Maya hits a running knee, cover my Maya but it gets two. Buzzsaw Kick by Maya, but Syuri breaks up the pin. Rina quickly rolls up Maya, but MIO never starts the count. High Kick by Maya and she delivers the Omiwatari (Pendulum Knee Strike) for the three count! Ozaki-gun win the match.
My issue (well main issue) here is I don’t even understand what the point was. Ozaki-gun beats up rookies for 20 minutes, they get a few hope spots, then Ozaki-gun wins and celebrates with the biased referee that got them the win. How exciting. I don’t love these matches in just about any situation, but at least sometimes the good guys overcome the odds so you can understand the story. Watching Rina get slowly beaten up for ten minutes via nefarious means isn’t particularly exciting to watch, and the end stretch wasn’t nearly good enough to make up for it. So if you enjoy large heel groups dominating inexperienced wrestlers for 20 minutes, this is your match, otherwise it didn’t really accomplish anything and was a flat way to end the show.
I’m always torn the few times a year I check in with OZ Academy for a review. I really like some of their wrestlers (or regularly used wrestlers) like Kaho, Hiroyo Matsumoto, Maya Yukihi, and others. But their roster is very top heavy with experienced wrestlers and they don’t have their own young wrestlers, so it just creates an odd dynamic where the same wrestlers win a lot since Kuragaki, AKINO, and Mayumi Ozaki aren’t going to lose very often to young outsiders. On top of that, as noted I’m not a big fan of Ozaki-gun, and on some shows their antics can dominate the card. On this show, while Yuu vs. Kaho was really good, nothing else really jumped out as needing to be tracked down in any way. The Ozaki-gun match was even worse than usual since its so predictable at this point and they didn’t give the younger wrestlers much at all to make the journey worth it. So for me, a disappointing offering from OZ Academy.