For most of my tenure as a fan of Pro Wrestling, Deathmatches were never exactly appealing to me, and I was reluctant to the idea of watching them. However, my growth as a fan eased said reluctance, and I started watching Deathmatches here and there, to really know what it is like.
Whether you are already into this genre or, like me, you are not very well versed in what it is and are willing to enter the crazy realm of glass tables, light tubes and various other types of weaponry, I invite you to join me.
Welcome to the second installment of Val’s Deathmatch Experience.
In this second article of this series where I dive into Deathmatch wrestling, I will be taking a look at one rather particular match, from Konami’s own produced show in Reina, her first home promotion, back in July 2016. Yes, Stardom’s Konami (which she had yet to join at the time) once had a Deathmatch. She teamed up with Yuko Miyamoto, who I already talked about in the very first article of this series, facing Kagetsu and Jun Kasai.
This match would be her second to last match in Reina before making her Stardom debut at the following Year End Climax a few months later, so we could look at this match as a send-off of some sort.
I would like to start by saying that finding out this match even existed was a bit of a surprise. A pleasant one for sure, but still a surprise. Seeing women step in this world of violence (and seeing intergender Deathmatches even more so) is more of a rarity than a common sight, at least it has been for me ever since I started watching wrestling. So, I tend to applaud the various women who have stepped in there, and continue to. Hello there, Rina Yamashita.
Compared to the previous match I talked about in this series, I will try to focus more on certain sequences, while discussing this match from start to finish.
The very first interesting bit comes very early on in the match. Following the first lock-up between Miyamoto and Kasai, who started this match for both sides, Konami gets tagged in and faces the Crazy Monkey. Kasai knows how to look like a freak, blood on his face or not, but Konami doesn’t look impressed, and gets ready to square up with the Deathmatch legend. However, Kasai plays along for a bit only to tag Kagetsu in without even locking up, seemingly not taking Konami very seriously. In reaction to this, Konami tags Miyamoto back in.
As we move on towards the first sequence where the first shots are being thrown, Kagetsu shows fire and tries to hang with the much bigger Miyamoto, but eventually gets thrown into the light tubes attached to the ropes, and will be the first to bleed. First from the back, then from the head as Miyamoto smashes another tube on her head, and rubs half of it on Kagetsu’s forehead.
The match continues, Konami gets tagged back in, both women get a few shots on one another, only for Kagetsu to tag Kasai back in, which leads up to another little key moment in this match. Kasai steps in with a freak grin on his face, and starts winding up the hot crowd. Konami responds by taking one light tube, and throws it to Kasai, showing defiance. She grabs another one for herself and once again, the two square up : Out of any match-up this match offers, that’s the one people are here to see. Both avoid each other’s swings until Kasai blocks Konami’s second attempt, allowing him to take advantage. Everyone then goes to the outside, Konami gets choked by Kagetsu, Kasai stays on the attack as well, only throwing Konami back in the ring to try and make her bleed as well, using a small butcher knife.
The match goes on, reaching another quick sequence I enjoyed. Konami and Kagetsu, both bloodied, start exchanging blows after the latter taunted the former. Konami is the first to fall, and Kagetsu goes for a pinfall attempt, by putting her foot on her opponent’s chest. The two women are yelling during their exchange, and the blood on their faces makes them look like they both belong alongside their partners. Not looking out of place, both literally and figuratively, when wrestling a type of match you are not used to isn’t the easiest thing to do, even when paired with two very experienced guys in that environment. This little sequence, among other things, lead me to believe the girls really outshined the guys, more than « just » showing they could handle light tubes.
Following this unorthodox pinfall attempt, the match moves back to its most interesting match-up : Konami and Kasai. The latter doesn’t waste much time to grab some of the tubes left, as he starts to take this young blue-haired tough girl more seriously, setting her up for a piledriver on the tubes. Which he lands. Konami is far from done quite yet and kicks out of Kasai’s pin attempt. Konami manages to fight back, rolling up Kasai as he tried to go for a vertical suplex, and dropkicking him into some of the tubes left on the ropes. This leads us to the first actual sequence between Kasai and Miyamoto, who had barely even wrestled since the match started.
Though, because this match is mainly about the two women in it, let’s focus more on the opposition between Kagetsu and Miyamoto following this one. Kagetsu tried to pick the Deathmatch Yankee up for a fireman’s carry, and failed. In this sequence, after nailing a spear, she sets some of the tubes on the mat, and goes back to what she first tried. She struggles but ultimately manages to get Miyamoto on her back, and lands a big samoan drop on the tubes. Again, Kagetsu showing why the Joshis are the highlight here.
Let’s now move to Konami and Kagetsu again, as they start trading kicks. Normal kicks at first, until Konami takes one of the light tubes and kicks right through it on Kagetsu’s back. Kagetsu responds, doing the same. Konami fires up, and this time takes two tubes, and kicks her opponent again. The assault continues, with Miyamoto temporarily sliding in, notably nailing a double knee attack with tubes on Kagetsu. We quickly move back to the two women alone, and this time Konami aims at using even more light tubes, picking up one of two stacks of tubes sitting in each corner, setting it up to try and kick Kagetsu right through them.
Sadly for her, Kagetsu would avoid the kick, and give Konami some of her own medicine : Kicking through the stack of tubes, right into Konami’s body. She would later on manage to do what she first intended, on Kasai at that With some help by Miyamoto, she gets to kick the other stack of tubes right through Kasai’s chest. That’ll show him for trying to do a splash onto this same stack of tubes, and onto Konami herself moments prior. Konami even came very close to win this match twice, following said kick, and then with a Fisherman Suplex where Kasai kicked out.
Konami then reaches for another stack of tubes, trying to hit Kasai with it on the head. He blocks, and the two have a bit of struggle as they’re now both holding the stack of tubes in the air. Kasai takes advantage of this by headbutting Konami through the tubes.
Kasai follows up with a lariat, and goes for the pin. Konami kicks out. He goes for a reversed Tiger Driver ? This time Miyamoto breaks up the pin. The match reaches its end as Kasai slams Konami, setting her up for another attempt at the Pearl Harbor Splash. This time, Kasai nails it, winning the match for his team.
Following the end of this match, Kasai gets on the mic and props the two women up, to the sounds of a cheering Shin-Kiba crowd, before Konami closes out what is her own event.
This match isn’t particularly great by any means. It’s good but is mainly an enjoyable watch more than some kind of mindblowing match with some « deeper » layer of storytelling within the match. What makes this one interesting is the willingness to put over both Konami and Kagetsu’s toughness. Miyamoto and Kasai take a backseat, for most of this match really, and are only there to put some more emphasis on the Joshis toughness, and will to prove themselves in an environment some would deem unwelcoming for them.
While mainly being an exhibition of some sorts with no real stake at hand, this match still told a nice story. The one of a young Konami standing in front of the both legendary, scary Jun Kasai in his own playground, and make him take her seriously in such a set-up. During the match, Kasai tries to pin Konami many times, basically after every move he hits, and until the very end, Konami finds a way to keep going.
And because I can’t just minimize Kagetsu’s performance, she arguably was this match’s MVP, showing tons of fire and attitude while taking quite the beating as well.
To sum it all up : I like this match because it feels unorthodox to me, while still remaining very basic. It’s not supposed to be epic, or extremely violent for a Deathmatch, but this accomplishes two things : Still being the violent party it’s supposed to be, while showcasing how tough the Joshis are.