A little while ago I wrote a piece on Mayu Iwatani vs Takumi Iroha’s February 2020 match and the impeccable selling throughout. Takumi walked in as the outsider, destroyed Mayu for most of the 20 minute runtime and pinned the Red Belt champion in the centre of the ring. That match was non-title and Takumi vowed to return to Stardom to challenge for the title. 8 months later and Mayu has kept hold of the championship, besting Jungle Kyona in an emotional match and Syuri in the Yokohama Budokan since her last match with Takumi. It’s not often that the champion has more to prove than the challenger but that was the case in this match and it worked perfectly.
The entire match is packed with amazing storytelling and call-backs to their previous match, starting even before the entrances with the pre-match promos. Mayu choosing not to comment before the match speaks louder than anything she could have said. Takumi has little to say other than she wants to repeat the February match but this time, she’s taking the title. This is the theme throughout the entire match and what eventually leads to her downfall. Iroha is trying to relive the February dominance while Mayu is rewriting her previous mistake. Takumi’s signature offence such as the kicks, submissions, suplexes and powerbombs are what brought her success in their last match and the shock on her face when Mayu shrugs off her strikes is amazing. Even no-selling a superplex into a guillotine that catches the challenger by surprise and almost rendering her unconscious, Mayu is one-step ahead for nearly the entire match. Each time the challenger gained offence, the match was turned into a striking battle including an amazing sit-down slap exchange which Mayu got the upperhand of and even punted Takumi point-blank in the face. Another noteworthy point is that Takumi’s domination of Mayu in February meant that Mayu had lots of signature offence that she never even hit on Takumi such as the topé to the floor, the poison rana from the corner and finally hitting the Running Three, a symbolic move that both women learnt from Chigusa Nagayo.
Some of the key moments of their last match were referenced perfectly in this match:
- Takumi’s ragdoll-style german suplex was repeated with Mayu desperately flailing in mid-air trying to escape
- The brutal looking forearm strikes that dropped Mayu in February were now shrugged off and returned in an even more devastating fashion that gave Iroha a black eye
- The kick combo that Takumi used to set-up her victory almost did the same this time but Mayu countered Takumi’s pin attempt into a rollup victory
Each moment was thoughtful, meaningful and lead to something bigger and bigger. Even without the storytelling behind this match, a casual viewer could more than likely still find enjoyment in this. The second-rope powerbomb, intense striking and world-class selling is enough to keep you hooked for the 22 minute war. The finish of the match could be criticised as Mayu gets hit with the Running Three but counters straight into a pin for the win. However, story-wise it still makes sense. Mayu took Takumi’s offence and fired back with something bigger.
After the match, Mayu is handed the red belt and collapses to the floor, much like last time but this time around, she’s a winner. Takumi looks frustrated but still hugs Mayu afterwards, even grabbing the title she failed to win and longingly looking at it before handing it back to the champion. Mayu gets on the mic and mentions the fact they are now tied against each other 1-1-1 (their 2018 match isn’t as crucial to the story they told in 2020 but it’s still worth watching!) but then says that she’d rather tag with her next time. Takumi honours Mayu and bows her head before making way for the woman that would eventually dethrone Mayu…Utami Hayashashita. But that’s another story for another day 😉
Having watched both the title and non-title matches a few times, I’m still not totally sure which one is better. If anything, they both represent totally different things but work in beautiful harmony together to tell one of the best wrestling stories of 2020. If you haven’t seen both matches, do check them out! Not just some of the best joshi matches of last year but some of the best overall matches you’ll see.