By Jonny Clare
Episode 8: “The Power of a World Champ”
In the last installment, the Shangri-La World Champion, Jackal Tojo, chose Sakura Hagiwara to wrestle as a proxy for the injured Misaki Toyoda. Jackal’s decision came following Sakura’s spirited effort in the Rookie All-Star Match, where she beat Fujino Subaru and later defended the honor of the Berserk Gym, when she stood up to Blue Panther, the mysterious masked Miyabi Team assassin who destroyed Sakura’s stable mate, Chinatsu Suzumoto. Is the rookie Sakura ready to take on the world or will the weight of it crush her?
In a jam packed Saitama Super Arena, “The Fighting Goddess” Jackal Tojo made her entrance in a curious outfit. Her gimmick is a cowgirl, like a female Stan Hansen, with a Stetson hat and fringe around the jacket, but with feathery wings on her back. It’s a sight that’s truly a puzzler and it’s not the only brainteaser. Like, where is Jackal from? On a few occasions she speaks English, so one would assume she’s American. Is this Shangri-La promotion she represents supposed to be the WWE? From elements of Jackal’s entertainment based in-ring style, I could definitely make that argument. Then again, maybe Shangri-La is a fictional paradise like James Hilton’s novel would suggest. Because all the characters make out that it’s is the be all and end all of women’s wrestling, so that couldn’t possibly be the WWE.
Anyway, back to the arena. After the introductions, in which the “Royal” Jackal and “The Eternal Center” Sakura were showered in streamers, it was time for their epic battle, and what a battle it was. Jackal lived up to the sobriquet “Woman of a Thousand Holds” (I swear these two have more monikers than Apollo Creed), stretching out Sakura with a veritable world tour of submission holds, like a Camel Clutch, a Japanese Stranglehold, a Boston Crab, and an Indian Deathlock, and it was during that last stop where we saw the Deathlock Dance, which is strikingly similar to NXT Emma’s whacky moves. From there, Jackal’s repertoire got a lot more credible, evoking legendary performers. She executed an Aja Kong Piledriver; a Jaguar Yokota Hip Attack; a Reverse Powerbomb called a Meteor Suplex; a move like Dynamite Kansai’s Splash Mountain and Kyoko Inoue’s Niagara Driver entitled the Super Galaxy; and a spot similar to Manami Toyota’s Cyclone Suplex called the Comet Buster. Although, Sakura had a few moves up her sleeve, too.
This episode dragged in the first act, but got cooking the second and I really got drawn into the match. However, despite a couple of excellent scenes, the show felt like an amalgamation of previous chapters. That being said, the story did progress and the doors have been swung wide open to a whole new world for Sakura. Moving on to the next episode, we’ll be introduced to an enthusiastic new character who reminded me of another NXT Diva, namely Bayley. She’s Fukuoko Moe, a high school student and karate world champion who thinks before acting and is a big fan of Sakura. Something tells me the Berserk Gym has a new star in the making.