By Jonny Clare
Wanna be the Strongest in the World (Sekai de Ichiban Tsuyoku Naritai)
Episode 11: “Pure Soul!”
Last week, we left Sakura Hagiwara and Blue Panther seconds before the opening bell of their “hair vs. mask”, “loser leaves wrestling” match, but one of those stipulations became unnecessary when the masked competitor revealed her identity. Was it Dean Malenko? Ric Flair? Hunico? Takahiro Suwa? Juri Sanada? The ringside photographer, Kanae? No, only an idiot would think it was one of them. It was in fact, Sakura’s Sweet Diva singing rival, Elena Miyazawa.
This feud had been building from the opening scene of the first show when Sakura and Elena were battling it out for the position of center vocalist. It died down in the last few weeks and Elena dropped out of the picture, like someone about to cash in “Money in the Bank”. During this chapter, it’s brought to light that Elena had been training at the Miyabi Gym shortly after Sakura challenged Rio Kazama. She did this as a sign of solidarity and to understand Sakura’s pain. However, things quickly changed after Sakura defeated Rio and decided to continue wrestling. That’s when Elena started to train for a match to bring Sakura back to Sweet Diva.
All the aforementioned skullduggery was ably enabled by Toyoda Misaki’s fiercest rival, Juri Sanada. Like Toyoda and Jackal Tojo had previously stated, Juri played the role of Blue Panther. When the masked Miyabi assassin first appeared, Elena and the rest of Sweet Diva were commentating in the stands, which threw me off the scent and I bought the bait of Kanae, hook, line and sinker. But why did Juri go to such lengths to help Elena? Well, the always insightful Jackal Tojo explains in scenes with extraordinary amount of exposition, that it’s because Juri sees herself in Elena, in the same way Misaki sees herself in Sakura.
Progressing to the match at hand, Elena went after Sakura’s leg with intense ferocity. The first assault being a heel hook and the onslaught continued with a kneebar. These two spots are banned from the Berserk Gym, although this is a Miyabi match, so it’s permitted. As well as a wealth of submissions, we saw a variety of moves, like a backdrop suplex, a dragon suplex, a moonsault, a piledriver, and many nods to Manami Toyota in the guise of a bridging double underhook suplex, a Japanese Ocean suplex and a springboard splash.
Once again, this was a rich, fulfilling installment that contained the most blockbusting contest we’ve witnessed in the season and with one episode to go, Sakura’s at a crossroads. She either wins and cuts ties with Sweet Diva or she loses and quits pro-wrestling forever. Whichever way it goes, I’ll be disappointed to see Elena or Sakura hanging up their boots. Hopefully it will end in a draw.