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AEW Women's title eliminator tournament results: Japan kickoff

The Big Takeaways:

The four AEW veterans (Sakazaki, Sakura, Mizunami and Kong) advanced to the second round on the Japanese side of the Women's Championship contender eliminator tournament.

Show Recap:

The show was filmed at the Ice Ribbon Dojo in Saitama, Japan, with Excalibur providing solo commentary.

First Round: Yuka Sakazaki defeated Mei Suruga

This was a good match, albeit a little sloppy in spots.

Sakazaki utilized a rare size advantage during the lock up, but Suruga played mind games to escape before hitting an armdrag. Suruga locked her legs around Sakazaki and went for her signature Oklahoma roll, cradling Sakazaki for two. Sakazaki downed Suruga with a shoulder block, but Suruga bridged out of a pin. Sakazaki concluded the next exchange with a brainbuster before wrenching on Suruga's neck with a rope-assisted headscissors.

Both competitors avoided dropkicks and Sakazaki applied an STF. Suruga reached the ropes, fighting through a straitjacket to get there. Sakazaki shrugged off some strikes, so Suruga stomped on her foot before hitting a springboard leg sweep. Suruga repeatedly whipped Sakazaki into the corner before hitting a body slam for two. She locked on a modified Muta Lock with inverted double underhooks and Sakazaki reached the ropes after a long fight.

A diving double sledge from Suruga got two. She went for a half-and-half suplex, but Sakazaki escaped and dropped Suruga with a gamenguiri and a diving back elbow. Sakazaki then hit a delayed vertical suplex, but Suruga avoided the Magical Girl Splash.

Sakazaki rolled through on a running crossbody for two, but Suruga escaped a fireman's carry into a Gedo clutch for two. A rolling body scissors got a close near fall for Suruga. Sakazaki escaped the submission again and hit a seated kick and a sliding lariat for two. A powerslam and the Magical Girl Splash then sent Sakazaki to the next round.

First Round: Emi Sakura defeated Veny

There was some really great action in this match, but the two went overboard on the near falls towards the end. Veny is absolutely a wrestler that AEW should be prioritizing going forward. In a nice homage and tribute, they (Veny is the first transgender wrestler from Japan, also known as Asuka) wore a kimono that belonged to the late Hana Kimura, brought to our attention by Excalibur.

The two performed chain wrestling to start. Veny avoided a boot with some nice athleticism, but was met with Mongolian chops for their trouble. Sakura whipped Veny around the ring as she maintained control. Sakura applied a Romero special and beat Veny down with stomps. Veny laid in a strong chop in the corner and taunted the larger opponent. Veny reversed a whip and landed a handspring back elbow, followed by a springboard crossbody.

With Sakura on the floor, Veny landed an Orihara moonsault. They went for another springboard, but Sakura used the ropes to knock Veny down, followed by a flipping senton. She kept up her offense with a backbreaker before heading to the top rope where she was met with a Veny slap.

Veny used a springboard modified takeover to remove Sakura from the top rope and a running shooting star press got two. Sakura applied a dragon sleeper and turned Veny around with a neckbreaker. Sakura hit a running crossbody and a Vader bomb. She went for a second, but Veny got the knees up. Veny turned a fireman's carry takeover into an armbar, but Sakura reached the ropes.

A series of strikes from Sakura was met by a buzzsaw kick from Veny for two. They followed it up with a running boot for another two. Sakura turned it around into an Angel's Wings and both competitors were down. The two traded forearms and headbutts in the center of the ring. Veny hit a loud forearm, a slap, and spinning heel kicks before climbing to the top and landing a missile dropkick for a close near fall. 

Sakura fought out of a chokeslam and downed Veny with a chop for two. A long cradle sequence ended with Veny countering La Magistral into a cradle of their own for a close near fall. Veny hit a spinning heel kick and a sit out chokeslam for yet another two count. Veny missed a top rope moonsault and Sakura rolled up Veny with La Magistral for two. Sakura applied a dragon sleeper and hit the tiger driver for three.

Sakura will now face Sakazaki in the next round.

First Round: Ryo Mizunami defeated Maki Itoh

If you like the Itoh shenanigans, you'll like this match. Although without a crowd, I felt they had little impact. The closing stretch was good.

As always, Itoh sang and performed her entrance. Listening to Excalibur explain her backstory was very funny.

They wrestled to the ropes, but Itoh broke it up with a forearm. She demanded a receipt, but when Mizunami obliged, she started crying. Itoh then stomped Mizunami's foot before being downed on her own shoulder tackle attempt. Mizunami hit a body slam and a leg drop for two. She beat Itoh down in the corner before doing some showboating of her own with a corner clothesline for two. Itoh fought back ineffectually before escaping a slam and hitting a DDT.

Itoh landed a corner elbow and a bulldog before asking, "Who's the cutest in the world?" She laid in strikes on Mizunami and a Kokeshi headbutt for two. Itoh applied a crab, but Mizunami escaped with a powerslam for two.

Mizunami hit a lariat and a leg drop for two. Itoh tried to fight back, but Mizunami downed her with a forearm. Itoh fired up and they traded strikes in the center of the ring. Mizunami hit combination strikes before leveling her with a forearm.

A huge chop and a lariat took Itoh down, but Itoh rolled through a running knee into a single leg crab. Itoh used her hard head to butt Mizunami's arm before hitting a second headbutt to her opponent's head. Mizunami shook off the cobwebs and hit a headbutt of her own, but Itoh no sold. They had a bullfight, forehead against forehead, before Itoh planted Mizunami with a DDT for a close two. 

Itoh went up top, but missed the diving Kokeshi. Mizunami fired out with a spear for two, but immediately locked on a head and arm choke, forcing Itoh to tap.

First Round: Aja Kong defeated Rin Kadokura

This was so much fun. Kong has limited mobility at her age, but maintains her one-of-a-kind presence and Kadokura was the perfect foil, bumping all over for her. 

Kadokura fired out of the gate with a running dropkick, but it didn't affect Kong who downed Kadokura with a lariat. Kong followed it up with an elbow drop for two. Kong toyed with Kadokura who tried to fire up with forearms. She was met with massive chops for her trouble. Kong then spiked Kadokura with a sick sit out piledriver for two. 

Kadokura came back with a running DDT and a diving dropkick. She then hit a missile dropkick and covered, but Kong was under the ropes.

Kong laid in knee strikes, Kadokura hit forearms, and Kong sat down on her on a sunset flip attempt for two. Kong then hit a brutal kick to Kadokura's ribs. Kadokura tried to come back yet again, but Kong downed her with clotheslines for another two.

Kadokura stopped a second rope move from Kong and hit a swinging DDT and a cannonball for two. She tried to follow it up with a mariposa, but Kong rolled out of the way and crushed her with a backdrop driver for a close two. 

Kong went for the brainbuster, but Kadokura fought out and was met with a clothesline for two. Kong then hit a top rope elbow drop to win and advance to face Mizunami in the next round.

**********

Round Two Matches:

  • Emi Sakura vs. Yuka Sakazaki
  • Aja Kong vs. Ryo Mizunami

Final Thoughts:

This was a good first round of showcase matches. I don't think any of them were blow away, must see performances, but Veny vs. Emi Sakura and Aja Kong vs. Rin Kadokura were the best parts of the show. Itoh, Sakazaki, and Suruga all have loads of potential once crowds come back.