Maya Yukihi & Maika Ozaki (c) vs. Tsukasa Fujimoto & Tsukushi Haruka from ICE RIBBON 04/11/2021

rebel x enemy vs dropkickers!

I tweeted that just before watching this match, which includes three of those four wrestlers. (The absent one, Suzu Suzuki, is a teenager working regularly with deathmatch mainstays.)

And yet with that amount of talent involved, this match didn’t end up being the all-out war classic that it could have been. Instead, Rebel X Enemy vs. Dropkickers was a storytelling means to an end.

Two weeks after this match (and on the day of this review’s publication), the challenger team of Tsukasa Fujimoto and Tsukushi Haruka will face off for ICE RIBBON’s ICExInfinity Championship, their world title. And the amount of story that’s baked into that matchup naturally bled over into this challenge.

The lead-up to this match couldn’t have been more natural. Maya Yukihi, perhaps ICE RIBBON’s biggest star at this point, challenged for Fujimoto’s championship a month ago; in return, Fujimoto made the classic puroresu move of “okay, sure, but I want a tag title match in return.” And who better to be Fujimoto’s partner than her old Dropkickers partner in Tsukushi?

Unfortunately, this Dropkickers team has had issues, usually with Fujimoto at fault. Fujimoto essentially abandoned Tsukushi to renew her pursuit of both ICE RIBBON’s top title as well as tag championships in other promotions (as part of the aptly named Best Friends team with similar-minded Arisa Nakajima). The Dropkickers were supposed to be done.

But then Fujimoto won the ICExInfinity belt while Tsukushi won the lowly (but still meaningful to her) IW-19 Championship, a belt that has essentially been abandoned in 2021. Suddenly, an opportunity to gain double gold came up for Fujimoto, and looking through ICE RIBBON’s roster for a tag partner, the only choice that made sense was Tsukushi…. who just so happened to challenge for Fujimoto’s world title at the same time.

The match was excellent but the Dropkickers were not on their game. Fujimoto was constantly outwrestled by Yukihi after barely escaping her clutches in their title match just a few weeks prior. Tsukushi was manhandled by the powerful Ozaki, and despite Rebel X Enemy not having near as much history between them as the Dropkickers, they worked together far better.

This contest’s signature moment came towards the very end, when the Dropkickers went for their signature, well, double dropkick. They were outsmarted and countered by Ozaki, well below them on the ICE RIBBON totem pole, and got almost no offense the rest of the match. The image of world champ and legend Fujimoto, alone in the ring and having her head kicked off by Yukihi, stands out as unique in a promotion with good vibes and comedy undercards.

Rebel X Enemy eventually retained after a diving senton from Ozaki and a tiger driver from Yukihi. Tsukushi was completely absent from the final minutes of this match, never coming close to saving her partner and rival from defeat.

In the post-match promos, Fujimoto and Tsukushi were cordial with each other, even going so far as to shake hands, but the feeling was undeniable: Dropkickers are over. With Tsukushi never having beaten Fujimoto before, failing time and again, the upcoming title match is my most anticipated ICE RIBBON match in history; as an unfortunate coda, it may also be the last Korakuen Hall show I see with fans in a very long time.

(****)