OZ Academy Every Little Step
January 6 2019
We’re in Tokyo, Japan at Shinjuku Face. This aired on January 24 on Gaora TV. I’m immediately excited as they open the TV block by playing “My Michelle” by Guns n’ Roses. On the build they name Shida vs. Aja as 2018 MOTY. Damn fucking straight. That match is the reason why I’m here. Legit MOTYC and in my top ten matches for 2018 in any promotion. From Aja Kong…in 2018. It seems impossible even looking back now but it fucking ruled. Shida also wins MVP and Aja gets pissed off about it and leaves. Oh, please fight again! Incidentally, and this is completely unconnected, but Hikaru Shida is now my favourite wrestler.
Mayumi Ozaki vs. Tsubasa Kuragaki
Ozaki is the owner of Oz Academy (clue is in the name). This is the first round of the OZ Academy Openweight Championship #1 Contender’s tournament. They have to have an entire tournament before anyone is worthy of getting in the ring with Shida. Ozaki is a heel and her shtick is that she gets her underlings to do the fighting for her. It’s all very tiresome. Ozaki busts Kuragaki open and somehow is allowed to roll her up for the pin. This was fucking horseshit.
Final Rating: DUD
Yoshiko vs. Yumiko Hotta
This is another match in the #1 contenders tournament.
Yoshiko with the standard level of respect. She then proceeds to kick Hotta in the face a lot, which I’m pretty ok with. Everyone knows she’s a total bitch so she might as well behave that way right? The trouble with OZ Academy is that a lot of the matches are just garbage and you have to sit through them to get to the good stuff. This is not the good stuff. They do manage to get some intrigue with Hotta grabbing an armbar to block another power move and it looks as if the match will end via submission. It ends up being a tidy little story although the execution feels like a bar fight. Ten minutes time limit expires and we’ll call it ‘nobody gives a shit’ draw.
Final Rating: **1/4
Sonoko Kato & Ryo Mizunami vs. Hikaru Shida & Rina Yamashita
Everyone in this match is really good so that’s a definite step up. Shida and Yamashita aren’t friendly with each other. This is obvious from Yamashita ‘accidentally’ barging into Shida during her pose and then more obviously when she tries to encourage Shida to escape a hold instead of breaking it.
Yamashita tries to encourage her to cheat and when she doesn’t Rina lobs a kendo stick at her. Kato & Mizunami do a bang up job of being on the same page while the other team aren’t always reading the same book. Shida is still one of the companies top stars so her team having issues is fine. It creates a fractured dynamic but could also lead into a singles match down the line against her own partner. Shida gets sick of Yamashita and starts using her as a weapon. This is showboating and I’m not sure I approve. Yamashita is picked off and Kato pins her. Solid storyline backbone to this contest. Shida looked terrific throughout. I’m easily sold on anything she’s involved in.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Tae Honma vs. Sakura Hirota
Hirota is the wrestler that’s afraid of everything. It’s a weird gimmick but it works. At the moment she has a debilitating hand injury and addresses her concerns that Honma might target the injury pre-match.
Tae immediately asks for a handshake! She’s super gentle and Hirota still sells it. They do some bumbling around as Hirota loves to do moves wrong. Usually after doing them right to show she can. Her failed tope is exactly what would happen if I attempted one. My general Hirota preference is for her to be in multi-person matches where her antics are part of a bigger whole. In singles matches it’s a bit overwhelming. I do enjoy her failure to do the Malenko-Guerrero near falls. It takes genuine talent to fuck something up so spectacularly. Tae doesn’t attack the hand until Hirota uses the cast as a weapon. The antics continue right up to the finish where a barely conscious Hirota falls onto Honma for the win.
— Arn (@ArnoldFurious) February 8, 2019
Final Rating: ***
Aja Kong vs. Kakeru Sakaguchi
So this is confusing. Aja comes out for a match with, I think Kakeru Sakaguchi, which isn’t listed anywhere. This is like going back to tape trading days! I figure it’ll be a shmoz or it’d be listed somewhere but it isn’t. Sakaguchi has a jolly good try but Aja flat out murders her with lariats. Just clubbing her to the mat, over and over again. You mess with the bull you get the horns. It turns into a great match with Sakaguchi trying sneaky roll ups and choke outs while Aja just keeps killing her and Kakeru pulls out one miraculous kick out after another until the time limit expires. Fuck me, this was great!
Apparently we’re onto an entirely different show here as that match took place on 13/1. Confusing stuff from OZ Academy. But this was a tremendous bonus.
Final Rating: ***3/4
Kaori Yoneyama vs. Saori Anou
This is also from 13/1 and another match in the Openweight #1 contender’s tournament. We’re pitting one of those gits from Ozaki-gun against the weakest member of Beast Friend here. Yoneyama does a lot of comedy selling while Anou cheats in front of the referee. That’s a fucking DQ. We’re not in ECW here, for fuck’s sake.
The only positive is that when Anou does actually wrestle she does a mean kick to the face. The heels make a mess of interference, with Anou taking a whip to the face, and Yoneyama wins with a roll up. I kinda hated the structure of this but I’ll give them points for execution.
Final Rating: *1/2
Beast Friend (Aja Kong, Hiroyo Matsumoto & Kaori Yoneyama) vs. Ozaki-gun (Maya Yukihi, Yumi Ohka & Saori Anou)
Now we’re back to 6/1 and the main event from that show. Unfortunately that means more Ozaki-gun but at least they’re all legal in this match, which should limit the cheating (who am I kidding?) I just don’t like heel stables and not because they’re heels but because they all seem to be lazy at cheating. At least Maya shows a little craft here and chokes behind the ref’s back but everyone else just does it in front of the ref. It’s a shame, especially with Anou, because she has so much personality and presence. If she actually concealed her heel work she’d legitimately be one of my favourite wrestlers. Yoneyama gets isolated for heat for most of the match, which makes sense but is disappointing considering the talent on the apron. Ozaki-gun cheat, badly, throughout and it’s a fantastically boring main event. It only gets up to passable when Aja finally gets in there. Yoneyama brings some nice comedy when the faces make their big comeback but far too much of the contest is heel heat and it is dull. Aja drops the big Savage Elbow for the pin after fifteen minutes. You can pretty much skip 90% of this.
Final Rating: *
OZ Academy is a good show but it is often overwhelmed by the bullshit from Ozaki-gun and her match in particular was terrible. There’s a gem of a contest from Aja on here though and if they can iron out the heel faction issues OZ Academy would be a solid regular watch. I’ve only seen a few shows before and the wild west approach to the rules is something that would work if there wasn’t so much heel faction bullshit.