1.Hirsch vs Thunder ***1/4
2.Yuka vs Suruga ***1/2
3.Emi vs VENY ***3/4
4.Ryo vs Ito ***1/2
5.Aja vs Rin **1/4
6.Riho vs Deeb ****
7.Nyla vs Conti ***1/4
8.Baker vs Madi *
1.Thunder vs Riho ***3/4
2.Nyla vs Baker ***
3.Emi vs Yuka ***1/2
4.Ryo vs Aja ***
1.Thunder vs Nyla ***
2.Yuka vs Ryo ****
x.Shida, Suruga, Rin vs Emi, Ito, VENY ****1/4
1.Ryo vs Nyla ***
I wasn't planning on watching the whole tournament but honestly the lineup was good enough and the whole thing was relatively short enough to warrant me going ahead and doing so so lets just do so all at once.
The first match was a fitting start to the tournament as it was a good match that saw both talent look good. It was fairly competitive and I sincerely hope they use Leyla more moving forward. Those that know my CZW ties will likely know why I feel that way.
Next, two of my favorites in joshi in a high energy first rounder. Suruga actually out performed Yuka big here in my opinion and looked like the star of the match as a result. Either way, it was pretty dang good.
The second best match of round one followed with Emi and ASUKA (working as VENY for obvious reasons) in a great match. Most importantly is that both looked good regardless of the outcome which hopefully means more of VENY in the future. I already expect more of Emi, luckily.
Aja played around with Rin in the last match from Japan's opening round. It was pretty standard stuff but that's what I expect from Aja these days and that's honestly fine. She's a true legend and has nothing to prove. Rin needs more reps but will get better.
Moving along, the best match of round one! Riho being back is awesome and I am very glad to see her back in AEW. She was fun in her return to Japan but always seemed to be a random face in the crowd during the stint. Deeb was really fun late 2020 in AEW and NWA and deserves major credit for that. Here, they both stepped up nicely and this surpassed expectations. I enjoyed the psychology on display and the general drama. Fantastic stuff.
Nyla and Conti over delivered, with Tay looking great despite taking the L and even getting a visual pin. Tay is going to be very good in a year if she keeps improving at this rate. Nyla has gotten better too and plays her role nicely. Really this entire division has been growing nicely.
Baker and Madi was awful. I have no idea why Madi was in this and it hurt both ladies that she was. She was not ready for this and Baker, who has improved a lot in the last year, looked bad as a result, too.
Thunder Rosa and Riho was great, with a nice pace and tight work throughout. I'd argue that Riho falling here was also a surprise which every tournament needs. The best part, unlike the Baker/Madi match, is that no one looked bad here.
Nyla and Baker was a good match for what it was. Baker looked back on the rails and Nyla worked hard in her base role. While I am surprised Rose was pushed so hard in the tournament, it is what it is and it seemed clear they were doing so in efforts of eventually putting over Ryo. I still disagree with the move, though.
Emi and Yuka was fun, with the former TJP top dog playing from underneath and overcoming the numbers game with ES and her students playing against the Magical Girl. Yuka winning was a nice move but I still don't think she seemed as motivated here as she usually is, just like the last match. Shida cleared house when the Gatoh girls attacked after.
The other quarter from the Japan side saw Kong fall to Ryo on the latter's ride forward and it actually was much better than expected. Aja worked hard, and I liked the story work with Ryo eventually pulling ahead due to intelligence.
The semi-finals followed, and I started with Nyla beating Thunder Rosa. Again, it was another good Nyla match and Thunder was enjoyable here, too. I must say that I think Nyla is a good worker and has improved in AEW. I also think the booking choices around her are strange and off putting. On the US side she was one of the people I didn't want going far due to the fact that she has already had good card position and that I wanted to see others elevated more. Oh well.
The other was a surprise, too. Ryo is a good worker. She is charismatic, too. Still, I didn't see nor really wanna see her going this far. Alas, my opinions on such matters are largely irrelevant outside of this blog, though. The match with Yuka was fantastic at least and Yuka looked far more motivated here than she had much of the rest of the tournament, which is a big plus, too.
We were gifted a special six-women's tag match with previously eliminated tournament participants, and the champion, which I watched next. Major thumbs up here as the layout was handled all but perfectly and the pacing, action, and drama combination was top shelf. You can tell everyone was having fun in the process and we all were rewarded as a result. Truly, fantastic stuff!
The finals saw Ryo pin Nyla in a good match. While I am still surprised at the way the tournament played out, at least between the two finals participants the right woman won. It admittedly felt more like a throwaway match than anything else but was still a more than serviceable end cap to a tournament that was truly entertaining top to bottom.
Props to all the ladies involved. Props to AEW for including two trans performers. Props to Excalibur, and even Taz, as the commentary on these were excellent.
While I didn't catch up with this in time to watch Revolution live, which now will make it to where I have to wait a few days, I have no disappointments in indulging the entire tournament. If you missed the series, check it out!