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Sukeban, literally “delinquent girl,” is a Japanese term dating back to World War II used to refer to both the girl gangs of the time and the leaders of said gangs.
As first announced in a trailer that dropped on August 29, this Sukeban is “a Japanese female wrestling league” that promises “an epic clash of good versus evil.” The trailer and social media promos feature a mix of anime and live-action while the 17-woman roster comprises stars from nearly every major Japanese joshi promotion.
The roster is split into four factions: the explosive and heroic Cherry Bomb Girls, the lethal and glamorous Dangerous Liaisons, the cute and mischievous Harajuku Stars, and The Vandals (an eclectic girl gang comprising a biker, a nerd, a clown, and an anarcho-punk). There is only one wrestler on the roster not affiliated with a faction and that’s Stray Cat, the youngest girl in the league.
Beyond the character work and promotional photos available on social media, very little is known about the origins or future of Sukeban. The promotion is owned by Delaware company Dream Slam Productions, which also has no information online. There are rumors that former Bushiroad executives are involved. There is word that Mauro Ranallo is in talks to join the commentary booth as the voice of Sukeban.
The debut show sold out in two hours with 750 people reportedly in attendance. Per Ichigo Sayaka’s Twitter, a second show may be happening in Miami this December. Interest is high so the lack of information surrounding the promotion seems intentional at this point.
SEPTEMBER 21, 2023
NEW YORK, NEW YORK, USA AT CAPITALE
AIRED ON TIKTOK
REPORT BY HARLEY VASQUEZ, PWTORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Commentary: Veda Scott, Sam Leterna
We opened with an anime video. A male narrator spoke in Japanese with English subtitles. “For centuries they prepared for battle.” Today a new dynasty rises, joshi fighters unlike the world has ever seen. Faster, stronger, braver, more skilled, more devious, more deadly. The treacherous Dangerous Liaisons. The high-flying Harajuku Stars. The devilish Vandals. The explosive Cherry Bomb Girls. An epic clash of good and evil.
-Spotlight on the ring. Our ring announcer listed the four factions and introduced our opening trios tag.
-The Vandals were out first to Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation.” Veda Scott checked in on commentary but was cut off by Cherry Bomb Girls, making their entrance to The Runaways’ “Cherry Bomb” of course.
(1) CHERRY BOMB GIRLS (Crush Yuu, Supersonic, & Riko Blondie) vs. THE VANDALS (Atomic Banshee, Otaku-chan, & Bingo w/Midnight Player)
Banshee is an anarcho-punk, Ram Kaicho of the promotion 666. Otaku is the resident nerd, played by 24-year veteran Kaori Yoneyama. Bingo is a clown, the legendary Hiroyo Matsumoto, champion everywhere she goes. Yuu is a former TJPW champion. Supersonic is Natsuki Taiyo, a 20-year veteran who started in AJW and mostly retired in 2014. Blondie is the 21-year-old Riko Kaiju, formerly of Seadlinnng.
The Cherries offered handshakes but the Vandals weren’t having it. Otaku and Supersonic started the match. Supersonic is billed as one of the fastest wrestlers on the planet so going up against noted high-speed competitor Otaku made sense. Otaku wrestled with her glasses, jacket, and propeller hat on. They tagged out to Blondie and Bingo. Bingo is a clown but think Cirque du Soleil, not Barnum & Bailey. Banshee and Yuu in next. Banshee ran at Yuu but couldn’t budge her, Yuu being the largest woman in the league.
With everyone clustered at ringside, Yuu teased a suicide dive but instead rolled under the ropes and over the crowd like a steam roller. The faces worked over Banshee with a mix of speed and comedy. Bingo tagged in and did some mime work before falling to a dropkick from Blondie. The heels tripled-teamed Yuu. The Cherries came back to triple-team Otaku and a second-rope splash from Yuu to Otaku put her away.
WINNERS: Cherry Bomb Girls in 10:20.
(Vasquez’s Perspective: There’s a tendency to read a first match as an indicator of a show as a whole. This one was light on ringwork and high on comedy with the Vandals especially doing almost-exclusively comedy bits. Bingo seemed to be calling most of the match, which makes sense with her pedigree, and was clearly having fun. It would be far too premature to assume the whole promotion will be like this. I think this was just meant to start things off in a lighthearted manner and introduce us to a third of the roster at once. With all the wrestlers taking on new, cartoonish characters, it’s definitely falling closer in line to WOW Superheroes than anything like Stardom or Shimmer.
Production-wise, the video quality is good. The costumes look great, if a tad unwieldy for wrestling in. The ring is lit up like a spotlight with the rest of the arena in complete darkness. Only a handful of people in the front row are visible. The rest is pitch black.)
-The wrestlers weren’t even out of the ring yet when they quickly started announcing the next entrants. Out first it was the queen of hearts, Queen Takase, repping Dangerous Liaisons. She entered to “Mother” by Danzig. Her first opponent was Saki Bimi of Harajuku Stars. She entered to “I Want Candy” by Bow Wow Wow. The third entrant had been billed as a mystery opponent. It was four-time Stardom tag champion and Asuka protégé Konami, wrestling under the same name she uses everywhere else but dressed like Alice returning from Wonderland.
(2) KONAMI vs. SAKI BIMI vs. QUEEN TAKASE
Takase is Miyuki Takase, tag champ in Seadlinnng, Wave, and Diana. Bimi is a veteran of Emi Sakura’s Gatoh Move promotion.
Handshake exchanged between Konami and Bimi. Arm drags all around. Roll-ups all around. Takase bailed to the floor to let the other two go at it. Konami with a camel clutch to Bimi. Takase returned to put Bimi in a Boston crab at the same time. The two opponents worked together to wear down Bimi. Once Takase went for a cover, though, things fell apart.
Double bulldog from Bimi to both women. Bimi hung up Takase and hit a running knee as Konami watched from the floor. Strikes exchanged among all three women. Konami with a German suplex to Bimi for two. Rocking horse from Bimi to Konami. Takase grabbed Bimi from the apron but Bimi moved and Konami connected with Takase. Sunset flip from Konami to Bimi for the pin.
WINNER: Konami in 12:40.
-With Konami being a free agent, both Bimi and Takase held open opposing ring ropes, encouraging Konami to join their faction. Konami beat down Bimi and hugged Takase, bringing Dangerous Liaisons up to five members.
(Vasquez’s Perspective: Yeah, it’s giving real WOW vibes with the campiness of the women wrestling in full dresses and jackets and the lightness of the strikes. Konami is best known for her kicks and submissions, neither of which she got to show off here. Maybe they’re keeping things light because it’s the first show or maybe the costumes are hindering them as much as you would assume they would.)
-Midnight Player, the biker member of The Vandals, was out first for our next singles match. Her opponent was Stray Cat, the only person on the roster not aligned with a faction. She appeared in the balcony and entered to “Stray Cat Strut” by the ‘80s rockabilly band Stray Cats.
(3) MIDNIGHT PLAYER vs. STRAY CAT
Player is Aoi, who’s wrestled for JTO and Ice Ribbon. Cat is Tomoka Inaba, current member of Stardom faction God’s Eye. She wears a black leathery dress and gloves with a full mask with cat ears.
Player bit Cat’s ear early on, which fired her up. Things were back and forth in the opening minutes. They exchanged chops in a long sequence before Cat scratched Player’s back. Things picked up with Player hitting a slingblade for a near-fall. Cat with a reverse heel kick for a near-fall of her own. Cat hit a kick to the chest and the pin.
WINNER: Stray Cat in 11:08.
-Player left but returned with a Vandals shirt and offered it to Cat. Cat just wagged her finger “no” and left alone.
(Vasquez’s Perspective: Best match of the three so far, though it took until the last half to reach what some might consider usual joshi standards. By letting her stand alone, Cat is obviously being set up as one of the top babyfaces in the company.)
-Half of The Harajuku Stars were out next for tag action. Like our three-way dance, it was Harajuku taking on Dangerous Liaisons again.
(4) DANGEROUS LIAISONS (Commander Nakajima & Lady Antoinette) vs. THE HARAJUKU STARS (Maya Mamushi & Babyface)
Babyface is Ancham from Gatoh Move. Mamushi is Maya Yukihi, a 7-time champion in Ice Ribbon. Antoinette is Risa Sera, also a 2-time Ice Ribbon champion. Nakajima is Arisa Nakajima, 18-year veteran and JWP legend.
The heels jumped the Stars before the bell. They isolated Babyface and tagged in and out. Nakajima used Babyface’s own braids to choke her. Antoinette grabbed a steel chain she’d brought the ring and wrapped it around her first to punch out Babyface behind the referee’s back. Babyface kicked out. Tag to Mamushi but Nakajima immediately dropped her.
Antoinette used the referee as a shield before choking Mamushi with her chain. The ref scolded her. Nakajima worked over Mamushi. Mamushi tried firing up but Antoinette pulled her to the floor. Babyface tagged and got a cross arm breaker on Nakajima. Nakajima hit a missile dropkick to Babyface but Mamushi broke up the pin. Antoinette choked her with the chain again while the referee daydreamed. Nakajima with the Cutie Special to Babyface for the pin.
WINNERS: Dangerous Liaisons in 9:26.
(Vasquez’s Perspective: Decent tag match. These four have the costumery worked into more of a practical in-ring style that the other wrestlers should look to. Dangerous Liaisons now have two wins on the night while Cherry Bomb Girls have one and Harajuku Stars and Vandals have none. Stars can get on the board with our main event while Liaisons could make it a clean sweep for their matches.)
-A silent video played of clips of Bull Nakano in her heyday, looking badass and manhandling her opponents. It closed with the words “The Commissioner” Bull Nakano.
-In the arena, the 55-year-old Nakano made her entrance. She wore a black and white suit with a giant jeweled necklace and a Bride Of Frankenstein-esque head wrap that mimicked her old hair, looking like Cruella de Vil. Her face was painted white with the blue lipstick and blue lightning lines of old drawn on. She carried a title belt over her shoulder. The belt was white straps with a mess of colors on the front that looked like it was drawn by a toddler. In English, Nakano said she has come back and is the commissioner of Sukeban. She held up what is the Sukeban World Championship.
-After Nakano left, the ring announcer announced that the winner of tonight’s main event will compete for the title at our next show. Countess Saori was out first for Dangerous Liaisons. Her opponent was Ichigo Sayaka of The Harajuku Stars.
(5) ICHIGO SAYAKA vs. COUNTESS SAORI – SUKEBAN WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP ELIMINATOR
Saori is Saori Anou, who has held gold in Ice Ribbon, Stardom, Oz Academy, and other places. Sayaka is Unagi Sayaka, former Stardom wrestler who held the Future title and trios gold there while a member of Cosmic Angels. She wore a bubblegum pink body suit with white boots, while Saori wore a skimpy black leather outfit.
Saori jumped Sayaka from behind and knocked her to the floor. Saori followed, the first time any wrestlers fought at ringside all night. Saori with a bridging figure four to Sayaka in the ring. Sayaka continued to sell the effects but managed a double leg drop for a two-count.
Sayaka went on a roll and got another near-fall off a sliding clothesline. Fisherman suplex from Saori for two. Another figure four but Sayaka made the rope break. Victory roll from Sayaka for the win?
Both women collapsed on the mat while the referee clarified that it was three. Or wasn’t? The commentators weren’t sure either. Saori with a leg whip. Sayaka with another roll-up. For real this time?
WINNER: Ichigo Sayaka in 11:32.
-Once the ring announcer announced it and Harajuku’s music started playing, the crowd began to applaud.
Commander Nakajima appeared in the ring and shoved Sayaka before tackling her and unloading with right hands. The rest of Harajuku ran out for the save but the rest of Liaisons joined them and the faces were outnumbered.
Bull Nakano broke things up by announcing it will be Sayaka vs. Nakajima to crown the first Sukeban Champion at our next show.
(Vasquez’s Perspective: The best match of the night by far, even if the ending was a mess. The focus was on the match, rather than the characters. I’m definitely in favor of letting the action speak for itself and using outside of the ring promos and videos to get over the character work. Speaking of, for how much the anime videos factored into the pre-show press material, it was surprising how straightforward the night actually went. One match barely finished before they quickly moved onto the next. We got no mic work from anyone when pre-recorded, subtitled videos would have gone a long way toward introducing the characters. Even if you’re well-acquainted with the wrestlers from their work in other promotions, they’re clearly playing completely new characters here, which we know nothing about.
I’m also never a fan of rushing into crowning a champion and there was no explanation as to why Sayaka and Saori were put into contendership over all the other women on the roster or why Nakajima automatically gets to face the winner. Something like an elimination four-way with each faction putting up one member would have made a lot more sense for our main event here. Scott and Leterna are great on commentary but it felt like they weren’t given any more info to work with than the rest of us. It’s still very much early days so any and all criticisms could easily be smoothed out by the time December rolls around. The talent is there and the design and costuming are top-notch. They just need to find a way to scale things back once the bell rings so that the women can wrestle at the high level we know they’re capable of and find some interesting ways to show off the character work outside the ring. Let’s see Dangerous Liaisons causing problems at the mall and the Vandals intimidating some young men at the park.)