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[2001-04-21-ARSION] Ayako Hamada vs Mariko Yoshida

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Their previous matches were quick tournament finals, with Ayako as a huge underdog. Now, Ayako is the champion and they have their sights set on „epic“. Largely this match was pretty great, but there are some flaws. Yoshida dominating Ayako with submissions and punch combos still works perfectly, and these two still mesh really well. I thought Ayako's selling was great, and the spot that set up her dominance was both brutal and really smart. All of Ayako's stuff was extremely sharp and well timed. However, I expected a little smarter work from Yoshida in the last third of the match. Her selling was pretty spotty and she could've picked her offense a little better as the match progressed, as the previous urgency was a deflated a little. However, they redeem themselves with a great finish that was just fucking awesome pro wrestling. Anyways, this is one of the better and more interesting matchups japanese wrestling had in the store in the 2000s, and to be fair some of the flaws here are par for the course with lesser workers.

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This was a good match. I thought it was a step in the right direction for Hamada who had struggled to assert herself in her title defenses to date. It was pretty clear to me that she wasn't ready yet to step up to the role of The Woman yet and was much more comfortable testing herself against a superior opponent like Yoshida. In some respects, that makes Hamada's champion status an awkward fit, but from a match perspective, this was much more interesting than trying to watch her set the tone against inferior challengers. Honestly speaking, I wish they had made Yoshida the dominant force in ARSION and kept Hamada as the challenger but startup promotions like ARSION are never going to be perfectly booked. It's regrettable that they wasted some valuable years of Yoshida's prime, particularly in the new style that she'd forged, but while this wasn't great, it's an interesting and overlooked part of her back catalog. 

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