One year ago, Tam Nakano was forced to leave the Oedo Tai stable after losing a stipulation match to the Queens Quest stable, specifically dropping the final fall to Momo Watanabe. During that year Momo Watanabe rose up the ranks to become the leader of the current generation of Stardom and the standard of excellence for the company. Momo won and defended the Wonder Of Stardom title and Goddesses Of Stardom tag team titles while putting together one of the most impressive resumes of main event matches in all of 2018. Tam Nakano was not so lucky. She was adopted by the Stars stable and had a very chaotic year with many highs and many lows. Now that the health of Stars' leader, Mayu Iwatani is in question, Tam must prove that the Stars stable is more than just Mayu, and Tam herself is a force to be taken seriously.
In January 2005 Raven filmed a shoot interview for ROH as a part of the Secrets Of The Ring DVD series. The interview mainly focused on basic pro wrestling psychology, with a lot of Raven-like tangents over the 2 hours run time. I highly recommend it for anyone who wants to gain a better appreciation for how and why wrestling works. One of the concepts that Raven covered in that interview is the difference between Working and Performing. The TL:DR version is that performing is about moves while working is about drama. This match in this era of wrestling is an excellent example of that distinction.
This match is not pretty. I'm sure that many modern fans that treasure execution above all else would look at the dirty strike exchanges where an exhausted Tam is missing or just barely gracing Momo with imperfect kicks and scoff at it. I am not one of those fans. I found this match to be utterly compelling. This wasn't a performance. This was a dramatic battle. I would even go as far as to say that the ugliness and imperfections not only didn't detract from the final product but enhanced it. This wasn't a multi-million dollar blockbuster that grosses $1 billion at the box office. This was an old spaghetti Western where you can see every crack on the middle age actor's faces during the zoom ins.
I think the reason why the imperfections worked in this match, but often don't work in the average sloppy match is that distinction between working Vs. performing. When a move or a spot goes sideways on a green wrestler that wrestler often looks lost. They might freeze, they might repeat the move as if the spot will be fixed in editing, or they might just act like everything went fine. They don't react naturally, because they are performing a predetermined series of events. They aren't fighting. In a real fight, you show the frustration and exhaustion. That's what makes fights emotional and dramatic. Working, of course, is the art of using real emotions to create fake drama.
A great strength that both Momo and Tam have as wrestlers is their ability to display emotions. Both have great facial expressions throughout the match. Not over the top expressions that stand out, but you can always tell exactly what they are feeling at all times. Also, both did an excellent job of pacing the match so that it flowed naturally. The spots didn't feel like a pre-programmed series of events. They felt like natural actions and reactions as the fight went on.
Overall, I really enjoyed this match. It makes the match of the year list. Although I have a feeling I'm going to have a tough time ranking it at the end of the year when it comes time to compare it to the rest of the field. A few days ago I reviewed another Joshi match that I also described as a "fight," and that also made the match of the year list. Sendai Girl's Chihiro Hashimoto Vs. Sareee. I'll just put it this way: Chihiro Vs. Sareee is like a great classic heavy metal song. It gains its power from its precision and higher skill. Tam Vs. Momo is like a great classic Punk Rock song in comparison. Simpler and less perfect, but that dirty simplicity also gives it power and makes it interesting.