Tsukasa Fujimoto has won the IcexInfinity Championship so many times and so often you have to wonder if some of the powder blue and gold title hasn’t seeped into her bloodstream.
To see her waist without that glittery belt is jarring. Fujimoto looks incomplete. It’s like seeing the Pope without a pectoral cross hanging from his neck.
That’s where we are now after her loss to Tsukushi Haruka on November 13th. The queen is crownless. The hunted reverts back to hunter mode.
294 days as Ice Ribbon’s top champion ended courtesy of a Japanese Ocean Suplex at the close of a great match.
No surprise there. If there is anything more certain in Ice Ribbon than a Fujimoto title reign, it’s the 13-year vet delivering in big bouts.
Any quality list of Ice Ribbon’s best matches will be heavy on Fujimoto, from her and Arisa Nakajima teaming against Emi Sakura and Nanae Takahashi at Ice Ribbon’s 10th anniversary show in 2016 to Fujimoto going 30 minutes against Maya Yukihi in a classic in Osaka in 2019.
The heat of the spotlight seems to give her strength in the way that Earth’s yellow sun gives Superman great power.
That has been the case since she first claimed the IcexInfinity Championship back in 2010 and continued this year in Fujimoto’s seventh reign. In 11 months as champ, the red-robed star thrived in slugfest and sprint alike. She had a thriller against 19-year-old Suzu Suzuki, built on her rivalry with Yukihi, and helped make Haruka’s big title win a memorable one.
She was simply fantastic this year. Per her usual.
Fujimoto strides in the ring with swagger and a smile looking like a royal figure from the Star Wars universe. Her presence buzzes. She is effervescent, at times bounding across the ring like a deer in a meadow, fluid and graceful. That side of her blends seamlessly with the requisite viciousness required of a wrestling champion. Fujimoto is nasty. She kicks a foe’s chest with equal parts artistry and malicious intent.
This latest reign as Ice Ribbon’s top titleholder, a near year-long showcase, began on a chilly January night in Tokyo.
Fujimoto challenged Suzuki, the young, rising sensation who has since become the newest face of deathmatch wrestling. It’s a match where we see Suzuki’s fury and defiance on full display. Fujimoto, though, takes all her best shots and soldiers on.
The ace cracks Suzuki with kicks that look like they are rattling her soul inside her.
The main event ended with a spinning kick from the top rope, a wild and gorgeous somersault, Fujimoto nailing the teenage star in the head before pinning her. Her ponytail threatening to come completely loose, her face stretched into a grimace, Fujimoto scores a three-count. And with that, she is champion. Again.
In February, the bruising, intimidating Rina Yamashita challenged Fujimoto at the RE:BORN show at Korakuen Hall.
The freelancer owned the size and strength advantage. Yamashita flung Fujimoto around, blasting her with lariats. This soon became a story of survival, a show of the champion’s fire and fight. Fujimoto rolled her foe up to steal the win and end another quality showing.
Next came Yukihi who has been banging heads with Fujimoto since the close of 2014.
It is an even matchup, be it on the mat or when the two foes trade kicks. The action is fluid, fast, alive with their chemistry. Yukihi, the stronger of the two, looks to do big damage to Fujimoto’s back, but the always resilient champion fights her off.
The result is another banger in their long rivalry.
Fujimoto then fended off Haruka at Spring is Short, Fight Girl. While not the classic these two would have seven months later, the warriors gave us a physical battle packed full of one-upmanship. Last Word on Pro Wrestling editor Scott E. Wrestling wrote that it was “everything you want in a title match.”
The champion’s most violent and visceral match came in September at the Ribbon No Kishi event.
Midway through it, Fujimoto’s chest is nearly the same shade of red as her skirt. She finds herself in a dogfight against the toothy grinned Ibuki Hoshi to keep the ICExInfinity Championship. They trade chops that leave the champion wincing and the challenger stumbling back, a crack of flesh, a thunderclap against the collarbone, echo against the walls of Korakuen Hall, repeat.
The slugfest is easily the best match in the super young Hoshi’s career. That is no accident. Fujimoto is skilled at bringing out her opponent’s best.
That was true once more in November when Haruka snatched the title from Fujimoto in her finest work to date.
In a true contender for Match of the Year, Fujimoto and Haruka landed haymakers throughout a vicious bout. A frenzied Haruka stole from Fujimoto’s playbook and hit the champion with a flurry of her own signature moves. They shattered a folding chair and created a work of art in the process.
This has been the norm for Fujimoto for a decade plus: win the title, defend her spot on the mountaintop, be remarkable through it all.
She is a dominant figure, central to the Ice Ribbon story, a perennial franchise player, synonymous with the promotion. Fujimoto has reigned as IcexInfinity champ for a total 1,580 days. That includes a 600-plus day stretch where she held the title from July 2013 to March 2015. She has been Ice Ribbon’s top dog longer than the Confederacy lasted.
Beyond the numbers, Fujimoto has thrived from an artistic standpoint. Yes, her reigns have been like an arthouse movie only a select slice of the population ever sees, but damn have they ever been good. Her name doesn’t get thrown around in conversations about wrestling greatness nearly enough.
Blame the small reach of the Ice Ribbon brand, the obscurity of her kingdom. To those who are paying attention, there is all the reason in the world to throw flowers at her feet until your arm goes numb.
Her empire is set to look quite different now that Suzuki, Risa Sera, Yukihi, and others are leaving Ice Ribbon to form a deathmatch troupe. The names battling to sit in the throne will change, but the crown promises to sit atop that familiar head again.
History says we will see Fujimoto reclaim the gold before long and the thrillers will keep on coming.