What I love most about this particular tag is how every participant has a unique dynamic with both of their opponents. The man in charge, Yuki Ishikawa himself, embodies this the best. Following up on his big loss to Greco the night before, Ishikawa continues to find himself challenged by Greco and struggling to get a foothold against him. Noticeably though, there’s already a sense of escalation from the previous match. Ishikawa’s far scrappier in his interactions with Greco, there’s a greater sense of frustration down on the mat with Ishikawa trying to finesse and then just strike his way out of holds.
In contrast, despite Ikeda being a far more heated rival of Ishikawa’s, the familiarity between the two allows Ishikawa to wrest control of the match. At one point, after getting smothered by Greco down on the mat, Ishikawa even dares Ikeda to tag in himself–one can’t help but wonder if that’s driven by his sense of competition for Ikeda or just seeking a reprieve from the tide of Greco’s offense. It’s likely a healthy balance of the two, one validated by the fact that once Ikeda does tag in to start fighting Ishikawa, the latter has a much easier time staying on top of things. It’s only Greco inserting himself into the equation, tagging in and out or just interfering, that keeps Ishikawa at bay.
Ikeda’s performance might just be my favorite in the entire match though. His particular approach to the BattlArts style is just so gritty in comparison to the rest. Greco and Ishikawa are these wonderful athletes who put so much technique into their manipulations of leverage. Ikeda has some of those qualities, but he’s really just so much more at home blasting people with kicks while he’s not the legal man, or otherwise literally trying to smother opponents and throwing these mean little jabs at them down on the mat. Very much a nuisance throughout the entire match, a shoot style Mayumi Ozaki if you will.
Usuda probably has the least to offer here character-wise, but mechanically he matches up well with everyone involved. He’s also presented far more evenly against both Ikeda and Greco. In fact, he seems to be the only one on his team who can match Greco and somewhat stunt his momentum with big kicks as well as grappling down on the mat. He’s even the one that helps get the big win in the end by knocking out Ikeda.
Much like the Alpha Japan Promotions main event, another strong tag filled with great action that leaves multiple interesting avenues for exploration down the line. Ishikawa’s yet to avenge himself against Greco, Usuda’s rising through the ranks, and there’s a big explosion in an Ishikawa/Ikeda singles looming on the horizon as well.