Ice Ribbon remains one of the prominent Joshi promotions in Japan despite the major changes it has had to endure over the last year. A lot of the reason is due to the roster's mix of up-and-coming stars, veterans, and freelancers but most importantly -- a roster that has the drive to be great and grow together as one.
Yappy, one of the many dedicated roster members of Ice Ribbon and the driving force behind the promotion's English content, was willing to talk with us as part of the Ice Ribbon interview series to discuss a number of topics. Those topics include the new era of Ice Ribbon and why everyone should be excited about it, her efforts to bring more international fans to the product, personal goals in the ring, why now is such a good time to check out the promotion, and so much more!
Here's what Yappy had to say.
Q: What’s the most exciting part about this new era for Ice Ribbon?
A: For me, it’s watching everyone race to the top. For several years Ice Ribbon’s top card has been dominated by pretty much the same group. You can generally tell who’s capable of beating who, and who are the ones who will be viable threats to a title reign. So the dynamic then is that of people trying to stay on top.
Right now it’s a fresh start, with lots of fresh faces with shorter careers so the whole mix has become a bit more unpredictable. Right now people are able to witness the beginning of several journeys taking place simultaneously. Even my position – physically I’m stronger than most of the roster and on paper, I should be able to take them down, but I’m always falling victim to those damn rookie rollups!
And I think that’s something that is a special element in Japanese wrestling, where people aren’t just trying to prove they’re the most badass or trying to be intimidating on the mic. Everyone is on a personal journey and more than badassery and just being dominating in the ring, our audience enjoys seeing their favorite wrestlers grow as they overcome their own hurdles.
Q: For new fans who may want to check out the promotion, where would you recommend they start?
A: To get a fast-forward view of Ice Ribbon’s history they can start with the Ribbonmania shows leading up to the latest one because here you can see how the roster grows and changes over the years. And then from the new era they can start from the Yokohama Budokan show of 2022.
Q: The Ice Ribbon dojo is a special place that has produced some of the best wrestlers in the world — can you explain what makes it so special?
A: I think it’s mostly because the wrestlers aren’t pressured to fit any certain image or preconception of what a wrestler should be. While other promotions will have call for auditions – meaning that when you come to their dojo you already gotta believe that you already have it and you gotta prove yourself – our way of scouting is that we just have open lessons for anyone, and I mean anyone at all, to come and try it out; and eventually there are those who end up debuting as wrestlers, even if in the past they would have never even imagined themselves doing so. I'm one of those people! I thought I was just starting a new hobby but look at me now. Quit my day job and working in wrestling full time! So we get a more diverse group of students, whether it be age, or athletic background, and especially backstory. And we allow them to grow at their pace, and when they finally debut in the ring, it’s not a manufactured personality that they show the audience, but a stronger, more magnified projection of their true selves. And when you’re not faking who you are, you just have a more authentic presence when you’re out there.
Q: You’ve been creating the Weekly Ribbon Unravel videos for English-speaking fans — how has your experience been doing the show and what’s your ultimate goal with each video?
A: It’s been a LOT of work! The other shows put out by Ice Ribbon (save for Totoro’s Twitcast, which she casually broadcasts from home) have at least two other people helping with production. I have to do everything myself – the planning, the script, the editing… It takes me about 30 hours to complete one half-hour episode. And I volunteered to do this, I don’t get paid extra for doing it, save for the superchat donations sent during the premier broadcast. And sometimes while editing I’d be thinking, “What am I doing this for? Is it worth it?” But then during the live chat of the premier broadcast, I get to talk and interact with the international fans and they thank me for the show and truly seem to enjoy it and that’s where I feel like it’s been worth it. it’s truly a labor of love on my part.
My ultimate goal of course is to make Ice Ribbon more accessible for overseas audiences, which has been something I've been aiming for ever since I debuted. I know people would sometimes get lost in the storylines, and with all the wrestling available out there, sometimes you fall behind in some promotions and when that happens, getting caught up sounds like a chore and your interest wanes. This show is to keep people up to date with what’s happening, and also it’s a way to engage with them because I have a Q&A portion where people can send questions and learn things about Ice Ribbon and Japanese wrestling in general that they wouldn’t have known otherwise.
Often online I see international fans doing a whole lot of guesswork as to what’s happening at Ice Ribbon and sometimes I’d be like “No no no no no that’s wrong, you’re wrong, that’s not it at all!” and this show also helps clear up those misconceptions!
Q: Was there a match that got you into pro wrestling? If so, what was it?
A: I’m not sure, as I was about 7 years old when I started watching wrestling. It was the original GLOW back in the 80’s! My family would watch it together and it was one of my favorite shows then! However, decades later when I pretty much forgot about wrestling already, a friend invited me to see a Reina show in 2016, and there I saw some Ice Ribbon alumni, and it kind of rekindled those old feelings I had as a child. It wasn't until 2017 that I showed up at the Ice Ribbon dojo, though. It was a very slow burn!
Q: Is there anyone you’d like to face inside the ring that you haven’t before?
A: Not a wrestler in particular, but Ice Ribbon has a lot of smaller-bodied wrestlers on the roster, so I’m so used to picking up people and throwing them. I need to learn to face more hosses! I don’t have enough experience in fighting someone I can't just pick up and throw!
Q: For those who don’t know, how can fans access Ice Ribbon?
A: For overseas fans, the easiest way to access it is through our YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/user/iceribbon) ! This is where you can see our hype videos for upcoming shows, video digests which features highlights from the latest shows, as well as my weekly English Ice Ribbon news show, The Weekly Ribbon Unravel. We have a membership service on YouTube called Club ICERIBBON which gives you access to watch our weekly dojo shows broadcasted live, and there are some extra fun videos included as well. And once in a while we will throw in a big show as a bonus.
We also have a Nico Nico Channel (https://ch.nicovideo.jp/iceribbon) where the other livestream programs are broadcast, and contains an archive of Ice Ribbon matches going back for more than 10 years. We recently started using a new platform for our live pay-per-views which can be found at https://iceribbonlive.ctpfs.jp/ and here you can also purchase digital signed portraits of the roster and video messages recorded especially for you on the day of the show.
Q: As discussed at the beginning of the interview, this is a new era for Ice Ribbon. Why is now the best time for international fans to get into the promotion in your opinion?
A: It’s pretty much a fresh start so there’s less background to get caught up on. You know how hard it is sometimes to get into a new promotion and you need to take a crash course on who’s who, who’s on a feud with who, what’s their history in the company so far, and so on. Right now you don’t need all that, you can just jump in, pretty much see right away what each wrestler is about, and simply enjoy the ride from there! And then you’ll be right there with us as we write a new chapter in our history. Or maybe a new volume!
We want to thank Yappy for taking the time out of her busy schedule to give us such great answers to not only help international fans learn about Ice Ribbon but hopefully convince them to want to check it out in the future.
This was the second entry of the Ice Ribbon interview series. If you want to check out the previous conversation with Ice Ribbon's Tsukasa Fujimoto, click here. And make sure to keep an eye out for more interviews in the future.
You can find Yappy on Twitter: @Yapi