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AEW Women’s Championship Eliminator Tournament recap: Thunder Rosa shocks Riho

AEW’s women’s world championship eliminator tournament is down to the nitty-gritty. A special Sunday broadcast featured Thunder Rosa versus Riho in the USA semifinal and Yuka Sakazaki vs Ryo Mizunami in the Japan final.

USA semifinal: Thunder Rosa vs Riho

The main event of the evening lived up to its feature attraction status. Thunder Rosa and Riho grappled to a stalemate early. A dropkick from Riho was answered with a pair of suplexes and a rope-hung big boot from Rosa. Thunder treated Riho like Gumby with a variety of bendy submissions.

Rosa utilized her physicality advantage. When Riho tried to throw blows back, she was pounded down to the mat. All that punishment didn’t put a dent into Riho’s heart. Riho escaped an airplane spin to snap into a dragon suplex.

As the two competitors were battling on the turnbuckles, Riho got the upper hand for a flying foot stomp to Rosa, who was hung in the corner. Riho and Rosa unleashed strikes of fury in the center of the ring. Thunder erupted with a powerful clothesline.

After a kick out, Rosa bent over for her finisher. Riho surprised Rosa with a roll-up. Rosa was able to get free, then she surprised Riho with a tight outside cradle for the 1, 2, 3.


Japan final: Yuka Sakazaki vs Ryo Mizunami

Speed versus power. Ryo Mizunami controlled the flow early with Yuka Sakazaki’s shiftiness as effective defense but less so on offense. The competitive match took a bit to show a true advantage either way. Mizunami scored the first hefty maneuver on a deadlift wheelbarrow suplex.

Mizunami was able to cinch in a head and arm triangle, but Sakazaki rolled through to escape and apply a triangle choke. Mizunami broke free with a powerbomb.

Sakazaki had momentum and aimed to finish the fight. She hit a springboard frog splash but then missed a springboard 450 splash. Mizunami flattened her adversary with a uranage slam.

Sakazaki still was able to use her wits for quick pinfall attempts, however, that culminated with taking a big spear from Mizunami. The tackle was the turning point. Mizunami hammered a short-arm clothesline and earned the win via inside hook cradle driver.

Maki Itoh, Veny, & Emi Sakura vs Mei Suruga, Rin Kadokura, & Hikaru Shida

The opener was a six-woman bonus bout with AEW Women’s Champion Hikaru Shida mixing it up in the ring. Maki Itoh came out first to grace the ring with a full song and dance routine. Of course, Taz joined in humming from the commentary table. Itoh even belted out notes during the match as Emi Sukura was applying a rolling surfboard to Mei Suruga.

The pace was non-stop action with some nifty sequences. Shida set up two opponents on the corner then suplexed Veny onto them.

Shida also had a reverse cazadora into a knee drop. Sakura had a trick up her sleeve as teacher with a double stretch muffler.

The champ was in trouble after a German suplex by Veny, a headbutt by Itoh, and a Liger bomb by Veny, but Shida showed her fighting spirit to kick out. Shida took over in the end with two vertical suplexes and a Tamashii knee strike to Veny. The others were able to break the pin. After a mini skirmish, Shida closed it out with a Falcon Arrow and Tamashii to pin Veny for victory.

After the contest, Sakura attacked Shida. As did Itoh. Shida sent them both packing, then Sakura stomped on Itoh just because she can.

AEW’s women’s tournament has been quite delightful overall. The majority of matches have been intense with unpredictable finishes. Sunday’s contests were no different. Thunder Rosa’s roll-up and Ryo Mizunami’s clubbing driver came from digging deep into the well of resilience. I wasn’t expecting either move to be the end, so it caused a pleasant rise of emotion when the referee’s hand slapped the mat for three.

Riho is the darling of AEW, and winning the tournament could have been an easy showcase to spring back to the top. I’m glad that Thunder Rosa stood in her way. Yes, I’m a fan, but it is more about creating a unique path through the bracket. Thunder Rosa versus Nyla Rose in the USA final is going to be awesome. Thunder may be the only woman on the roster who is more aggressive than Nyla.

Ryo Mizunami has become a star in advancing this far. I knew close to nothing about her beforehand, and now I’m a fan of her determination and rugged style. I don’t think she is at the level to carry the AEW Women’s Championship yet, but I definitely want to tune in whenever she is on Dynamite. It will be interesting to see if AEW rolls the dice to have her compete against Shida at the PPV. I could see it starting low in fan emotion then ending as a sneaky pick to steal the show.

The opener was lots of fun with Maki Itoh being a magnet of charisma. Shida’s performance cemented why she is the best in AEW’s women’s division. She carries herself like an ass-kicker with an iron will to refuse defeat. Emi Sakura was the only one to match her skills, but Shida has an aura that eclipses Sakura.

The broadcast wasn’t all lemon drops and sunshine. Bleacher Report had issues streaming internationally, so Tony Khan had AEW post the show on YouTube.

Thunder Rosa is scheduled to wrestle Nyla Rose in the USA final in a YouTube special Monday at 7 pm ET. The winner will square off with Ryo Mizunami on Dynamite. The victor will go on to get their title shot against Hikaru Shida at the Revolution PPV on March 7.

Share your reaction to the special edition of matches from the women’s tournament. Which contest stole the show? Are you happy with the choice of winners?

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