It’s not every day a wrestling legend retires – but early November saw one of the biggest names in Japan, if not the world, bow out with a bang as Manami Toyota took part in a 50-match marathon!

Yokohama’s Osanbashi Hall was the venue for the event, which saw Manami Toyota wrestle an insane gauntlet of matches, starting with a handicap match and then trundling on for another FIFTY bouts. Needless to say, each match wasn’t exactly a marathon… or else it’d be more than rivalling this year’s WrestleMania for match time!

The general formula here was: challenger gets a short piece to camera, where they usually posed or danced awkwardly as their music played in the background. They had their match, then would give Toyota flowers (not all of which were shown on TV, for reasons I’m sure you’d guess).

Our opener was a four-on-one handicap match that saw Toyota lose to the quartet of Alex Lee, Maya Yukihi, Mayumi Ozaki & Yumi Ohka. I’m not going to pretend to be massively familiar with these names, but it went just as you’d expect, except for the guy in the ring wearing a black t-shirt with POLICE written on it. Toyota nearly snatched the win, but was instantly kicked outside and thrown into the guard rails by said manager, as the ensuing brawl in the crowd led to a count-out.

Toyota then embarked on a series of (mostly) one-minute time limit matches, initially beating Tequila Saya with a moonsault, before Hamuko Hoshi & Mochi Miyagi gave Manami an excuse to dance, before pinning her with a sandwiched splash. Meiko Satomura comes out next (someone whom I’ve been lucky to see six times this year… which is about six more than I expected!).

Satomura goes the distance, after failing to make the cover from a DDT and cartwheel knee. Toyota was very amicable towards someone who’d just dropped a knee in her skull…

Emi Sakura’s next (another name I’ve seen live more than I expected, thanks to EVE), and despite suckering Manami in with some crying, Toyota locks in a camel clutch that Emi taps to before it’s even been applied. Poor Emi, not even having Rhio on hand could help her! Rina Yamashita, Tsubasa Kuragaki, AKINO, Risa Sera (who didn’t get DQ’d despite having half a dozen people interfere on her behalf), Drake Morimatsu and Cherry all had varying degrees of luck in the ring, although they all had to make do with time-limit draws.

Truth be told, a lot of this reminded me of the times you play a video game against someone who doesn’t know the controls… and have to play dumb to run out the time limit, or at least not squash them.

Aoi Kizuki broke the streak of draws… but despite jumping Toyota at the bell, she fell to a Khali chop and an awkward slam that turned into a small package. We’re back to mostly draws, with Yuki Miyazaki spending a lot of her 60 seconds kissing Manami before running out of time, opting for a leg-spreading submission that would get this site on adult blacklists if we screen capped it.

After getting rolled up by Bolshoi Kid, GAMI and Sakura Hirota – dressed as Manami Toyota – went to a draw after spending too long mirroring each other. Kaori Yoneyama fell in 32 seconds, despite going for roll-ups and inside cradles, as Toyota reverses a small package for the win. Four more draws follow as Sonoko Kato, Leon, Yuu Yamagata and ASUKA (not the one on Raw) tried their luck before falling to the pattern of “trying for one move too many and running out of time”. Fortunately, everyone gave Manami flowers after their match, so there’s plenty of recovery time!

ASUKA looked pretty decent for her sixty seconds, flying around with a springboard plancha to the outside, before a missile dropkick to Toyota (still outside) ran out the clock as ASUKA looked to have winded herself doing that.

Kaho Kobayashi nearly got a draw for herself too, but Toyota managed to withstand the offence and get the win with the Ocean Cyclone Suplex – the first time we saw that move today. Hikaru Shida, Hiroyo Matsumoto and Ayako Hamada took us back to draw-town, again with some rather liberal officiating as DQs didn’t get called.

Chikayo Nagashima started the 24th stage by whipping Toyota with her ring jacket, before some dizzying roll-ups had their desired effect and left the veteran woozy enough to get pinned – narrowly beating the time in doing so. Ikuto Hidaka – who had his own retirement special earlier this year (with 21 similar matches on the same show) – was next up, and held on for long enough to go to a draw as Toyota blasted him with axe kicks until time ran out.

Another masked wrestler followed as Papillon Akemi entered for another draw, as Akemi spent too long trying to get a roll-up that it was reversed. Toyota couldn’t repeat Nagashima’s trick though as time ran out on her before she remembered to try for a pin. We’re back to the masks as Gabai Ji-chan – who works as Marines Mask elsewhere (I swear we’ve covered him on a Lion’s Gate Project show) – shuffled down to the ring. He takes so long that Toyota joins him in the aisle – with the bell conveniently ringing at this point. The referee starts the count, and of course it’s a ruse, as Gabai sandbags himself into the ring before using his walking stick to poke Toyota off the apron for the count-out. Comedy~!

Kanjyouro Matsuyama gets a familiar draw from a slapping fight, before Toyota gets back on track with a seven second win over KID. A male stripper who’s wearing way too little, and gets put away promptly with a big boot. Thanks for coming.

The comedy rolls on with Mini Antonio Inoki, whom Toyota does not look impressed with, but somehow manages to go the distance with, as an Octopus hold and a diving knee to the crotch didn’t get the job done. Alexander Otsuka, another man in a thong way too small for any kind of decency comes out next… and actually wins as the ref DQ’s Toyota for threatening to strip him naked?!

DDT’s Isami Kodaka follows, and instantly takes Toyota outside for a tope. She replies with a low blow before our second Ocean Cyclone Suplex of the day gave her the win. Big Japan’s Ryuji Ito comes out with a barbed wire board (?!), which he tries to suplex Toyota though… instead he just slams Toyota onto it for a near-fall before a frog splash onto Toyota (on the board) gets the win with seconds remaining. Carlos Amano gets us back to the draws once that board’s been removed, and for some reason they decide to replace a match with… a sit down and a chat? ALL THE STARS!

More draws follow as a Toyota went the distance in a tag match with Las Cachorras Orientales (the pairing of Etsuko Mita & Mima Shimoda), then it was back to the singles with a draw against Itsuki Yamazaki, before the big guns came out… Bull Nakano was number 37! She didn’t seem dressed to wrestle, but she did anyway, whacking Toyota with some nunchucks before being rolled up for the win. Hey, it counts!

Chigusa Nagoya’s next, and after a long tie-up into the ropes, a simple bodyslam gets the win for Toyota. On any other show, this would be mocked, but this is more about the ceremony than (almost) anything else. Jaguar Yokota and Mariko Yoshida (who was a few weeks away from her own retirement show) record some more draws, before Nanae Takahashi narrowly beat the clock, pinning Toyota with her own Queen Bee Bomb (a move also known in the States as the Snow Plow).

KAORU starts her match by beating Toyota with what looked like a board – before the ref refused to count a pin after a brainbuster onto it. So she uses the same bit of wood and just throws it onto Toyota from the top rope as time runs out… and they’re still friends. Kaoru Ito’s next, confusingly, and after getting outside help from Mariko Yoshida, she’s able to polish off Manami with a double stomp off the top – with the ref thinking twice over holding up the count.

Tomoko Watanabe is out at 44, as we’re heading into the final furlongs of this marathon, but she eats up a lot of time looking for a selfie, so of course… a draw! Takako Inoue follows, with a freaking stun gun?! Fortunately Toyota avoids it, only to get knocked off the top rope with what I can best describe an inverted lungblower before time ran out. Next is Yumiko Hotta, who goes straight for Toyota’s legs with kicks, eventually finishing her off with a spinning heel kick for a delayed three-count with seconds left. Our final draw sees Kyoko Inoue go the distance, as she ended a long tie-up series with a powerbomb just as the clock ran out.

Manami Toyota vs. Tsukasa Fujimoto
For the main event, Manami Toyota had a proper entrance as she faced Ice Ribbon’s Tsukasa Fujimoto. A refused handshake led to Fujimoto charging out at Toyota, before teasing her own move – the Ocean Cyclone Suplex. We’ve binned the sixty-second time limit here, which may not have been for the best as Fujimoto was choked in the ropes, then dropkicked to the outside.

Toyota tried for a dive, but she was knocked off the top rope so Fujimoto could pull one off herself. Her offence quickly ended when Toyota Kiwi rolled her around the ring, eventually scoring a two-count, but Fujimoto fights back and again tries for the Ocean Cyclone Suplex! It’s escaped, as Toyota instead hits an axe kick to the back for a near-fall, then a top rope moonsault, before another comeback almost saw Tsukasa win it with a PK.

A sunset bomb out of the corner keeps the pressure up on Toyota, but in the end she catches Fujimoto climbing the ropes – and snaps her down with the Ocean Cyclone Suplex for the win! ***

Manami Toyota vs. Tsukasa Fujimoto
Fujimoto attacked Toyota after the bell, so we get an instant rematch?! A Del Rio-esque double stomp out of the corner looked to have gotten Fujimoto instant redemption, but Toyota gets up at two, before almost catching her with another Ocean Cyclone Suplex, like in the first match.

Fujimoto escapes and gets a bunch of near-falls with stomps, but she’s again caught with an axe kick before the Queen Bee Bomb turned things back in the veteran’s favour, with a second one of those getting another pin! **½

It’s still not enough, and Toyota’s again attacked as Fujimoto seems to want a win, so we have a third match!

Manami Toyota vs. Tsukasa Fujimoto
More kicks start us off, but Toyota just boots Fujimoto off the top rope as the match heads outside, allowing Toyota to wipe out a pile of folks with a crossbody off the top rope.

A missile dropkick back in the ring keeps Fujimoto down, but it’s not enough for a third cover, nor was an Ocean Cyclone Suplex, as Fujimoto actually kicked out of it. Fujimoto gets her feet up to block a moonsault, and comes back with a Code Red that nearly pins the battle-weary Toyota, as Fujimoto opts to start spamming missile dropkicks.

The barrage of dropkicks nearly did it, before a springboard enziguiri out of the corner left Toyota woozy enough for Fujimoto to finally hit her with her own move… and that is that! With the finisher symbolically handed down to the next generation, Toyota went out with a loss on the back of a marathon retirement show.

All that was left was the ceremony, as Toyota was effectively buried under a mountain of streamers as her active career came to a close.

It’s hard to properly review a show like this – effectively a tribute show, the “matches” on offer were mostly throwaway outings to give as many people as possible a chance to have their “last match” with a legend. As a show, it’s worth the watch just for the occasion, but be prepared for several moments of awkwardness and plenty of faces you’ll probably never see again!