The Owen Hart Foundation Tournament has created some very intriguing potential match-ups as we head towards its kick-off in Long Island next Wednesday (Buy Tickets) night. Thus far on the Women’s side of the coin Britt Baker, Jamie Hayter, Ruby Soho, Toni Storm, Hikaru Shida, and Red Velvet have qualified, either Riho or Yuka Sakazaki will join the field on Friday, and presumably the last spot will be filled just as the Men’s Tournament is, with a Joker Card taking the final slot.
With that first round, one thing fans are already guaranteed to experience is a Quarter-Final match-up between Jamie Hayter and Toni Storm, and before things officially get underway, the faithful will also get this tag team bout between four of the qualifying entrants! Toni Storm and Ruby Soho have only ever shared a ring once in their careers, and that was merely as two of thirty other women occupying the same space early last year. She’s never been inside the squared circle with Britt, and just one time back in 2018 did Toni and Hayter fight as part of a Three Way for the UK’s Pro Wrestling EVE promotion.
Now as for Ruby Soho, while the history between her and Team Britt here in All Elite Wrestling has been quite well documented. Soho won the Women’s Casino Battle Royale at All Out 2021 to earn a shot at Baker’s AEW Women’s World Title, she pinned Rebel in a Six Woman tag to defeat Team Britt prior to their title fight, and it was only because of Hayter and Rebel that Soho even lost her championship challenge at Dynamite: Grand Slam last year. There was never a rematch for Soho, the closest she got was a tag team victory over Baker and Hayter back in January with Riho as her partner, but now with this tag match, with the Owen Hart Tournament, Soho has a chance for revenge on those who screwed her over last year, and Storm has an opportunity to get a little advantage before her collision with Jamie Hayter.
It’s a first time teaming for Ruby and Toni, but Team Britt is 0-2 on the year as a pair with Ruby partial responsible for one of those L’s. Which duo will win out on Rampage?
On Friday night, as part of the Qualifying Matches for the Women’s Owen Hart Foundation Tournament, two women are making their returns to All Elite Wrestling! Riho, the first-ever AEW Women’s World Champion, has been out of action recovering from a broken collarbone since January’s Battle of the Belts championship challenge against Dr. Britt Baker, and Rampage will mark her first match back anywhere since that night in North Carolina. Coincidentally, the Bojangles Coliseum on 8/2/21 was also the last place Riho’s opponent competed for AEW!
That night on Dark: Elevation Yuka defeated Dani Jordyn in a singles match before returning to Japan where she competes regularly for the Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling promotion. Currently reigning as one-half of the Princess Tag Team Champions with Magical Sugar Rabbits partner Mizuki, there’s a bit of history between these two women both in AEW and in Japan as well. Prior to AEW’s founding, the two women battled over those Princess Tag Titles during each of Yuka’s prior two reigns, and in that first championship fight, it was actually Yuka’s current partner Mizuki who teamed with Riho!
As far as AEW goes, Yuka Sakazaki and Riho go back to the very first days of the company’s existence, to the very first event under the All Elite banner, Double or Nothing 2019. That night the two women were on opposite sides of a Six Woman Tag, Riho with Hikaru Shida and Ryo Mizunami while Yuka teamed with Aja Kong and Emi Sakura, and it was Riho’s team who picked up the victory.
The two women met again a month later at Fyter Fest 2019, this time as part of a Three Way Match that included “The Native Beast” Nyla Rose, and once again it was Riho who got her hand raised, this time after pinning Rose. Riho would again be the victor in a mixed tag in Taiwan for the OWE promotion that included Kenny Omega and Michael Nakazawa, and it would be the last time the women faced as foes, leaving the former AEW Women’s World Champion with a 4-2 record against Yuka. The next, and last, time they shared a ring would actually be as partners on the March 3, 2020 edition of Dark in a losing tag opposite Dr. Britt Baker and Penelope Ford. That night in Chicago would prove to be the last AEW saw Yuka Sakazaki for a year, while Riho would remain for another couple weeks, until COVID pandemic travel restrictions kept them away. It wasn’t until the February 2021Women’s World Title Eliminator Tournament that the two women returned to the fold, albeit in Yuka’s case via matches recorded in Japan.
Riho would remain as part of the locker room essentially until the injury forced her return to Japan, while Yuka was only able to return for one month last July where she picked up a quartet of victories before returning home. “The Magical Girl” has experienced some great successes during her time away like the current 200+ day Princess Tag Title reign, and participated in some wild matches like a 20-on-1 Handicap Match and a Five Way Falls Count Anywhere match. Sakazaki has never stopped fighting since AEW fans last saw her, while Riho is just itching to get back to competition after four months away from the ring. Add in the fact that this first ever one-on-one meeting is for a highly coveted spot in the Owen Hart Foundation Tournament, and it’s got all the makings of an absolute top shelf contest!