January 4th might be Tokyo Dome day, but it’s quickly becoming Tokyo Joshi day too. Before making my way to Wrestle Kingdom, I wandered into Korakuen for the final time on this trip to watch a show with one hell of a card. Could it live up to it? Time to find out.
As has been the norm for reviews from this holiday, don’t expect too much in-depth detail. I don’t take notes and it’s much harder to write long reviews off of memory alone.
The Up Up Girls kicked us off sporting their new gear and performing ‘Upper Kick’. If Miu Watanabe ever wants to be in a hardcore band, she could definitely pull it off. She has the same approach to crowd control as many of my favourite punk bands as you get the impression that if you don’t get involved, she’s going to wander into the stands and personally make sure you do. I’d probably be more scared of Miu than most of those bands, though.
Haruna Neko and Suzume defeated Mahiro Kiryu and Sena Shiori
Shiori was making her debut and rocketed straight to the top of the TJPW entrance theme charts. There is some fucking death metal in there, and I loved it. She also had a solid debut, looking alright in the ring and getting through without making any mistakes. I can’t imagine how terrifying it is to have your first match at Korakuen Hall, so not dropping someone on their head is the bar I set.
Outside of that, it was a fun little opener. Kiryu engaged in some animal abuse by going after Neko’s tail before Suzume got the win with a Sleeper. It goes down as a very enjoyable start to the show.
Verdict: Three Stars
Shoko Nakajima defeated Hyper Misao in a Rename In The Pinata Loser Name Change match
Hyper Misao had only just rediscovered herself, and now she has to give up her name for a month! To win Shoko had a climb a ladder and pull the naming rights out of a giant pinata above the ring. Each wrestler was also allowed one weapon, Nakajima picking a bag full of particularly spikey kaiju toys (technically more than one, but we’ll let her off). Misao, meanwhile, had gone slightly more left field with her pick, dragging Tetsuya Koda to the ring under a blanket. She then revealed she’d forced him into taking her side by stealing his tickets to an idol concert – poor man.
His day would only get worse too, as those tickets would be one of the victims of this match. This was wonderful nonsense from start to finish as Nakajima ended up wrapped in a blanket, kaiju toys were bumped on (that looked sore), and Shoko eventually managed to climb the ladder to force Misao to rename. I laughed the whole way through, and I can’t imagine watching it with anything other than a smile on your face. Unless you’re a grump, in which case you’re not invited anyway.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
Saki Akai defeated Yuki Kamifuku to retain the DDT Iron Man Heavy Metal Title
Akai won the Iron Man belt the night before, turning this into a title match.
Alongside Sakisama, Saki Akai seems to be the person that Kamiyu idolises the most. Not that it stopped her trying to boot her in the head as after a slow start this exploded. These are two tall skinny women (although Saki is a lot shorter than I thought. In my head, she was about seven foot, but she’s probably smaller than me) but that doesn’t stop them throwing some mean kicks.
It also continued the slow build of Kamiyu, who is getting better with every match. Where she was once outclassed, she’s now capable of holding her own, looking Saki’s equal rather than someone a few rungs below her on the ladder. In fact, the emotion of coming so close seemed to get the better of her as she burst into tears post-match, leading to Saki comforting her and a lovely human moment at the end of a good match.
Verdict: Three And Three Quarter Stars
Aja Kong, Pom Harajuku and Raku defeated Yuna Manase, Mina Shirakawa and Mirai Maiumi
Aja Kong is the right kind of wrestling legend. She might not move the way she used to, but she still has an undeniable presence, and you would not mess with her. However, she’s also willing to laugh at herself, making other people look good and taking part in their antics. She not only joined in on the Good Night Express (making sure to pause as she stood on poor Mina) but gave everyone the chance to stand as her equal and fled to the back at the end, running scared of Raku and Pom who had decided they wanted to get their hands on the Iron Man Title Kong had picked up at some point in the evening. While the match revolved around her (it was always going to), she shared that love, and that is how the best legends behave.
It also made for a ridiculously fun watch. You could tell the TJPW women were delighted to be in the ring with Kong and were bringing their a-game. At one point, Mina tried to trade blows with her which is a ballsy move while Mirai took her off her feet with a Lariat (she’d had a bit of a helping hand) getting revenge for Kong refusing to shake her hand pre-match. She might have ended up taking the pin, eating a massive Kong Elbow Drop, but she was made to look like a warrior, and that will be remembered long after her the three-count is forgotten.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
Sareee defeated Natsumi Maki
At the time, this became my match of the decade as Natsumi and Sareee delighted in beating the shit out of each other. It was Maki’s return from injury, but you wouldn’t have known with the way she threw herself into the match. Sareee has made a name for herself as someone who will beat you the fuck up, and she was more than happy to show that off, thundering into Dropkicks and leaning into kicks. Honestly, it’s one of those matches where there isn’t that much to say. It was two great wrestlers kicking fuck out of each other, who wouldn’t want to watch that?
Maki took the fall on her return, although she went down fighting. In a perfect world, that means Sareee will be popping up in Tokyo Joshi again, but I’ve no idea if that will be the case. If she doesn’t, though, the one match she has had there was a corker, and that’s not an awful legacy to leave behind.
Verdict: Four And A Half Stars
Thunder Rosa defeated Mizuki
Rosa has an awesome look. She is someone I’ve only seen bits and pieces of, but never really dived into, so I was impressed by her performance here. They told the story of her having the power to overcome Mizuki, as the smaller wrestler tried to fly around the ring but was ultimately taken down as it was clear they wanted Rosa to look like a killer (a move that made sense later in the night). Well done them.
Verdict: Three And A Quarter Stars
Maki Itoh defeated Hikari Noa to retain the International Princess Title
Maki Itoh was treated like a superstar by the international crowd. It also became apparent that she was in no mood to give Noa an easy match, laying into the Cutest in the World punches and throwing a few extras in there for good measure. There was also a brilliant sequence where Noa Matrixed away from a Lariat only for Itoh to respond by dropping her head on the young wrestler.
It was a moment that played into the story of the match, as this was a rare chance for Maki Itoh to control the action and dominate an opponent. Noa showed a whole load of heart, refusing to go down without a fight, but ultimately she didn’t have it in her to take out Itoh. Maki wore her down with a Crab and eventually locked on the Armlock Itoh Special for the win.
This was the kind of match that these two couldn’t have had not that long ago. Itoh’s development as a wrestler is obvious for everyone to see, but Noa is also stepping up, and even in defeat, she looked brilliant. One suspects this won’t be her last title shot and will one day be looked back on as a big moment in her career.
Verdict: Three And Three Quarter Stars
Post-match Thunder Rosa came out to challenge Itoh, setting up a title challenge for the next day. They got very aggressive, shoving middle fingers into each other’s faces and making it clear that they were not going to become friends.
Miu Watanabe and Rika Tatsumi defeated BAKURETSU Sisters (Nodoka Tenma and Yuki Aino) to retain the Princess Tag Team Titles
Any match in which I get to watch my favourite hoss is a good one. Watanabe is a brilliantly fun wrestler, and she was fantastic, spinning people around as if they weighed nothing. Her and Tatsumi have come together to create a lovely wee team, and I’m glad they’re being given a chance to hold the titles for a bit longer.
Although, it is a shame that the BAKERETSU Sisters fell on their third attempt at taking the belts. They’re also a great team and have a unique look that plays into the way they wrestle. There’s something overwhelmingly joyful about watching them as Tenma, in particular, has such an expressive face. There were a couple of times where I laughed out loud just at her expression.
In the end, Miu’s strength would win the day, hoisting up Aino only to put her back down again in a very painful manner. That put an end to a strong showing from both teams and an enjoyable match. Thumbs up!
Verdict: Three And Three Quarter Stars
Yuka Sakazaki defeated Miyu Yamashita to retain the Princess of Princess Title
Miyu vs Yuka might be the biggest match TJPW can put on at the moment, so it will be no surprise to say that this delivered. They went out and gave us a big-time main event as Yuka picked up her first title win and we got several memorable moments.
The most enjoyable of which was Sakazaki dragging Yamashita into the Korakuen stand, placing her on a table and sending her sledging down the stairs. Then, to add insult to injury, she tried to slam her through said table. Of course, the damn thing didn’t break because this is Japan, but that won’t have stopped it hurting an awful lot.
It wasn’t all Sakazaki’s game, though, as Miyu came back with some of those brutal kicks. Early on, Yuka went for the Magical Girl Splash and was met with a particularly vicious boot while at one point she only survived because her legs gave out from under her, preventing Yamashita from delivering the killer blow. It was Miyu at her badass best, and she really brought it to Sakazaki in an attempt to take that title.
In the end, though, Sakazaki got the huge win, her second attempt at the Magical Girl Splash working to perfection as she came down hard for the three. This had all the trappings of a big show title challenge, and as they shared a fist bump of respect, you felt like you’d seen something important. Amazingly, it was still only the first show of the day!
Verdict: Four Stars
What a blast that was! From start to finish this was probably one of the most enjoyable shows I saw in Tokyo as every match delivered. It was also a brilliantly varied card as we got a rookie debut, comedy matches, hard-hitting wars and a big main event. There was something for everyone, and I had the best time.
Watch Tokyo Joshi Pro: https://www.ddtpro.com/universe/videos?teamId=tjpw
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