Shows packed with tag matches are the kind that I might generally breeze past without feeling the need to review, but this one was headlined by Lana Austin’s title shot, which brought a sparkle that caught my eye. Throw in a couple of other exciting developments, and out of nowhere, this became one you wouldn’t want to miss. Why? Read on to find out.
On the previous show, Raku slapped Miu in frustration after losing to her, a situation that might have made having a sing-song together a bit tense. Thankfully, Miu must be the forgiving type because there didn’t seem to be any hard feelings for which I am grateful. I’m not sure I could survive tension in the Up Up Girls, it would be too traumatic.
Hyper Misao and Nodoka Tenma defeated Yuna Manase and Mahiro Kiryu
If you put Nodoka Tenma and Hyper Misao on the same team, I am going to have a good time. That’s probably science. Beforehand, Tenma wanted to give Misao some chocolate for Valentine’s Day (isn’t she lovely?). Sadly, it turned out Misao has some Valentine related childhood trauma which, amazingly, led to Tenma trying to explain that it wasn’t chocolate’s fault. It seemed to be working until Mahiro popped up with her attempts to help and, well, I guess she tried. As usual, get your translations from @ddtpro_eng.
Thankfully, the match would end up helping Misao through her past issues as the chocolate revived her when it looked like she might be down and out. Then, before hitting her Final Cut finish, she let out a roar of ‘Happy Valentines’, embracing the holiday once and for all. Around that, there was also some wrestling, all of which was very enjoyable. I think I’m getting to the point where I’m incapable of being subjective when it comes to Tenma, but her and Manase’s face-off was a particular highlight.
After they won, PaMi accepted the delicious gift before opening it up and sharing a bit with her new pal. How can that not make you happy?
Verdict: All The Smiles
Yuki Aino and Haruna Neko defeated Shoko Nakajima and Yuki Kamifuku
Just as I’d already got a pen out to permanently note Tenma and Misao as my favourite pairing of the show, Shoko and Kamiyu turn up to challenge. From Kamiyu embracing her inner kaiju during their entrance to Shoko having to clamber up the ropes to reach her taller partner’s hand for the tag, they were an utter delight.
The in-ring was fun too. I don’t think I’d ever clicked that Yuki Aino is a really good wrestler (probably because I’m too busy enjoying Tenma). She and Shoko proved to have solid chemistry, but the final stretch with Kamiyu was even more impressive and made me want a singles match between those two. It feels like there are a lot of wrestlers in Tokyo Joshi on the verge of leaping forward, and there is no reason those two can’t be involved.
Verdict: The Fun Continues
Miyu Yamashita defeated Mina Shirakawa
I have raved (and will continue to rave) about nearly everything Miyu Yamashita does, but I’m not sure I’ve given her enough credit for what a fantastic grappler she is. She perfectly balances realism with the flair of wrestling, and I actually enjoy watching her work on the floor. It also allowed Mina to show off a skill set I didn’t know she had. Miyu was still on top, but Shirakawa wasn’t outclassed, and impressively held her own.
That was the opening act of a match that was paced to near-perfection as they’d come off the floor and Mina would have a burst of offence, sensing an opportunity to gain a massive scalp. It was leaps and bounds ahead of any other performance I’ve seen from her, as she held her own with one of the best.
Unfortunately, those kicks are always there, and it took just one for the whole match to change. In fact, the Reverse Roundhouse looked like it might have connected a bit too snugly, as Mina was obviously supposed to kick out, but didn’t respond. Thankfully, she seemed shaken rather than concussed, taking an Attitude Adjustment and managing to clamber to her feet to shake Yamashita’s hand before making her way to the back without any support.
This was Mina’s last match before she heads on a wee tour of Spain, but it was one that transformed my opinion of her from a decent wee wrestler to someone I’ll have to keep an eye on.
Verdict: Mina Shines
Raku, Maki Itoh and Pom Harajuku defeated Miu Watanabe, Rika Tatsumi and Suzume
RAKU WINS! RAKU WINS! RAKU WINS!
This was Raku’s 106th match. In that time, she’s been on the winning side a fair few times, but she’s never been the one doing the winning. At the start, it probably didn’t bother her. Wrestling was a side effect of her attempt to be an idol, and she’s been open about not being that interested in it. However, at some point, she started to care. Her fellow Up Up Girls began to find success, and while Raku was getting better, she was still unable to clear that hurdle. So, she turned to Maki Itoh and told her she wanted to be like her which, quite frankly, in 99.9% of situations is a fucking awful life choice.
Except, for Raku, it worked. She came into this match with an edge we haven’t seen from her before, insisting she start in a way that caught even Maki and Pom by surprise. Then, in the home stretch, she was unkillable. She escaped a Rika Dragon Sleeper, before battling back from a Giant Swing and two sickening Backbreakers from Miu. Time after time, you were tricked into assuming this was over, but Raku was having none it. The tide was turning, and she came flying forward with a Sling Blade and a Running Neckbreaker both of which, amazingly, she’s chosen to name after trains. The Neckbreaker would prove to be enough, Raku had won, and promptly burst into tears.
She wasn’t the only one either. Look, Raku is not about to become the second-coming of Bull Nakano (I know Bull’s not dead, but you get what I mean). However, this was an incredible piece of beautifully simple storytelling. Tokyo Joshi took someone who wasn’t that interested in wrestling and crafted a tale around her falling in love with it and at the same time everyone else seemed to fall in love with her. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say her getting that pin was up with Naito winning at the Dome in my moments of the year.
Afterwards, still fighting through those tears, Raku made it clear she wasn’t done there, challenging Miu and Rika for the Tag Titles. Rika said she was up for that, before pointing out that Raku didn’t have a partner. Thankfully, Maki was there to step up to the plate for her new pal, promising to prove her ‘cute head’ was harder than Rika’s ‘dirty old ass’. The long and short of it, is that the match is on, and I can’t wait.
Verdict: Raku Wins!
Natsumi Maki and Hikari Noa defeated Mizuki and Mirai Maiumi
To finish off this show’s streak of brilliant pairings, I am a big fan of Natsupoi and Hikari teaming up. That’s a team which is bubbling over with energy and is a delight to watch in the ring.
Talking of delight, how great is it to see Mirai comfortably slotting into a semi-main event spot. This was only her 45th match, but she didn’t look out of place for a second while her power brought something different to the game. She was surrounded by small and speedy wrestlers, so throwing her into the mix was great.
Ultimately, though, this was all about Natsumi, who came out of her second defeat to Miyu strongly. It’s impossible to shake the feeling that they are building her up to get her hands on that big belt, and with the way she’s been wrestling since she returned, it would be 100% deserved. Fun match, right winner and no complaints.
Verdict: Natsumi’s Going Places
Yuka Sakazaki defeated Lana Austin to retain the Princess of Princess Title
Honestly, if this match had ended with Lana’s delight at being swamped in streamers (and subsequent attempt to make sure everyone knew she was taking them home), I’d have raved about it. It was a genuine moment of joy as she seems to have loved her time in Japan and has been embraced by the fans.
Of course, there was a match, and it was an enjoyable one. Yuka and Lana went for that big main event, back and forth style, which Sakazaki does so well. The person I was really impressed with, though, was Lana Austin, who has proven she can hang at this level. Is she up with Tokyo Joshi’s best? No, probably not, but she’s also not far off them, and that’s an achievement by itself. I’ve no idea if she can commit to more time in Japan (she has kids), but if she did, you could imagine her getting a lot better.
In the end, though, Yuka would have too much for her, hitting the Magical Girl Splash for what was, ultimately, a somewhat routine title defence. Post-match, she offered to take on anyone, whether they be human or not, so I’m all ready for the Kaiju Big Battel invasion of Tokyo Joshi to kick-off any second now. Jokes aside, there is a certain America show coming up, and it will be very interesting to see who TJPW put forward there. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
Verdict: Streamers For Everyone
Tokyo Joshi is becoming my favourite company to review. These shows are packed with matches that make me happy, and I don’t think there is a wrestling promotion in the world that nails the little stories the way they do. Moments like Raku getting her first win will stay with me for a long time, and that’s what wrestling is all about. Long may it continue.
Watch Tokyo Joshi Pro: https://www.ddtpro.com/universe/videos?teamId=tjpw