TJPW: Battling Without Fans

There is also a lot of dancing. Credit: TJPW

When you get past the discussion as to whether wrestling should be running empty arena shows, the biggest talking point for most fans at the moment is how to go about making those shows work. As I write this, the only WWE I’ve watched took place in a graveyard, but it’s safe to say their television efforts have been widely criticised and while AEW hasn’t been quite as badly received, no-one is screaming from the rooftops about them being shows of the year. Wrestling is struggling with how to present itself in a fan-less environment, and it’s quite interesting watching companies scramble for answers.

What’s funny, though, is that the answer has already been provided, multiple times, by Tokyo Joshi Pro-Wrestling. DDT was one of the first companies to go behind closed doors, running shows from their Dojo, and while the main brand did a fantastic job, it’s been the Tokyo Joshi roster who have impressed the most. Why is that funny? Well, they’ve done it by running in a style that is more reminiscent of American studio wrestling than it is anything else.

Key to that is the decision not to fight the lack of fans. Instead, Tokyo Joshi has embraced it, making the camera central to their efforts. Wrestlers will treat the camera like it’s the audience, aiming their spots towards it or talking into the lens. On top of that, they’ve stripped back the production, often forgoing entrances to focus on wrestlers being interviewed at the announcer’s desk instead. They’ve still got a hard cam, but the action is mainly captured by one person, perched on the ring apron to put all the focus on the wrestlers.

Miu trying to figure out how to deal with a sleeping Raku. Credit: TJPW

It’s not all down to production either, for these shows have shown just how much a roster with personality can smooth over any cracks. Tokyo Joshi has always had that misfit family vibe, and these shows have leaned into that. Yes, there is some great wrestling on them, but they’re not going for epics. Instead, they’ve built tournaments around short, snappy matches that play to people’s strengths. It allows Pom and Kaimyu to go out and spend most of their time doing shin kicks and eye pokes. Then you’ve got wrestlers like Hyper Misao being let loose, giving her a whole new playground to do whatever she wants in. By giving these women freedom, they make you forget that there is no-one else there.

I think it can all be summed up by the fact that this article was originally going to be a review of Friday’s tournament. However, I got halfway through and realised I had got so wrapped up in having fun that I’d forgotten to take any notes. Tokyo Joshi has managed to turn the Dojo into a safe little space where they get up to their antics and have all the fun in the world. I can’t wait for wrestling to happen in front of people again, but if I have to put up with a substitute, then TJPW has shown exactly how it should be done.

Watch Tokyo Joshi Pro:

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