There was a moment in the main event of Tokyo Joshi’s first show back in front of fans where Nodoka Tenma, having locked on a submission, shyly announced that Suzume’s hair smelled nice. In response, Yuka Sakazaki yelled hentai before storming the ring with Mizuki to kick Nodoka away. It might sound strange, but that silly little moment, sums up everything I love about TJPW.
There has long been a perception that Tokyo Joshi isn’t the best in-ring product. Honestly, I think that’s bollocks. I don’t think there is a better wrestler on the planet than Miyu Yamashita and the likes of Yuka Sakazaki aren’t far behind her. On top of that, they have a young and talented roster backing them up, a whole host of whom have the potential to be truly special.
That wasn’t going to be my point, though (sorry, I got distracted). My point was going to be that while Tokyo Joshi might not deliver up thirty-minute epics (yawn), what they do brilliantly is produce wrestlers that I care about. I would go to war for Nodoka Tenma, and she’s not the only one. Maki Itoh, Raku, Hyper Misao, Mina Shirakawa, Miu Watanabe and so on. They are bursting at the seams with people who have nothing in common, but all make me want to watch. Those names could all be bang average (they’re not), but their personality and their charm make me care.
All of this was brought to mind because of the sad news that EVOLVE is, most likely, no more. They’ve swum alongside the shark that is WWE for too long and have finally been got. Obviously, I hope everyone that’s lost their job lands on their feet, and it’s never nice when a company is swallowed up by the machine. However, I also look at EVOLVE and wonder how anyone could ever have cared. Yes, they have had some brilliant wrestlers. In fact, some of my favourites have walked through their doors, but the corridors beyond are as sterile and bland as they come. I’m sure there have been some great matches in that company, and I’ve probably watched most of them, but how many have stuck in my mind? None.
In contrast, I’ll remember Nodoka smelling Suzume’s hair. I’ll also remember Maki Itoh, earlier in the show, taking a 619 on her big old head to protect Raku. If we go further back in the year, I’ll remember Miyu leading the roster in dancing for their meal at the end of the first dojo show; I’ll remember leaping out of my chair when Raku got her first win, tears running down my face and I’ll remember a million other tiny moments, all of which just made me care that little bit more. Great wrestling matches are cool, but if you don’t care, that’s all they are. The best wrestling is the stuff that makes your face break because you’re smiling so hard. It’s the stuff where this daft pseudo-sport has you tumbling head over heels in love with the nutters that inhabit it.
Tokyo Joshi gives me all of that. Even on their first show back in front of fans where the wrestlers were shaking off their ring rust, they had me smiling from ear to ear. It wasn’t a show of the year, but I don’t need it to be. I just need to see those wonderful people do their thing. I’ll take that over a million five-star matches.
Watch Tokyo Joshi Pro: https://www.ddtpro.com/universe/videos?teamId=tjpw