Tokyo Joshi Pro ’21 (4/1/21) Review

It’s Tokyo Joshi, of course everyone cried. Credit: TJPW

Good old January 4th, a special time of year when Tokyo Joshi hold a yearly show and, well, I don’t know, I’m sure some other stuff happens too. TJPW may have had a bigger event at Tokyo Dome City Hall not that long ago, but this date has a lot of history, and with a packed card, it’s safe to say they aren’t about to ditch it any time soon.

Suzume defeated Arisu Endo

Welcome to the gang. Credit: TJPW

Arisu Endo looked a bit nervous before the match, and her music didn’t have a surprising injection of metal. Then again, one of those is hardly a shock, and I guess not every rookie that debuts on January 4th can have the latter.

Joking aside, this was a strong debut. The match was paced as you’d expect with Arisu given a few moments to shine, but ultimately coming up short. The question is how the rookie looked within that structure and I thought she was decent. While it’s perhaps a random thing to pick-up on, I liked the way she struggled against holds. When Suzume had her in a sleeper, she was clawing at her arm, desperate to escape. Little things like that stand out at this stage in someone’s career and can be taken as a good sign.

Judging someone on a debut is silly, though, so you can only take so much from this. However, this was a solid wee introduction for Endo and a decent base for her to build from which is all we can ask for. Also, Suzume looked good again, and it says a lot about how far she’s come that TJPW were happy to put her in this spot. 2021 is going to be a big year for the bumblebee.

Verdict: Hello, Arisu!

Yuna Manase and Moka Miyamoto defeated Pom Harajuku and Haruna Neko

Who knew that Poms can fly? Credit: TJPW

Yuna Manase’s theme makes it feel like we’re all about to head off on an epic adventure. It’s always nice to have her back, although it happening because Marika tested positive for COVID isn’t great. Fate has decreed that lass’s career will be as stop, start as possible. Still, she apparently didn’t have any symptoms, so that’s something.

Nearly every Tokyo Joshi show has a match like this one, aka a tag that doesn’t have much in the way of stakes but is very enjoyable. These four went out and put on a fun display that only a handful of people will remember, but which did everything it needed to do, namely letting Pom kick people in the shins.

It was quick, fun and totally painless (at least for me, the people being kicked in the shin might have felt some pain) and Yuna ultimately pinned Pom for the three. I don’t have a whole lot to say about it, but it gave me what I wanted,

Verdict: Shin Kicking!

Hyper Misao defeated Shoko Nakajima in a 100 Gacha Capsule, Strap Deathmatch for the right to change your opponents name for a month

What’s a bit of gloating between friends? Credit: TJPW

A tangled rope delayed the start of this match as poor Ref Kiso was tasked with fixing that mess. It was a good primer for him as this seemed designed to torture the poor bugger. Not only did he have a rope to deal with, but there was a constant flurry of paper being thrown at him, forcing him to unfold it and see if Misao or Shoko had pulled a golden ticket.

For this was your classic strap match with gacha. Not only were Shoko and Misao tied together, but the ring was surrounded by one hundred gacha capsules, ten of which contained winning tickets. For a wrestler to save their name, they simply had to find two of those winning tickets. Yes, folks, we were deep into Hyper Misao nonsense here, so unsurprisingly, I had a good time as they’d managed to put together a stipulation that wouldn’t have look out of place on an old TV game show.

It was a match packed with kaiju toys, people being tangled up in ropes and, to be honest, utter chaos. When the madness cleared, the two of them had taken several horrendous bumps into said toys, I’d had many a giggle and Misao was granted the right to change Shoko’s name for a month. If Tokyo Joshi wants to make these two embracing the nonsense an ongoing yearly tradition, I would be more than okay with that.

Verdict: Embrace The Nonsense!

Miu Watanabe, Nao Kakuta and Mirai Maiumi defeated Aja Kong, Mizuki and Raku

Aja Express! Credit: TJPW

Raku has new gear, and it’s incredibly frilly. I believe all the Up Up Girls have changed things up, but hers is the only one that’s noticeable, and I initially assumed it was an entrance robe. Still, it’s Raku, and if anyone can pull it off, it’s her. She’s already got Aja Kong doing a yearly Goodnight Express, so I’m pretty sure she can do anything.

Something else that’s becoming a yearly occurrence is the tension between Mirai and Kong. The rookie seems determined to make a name off of Aja, and I am down for it. So far, Kong has been dismissive, but after Mirai went full badass, punching the legend’s bin away before taking her off her feet with a lariat to open Miu up for the win, one suspects that’s about to change. That’s a match which would be huge for her and do a hell of a lot to make her feel legit.

Talking of Miu, she was the other one to standout here. The wee hoss gave her all against Aja, trying to lift her for a Powerbomb and not looking outclassed. That’s another match I’d love to see Kong do somewhere down the road if she’s going to continue nipping into TJPW for cameos. The fact Miu was given the win while Kong was there perhaps hints it’s a possibility.

Anyway, this was a perfect use of Aja, as they hit all the spots people wanted them to hit and let her rub off on a couple of her opponents. It gets the two thumbs up from me.

Verdict: Aja Kong Express

NEO Biishiki-gun (Sakisama & Mei Saint-Michel) defeated Hikari Noa and Sena Shiori

I think she enjoys inflicting pain. Credit: TJPW

Sakisama and Hikari Noa went hard in this one. With NEO Biishiki-gun running riot through the younger members of the roster, Noa stepped up and made sure Sakisama knew she was there. Between Hikari’s dropkicks and Sakisama’s forearms, they had an awesome back and forth that brought the best out of both of them.

Once again, though, the star of the show was Mei Saint-Michel. I’m not sure what is going down in the woods of France, but it’s breeding some wonderful goblin children. Then again, that’s probably just the aristocracy. Either way, she was wonderful. Whether it’s her taking flight when Hikari got her hands on her precious plate, heading straight to Ref Mitsui for help, or her constant menacing of opponents, when she’s not on-screen you can still hear her getting up to something in the background, she was made for this.

It made for yet another brilliant performance from the new look Biishiki-gun as they continue a march that I’m sure will end with the tag titles. Normally, the idea of anyone taking those away from Nodoka and Yuki would make me very sad, but if it’s going to be this pairing, I think I’m okay with it.

Verdict: Down With The Aristocracy, But Those Two Are Alright

Miyu Yamashita defeated Maki Itoh

The final act of defiance. Credit: TJPW

I recently spoke about how The Pencil Army have made weakness an essential part of their characters and how rare that is in wrestling. It’s not unique, though, at least not while Maki Itoh is around. However, where The Pencil Army embrace their weakness, Itoh fights against it. Since the day she stepped into Tokyo Joshi, everything she has done has been an attempt to prove she isn’t weak. She’s blustered and sworn her way through match after match until she’s got to a point where actually, she isn’t. Itoh is now a very good wrestler. The problem is that she’s not the best wrestler, and all that bluster won’t let her stop until she is. To prove herself as the best, she has to get through Miyu Yamashita, and that’s a hell of a task.

And on their second January 4th meeting (Yamashita defeated Itoh in a title defence two years to the day), Itoh had her best chance yet to beat Tokyo Joshi’s Ace. In the month building up to this match, she’d focused her attack on Miyu’s back, and that continued here, a variety of submissions and even a flying headbutt bringing the fight to Miyu. It is almost possible to argue that Maki wrestled this perfectly. She was focused and aggressive, that bluster channelled into a plan that was working.

The problem is that Miyu is Miyu. You can do everything right against her, but the second she gets a glimpse of an opening, she will take it. Itoh brought a lot of weapons to this fight, but Miyu brought those kicks, and it just took one of those for this whole thing to turn on its head. The killer was that awesome Enziguiri she does out of the corner, her boot connecting with the back of Itoh’s skull. From there, it was almost inevitable, blows flying in again and again until eventually Itoh was stood in front of her, a defiant middle finger raised but all her fight gone. One final brutal Skull Kick later and Maki was facedown on the mat, unable to answer the count of ten and having lost once more.

However, this was one of those defeats that makes a wrestler. Itoh looked brilliant here. As I said, she’s been a good wrestler for a while, but this was another step-up. She hung with Miyu, meeting her on a level that very few can and coming so close to getting that win. In the aftermath, Miyu offered a raised fist of respect, a move that Maki has traditionally returned with one of those middle fingers. Not this time, though. This time, Itoh returned a fist of her own, a moment of respect between two wrestlers who had just put on a hell of a show. Itoh vs Yamashita is our first match of the year candidate, and it is going to take something special to knock it from its perch.

Verdict: Outstanding

The Bakuretsu Sisters (Nodoka Tenma and Yuki Aino) defeated Yuki Kamifuku and Mahiro Kiryu to retain the Princess Tag Titles

Off with your head. Credit: TJPW

Is there a better sight in wrestling than Kamiyu tagging in and booting people’s heads into the last row? The focus has been on her work as a single star recently, but she’s become a hell of a tag wrestler. Those flurries of offence look brilliant, and she’s really taken to her role as the leader of this team.

However, a big part of this match was Kamiyu giving Mahiro the chance to show what she can do. I wrote before about Kiryu feeling more like a sidekick than the star, but she took centre stage for a chunk of this match and looked good. A lot of it was her being worked over, but when she got those opportunities to shine, she took them – including a great final battle with Nodoka, fighting it out before finally succumbing to a Killswitch.

Ultimately, though, The Bakuretsu Sisters were the more polished team. Yuki was able to catch Kamiyu out of the air, hoisting her up for the Bakuretsu Bulldog and leaving Kiryu on her own to be picked off. It made for a really good, but perhaps not incredible defence. I do wonder if part of that was it being unlucky enough to come after Itoh vs Miyu, which was such a huge emotional and physical outpouring that this was almost in an impossible spot. Still, anything that ends with Nodoka holding a title is fine by me.

Verdict: Strong, But Not Incredible

Rika Tatsumi defeated Yuka Sakazaki to win the Princess of Princess Title

Yuka realising there is no escape. Credit: TJPW

Is there a wrestler on the planet crafting better main events that Yuka Sakazaki has in the last few months? This was a masterpiece in slow-burn pacing as she and Rika gave you everything you could want from a big-time match.

The story of that match was simple. Rika instantly went after Yuka’s leg, aiming to rip it apart with Dragon Screws and even draping it over the barrier at ringside before crashing in with a dropkick. That combined with a constant flurry of hip attacks, put the champ in a somewhat awkward position. She was never out of the match, in fact, there were moments where she was almost able to bully Rika, hitting her with some hellacious forearms, but she never had the degree of control that you might expect. Rika had spoken about feeling like Yuka has overshadowed her for their entire careers, but here she was throwing flurry after flurry at Sakazaki, never letting her breath.

And what makes these matches so brilliant is the way they build. Yuka and Rika slowly but surely ramp the tension, the spots getting more dangerous and the damage more severe. However, come the end, the finish was short and brutal. Rika suddenly unleashing with a series of horrific-looking Dragon Screws before locking on a Figure Four. Yuka fought and scratched, desperately trying to get to the ropes, but it became clear she wasn’t going to make it. With pain and tears etched across her face, she lay there, unwilling to give up but with nowhere to go. It left the ref with no choice, he called for the bell and brought a hell of a reign to an end.

The aftermath was pitched perfectly too, Rika crying as she took her title and embracing Yuka. Tokyo Joshi is a company that is fuelled by emotion, and this was overflowing with it. We also got our first challenger, Miu Watanabe taking the chance to throw her hat in the ring against her tag partner. They have a hell of an act to follow, but I have no doubt they’ll pull it off.

Verdict: Brilliant

Overall Show

What a fantastic show. Tokyo Joshi very rarely misses when it comes to big events, but this was up with some of their best. In Itoh vs Miyu and Rika vs Yuka, you have two early match of the year contenders while the rest of the card was packed with not only good matches, but fun ones too. As a final note, I watched most of the show with Japanese commentary, but checked out the English while rewatching the top matches and it was really good. Brookes was a particularly great addition to the team, so I hope they consider using him again in the future if they continue down that road.

Watch Tokyo Joshi Pro:

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