Tokyo Joshi moving to more regular Korakuens was one of those things that both excited and worried me. On the upside, I love big TJPW shows. They always feel special, and I can’t remember the last one that failed to deliver. The downside is that doing them more regularly might water down that special feeling. Thankfully, the card for their February trip to that legendary venue showed no sign of that being the case, as they had loaded this thing up with intriguing match-ups. Now reality simply had to live up to what was on paper.
Maybe it was the excitement of hearing ‘Upper Kick’, but I thought the Up Up Girls were in fine form. Perhaps they were motivated by Miu getting her shot at the big belt.
Pom Harajuku & Haruna Neko defeated Marika Kobashi & Moka Miyamoto
All I want from these lower card tags is Pom booting people in the shins, and this duly provided. She even picked up a rare win, which was a nice wee treat on top of her usual antics. Outside of that, it was a perfectly fine if rather simple wee match which there isn’t that much to say about. Moka continues to expand her arsenal, Haruna is a cat, Pom’s deadly accurate and Marika had a new haircut. An enjoyable way to spend a few minutes, but far from essential.
Yuna Manase, Raku & Nao Kakuta defeated Hikari Noa, Mahiro Kiryu & Sena Shiori
A smidge over a year from her first-ever pinfall, Raku did it again, although it wasn’t quite as emotional this time around.
What it lacked in emotion, it made up for in enjoyability. Yuna adds a bit of prestige to these tags, and her opponents went straight after her, looking to earn themselves a scalp. That might have been a mistake, though, as it seemed to piss Manase off, leading to her threatening to throw Mahiro over the top rope.
That was one of a handful of moments in this match where people got serious, the highlight of which, was Nao vs Hikari. Their interactions felt like two people who had agreed to go all out, doing everything they could to impress with the limited seconds they got together. Both can do much more than fill up lower-card tags, so fingers crossed we see them doing this again one on one.
It gave us a match that built naturally from the opener, still not providing anything must watch, but doing enough to make sure no-one was going to turn away.
Verdict: Noa vs Nao, Please
The Magical Sugar Rabbits (Yuka Sakazaki & Mizuki) defeated Suzume & Arisu Endo
I know I was just saying that Noa and Nao should be positioned to do more than random lower-card tags, a statement that could definitely be applied to the Sugar Rabbits, but I’m okay with them spending some time in this kind of match. While Mizuki and Yuka shouldn’t spend forever down here, they are really good at gleefully torturing younger opponents.
It certainly won’t do Endo any harm to get in the ring with them, although she’s doing well enough without their help. Every time I see her, my opinion rises that little bit higher, and she looked impressive yet again. Arisu makes wrestling look hard, which might sound like an insult, but it’s not. Much like Yuki Aino, she has the ability to sell the struggle, even going as far as stumbling back after her own attacks. To have that element seemingly come so naturally to her, speaks well for where she’ll go next.
At the moment, though, she’s at the bottom of the totem pole, Yuka putting her away with the Magical Merry-Go-Round. Still, if you can get in the ring with not only the Sugar Rabbits but the very impressive Suzume too, and still be the one that grabs the eye, you’re probably not going to stay at the bottom for long.
Verdict: Impressive Endo
Miyu Yamashita and Maki Itoh defeated NEO Biishiki-gun (Sakisama and Mei Saint-Michel)
Mei Saint-Michel suffered her first loss since arriving in Tokyo Joshi as Maki Itoh’s big old head won out. It was all going so well too. At the start of this match, Mei felt like the wildcard. Yes, Sakisama is a hell of a foe by herself, but it was Saint-Michel, dancing around the ring like the goblin fairy that she is, that was causing all the issues. Even when Itoh thought she’d outsmarted her, avoiding her first attempt to bring the tray into play, it was a short-lived thing. Itoh and Miyu’s overly elaborate falling headbutt gave Mei plenty of time to pull her best pal into position and set-up a scenario that even Itoh’s head couldn’t shrug off.
However, the deeper into this match we got, the better Maki and Miyu were. This isn’t their first time pairing up, but it felt like all those matches where they faced-off has pushed them towards finding some common ground. At one point, Maki decided the best way to fire them up was to headbutt her partner, something that with most people would have probably led to a fight, but for Miyu made perfect sense. Slowly, but surely, they began to turn things in their favour, matching Mei and Sakisama and eventually overcoming them.
It all added up to this being as great as the sum of its parts would suggest it would be. We got Sakisama and Miyu kicking each other while Maki vs Mei is a dream match even if Mei only walked out of the French woods a few months ago. I have been guilty in the past of throwing out the idea that when you put four brilliant wrestlers together, you’re going to get a brilliant match, but that’s not actually true, very talented people often struggle to work together. Thankfully, that was not the case here, as everyone clicked into their groove and gave me everything I was hoping for.
In the aftermath, Maki and Miyu struggled through talking about their feelings and managed to agree to team-up in the upcoming tag tournament. I think this is the start of a long and beautiful friendship. (All translations are courtesy of ddtpro_eng on Twitter.)
Yuki Kamifuku defeated Mirai Maiumi to retain the International Princess Title
Mirai vs Kamiyu was a match built on contrasts. On one side of the ring, you have Mirai, who prepared for hdr first solo title shot by making themselves a G1 winner-style briefcase. Oh, and she also has an invisible friend called Strong Style. While she came into this with a new haircut and gear that made her look like a badass, it did nothing to change the fact she’s a big old wrestling nerd.
Kamiyu, meanwhile, is scarily cool. The kind of person that nerds like Mirai and I would usually stay well clear of because they’re intimidating as hell. She doesn’t care about the names of moves or who came up with them because she has better shit to do. And yet, while Mirai was making briefcases, she was the one holding the title. Because she might not know who the Four Pillars are or have grown up devouring AJW, but she’s worked her arse off, and got good.
And you could see those backgrounds playing out in this match. Mirai was intense and focused from the bell, going straight after Kamiyu’s arm and trying to get into that Miramare at every opportunity. It caught Kamiyu off-guard, forcing her to rethink and even grab hold of that briefcase and violently introduce it to its owner. She spent a lot of this trying to figure out a way to stop Mirai coming at her.
Which she did, not by being a better wrestler (at least not in the kayfabe sense of the word), but by doing the right things at the exact right moments. Because you can have watched all the tapes in the world, but that isn’t a substitute for instincts. When push came to shove, she found her opening, connecting with those vicious boots and slipping into an Octopus Stretch as the match twisted in her favour.
It all made for a display of great wrestling. These two told a simple story that played to both their strengths, and while it saw Kamiyu come out on top, it also made it clear that Mirai was close. They may come from vastly different backgrounds, but they are the wrestlers Tokyo Joshi is going to build on in the years to come, and I can’t wait to watch it.
Verdict: The Cool Kids Win… This Time
The Bakuretsu Sisters (Yuki Aino & Nodoka Tenma) defeated Hyper Misao & Shin Ultra Shoko to retain the Princess Tag Titles
This shouldn’t have worked. Our tag title showdown was almost two matches smooshed into one, the serious fight for the belts and the comedy nonsense involving two of humanity’s great superheroes. Getting those two to co-exist peacefully is a hell of a task, and yet they pulled it off.
A big part of which was down to Shin Ultra Shoko. She is an inherently ridiculous character with that long cape flapping behind her as she dashes across the ring. Even Misao seemed to think she was getting a bit too into this superhero thing, cutting her off mid-monologue when she started to get carried away. However, she’s also a brilliant wrestler. Even dressed up like a child working on a budget, Shoko can go, and she was essential in bridging that gap.
It helped that Nodoka and Yuki are more than willing to play along with this stuff. They’re perfect foils for the superheroes, selling their nonsense to perfection, but also being willing to play the spoilsports, ripping their upgraded combat suits off them. Most tag title matches don’t involve you having to dodge the Misao Mobile (plus sidecar), but they did it admirably.
Honestly, there was never any chance that I wouldn’t like this. As a lover of nonsense and these wrestlers, it might as well have been booked specifically for me. It sat somewhere between a serious match and a group of kids playing superheroes, which is almost exactly what I want my wrestling to be.
Rika Tatsumi defeated Miu Watanabe to win the Princess of Princess Title
Perhaps this isn’t a shock to anyone, but Miu Watanabe is one hell of a wrestler. I knew that, but I still got caught slightly off-guard by how good the wee hoss was in this match. There was a moment early on where she was driving elbows into Rika’s back, taking control and focusing in on her target, where it clicked, and I realised quite how far she’s come.
Rika proved to be a brilliant dance partner too. Having had such fantastic success attacking Yuka’s leg when she won the title, it was only natural that she’d continue the same tactics here. Once again it was those Dragon Screws that proved deadly, although the Figure Four would also rear its head, Rika already proving better at using that move than people who have being so for years. It would build to one of the match’s best moments, Miu going for that Giant Swing only for her leg to collapse under her. Rather than giving up, though, she slapped her limb into shape, pulled herself up and did it again, hitting one of the longest Giant Swings I’ve ever seen. It was a moment that not only put over the work Rika had been doing to that leg but also made Miu look like a warrior for fighting through it, finding the motivation to use the move despite the pain.
It was one of several brilliant sequences in this match, with the final stretch being the one that came closest to topping it, Miu going all out to hit a Backbreaker from the second rope only for it not to be enough. Rika had that little bit more to her and was able to push through for the victory, that diamond arse connecting for the three. It’s always a move that feels a little bit anti-climactic, but it’s Rika, so I’m used to it. It also meant that this matched shared more than a bit of DNA with Mirai vs Kamiyu. Miu lost here, but she went down in a way that proved how good she is. She didn’t only match the champ, but overtook her at times, controlling the action and coming agonisingly close to getting the win. This defeat wasn’t a ‘good try’, but a ‘we’ll be seeing you soon’.
In the aftermath, Rika and Miu showed there was no bad blood, coming back together and promising to team in the tournament. That’s another little touch that I adore. So much wrestling gets friendship wrong, assuming that because something takes people apart for a bit, that’s the end of it. Miu and Rika are a pairing who may one day be foes again, but they’re also friends, and judging by this, I’m excited to watch everything they do together.
Verdict: Miu’s Arrived
Well, if Tokyo Joshi’s expanded Korakuen schedule is going to lead to more shows like that one, then I’m going to be having a lovely old time. TJPW did it again, a brilliantly paced show, peaking in a series of outstanding matches. Perhaps more importantly, though, this hinted towards that bright future I’ve been barking on about for a while. Miu and Mirai both got shoved forward, tested as to see how they would deal with a big match situation, and they nailed it. If you can’t enjoy that, then I’m not sure wrestling is for you.
Watch Tokyo Joshi Pro: https://www.ddtpro.com/universe/videos?teamId=tjpw