TJPW Winter Lovers (20/2/21) Review

They’re the best. Credit: TJPW

After smashing it out the park with their latest Korakuen, Tokyo Joshi is moving into tag team territory, putting together a tournament that shows off how quietly brilliant their division is. Usually these things lean on thrown together teams, loose alliances coming together for a short time, and while there is a few of those, it’s also packed with recognised pairings. It’s a change that makes several of these match-ups all the more exciting, and it promises to be an enjoyable ride.

Team Toyo (Yuki Kamifuku & Mahiro Kiryu) defeated Arisu Endo & Moka Miyamoto

Death by Kamiyu’s boot. Credit: TJPW

If you had any doubts as to who give the orders in the Toyo University team, Kamiyu using Mahiro as a weapon (regardless of what damage it does to her) should make it clear. Then again, I doubt it was Mahiro’s idea for them both to come to the ring wearing cowboy hats, so we probably didn’t need to wait that long to figure it out.

Kamiyu’s weaponisation of her partner was one of the highlights of a solid opener. The rookie team were a decent pairing, combining Miyamoto’s slightly silly karate moves with Arisu’s impressive grasp of the basics, but they didn’t get to show a whole lot of personality. Meanwhile, whether Kamiyu’s bossiness helped or hindered Mahiro in picking up the win is debatable, but she still pulled it off, as this team continues to focus on getting her over. The match was primarily built around Kiryu, letting her work the bulk of the action before bursting through her tiredness to hit a Spinebuster for the three. Both in kayfabe and reality, it feels like a pairing designed to give Mahiro more confidence and push her to the next level, and I think it’s working.

Verdict: Team Mahiro

Daydream (Rika Tatsumi & Miu Watanabe) defeated Pom Harajuku & Haruna Neko

They’re back! Credit: TJPW

Fans of an upset may have been hoping that Daydream’s hard-fought title showdown had left a few cracks in their armour. Sadly, they were to be left disappointed as I believe football cliches would have put this one down as a professional performance.

And sure, Pom and Neko got their little moments of hope, Pom unleashing with her shin kicks and Neko a series of roll-ups to make sure their fans went home proud. However, they were never in danger of winning this. In fact, Rika proved to have Pom’s kicks scouted, spotting an opportunity to go after her leg and continue her effective use of the Figure Four.

It all added up to a solid 2-0 win for the favourites, but I think everyone will be content with the way this went. While Neko and Harajuku never really stood a chance, they also didn’t get embarrassed, and when you’re going up against powerhouses like Daydream, you can take comfort from that.

Verdict: Well Played

Miyu Yamashita, Maki Itoh, Shoko Nakajima & Hyper Misao defeated Hikari Noa, Mirai Maiumi, Suzume & Sena Shiori

The perfect picture does exist. Credit: TJPW

Sadly, Shin Ultra Shoko has returned to her home planet, but the upside is that Shoko Nakajima is back from her hiatus! I wonder where she was? Anyway, this is a mash-up of all the teams that got a bye to the second round, giving them all a run out that focused on having fun rather than anything important.

There might not have been much at stake, but they still managed to leave me craving a whole bunch of singles matches. We got Shoko and Suzume zipping around the ring, Mirai and Miyu taking lumps out of each other and Noa and Itoh continuing their great chemistry from their International Princess Title match back at the start of 2020. It was all a pleasure to watch, and let’s hope someone backstage was taking notes.

Verdict: Give Me Those Matches

NEO Biishiki-gun (Sakisama & Mei Saint-Michel) defeated Raku & Marika Kobashi

Confused Raku. Credit: TJPW

Losing to Maki Itoh and Miyu Yamashita seemed to have dented Mei Saint-Michel’s confidence. She came out clutching her tray tightly, looking nervously towards the ring before Marika and Raku kicked things off with the cheap shot. They’d spotted a weakness and were happy to go for it, setting MSM up for her first ride on the Goodnight Express.

And I know I go on about it all the time, but Mei was fantastic here. The match revolved around the story of her finding her confidence again, initially reacting badly when things started to go wrong but getting through her jitters with the help of Sakisama. Then, as that confidence flowed back into her, she began getting inventive, pulling in the silver tray and opening things up for Sakisama and her rose.

It did make this match somewhat of a NEO Biishiki-gun showcase, with Raku and Marika mainly being there to help show them off, but Raku deserves credit for still managing to stand out. She nailed her look of confusion as Mei pranced around her, while the sight of the two of them in their frilly outfits made me smile. Despite being a couple of my many favourites, I’d never pegged that pairing as a dream match, but it’s now sitting high on my list of must-sees.

The final touch came with the finish, Sakisama locking in the Versailles Foot Choke on Marika and holding it even as Raku tried to break it up, giving Mei time to pull her away. It’s a small thing, but it makes so much sense. Sakisama is stronger than Raku, so there is no need for her to release her opponent after the slightest touch. In the grand scheme of things, that might not seem particularly important, but it worked for me, and was the cherry on top of a very enjoyable cake.

Verdict: MSM Gets Her Groove Back

The Bakuretsu Sisters (Nodoka Tenma & Yuki Aino) defeated The Magical Sugar Rabbits (Yuka Sakazaki & Mizuki)

This move is ridiculous, and I kind of love it. Credit: TJPW

It speaks to the depth Tokyo Joshi is cultivating in their roster that they feel like they can throw this match out in the first round of a tournament. If you were to name a tag-team ace, it would be the Magical Sugar Rabbits, while The Bakuretsu Sisters are the current champions. It’s arguably the biggest match the division has.

That feeling is aided by these pairings being natural foes. Nodoka and Yuki are wee tanks, two mini powerhouses who want to bludgeon their way through people, while Yuka and Mizuki are some of wrestling’s finest goblins. That gives everything they do together a very natural flow. The Sugar Rabbits were smarter and quicker than their opponents, at times joyously teasing them, but when the sisters got their hands on them, they were in trouble.

Even with that, I was still shocked at the result. I assumed this was being done so that the Sugar Rabbits could get a win, go out later in the tournament and still challenge for the titles, but the champs came out on top, Nodoka pinning Mizuki for what has to go down as an upset and suggests we won’t be getting round two anytime soon. Despite that, this definitely felt like a moment where both teams were holding back. Don’t get me wrong. It was good, but this wasn’t a huge show, and they rightfully kept something in the tank.

Still, as a lover of the sisters, this was a near-perfect main event as it dished up not only some good wrestling, but a feel-good result at the same time.

Verdict: Lovely stuff!

Overall Show

A sub-two-hour Tokyo Joshi card packed with matches of consequence? That might be the perfect wrestling show, and it was unsurprisingly a blast to watch. Everything was kept short and snappy, with even the worst matches never feeling like a chore. Two thumbs up from me!

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