TJPW Still Incomplete (17/4/21) Review

Itoh goes for the big one. Credit: TJPW

Tokyo Joshi is a company with a plan. The way they book their titles suggests it’s all been laid out in advance, each piece of the puzzle slotted in to open up a spot for the next. The question is, what happens when things change? Not the unavoidable bad change, injury or retirement, but the good one, where a wrestler takes off in a way that you maybe didn’t expect. I suspect the plan was always for Maki Itoh to challenge Rika Tatsumi on this show but had Tokyo Joshi expected her to be coming in after making international headlines? Will the temptation to grab a few more of those cause those plans to be launched out the window? Well, it’s time to find out.

Yuki Arai, an idol and member of SKE48 who has worked with DDT before, introduced herself pre-show. She’s going to be debuting for TJPW on next month’s Korakuen, so that should be fun. While I wasn’t watching DDT during her mini-run, I know she feuded with Itoh over the Ironman title, giving them at least one easy story to play with.

Marika Kobashi & Sena Shiori defeated Moka Miyamoto & Arisu Endo

POW! Credit: TJPW

It’s easy to forget that Marika (despite being 19) debuted back in 2016 and is a former tag team champion. However, in there with the rookies, that experience came to the surface. She was the one controlling the pacing of this match, keeping those pesky kids in place. It made for perhaps her best performance since her return.

As for the kids, they all look like they’re coming along well. Despite being the newest of the lot, Arisu is the one who stands out, as she feels a bit less rough around the edges than Moka and Sena. Although that might partly be because she’s still new and shiny, making her that little bit more exciting. She couldn’t entirely steal the show either, as this would turn out to be a big moment for Sena who picked up her first-ever victory, an arm-trap single-leg crab causing Moka to tap. I love watching wrestlers get that weight off their back, and with Sena being a massive wrestling nerd, you could see it meant a lot to her.

Sadly, this match’s significance has shifted since I wrote the above on Saturday. Today, it was announced that a chronic illness is forcing Sena to retire. She’ll have one final match on the 24th of April, but what initially felt like a kicking-off point for her is now the beginning of the end. I wish her all the best in the future and hope she manages to find health, happiness and whatever else she might want from life.

Verdict: Solid Opener

Miu Watanabe, Raku & Pom Harajuku defeated Yuna Manase, Mahiro Kiryu & Haruna Neko

The Queen of Scotland. Credit: TJPW

Pom has new gear, and it’s tartan, so as the official spokesperson for all of Scotland (self-appointed), I accept her as the new face of the country. We will all go out and kick someone in the shin to celebrate.

The highlight of this was Yuna using her big show Tokyo Joshi appearance to get into things with Miu. She seemed determined to test her, drawing her into a forearm exchange and tasting a bit of that power. It pulled some fire out of Watanabe in what was ultimately a meaningless match, so it gets the thumbs up from me. Haruna, meanwhile, has started going for walks on the ropes. Okay, it was slightly pointless (she walked from one corner to the other), but it’s a new trick from Tokyo Joshi’s favourite cat.

Most importantly, Raku got the win! Any day where Raku wins is a good one, and I don’t think she gets enough credit for how beautiful that Slingblade is. Plus, you know, for being Raku. Give Raku more credit, people! Fun match, perfect result.

Verdict: Fun!

Miyu Yamashita defeated Hikari Noa

So close! Credit: TJPW

Coming off her fantastic hardcore match with Rina, Noa started this by showing that she’s not purely drawn to violence. It’s not often you see someone compete with Miyu on the mat, but Hikari got the better of her at times, twisting the Ace up in all manner of painful ways. It was only when Yamashita created some distance and brought those vicious kicks and knees into the fray that she took control.

And this is a match-style that Miyu excels at. She’s so good at bringing the best out of her opponents, making them look brilliant before removing their heads with one of those decapitating kicks. The difference here was that it felt like there was a chance Noa could win. Hikari’s been bubbling under the surface, ready for that push, so when she hit her Blizzard Suplex, and Miyu only survived by getting her foot on the rope, you were pulled to the front of your seat. The series of flash pins that followed feeling like they could end things at any second.

They didn’t, but this match fucking ruled and losing to Miyu in this manner is often the start of something in Tokyo Joshi. Yamashita is the final boss, so to get in the ring with her and hold your own is a sign that you’re ready. Noa has been so for a while, but this still felt like a huge performance. With the Princess Cup coming up, I wouldn’t bet against her making a run deep into that tournament and finally getting the push we all know she deserves.

Verdict: Fucking Awesome

BeeStar (Mirai Maiumi & Suzume) defeated Kyoraku Kyomei (Shoko Nakajima & Hyper Misao) and The Magical Sugar Rabbits (Yuka Sakazaki & Mizuki) in a three-way tag

Mirai! Credit: TJPW

Tokyo Joshi’s first-ever three-way tag saw them pack the match with three brilliant teams. Unfortunately, Kyoraku Kyomei were too busy bickering to notice. They would end up storming away from each other, both joining one of the other teams, thanks to Shoko’s claim that Misao’s plans always cause them to lose. Thankfully, our heroes hadn’t actually fallen out, as it would turn out the bickering was the plan, giving them a chance to jump their opponents. God, they are geniuses.

That was the set up for a blast of a match. With three separate moving parts, they were able to slam their foot on the accelerator and take-off, which was always going to be a good time with that amount of talent in the ring. The Sugar Rabbits (sporting new gear and coming out to a new theme) did a fantastic job of holding everything together, taking control for the second act as Shoko and Yuka had a particularly awesome back and forth.

In the end, though, the chaos of the stipulation bred opportunity, and it was Mirai who took it. Much like Noa, we all know she’s on the cusp of something, and BeeStar have challenged for the tag titles before. Even with that, though, her Lariating Shoko into next week and getting the win was a sit up and cheer moment, as the two of them being left alone had me assuming this was only ending one way. I was delighted to be proven wrong, and this was a fantastic use of a match format to force through an upset.

Verdict: A Lovely Time

Yuki Kamifuku defeated Nao Kakuta to retain the International Princess Title

A boot to the face will always do the job. Credit: TJPW

Making her first big title challenge, Nao looked nervous as the bell rang. It seemed to radiate out from her, making the opening exchanges feel awkward and wooden, the two of them not quite managing to get on the same page. There weren’t any major botches or screw-ups, things just weren’t quite fitting together.

However, in some ways, that almost played to the match’s benefit. It felt like a nervous challenger taking on a champion who still isn’t entirely confident in their position, giving everything a slightly chaotic edge. Then, as the action built, they both settled into their roles, forgetting the nerves. By the time they were slapping the shit out of each other, all that early awkwardness was gone. Kakuta morphed into a legit challenger in front of her eyes. When she locked Kamiyu in a submission, forcing her to battle to the ropes, that long body eventually allowing her to make it, you started to believe she could win.

She wouldn’t, but this was definitive proof that she’s going to be a brilliant signing for Tokyo Joshi in the long term. Kamiyu, meanwhile, continues to make the International Princess Title her own. With this concentration on shorter, faster matches, it’s developing an identity separate from that of the main title, rather than simply being a slightly less prestigious version of it. That’s what you want from your secondary bekt, and Kamiyu is proving to be the perfect person to do it.

Verdict: They Grew Into It Nicely

NEO Biishiki-gun (Sakisama & Mei Saint-Michel) defeated The Bakuretsu Sisters (Nodoka Tenma & Yuki Aino) to win the Princess Tag Titles

So graceful. Credit: TJPW

Sakisama and her various minions have always proven to be a pain in the arse for the Bakuretsu Sisters. They’ve never managed to beat them, even if you extend it back to the days where Nodoka teamed with people who weren’t her sister. There is something about those damn aristocrats that gets under their skin, so while Nodoka did indulge in a bit of Mei Saint-Michel’s dancing, they were serious about wanting to turn their fortunes around.

The Sisters had come up with the perfect plan too. Mei Saint-Michel is a nasty wee goblin, but if you had to choose between fighting her and Sakisama, well, it’s an easy pick. They wanted to go after the less experienced Mei, using her recent conversion from maid to wrestler to their advantage. Take Sakisama, with those long legs which she barely needs to lift off the ground to boot Nodoka in the head, out of the game, and their odds would drastically improve.

It was going well too. Yuki might not have Sakisama’s height, but she has power and could keep up with her in the ring. Mei was a pest, but pests can be swatted, and when they hit the Bakuretsu Bulldog to Sakisama on the floor, it looked like they’d nailed it. The momentum had turned in their favour, Nodoka punching that damn plate out of Mei’s hands, as I was sure my favourite team were about to take it home.

Never underestimate a goblin, though. What’s been cool about Mei’s NEO-Biishiki-gun run is that it’s been about her. She gets a lot of the wins and, well, sorry to break kayfabe, but is showing the world just how good Mei Suruga is. Left alone with Nodoka for the home stretch, she managed to survive the Killswitch and bundle her up into a pin, saving the day even without Sakisama’s help and earning herself some gold in the process. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t gutted to see the sisters lose the belts they fought so hard for, but hey, if anyone’s going to win it, I’m glad it was that goblin.

Verdict: Bloody Aristocracy

As Mei got ready to bid everyone au-revoir, BeeStar interrupted, leaping on the momentum from their earlier victory to make a challenge. It’s safe to say Mei wasn’t too impressed, freezing in horror at their rudeness, only coming back to life after they’d left and Sakisama had dangled one of the belts in her face. I imagine some snacks would have also worked, but she looked very proud as she carried both titles to the back.

Rika Tatsumi defeated Maki Itoh to retain the Princess of Princess Title

Defiant to the end. Credit: TJPW

There was one question coming into this match, is Itoh ready? Yes, 2021 has been a massive year for Maki. She put on perhaps the best performance of her career against Miyu on January 4th before going on to form a team with the Ace in which they feel like equals. That’s before we even get to the whole taking the world by storm thing, as she ticked one dream off the list and got the chance to wrestle in America for AEW. That’s all layered on top of what appears to be an ever-deepening love and understanding of wrestling as her in-ring work rises up to match her undoubted charisma. And yet, she’s still Itoh, as capable of self-destruction as she is genius. Plus, while so little of the pre-show chat has focused on Rika Tatsumi, she is also someone who has fought and clawed to get where she is and was going to be in no mood to give up what she’d earned.

From the start, though, it was clear this wasn’t an Itoh who was liable to explode. She seemed calm and in control, rolling to the outside to catch her breath when Rika got the upper hand. Then, when going on the attack, she brought that edge Tatsumi had demanded in the build-up, ripping up the padding on Korakuen’s floor to slam Rika on the wood. It opened up a target on Rika’s back, giving her something to work over as she moved towards the Itoh Deluxe. In return, though, Tatsumi continued the tactic she’s used throughout her title reign, attacking Itoh’s leg for the Figure Four.

It made for a fascinating back and forth, both wrestlers working to a plan as they went head to head. Rika has been relentless in recent months, but Itoh was matching her, showing everything she’s learnt. It says a lot about how these two approached the match that when it came time for the diamond ass to meet the giant head (it was a draw), it felt like a legit, serious spot. One earned through the intensity they were bringing to the table.

Ultimately, though, Itoh did make a mistake. When she was setting up for the Itoh Deluxe, Rika raised a finger in defiance, drawing inspiration from Itoh’s own playbook. It was enough to make Maki hesitate, and rather than going through with the move, she chose to sink her teeth into Rika’s finger. I can’t imagine that was pleasant for Tatsumi, but it was better than the alternative, and it gave her the opening she needed. Seconds later, Rika would get the Dragon Sleeper on, and while Itoh would take back her defiance, breaking the ref’s count by raising a finger of her own before using a Dragon Sleeper too, it was the beginning of the end. Maki’s attempts to win became more desperate, and eventually, she ran into that Diamond Ass one too many times.

To go back to that original question, though, Itoh proved that she is more than ready. Whether you’re talking in kayfabe or not, Maki Itoh is an incredible professional wrestler. Right now, it’s Rika’s time, and it’s a well-earned time, but Itoh’s day will come, and when it does, she’s going to be brilliant.

Verdict: Brilliant

In the aftermath, Rika called Itoh backed to the ring and seconded my opinion on her. For a second, it looked like Maki would respond by sharing a fist bump with the champ, but she changed her mind, shoving that middle finger into her face in classic Itoh style. That wasn’t all, though, as Rika also called Miyu back to the ring, laying down a suitably wild challenge that ended with her smacking Yamashita multiple times. Any Miyu title shot is a biggie, and considering the history between those two, that’s going to be something special.

Overall Show

Wow, another Tokyo Joshi Korakuen, another incredible show. Seriously, they haven’t put a step wrong in that building since, em, I honestly can’t remember. And they’ve already booked BeeStar and Yamashita to challenge for the next one! Fuck me! The good times don’t look likely to end anytime soon, and I am more than okay with that.

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