Korakuen may have been empty, but Tokyo Joshi were in town, and as I’ve been saying a lot recently, I can’t remember the last time they came to this building and put on anything less than an incredible show. Normally, the lack of a crowd would have me worried that their streak was about to come to an end, but look at this card! I think we’re in safe hands.
Pom Harajuku & Haruna Neko defeated Mahiro Kiryu & Moka Miyamoto
Neko was in a particularly scratchy mood, leaving Referee Matsui unsure whether that was legal or not. I guess because she’s a cat, you can’t punish her for scratching? But it does seem somewhat unfair, especially as she tends to go for the eyes.
With who was involved, you can probably guess what this match was like. These four are all solid wee wrestlers who do what they do, but you’re going to be disappointed if you’re looking for anything mindblowing. Shins were kicked, and Pom de Justice was served as Scotland looked on proudly at what was a perfectly fine opener.
The Bakuretsu Sisters (Nodoka Tenma & Yuki Aino) & Hyper Misao defeated Nao Kakuta, Raku & Marika Kobashi
Is there a more joyous sight than Hyper Misao being carried to the ring on the shoulders of the Bakuretsu sisters? They then started the match by attempting to deploy Formation A, which was, well, not too successful, but you can’t fault their effort.
There was a noticeable uptick in quality between the opener and this one, as after the initial comedy was done, it became a relatively straight tag. The highlight was Aino and Nao facing off, which, while not particularly substantial, hinted that they could have a great match somewhere down the line as they ramped up the physicality.
And while that was my favourite bit, I think everyone was on form, with Marika managing to hint at the upset with a Guillotine Choke on Nodoka. It wasn’t to be, Yuki coming to the rescue as the former tag champs regained a bit of momentum, but it summed up an entertaining match that gave everyone their moment.
Maki Itoh & Arisu Endo defeated Miu Watanabe & Yuki Arai
It says a lot about the faith Tokyo Joshi have in Arisu Endo that they not only put her in a match with their new idol wrestler but had them kick things off together. While I’ve no idea how big SKE48 are, I assume that TJPW will be looking to use Arai to bring in new fans, so that first impression is important. That Endo, who only debuted four months ago, was trusted in the spot, suggests they know she’s great, and I think she did them proud.
However, the focus of this match was always going to be Yuki Arai and how she got on. Coming in, she looked understandably nervous, and there were a couple of awkward moments. However, despite that, I think she can come away from this debut pleased. She kept her cool, selling well (they even hinted at one Itoh DDT being enough to take her out), and the Axe Kick that they focused on in the pre-match video is already an impressive move. Most importantly, she relaxed as the match went on, pulling out a death glare that will serve her well done the line.
Plus, in Itoh, she has a natural foe. Maki would come out on top this time, tapping Yuki out and laying down the gauntlet post-match, challenging Arai to catch up with her. There is something incredibly satisfying about seeing Itoh take the role of a veteran that a young wrestler would chase, as she’s truly coming full circle. I can’t imagine her giving this new idol wrestler an inch, so I’m looking forward to seeing what they can cook up in the months ahead.
Verdict: A Good Start
Yuka Sakazaki defeated Mizuki & Shoko Nakajima in a three-way to become the number one contender to the Princess of Princess Title
Child of Chaos Mizuki is the perfect person to have in a match like this. For most wrestlers, you might question why they would be in such a rush to turn on their Magical Sugar Rabbit partner and take away that advantage, but with Mizuki, it makes perfect sense. She’s a devil child, so why wouldn’t she betray Yuka at the first chance she had? Sending her back towards her Miraclians partner Shoko might be a disadvantage, but it’s not like that alliance would last long either.
In fact, all three of these wrestlers were brilliant in this environment. They are fantastic, inventive workers, so it was no surprise to see them put together some lovely moves involving all of them. It felt like they were having to adapt, tweaking what they usually do to accommodate the extra person. The most impressive example of which was probably Yuka managing to hit the Magical Merry-Go-Round to both of her opponents simultaneously. I’ve long thought Sakazaki was an underrated powerhouse, but that was damn impressive.
It wouldn’t be the only time Yuka surprised me, as she picked up the win, using the three-way stipulation to sneak in and steal away with a flash pin after a Shoko Northern Lights Suplex. Beforehand, I’d probably have put her third in my list of likely winners, as she’s so recently had title matches with both wrestlers in the main event. However, with the benefit of hindsight and the next defence being Cyberfest, it makes perfect sense. Yuka is one of Tokyo Joshi’s biggest stars, and after her work last year, she deserves that platform.
Verdict: Inventive Match, Surprise Result
Hikari Noa defeated Yuki Kamifuku to win the International Princess Title
As someone who spends a lot of time writing and thinking about wrestling, I think it’s sometimes easy to forget about the simple stuff. To spend too much time unpicking what the wrestlers are doing or trying to find the thread of the match that I want to write about. I can get so caught up in that, that I occasionally forget the most important thing about all of this, being a fan.
Because I am a huge wrestling fan and I am a huge Hikari Noa fan, which ultimately made this what it was. As the entrances were happening, I felt that nervous excitement bubbling up, hoping that maybe this would be the moment Noa broke through. I love Kamiyu and think she’s done an incredible job giving the International Title a unique identity, but that’s not the fan side of me speaking. The fan side wanted Noa to drop her on her head.
And this match perfectly played into that feeling. Part of that unique identity has been Kamiyu’s focus on shorter bouts with tight action that feels like a fight. So, by the time she was launching chairs at Hikari on the floor, turning Noa’s attempt to go hardcore against her, I was hooked. Noa is brilliant at generating sympathy, looking like she’s had the shit kicked out of her before firing back with those brutal flurries of dropkicks. She had me hanging off every blow, and by the time she hit an Avalanche Blizzard Suplex, I was yelling at her to go for the cover, not to follow up with a second move. Thankfully, Hikari’s decision making was right, and mine wrong, leaving me fist-pumping away at five in the morning, delighted at what I’d seen. When you chip it all away, that’s what this stuff is about.
NEO Biishiki-gun (Sakisama & Mei Saint-Michel) defeated BeeStar (Mirai Maiumi & Suzume) to retain the Princess Tag Titles
BeeStar and this iteration of Biishiki-gun might be perfect foes. They both have a big lass, little lass thing going on, but even more so than that, the spirited innocence of Suzume and Mirai is a perfect counterpoint to the evil aristocrat and her goblin help. You just have to look at them to know which side you should be rooting for, BeeStar decked out in blue and yellow in stark contrast to the black of Mei and Sakisama.
It also helps that they’re all brilliant wrestlers. Sorry to break kayfabe, but Mei Suruga is having one of the greatest wrestling weeks I think I’ve ever seen. The three days before this, she worked three fantastic matches in ChocoPro, and she was stunningly good here yet again. It turns out she was born to play a French maid, as she prances around the ring, making a menace of herself with a wicked grin on her face.
I want to focus on BeeStar for a bit, though, who are probably my favourite young tag team. They’re doing a brilliant job of growing as a pairing in front of our eyes, coming up with plans to counter their opponents. Where Suzume once fell for Mei’s first play with the platter, she’s now forcing her to go deeper and deeper into her arsenal, coming up with more inventive ways to bring it into the action. Mirai, meanwhile, feels like a legit threat to everyone on the roster, rocking the usually unrockable Sakisama with a hellacious Lariat. They are an incredibly easy team to root for, and while they didn’t win the titles this time, I do not doubt that they eventually will.
Unfortunately, NEO Biishiki-gun are still a prance or two ahead. MSM found herself isolated in the final act, but she’s not the weak link that teams seem to hope she is. Mei held her own in a battle of flash pins with Suzume (which expertly called back to the Bakuretsu match) before Sakisama returned to turn the tide and assist the submission win. A final credit must go to Suzume, who in those dying moments looked broken as she realised she had no choice but to tap, the tears flowing before her hand hit the ground. The damn aristocracy have done it again, but she’ll get them one day, and it will be sweet.
Verdict: BeeStar’s Day Will Come!
Miyu Yamashita defeated Rika Tatsumi to win the Princess Title
The opening minutes of this match perfectly summed up Miyu Yamashita. Rika came into this with a plan, but it took no time at all for it to start to feel irrelevant, one perfect kick to the head sending her crashing to the floor. It was much the same feeling I get whenever I watch Aberdeen play Celtic in a cup final. We can do everything right, but the bastards will always find a way to fuck us up.
And Rika did do everything right, even after she’d been kicked in the head. A flurry of hip attacks turned the momentum back in her favour as she calmed down, finding her footing and slipping into her plan. Rika wanted to attack Miyu’s leg, and she did exactly that, some vicious Dragon Screws setting up for a Figure Four. Her title reign has been defined by her ability to control matches, forcing her opponent to wrestle to her tempo. For a while, it looked like she was going to do so again, the added violence of moves like the Twist of Fate onto the apron giving her an advantage.
However, what makes Miyu Yamashita, Miyu Yamashita, is how unstoppable she is. You have to be at your best, and she has to be at her worst, for you to stand a chance. And this was arguably Miyu at her best. The moment it all twisted wasn’t the end, but it was when you got a reminder of just what Rika was going to have to overcome, Yamashita catching a Flying Hip Attack out of the air and turning it into a German. It is the kind of move that 99% of the time looks awful, but these two nailed it, their violence timed to perfection.
The final sequence was an incredible display of brutality. However, there was also a sense of inevitability hanging over it. The momentum had twisted into Miyu’s corner, and like the very best, once she has it, she is never letting it go. There was a moment of hope when Rika kicked out of the Skull Kick, that seconds respite where you thought she could maybe recover, but it wasn’t to be. Crash Rabbit Heat came flying in, and we’ve got our first-ever three-time champion.
I came out of this gutted for Rika but in all the right ways. For the second time in her career, she came up against Miyu in a big title fight, came so incredibly close to winning, but ultimately couldn’t do it. As sad as I am to see her lose, I’m even more excited to see where she goes next, and she has an incredible (if somewhat short) title reign under her belt. Meanwhile, Miyu moves on to face Yuka at Cyberfest, a rematch from Ittenyon 2020 (a show I was at live). There isn’t a world where that doesn’t rule.
I spoke about Miyu Yamashita being inevitable, but you could say the same thing about Tokyo Joshi Korakuens. These things do not miss, and this wasn’t the exception to the rule, even if it took place in front of no fans. In fact, to prove how good it was, I only remembered there weren’t any fans when writing that sentence, as it slipped my mind around the halfway part of the show. ‘So good you forget the arena is empty.’ There you go Koda, you can put that one on the poster for free.
Watch Tokyo Joshi Pro: https://www.ddtpro.com/universe/videos?teamId=tjpw