Tokyo Joshi and Korakuen have been a hell of a pairing recently, and yet, despite their recent fantastic form in this venue, it felt like this show lacked a bit of hype. Its proximity to CyberFest, and the huge Miyu vs Yuka match, had perhaps taken some shine away from this one, leaving it in a tough position. The card still looks good, but without a big title challenge, could we be about to see the first merely alright Tokyo Joshi Korakuen in a long time? Let’s find out.
The Bakuretsu Sisters (Nodoka Tenma & Yuki Aino), Raku & Pom Harajuku defeated Suzume, Haruna Neko, Arisu Endo & Moka Miyamoto
Bakuretsu + Pom + Raku = a happy Stuart. There is a lot of love and nonsense bursting out of that team, and I will always support such things.
On top of that, this was a great example of the classic TJPW undercard match-up. We got the fun of moments like a mischievous Raku pulling the rope away to prevent a break, the thrill of Suzume buzzing about, continuing her recent brilliant form, and a surprisingly great back and forth between Neko and Pom. Throw in some promising rookies and the general excellence of the Bakuretsu Sisters, and we had a lovely old time on our hands.
It also ended with Raku getting yet another win in Korakuen. Perhaps I’m overly optimistic, but it can’t be a coincidence that she keeps getting these falls, so I’m going to pencil her in for the big January 4th title shot right away.
Verdict: A Lovely Time
Shoko Nakajima defeated Kaya Toribami
Kaya Toribami is still something of a mystery. She made her debut at CyberFest, surprisingly not taking the fall and looking impressive in the snippets we saw of her. There was a confidence in the masked rookie’s performance that caught the eye.
It was a feeling that continued into this show. Kaya does not wrestle like someone having their second match. I don’t just mean that as a way of saying she’s good, but to point out that the way she holds herself and moves around the ring suggests she is comfortable there. Even the most outstanding rookies still give off the impression that they are thinking about what comes next as they lack a naturalness that can only come with experience. Kaya doesn’t seem to have that.
And people have suggested that this is someone restarting their career under a mask, which on this evidence wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest, but who she is, is kinda irrelevant. What’s exciting is that this is another excellent addition to the Tokyo Joshi roster. If she’s already having matches as good as this one with Shoko (who was her usual excellent self), then we’re in for a treat.
Verdict: Exciting Rookie!
Yuki Kamifuku & Nao Kakuta defeated Miu Watanabe & Mahiro Kiryu
What initially looked like a throwaway tag had some intrigue not that deep beneath the surface. We had regular partners Kamiyu and Mahiro on opposite sides of the rings, while it wasn’t that long ago that Yuki dismissed Nao as normal and unworthy of her time.
It added just the right amount of spice to elevate this from a solid mid-card match to a really good one. These four seemed determined to make an impact, perhaps too much so on the part of Kamiyu and Nao as they fell out at one point, allowing Miu to take advantage and lift them both for a slam. That gave Watanabe a chance to run wild for a bit, using that impressive strength to make an impact.
The real showdown was between Kamiyu and Mahiro, though. Kiryu is someone else Yuki has had harsh words for, but it always seems to come from a place of love, a need to pull her out of her shell. We saw that again here as she slapped her regular partner across the face, leading to a fantastic home stretch between the two of them. Sadly, Kiryu didn’t quite have enough to put Kamifuku away, but it would take two Fameassers to see her off, and she earned a handshake and a hug from the usually biting Kamiyu afterwards. However, I think I’d be more interested in seeing some friction between those two. Mahiro has felt for a while like she’s the right couple of steps away from being really good, and I wonder if a personal feud with Kamiyu (much like the one Yuki had with Mina Shirakawa last year) could make all the difference.
This is the kind of match that anyone in a rush would be tempted to skip, but it is well worth your time.
Verdict: Caught Me Off-Guard
Mirai Maiumi defeated Yuki Arai
It’s a good day for rookie wrestlers impressing! Yuki Arai joined Kaya in putting on a fantastic performance, looking infinitely more comfortable and relaxed than she did in her (already impressive) first couple of matches. Without the ability to tag out of the ring, Yuki had to show a bit more of what she could do, and she stepped up to the challenge. There were a couple of beautiful big boots, but even more exciting was the way she worked with Maiumi on the mat and the seamless transition into a backslide in the home stretch that had me convinced she’d won.
Giving her all the credit would be unfair, though. As standout as Arai was, she benefitted greatly from having a brilliant partner in Mirai, who looked like someone who had wrestled five times longer than she has. The way she led this match was incredible, giving Yuki moments while never undercutting her own ability. I love that this giant nerd (her starting her MSS48 group, of which coming into this show she was the only member, was wonderful) is also an outstanding wrestler who looks set to be a real force.
These two delivered a match that didn’t so much outstrip my expectations as blow them away. When Arai came in, there were always going to be a few questions as to what her ceiling could be, but she has clearly worked her arse off and is already delivering at a level that would have been an acceptable peak. Part of that might have been down to Mirai, but with this being match number three, I think it’s okay for us to start getting a bit excited.
Verdict: What Are They Feeding These Rookies?
The Magical Sugar Rabbits (Yuka Sakazaki & Mizuki) defeated Hyper Misao & Rika Tatsumi
Misao is no fool. Her love for Rika is strong, but she knows where Tatsumi’s affections lie, and they’re with Mizuki. Thankfully, as always, she had a plan. A simple brainwashing device was all it took for those feelings to be turned towards Misao, and Rika was now more than happy to attack her love. Well, she was, right up until Mizuki pulled it off her head.
Luckily, even without brainwashing tech, Rika seemed focused on the match at hand, which was, unsurprisingly, a blast. You put these four in a ring together, and you’re basically guaranteed a great time. There might not have been some great storyline underpinning it (although I suspect we’ve got our next tag title challengers), but it had years of history. The gag that opened the match was only possible because these four have been interacting and bouncing off each other for so long, making it possible for them to draw from their past. Plus, they’re all brilliant wrestlers who know exactly how to dance between nonsense and seriousness.
Yuka certainly got serious towards the end, getting back into winning ways after the failed title challenge by brutally dispatching Misao. The Magical Merry-Go-Round was particularly vicious, as that move seems to pick up speed every time she does it before The Magical Chicken Dude got the win as this was great as you’d imagine it to be. Bloody hell, this show has been hella good so far!
Verdict: So Much Fun
Hikari Noa defeated Marika Kobashi to retain the International Princess Title
Marika came into this match frustrated that someone who debuted after her had won a singles title before her. It’s easy to forget that she’s been doing this for five years, is a former tag champion and has only been held back by injuries and the need to take time off to complete her schooling. Noa might be older than her, but Marika is the veteran and, sporting a new look, seemed determined to prove it.
It set this up for an interesting performance from Kobashi, as she went out and controlled the bulk of the action, dictating the pace and trying to prevent Hikari from building up a head of steam. It perhaps wasn’t the most thrilling way to structure the match, but it made sense, as she seemed determined to show Noa how good she is.
It also put Hikari in a good position. She’s somehow who thrives when battling from underneath, firing off with those dropkicks or hitting a suplex out of nowhere. Her ability to convey struggle is fantastic, as you believed that she had to scrap for every inch that she got in this match, surviving what Marika threw at her and grasping onto the one or two opportunities she had. It also made perfect sense for the first defence of a new champion. Noa isn’t comfortable in her spot, but she overcame the challenge and came out with her title in hand.
I’m not sure I’d put this up with the best of the recent International title defences, Marika’s control sections weren’t quite interesting enough for that, but it still hinted at the potential for Hikari’s run. It also continued the precedent Kamiyu had set by being a tighter match focused on a simple, well-told story. So while this wasn’t incredible, I have every faith that one down the line will be.
Verdict: A Strong Performance With Potential
NEO Biishiki-gun (Sakisama & Mei Saint-Michel) defeated 121000000 (Miyu Yamashita & Maki Itoh) to retain the Princess Tag Titles
Sakisama and Mei Saint-Michel have been almost unstoppable since waltzing into Tokyo Joshi towards the end of last year. The one team to have bloodied their aristocratic noses was the one standing across from them on this show, the almost supergroup style pairing of Maki Itoh and Miyu Yamashita. These teams were 1-1 coming into this main event, and there was a feeling that a shock could be on the cards.
And much like their previous matches, this was fantastic. The chemistry between Itoh and MSM has only grown in that time, the clash of personality between them only getting stronger. MSM initially got the upper hand here, that tray proving effective until Itoh decided that she’d had enough, ripping it away from Mei’s hands and showing off her famously hard head by headbutting it repeatedly. She then followed up with a tray assisted Kokeshi, neutralising one of Biishiki-gun’s weapons.
In the end, though, this match wasn’t about Mei and Itoh. It was about Miyu and Sakisama. That damn French aristocrat is the one person that seems capable of putting Yamashita under her thumb, meeting her in the centre of the ring and going kick for kick. For anyone else on the roster, that would be a suicidal plan, a guarantee of having your head booted into the back row, but Sakisama doesn’t have that fear. She looks down on Miyu, unintimidated by the Mega Ace’s incredible talent. It seems to give her an edge, an ability to flap the normally unflappable Miyu. It was Itoh who was clinging onto this match, saving Miyu from a Sakisama triangle choke, but eventually, those long limbs proved too much. The Versailles Foot Choke locked on, and Ref Kiso was forced to call for the bell.
That feeling continued into the post-match, as Sakisama, after a bit of prodding from MSM, made a challenge for the title. Normally, you would expect Miyu to be ready and willing, but having been choked out, she looked unsure. It would take not only the challenge but a lecture from her partner to convince her to accept, and even then, it was begrudgingly. She might have found the one person she can’t beat, and if this awesome match is anything to go by, we’re in for a hell of a title showdown.
Verdict: The Ace Is Shaken
God, I was speaking some bollocks back in my intro, wasn’t I? Tokyo Joshi weren’t going to slip up! This company is on fire, and this wasn’t only a good show, but a fantastic one. People stepped up and gave standout performances all over the card, making it genuinely hard to choose a match of the night. The TJPW run continues, and may it never end.
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