Princess Cup time! In a company that protects single matches, tournaments are always exciting. It allows Tokyo Joshi to put together all kinds of interesting pairings and give us a glimpse of future plans, so let’s stop jibber-jabbering and get into it.
Kyoraku Kyomei (Shoko Nakajima & Hyper Misao) & Rika Tatsumi defeated The Bakuretsu Sisters (Yuki Aino & Nodoka Tenma), Suzume & Haruna Neko
The handicap nature of this meant that the opening rammy saw everyone pick a partner apart from Nodoka, who was left standing awkwardly, not entirely sure what to do. As usual, she sold it to perfection, awkwardly attempting to join in with Suzume and Rika, only for them to roll back into the ring as she tried came out to the floor.
Despite this being slightly more star-studded than your usual TJPW opener, there wasn’t a whole lot to it. Unsurprisingly, no one was going all out, choosing to take it easy on their first show of four in a row, and have a nice time instead. Thankfully, I enjoy a nice time, so while there was nothing about it that blew me away, I still came out the other side with a smile on my face.
Verdict: Enjoyable, But Nothing Special
Hikari Noa, Mizuki, Miu Watanabe & Yuki Arai defeated Maki Itoh, Yuki Kamifuku, Marika Kobashi & Kaya Toribami
It was Itoh’s birthday! Unfortunately, her opponents did not treat said day with the respect it deserved, attacking her during the celebrations. It left everyone’s favourite big-headed idol in floods of tears, a trick that her fellow idol Arai hadn’t seen before, as she walked right into a headbutt when she attempted to comfort her.
Itoh was also part of some of the best bits in this match, as she’s vowed to not only win the tournament but beat her old partner Mizuki while doing so. The two’s interactions had some edge to them, old wounds being opened as they went head to head and hinted at a future showdown that will no doubt be great.
Outside of that, Kaya had another strong showing, getting her first chance to sing along with ‘Brooklyn The Hole’ and doing a cool dropkick where she leapt off two of her partners’ backs. Throw in Miu engaging wee hoss mode, Hikari firing off with dropkicks and Arai’s steady improvement, and you had yourself a decent tag.
Verdict: Happy Birthday, Itoh-chan!
Mahiro Kiryu defeated Arisu Endo in the Princess Cup First Round
It really can’t be overstated how impressive Arisu Endo is at this point in her career. I thought they were struggling for the opening minutes of this match as the grappling between the two of them felt perfunctory and without purpose. It was Endo who turned it around, though. She’s already got the ability to convey the struggle of wrestling, so when she started firing off with dropkicks and trying to lock in her Camel Clutch, she brought the action to life. You felt like she was giving everything she could to get into this, and that’s always easy to root for.
It also seemed to lift Mahiro, who is still somehow who I think needs a firm hand across from her to shine. That’s not me saying she’s a shite wrestler because she’s not, but you could see her nerves in those opening minutes. When Endo brought that fire, Kiryu was able to relax into the match, responding in kind and finally hitting a Spinebuster for the win. It wasn’t enough to turn this into a classic, but for two young wrestlers paired up in the first round of a tournament, it was a solid performance.
Verdict: Decent, But Flawed
Raku defeated Moka Miyamoto in the Princess Cup First Round
Despite all her recent success, Raku still hadn’t picked up her first singles victory. Thankfully, the Princess Cup draw was kind, and it was time to fix that by sacrificing a rookie to the train gods.
Honestly, this was a bit of a nothing match, and if I were the kind of person who felt the need to be objective (yawn), I would probably leave it at that. However, it was also basically an extended Raku squash match, and you have no idea how happy that makes me. She went out there and dominated Moka, taking her for rides on all the trains before seeing her off with Doctor Yellow, and I can’t believe we’re now at the point where that is possible. Raku isn’t only winning matches, but she’s doing so easily, seeing off rookies like they’re barely worth her time.
I love Raku. I love that she’s a train nerd, has a bonnie bonnet and wears a ridiculously frilly yellow dress to wrestle. If she could barely string two moves together, she’d still be one of my favourites. But that’s not the case. Instead, over the last year and a half, Raku has been steadily improving, and she has earned the right to put Moka away with minimum fuss. That fucking rules.
Verdict: Raku Is The Best
Mirai Maiumi defeated Pom Harajuku in the Princess Cup First Round
Do you know who else I love? Pom. Because Pom is a fucking weirdo and doesn’t care who knows it. She started this match by attacking Strong Style, Mirai’s invisible friend, who I believe lives in her wrist tape. Now I’ve written that out I’m actually starting to suspect that Mirai might be a weirdo too. Bless them both.
Surprisingly, though, this turned out to be Pom’s match. Along with attacking SS, she showed a level of aggression we don’t usually get from TJPW’s resident clown. Yes, she was still all shin kicks and Running P Attacks (the move where she makes her arms into a P and runs into her opponent, in case you didn’t know), but she was doing them with a steely look in her eye. She even managed to overcome Mirai’s brilliant counter to the shin kicks (standing on the ropes because Pom can’t kick that high) by simple punching her in the shin instead.
It nearly paid off for her as an inventive roll-up at the end got a nice two count before an attempt at a second one (that was even more inventive) was countered into the Miramare, forcing Pom to tap. Still, even in defeat, this was the Pom show, and when you’re in there with someone as good as Mirai, that’s its own victory.
Verdict: ‘Mon The Weirdos!
Miyu Yamashita defeated Nao Kakuta in the Princess Cup First Round
If you’re a new fan of Tokyo Joshi, you might not be aware that while Miyu Yamashita is very good at kicking people’s heads into the back row, she’s not so good at tournaments. In fact, until last year, she’d hadn’t made it past the second round of the Princess Cup since 2015, when it was a very different affair. So while this match might have looked like a foregone conclusion on paper, it was anything but.
And that little character wrinkle in an otherwise unbeatable Ace really made this because it gave Nao a chance. I expected Miyu to win, but a part of me was also looking for the upset. I was waiting for Nao to pull some trick out of the bag and sneak away with the victory. It never happened, but it was enough to keep me gripped to what otherwise would have probably passed as a good (but routine) victory for Yamashita.
It’s those little touches, touches that have been baked in over years of booking, that makes Tokyo Joshi as good as it is. You can watch this match not knowing that, and I’m pretty sure you’ll still enjoy it (it would rank as one of Kakuta’s best performances in the company), but when that’s there, it brings with it a whole different dimension.
Verdict: Long-Term Booking Pays Off
This won’t go down as a classic slab of Tokyo Joshi action, but it made me happy. It was about an hour and a half long, every match was kept short, and there was more than enough there to keep me entertained. The nature of these tournaments is that you’re going to get early rounds that don’t feature big match-ups, and that was the case here, but they still managed to put on an enjoyable show.
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