There aren’t many things as consistently brilliant as a TJPW trip to Korakuen, and it feels like it’s been a while since we last had one. They were back with a packed card that didn’t have a Princess of Princess Title match on it but did give us an Up Up Girls’ collision and 121000000 going after MagiRabbit. That sounds like a good time, doesn’t it? Let’s find out if it was.
Despite Hikari and Miu facing off later in the show, the Up Up Girls delivered as good a performance as ever with no brutal attacks. Hikari is definitely the type to be tempted, though. Bet she had something sharp on her just in case.
Marika Kobashi & Moka Miyamoto defeated AriSuzu (Suzume & Arisu Endo)
Arisu and Suzume have dubbed themselves AriSuzu, so it looks like they’re going to be sticking around. It’s not quite BeeStar, but it’s the first step to getting over that loss, and I’m glad that we can start our journey together. Plus, they look great.
In fact, everyone out there looked good. The opener was made up of four young wrestlers, who are all hitting their stride simultaneously, picking up momentum and putting on some impressive performances. This was no different, as it was just an excellent wee showing. Everyone involved works together well, their individual styles contrasting and coming together nicely to put on something that was a lot of fun.
It’s one of those matches where I don’t think there’s much more for me to say. I guess the result was a bit of a surprise, as I expected the established team to win, but then Marika was the veteran. Either way, I enjoyed it a lot, and I imagine you will too.
Verdict: Good Opener!
Nao Kakura, Mahiro Kiryu & Haruna Neko defeated Yuki Aino, Raku & Pom Harajuku
The dream team is back together! Any day where Pom, Raku and Yuki are on the same side is a good day. I’m also thrilled to hear Chris Brookes spreading the good word of God Raku on commentary. He got so into it that he yelled ‘trample that cat’ during the Goodnight Express, which was very funny.
After a somewhat serious, strait-laced opener, we were in gentle comedy territory here, aka the match where people bully the cat. To be fair, Neko did use her cuteness to lure Aino in and scratch her, so she might have deserved it. Elsewhere, Nao missed the gentle part of that message as she attempted to boot poor Raku’s head into the last row. Usually, that’s the kind of behaviour I wouldn’t condone because it’s Raku, but I have to admit that it looked fantastic. She and Yuki also had a few cool exchanges, leaving me wanting that match somewhere down the road.
The final touch of what was already an enjoyable outing was Neko getting a rare win, pinning Pom after a Necode Breaker. I’m genuinely struggling to remember the last time Neko pinned anyone (I’m probably forgetting something obvious), and her teammates seemed as surprised as they were delighted. So, while I will never be a fan of Raku losing, I guess we can give it to the wee cat. Plus, I had a nice time, so I’m loath to whine too much.
Verdict: A Nice Time
Yuki Kamifuku defeated Hyper Misao
I predicted that Kamiyu would attempt to out antic Misao in this match, and that was a rare good call from me. She interrupted Misao’s shtick to say that she’d come up with her own rules, making this half wrestling match, half quiz. Unfortunately for Misao, it was a quiz about Kamiyu, which might have given her a wee bit of an advantage.
Unsurprisingly, said quiz did eventually break down, and we got into the wrestling portion of the evening, which was great. It reminded me of one of Kamiyu’s International title defences, as they worked a surprisingly physical style. Yea, they also got into a cold spray vs alcohol disinfectant fight, with far too much of both going into eyes, but that doesn’t make anything I said wrong.
In the end, Kamiyu picked up the win with a flash pin, bundling Misao up in a Crucifix hold after a poke to the eyes, which I think counts as a new trick. I came into this with pretty high expectations of nonsense, had that demand sated and got the bonus of some good wrestling. The fun times are rolling on.
Verdict: Good Nonsense And Good Wrestling
Shoko Nakajima defeated Nodoka Tenma
Holy shit, this fucking ruled! We had a classic wrestling match-up on our hands with Shoko’s combination of speed and technical excellence going up against Nodoka’s brute strength. It’s a formula that’s always worked, but this was a high-level example of it as these two worked their arses off. I’d go as far as saying this is one of the best singles matches I’ve seen Nodoka have, and I love Nodoka.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that she had it with Shoko, either. It’s a while since Nakajima has been placed front and centre in TJPW, but she is still brilliant. What stood out here was her movement, as you bought into the idea that she was looking for space to get away from Tenma and pick up the speed. She convinces me that she’s thought about the best way to wrestle her opponent and negate their strengths.
However, I also want to make it clear that it wasn’t a carry job. Nodoka went out there and went blow for blow with Shoko, at one point hitting a beautiful pop-up Samoan Drop as she went all out in an attempt to pick up what would have been one of the biggest wins of her career. While that wasn’t to be, this was still a hell of a performance and a brilliant match. Now, can we get Tenma challenging for the International Title, please?
Rika Tatsumi defeated Yuki Arai
Yuki Arai gets it. She’s not just capable of going out and hitting moves without dropping people on their heads. No, she gets pro-wrestling. The moment where she clung onto Rika’s back, desperately holding onto a Sleeper while Tatsumi drove her repeatedly into the corner, summed it up perfectly. She not only held onto the move but sold the effort of doing so, her expression getting wilder and wilder as Rika tried to shake her off.
And it feels like TJPW is challenging her to see her far she can go. Rika put the idol through her paces in this one, starting the match cocky and in control as she worked over the leg. It’s a role Tatsumi flourishes in, that psychotic edging coming out as she sees how far she can push this new wrestler. On top of that, she did a great job switching gears when Arai came back into it, and she realised she had a fight on her hands. Yuki scared her, so when she regained control, she was all business, going straight to a Figure Four and getting the win.
With it being announced that Arai will continue to wrestle into 2022, I’m fascinated as to what the ceiling is for her. She’s already come so far, so quickly, and shows no sign of slowing down. This is just the latest in a string of impressive performances, and if she can keep this up, I’m beginning to think there might not be a ceiling.
Verdict: The Idol Hasn’t Flinched Yet
Hikari Noa defeated Miu Watanabe to retain the International Princess Title
ARGGHH! I loved this match so much!
Hikari Noa is growing into her title reign as it goes along. When she first got that belt, it felt like it got in her head a bit, her nerves bubbling up. However, we’ve now watched her find her feet, and in the match where she broke the defence record, she was incredible. She’s taken that erratic moveset where she spams dropkicks and honed it, making it more lethal and precise. By the time she hit that beautiful bridging Blizzard Suplex, I was jumping with joy, overcome by the excitement of seeing someone nail it.
What made this so brilliant was that Miu nailed it too. She might not have held a title this year, but like Noa, she has grown in confidence and ability throughout 2021. Here, we saw her as a powerful, brilliant wrestling machine, taking Hikari down in the opening seconds with a crispness that I don’t think I’ve seen from her before. Except, it’s no longer surprising because everything she does looks great. Look at the moment where she batted a Hikari dropkick out of the area, smashing through it with pure power, but also making sure to fall back and sell the effect of the counter on her. That is a wrestler at the top of their game.
And when you put those two together, you get something special – a battle between two people who came into wrestling together and are now accelerating forwards, pushing each other to become as good as they can be. We’ve become used to International Title matches stealing the show with these hard-hitting, pacey affairs, but this might have been the best one yet, and it feels like a match TJPW will be able to go back to again and again in the years to come.
The Magical Sugar Rabbits (Yuka Sakazaki & Mizuki) defeated 121000000 (Miyu Yamashita & Maki Itoh) to retain the Princess Tag Titles
The question coming into the main event was whether the somewhat erratic friendship between Miyu and Itoh (the press conference had Yamashita yelling at Itoh that she loves her) could take down the iron forged bond of Yuka and Mizuki. The Sugar Rabbits’ love for each other never flinches, and while their somewhat inventive approach to double team moves can go wrong at times, Miyu and Itoh weren’t going to catch them on a bad day. They had to go out there and be better than them.
And there were moments in this match where they were. 121000000’s chemistry might not be traditional, but it works, and they are one of the few teams in Tokyo Joshi who feel like a genuine challenge to MagiRabbit. Yuka, in particular, seemed a bit rattled by Miyu and Maki stepping up to them, looking to assert her dominance early on against Yamashita. There was a chance she was going to get so wrapped up in the personal battle that 121000000 had an opportunity to sneak in and steal the win.
It meant that as this match went on, it was dangling on the edge of a precipice. Tokyo Joshi rarely does these big, momentum-shifting showdowns, as the focus tends to be on pushing a narrative, but this was closer to something you might see in Stardom. Four brilliant wrestlers, going out and trading blows, hoping that the person they’re hitting would be the one to make a mistake. Every time a team looked to be pulling ahead, the other would come roaring back, refusing to be beaten.
Then, for all the talk of teams, it did come down to one of those personal battles, but not the one between Yuka and Miyu. Instead, Mizuki and Yamashita took centre stage, battling through the final act until a pair of Cutie Specials gave Mizuki a massive win. Ultimately, these teams were too close, and individual brilliance had to step up to be the decider, and on another day, any one of these four could have been the one to push through. But, on this day, it was Mizuki, and she not only retained the title but grabbed the chance to make a challenge. January 4th, it’s her vs Miyu, and fuck me, that’s going to be incredible.
Tokyo Joshi big shows never miss, folks! From Misao vs Kamiyu onwards, this was banger after banger, to the point where picking a favourite match is genuinely hard. I’d probably give it to Miu vs Hikari, but you could name three or four, and I’d have no argument. Tokyo Joshi have closed out their 2021 Korakuens in style, and there can’t be many wrestling companies who have put together a calendar year quite that good.
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