With TJPW’s final Korakuen of 2021 done and dusted, it’s time to shift the focus to the first one of 2022. Yes, Ittenyon is somehow just around the corner, and we’re beginning to put all the chips in place. We’ve already got Mizuki vs Miyu, but now it’s time to find out what the International Princess Title and Hikari Noa will be doing. How fun!
Before the show, various fans drew names out of a hat to create the card for the 11th in Osaka. Sadly, there was nothing on the level of Miyu and Itoh being drawn ahead of their January 4th match last year, but we are getting Nodoka vs Shoko, Miu vs Kamiyu and Hikari vs Yuka (click here to see the whole card), so the fans did well.
Miu Watanabe & Haruna Neko defeated Yuki Aino & Pom Harajuku
I will never not be impressed by members of the Up Up Girls doing their performance, popping backstage and then coming straight out for the first match. Even when this was over and done with Miu looked like she could have gone for another half hour.
And it’s not like she took it easy. In fact, I’m quite happy to reward this with sneaky banger status. I don’t know what it was, but everything seemed to click. Right from the start, where Pom confidently told Aino that she had this only to quickly find herself in trouble with Miu, they hit a note-perfect tone that had me grinning away. I can’t honestly sit here and point to what makes it stand out over any other TJPW undercard tag, and I do enjoy 90% of them, but this felt a step above.
Let’s draw attention to one thing, though, that being Miu, who continues to be brilliant. There is something very satisfying in watching her go out and be the star of a match like this, controlling the action and getting the win. She’s in the midst of one of those golden periods where everything is working for her, and I hope it never ends.
Verdict: A Load Of Fun
The Up Up Girls (Hikari Noa & Raku) defeated Toyo University (Yuki Kamifuku & Mahiro Kiryu)
Maybe I’m just in a good mood, but this was another match that hit the sweet spot. Here I was impressed by the escalation of the action. We started with the light comedy of Mahiro kneeling on Raku while apologising for Kamiyu’s actions, built through Noa’s incredibly aggressive Goodnight Express and ended on her having awesome exchanges with both Kiryu and Kamiyu.
And that’s becoming a common theme for Hikari. We know she and Kamiyu are good together, but, not to sound cruel, Mahiro is someone who often fades into the background. I don’t want to suggest she’s bad, she’s not, but she feels like the roster’s introvert, the one who isn’t quite sure how to present themselves. Watching her with Noa, though, you start to see how good she can be. The two of them had a great final sequence, where Kamiyu and Raku, for the most part, just left them to it.
I haven’t even committed the appropriate amount of time for talking about Raku, who didn’t do anything particularly noteworthy, but is Raku, so, therefore, deserves to be raved about. Again, while I can’t claim this match was anything spectacular, I had a really nice time, and sometimes that’s all you need.
Verdict: Noa Is Good With Everyone
Yuka Sakazaki defeated Marika Kobashi
Marika has had a quietly great second half of the year. It feels like she’s really refound her feet after her time out and has been going from strength to strength. With that in mind, a match against Yuka was a big opportunity for her. This gave her a perfect chance to show where she is.
I think Yuka realised that too because she worked hard out there. Right from the opening grappling, she brought an intensity that she sometimes leaves behind in random midcard matches. It felt like she was testing Marika, seeing how well she could keep up and trying to find out whether she could present a legit challenge.
And while I wouldn’t go quite that far, I think Marika stepped up to the plate. She hung with Yuka, matching her in the grappling and bringing some fire of her own. Most impressive, though, was the quiet confidence in her performance. It’s very easy in a match like this to try too hard and make it look too much like you’re aiming to impress, but Marika went out and did her thing, which is good enough to get the point across. If she can keep this up, next year will be a big one for TJPW’s resident gyau.
Verdict: Marika’s Looking Good!
Maki Itoh won the a delayed entry battle royal to earn a International Princess Title shot
We were working under delayed entry rules, which was a relief because battle royals usually suck. That allowed the match to be spaced out, giving everyone a chance to shine. However, it doesn’t make it any easier to review. These matches defy attempts to capture them as there is so much going on that choosing where to start unpicking it is hard.
However, I can say that I thought it was well put together. A match like this lives and dies on the individual stories that run through it. Things like Yuki Arai getting a big scalp by eliminating Rika or Misao and Shoko teaming up, only to betray each other at the same moment and ultimately set themselves up to both be eliminated. It’s very easy to be bogged down in not actually doing much, as everyone stands in corners trying to eliminate each other, but TJPW avoided that, keeping the action going and building to a tremendous final section between Nodoka and Itoh.
It’s also hard, when the prize is a title shot, not to get into the boring conversation of booking, so often the dullest way to talk about wrestling. I’ve seen a few people disappointed that Itoh won, and I get it. Personally, I was team Nodoka, and Itoh probably is one of the least exciting options because it’s something we’ve seen before. However, when we saw it before, it ruled, making that redundant. Plus, as I’ve said in the past, I trust what TJPW are doing. They might not get everything right, but they get most things right, and that’s enough for me to go along with it.
Verdict: Very Well Done
Miyu Yamashita & Moka Miyamoto defeated Mizuki & Arisu Endo
We’ll get onto Mizuki and Miyu in a bit, but let’s start with Arisu and Moka. It was not that long ago that I was beginning to worry for Moka. Honestly, with the benefit of hindsight, I was probably fretting too soon, but it looked like things weren’t clicking for her. She didn’t seem comfortable in the ring, and I felt like she might be someone for whom it never all came together. Then, she and Yuki Arai kicked off their mini-feud, and it happened. She’s not suddenly become an incredible wrestler, but she is improving rapidly, and in matches like this, you can see how far she’s come. There is a confidence and a fire that wasn’t there before, and I love to see it.
As for Endo, she had none of Moka’s early nerves. Since day one, she’s looked at home, and it’s incredible how normal it already feels to see her battle it out with Miyu. More importantly, though, she and Moka are a strong pairing, managing to carry the parts of this match that didn’t involve their veteran partners. That you can already trust the two of them in this position, in a match that is building to one of TJPW’s biggest shows of the year, speaks a lot for how well they’re doing.
To return to the obvious talking points, Miyu and Mizuki are obviously great. They didn’t go too deep into their interactions in this match, but Mizuki was in pest mode, managing to frustrate Miyu and avoid the worst of her offence. The long-running story here is that Mizuki hates being beaten up by Miyu and how well she avoids that will be a key part of their showdown. While her team lost this one, it wasn’t via her being kicked in the head, so she’ll take that as a minor win. Plus, it was a really good main event, so that’s always a bonus.
Verdict: Strong Rookies And Strong Veterans
As I said before, I might just be in a good mood, but I enjoyed that show a lot. We’ve got ourselves a challenger for Noa, and while it wasn’t my first choice, I do think it’s a strong one. Elsewhere, we’ve started the build to Mizuki vs Miyu and had some really strong undercard matches. You’ll hear no complaints from me.
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