TJPW have made popping to Nagoya before Christmas a bit of a tradition in recent years, and with the addition of hometown girl Yuki Arai to the roster, this was a chance for the company to make some new fans. So far, Arai has stepped up to every test they’ve thrown at her, but this was her biggest yet, as she took on the Ace, Miyu Yamashita, in the main event. Would she stumble? I’m writing this before watching the match, but I would put the house I don’t own on no.
Suzume defeated Moka Miyamoto
Moka Miyamoto makes wrestling look hard. When she’s locking on submissions or lifting someone for a slam, you can see her struggling, and while that might sound like an insult, it’s the exact opposite. Wrestling should be difficult, and Moka makes me believe she is battling for every inch she gains, even if her moveset still relies heavily on the basics.
It’s a big part of the reason why a Miyamoto opener is becoming a near-guaranteed sneaky wee banger. She goes out there and works her arse off, fighting like someone who is determined not to accept that they’re probably going to lose. You sense that she is doing everything in her power to get better, and that’s all I ever want from my rookies. That struggle and will to rise up the card is a big part of the joy that I take from watching wrestling.
Of course, it also helps that Suzume is great, as she relished a rare chance to play the veteran but still gave Moka a lot. She’s got all the flash that Moka doesn’t, building her moves off of that buzzing bee persona. While Tokyo Joshi is full of fast, quick-footed wrestlers, none of them moves around the ring the way she does, and that’s to her credit. She’s a step ahead of most of her peers, and I can’t wait to see what her next year in wrestling looks like.
Verdict: Sneaky Banger
Hikari Noa, Raku & Arisu Endo defeated Mahiro Kiryu, Pom Harajuku & Haruna Neko
I think of matches like this as being classic undercard TJPW. It contained a little bit of everything, be it Pom getting the upper hand against Endo by tickling her or Hikari throwing herself about the place, bumping her ass off to help her opponents look good. I struggle to imagine anyone disliking it because it was packed to the brim with enjoyable action, never taking a second to breathe.
It also highlights how far that undercard has come. The likes of Raku, Pom and Neko, have long been considered poorer wrestlers, and while I think I’ve made it pretty clear that I’ve never agreed with that, I don’t even think you can argue it from a pure in-ring angle anymore. Yes, they’re not Miyu and Yuka, but they’re all coming on leaps and bounds. Raku and Neko, in particular, have worked together so often that they had some great interactions, their comfort wrestling each other shining through.
So yea, if you haven’t guessed, I liked this a lot. If you were nitpicking, you’d point out that it wasn’t that different from a hundred other similar matches, but you could say that about a million things. It put a smile on my face, and that’s more than enough for me.
Verdict: Good Stuff
Yuki Kamifuku defeated Marika Kobashi
Kamiyu tried to start this match normally, but the emotion got too much for her. With Marika’s days in TJPW numbered, she had something she wanted to say and, em, suddenly we had a rap battle on our hands… My Japanese is nowhere near good enough to keep up with that, but even if Kamiyu’s tears were genuine, I’m certain that they quickly left any nice words behind.
In my last TJPW review, I mentioned that I thought Marika was set to have a massive 2022, so she obviously announced her retirement a couple of days later. However, I think my general point still stands. At the moment, Marika reminds me of a footballer who has hit top form and finds themselves unable to put a foot wrong. Everything she’s doing seems to be working, be that rapping or trying to light up Kamiyu with chops. She’s not someone I’ve ever thought of as a nervous wrestler, but she’s now got the freedom of confidence, something that might even come from knowing she’s hanging up her boots soon.
Inside of kayfabe, though, it doesn’t matter how confident you are if Kamiyu’s boot caves in your face. I feel like I’ve yelled about Yuki a lot this year, so I won’t go on about it too much, but she’s great, and as someone who at least acts like she too has boundless confidence, proved an excellent fit for Marika. They had a really solid, enjoyable match together, and while it’s not something blow away, we’ve only got so many of these left from Kobashi, so we should enjoy them while we can.
Verdict: She’ll At Least Have A Massive Start To 2022
TJPW leaned into Arai main eventing by giving us a mini-concert from SKE48. I’m by no means an expert on idol music and know fuck all about the group, but damn, this was slick. They sounded great, had some catchy tunes, and the choreography was fantastic. Maybe it’s because most of my gig-going history is seeing sweaty people throw themselves about the place while yelling, but I am in awe of anyone who can remember that many dance moves. It also gave us a lovely moment when one of their members picked Miu as her favourite, causing the idol nerd to freak the fuck out. There was a second there where I thought they might have broken her.
Maki Itoh defeated Nao Kakuta
Nao was the perfect person to warm Itoh up for her January 4th showdown with Hikari Noa. Not only does she have the frenemy thing going on with the International champ, but she is also settling nicely into a midcard gatekeeper role. She can be relied on to bring it in every match, whether it’s tagging in to boot someone in the head or refusing to give an inch against Itoh. Kakuta is always happy to hit you and challenge you to hit her back harder.
And that is a situation in which Itoh thrives. As much as she has improved at controlling and dictating matches, she is still at her best when she’s being hit. This match didn’t position her as the underdog, she’s come too far for that to be the case, but she was put on the back foot. Kakuta battered her, drilling in with thudding forearms and making her more than aware she was in a fight. We all knew who would win, but Nao made sure we all also knew that Itoh had to work hard to get there.
That all made for a hell of a match that raised the intensity of this show several notches. It also cemented that while Nao is perfect for the role she’s in, she is ready to be pushed beyond it. Fingers crossed that an opening presents itself for her in 2022 because this kind of consistent brilliance deserves a reward.
Verdict: A Banger
The Magical Sugar Rabbits (Yuka Sakazaki & Mizuki) defeated Daydream (Rika Tatsumi & Miu Watanabe), The Bakuretsu Sisters (Nodoka Tenma & Yuki Aino) and Kyoraku Kyomei (Shoko Nakajima & Hyper Misao) in a four-way tag match
I haven’t had a chance to talk about Nodoka’s retirement yet, which has left me with very mixed feelings. She was my first TJPW favourite, and I’m going to miss the hell out of her. However, she is going out on her own terms, heading off to be a farmer and seemingly happy with her decision. If one of my favourites is going to say goodbye, that’s how I want them to go.
As for the match, well, quite frankly, it was chaos. Thankfully, TJPW sent a lot of people who thrive in chaos out there. Whether it was Mizuki being used for a tug of war, Yuka walking around punching people in the face, or Miu being strong, this was just a shitload of fun. They were working under lucha rules (at least I think they were, I didn’t see any tags), so people were in and out of the ring constantly, not a second going by where something wasn’t happening. It’s the kind of action where you simply have to cling on, having a good time and trusting that you didn’t miss something when you blinked.
And it is also the kind of wrestling that feels somewhat throwaway, the chaos not allowing anything to stick, but in this situation, I’m not sure that mattered. They weren’t going for big or deep. They were going for fun, and this was definitely fun.
Oh, and Rika has new gear! It looks awesome. I nearly forgot about that.
Verdict: So Much Fun
Miyu Yamashita defeated Yuki Arai
In the main event of TJPW’s last show in Nagoya, Arai teamed with Miyu and then, in the aftermath, challenged her to this match. It was a challenge that her hometown crowd reacted to with laughter, not, I think, out of cruelty, but almost out of amazement at this rookie having the gumption to challenge the indomitable Miyu Yamashita. Few wrestlers feel as powerful as she does in 2021, but Yuki wanted the fight, and Miyu is nothing if not generous.
Of course, being Miyu, she is also more than happy to kick the shit out of you. When she walked through the curtain, the champ had her big game face on, and there was a cold ruthlessness to her offence. At one point, she stood over Arai, booting her in the chest every time she got to her feet, yelling and challenging her to keep going. Like Aja Kong before her, she was testing this idol, seeing what she was made of.
And much like in that showdown with Aja Kong, Arai didn’t flinch. Since stepping into a ring, it’s been clear Yuki has it, whatever it may be. The confidence of her years of performing and learning those complex dance moves I spoke about before have turned out to be the perfect preparation for wrestling. However, that doesn’t explain the other stuff that she excels at. The way she sells or the expression on her face as she pulls herself up from being booted down, knowing that she doesn’t have a chance, but also refusing to accept it. Yuki Arai is a natural. People can moan that she’s being given more chances because of her profile, but it’s hard to see how she doesn’t deserve them when she performs like this. TJPW have something special on their hands, and this match ruled.
A show that flew up the gears post-concert, with Itoh vs Nao, the four-way tag and our main event all proving to be brilliant matches. However, even the stuff that came before that was a lot of fun and well worth a watch. The year might be ending, but TJPW’s fantastic 2021 shows no sign of slowing down.
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