Tokyo Joshi Pro-Wrestling ’22 (4/1/22) Review

Inevitable. Credit: TJPW

Ittenyon is a special time of the year. There is something about that date and a big wrestling show that just makes sense. Thankfully, while I’m no longer bothered about what’s going down in the Tokyo Dome, TJPW is here to make sure I still have a lovely day. This company plus Korakuen hasn’t let me down in a long old time, and I can’t imagine January 4th is going to be the moment that changes, but let’s find out.

Before the show started, we were introduced to our newest rookie, Zyuria Nagano. She delivered her introductory promo with aplomb, is a black belt in karate and already has a significant online presence, so I’m looking forward to meeting her properly at Sumo Hall, where she’ll have her debut.

AriSuzu (Suzume & Arisu Endo) defeated Mahiro Kiryu & Moka Miyamoto

Moka has new gear! It’s like she’s taken her old costume and stripped it down so that it actually looks like something you’d wrestle in. I’m a fan. Sadly, it does mean less billowing skirt when she’s on offence, an effect I always liked, but we can’t have it all.

Her new look kicked off what was a strong showing. Moka had a great second half of 2021, and you could see how much she’s improved working against the speedier AriSuzu. Miyamoto (and Kiryu) proved a strong foundation for Endo and Suzume to buzz around, occasionally bringing them to a standstill but also giving them the freedom to show off what a fun wee tag team they’ve become. It’s perhaps the less flashy role in this match, but it’s also the one that holds everything together.

Miyamoto wasn’t the only rookie who shone either, as, on her first anniversary, Arisu continued her impressive start to her career in what would turn out to be her first victory. In fact, as a pairing, it was her and Moka who stole the show, their final wee showdown proving thrilling as Endo managed to flip the momentum with a great takedown before hitting a really cool Release Northern Lights Suplex to set up her Camel Clutch for the win. The two of them are establishing a long-term rivalry that has the potential to define their careers, and that’s a thought I enjoy a lot.

Verdict: Lovely Start

Shoko Nakajima defeated Hyper Misao in a New Year Save The Tiger Match

Flying Kaiju. Credit: TJPW

It’s time for the yearly Misao and Shoko nonsense match. It is a truly blessed time that I’m sure will eventually eclipse Ittenyon itself in importance. There was no announced stipulation this time around, but we learnt on the day that their goal was to save a tiger, aka a ladder match, but with a tiger hanging above the ring. Not a real tiger. That would be logistically difficult. It was a teddy.

And the third annual Nonsense Bowl is starting to see some traditions be firmly established. We got kaiju toys, gacha capsules and even the return of burrito Shoko when Misao wrapped her up in the ring apron and trapped her in the corner with the ladder (that required Mahiro to take over on ladder duties temporarily). However, this wasn’t just the hits. Misao and Shoko are an endlessly creative-pairing, so we saw plenty of new stuff, whether that be Shoko closing a ladder while Misao was halfway up it or a mini-game of gacha baseball.

On top of all that, these matches tend to be sneakily brutal. Just because it’s toys you’re bumping on doesn’t mean they’re not spiky, while comedy doesn’t make being thrown onto a ladder any less painful. The big finish was Shoko hitting a Senton from the top of the ladder, which looked fantastic, and must have hurt like hell. The art of nonsense is often underappreciated, but these two are masters, and this was another great addition to their canon.

Verdict: That’s 2-1 To Shoko

Daydream (Rika Tatsumi & Miu Watanabe) defeated Yuki Kamifuku & Nao Kakuta

Eat that, Billy Gunn. Credit: TJPW

Nao and Kamiyu made their entrance cosplaying as horses to a song that was clearly a cultural reference that flew over my head. However, the problem was that their costumes looked nothing like horses, so without the help of English commentary (who did a great job once again), I’m not sure anyone would have picked up on that. On the other hand, it was hilarious, so who cares.

And they would turn out to be a fantastic pairing. Kakuta and Kamiyu have a shared viciousness, which shone through here. Early on, they isolated Miu and took great delight in winding Rika up, Kamiyu slapping her arse towards her. Nao, in particular, has ramped up that side of her personality as she settles into the role of midcard dick, grinning away to herself as she twisted on Miu’s hair.

The problem with winding up Rika is that she will eventually get into the ring, and we all know what she’s like. When she was finally unleashed, there were diamond asses for everyone, and the tide began to turn. The real flip point, though, was when Kamiyu tried to follow up an awesome double Fameasser on Daydream with a solo one to Miu. Well, that was the idea anyway. It turned out to be not so simple as the powerful idol caught Kamiyu, lifted her into an electric chair position and then twisted her around into a spin. SO STRONG!

Before the show, this match had strong potential sneaky show-stealer vibes, and while it perhaps fell a tad short of that, it still ruled. These four very rarely fail to deliver at this point, and this wasn’t the exception to the rule.

Verdict: Great Stuff!

Nodoka Oneesan, Yuki Aino & Haruna Neko defeated Marika Kobashi, Raku & Pom Harajuku

Pom getting a bit too into it. Credit: TJPW

If you’re expecting an objective review of this match, then you’re in the wrong place. In fact, you should probably take that as a general rule, I don’t really do objectivity, but it’s particularly true in this case. The return of Nodoka Oneesan with this motley crew of characters around her is probably the only thing on this card more expressly suited to my taste than Misao vs Shoko.

It lived up to my expectations right from the start, as after Oneesan’s Pin Pon Pan routine, Pom decided to try and draw the Tenma out of her by giving a particularly arse heavy rendition of it. As we all know, Nodoka loves to slap folk on the bum, and the temptation to spank proved too much for her, as the distraction was enough to give Pom an opening for the cheap shot accompanied by a yell of ‘baka’. If that doesn’t give you an idea of the tone, then you’re not paying attention.

I should point out, though, that this wasn’t pure silliness. In fact, there was a lot of good wrestling in there. Whether it was Aino and Marika, Pom and Oneesan (when Pom wasn’t going in arse first) or the incredibly reliable pairing of Neko and Raku, this became a straighter match as it went along and really picked up the action. I’ve said it before, but everyone in TJPW is so comfortable wrestling each other that even midcard lightness like this occasionally steps up the gears.

It culminated in an awesome pop-up Samoan Drop from Oneesan, who celebrated her final TJPW appearance with a win. Thankfully, there was still time for one last dance before she went, Nodoka attempting to bless Pom with the chance to be the second Oneesan (she scandalously turned her down) as most of the roster joined in at ringside. God damn it, I think it’s just hit me how much I’m going to miss her.

Verdict: Made For Me

Yuka Sakazaki defeated Yuki Arai

She’ll have felt that one. Credit: TJPW

It can sometimes be hard to pinpoint the difference between the meaningless grappling that opens 95% of wrestling matches and something actually good. If you’re looking for an example, though, Yuka and Yuki provided the perfect one here. From the start, Sakazaki went out of her way to put Arai in the simplest holds possible and challenge her to escape them. Something like a bear hug became a struggle, forcing the idol to battle her way out. When they eventually split apart, Yuka had a smile on her face while Arai realised what she was in for.

This would turn out to be the latest in the long line of challenges Yuki has faced head-on. Sakazaki dominated the match, but that was always going to be the case as Arai isn’t out there to win. Instead, she’s trying to show she can hold her own, take Yuka’s bullying and keep getting up. Tokyo Joshi may have given her these opportunities, but the idol still wrestles like a rookie, clinging onto any opportunity that comes her way. At one point, she was literally hanging off Yuka’s back, trying to choke her out and refusing to let go as she was repeatedly driven into the corner.

It’s also worth pointing out that Sakazaki was brilliant here. She played that haughty bully brilliantly while never feeling like she was dismissing Arai. Like Aja Kong before her, she was testing this young wrestler, seeing what she could do, and in the process, giving her a hell of a lot. There were a couple of moments where Yuki had her on the ropes, and the way Yuka pulled her up afterwards, affectionately rubbing her head, said it all. The kid ain’t perfect, but she’s fucking good, and I’m very excited to see what 2022 holds for her.

Verdict: Arai Sill Hasn’t Faltered

Maki Itoh defeated Hikari Noa to win the International Princess Title

Itoh isn’t the only one with a middle finger. Credit: TJPW

One of the weird things about being a champion is that, more often than not, the matches stop being about you. You’ve become the roadblock to someone else’s dreams, and for a young wrestler winning the title for the first time, that’s a strange transition to make. You can still be an underdog, and Hikari certainly was at times throughout this reign, but you’re not necessarily the focus, and that requires some repositioning.

Ironically, in the match where Noa lost the title, she nailed that dynamic better than ever before. This was about Itoh, someone who was in danger of losing four title shots in a row and needed to prove she could win. At the start, though, Maki was cold in her approach, calmly and meticulously making her way around the ring as she tried to keep that emotion under wraps. However, Noa’s roadblock threw itself in front of her and forced that typical Itohness out of her. The longer this went on, the more desperate she became, and that’s when this pairing shone.

Because as we know from their match two years ago, when the roles were reversed, these two can create magic together. Then again, that might be the wrong way to describe it because what they really excel at is creating struggle together. I always talk about wrestlers making things look hard, but that being a good thing, and Itoh and Noa make everything look hard. You believe in the toil these matches are taking on them so that even when Itoh slipped as she applied the final submission (which looked gnarly), it worked. It worked because you’d seen how hard she’d fought, and it was just one final battle to overcome.

It all meant that while I was sad to see Hikari lose the belt, this felt like a fitting end to her reign. She grew throughout it, taking up the mantle of being a champ and proving that TJPW were right to have that faith in her. That, by the end, she was the one raising a middle finger at Itoh rather than shaking her hand, spoke to the fact that this is far from over, and I’ve no doubt we’ll see her with gold around her waist again. Right now, though, it’s Itoh’s time as she finally won a big one and got her year off to the best possible start,

Verdict: This Ruled

Miyu Yamashita defeated Mizuki to retain the Princess of Princess Title

That’s going to hurt. Credit: TJPW

Since Miyu beat Rika to win the title, the question hasn’t so much been ‘who should beat her?’ as ‘can anyone beat her?’. Yamashita was already pretty powerful, but the last twelve months have seen her rise to levels previously unseen, displaying a cold, ruthlessness that appears untouchable. It was perfectly captured by the moment early in this match where Mizuki bridged out of a pin, so Miyu simply booted her in the back of the knee, chopping her leg from underneath her and letting her know there’d be none of that here.

And yet, there was a feeling coming into this that if anyone was going to do it, Mizuki might be the one. While Miyu has storied rivalries with Rika, Yuka and Itoh, she and Mizuki is somewhat unexplored territory, leaving an air of mystery to this pairing. Plus, Mizuki is a wrestler who thrives on chaos, pulling out incredible flurries of moves that can stun and kill an opponent before they’ve realised what’s happening. You only had to watch the way she leapt from the top rope to the floor with a double stomp to know that she was ready to do anything she could to win.

That contrast between the two sums up the dynamic of this match, Mizuki’s chaos vs Miyu’s cold-bloodedness. Yamashita kept looking like she was taking control, an AA on the apron or a Skull Kick to the back of the head, but Mizuki would keep coming. She has an incredible ability to wiggle through the cracks, somehow shaking off damage that you’d think should kill someone of her build, but yet seems to only push her to go harder and faster. The aforementioned chaos meant there was always a feeling that she could pull out the right move to get the win.

Unfortunately, there is only so long you can push yourself for. There was a moment where Mizuki, having missed a double stomp, saw her leg give out from underneath her, and I can only assume everyone watching took a sharp breath. That momentary delay didn’t signal the end, but it cost her precious seconds, and a single mistake is all it takes for Miyu to click into gear. The final act of this match was a thrill ride, but the momentum was shifting into Miyu’s corner, and once it’s there, it’s nearly impossible to get back. A Skull Kick and a pair of Crash Rabbit Heats later (one to each side of the skull), and not even Mizuki is surviving that.

If you haven’t guessed, I thought this was the latest in the long line of incredible Miyu main events. She’s establishing an all-time great title run right now, and while I would love to see Mizuki with the belt, I also don’t care. I don’t care because Miyu should hold it for as long as she wants. For all that Mizuki was astonishing here, Yamashita was better, and like Yuka, Rika and Itoh before her, Mizuki learnt that being at your best is sometimes not enough.

Verdict: Perfect

In a move that I didn’t see coming but really should have, Miyu called out Shoko to challenge for Sumo Hall. How perfect is that? Miyu has been there since TJPW’s first-ever show on a mat in an old bar and Shoko since number four. They deserve this main event, and I have no doubt that they will fucking smash it.

Overall Show

Perfect, perfect, perfect. What more can I say about Tokyo Joshi in Korakuen Hall? Every time they go to this venue, they blow me away, and I assume they can’t do it again, but then they do. From Arisu and Moka stealing the opener to Miyu driving her knee into Mizuki’s skull, I loved this show. 2021 was an incredible year for them, and if this is anything to go by, 2022 might be even better.

Watch Tokyo Joshi Pro:

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