TJPW Winter (15/1/22) Review

Antics ahoy. Credit: TJPW

Let’s get this Max Heart Tournament rolling. We had a preview over the last two TJPW shows with Moka and Arai and (the brilliantly named) Free WiFi winning their respective clashes, but now all the big guns are coming out. Yup, Marika and Raku are here to end Venyu’s momentum before it even gets going. ‘Mon the Gyau Train!

Before the show, Sayuri Namba announced (complete with an impression that she’ll be hoping Sakisama doesn’t see) that the French are coming as NEO Biishiki-gun will be returning for the February 11th Korakuen. I’d question how they’re getting back into the country, but as we all know, the aristocracy doesn’t have to worry about things like that.

Moka Miyamoto defeated Kaya Toribami

Moka gets a rare chance to stretch someone junior. Credit: TJPW

Moka and Kaya are almost the yin and yang of TJPW rookies. Toribami represents the erratic flash, but while she can do the cool moves, there are cracks in her game, and things don’t always go to plan. Moka, on the other hand, is a lot more restrained. It took her a while to catch my attention because where Toribami flew, Miyamoto stuck to the basics, slowly building up her foundations. Both are valid ways to start your career, but the contrast between them adds a smidge of intrigue to their development going forward.

At the moment, though, Moka is a few laps ahead of Kaya as she picked up a surprisingly straightforward victory. It was fun to see her as the dominant force, and the stylistic conflict I mentioned before is interesting. However, it ultimately didn’t influence the action a whole lot in a solid, if unremarkable, opener.

Verdict: Decent Enough

Nao Kakuta defeated Arisu Endo

She’s enjoying herself. Credit: TJPW

Nao Kakuta is low-key, the smartest signing any joshi company has made recently. Yes, I know Stardom pull in all the big names, but you don’t have to be a genius to figure out that picking up Mirai Maiumi might be a good idea. What TJPW have done with Kakuta is different, as so far, they’ve slotted her into a very particular role.

That role is the one of midcard bellend, something that I’m not sure Tokyo Joshi had a lot of before. Nao goes out against a rookie like Arisu and pulls her hair, chokes her in the ropes and is genuinely a bit of a prick, and it’s great. It’s great because, in a company where the vast majority of people are a delight, Nao feels fresh and vicious. Throw in the fact that she’s a relative veteran compared to most of the roster, and you’ve got someone who is doing a whole lot of good.

Because while Arisu having a fun wee antic filled match with Pom or Raku will always win my heart, it’s also exciting to see someone push her. And yea, you could get that from Yuka or even Kamiyu, but Nao is a step or two closer to her and is someone that she can strive to beat. You could see Endo having to fight tooth and nail in this match just to get an opening, and when she did, she went hard, hitting her knee drop to the back of the head on the apron. Nao pulls something a little bit different out of the people she wrestles, which will do them all the good in the long term.

Verdict: Sometimes You Need To Be Mean

Hikari Noa defeated Suzume and Haruna Neko in a three-way

All wrapped up. Credit: TJPW

I used to claim that I disliked three-ways, that they were a difficult match structure to pull off and ultimately tended to disappoint. However, nowadays, TJPW midcard three-ways tend to be some of my favourite wee matches going, adding further fuel to the theory that most of the stuff people dismiss in wrestling as bad is actually poorly performed.

The difference is that these aren’t stilted affairs where one person sits twiddling their thumbs while two people fight. Yes, we get a bit of pairing up, but we also get to see the roster show off their inventiveness, coming up with fun ideas to keep everyone involved. It gives you moments like Hikari angrily swatting at the cat and the bee when they dared to team up on her or Haruna hitting an impressive double sunset flip.

And that makes those one-on-one moments pop, as we get the excitement of Suzume vs Hikari (I wish we’d got that International Title match) in among a load of fun wrestling. It makes them a breeze to watch, and any mistakes (Suzume and Neko did have an awkward moment or two) easy to forgive.

Verdict: A Delightfully Easy Watch

The Bakuretsu Sisters (Nodoka Tenma & Yuki Aino) & Daydream (Rika Tatsumi & Miu Watanabe) defeated 121000000 (Miyu Yamashita & Maki Itoh), Mahiro Kiryu & Pom Harajuku

Pom’s face says it all. Credit: TJPW

Two of the people in this are not like the others, and I kinda wonder what it’s like to be them. What do you do when you are Pom and Mahiro in a match where your job is to be beaten up?

This thought has come up now because I felt like there was a self-awareness to their performance here. It was like they’d sat backstage, realised what they were in for and agreed to watch each others’ backs, even going as far as attacking everyone else (including their partners) when they wouldn’t stop bickering at the start of the action. Intentional or not, that feeling added a lot to this, as Pom and Mahiro battled to make their mark before the inevitable occurred.

And ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether that is my head-canon or something they’d planned because I enjoyed it all the same. And, if it wasn’t on purpose, we still got Yuki and Miu hoisting Nodoka up and employing her as a human weapon, so good times were being had.

Verdict: The Extras Steal The Scene

Venyu (ASUKA & Yuki Kamifuku) defeated Marika Kobashi & Raku in the Max Heart Tournament

ASUKA doesn’t go easy. Credit: TJPW

I know Raku and ASUKA are both wrestlers, but they feel like they come from different worlds, and the idea of them sharing a ring is bizarre. Yet, to my utter delight, not only did they do so, but they turned out to have brilliant chemistry. The very thing that made it seem weird was also what made it click, as ASUKA treated Raku’s brain chops as seriously as Raku treated their slaps.

Of course, ASUKA tends to get the best out of everyone. It was Venyu’s interactions with Marika at Wrestle Princess that cemented the idea in my head that Kobashi might be set for a big 2022, and while her future graduation has curtailed that, she still stepped up again. Marika seems to flourish under ASUKA’s demanding glare, taking the slaps and Moonsaults and giving everything she could back. Some wrestlers thrive when challenged, and this particular gyau seems to be one of them.

And yes, the Gyau Train came off the rails, but it’s just setting the scene for a bigger match. Raku, get on the phone to Aja Kong. It’s time to dish out some lessons.

Verdict: Raku And ASUKA Delight

Kyoraku Kyomei (Shoko Nakajima & Hyper Misao) defeated The Magical Sugar Rabbits (Yuka Sakazaki & Mizuki) in the Max Heart Tournament

Toy Story, em, something. Credit: TJPW

I often say that focusing on booking is the dullest way to talk about wrestling, and I stand by that opinion. However, executed well, there is an elegant beauty to a perfect piece of match-fixing, and this one tournament showdown did a whole lot in a way that made perfect sense.

The first thing it did was remove the Sugar Rabbits from proceedings without giving away a big pairing, which is a pretty tough thing to pull off. Mizuki and Yuka are about as protected as you can be, so they weren’t going to lose to just anyone, but do you want to do 121000000 or Daydream vs MagiRabbi in Shinjuku? No, so you send in a strong team with a can of cold spray or two up their sleeve, but who have little to no chance of winning this thing (Shoko has somewhat bigger fish to fry at the moment). It means you can go back to this somewhere down the line, but that you haven’t thrown away one of your potential Sumo Hall showdowns.

Then you have what this does for Shoko. As perfect a choice as she is to challenge for the title at the big show, there is no doubt she’s been out of the picture for a while and could use a few big wins. Well, win number one just came against Mizuki, the last challenger and, as I said above, a protected wrestler. Mizuki doesn’t lose anything in defeat, it was a snap move that got the win, but Nakajima is instantly established as a threat for anyone who has forgotten how good she is.

So yea, as dull as sitting around chatting about who won and who lost is, sometimes you have to appreciate the perfect simplicity of it. TJPW did good with this one, and I enjoyed it a lot.

Verdict: Well Played

Overall Show

I appreciated I sort of rambled away from the matches in this review, but it was a fun show and another easy TJPW watch. The tournament was probably the highpoint in-ring, but there was plenty to get your teeth into throughout, even in the smaller, not so enthralling moments. I certainly had a good time, and I hope you do too.

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