The Max Heart tournament has been a somewhat scattered affair so far, but for this show, TJPW were getting right into it. Our four quarter-finals make up the bulk of this card, and we’ve got a couple of biggies. So let’s go see what happened.
The Magical Sugar Rabbits (Yuka Sakazaki & Mizuki), Haruna Neko & Kaya Toribami defeated Marika Kobashi, Raku, Pom Harajuku & Mahiro Kiryu
The battle of the losers. Sorry, that’s harsh, especially as one of these teams is the tag champs, but this was made up of everyone who has been eliminated from the tournament, so it’s also factual. Do better next year, folks (apart from you, Raku, you’re always doing great).
Anyway, this was fun. These are the matches I often find hardest to review because there wasn’t a whole lot to it, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Its job was to provide some silliness with a side plate of good wrestling, and that’s what it did. Sometimes that’s all you need, and sometimes that’s all I need to say.
Moka Miyamoto & Yuki Arai defeated AriSuzu (Suzume & Arisu Endo) in the Max Heart Tournament
This match is the equivalent of two Championship sides being drawn against each other in the Scottish Cup Quarter Final. It means that one of them is going to the semis and if everything lands the right way, a team that never thought they had a chance has a chance to sneak into the final. Sure, it’s still a bit of a pipedream, but you can’t help indulging a little bit.
That’s where the comparisons end between these four and the Scottish Championship, though. Where that league is mainly dominated by big lads who stamp on your toes at corners, these teams are made up of exciting young wrestlers who might occasionally be a bit scrappy but are, on the whole, working at a level far above their experience. That’s not just individually either, but as pairings, with AriSuzu, in particular, looking great.
In fact, they look so good together that I just assumed they were going to win, meaning Moka getting the submission on Endo caught me off-guard. However, I kinda love that decision. I love it because while everyone is focusing on Arai, TJPW has made sure that Miyamoto benefits from this team as much as she does. AriSuzu will be fine (they’re too good not to be), but Miyamoto is the one who, for all her talents, is most likely to slip into the background. A win like this keeps her front and centre, and with how much she’s improved lately, that’s an excellent thing.
Verdict: Big Match Moka!
The Bakuretsu Sisters (Nodoka Tenma & Yuki Aino) defeated Free WiFi (Nao Kakuta and Hikari Noa) in the Max Heart Tournament
Yas, the dream lives on! Look, I love Free WiFi, I love the fact they called themselves Free WiFi, and they’re both great wrestlers, but those tag belts are going to the farm with Tenma, and they’re getting buried.
My enthusiasm for Nodoka’s retirement plans aside, I thought this was a smart match. It could be seen as a bit of a momentum killer for Free WiFi to lose at this point, but we got a nice look at what they are as a team, as they incorporated a bit of that hardcore edge into things. Covering Nodoka in mats and slamming Yuki on top of her is hardly deathmatch shit, but it points to Hikari and Nao’s potential to be a pair of brilliant dicks.
It also reminded me that it’s not just Nodoka we’re losing, but The Bakuretsu Sisters too. They have arguably been the foundation of TJPW’s tag scene in recent years by virtue of being one of their few constants. So while it might not crumble when they’re gone, it will definitely leave a hole. Then again, if the tag titles are six feet under the ground, maybe that won’t be a problem.
Verdict: Bury Those Belts!
Venyu (ASUKA & Yuki Kamifuku) defeated 121000000 (Miyu Yamashita & Maki Itoh) in the Max Heart Tournament
When Miyu Yamashita walked through the curtain with her big match death stare on, I got very excited for this one. For all that Miyu has been established as the almost unkillable Ace of TJPW, ASUKA is unlike anyone she’s faced before. There isn’t a wrestler in Tokyo Joshi that has that combination of speed, power and ability, and this was a chance for Miyu to show where she stands not just in her company but in joshi as a whole.
And I thought the way Miyu and ASUKA’s interactions were littered throughout this match was brilliantly done. It felt like a dipping of the toe in the waters, the two of them going hard whenever they came face-to-face but never going all out. At the same time, they hinted at something incredible, as ASUKA showed the potential to be the person who could truly rock Miyu. I don’t know if there is even the slightest chance of that match happening, but it got me excited for it either way.
It also, ultimately, allowed this to be about their partners. ASUKA and Miyu cancelled each other out, leaving Kamiyu and Itoh to take us home, and they delivered. Those two have always sparked off each other brilliantly (both in and out of the ring), so it was no surprise to see them click, but what was surprising was Kamiyu being the person to get the win. She’s pinned the new champ, and there is every chance she might come back for the belt that, in many ways, she established as the title it is today.
Verdict: Miyu vs ASUKA, Please!
Daydream (Miu Watanabe & Rika Tatsumi) defeated Kyoraku Kyomei (Hyper Misao & Shoko Nakajima) in the Max Heart Tournament
Wrestling’s biggest appeal, at least for me, is the idea of watching someone grow up in the ring. Of course, it doesn’t always happen (we don’t live in a perfect world, and life often gets in the way), but the joy of watching someone go from nervous rookie to the top of whatever mountain they wish to conquer is untouchable. You want to live through those ups and downs because, ultimately, this ridiculous form of entertainment is incredibly human.
That might seem a weird place to start this review, but there was a section of this match that became the Miu Watanabe show, and it left me grinning from ear to ear. Not just because she’s great and her interactions with Shoko, in particular, were brilliant, but because it made me realise just how far that lass has come. I’ve touched on this before, but she wasn’t driven to wrestling by any great love of it. All she wanted was to be an idol, and TJPW was a way to get there. And yet, at some point over the last few years, she has caught the bug, blossoming into this incredible talent. We’ve watched her not only find a passion but flourish in it.
And is there another world that can give you that? Footballers don’t accidentally end up playing for Manchester United because they wanted to be a singer, and you aren’t spending half as much time watching an actor or musician as you are a wrestler. As far as I can figure out, it’s unique to wrestling, and it’s the thing that makes it special. Miu Watanabe is what makes it special, and watching her be brilliant is never going to stop filling me with joy.
The match was great, by the way.
Verdict: LOVE MIU!
Talking of Miu, she looked particularly distressed when the semi-final-draw paired Daydream up with Moka and Arai as she’s going to have to beat up one of her idol heroes. It also means we get Tenma vs ASUKA, which makes me so happy.
Well, that delivered. From rookie battles to ASUKA vs the Ace right up to me waxing lyrical over Miu, I had a lovely time with it. Excitedly, we’re also now left with four teams, three of whom I think have a decent chance of winning this thing. Of course, I’m rooting for Tenma because those belts have to be buried, but hey, anything could happen.
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