TJPW Winter (29/1/22) Review

Anything you can do, Nodoka can do better. Credit: TJPW

It’s time for the semi-finals of the Max Heart Tournament, as we learn who will keep their dreams of winning the tag titles at Sumo Hall alive. Will Venyu conquer all, or will Nodoka be burying those belts? Can the rookie team of Moka and Arai cause an upset, or is Miu going to defeat one of her idol heroes? Let’s stop talking about it and find out.

The good news is that Namba’s back. The sad news is that Raku is self-isolating after being in contact with someone who had COVID. Thankfully, she doesn’t have any symptoms and tested negative, but it did make this the rare TJPW show without an Up Up Girls’ performance. Let’s hope that doesn’t become a regular thing.

Yuka Sakazaki defeated Mahiro Kiryu

A true devil child. Credit: TJPW

When you’re one of the top wrestlers in a company, the task of dropping down the card to wrestle younger opponents is an interesting one. Everyone watching knows that you’re going to win, so you’ve got to make sure you wrap it up nicely, enticing people in to watch.

It’s a role that Yuka Sakazaki thrives in, as she takes the chance to go all out in her bullying ways. There was a moment where she was perched on Kiryu’s chest, repeatedly slapping in the forehead while giggling with glee. Her demonic nature is sometimes overshadowed by her tag-team partner, but it’s worth remembering that she can be very cruel.

And it was good for Mahiro, too, as her attempts to escape said bullying allowed her personality to shine. She was funny and engaging in this match, convincing you to root for her as her attempts to overcome Sakazaki’s antics repeatedly backfired on her. She got the chance to play with one of the big guns, and she made sure that it wasn’t entirely the Sakazaki show.

Verdict: Entertaining

Shoko Nakajima, Hyper Misao & Marika Kobashi defeated Suzume, Arisu Endo & Kaya Toribami

Misao is always packing heat. Credit: TJPW

Every now and then, one of these midcard tags comes along where everything clicks, and it proves to be a step or two above the general standard. That’s not to say the norm is bad (I nearly always enjoy these matches), but for whatever reason, everyone involved has an extra specially good day. This was one of those matches, and while there isn’t a whole lot to say about it, that doesn’t mean I didn’t have a great time. Whether it was the interactions between Suzume and Shoko, Kaya continuing to look good after her return or Misao’s antics, it was a whole load of fun and an easy watch because of it.

Verdict: Great Stuff

Mizuki defeated Nao Kakuta and Pom Harajuku in a three-way

Clearly a second. Credit: TJPW

Pom came out wearing a top that even I, with my limited Japanese, knew stated that she was a second. So, I have no idea what nasty Nao and Mizuki were doing dragging her into this match. All she wanted to do was help out at ringside, but no, they just had to get her involved.

That was the start of something that, with its Pom antics and Mizuki being a devil child, gave me a lot of things I like. There was even a point where Mizuki stole Pom’s shoe before beating Kakuta over the head with it, leaving poor Nao wondering what the hell she’d got herself into.

Whatever Nao was thinking, it was entertaining as hell and a perfect example of why the TJPW midcard is such a delight. Mix up a lovely combination of schemes and menaces, and I am nearly always going to come out of it with a smile on my face.

Verdict: A Lovely Old Time

121000000 (Miyu Yamashita & Maki Itoh) defeated Hikari Noa & Haruna Neko

The cat steals the show. Credit: TJPW

Hikari’s chemistry with Miyu and Itoh really is fantastic. Every time she steps into the ring with one of them, you’re guaranteed gold, and this was no different. Yes, it was snippets rather than a full meal, but they were still very appreciated.

However, I also want to point out how much I enjoyed Haruna’s performance in this match. She and Itoh had some fun interactions while her clambering up onto Yamashita’s back before rolling off into a Sunset Flip was great. I know I say it all the time, but that wee cat has been on a steady upward trajectory for a while now, and I’m not sure she gets the credit she deserves for that improvement.

All in all, it made for an entertaining, if perhaps slightly throwaway match. It’s not one you desperately need to seek out, but if you do, you won’t regret it.

Verdict: Good Cat

Daydream (Rika Tatsumi & Miu Watanabe) defeated Yuki Arai & Moka Miyamoto in the Max Heart Tournament

The rookies left their mark. Credit: TJPW

Arai and Moka’s run in this tournament has been a lovely wee surprise, and they went out on a high against Daydream. Yes, they still have the occasional moment where you remember how inexperienced they are, and I never bought that they were going to win, but seeing them both hold their own against Miu and Rika was very satisfying. They’ve turned into a solid team, and I hope TJPW keeps them together going forward.

And while I didn’t buy into the idea of them winning, I did believe that they were challenging Daydream. Miu and Rika weren’t breezing through this on first gear but were pushed to go that little bit harder and faster. When they were both trapped in submissions, you saw a moment of panic in Miu’s eyes as she tried desperately to get to the ropes, only managing to make it thanks to her extraordinary power.

Ultimately, that’s what I wanted for Arai and Moka. They were never going to win this tournament, and they shouldn’t, but they got to show how far they’ve come and give us a hint that there might be a day where a victory is possible. They’re two brilliant young wrestlers, and while they’re not at the top of the mountain yet, they’ve taken the first few steps that might get them there one day.

Verdict: The Kids Are Getting Good

The Bakuretsu Sisters (Nodoka Tenma & Yuki Aino) defeated Venyu (ASUKA & Yuki Kamifuku) in the Max Heart Tournament

Incoming. Credit: TJPW

I’m not sure many things in life will make me happier than watching Nodoka Tenma attempt to copy ASUKA’s kip-up into a sexy dance routine. Nodoka fully committed to that bit, hamming it up to the max and I feel ASUKA slapping her across the face afterwards was a bit unfair. She didn’t deserve that.

And this was my favourite kind of tag match, where you feel like the team that won did so not because of individual talent but because of how strong a pairing they are. Venyu, for all their brilliance, are ultimately a young, inexperienced team, while The Bakuretsu Sisters have been doing this for a long old time. I’m not sure either of them would have been able to take ASUKA out solo but put them together, and they have an edge. They managed to remove the danger from the ring, leaving them free to isolate Kamiyu out and get the win.

Most importantly, that means that the dream of Nodoka riding off in the sunset to bury the belt remains alive. I’m not quite sure why this idea has struck me as strongly as it has, but if it doesn’t happen, I will cry. Tenma is going to be growing tag titles on the farm, and it will be beautiful.


Overall Show

To give a wee peek behind the scenes, I was incredibly hungover when I watched this show and still had a lovely time, which is about as big a compliment as I can give.

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