TJPW Winter (5/2/22) Review

GYAU! Credit: TJPW

With the Rona once again running wild in Japan (thanks, Omicron), TJPW were forced to reshuffle this card after a host of new cases and close contacts. That meant Moka, Itoh, Noa and Kamiyu were out (and fingers crossed they’re all doing okay), but, on the upside, Raku is back! The Train God is here to make sure that everything will be okay.

We missed out on the joys of an Up Up Girls’ performance for the second show in a row, but we did get a solo offering from Miu, which was a rare treat. She made us aware that she loves プロレス, idols and all of us. I, for one, felt blessed.

Nao Kakuta defeated Kaya Toribami

Leaning heavily on the Sleeper. Credit: TJPW

I’m glad we’ve established that Kaya does feel pain if you go after her beak, That’s not to say you should attack it (I’d go as far as saying it’s pretty cruel), but it’s always an option, one that Nao took on several occasions.

Outside of the beak abuse, this was an intriguing performance by Toribami. She seemed to be trying to get a Sleeper Hold over as a new part of her arsenal, locking it on for a decent period (at least within the context of a nine-minute match) on more than one occasion. I’ve no issue with that idea and actually think establishing a submission is a solid move, but it did feel like she leaned on it a bit too heavily. While the crowd stayed relatively engaged, clapping Kakuta’s escape attempt on, my mind began to wander. She either needs to tweak her execution to get the struggle over a bit stronger or let her opponent escape that little bit quicker.

That relatively minor quibble aside, I thought that was an alright opener. Nao is always good in the bullying gatekeeper role, while Kaya broadening out beyond her high-flying talents is a good thing, even if the execution wasn’t perfect yet.

Verdict: Solid, But Flawed

Shoko Nakajima & Haruna Neko defeated AriSuzu (Suzume & Arisu Endo)

Incoming bee. Credit: TJPW

Someday, we’re going to get a big Shoko vs Suzume match, and it will be amazing. They have effortless chemistry, aided by their similarities, but not solely reliant on them, and I could watch them glide around the ring all day.

The same can perhaps be said of AriSuzu’s prospects. They are bubbling under at the moment, bringing a lot of energy and an innate likeability to matches, even as they struggle to pick up wins. It already feels like TJPW can rely on them to go out and have a good showing with random pairings like Shoko and Neko, so when they decide to flip the switch and start building them towards a title shot, they’re going to be more than ready to step up to the plate.

Throw in the cat doing cat things, and this was a fun wee match. I don’t think I could go as far as calling it essential, but it kept me entertained and left me with a smile on my face.

Verdict: An Easy Watch

The Magical Sugar Rabbits (Yuka Sakazaki & Mizuki) defeated Raku & Pom Harajuku

Things got pretty violent. Credit: TJPW

Pom and Raku vs the Sugar Rabbits is everything I want wrestling to be. Whether it’s Mizuki and Yuka desperately dodging shin kicks or Raku preventing one of the many Toy Stories by clinging onto Mizuki’s skirt, it was a perfect match. One that was fun and silly but also well wrestled and designed to make you feel good.

Because yes, this stuff is great when it’s hard-hitting and ferocious, but it’s also great when it’s light and frothy. Something as simple as watching Raku and Pom amuse themselves by trading bonnets pre-match makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. It’s the same emotions I get from watching old Jimmy Stewart films or listening to my favourite albums, a sense of being safe and comfortable in a world where I know everything will be alright regardless of the result.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that this is Sunday afternoon wrestling. The type you want to watch on the sofa, tired from doing something fun the day before while wrapped in a cosy blanket away from the wind and rain outside (I do live in Scotland). If you’re lucky enough to have a pet, they’ll be there too, curled up beside you, and there is a decent chance you’ll off drift halfway through, waking up to see Yuka comically avoiding being booted in the shins. What could be better than that?

Verdict: Cosy Wrestling

The Bakuretsu Sisters (Nodoka Tenma & Yuki Aino) & Hyper Misao defeated Daydream (Rika Tatsumi & Miu Watanabe) & Mahiro Kiryu

You can never fault their ambition. Credit: TJPW

God bless Hyper Misao and The Bakuretsu Sisters, simple dreamers who never ask questions like, ‘are we capable of doing this?’ and ‘will it help us win the match?’, but focus instead on the greatest question of them all, ‘wouldn’t it be cool if…?’ Wrestling, nay, the world, needs people like them, even if it nearly always goes horribly wrong.

Outside of their daring genius, Rika Tatsumi was fantastic in this one. That’s hardly surprising, she usually is, but it was particularly noticeable here. She’s the opposite of the cosy wrestling of Raku and Pom, bringing similar levels of silliness but backed by frantic violence that always feels likely to bubble over. It makes her infinitely watchable, as you’re never quite sure when she’s going to snap.

Finally, they did a nice job of teasing the Max Heart tournament final, giving us wee snippets of things like Miu and Aino hossing it out to whet our appetite. I can’t imagine a world where that showdown isn’t good, and this preview did nothing to persuade me differently.

Verdict: Thanks To The Dreamers

Miyu Yamashita defeated Marika Kobashi

Defiant to the end. Credit: TJPW

In her final match in her hometown, Marika got the main event against the Ace. If you’re going to go out, that’s the way to do it.

And this is one of those matches that will live and die on your connection to those involved. If you’ve just started watching TJPW, you’ll think it was a decent enough main event, but if you have any kind of emotional bond with Marika, then I’d struggle to see how you wouldn’t get wrapped up in it. I’ve only been watching her for a couple of years, and seeing her throw herself into the action got me choked up, so if you’ve been on this road since her debut as a wee fourteen-year-old, I can only assume it will be all the more potent.

And I thought she did great. Marika is good at desperate defiance, leaping into that Guillotine Choke and doing everything to try to take Yamashita down. Miyu, meanwhile, has always excelled at giving people just the right amount of rope. She lets them dream for a minute or two, raising the idea of an upset, but then flicks the switch, reverting to killer settings and dishing out a kicking that suddenly feels inevitable. It’s one of the many skills that place her among the best, and she put it to good use here.

The second the bell rang, though, the killer was gone, and the emotion came pouring in, Marika wiping the tears from her eyes before pulling herself to her feet. Miyu, meanwhile, could barely make it through her post-match promo, as while Kobashi isn’t gone yet, this felt like the first step on the road to saying goodbye. She’ll be missed, but if she keeps going like this, she’ll be saying goodbye in style.

Verdict: Too Many Emotions

Overall Show

Considering they were a fair few people down, that was a good TJPW show. They kept it short and breezy before gut-punching us with the emotions after the main event, but hey, who doesn’t like a wee cry now and then? Korakuen is up next, and it is a cracking card, so let’s all start getting excited for that.

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