TJPW Grand Princess ’22 (19/3/22) Review

What a group. Credit: TJPW

From a mat in a bar to Sumo Hall, Tokyo Joshi has been on one hell of a journey over the last nine years. This was the biggest show in their history, and with a card rammed full of exciting match-ups, my hype levels were high. So shall we get on with it? Let’s get on with it.

We had all sorts of stuff going down before the show even started. First up, Nanba was joined by TJPW originals KANNA and Chikage Kiba to reflect on how far the company has come. Then, in the midst of a particularly great Up Up Girls’ set, they announced they were holding open auditions to find a new member. A chance to join the best band in the world? What an opportunity.

AriSuzu (Suzume & Arisu Endo) defeated Moka Miyamoto & Juria Nagano

She kick. Credit: TJPW

The main focus of our opener was the debut of Juria Nagano, who made her entrance dressed as a nurse in reference to one of her many talents, but before we get to her, let’s talk about Moka and Arisu. Those two had a fantastic match to open TJPW’s last Korakuen, and they continued that form here. They bring the best out of each other, making every second they have in the ring together feel important as their rivalry continues to blossom.

As for Juria, TJPW might have found another one as she got off to a strong start. Unsurprisingly, there were a couple of minorly awkward moments, but on the whole, she settled into the match quickly. Her karate background played a big part in her offence, as she tried to fire off with kicks and strikes on Suzume, keeping her at a distance. It’s clearly a potent base for her to build off, and it left me intrigued as to how she’ll develop going forward.

I’ve barely even mentioned Suzume, who was her usual reliably great self. AriSuzu get a little bit better with every match, and it feels like all they need to reach the next level is the opportunity. They certainly proved more than capable of helping Nagano to an impressive debut, and considering they aren’t veterans themselves, that’s a strong indication of just how talented they are. The future is bright!

Verdict: Impressive From Everyone Involved

Team Ganbare (Yuna Manase, HARUKAZE, Moeka Haruhi & YuuRi) defeated Team TJPW (Nao Kakuta, Mahiro Kiryu, Haruna Neko & Kaya Toribami)

GanPro representing. Credit: TJPW

Yuna Manase returned to TJPW with some Ganbare pals in tow, determined to use the big show to grab some attention for themselves. Standing in their way was a TJPW team led by Nao Kakuta, a former trainee of Manase’s in AWG, who was stepping up to defend the company she joined back in 2020.

Unsurprisingly, this match tilted towards the silly, as the characters of Ganbare melded well with their TJPW opponents. In fact, at times, it felt like a showcase for the visitors, the likes of the ever-improving YuuRi and Haruhi being given plenty of chances to shine as Kaya and Neko sold for them. I would assume most TJPW fans are already aware of GanPro, but any who aren’t should have been tempted to check it out.

On the Tokyo Joshi side, Nao did some head booting, which is always a good time, but it was Mahiro (sporting lovely new gear) who was given the spotlight in the final act, going one on one with Yuna. Eventually, she’d lose that fight, but she put up a strong battle against the significantly more experienced Manase, looking good in the process. It was the cherry on top of a tasty cake that gave everyone a chance to shine.

Verdict: Good Stuff

Before the next match, we were reintroduced to Momochi Minami, a real-life virtual YouTuber (no, I don’t know how that works either) who was Tokyo Joshi’s ring announcer back in the day. That was before my time and, em, she’s very strange. Let’s leave it at that.

Hyper Misao defeated Sanshiro Takagi in a falls count anywhere match

She’s a hero. Credit: TJPW

In the build-up to this match, Hyper Misao shared the story of her attempted suicide, something she did while living a life that she believed had no meaning. It was wrestling that saved her from that life, the inspiration she took from seeing a DDT Rojo match leading to her starting a career that turned it all around. One of the people she watched that day was Sanshiro Takagi, and in the build-up to this, she called him out for losing his way and becoming (and I’m paraphrasing here) a corporate sellout who had forsaken the art of nonsense.

And, well, it seems Takagi took that to heart as he made his entrance as Hyper Sanshiro, having painted an approximation of Misao’s gear onto himself. It probably won’t surprise anyone that it marked the start of some pure unfiltered nonsense. We had Dramatic Dream Mobile battles, fire extinguishers, and Misao flying from the top of one of the Sumo Hall’s entrances, crashing down with the I Am A Hero crossbody. It was everything I wanted their match-up to be, and I had a wonderful time as these two nutters tried to outdo each other.

What I wasn’t expecting was the emotional gut-punch of the finish as Misao, the woman who once hit rock bottom, beat one of the most important men in Japanese wrestling at his own game. You’d have to be a heartless bastard not to find the joy in that. Then, as if I wasn’t crying already, Takagi told Misao that she is a hero and that it’s her job to keep the nonsense alive. I reckon we’re in safe hands, folks.

Verdict: The Nonsense Lives

ASUKA defeated Yuki Kamifuku

Boots to heads. Credit: TJPW

The battle of these close friends started with the entrances, Kamiyu turning up backstage on her motorcycle and ASUKA sporting new gear and an impressive dance routine. We might not have been treated to Venyu’s entrance, but they still went big.

As for the match, this was something of a test for Kamiyu. ASUKA is one of the best wrestlers in the world right now, and as great as Yuki is, it was always going to be a challenge for her to keep up with her friend. Thankfully, she pulled it off as they focused on beating the shit out of each other. There were some violent boots to the head in this one, as the power of friendship gave these two the opening to lay into every strike. It also presumably played a part in how much ASUKA was willing to give up, as she let Kamiyu have her moment, looking like she had the chance to win after a brace of Fameassers. Sadly, she then went one too far, going for a third off the second rope and being caught in a beautiful powerbomb that spelt the beginning of the end.

It all made for a fantastic wee match. Kamiyu and ASUKA went hard, and while ASUKA ultimately got the win, Yuki looked great in defeat as she continued her habit of stepping up to every challenge TJPW presents her with. It was also a great use of an outside star, as ASUKA gave their pal a little bit of shine while also putting on a show and adding something special to the card. Thumbs up for all involved.

Verdict: Brilliant

Yuki Aino defeated Nodoka Tenma

Doing it together. Credit: TJPW

I knew this one was going to make me cry, but if anyone wants to know the exact moment the first tears were shed, it was when Nodoka and Yuki chose to make their Sumo Hall entrance together, played to the ring by the band angela. It’s not something you’ll see very often, but it made perfect sense here, as these sisters had their first and last match ahead of Nodoka’s retirement.

And I’m probably the worst person to come to if you’re looking for an honest critique of this match. Nodoka is one of my favourite wrestlers, and I both can’t and don’t want to separate that from the action. However, I’m still going to tell you it ruled. There is a reason people compare these two to the Steiners, and they went hard, thudding into each other at every opportunity. If I was forcing myself to introduce some sort of objectivity, I might say that the ending felt a bit abrupt, but I also didn’t give a flying fuck. Because ultimately, this wasn’t about the wrestling. It was about the Bakuretsu Sisters having that moment together.

It ended the right way, too, Nodoka putting over her little sister on the way out and the two of them sharing a long hug. This was the match they deserved before Nodoka’s retirement, and I am very happy they got it, even if I wish we could have another twenty years of Nodoka Tenma being as wonderful as she is.

Verdict: I’m Going To Miss Her

NEO Biishiki-gun (Sakisama, Mei Saint-Michel, Yukio Saint Laurent & Martha) defeated Raku, Ram Kaicho, Pom Harajuku & Marika Kobashi

Aristocrats and their weird families. Credit: TJPW

Wow, Raku and Ram appear to have gotten married, and they are a spectacular couple. If you haven’t seen the hat Raku donned for the occasion, I demand you stop reading this and go find a picture of it right now. It had a train! GENIUS! It was going to take a lot to top that, but Sakisama is built for such occasions and made her entrance surrounded by the entire Biishiki-gun family, including all the corrupted girls of times gone by. We need to get her in an entrance-off with ASUKA as soon as possible.

It was also the start of a match packed with wonderful moments. Whether it was Ram making Sakisama go faint with her sweary antics, Raku’s magic and sorcery or Mei Saint-Michel flying from the top rope on a broom with Charlotte the teddy bear, I had a grin plastered to my face throughout. Bii-gun being paired up with the likes of Pom and Raku is a brilliant thing as they all exist in a similar madcap reality where chaos reigns, and if there’s one thing I love, it’s chaos.

This also felt like the perfect time for it. The top of this card was packed with big and potentially emotional matches, but this brought us into the break on a wave of joy, providing the light before we hit the heavy. That’s a lovely bit of structuring, and to the surprise of no one, I liked this an awful lot.

Verdict: A Lovely Time

Hikaru Shida defeated Hikari Noa

Hikari was a bit too willing to be hit with a stick. Credit: TJPW

Hikaru Shida was presented as a star in this match, and while I tend to think she’s a good rather than great wrestler, it’s hard to argue that she doesn’t come across as one. She holds herself with the confidence of someone who knows they’re good, which made her a perfect challenge for Hikari to come up against. This match was a chance for Noa to measure herself against that stardom.

And, I at least thought she held up more than well. The story here was that Noa’s wish to prove herself would ultimately cause her downfall, as she dragged Shida into a hardcore exchange that ended up losing her the match. Hikaru got the chair out first, but Noa swung the first shot, and rather than stopping there, she offered up her back to Shida and her kendo stick, engaging her in a game of upmanship. Then, later in the action, her back proved her downfall, playing up after the punishment it had received and stopping her from bridging on a Blizzard Suplex. It continued the recurring idea of Noa as a wannabe hardcore kid who has all the passion and skill but hasn’t yet figured out how to channel it.

Ultimately, though, who won this was fairly irrelevant. It was all about Hikari going out there and not being overwhelmed by Shida, either in charisma or skill. If anything, I think Noa and her selling of her back injury stole the match. It was another example of TJPW’s clever use of outside talent, as they sprinkled Shida’s star power over the show and Noa in equal measure.

Verdict: Great Use Of Shida

Maki Itoh defeated Yuki Arai to retain the International Princess Title

Itoh was enjoying herself for a bit. Credit: TJPW

Itoh’s entire career has been about her trying to pull herself up to other people. Whether it’s against Miyu Yamashita or Mizuki, Maki has been trying to prove herself since day one. Or at least that was the case. In Yuki Arai, someone who succeeded in the idol world where she failed (and Itoh’s idol-like entrance certainly seemed to be making a point), Itoh has finally found someone who wants to pull themselves up to her, and I was kinda fascinated as to how she would react to that.

What happened was that Itoh proved as strong a challenge as all those other wrestlers proved for her. She was fantastic here, playing the role of the hardened veteran with a perfect combination of power and cockiness. Then, when she did have to go on the backfoot, letting Arai into the action, she did a great job of teasing out the idea of the upset. Itoh’s wrestling has always been powered by emotion, and being the dominant wrestler in the match did nothing to blunt that, as she and Arai found a way to channel their stories into the action.

Coming in, I had kind of convinced myself that Yuki should win this. A combination of her incredible talent and not being sure how long she will stick with wrestling made me feel that TJPW should gobble up the opportunity. However, as it went on, I switched sides, deciding that her defeat made sense. Like Itoh before her, Yuki was fighting to prove herself, which didn’t require her to win a title. The fact she fought as hard as she did, hitting a couple of those Finally Axe Kicks and earning Itoh’s respect, was enough. She’s an exceptional talent, and if she does stick with wrestling, we’ll see this one again, and they’ve now set the standards very high. I wouldn’t bet against them topping it.

Verdict: Incredible

Magical Sugar Rabbits (Yuka Sakazaki & Mizuki) defeated Daydream (Rika Tatsumi & Miu Watanabe to retain the Princess Tag Team Titles

So strong. Credit: TJPW

The awesome entrances continued as Miu and Rika were carried to the ring on a palanquin type thing, looking like they were having a lovely old time. MagiRabbi weren’t going to let that one go unanswered, though, as they produced a magic carpet and a tiger before being driven through the crowd on WrestleMania III style carts. They are going all out on these.

If the last match was fuelled by emotion, this one came from incredible talent. These two teams are at a stupidly high level, capable of doing some extraordinary thing. The Sugar Rabbits are known for their out-there tag moves, but Daydream were right there alongside them, Miu constantly finding creative ways to throw Rika at opponents. It made for a thrill ride of a match, as every moment offered something new and exciting.

Plus, as the action went on, it felt like the aggression went up alongside the excitement. That was particularly true for Rika and Yuka, who went at each other, laying into every strike. Sakazaki is one of wrestling’s great bastards (in the most complimentary sense of the word), and the escalation between her and Tatsumi built perfectly to the finish, as MagiRabbi proved to be that little bit better and kept hold of the belts that feel like they belong to them. This was a hell of a match.

Verdict: Stunning

Shoko Nakajima defeated Miyu Yamashita to win the Princess of Princess Title

Shoko survived it all. Credit: TJPW

In many ways, Shoko Nakajima vs Miyu Yamashita is TJPW’s match. They are baked into the very fabric of this company, and with Shoko being one of only three people who has ever beaten Miyu Yamashita in a Princess of Princess Title match, there was really no other pairing that could headline this show. They are Tokyo Joshi, and you’d have been a fool to bet against them being anything except spectacular in this main event.

Yet, even with those high expectations, this match still blew me away. It was built off the back of a title reign where Miyu has been able to out fire everyone she came up against. Rika, Yuka, Sakisama, Itoh and Mizuki all brought the big guns but were brutalised into submission by Yamashita’s kicks. Here, though, Shoko refused to go down. Time after time, Miyu’s boot went cracking into her skull, but she kept coming, fighting through the pain and powering back to her feet. It was a match built to put Shoko over as the ultimate survivor, slowly and surely turning the action around until she pulled off what still feels like a colossal upset, even with her and Miyu’s history.

And that was always what it was going to take. You can’t beat Miyu Yamashita, not in the traditional sense anyway. Instead, you have to survive her. You have to take everything she throws at you and keep coming, hoping against hope that you’ll get that one moment that makes the pain worth it. Shoko got that one moment, flying from the top with her senton and crashing down, creating history as she slew the un-slayable and became Princess of Princess champion for the second time. What a match!

Verdict: Wow!

Overall Show

Now that’s how you do a big show – incredible entrances, stunning matches and an ending that took my breath away. I love TJPW because it feels like a family, a group of misfits who love each other and are going to the top together. As a fan, you feel part of that family in your own small way, and watching this, I was incredibly proud of everyone involved. They’re a special group, and I doubt this will be the last time they walk into a building this big.

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