If I pretend this show never happened, then Nodoka won’t have retired, right? She could continue making me smile within the wonders of my imagination. Yea, okay, that’s not going to work. Sadly, all great things must end, and this was Nodoka Tenma’s last TJPW appearance. How many tears were shed? I can tell you right now that it was a lot.
Hikari Noa defeated Kaya Toribami
It’s so cool watching Hikari work a match against a rookie while clearly brimming with confidence. It was all the little moments, her leaping over Kaya and rather than hitting the ropes, turning and slapping her across the face being the perfect example. She’s comfortable enough in the ring to start messing with the formula, all while grinning from ear to ear.
And Kaya looked good, too. The erraticness is slowly being weaned out of her high-flying moves, and she’s fleshing out her skillset. Her development has slowed down after her explosive entry into the company, but that’s only natural. Now, rather than worrying about what she’s doing week to week, we can focus on where she’s going to be a year from now.
The combination of the two made for an enjoyable opener. While there was nothing mind-blowing about it, the pleasure came from watching two talented young wrestlers doing their jobs well.
Verdict: Solid Opener
Hyper Misao & Miu Watanabe defeated Pom Harajuku & Mahiro Kiryu
Pom managed to out-shenanigan Hyper Misao! It appeared that she’d started the match by trading Mahiro for Misao, only to spring her trap and attack everyone’s favourite hero from behind. There was one flaw, as poor Kiryu seemed somewhat bemused by the whole situation as it appeared she hadn’t been let in on the plan and genuinely thought her partner wanted rid of her, but we can work on that.
While Pom tricking Misao was brilliant, it wasn’t the only good thing she did. I still don’t think Harajuku gets enough credit for how much she’s improved lately, as she and Misao proved a great pairing throughout. There aren’t many people who wrestle like Pom, as her inherent weirdness influences everything she does. On top of that, she gets beat up with the best of them, giving Miu the perfect body to throw around.
And while I wouldn’t go as far as saying she carried this match, she played a big part in it being as entertaining as it was. Much like the opener, it’s not anything you need to go out of your way to see, but it hits all the right buttons for a fun, frothy tag.
Verdict: I Smiled
Rika Tatsumi defeated Nao Kakuta and Haruna Neko in a three-way
Putting Neko in a match with two of TJPW’s most vicious members feels like animal cruelty. The poor wee cat found herself stuck being a violent place and a violent place, at one point being used as the rope in a tug of war. That would have been bad enough, but then Rika decided to try and put a crab on at the same time and reader, they nearly broke that cat.
And while I don’t condone animal abuse, it was, at least in this case, incredibly entertaining. Poor Haruna never stood a chance but fought valiantly, trying to take advantage of Rika and Nao inflicting violence on each other to sneak out with the win. This match was never going to be about her, though, as Rika and Nao is a pairing everyone should want to see. They’re two people who take pleasure in hurting people (in a nice way), so I want to watch them hurt each other (again, in a nice way). Give them a Princess Cup quarter or semi-final, and I reckon they’ll produce magic together while also allowing poor Neko to rest safely.
Verdict: Unleash The Violence On Each Other!
Magical Sugar Rabbits (Yuka Sakazaki & Mizuki) & Raku defeated Maki Itoh, Yuki Kamifuku & Marika Kobashi
If I was booking TJPW, Raku’s magic and sorcery would get so powerful that she’d be able to send the entire roster to sleep, win the title and reign supreme as the God Queen with her goth wife and lovely hat. It’s a storyline that could have started with this match, as Raku’s sleep-inducing powers catching her tag team partners in their crossfire would have been the moment she realised how powerful she could be. God, someone should definitely give me the book.
Anyway, this ruled. The best TJPW multi-person tags veer between chaos and playing off long-term stories, and that’s what they did. Alongside Raku’s antics, we were treated to some Itoh vs Mizuki, a pairing with magical chemistry. I know they’re tied up in other things right now, but a big singles title match between them has to come sooner rather than later.
It was also another reminder that this company will miss Marika. With Nodoka’s retirement coming first, Kobashi not having long left has been somewhat sidelined, but she’s been good over the last few months. Her exchanges with Yuka were a lot of fun, and while she’s spent most of her retirement run losing, she’s also consistently impressed. I might not have the emotional attachment to her that I do Nodoka (more on that later), but I’m going to miss her all the same.
Verdict: Bow Down To Your God Queen
AriSuzu (Suzume & Arisu Endo) defeated Moka Miyamoto & Yuki Arai to become number one contenders for the Princess Tag Titles
I love watching any combination of these four. They’re all in slightly different stages of their career, but they share being young, talented and, most importantly, hungry for success. It’s not just that we know they’re on the brink of breaking through but that they know it too. They’re simply waiting for the right gap to barge their way into, and a tag title shot is a big gap.
It also made every interaction between them feel important. Neither of these teams wanted to risk stumbling in their quest, so they put their heart and soul into this. The final act showed that off perfectly, Yuki countering Suzume’s first attempt at the Ring a Bell with a roar as she powered out of it. Then, when Arisu tried to enter the ring and help her pal, Moka grabbed her ankle, pulling her back to the outside just as it felt like she’d got away. Normally, you wouldn’t let a wrestler get that far, but by giving her that little bit of distance, Moka’s determination to stop her going any further shined all the brighter.
And at this point, AriSuzu were the right choice to go on and face MagiRabbi. As brilliant as Yuki and Moka are, Arai is coming off her title shot against Itoh, and AriSuzu are a step or two ahead of them as a team. They’re going to go out there with Mizuki and Yuka and smash it, and I can’t wait to watch.
Verdict: The Good Stuff
Miyu Yamashita & Shoko Nakajima defeated The Bakuretsu Sisters (Nodoka Tenma & Yuki Aino)
It’s not often that a newly crowned champion will make their first entrance with the title to team with the person they beat to win it, but it’s not often we say goodbye to someone like Nodoka Tenma. Miyu and Shoko are two of her closest friends, so it made sense that they’d pair up and make sure that her last match was everything it could be.
And if my ability to review Tenma matches objectively malfunctioned in the build-up to her retirement, you’d be mad to think this would be any different. As I said in my goodbye to her, she’s one of my absolute favourites, and I couldn’t watch this through any prism but that one. Still, I can say that I believe Shoko and Miyu went out there and put their everything into making this the perfect send-off. While they may have been wiping away tears before the match, they gave Tenma both barrels once the bell rang, letting her stand up against two of TJPW’s very best one last time and prove she belonged in that bracket. Towards the end, she and Shoko were left alone, Tenma getting a final chance to beat the person she never had, and while she failed to do so, she still went out in style.
Like any retirement, though, this was as much about what happened after the match as in it. Thankfully, Mr Haku came out of retirement to translate for us, something I’m very grateful for. I won’t bother repeating it because I’d just be copying his work, but it includes some genuinely beautiful sentiments from the rest of the roster (and Misao threatening to kill Koda, something Nodoka was surprisingly chill with), so I’d recommend giving it a read.
Which, as a final point, is the thing that made me happier than anything else. It’s beautiful to discover that someone who means a lot to you (but who you don’t actually know) is also loved by those around her. Nodoka seems to have been part of the glue that held TJPW together, the first to talk to the newbies and a big sister to more than just Aino. Sure, they also all chose to beat her up one last time, but they’re wrestlers, and that’s how they show their love. In Nodoka’s case, that love seems to have run deep, and if that’s not a good legacy to leave behind, what is?
Verdict: It Was Perfect
Amongst all that, Yuki Aino also challenged Shoko for the big belt, which will be happening at the next Korakuen, and is going to rule.
I thought this show was going to be all about Tenma’s retirement, and in some ways, it was, but the fact it didn’t completely overshadow the other matches says a lot. This was a really good outing from TJPW, and while I spent the last half hour or so in floods of tears, they were ultimately happy ones. Nodoka’s going out on her terms, and she got the perfect send-off.
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