TJPW’s first trip to Korakuen post-Sumo Hall gave us a fascinating card to play with. Yuki Aino and the pairing of Arisu Endo and Suzume are intriguing names to have at the top of the card, and it feels like we might be taking our first tentative steps into a new era. The question was whether they’d be able to carry their part of the load. Let’s find out.
Pom Harajuku & Moka Miyamoto defeated Haruna Neko & Kaya Toribami
Our opener featured an extended war between Haruna Neko’s eye scratching and Pom Harajuku’s shin-kicking. They went back and forth for a decent amount of the action, neither ever managing to maintain an advantage, but both chipping away at their opponent. Those devastating attacks take a lot of both the giver and the receiver, so it was no surprise to see it end in a stalemate.
Jokes aside, Chris Brookes pointed out on commentary that everyone seemed to be going hard in this match, and I agree. There was a bite to proceedings, while spots like Pom hitting a Pom de Justice on the apron showed people adding some spice to their offence. I’ve talked before about TJPW’s levelling up as a company, and I think openers like this back that up. They have come on an awfully long way, ditching the awkwardness of years past.
That’s not me trying to claim that your work rate fanatics are about to fall in love with Pom, but I wouldn’t want them to (they don’t deserve her). What we’re seeing, though, is a company where even the fun, frothy openers are constantly improving. It’s a great place to be in, and while I can’t call this something you need to see, you won’t regret giving it your time either.
Verdict: They’re Improving
Miyu Yamashita defeated Juria Nagano
Hello Juria, I know you have a lot of Tik-Tok followers, but you ain’t met Miyu Yamashita yet, and it’s time to lose your head.
I don’t want to call this a humbling because that would suggest Nagano needed to be taken down a peg or two, and we haven’t seen any proof of that, but it was a reality check. She tried to go blow for blow with Yamashita, returning every leg kick with a palm strike to the jaw and showing a lot of fire in the process. However, all it took was one moment of overexuberance, a step toward Miyu without defending herself, and away her head went.
It’s the kind of match that I think every rookie should have. A moment where they are put face to face with the top of the mountain and shown how far they have to climb. Juria has a lot of upsides, and if she decides to stick it out with wrestling, I suspect she’ll go far, but she’ll have to work her arse off if she ever wants to reach Miyu. She learnt that lesson the hard way, and it will serve her well in the future.
Verdict: Welcome To Wrestling
Marika Kobashi defeated Raku
Marika and Nodoka’s graduations happening close together has given us a load of matches like this one. Showdowns in which two friends get one last chance to face off and therefore do everything they can to add some magic to it.
And they capture a lot of what I love about wrestling. These two are close friends, and it shone through in every second of this match. No, it wasn’t an instant classic, but you could tell they were working hard, desperate to make their final encounter (and first-ever singles match) one that they could be proud of. That kind of love and affection entices me more than any complex series of moves.
In a lovely touch, it also gave Kobashi a Korakuen win before she says goodbye. Normally, I’d resent a Raku defeat, but this time, it felt right. She got to give her friend a little bit of momentum ahead of her retirement, and that’s a nice thing to do.
Verdict: A Nice Match
Free WiFi (Hikari Noa & Nao Kakuta) defeated MakiYukiHappy (Maki Itoh & Yuki Kamifuku)
These two teams clicked from the bell as they gave us Free WiFi’s gleeful approach to violence vs MakiYukiHappy’s charismatic devilry. They not only worked well together but seemed to urge each other on, both teams only getting worse (in the best way) as the match went on.
And while it was a match made up of singles pairings that I love, I think my biggest takeaway was how much they’ve matured as teams. This was particularly true of Free WiFi, as Noa and Nao improve with every outing they have together. We’re seeing them pull out ever more complicated combination moves, with Brookes even suggesting they’d been watching their Motor City Machine Gun tapes. Noa has had lousy luck with tag partners in the past, but in Nao, she seems to have found something special.
And I came into this assuming we were either setting up a future International or tag title challenger down the line, and I came out delighted it was the latter. Free WiFi are becoming one of TJPW’s best teams, and the finish, in which they took advantage of an exposed turnbuckle, was a lovely little touch. They’re not heels, but they’re willing to be more violent than anyone else, and I want to see as much of that as possible.
Verdict: Future Tag Champs Right There
Hyper Misao defeated Miu Watanabe
I love Miu, I think we all do, but she’s never had a reputation for being the sharpest knife in the drawer, which kinda made this match. Because if one person is willing to take advantage of that, it’s Hyper Misao. Watanabe, very earnestly looking over Misao’s application to become a member of the Up Up Girls, started me giggling and set the tone wonderfully for what was to come.
Misao had a very clear plan here. She was going to counter Miu’s strength with her genius. At one point, poor Miu was wrapped in the ring apron and trapped underneath a mat taped to the ringside floor. It was a spot that gave her the perfect opportunity to show off those wonderful facial expressions. Her combination of bafflement and panic selling the spot perfectly before she finally managed to escape.
Unfortunately for Misao, the longer this went on, the more Miu’s power came to the fore. Whether she was being taken for a spin or racked up on Miu’s shoulder, everyone’s favourite superhero was in trouble. However, Misao never gave up, and those brains would ultimately prove decisive. All she needed was the hint of an opening, Miu’s own strength putting her in place to pull out a move from her past (Vanitas) and grab a win that I’m not sure anyone saw coming but instantly got me very excited about who would be challenging the champ at the end of this show.
Verdict: Misao’s A Genius
AA Cannon (Saki Akai & Yuki Arai) defeated Rika Tatsumi & Mahiro Kiryu
Yuki Arai might be a famous idol, but even she isn’t immune to the star power of Saki Akai. She was giving off big getting to hang out with the older, cooler girl vibes here, as she not only copied Akai’s pose but followed her example in dismissing Mahiro’s handshake. It doesn’t matter how successful you are; some people just have it.
This rare Akai TJPW appearance also gave us the enticing prospect of her vs Rika. That pairing looked great together, Tatsumi’s tactic of going after opponents’ legs pairing up nicely with Akai’s focus on kicks. For a chunk of the match, it looked like Rika had her number. Every boot aimed at her head proved an opening to pull it into a submission or twist it into a Dragon Screw. Or at least that was the case, right up to the last boot, as Akai countered the counter and pulled Tatsumi into Quetzalcoatl.
Perhaps more surprisingly, though, was how great Arai and Mahiro were together. Kiryu’s inclusion in this match screamed pin taker, and while that would ultimately prove the case, she and Yuki had a great exchange before it. It was a big opportunity for Mahiro to impress, and as someone who has been mildly critical of her before, I think this ranks as one of her better performances. Sure, it ended in a Finally Axe Kick, but baby steps are better than nothing. Good match!
Verdict: Lots Of Impressing
The Magical Sugar Rabbits (Yuka Sakazaki & Mizuki) defeated Daisy Monkey (Suzume & Arisu Endo) to retain the Princess Tag Titles
When Scotland went to the Euros last summer (the first international tournament we’d qualified for since I was six), all I wanted was a goal that meant something. There were no dreams of going to the final or winning the whole thing, but I wanted a moment where I got to celebrate something more than a consolation. I felt somewhat similar about the newly renamed Daisy Monkey going into this match.
And for long parts of it, I thought I wasn’t going to get anything. MagiRabbi were dominant, controlling the action against these much younger wrestlers. The combination of Yuka’s power and Mizuki’s speed seemed untouchable as they cut off every opening that Daisy Monkey got. The champions were making a statement, and the odds of Arisu or Suzume being able to break through seemed long.
However, it slowly became clear that while I might not get a goal, I was getting something else. This wasn’t about Daisy Monkey coming close to the belts (that never really happened) but about them growing as a team. There were moments like Endo rolling Suzume up to help her escape a Yuka attack or the two of them taking off, scampering around their opponents to try and create an opening, where we saw glimpses of the pairing they will become. Perhaps more importantly, though, we saw how much heart they have, refusing to give up until MagiRabbi put them away definitively.
Afterwards, Yuka and Mizuki, two people not known for their respectful actions, came over and ruffled their devastated opponents’ hair, sharing a few words with them. At that moment, I realised what Daisy Monkey’s goal was. They weren’t ready to beat MagiRabbi, and no one was ever really going to believe they could, but they were ready to earn their respect, and that’s a hell of a thing by itself. They’ll be back, and next time, they’ll get that goal.
Verdict: A Fantastic Step On The Daisy Monkey Road To The Top
The first of my two predictions for future challengers came to pass in the aftermath, as Free WiFi made their case. In typical MagiRabbi fashion, they weren’t impressed, but the match will still be going ahead and has the potential to fucking rule.
Shoko Nakajima defeated Yuki Aino to retain the Princess of Princess Title
There was some shared DNA between this and the tag-title match. Aino may have fought for the big belt once before, but she still felt like a long shot to take it off Shoko, particularly in her first defence. In the wake of Yuki’s sister’s retirement, this was as much about repositioning her as a force by herself as it was a chance she’d take the gold.
There was one thing that Aino had that Daisy Monkey didn’t, though, and it’s a simple but effective thing. Power. I’ve spoken before about Nakajima feeling like a more beatable champion than Miyu, and Yuki being bigger and stronger than her added to that feeling. Shoko can’t bully opponents the way Yamashita can. Instead, she was forced to rely on her incredible speed and technical ability to undercut Aino’s brute force.
It was a combo that made for a match that was occasionally a bit scrappy. For the second main event in a row, Shoko caught her feet on the rope mid-dive, and there was also a tumble off a turnbuckle that looked dangerous. However, with the knowledge that everyone is okay, that scrappiness added to my enjoyment. It felt like a fight, Aino managing to wear away at Nakajima and forcing her to dig deep, the two of them tiring as the action continued. Sure, that might not have been intentional, but the best things so often aren’t.
In the end, though, Shoko’s talent won out, leaving us with something that won’t go down as one of TJPW’s classic main events but definitely had its moments. For a while now, Aino has felt like she’s on the cusp of becoming something bigger and better, and with her sister gone, she proved that she could step into that spot. She might not be ready to win the belt yet, but it doesn’t feel impossible that the day will come.
Verdict: Not A Classic, But Still Very Good
YES! I was right, and in the aftermath, Hyper Misao came out to challenge her partner with an emotional speech about proving herself and a sneaky Stunner. I am super excited about that.
As I mentioned at the top, this felt like a reset for TJPW after the excitement of Sumo Hall. With that in mind, I don’t think it was one of their classic Korakuens, the lack of peril in the main events playing into that, but I still had a lovely time. There are a lot of exciting pieces on the board for TJPW right now, and I’m very intrigued to see where they will end up.
Watch Tokyo Joshi Pro: https://www.wrestle-universe.com/en/videos?labels=-tjpw.