With Miyu Yamashita, Maki Itoh and Yuka Sakazaki still in America, TJPW were missing a few big hitters for their first show in a couple of weeks. Thankfully, they had a plan. We’ve got a five-on-five tournament (with matches decided via a somewhat unique system) between senpais and kohais. Could the rookies pull off some upsets, or were the TJPW veterans about to defend their position? Let’s find out.
Before the show, we met the participants of ‘Dream Wrestling -dream on the ring-‘ a new YouTube series that will see four women from the entertainment industry step into the squared circle for a shotty. Considering the long and illustrious history between the joshi scene and the broader entertainment world, that will probably be quite interesting.
Raku & Pom Harajuku defeated Hikari Noa & Kaya Toribami
You can take your epic title matches and blood feuds and shove them up your arse. The best kind of wrestling is a Pom and Raku opener, in which they get to be mischievous. Wrestling peaks with Pom standing on a rookie’s shin in the corner while Raku crouches next to them, providing backup menacing.
It helps that they both have fantastic chemistry with Hikari. Her interactions with Raku are consistently delightful, while Noa timed dropkicking Pom out of the air on a Pom de Justice to perfection. On paper, the deathmatch fiend and the two delightful clowns have nothing in common, but they all have a streak of creativity that helps them find common ground.
With all that going on, Kaya became a bit of an afterthought. That’s no fault of hers (she played her role well), but Toribami was always going to struggle to stand out when wrestling three of my favourites. She’ll have other chances to grab my attention, but in this one, I was too busy having a lovely time with some of my favourite people.
Verdict: A Delight
Hyper Misao defeated Nao Kakuta and Mahiro Kiryu in a three-way
Nao and Misao are ideally suited to the three-way environment. They’re equally duplicitous, setting up a fun shifting alliance/hatred that ran throughout (all started by Kakuta booting Misao in the back during her pre-match mic time and then blaming Kiryu). I could watch them backstab each other all day.
Sadly for Nao, she would end up learning a valuable lesson. Just as it looked like the battle between Kakuta and Mahiro would see us home, everyone’s favourite superhero snuck in, broke a pin and bundled Kiryu up for the three. If Nao wasn’t already aware that Misao always has a plan, she is now.
Outside of those interactions, this was somewhat straightforward. Mahiro was her usual reliable, slightly bland self, and nothing ever broke into the higher gears. Still, I have no issues with a character-heavy match when two of those characters are as entertaining as Nao and Misao.
Verdict: The Character Stuff Was Good, The Rest Was Alright
Rhio defeated Yuki Aino
Thanks to not giving a fuck about the nonce-haven that is BritWres, this is the first time I’ve ever seen Rhio wrestle, and she stood out the second she stepped through the curtain. There was a cockiness to her, which went nicely with her apparent size and strength.
And thankfully, she carried that initial impression into the match. It must be hard going over to a new country and wrestling someone who doesn’t speak the same language as you, but Rhio seemed to take it all in her stride, feeling her way into the action before impressing with some power-based offence. She’s not perfect, her strikes didn’t make much impact, but in a match designed to help her stand out, she took her chances.
An observation that means we have to give credit to Aino, too. She got the task of introducing Rhio to a new audience and proved equal to it, never falling into the temptation to try and steal the spotlight for herself. It wasn’t a squash, so she had her moments, but Yuki let Rhio throw her around, which, as one of TJPW’s tougher talents, was an ideal way to establish the new lass as a threat. It all left me intrigued about where she could go and hoping that we get a couple of bangers from this trip.
Verdict: An Impressive Debut
Yuki Kamifuku defeated Moka Miyamoto
Our first match of the mini-tournament featured two people whose careers couldn’t be more different. Kamiyu always had the charisma but had to grow into a wrestling style that worked for her. In contrast, Moka struggled early on to stand out, but slowly and surely improved as a worker, finding her charisma through her in-ring abilities. They’re both equally valid ways to do it, but that difference made this pairing intriguing.
Because despite being the rookie, Moka wasn’t outclassed. Kamiyu got the win not by out-wrestling her but by being more devious. For example, she ended Moka’s initial onslaught by grabbing onto the ropes and demanding the rookie step back, only to use that opening to take advantage. In other words, when she couldn’t out-wrestle Moka, she out-thought her.
And it made for an intriguing wee contest. I don’t necessarily think it was a must-see, but it was well-constructed and made Moka look good before having Kamiyu assert her dominance as the more experienced wrestler. In other words, it was a job well done.
Verdict: A Nice Wee Match
Rika Tatsumi defeated Arisu Endo
I think this is my favourite version of Rika Tatsumi. She’s an unrelenting prick who will not give you a second to breathe. From the second Arisu stepped in that ring, Rika was on her, a giant grin on her face as she delighted in causing pain. Sure, bullying is wrong, but Rika is very good at it, so I think we have to give her a pass.
It’s also a Rika that makes opponents look fantastic. Sure, Arisu got swarmed and beaten, but she kept trying even as Tatsumi ripped away at her leg. Standing up to a bully is always more important than actually beating them, so Endo managing to make Rika battle for this victory was her version of success.
That also made this our second really good wee match. Again, it felt logically laid out, with a strong story and a satisfying finishing. The youngster might not be getting the results, but they’re looking impressive in defeat, and that’s the most important thing.
Verdict: Stand Up To Bullies, Even Talented Ones
Mizuki defeated Haruna Neko
At first glance, this match was very similar to the last. Mizuki is a bully, and Neko was the plucky undercat trying to survive her. However, I think there is a difference in bullying philosophy between Rika and Mizuki. Where Tatsumi knows what she is and revels in it, Mizuki doesn’t see that there’s anything wrong with her actions. Beating up the cat makes her laugh, so why wouldn’t she do it? If she weren’t a cute bunny, you’d worry she is on the road to being a serial killer.
The other difference between this and the last match is that Neko isn’t on Endo’s level. I have a lot of time for the wee cat and think she’s a much better wrestler than she gets credit for, but she doesn’t sell the struggle. Yes, she put in a decent performance here, Mizuki giving her space to show off her cat-like offence, but there wasn’t a sense of what she was attempting to overcome.
With that in mind, it was my least favourite of the tournament match so far, as it failed to stand out when compared with the previous two. However, I still enjoyed it, so that’s a minor criticism. It also put the senpais three ahead, confirming that whatever happens, they will be the victors in this competition. But hey, the cat tried, and we can’t fault her for that.
Verdict: Decent, But The Weakest Tournament Match So Far
Shoko Nakajima defeated Yuki Arai
Arai has previously had high-profile matches against the likes of Miyu Yamashita, but this was her first meeting with Shoko, and it offered a very different challenge. Nakajima is someone who the bigger Arai could, in theory, outpower. However, where Shoko excels is in her bursts of pace and general excellence. Yuki hasn’t had singles matches with many people like her, and I was intrigued by how they would put this match together.
In the end, they nailed it. Arai used the fact she’s stronger than Shoko well, but it was raw power. In contrast, Shoko is a refined performer, capable of slipping out of moves and out-wrestling opponents. The moment where Arai dodged a 619 only to be twisted into place for another one (which would set up the finish) was the perfect example. She could think one step ahead, but Shoko was two or three.
It made for another match that highlighted the younger wrestler nicely but ultimately sent the message that Shoko is on top for a reason. Arai has many gifts, but she’s got a lot of work to do before she can be on Nakajima’s level, and she was sent packing with a few new lessons ringing in her ears.
Verdict: Lovely Stuff
Suzume and Miu Watanabe fought to a time-limit draw
The last week has been a big one for Suzume. For the first time in her career, she stepped out from underneath the CyberFight banner, turning up in Gatoh Move to wrestle Mei Suruga and have what I believe was her first ever singles main event. Now, back in her home promotion, she’s already got her second one, facing off with Miu and looking to get at least one point on the board for her team.
Everyone who has been paying attention already knows that Suzume is going to the top, but moments like this will convince the rest. She and Miu are a perfect match-up, Suzu buzzing around while Watanabe tries to snap her over her knee. What stood out here, though, were the moments of meanness we got from the bee. There was a spot where she was stamping on Miu in the corner, and Referee Kiso earned himself a death stare when he dared to stop her. We’re seeing her develop an edge, which is essential to her stepping up the card.
As for Miu, she’s a step or two ahead of Suzume, but they’re very much walking the same road. She’s now at the stage where there isn’t much she can’t do, and she was effective here both as the dominant force and as someone on the brink of slipping on a banana skin. It was already a great match, but one day these two will run it back in on a bigger stage, and it will blow the roof down.
Verdict: Future Main Event
I enjoyed the hell out of that show. The wee tournament went as expected but produced some intriguing and well put together singles matches. Throw in Raku and Pom, Misao and Nao and an impressive first appearance from Rhio, and this one is worth going out of your way to see.
Watch Tokyo Joshi Pro: https://www.wrestle-universe.com/en/videos?labels=-tjpw.