I can’t imagine anyone reading this is interested in my private life, but I spent the last five days in a field, baking in the sun, drinking too much beer and watching loads of live music, so to say I’m a bit frazzled is an understatement. Therefore, if this is even more nonsensical than usual, you have to forgive me because that’s the law. And yes, I could have waited a day or two, but I was desperate to watch this show and didn’t want to.
It doesn’t take much to excite Miu, but with cheering restrictions lifted for Summer Princess, she almost exploded when the fans yelled her name. Raku got similarly emotional, and Hikari is, well, far too cool for that shit, but I’m sure she was a little excited. Still, it was heart-warming to watch the Up Up Girls perform in front of a receptive audience for the first time in far too long.
Moka Miyamoto defeated Juria Nagano
Our opener was the first time Juria and Moka had ever received streamers or heard the fans shout their name. They’ve spent their short career wrestling in front of quiet crowds and were the latest to look a little giddy upon hearing their voices.
Those shouts must have inspired them because they went hard. You don’t tend to come to TJPW openers for stiff wrestling, but they were dishing it up, exchanging karate chops to the neck. It all made for a cool twist on the established Juria dynamic as her karate has been her biggest (and perhaps only) weapon so far. With Moka able to match that, she had to up the aggression, forcing Miyamoto to follow on behind.
In the end, her lack of wrestling experience was again her downfall. I love how TJPW have handled Nagano so far, as while her strikes are a danger to top-tier talents, she’s not even ready to match her fellow rookies at everything else. Moka slammed her to the mat with an awesome-looking throw, locked in the Cobra Twist, and left Juria with nowhere to go. It was the perfect finish to a hard-hitting opener that played out in front of a hot crowd and set a high bar for this show.
Verdict: That Bar Is Very High
Aja Kong, Raku, Yuki Aino & Pom Harajuku defeated Hyper Misao, Nao Kakuta, Haruna Neko & Kaya Toribami
There is an increasingly complex web forming around Raku, and the only thing everyone trapped in it has in common is their love for her. If TJPW was a company that booked heated blood feuds, they could get one out of Aja Kong and Ram Kaicho battling it out for Raku’s hand. Kong clearly has the time of her life whenever they’re together, and her linking arms with Raku before the match was sure to have her wife watching closely.
To make things even better, Aja visits are always accompanied by extraordinary generosity. She’s out there taking bumps for Hyper Misao, something she could 100% get away with not doing. However, it seems Kong genuinely adores coming to TJPW and is happy to work that little bit harder. It’s a perfect piece of booking from Koda because it both adds a draw to the card and allows a bit of that legendary magic to rub off on everyone involved. Someone like Nao Kakuta looks great simply for being brave enough to stand up to Kong.
On top of all that nonsense, these matches are brilliant fun. Who doesn’t want to see a Goodnight Express with Raku riding on Aja’s back? Or watch Hyper Misao trying to steal Pom because she thinks Kong makes the other team too powerful. TJPW do fun, bubbly undercard tags better than nearly anyone, and when you add Aja fucking Kong to that, you’re in a great place.
Verdict: The Best Time
Ryo Mizunami defeated Miu Watanabe
I suspect I’ll refer to this a lot throughout the review, but the energy of this show was incredible, and there are few people better at tapping into that than Aniki. Summer Princess had a party vibe, and Ryo Mizunami was ready to ride that wave.
It helps, of course, that for the third match in a row, this was awesome. Baliyan Akki, who was providing English commentary, talked at the start about the trope of having a veteran face off with a younger version of themselves, nailing what this was before it had even begun. Miu has that same infectious energy combined with hoss-like tendencies.
That turned this into a test. Aniki was always going to win, and she did so after a particularly violent spear, but it wasn’t really about that. Miu’s goal was to go out there and prove that she could stand face-to-face with a storied veteran. She had to take the beating that Aniki dished out and try to give as much as she could back, which just happened to include her spinning Mizunami through the air, pulling off her Giant Swing to the delight of the fans.
It meant that while Aniki’s hand was raised, this was as much a victory for Miu as it was for her. Yes, she lost, but she also stepped up to the challenge. With every big occasion, Watanabe feels like she comes one step closer to making a run for the top of these cards, and on evidence like this, I can’t wait for that day.
Verdict: HOSS FIGHT!
Hikaru Shida & Hikari Noa defeated Toho University (Yuki Kamifuku & Mahiro Kiryu)
Weirdly, I hadn’t considered that Noa and Shida would make a perfect team, but they did. They have a similar approach to life as both enjoy bringing a sprinkle of hardcore to their matches. The pairing felt so natural that if Free WiFi are looking for a third member, then Shida should be getting that call.
And while a big part of this match was about Shida and Hikari facing off with Kamiyu, I want to give a big shout-out to Mahiro’s ineffectual wielding of a chair. TJPW’s biggest apologiser is a stickler for the rules, so it only makes sense that when she did grab a weapon and try to use it, she proved kinda useless. In the grand scheme of things, that’s not a huge moment, but it’s one that made perfect sense in the world of TJPW, and I’ll always appreciate that.
Anyway, back to Kamiyu vs Hikari and Hikaru, which was great fun. Yuki is great at undercutting bluster, finding every opening to poke it in the eye. That seems to work particularly well against people with the relentless styles of Shida and Noa, as she cuts them off not by being a better wrestler but by being a couple of steps ahead. Then, when that’s done, she can fall back on booting them in the face.
Despite all that, this lacked the sparkle of what had come before. Shida’s visits have been too regular for her appearance to feel special, and while that doesn’t mean I didn’t have a good time, it did feel like a bit of a comedown from the first three outings.
Between matches, Max the Impaler was announced as the next foreigner coming to TJPW. I have heard good things about them, and their aesthetic will certainly stand out in the world of Tokyo Joshi.
MeiBee Surprise (Mei Suruga & Suzume) defeated Riho & Arisu Endo
There were two sides to this match. On the one hand, you had the debut of MeiBee Surprise, a team that follows the rich history of Mei Suruga being paired up with people outside of Gatoh Move and having instant pest chemistry. On the other, you had the slightly more heated showdown between two generations of Emi Sakura favourites and Gatoh Move Aces. Mei was certainly very aware of that one, getting in Riho’s face from the start.
However, before we get to the tension, I want to talk about Arisu Endo. Recently, TJPW has made a habit of ensuring the obvious pin-eater in these big tag matches gets plenty of time to shine (Moka teaming with Shida being the obvious example). Endo and her Daisy Monkey partner Suzume were given the space to work together, and Arisu was allowed to impress in those moments. I’ve talked before about TJPW levelling up their entire roster, and this was a perfect example of it, as Endo came into this match refusing to be an afterthought.
To head back to the Gatoh Move adjacent wrestlers, I adored Riho being a dick to her successor. There was a moment where she had Suzume locked in a hold and was staring Mei down on the apron, daring her to do something. People who haven’t followed Riho’s career closely often view her as a perfect babyface, but she’s always had an edge, and she was more than happy to let it bubble up. Then again, Mei Suruga is no different and fought fire with fire. I can only imagine Sakura was proud of them both.
On top of all that, MeiBee Surprise were a delight. Suzume and Suruga (much like Mei and Mei or Mei and Momoka) bounce off each other wonderfully, and while I’m not sure how regularly we’re going to see them, I hope the next time is sooner rather than later because this was great.
Verdict: Big Smiles All-Round
Between matches, TJPW announced another all-woman show which is always a good thing.
Alex Windsor defeated Maki Itoh for the International Princess Title
At the start of 2020, Maki Itoh lost the International Princess Title to Thunder Rosa in a move that presumably aimed to further TJPW’s push into the west. We all know what happened next. Now, over two and a half years later, Maki Itoh lost the same title to Alex Windsor, and it’s hard not to see the parallels. The difference? Winning that title and beating Itoh means a lot more now than it did then.
Because watching Maki make her entrance for this match, she felt more like the champion than ever before. The shouts of the fans quickly made it clear that the last few years have heightened her popularity, and they were firmly on her side as she faced off with this new foreign face. To her credit, Windsor realised within seconds of the bell that she wasn’t going to win them over and effortlessly slipped into the heel role, berating the ref and the crowd at every chance. I was impressed by Alex over the SHE1 weekend, but the way she bullied Itoh was perhaps even more impressive, outmuscling and out-striking her at every turn.
Ultimately, this played into the arc of Itoh’s career perfectly. With every high, there must be an equally painful low. The fact it happened on the day when she could finally hear the fans proclaim her the cutest in the world, the lack of which made her burst into tears back at the start of the pandemic, only served to make it more crushing. What should have been her crowning moment, the chance to hear her people shout her name, ended in disaster. Windsor was too much, and when push came to shove, Itoh found herself unable to step up to the challenge. Then again, if there is one thing we’ve learnt about Maki Itoh, it’s that she doesn’t stay down for long, and I’ve no doubt that she’ll be coming for that title again.
Verdict: Brilliant Stuff
Miyu Yamashita defeated Thunder Rosa
I thought this match was fascinating. That sounds like the kind of thing you say when you dislike something and don’t want to admit it, but that’s not what I mean. That fascination was due to Rosa vs Miyu feeling like two different styles finding something approaching a common ground.
And it wasn’t perfect. There was a bit too much popping up from big moves, and I hate when roll-ups or flash pins are treated as surprise victories rather than moments of skill. However, that all seemed to come around because of this attempt to bring together those different sides. Rosa and Miyu were presented as equals, consistently matching each other as their game of one-upmanship built. For that to work, Rosa’s differences had to be highlighted, showing both how dangerous her offence could be and that Miyu could keep up with her, taking those big moves and bouncing back to her feet.
Plus, for all that I complain about them popping up, there’s no denying it’s exciting. Once again, the fans were in loud voice, giving Rosa a warm reaction on her return but ultimately settling into the corner of their Ace. They only ramped it up during the final act, cheering Miyu on towards the finish and making it hard not to get caught up in the action. It served as a reminder of what we’ve been missing over the last few years and why wrestling is always better for the presence of loud people who care about what’s happening in the ring.
Despite that, I couldn’t love this match. I liked it, maybe even appreciated it, but it never captured my heart. Still, it might have been the best Rosa match I’ve ever seen (I haven’t seen ma ny), while Miyu showed any AEW fans tuning in what she can do. I don’t have much faith in Tony Khan’s ability to book women, but even he can’t fuck this one up. All it takes is showing the world Yamashita booting a few heads into the last row, and you’ll have a new fan favourite ready to deliver in a main event. Go on, Tony. You can figure it out.
Reiwa no AA Cannon (Saki Akai & Yuki Arai) defeated The Magical Sugar Rabbits (Yuka Sakazaki & Mizuki) to win the Princess Tag Titles
MagiRabbi’s tag title run has been defined by the variety of challenges they’ve faced. Throughout their reign, they’ve battled exuberant rookies, hardcore delinquents and former champs. And yet, every single time, Mizuki and Yuka found a way to overcome. With each victory, it became ever more apparent that winning those titles would require something special.
And coming into this match, I was sceptical about Reiwa no AA Cannon being capable of doing so. Of course, they could be booked to win the titles, but I had doubts about whether they could convince me they deserved them. Their lack of experience as a team (and Arai as a wrestler) felt like too big an obstacle for me to overcome. Could two people who have done so little together realistically take down the unbeatable chaos of Mizuki and Yuka?
Well, yes, and it turned out the way to beat MagiRabbi was quite simple. Boot them in the head a lot. Okay, that’s hardly some secret formula, but this specifically worked because of Saki Akai. She’s spent the last couple of years establishing herself as a legit force in any company, which has transferred to TJPW. Her and Arai’s inexperience as a pairing became irrelevant because Akai is that good, and this match saw her lead her young companion through the action. It was like watching an experienced centre-back guide a young teenager through their first match, using their youth and enthusiasm to compensate for their own weaknesses. Saki Akai is the Russell Anderson to Yuki Arai’s Zander Diamond (an admittedly niche reference, and I hope for Arai’s sake that her career doesn’t plummet quite as horribly as Zander’s did if Akai ever leaves).
As for MagiRabbi, they were still brilliant, but that wasn’t enough. It was the rare occasion where they were the ones being overwhelmed, as every time they turned around, a boot was ready to meet them. Yuka even threw herself in front of a Finally Axe Kick, saving Mizuki, but it only delayed the inevitable. She was left all alone and could do nothing to stop the barrage. It’s been a recurring theme for a team to do everything right against MagiRabbit and still lose, but this was the first time they’ve been the ones to learn that lesson. The other teams in TJPW better hope they don’t learn it too well, though, because if they get any better and come after those belts again, no one will stop them.
Shoko Nakajima defeated Rika Tatsumi to retain the Princess of Princess Title
We’ve all seen Rika Tatsumi’s big match tactics in recent years. She goes out there and attacks the leg, ripping away at it with characteristic violence. In a title match with the ridiculously quick Shoko, there was no chance of her switching things up now. That leg was in her sights, and whether dropkicking it against the post, throwing her diamond ass into it on the outside or pulling off an exquisite Dragon Screw counter from a 619, she was going to make sure it was in a world of trouble.
And with Rika doing her work brilliantly, the key to getting it over rested with Shoko. Thankfully, I adored her selling. Too often, people think it is all about exaggerated movements that are almost pantomime in nature. Shoko managed to avoid that. She was all about the subtle touches, a pause here or a pulling up rather than taking off at full speed there. It looked like she was trying to hide the pain she was in, as one would do in a fight, but at times couldn’t stop herself from wincing from the agony.
As that pain grew, the feeling that this might be Rika’s day went with it. Shoko was increasingly reliant on counters (a highlight being her catching a hip attack in mid-air and bundling Tatsumi into a roll-up), so when Rika locked on the Dragon Sleeper, bending Shoko back as far as she’d go, that seemed to be it. However, Shoko had one more trick left in her, flipping over into a Reverse DDT before pulling herself to the top and crashing down. No one has kicked out of that big Senton, and Rika wasn’t to be the first, but damn, did she come close to winning that belt. 2022 has been another brilliant year for TJPW main events, but this might have been the best one yet.
Was that TJPW’s best big show yet? I’d struggle to argue against anyone making that point, and the only thing stopping me from saying it is the worry that recency bias is rearing its head. Either way, it was wonderful, had fantastic energy and a crowd who were hot for everything. It was so good to see these wrestlers back in a room that could show them the love they deserve, and I’m already craving the next one.
Watch Tokyo Joshi Pro: https://www.wrestle-universe.com/en/videos?labels=-tjpw.