It’s Princess Cup time, and I am putting all my chips on it being Miu’s year. If history teaches us anything, that means you should probably bet on someone else, but hey, you never know!
Rika Tatsumi, Miu Watanabe, Hikari Noa, Raku & Yuki Aino defeated Yuka Sakazaki, Maki Itoh, Yuki Kamifuku, Nao Kakuta & Arisu Endo
Our opener gave us the rare treat of having all three Up Up Girls on the same team, plus Rika and Yuki! On top of that, they came out to ‘Upper Kick’, which might make them the most powerful supergroup of all time?
Anyway, this was a ten-person tag with just over a minute per participant, so you don’t have to be a genius to figure out that there wasn’t much room for them to get inventive. Instead, they kept things simple, doing a couple of fun group spots but mainly focusing on ensuring all involved got a chance to do their shtick before getting out of there.
It’s hard not to enjoy a match like that, and with the action rolling from one person to the next, you don’t have a chance to get bored. However, if you’re in a rush, there is absolutely no need to watch it. You’ve seen all of this before, and while it left me with a smile on my face, I’ll see it all again.
Verdict: Inessential Fun
Mizuki defeated Suzume and Kaya Toribami in a three-way
Early in this match, Suzume appeared shocked that Mizuki might not be entirely trustworthy, proving you can work with someone for a long time and still know nothing about them.
Her innocent nature aside, this was one of those matches that made me appreciate how good Suzume is. She’s still so young in her career and has so many different directions she could go with it, but she’s already brilliant. Watching her interact with Mizuki, an obvious role model for her in terms of size and style, you can picture the incredible matches those two will be having for years to come.
Unfortunately for Suzume, at this point, Mizuki is a step ahead of both her and Kaya. She ran rings around them, tormenting them into fighting each other and then leaping in at the perfect moments to take advantage. She’s an easy wrestler to take for granted, but fuck me, she’s good, and this was an enjoyable wee outing.
Verdict: Lots Of Fun
Pom Harajuku defeated Moka Miyamoto in the First Round of the Princess Cup
Pom started us off by revealing that she now knows karate, or at least knows how to wave her arms around in a funny way. Still, if the plan was to confuse Moka, it was effective. The actual karateka in the ring seemed rather bemused by the whole situation.
Matches like this are why I love the first round of a tournament like the Princess Cup. Pom and Moka rarely get the chance to have singles matches, never mind one with consequences, but this gives them that opportunity. It’s a chance for them to go out and show what they can do, and sure, this wee contest isn’t going to be raved about on Twitter, but it was still good. They used their time well, Pom surviving the actual karate and going after Moka’s shins to weaken her up for Pom de Justice.
It all made for a simple, well-worked match that saw Pom pick up the victory and earn herself a spot in round two. Is she likely to win it? Sadly not, but we can always dream, and either way, I had a good time with it.
Verdict: Pom’s Taking Shins
Yuki Arai defeated Mahiro Kiryu in the First Round of the Princess Cup
Yuki Arai has spent most of her career matched up with the best of TJPW. Her booking has not only given her every chance for success but has seen her skip the long gruelling journey that most rookies take. That’s not to say she doesn’t deserve it, she’s an exceptional talent, and they’d have been stupid not to push her, but while she was getting the special treatment, someone like Mahiro was taking the long road. While I would never expect her to show any frustration with that, it did add a sprinkle of intrigue to them facing off.
Of course, Mahiro wasn’t about to go out and shoot on Yuki, but she did impress. For all of Arai’s successes, she is still a rookie, and this felt like Kiryu leading her through the action. She appeared to dictate the pacing, allowing Arai to work reactively, emphasising the things she does well. Despite the fictional tension I manufactured above, it was a selfless performance from Mahiro. She worked hard to make Arai look good and, in the process, came out looking great herself.
It made for the kind of match that, at least for me, explains why TJPW works as well as it does. One would have to be quite naive to believe that everyone behind the scenes is best friends and never falls out, but whatever the reality is, it always feels like they’re pulling in the same direction once they get in the ring. This wasn’t an incredible match, but it was a good one that did what it needed to, which is sometimes just as important.
Verdict: What It Needed To Be
Shoko Nakajima defeated Haruna Neko in the Princess Cup First Round
Here’s another example of why the first rounds of these tournaments are fantastic. Where else would Haruna Neko get a chance at a one-on-one match with the champ? Plus, with the Princess Cups’ history of upsets, there was even the tiniest chance she might win.
Okay, that might be pushing it, but the wee cat did hold her own. While Shoko was the dominant force in this match, Neko did an impressive job of finding openings, slipping into a couple of well-worked roll-ups and even hitting a Neko-Breaker, which had the fans clapping enthusiastically. She made it feel competitive for a minute or so, which is all we can ask from a wee cat battling a big kaiju.
And to go back to my initial point, it’s lovely to see Neko get a chance to show what she can do. I think she’s mastered the art of the fun opener, and I could watch her in them all day, but it’s refreshing when she gets to show a little more. She’s unlikely to ever make it past the first round of the Princess Cup, but that doesn’t matter because she does what she does well.
Verdict: Well Done, Wee Cat
Miyu Yamashita defeated Hyper Misao in the Princess Cup First Round
The second this match popped up, I circled it with my big red pen and wrote the word upset next to it. While recent years have been kinder to Miyu in the Princess Cup, she’s still messed it up more often than not, and Hyper Misao in the first round felt like a banana skin waiting to happen.
They knew it, too, as Misao and Miyu teased that slip all through the match. Yamashita even spent part of the action with her legs taped together because Misao had resorted to her usual trickery to get her counted out. Of course, even a hopping Miyu is dangerous, and when she finally broke free, Misao was made to regret her antics. It was a great example of blending audience knowledge and kayfabe together. They played off what we know about Miyu’s booking in these tournaments but in a way that never once stepped away from what you’d expect Misao to do.
By the end, it wasn’t trickery that Misao was using but straight-up wrestling, as she came within millimetres of getting the job done. What had started as a match teasing an upset had turned into a big-time fight, and when that happened, it almost made Miyu’s victory inevitable. She may have slipped on a Misao antic, but if you push her, that’s when the Ace comes out. However, Misao went down on her shield, forcing Yamashita to pull out Crash Rabbit Heat to get the job done and leaving behind the best match of the tournament so far.
Verdict: Great Stuff
That was two fun undercard matches followed by a strong start to the Princess Cup. I’m sure there will be some people complaining that they didn’t kick things off with a series of work rate classics, but fuck them because this was a great watch. On top of that, my pick for the winner isn’t out yet. Sure, she also hasn’t wrestled, but I’ll take what I can get.
Watch Tokyo Joshi Pro: https://www.wrestle-universe.com/en/videos?labels=-tjpw.