Tokyo Joshi is doing a rare Korakuen double-header to bring the Princess Cup to a close. The focus for night one was on the semi-finals, but they were far from the only thing to catch my eye, as Max the Impaler made their Japanese debut against Pom. I’ll be honest, I’ve never seen Max wrestle, but everything I have seen of them made me very excited for that match. Would it live up to my high expectations? Time to find out.
Shoko Nakajima defeated Kaya Toribami
I’ve always suspected Shoko played a big hand in training Kaya. As far as I’m aware, no one has ever confirmed that, but from day one, Toribami clicked with Nakajima in a way that suggested they knew each other well. It was at least partly responsible for some people putting forward the theory that Kaya wasn’t a rookie but someone who had wrestled before and decided to re-debut under a mask.
Even now, when Kaya has over a year of experience behind her, you can see why. It’s not that Toribami is shit with everyone else, but that there is a noticeable level of comfort and trust with Shoko. They appear to know where the other will be, allowing them to string together some lovely flowing sequences that take advantage of their athletic ability. If anything, I would have liked this match to be a tad less smooth, with some of it looking a bit too easy.
Still, as feedback goes, you’re too good isn’t the worst thing someone can say, and Shoko continues to get the best out of young Kaya. It was worked and structured like an opening match, so it’s left me intrigued to see what they could do with more time and space to experiment. Fingers crossed Toribami’s career goes to plan, and I get my wish somewhere down the line.
Verdict: They’re Good Together
Free WiFi (Hikari Noa & Nao Kakuta) defeated Yuki Aino & Raku
Free WiFi nicely filled my quota (although I will always accept a little extra) of wrestlers with a plan who don’t entirely know what that plan is. As you’d expect from TJPW’s resident delinquents, they jumped Raku and Aino at the start of the match, dragging the action to the outside. That’s when things got interesting, though, as Free WiFi pulled out a stretcher and deposited Raku onto it. Why? Who knows, they were unable to coordinate their attempt to carry it and ended up resorting to dropping our poor Train God. Five stars from me.
Aside from finding all that hilarious, my main takeaway from this match was that both these teams are great. Aino and Raku have been paired-up a lot over the last year and a bit, but it’s not often they work a serious tag together, so it was a real treat seeing how they’ve come along. They’ve got easy, natural chemistry fuelled by their real-life friendship, and if you gave them a few more matches in this vein, I could easily picture them challenging for the belts.
I suspect Free WiFi will get there before them, though, as TJPW appears to be heating them up again. It makes perfect sense, as these two can probably finish each other’s moves, so strong is their bond. I loved the spot where Hikari popped up with a dropkick at the last second to save Nao from Raku, setting up the closing stretch and nicely establishing where they are as a unit. My one issue with them potentially challenging for the belts anytime soon is that I think they should win them, and it’s hard to see Akai and Arai dropping them too quickly. Still, that’s something to worry about later, as this was a really good match.
Verdict: Two Good Teams
Mei Suruga defeated Arisu Endo
There can’t be many more quintessentially Mei Suruga moments than her happily booting Arisu in the back in time with the crowd clapping. It’s no secret that I am a massive fan of Mei’s work, but then it’s hard to imagine how you couldn’t be. She’s effortlessly entertaining, and I don’t think anyone is better at wandering into other promotions and charming everyone watching.
This wasn’t a rinse and repeat job, though, as there was a key difference between this and most of Mei’s trips outside Gatoh Move. Usually, Suruga is entering other companies as the exciting young talent trying to attract a few new fans but ultimately losing. That wasn’t the case this time, though. Instead, this was Mei as the badass outsider, taking Arisu to school and finding out what she could do. It was a rare chance outside of her home base for Suruga to dominate the bulk of the action, showing off what a cocky wee apple she is.
Of course, it was also a chance for Arisu to show where she stands against one of the top young wrestlers in the scene right now, and I’m pleased to say she stood her ground. It’s hard to shine alongside the charisma machine that is Suruga, but Endo played her role well, delivering a fiery peformance and trying everything she could think of to wipe that smile off Mei’s face. It made me realise that, much like Suzume, I could imagine a world where Arisu came through in Gatoh Move, as she’s got all the skills to excel there. Maybe next time these two face off, they can do it on the mat of Ichigaya?
Verdict: Great Stuff
Rika Tatsumi defeated Mizuki and Hyper Misao in a three-way
Right, if you’re not up to date on your TJPW lore, let me fill you in. Misao loves Rika, Rika loves Mizuki, and Mizuki loves knowing all of this because it makes it easy to get them to do what she wants. Got it? Good.
It made for a match that perfectly captured what I love about TJPW’s approach to storytelling. On the whole, they forego big dramatic beats (although they’re there when they need them), instead choosing to focus on creating a world for their oddball group of wrestlers to inhabit. By being part of that world for as long as they have, Rika, Misao and Mizuki all have a history that isn’t currently important to any storylines (or even brought up that often) but gives them a whole lot to play with in a match like this one.
Most importantly, they use that history to be brilliantly entertaining. It was a blast from start to finish as those various relationships bounced off each other in all sorts of enjoyable ways. I could have happily watched them mess around all day, and this was an utter delight.
Verdict: So Much Fun
Max The Impaler defeated Pom Harajuku
It’s hard to describe how excited I was for this match. I hadn’t seen Max wrestle before, but they’re such a brilliant contrast to everything I associate with TJPW that I was already convinced bringing them over was a stroke of genius. To pair them up with Pom, though? That’s some next-level booking.
Because while she might not get the credit for it, Pom has become astonishingly good at getting beaten up. If you need proof, watch the match from last year where she was on the opposite side of the ring from Aja Kong and marvel at how wonderful Harajuku was in that role. It was the first thing that came to mind when TJPW put this together, and all I wanted to see was Max throw Pom about the place, a wish they kindly delivered.
It wasn’t just Pom either, as Max was brilliant here. They’re the perfect level of snarling menace, but with a hint of fantastic comic timing. The look of bemusement on their face when Pom started drumming on their chest and their willingness to sell the shin kicks was wonderful, as everyone got to believe for a second that Pom had a chance. We also need to give a quick shout-out to Raku and Aino, who, when Pom tried to flee the ring, dragged her back, gave her a がんばって and sent her to her doom. That’s what good friends do, and this match was basically perfect.
Yuki Kamifuku, Mahiro Kiryu & Haruna Neko defeated Saki Akai, Yuki Arai & Moka Miyamoto
Arai copying Saki’s dismissive hair flick but then getting excited that she’d copied it and jumping up and down with glee was lovely character work. Akai brings a badass aura with her whenever she makes a rare trip to TJPW and using that to show us a different side of Arai is a shrewd move.
Another person who has previously been in awe of Saki is Kamiyu, and they had some fantastic interactions. I think it’s fairly obvious that Kamiyu took a lot from her previous encounter with Akai, but she’s come on leaps and bounds as a wrestler since they faced off at Ittenyon 2020. This was a chance for her to show that, and she grabbed the opportunity well, including managing to get Saki over for an impressive suplex.
The last standout was Mahiro, who not only got the win but did it with an impressive showing in the home stretch. She and Arai looked great together, a promising sign for the upcoming tag title match, as she took pinning the idol as her opportunity to make a challenge. Being Mahiro, she did momentarily panic when she realised she hadn’t asked partner Kamiyu’s permission before doing so, but hey, she’s getting there.
Verdict: A Good Showing
Yuka Sakazaki defeated Suzume in the Princess Cup Semi-Final
Destroyer of young talent, Yuka Sakazaki, strikes again. Will she ever be stopped? (Apologies if you don’t keep up with nonsense Twitter discourse.)
Suzume is well aware of Yuka’s violent tendencies, as she came into this determined to get a quick win. The bee instantly attacked, unleashing a flurry of roll-ups before hitting a Ring-A-Bell to a kneeling Sakazaki, getting desperately close to stealing an early victory. While it didn’t work, it set her up for a match where she didn’t just hold on against one of the best wrestlers in the company but, at times, had her on the back foot, scrabbling to take control. There was a period where it felt like no matter what Yuka did or how she tried to slow down the action, Suzume kept buzzing back, taking risks we’ve never seen her take before (including a plancha to the outside) or finding the perfect counter.
And there were a couple of occasions where I thought she’d done it (the Crucifix pin that got a 2.999 count had me half out of my seat). Suzume was incredible here, a constant thorn in Sakazaki’s side, but in the end, Yuka brute-forced her way to victory, smashing the bee out of the air. However, the message of this match was already clear. Suzume nearly had her, and the look of relief on Yuka’s face afterwards said a lot. This time, she came out on top, but next time? She might not be so lucky.
Verdict: She’ll Get Her Next Time
Miu Watanabe defeated Miyu Yamashita in the Princess Cup Semi-Finals
Before the bell rang for this match, Miu looked, understandably, nervous. When the camera cut to her, her eyes were closed, and she was breathing slowly, trying to remain in control. Then, an early exchange ended with her taking Yamashita off her feet with a thudding shoulder block and the next time we cut to her, Watanabe was smiling.
It set up a recurring theme in this match as every time Yamashita took control, Miu was able to fall back on that incredible power. There was nothing complex or fancy about it, but there didn’t need to be. She was wrestling the Ace, and the one thing Miu had in her pocket was that she could out-muscle her. With those kicks flying in from every direction, falling back on brute strength made all the sense in the world.
Even more important than that, though, was Miu’s ability to keep getting up. I spoke about the moment in the quarter-final where it looked like she looked ready to pass out in a Shoko submission only to find one last burst of energy, but this performance took that to the next level. Time after time, Yamashita kicked her to the ground, but Watanabe refused to stay down. With the Korkauen crowd clapping her on, she knew it was her day, and there was no chance it would slip through her fingers.
And as I’ve said before, the key to beating Yamashita is not to be at your best but to be better than your best. On this day, Miu Watanabe was that. Miyu gave her both barrels, kicking her about the ring and hitting an AA, but Watanabe was unbeatable. It didn’t matter what Yamashita did because Miu kept fighting, and when she finally hoisted her up, taking advantage of Miyu taking a second to go in for the kill, and dropped her on her face, it was everything she deserved. This was a special performance in a wonderful match, and Miu’s going all the way!
Wow, that was a brilliant show. There wasn’t an alright match on it, and before we even got to the Princess Cup, I was ready to head home happy. Then, they went and smashed it out of the park! Bloody hell, that’s only day one of two, and it’s going to take something special to top it. I’m not about to bet against them, though.
Watch Tokyo Joshi Pro: https://www.wrestle-universe.com/en/videos?labels=-tjpw.