With the success of the Yuki Arai project, Nagoya has become a solid secondary market for TJPW. They’re slowly building up the size of the rooms they run there, and her winning the tag belts gave them a perfect main event for this show. That’s a nice coincidence, isn’t it? It’s almost like someone planned it.
Maki Itoh defeated Arisu Endo
Itoh is thriving in front of crowds who can chant her name. The thrill of having people cheer her again doesn’t appear to have worn off, as there were a couple of points where she was openly grinning from ear to ear. I’m sure it helps that she’s been incredibly over with every crowd they’ve had so far, her work over the last few years perhaps winning over the remaining doubters.
That glee only played into the strengths of this pairing. Itoh has become adept at playing the confident and dominant veteran who believes in her ability to go out and take someone like Endo apart. However, in a nice touch, she also hasn’t completely lost the vulnerability that characterised the early part of her career. So, when a relative rookie like Endo does make their firey comeback, the idea they could catch Itoh off-guard doesn’t feel ridiculous.
And with Endo getting very good at those moments of hope, they delivered an entertaining opening match. I’ve previously mentioned that Itoh feels a bit directionless at the moment, as her trips abroad have made the second half of her year somewhat stop-start. However, you can’t fault what she’s been doing in the ring, and when the time comes for the next chapter in her career, I reckon she’ll be more than ready for it.
Verdict: Entertaining Opener
Yuki Aino defeated Nao Kakuta and Haruna Neko in a three-way
With Nao’s experience owning and being a cat, you’d think she and Neko would make a perfect team. They certainly gave it a go, trying to pair up and take Yuki out of the game, but it wasn’t long before things fell apart, and Nao went back to her usual bullying of the wee feline.
Cats aside, this was a typical TJPW three-way. They worked at a decent pace, had some fun spots and delivered a few smiles on top. There wasn’t anything particularly remarkable about it, but there probably didn’t need to be. It was the second match on the card, so these three went out and had a pleasant time, which isn’t something you’ll ever hear me complain about.
We’re in SKE48 territory, and with Yuki main eventing, they were kind enough to treat us to a mini-concert. I’m not going to sit here and pretend it was anything I’d listen to, and I know fuck all about this stuff, but I am always impressed by how slick these idol groups are. They make up for sometimes not being the best singers by doing everything else very well. Plus, they were over big in Nagoya, so you can see why TJPW would leap at the chance to get them on the show. I bet a decent number of people in that room were more interested in the music than the wrestling.
After the concert, the various members went around naming their favourites, and one of them nearly caused Miu to explode with excitement again. They also pulled Itoh out and announced she’d be performing at SKE48’s 14th anniversary, which is probably a big deal, but as I said, I know nothing about this stuff.
Hikari Noa defeated Moka Miyamoto
Noa had a busy week as she took a trip to London to face Alex Windsor for the International Title and, more importantly, search for Paddington. So, no one could have blamed her if she had taken it easy on her return home. I always need at least a week to recover from a holiday, and I rarely have to fight someone on mine.
Unfortunately for Noa, Moka had other ideas. Miyamoto is someone who seems quiet right up until she catches you off-guard with a thumping blow to the chest, as she made her senior aware that she wasn’t in for a relaxing afternoon. With Hikari having controlled the bulk of the match before that, it proved a big turning point, kicking off a strong comeback from Miyamoto and making sure Hikari had to work to get it back under control.
Hikari would eventually get her victory, and this was a good wee match. Moka is becoming one of TJPW’s more reliable undercard wrestlers, as she’s such a solid all-rounder that she can have a decent showing with anyone. As for Hikari, she may not have come back from England with the International Title, but she did have a good showing in EVE and followed that up with another one here.
Verdict: Good Stuff
Kyoraku Kyomei (Shoko Nakajima & Hyper Misao) defeated Miyu Yamashita & Raku
Normally, Misao and Shoko can do no wrong in my eyes, but they were very mean to Raku at the start of this match. They isolated her for a decent chunk of time, working her over without any of the usual antics and having Misao zone in on her arm. I know Raku recently attached clothes pegs to Misao’s ears and ripped them off, but I think they should be nicer to God in the future.
To be fair, Kyoraku Kyomei’s plan did make sense. When Raku finally escaped and tagged Miyu, they were face-to-face with the daunting prospect of a pent-up Ace who was excited to do some kicking. It also established the theme of the match. When Misao and Shoko could get Raku alone and work her over, they were in control, but when Miyu was firing off on them, things were slightly more complicated.
That led to a really cool finish where Misao took herself and Yamashita off the board with a Final Cut on the apron, leaving Shoko alone with Raku to put her away. It also left me somewhat surprised. I wasn’t expecting a match featuring quite this many nonsense merchants to fall back on classic tag psychology, but here we are, and it was all the better for it as this turned out to be a wee gem.
Verdict: Surprising, But In A Good Way
Daydream (Rika Tatsumi & Miu Watanabe) & Suzume defeated The Magical Sugar Rabbits (Yuka Sakazaki & Mizuki) & Pom Harajuku
There was a lot of potential chaos in this match-up. MagiRabbi tend to be bad enough, but adding Pom to the mix and putting Rika across the ring? That’s a recipe for madness.
Thankfully, TJPW tags are at their best when touched by chaos. This started with Pom and the Sugar Rabbits jumping Daydream and Suzume (which somehow ended up with Pom alone in the ring with all three opponents) and then accelerated from there. It’s a style that the Sugar Rabbits, in particular, excel at, as they’re brilliantly entertaining. I think it’s the streak of inventiveness that runs through their offence. You always get the feeling they decide to do things simply because they can and aren’t that bothered if it actually works, which is perfect for a match like this.
On the flip side, I do find this stuff slightly disposable. It’s a bit like junk food, tasty but ultimately forgettable. Unlike junk food, though, I don’t feel sick an hour later, so it’s much easier to enjoy guilt-free and has Miu spinning Pom so fast that I’m surprised she wasn’t the one throwing up. So overall, it’s definitely on the positive side of things.
Verdict: Good, If Unsubstantial
Reiwa no AA Cannon (Saki Akai & Yuki Arai) defeated Toho University (Yuki Kamifuku & Mahiro Kiryu) to retain the Princess Tag Titles
Late in this match, Akai and Arai missed a double big boot on Mahiro, causing Saki to go tumbling over the ropes. In that second, Arai panicked, shouting out for ‘Akai-san’ and desperately looking over her shoulder even as Mahiro moved in on her. It was a spot which perfectly captured the dynamic of Reiwa no AA Cannon. Yes, Arai is an incredibly talented rookie, but she’s still a rookie, and in a big title match, even one in her hometown, she’s nervous about being left alone. What’s made them work is the feeling that Akai is not only formidable in her own right but has mastered channelling Arai and walking her through their matches.
Interestingly, their opponents have a similar dynamic. There isn’t as big a skill gap between Kamiyu and Kiryu, but where Mahiro is quiet and reserved, Kamiyu is confident and aggressive. She brings the best out of her partner by forcing her into situations she would never choose to get into but is usually more than capable of dealing with when she does. Like Akai, Kamiyu knows how to help her teammate flourish and pushes her to a level she hasn’t reached before.
All of which made the final act of this match fascinating. Akai and Kamiyu are a fantastic pairing, as they use those long legs to boot each other in the face, but they stepped to one side, Akai pulling Kamiyu to the floor to leave Mahiro and Arai to take them home. At that moment, the two secondary wrestlers in the teams, the ones most likely to let the other take control, were given the centre stage and delivered a strong back and forth as they battled over the titles. Unfortunately for Mahiro, this wasn’t to be her story. In the end, this was about the next step in Arai’s journey as she finished this all by herself, dropping that Finally Axe Kick on Kiryu’s head for the three.
It was a step that continued TJPW’s near-perfect booking of Yuki Arai. They’ve accelerated her rise up the card but done it in a way that feels natural and earnt, using the people around her to make it work. Every step she takes sees her reach the next level, and while you never know what’s going to happen next, I suspect she has a few more to take before she gets to her full potential.
Verdict: Arai Continues To Deliver
Whether you’re looking for idol concerts, junk food tags or big main events, this show delivered something for you. TJPW is going hard in trying to make Nagoya a strong market for them, and if they’re going to turn up and put on shows like this one, you’ve got to assume they’ll be successful. Plus, they’ve got Yuki Arai in their pocket, and I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I think she’s a bit good.
Watch Tokyo Joshi Pro: https://www.wrestle-universe.com/en/videos?labels=-tjpw.