TJPW Wrestle Princess III (9/10/22) Review

Friends to the end. Credit: TJPW

Wrestle Princess has cemented its position as one of TJPW’s biggest shows, and the card for the third iteration was no different. Tokyo Joshi gave us the return of Max the Impaler, put every title on the line, and more. It made this a show that I have been incredibly excited about, so all it had to do was live up to my very high expectations. Could it? Let’s find out.

The Up Up Girls are back at full strength. Credit: TJPW

We’ve got new rookies! Haru and Momo, both fourteen years old, are joining the TJPW family. No date was announced for their debut, as I believe they’re just starting their training. Equally excitingly, Shino joined the Up Up Girls on stage for the first time to perform Upper Kick and slotted straight in. She’s also working towards her wrestling debut, but her singing one went well, as she couldn’t hide her excitement. It’s nice to have the Up Up Girls back to full strength.

Moka Miyamoto & Juria Nagano defeated Arisu Endo & Kaya Toribami

She kick! Credit: TJPW

Moka Miyamoto is going to be a brilliant professional wrestler. She’s already good, but it’s so much fun watching her slowly build on that base, figuring out how to craft a match as she goes. She and Arisu are already an exciting pairing, as they anchored the central portion of this match with a well-worked back-and-forth before Moka took Endo out with a twisting suplex that I don’t believe we’ve seen her use before.

That left Nagano and Kaya in the ring, and Juria grabbed the opportunity to get her first-ever win, unleashing a vicious series of strikes that ended with a spinning kick to the head. It was a deserved moment, as she’s always a low-key highlight of these bigger shows, and while she’s still got a lot of stuff to work on, you can’t deny that she’s felt like a threat since day one.

Juria’s victory was an exciting end to what was a fun opener. It’s always nice to see the less tenured wrestlers get a chance to wrestle on a big stage, and they all delivered a solid account of themselves while doing so.

Verdict: Strong Opener

Yuna Manase, Nao Kakuta & Yoshiko Hasegawa defeated Yuki Kamifuku, Mahiro Kiryu & Haruna Neko

Apologising for the naughty wee cat. Credit: TJPW

We had a trio of former ActWres wrestlers here, including Yoshiko Hasegawa (or Yoppy), who made her TJPW debut after signing for Ganbare earlier this year. If she had hoped for a friendly welcome, she would have come away (painfully) disappointed. Kamiyu stomped on her, Neko scratched her, and Mahiro delivered an apology from her back. Still, between the beatings, she gave a strong underdog performance that will have earned her a few new admirers.

Elsewhere, we got a couple of standout pairings, with former Cat’s Pye members Kamiyu and Yuna Manase being one of them. You can tell they are close friends as everything they did had an edge that only comes from pals clashing. That’s not to suggest they were stiffing the fuck out of each other, you’ll be disappointed if that’s what you’re looking for, but you could see they relished the chance to face off and wanted to make the most of it.

The other stand out was Neko and Nao, who showed off their impressive chemistry in the final act, as they’ve become a sneaky great match-up. Kakuta can be very mean to the wee cat, but she also gives her a chance to show what she can do, letting her expand past the gentle comedy that is her hallmark. It was the perfect way to end a match that nicely over-delivered.

Verdict: A Lot of Fun

Ryo Mizunami defeated Suzume

The Bee takes flight. Credit: TJPW

While Aniki messed around with Matsui and played to the crowd before the match, Suzume’s eyes never left her. Getting the opportunity to wrestle a big-name outsider is always significant, but there was no sign that Suzume was simply happy to be here. She wanted to leave her mark on Mizunami and flew out of the trap with a dropkick.

Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done. Aniki is more than just an experienced head. She’s a force of nature whose enthusiasm shouldn’t be mistaken for her not taking it seriously. Suzume’s chances of winning this match were always slim, as Mizunami was able to soak up her blows before hitting back ten times harder, making it feel like the bee was smashing herself against a brick wall.

And yet, Suzume nearly did it. Her recent big bouts have hung on her ability to pull out the right counter at the right moment, using her opponent’s aggression against them, which continued here. As Aniki moved towards victory, Suzume came close to sneaking it away from her, twisting her way into flash pins and submissions. With the fans chanting her name, she made sure that Mizunami had to work for her win and seemed to earn her respect in the process. She didn’t have to earn mine, but I still came away impressed by the bee.

Verdict: Suzume Continues To Deliver

Mizuki defeated Hyper Misao

Let the nonsense commence. Credit: TJPW

It wouldn’t be a big TJPW show without some Misao-sanctioned nonsense as she entered with a gun down her trousers, carrying balloons and decked out in glowsticks. She declared that this made her as kawaii as Mizuki before turning this into a hardcore match.

After that, chaos ensued. These two bashed each other with a giant hammer, bumped around in Shoko’s kaiju toys and even used the somewhat more traditional weapon (at least within the world of wrestling), a ladder. It was beautiful nonsense, but, as is often the case with these matches, the kind of nonsense that must have hurt a hell of a lot. Landing on the toys would be bad enough, never mind Mizuki jumping off of said ladder with a double stomp for the finish.

And it will be no surprise to anyone who has read one of these before that I loved every second of it. Misao’s genius knows no bounds, and Mizuki’s kawaii devil persona made her the perfect choice to go along with her antics. I’m even willing to forgive that Mizuki clearly missed Misao with the aforementioned double stomp because she might have killed her if she didn’t. Long live the nonsense!

Verdict: Brilliant

Max the Impaler, Rika Tatsumi & Yuki Aino defeated Aja Kong, Raku & Pom Harajuku

Who is the real monster? Credit: TJPW

I don’t know where to start with this one. Do you go with Aja and Raku sending Pom in to face her demons? Or perhaps Raku brain chopping her way out of a Max suplex? Then you have Aino being brave enough to try and bring the fight to Aja Kong and Pom finally overcoming her terror by smacking Max in the shin with a bin. All of that still barely scratches the surface! It was overflowing with incredible moments.

And a big reason that was the case is that everyone in this match knows who they are. Things like Pom cowering in fear or Aja feigning nonchalance at seeing Max only to get fired up when they started butting heads are perfect character beats. While Rika proving she’s the scariest monster of all by strangling Aja and dropkicking Max into people is everything that you could expect from her. All involved knew their role, and I could have happily watched these six interact all day. Christ, they don’t even have to wrestle. Just shove them in a room and turn on the cameras.

It gave me everything that I could want from wrestling. Gather the biggest weirdos you have, put them together and see what happens. In this case, it was the kind of chaos that had me grinning from ear to ear. With Max and Aja continuing to get into it after the bell, let’s hope that’s a sign we’ll see at least some of these people face off again. At the very least, it better not be too long till TJPW gets Max back to Japan because they are three for three in delivering perfect matches so far.

Verdict: Wonderful

121000000 (Miyu Yamashita & Maki Itoh) defeated Riho & Hikari Noa

Being flexible is often painful. Credit: TJPW

I think I take Riho for granted. With AEW weirdly choosing to sideline her and her appearances in Japan limited to guest spots on big shows, it’s easy to forget how brilliant she is. Thankfully, matches like this are here to remind me. Put Riho in the ring alongside someone with the talent of Miyu Yamashita or the charisma of Maki Itoh, and she’ll deliver you something that is more than worth your time.

The same is true of Hikari Noa, especially when she’s in there with one of 121000000. She has explosive chemistry with Yamashita and Itoh, with Hikari’s role as the scrappy underdog playing well against their supergroup pairing. On this show, it sparked particularly well against Itoh, as they butted heads during the home stretch, going at each other hard before Itoh got the win.

If there is one complaint about this match, it’s that it did feel a bit throwaway. 121000000 are in a bit of a holding pattern at the moment, perhaps influenced by their frequent trips to America, and beyond being on the card so that they could have a good match, there was no obvious next step involving these four. Thankfully, I’m rather fond of good matches, so that complaint didn’t do too much to ruin my mood.

Verdict: Lots of Strong Chemistry

Miu Watanabe defeated Alex Windsor to win the International Princess Title

Everyone loves Miu. Credit: TJPW

Alex Windsor brought a real physicality to this match. Embracing the heel role, she looked to slow Miu down, grinding away at her and using her extra size to stop her from building up a head of steam. When you combine that with her technical prowess, which allowed her to pull out a few timely counters, Miu found herself in the rare position of being almost entirely on the back foot, unable to bring her incredible strength to the fore.

And yet, what we learnt about Miu during her Princess Cup run, is that she’s not only strong, she’s tough too. There was more than one occasion in this match where Windsor thought she was heading for victory, but Watanabe would not stay down. Every setback, every big move, seemed to only fuel Miu’s fire, pushing her to take that next step and get across the finish line.

That resilience allowed Miu to survive the best Windsor gave, staying in the action until she got her opening, hoisting Alex up for the Tear Drop and dropping her on her face. To be honest, after everything that had come before, that finish did feel a tad abrupt, but the joy on Miu’s face quickly helped me forget that. How can you not love her? And how can you not be delighted to see her win her first singles title? Miu is so strong, and Miu is now a champion.

Verdict: MIU!!!

Reiwa no AA Cannon (Saki Akai & Yuki Arai) defeated The Uprising (Rhia O’Reilly & Nightshade) to retain the International Princess Tag Titles

Heels gonna heels. Credit: TJPW

While Windsor heeled it up a bit, The Uprising are a rare example of out-and-out baddies coming into TJPW. They set the tone with a cheapshot and quickly went to work isolating and mocking Arai. Sadly, while they did an alright job, it was noticeable that the crowd seemed unsure how to respond to them, booing a bit but generally keeping quiet as they worked Yuki over. They were doing a lot of mouthing off, which is effective in the venues they’re used to wrestling in but not so much in a decent-sized room where people don’t speak your language.

Thankfully, where this match was effective was in Arai and Akai’s performance. There was a touch of Japanese pro-wrestling 101 to this, as the nasty foreign heels came in and forced Reiwa no AA Cannon to battle from underneath. Thankfully, it’s a spot that both of them are comfortable in, with Akai doing it often in DDT and Arai having built a career around it so far. When Yuki was fighting back against Nightshade, doing everything she could to try and chisel her way through her armour, the fans finally got into the action.

When you put those two halves together, I thought this was an uneven but decent match. It started a bit slow, as The Uprising’s shtick struggled to click, but when Arai and Akai rallied, the action picked up with them. It was far from a classic, but with Yuki Arai getting another big victory under her belt, pinning Nightshade after a Finally, I suspect TJPW got everything they wanted.

Verdict: Turned Out Alright

Yuka Sakazaki defeated Shoko Nakajima to win the Princess of Princess Title

Shoko takes flight. Credit: TJPW

For the first time, the Princess of Princess champion defended their title against the same person twice during a single reign. On top of that, Shoko and Yuka are old foes, having faced off countless times over the years, which was evident in the opening act of this match. The early story was that they were inseparable, the action coming to a natural stalemate because they knew each other so well. If either wanted to take control, they would have to do something different.

And it was Yuka who moved first, interestingly choosing to attack Nakajima’s leg, perhaps remembering her own defeat to Rika Tatsumi at Ittenyon ’21. Whether that was the case or not, it opened the first crack, slowing Shoko a notch and letting Sakazaki begin to dictate the flow of the action. When that happened, her power began to prove its worth, allowing her to catch a diving Shoko out of the air and later hit an Avalanche Magical Merry-Go-Round.

However, if there is one thing we’ve learnt about Shoko throughout this reign, it’s that she’s not easy to beat. If anything, she’s at her best when she’s up against the wall, and you can never count out someone with her combination of speed and ability. As Yuka threw those big, heavy blows, Nakajima kept getting up, standing toe to toe with Sakazaki and refusing to go down without a fight. Even when she struggled to pull herself to her feet, aware that all that waited for her was another Yuka blow, Nakajima kept going because that’s what she does.

Sadly, in the end, defiance just wasn’t enough. Shoko battled so fucking hard, including an incredible 619 counter to the Magical Girl Splash (followed by a senton on the apron that only looked more brutal because she slipped while trying to do it). However, when Yuka has the devil in her eyes, you could fire a rocket at her, and she’d smack it down. Shoko gave everything she had, but even she started to realise it wasn’t enough, and when she missed the killer senton, this was Yuka’s match to lose. Still, Nakajima fought to the last, letting out a roar of defiance as she pulled herself up, only to meet a spinning elbow that spelt the beginning of the end.

I loved the Cyberfight match between these two, but this trounced it. It felt like Shoko and Yuka had the space and time to tell the story they wanted to tell, and the emotion of the final act was off the scales. When, in the aftermath, they grabbed each other in a long hug, holding each other tight, you could see how much it meant to them. Only one of them could leave as a champion, but they’re both stunningly brilliant pro wrestlers, and I sincerely hope we watch them wrestle a thousand times more before they’re done.

Verdict: Stunning

Overall Show

TJPW’s big shows never let me down. Whether it was Misao and Mizuki conducting violent nonsense, Pom fearing for her life, Miu winning her first singles title or Yuka retaking her place at the top of the mountain, this delivered strong. I also, quite nicely, have no idea where they go next. Mizuki seems like the natural next challenger, but will she lose another title shot? Or can Yuka drop the belt in her first defence? Who knows! But I’m excited to find out.

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