Over the last few months, TJPW has been running Dream On The Ring, a reality show where they took a group of models and trained them to be wrestlers. That culminated at Shinjuku Face, where (under the watchful eye of Aja Kong) the three remaining rookies made their debuts. To be honest, I haven’t watched the show, but new wrestlers are always exciting, and with a bonus Max match included, I went in expecting to enjoy it all. Let’s find out if I did.
Nao Kakuta defeated Kaya Toribami
Nao opening a show against a rookie will always be at least decent because you can guarantee she’ll be a bit of a prick. Whether it’s wee cats or flippy birds, Kakuta will boot them in the head.
It also tends to bring something out of said wrestlers. Kaya felt like she was being put through the wringer here, Nao only briefly relinquishing control of the match, but the bird isn’t bad at being under the cosh. Her offence is suited to bursts of action, which work to highlight how impressive it all is.
The match ended up being too short and by the numbers to be anything special, but that doesn’t mean it was rubbish. They gave us a solid wee rookie vs veteran showdown, and there is nothing wrong with that.
Hyper Misao defeated Raku and Mahiro Kiryu in a three-way
There was a moment in this match where Raku, having already foiled Hyper Misao’s plan to win her affection by dressing as her biggest fan, pointed at Misao while staring at Mahiro with a look that screamed, ‘go on, beat her up,’ and I don’t think she’s ever looked more like an actual god. It wasn’t just that she felt Mahiro should do her bidding, but she expected her to, a confidence that can only come from knowing Aja Kong loves you.
It had also won my heart before it even started. Misao and Raku trying to out-antic each other with an increasingly distressed Mahiro stuck between them? Stick it in my veins. Throw in Raku mercilessly throwing her own merch around, even going as far as to use it as a weapon, and you have a lovely day at the wrestling on your hands.
In other words, this was full of the sort of gentle humour that I think every TJPW show should have. It wasn’t complex, but it made me smile from bell to bell, which is everything I wanted.
Verdict: I Smiled A Lot
Rika Tatsumi defeated Risako
Risako is the first of our Dream On The Ring rookies and had the unenviable task of being sent out to wrestle a monster. Imagine spending all that time training to be met by Rika Tatsumi, grinning from ear to ear and ready to put you through hell. I’d turn around and go home.
Thankfully, Risako is made of sterner stuff than I and gave a good account of herself. There were faults, of course, but I don’t care about that when someone is making their debut. I’m more interested in how they hold themselves and the attitude they give off. In that sense, Risako delivered strong, showing good rookie defiance as she practically threw herself at Rika to hit a forearm. She already seemed suited to that scrappy underdog role, which is no bad thing when starting your wrestling career.
Of course, she would eventually get caught, Rika cutting off her comeback with a Sleeper that morphed into the Dragon variety, but as debuts go, this was impressive. Risako is already a step or two down the path towards becoming a strong wrestler, and if she is to join TJPW full-time, I would be very excited to see how she got on.
Miyu Yamashita defeated Himari Manaka
Himari Manaka drew the Ace straw, and Miyu had her murder face on as she entered. She had no intention of giving Manaka an inch, overpowering her from the start and responding to every forearm with one ten times harder. It felt like Yamashita was standing at TJPW’s door, daring this rookie to prove she deserved to peek past her.
And while Manaka wasn’t as comfortable in the ring as Risako, where she impressed was in her selling. She sold Miyu’s onslaught well, collapsing exhausted to the ground but desperately trying to pull herself back up, refusing to go down easy even if she knew there was only one way this would end.
In the end, Himari earned her kick in the head, and I came away impressed, albeit in a different way than I was with Risako. Her in-ring needs a lot of work, but she’s a taller lass, and history suggests they take a bit longer to get comfortable between the ropes. However, Manaka’s acting was good, as she earned my sympathy and got me invested in the match, a talent that often makes up for a lack elsewhere.
Verdict: Another Good Showing
Shoko Nakajima defeated Wakana Uehara
It’s worth pointing out that all three rookies have nailed their gear and music, so whatever happens, they’ve got full marks there.
TJPW has been smart when putting together these matches, as they’ve chosen opponents who can show off the newbies at their best. Bullying Rika, murderous Miyu and, in this match, all-rounder Shoko. From Wakana Uehara’s point of view, that’s not a terrible spot to be dropped into, as it’s clear they already feel she can go out and do a bit of everything.
And, if that was the assumption, they were right, as this was a damn good debut. Wakana kept up with Shoko on the mat before building to an exciting conclusion that had the fans get behind her as she aimed for an unlikely win. Of course, that would never happen, but Uehara showed the right blend of timing and rookie spirit to make the bodyslam she hit Shoko with feel like a big deal.
With all that in mind, if this is going purely on wrestling ability, Wakana is the winner, as she already feels like she’s in danger of lapping her competitors. However, I think all three have something to offer and would be more than happy to see TJPW get the chequebook out and give them all contracts.
Verdict: I Suspect That’s Our Winner
Max The Impaler & Yuki Kamifuku defeated Mizuki & Pom Harajuku
I’m sure Max has a packed indie schedule back in America, not to mention a life outside of terrorising Poms, but I’m going to need them to move to Japan and work for TJPW full-time. They need a chance to wrestle everyone because, so far, everything they’ve done has brought the best out of both partners and opponents.
And there were plenty more Pom highlights here, the best of which was her summoning up the bravery to roar back at Max, only to be so exhausted from the effort that she tagged straight out afterwards. However, Kamiyu and Mizuki were no less brilliant. Mizuki proved a perfect opponent for Max, as she was hoisted up into the air with one hand but had enough of the monster inside her to ensure Max didn’t have a relaxing afternoon. Kamiyu, meanwhile, played the reluctant partner well, hampered by Max being very aware she wasn’t ‘her Yuki’ as they came close to a dangerous falling out.
The most impressive part is that Max never seems to be caught off-guard. They were in there with three very different people, and they had the perfect reaction for each one, be it a cocked head of confusion or a violent lashing out. They’re not just a scary figure for everyone else to react to but an active force, seemingly custom-made for this environment, despite having nothing in common with any of it. Sadly, I probably won’t get my wish, but if Koda and co have any sense, they’ll bring Max The Impaler back as often as possible.
A video announced Willow Nightingale, who previously had to cancel a trip to TJPW, will be coming over at the end of the month. I’ve never seen her wrestle, but she’s popular, so let’s assume she’s good.
Moka Miyamoto & Yuki Aino defeated Miu Watanabe & Suzume
Moka challenged Miu! I’ll get onto the match, but I am stupidly excited about that. If you’ve been reading my reviews, you’ll know that over the last year, I’ve felt like Moka is moving toward becoming a fantastic young wrestler, and this is proof that TJPW sees it too. There is little to no chance of her winning the belt, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that she’s got the opportunity to have a big singles match, and I can’t wait to see how she does.
The tag that brought us to that result was a solid showing. It was slightly hurt by its place on the card, coming after the exciting rookie battle and Max’s genius, but that’s more a me and my ability to concentrate problem than an issue with the action. Plus, when it got going, they drew me in, the Miu and Moka segments showing some potential as Miyamoto’s karate came up against Watanabe’s power.
My main feeling coming out the other side (after I finished being excited for Moka) was that all three wrestlers would be great challengers for Watanabe. We’ve already seen her and Suzume capture some magic, and a hoss battle with Yuki would go down very nicely. The joy of TJPW’s ever-improving roster is that there is a small army of young, talented stars ready to grab any opportunity. Moka’s first in line, but the others should all get their turn, too.
Verdict: ‘Mon The Moka!
Yuka Sakazaki, Maki Itoh & Haruna Neko defeated Hikari Noa, Rhia O’Reilly & Arisu Endo
I assume Nightshade had to go home early, which is a shame, but this main event gave O’Reilly a second chance to impress. Removed from the big arena and the pressure of a tag-title match, you got the impression Rhia was able to relax and do what she does best, bully a cat.
Outside of O’Reilly (who also had good showings against Yuka and Maki), Endo stole the show, looking great in there with Sakazaki. I’ve said it before, but Arisu is making standing out in matches that aren’t about her a bit of a thing, and it’s exciting to see. On a show where one of her peers took a step up, you’ve got to assume Endo isn’t too far behind, and performances like this will make it hard not to give her the chance.
All in all, it was a typically enjoyable TJPW main event, with the added bonus of O’Reilly giving a good account of herself. There was nothing in it that you have to see, and Yuka pinning Arisu was incredibly predictable, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have a lovely time.
Verdict: Good Stuff
The important stuff was all in the middle of that show, with the three rookies, Max and Moka, all providing highlights. Everything around that was decent, but probably not necessary if you’re in a rush. Still, considering this was the first show after a big one, TJPW came out strong when they could have been resting, so there will be no complaints from me.
Watch Tokyo Joshi Pro: https://www.wrestle-universe.com/en/videos?labels=-tjpw.