TJPW were down a few faces for this show, with Miyu and Misao in the UK (wrestling for EVE, a pair of events that I was at, which is why this review is later than usual) while Nao was performing in a play. However, they were in the unique confines of KBS Hall, which is generally enough to make up for a few missing wrestlers, so let’s see what went down.
Moka Miyamoto defeated Kaya Toribami
KBS Hall is such a wonderfully unique place to have a wrestling show that it makes everything feel special. It reminds me of the handful of times I’ve been to gigs in churches. I’m not religious, and neither was the music, but that setting still has a power that alters the mood in the room. Even sitting at home, watching on my laptop, you notice that the energy there is unique.
Despite all that, I struggled to get too excited about this opener. Kaya has been a fixture in this spot recently, and there wasn’t anything here to differentiate it from the pack. It wasn’t bad, but as I pointed out in a previous review, we’re at the point where Toribami needs something to get her teeth into and push her to the next level. A relatively straightforward defeat to Moka is unlikely to be that catalyst, as great as Miyamoto is.
Verdict: Special Venue, Fine Match
Shoko Nakajima defeated Suzume and Haruna Neko in a three-way
After a busy day at the market, you’re heading home with your newly purchased kaiju, cat and bee. But oh no! There is a river you must cross, and you only have space on your boat for you and one other. If left unattended together, the kaiju will eat the cat, and the cat will eat the bee, so how do you safely get everyone to the other side? I’ve written all that out and realised I don’t have a punchline to the joke, but I can tell you that the bee tried tying the cat and the kaiju’s tails together, which didn’t help with crossing the river, but it was funny.
There is a science to the best TJPW three-ways, and this match had most of the right parts. First, you need three wrestlers capable of engaging with the silly, which we had. Then, you need one to be the put-upon element, who will be regularly betrayed or bullied by the other two but will eventually get a modicum of revenge when they decide to stick up for themselves and nearly steal the win. That’s a role that Neko has made her own in recent times. Finally, there is a reliably great pairing who (when the comedy steps to one side for a moment) will string together some good wrestling. That’s where Suzume and Shoko step up.
Of course, other elements can be included (Raku’s magic and sorcery are always a hit), and sometimes the put-upon wrestler can be part of the great pairing. The point is that however you tick those boxes, it’ll probably be a decent time, even if I spend part of the match figuring out how to get them all to cross a river.
Verdict: I Had Fun
Yuki Aino & Raku defeated Toho University (Yuki Kamifuku & Mahiro Kiryu)
As much as I adore Raku doing stuff and nonsense, watching her have a straight match is always a treat. It’s even better when you have a crowd that is allowed to make noise and get behind her as KBS Hall appears to worship at the altar of the Train God. They got incredibly invested in the finishing stretch, opening up and getting rowdy for the first time on this show.
And I suspect a big reason for them doing so is that Raku and Yuki are an incredibly likeable tag team. It’s not only their obvious affection for each other (although that does help) but that they are a sneaky good pairing. That combination of Aino’s power and Raku’s heart makes them feel like a big sister and little sister partnership, with Yuki always ready to step in and give Raku a helping hand when she needs it. Perhaps with how long Aino spent in a team with her actual sister, her ability to tap into that chemistry shouldn’t be surprising.
It all made for another fun match that never really blew me away, but thanks to a combination of the hot crowd and my overwhelming affection for that team, it definitely left me in a good mood.
Verdict: Decent Match, Impeccable Vibes
Rika Tatsumi defeated Arisu Endo
As COVID regulations start to lift, it often takes crowds a while to get used to being allowed to make noise. However, that last tag had woken Kyoto up, and before the bell even rang, they were noisy for Rika’s latest opportunity to bully a rookie.
And while I have seen countless matches of this nature, it doesn’t mean I’ve grown bored of them. No one does gleeful violence as well as Rika Tatsumi, and watching her pick apart Arisu’s leg with a smile on her face, is a joy. It always brings the best out of her opponents, too, as that touch of fear and desperation Rika inspires helps them to look good. Arisu certainly channelled it nicely, using it to ignite a fire in her comebacks, which got the fans behind her.
Sadly, she perhaps got a bit too carried away, going for her knee to the back of the head from the second rope, only for Rika to move and see Endo coming down hard on the leg Tatsumi had been working over. That was all the opening Rika needed, as she didn’t waste any time playing with her food, hitting a lightning-fast series of moves to the leg before ending it with a Figure Four. The bully was sated, but Arisu could leave with her head held high.
Verdict: A Strong Formula + A Hot Crowd = A Good Time
The Magical Sugar Rabbits (Yuka Sakazaki & Mizuki) defeated Maki Itoh & Hikari Noa
There are two ways to think about this match. The first way says it was a lot of fun and delivered a standout closing stretch between Yuka and Hikari. You had four beloved wrestlers in that ring, with a crowd who were in the mood to cheer them, and that made for a lovely atmosphere. Those four are also quite good at putting on entertaining, pacey tag matches that are easy to watch, so if you wanted to, you could float along in that relaxing action and have a great time.
However, these four could probably put on a match-of-the-year contender. Actually, there is no probably about it. Yuka and Mizuki are one of the best tag teams in the world, and when combined with Itoh’s charisma and Hikari’s all-around strong game, it could easily have been a magic recipe. In another time and place, where they slammed their foot on the pedal and gave us all the bells and whistles, I have no doubt that this was a special match.
They didn’t do that, though, and honestly, they were right not to. Would I have loved to see it? Of course! But this wasn’t the time. That first match I described, the one they delivered, was what these four needed to do, which is a skill of its own. Because while this wasn’t their best, it was still very good, and knowing where to draw that line and make sure that people will come back next time is a talent plenty of brilliant wrestlers have lacked. Thankfully, these four do not, and while I won’t be remembering it at the end of the year, I still enjoyed it while it was on.
Verdict: Not Their Best, But Still Good
Reiwa AA Cannon (Saki Akai & Yuki Arai) defeated Miu Watanabe & Pom Harajuku
Are Pom and Miu TJPW’s MVPs for 2022? I’m asking the question, but I already know the answer. Yes. They’ve done very different things this year, but they’ve both performed brilliantly, and it was nice to see them get a chance to team up in this main event, especially as they were going against the wildly popular pairing of Arai and Saki. Anything that brings more attention to them gets the thumbs up from me.
And this match showed why Pom should always be the centre of attention. Whether she was winding up Saki after ducking under her attacks or tieing Arai up in the ropes and repeatedly booting her in the shins, Harajuku was a constant source of entertainment. She approached everything in this match with a twinkly spark of menace in her eye, and you can only imagine how infuriating that would be to fight, especially when she’s getting the better of you. It’s the genius of Pom Harajuku.
Elsewhere, we got a chunk of Miu vs Akai, which I’d be delighted to see more of down the line. There was a nice contrast between Saki’s kicks and Miu’s power, with the snippet that we got hinting they could create some magic together. Finally, I recently read someone whining on Cagematch that Arai isn’t getting better, and I wanted to finish by talking about how that is complete bollocks. She is 57 matches into her career (which is fuck all) and has already proved she has the ability to go out and hang with some of the best. Would I count her among their ranks? No, not yet, but she’s very good, and while her progress has undeniably slowed, that’s in contrast to the fact she came roaring out of the blocks. On top of all that, listen to the fans chant her name on this show! She’s massively over. You don’t have to like her, but if you can’t figure out why she’s getting the opportunities she is, you’re an idiot.
Anyway, that distraction aside, the match was good, and Arai and Saki’s appearance made it feel like a special treat. Then, in the aftermath, Raku and Yuki Aino came out to challenge Reiwa AA Cannon for the tag team titles, which I was delighted to see. You know all those nice things I just said about the champs? Forget them all. It’s Raku’s time now.
Verdict: Raku’s Going To Fuck The Idol Up (And The Match Was Good Too)
I sometimes think I get repetitive when talking about this level of TJPW show, but it was good without being spectacular. I liked the last three matches a lot, and the rest was very watchable, but there is little you need to go out of your way to see. If I were picking and choosing, I’d point you towards Arisu vs Rika and the main. However, it was under two hours long, so if you’re looking for some good background watching while you do your taxes or whatever, it will do the job.
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