With a Korakuen up next, TJPW were in Shinjuku for their last chance to wrap up any loose ends before the big one. This go-home show was more intriguing than usual, as we had a couple of new faces in the main event, with Millie McKenzie and Billie Starkz making their debuts. How would they go down? Well, let’s find out.
We started with contract signings for Miyu vs Millie and Yuka vs Billie, with Mr Haku on translation duties and Namba looking particularly classy in a long dress (I believe she’d come straight from a wedding). Millie and Billie seemed a bit nervous, but that’s probably to be expected, as I can’t imagine either of them has much experience cutting promos in that environment. They did well, though, and no one went through a table.
We were also down an Up Up Girl, with Hikari missing the show because she was feeling unwell. Thankfully, we now have a ready-made stand-in, and Shino stepped in to perform the opening song. Once again, she was endearingly enthusiastic (a noticeable difference from Hikari), and while her timing was off a couple of times, she still did a good job. It’s possible people who haven’t seen Upper Kick performed countless times won’t even notice the mistakes.
Miu Watanabe defeated Kaya Toribami
Another week, another solid Kaya opener. These are reliably decent but are also the kind of match that suffers when you watch every show because Kaya isn’t quite at a stage where she can mix it up. It means you’re going to get something full of spots we’ve all seen a bunch of times, and while some of them are great (I’m never going to complain about Miu swinging people), it’s hard to get too excited.
Still, to give them some credit, the opening twenty seconds or so were cool, as Kaya appeared to be taking a leaf out of Juria’s book by going for a knockout kick. She forced Miu to play it a bit safe, avoiding the blows and sneaking in to take her to the ground. I appreciate focusing on such a tiny part of the match sounds like I’m damning them with faint praise, but as I said, the rest wasn’t bad. It was just more of the same.
Hyper Misao defeated Hyper Pom
I’m taking this match as my Christmas present from TJPW. Not only was it a battle between masters of nonsense, but it started with Pom declaring that while Misao was over in the UK, a new hero had emerged: Hyper Pom! They already had my attention, but that earned them my love.
Not everyone might agree, but matches like this are the heart and soul of TJPW. Yes, you’ve got Miyu, Yuka and co, but when I think of Tokyo Joshi, my mind goes to Hyper Misao threatening Namba with a hammer to give up the location of Pom, who has hidden by running through the crowd with a cape over her head. So much that I love about the company comes from the bright, frothy comedy that this pack of violent lunatics all happen to be brilliant at, and it will never stop delighting me. Those main events are brilliant, but I could find similar ones elsewhere. There is only one Hyper Misao and one Pom Harajuku, and TJPW gives them the time and space to be themselves.
If you haven’t figured it out, I liked this an awful lot. It was a silly, funny match that left me grinning from ear to ear and will continue to make me smile every time I think back on it.
Mizuki defeated Mahiro Kiryu
Hikari’s illness caused this match to be changed, which opened up an opportunity for Mahiro. She’s always at her best when paired with violent menaces, so a singles match with Mizuki was the perfect stage for her to impress.
And Kiryu grabbed that chance. From her early bafflement when Mizuki made it look like she was pulling her hair to conducting her usual apology from the top turnbuckle (while kneeling on Mizuki), you could tell she’d put that little bit of extra thought into this match. Her biggest downfall is a tendency to fade into the background, but with no other distractions, Mizuki gave her the space to shine.
That Mahiro could stand up and take that chance is a testament to not only her but the TJPW roster as a whole. They all, slowly but surely, levelled up over the last few years, and moments like this remind you how far they’ve come. Was it an instant classic? No, but it was an enjoyable mid-card battle, which is exactly what it needed to be.
Verdict: Well Done, Mahiro
Yuki Aino & Raku defeated Shoko Nakajima & Haruna Neko
Raku and Aino are gunning for the tag titles, and this was a solid warm-up for them. I said it in my last review, but their dynamic is lovely. Built on the back of their real-life affection, I think they play nicely off the idea of Raku as the heart of the team and Yuki as the muscle. We also got to see their new tag-team finisher, a Doctor Yellow/Reverse DDT combo that saw off Neko.
There is not much more to say about it other than that Neko and Shoko did their jobs well. Being able to turn to Nakajima when you need to make someone look good is a luxury that TJPW should appreciate, and I think Neko excels in that role too. They did a great job of shining the champs up before they snatch those belts away from Akai and Arai.
Verdict: A Decent Warm-Up
Rika Tatsumi, Yuki Kamifuku & Nao Kakuta defeated Suzume, Arisu Endo & Moka Miyamoto
Putting Nao, Kamiyu and Rika together is like handing the devil a pitchfork and asking where he’d like to prod you. Those three are bad enough when they’re on their own, but together? Well, Nao was deliberately moving Suzume closer to her partners (but crucially just out of reach) while twisting her hair, delighting in making the experience that little bit worse. The cruelty had multiplied.
None of that is a complaint, though. Putting those three together also fucking rules, especially when they’re up against three young, battling babyfaces, all desperate to try and make their mark. A semi-main trio match with nothing to play for could quickly fade into inessential territory, even if it is fun, but that dynamic is always watchable. I want to see people like Arisu battle defiantly against the bullies, desperately trying to find an opening to get her team back into the match.
Of course, she couldn’t do it, but I still enjoyed it a lot. It was the kind of easy-watching wrestling I will always delight in, as long as I’m not the one having to survive being in the ring with Rika, Kamiyu and Nao, that is.
Verdict: Unleash The Bullies
Millie McKenzie & Billie Starkz defeated Yuka Sakazaki & Miyu Yamashita
I’ve never seen Billie Starkz wrestle, but she comes out to Blink 182, which is a rough start. Thankfully, her taste in music aside (and she is 17, so I guess I can forgive that), this was a solid debut. She looked more comfortable in the ring than at the contract signing and came out the gates strong, matching up nicely with Yuka. Nothing she did made me want to rush out and watch all her matches, but she certainly didn’t look out of her depth.
The other TJPW newbie in this match was less of an unknown prospect, as I’ve seen Millie a lot over the years (including in person). She and Miyu have already proven themselves to have good chemistry, so I was more intrigued to see her square off with Yuka, which didn’t disappoint. They both pack a punch, and while they were never going to be the focus of this match, it did make me hopeful Millie being here wasn’t a one-off, and we’ll get that showdown in the future.
In the here and now, this ended in a bit of an upset, with Millie pinning Miyu on her home turf. It also did everything it needed to do, introducing Millie and Billie to anyone unfamiliar with them, setting the groundwork for the matches to come and hopefully selling a few more tickets for Korakuen. The boxes were ticked, and the entertainment was delivered.
Verdict: A Job Well Done
That was slightly above the TJPW house show level, what with it being the go-home show for Korakuen. You can still happily skip a lot of the matches, but if you’ve never seen the two foreign wrestlers, you’ll want to check out the main event, and Pom vs Misao is obviously must see. It’s also worth saying that said Korakuen is looking packed, so let’s get excited for that one!
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