TJPW Merry Christmas! (24/12/22), Review

The end-of-year photo. Credit: TJPW

The last Tokyo Joshi show of 2022 doubled up as a Christmas celebration and the go-home show for Ittenyon while continuing the tradition of the bulk of the card coming via a fan draw. It’s a fun way to end the year and always throws up a few intriguing combinations as TJPW look to see us out on a high. Did they? Let’s find out.

Kaya Toribami defeated Haruna Neko

Neko is looking particularly cat-like. Credit: TJPW

Kaya Toribami openers have become a staple of recent TJPW shows, to the extent that I’ve been moaning about it all getting a bit samey. That’s caused my reviews to do the same, as I repeatedly point out that while these matches are decent, they’re nothing special. However, as a big fan of the wee cat, I did have a bit of hope this one might be different.

And, in some ways, it was. For one, this was a rare chance to see Neko as a veteran, taking it to a younger wrestler. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a dominant performance (Neko will always be an undercat), but she had more offence than we’re used to and suited it, too. With a new class of rookies set to debut soon, is it possible we’re about to enter Neko’s salty veteran stage?

Well, perhaps not, as the finish didn’t quite go to plan. In fact, it ended up marking Kaya’s second-ever singles victory, as she bundled Neko up to a shocked reaction. I won’t lie, it made me a bit sad, as I was enjoying Neko in that role, but it was at least something a bit different and does show that TJPW rank Kaya a step or two up the totem pole. It still wasn’t quite the standout Toribami performance that I’ve been looking for, as it hit most of the usual beats, but it did break the mould a bit, and that’s something.

Verdict: A Tentative Step In The Right Direction

Pom Harajuku defeated Arisu Endo

Merry Christmas! Credit: TJPW

2022 has been the year of Pom, as the world has woken up to her genius. Therefore, it’s only proper that TJPW allowed her to pull out a few more antics right at the end, as she distracted Endo by sending her on a quest to find Santa before tieing her up with Christmas decorations. It was only an intervention from Ref Kiso that stopped poor Endo from being smacked over the head by one of them.

And this was a perfect end to both of these wrestlers’ years, as it gave us Pom being delightfully Pom-like and Endo continuing to struggle towards getting that first win. The youngster has had a brilliant in-ring year but can’t quite get over that final hurdle, and Pom’s antics were brilliantly positioned to trip her up, preventing her from ending 2022 on a high. I’ve no doubt that next year will see her get over that line, but she will have to get a bit smarter if that’s to be the case.

I have a load of love for both of these wrestlers, so watching them have a fun wee match on Christmas Eve was ideal. There didn’t need to be anything big or fancy here, simply give me Pom’s antics and Endo’s fire, and I’ll have a lovely Christmas.

Verdict: Merry Christmas To Me

Miu Watanabe defeated Juria Nagano and Raku in a three-way

Santa Raku is generous. Credit: TJPW

The antics continued as Raku made her way to the ring with her pillow and a present. They were the necessary props for an outstanding moment where, having faced the power of Raku’s magic and sorcery, Juria and Miu woke up and excitedly found that same present sitting next to them. Their wee faces lit up, only for Raku to sneak up behind them and drag them back in a double roll-up before they could even open it up. What a shame.

And this was our second fun match in a row, as these three found a lovely tone that only included a tiny bit of attempted murder when Raku started smothering Miu with her pillow. Look, she eventually took it off. Plus, if someone is going to be that strong, you’ve got to find some way to stop them, right? Not that she was particularly successful, as Miu eventually hoisted Juria up for the win.

However, before Nagano lost, she made an impression here. It was her first three-way match, and she slotted right into the style that tends to dominate these outings, joining in with the comedy alongside throwing some of those awesome kicks. Juria hasn’t really had a chance to show off that side of herself yet, but judging by this, it’s something she’ll be able to do, and I hope we get to see more of it next year. Until then, this was another delightful wee outing.

Verdict: Don’t Smother People, Kids

Yuki Kamifuku defeated Mahiro Kiryu

Mahiro fights back. Credit: TJPW

I did not expect this match to be anywhere near as good as it was, as we got the Christmas treat of seeing Mahiro find her courage and stand up to Kamiyu. At the start of this match, Kamifuku was bullying her regular tag partner, demanding she let her win, mocking her constant apologising and even referring to her as a nobody. However, in a bit of a Christmas miracle, Mahiro seemed to decide she’d had enough, firing herself up and bringing the fight to her partner.

And there’s something a bit beautiful about that. Kamiyu has always been the person who gets the best out of Mahiro, and while she would eventually beat her, this match saw her tap into something that we don’t often see from TJPW’s most apologetic wrestler. She got to show a bit of grit, refusing to let Kamiyu control the action and even throwing some insults back at her. Sure, one of those insults was pointing out that her vocabulary is poor, but we’ve all got to start somewhere.

It made for what I think might be my favourite Mahiro singles match ever, and as I’ve been somewhat critical of her over the last twelve months, that is a lovely way to end the year. Kamiyu bullied her into showing a bit of fighting spirit, and I hope we get to see a bit more of that side of her, weak insults and all, going forward.

Verdict: More Of That Please, Mahiro

Hikari Noa and Yuki Aino battled to a time-limit draw

The serious wrestling part of the show. Credit: TJPW

I think it’s fair to say that Aino and Hikari have got a bit lost in the shuffle this year. Hikari kicked things off by losing her International Title to Itoh and has struggled to gain momentum since (although she did have a trip to England and a banger in the Princess Cup against Yuka that people got weird about). Similarly, Aino has found herself a bit directionless since her sister retired, not quite managing to carve out a spot for herself in the singles scene.

Despite all that, they’re a great pairing, as Noa’s tenaciousness merges nicely with Aino’s power. There was a moment where Hikari desperately tried to get Aino over for the Blizzard Suplex, refusing to give up as Yuki blocked every attempt. Eventually, Aino resorted to a simple shoving to get Noa to stop, perfectly capturing their chemistry. There was a scrappiness to it, but a scrappiness that played to both of their strengths.

It climaxed in a cool final few minutes, where I was convinced at various points that either would pick up the win, but neither proved quite able to do so. I was so engrossed in it that I didn’t even pick up on the fact that we were heading towards a draw, making the moment the bell rang all the sweeter. It was an impressive finish to a match that went much harder than anyone had any right to expect, and hopefully, it also sets these two up to regain a bit of momentum in the year to come.

Verdict: Brilliant

Yuka Sakazaki, Mizuki, Shoko Nakajima & Suzume defeated Miyu Yamashita, Maki Itoh, Hyper Misao & Moka Miyamoto

A Misao Christmas. Credit: TJPW

The crowning jewel of this match was always going to be Miyu and Yuka facing off for the last time before Ittenyon, and it did an excellent job of holding off on that moment. Then, when they did meet, the tension quickly rose, as they started trading hard blows. Yuka would win that initial striking contest, but it would be Miyu who got the better of the day, hitting Yuka with an AA and a German, neither of which won the match, but both of which felt like a statement.

However, they weren’t alone in impressing either, as we also got a taster of the annual Kyoraku Kyomei face-off when Shoko and Misao got into it. In fact, there was almost as much tension between them as between Miyu and Yuka, the tag partners bringing a bit of edge as they built to their annual Ittenyon match. Sadly, it didn’t have any of the chaos that is sure to come with that, but it’s probably for the best. Those things may lean heavily on nonsense, but they also tend to be very violent, and it’s better they wait to work out whatever tension was there.

And, of course, everyone else was great, as this was an all-star outing. These eight can be relied upon to put on a great main event in their sleep, so they weren’t going to let us down with a big show on the horizon. So while it perhaps didn’t have any of the surprises or antics of the earlier matches on this show, it was still a lot of fun and made sure TJPW ended 2022 on a high.

Verdict: A Very Good Main Event

Overall Show

I was expecting a good time with TJPW’s last show of the year, but that massively over-delivered. The run of the matches in the middle of the card, from Pom vs Endo to Noa vs Aino, each brought something slightly different to the table, delivering in lovely surprising ways. TJPW had a brilliant 2022, so this was a fitting way for them to see it out.

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