Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling
Tokyo Joshi Pro ’21
January 4, 2021
Korakuen Hall
Tokyo, Japan

Watch: Wrestle Universe

Fresh off a successful Wrestle Princess show, Tokyo Joshi continues to break new ground with their January 4th Korakuen featuring English commentary for the first time ever. While I would have much preferred Wrestle Princess to have English commentary, I can see the logic in debuting it for their pre-Wrestle Kingdom show, as this probably is the day that the most English speaking wrestling fans have their eyes turned to Japan each year. Mark Pickering, Stewart Fulton and devoted member of the Itoh Respect Army Chris Brookes made up the commentary team, and while the commentary wasn’t perfect, it instantly made Tokyo Joshi infinitely more accessible to English-speaking newcomers. Tokyo Joshi Pro has the buzz coming off of Wrestle Princess, they have the English commentary team in place, and they have the wrestling world focused on Japan today. A great show could earn the promotion a significant number of new fans. We can only hope!

Suzume def. Arisa Endo

This was Arisa Endo’s debut match and an impressive debut it was. On a stage as big as Korakuen Hall, Endo went out and had a botch free, perfectly serviceable match against the always crisp working Suzume. This was nothing special, but it wasn’t intended to be. This was just a match to get Endo out in front of fans, and see how she would react to the situation, and I have to say that she passed with flying colors. The only nitpick I could really find was dropping a bit too early on Suzume’s finish, but that will come with experience. TJPW has to be overjoyed with her debut. Suzume picks up the win with the Ring-a-Bell ***1/4

Yuna Manase & Moka Miyamoto def. Pom Harajuku & Haruna Neko

Not content with ruining one year, the Coronavirus made its presence felt in this match, as Yuna Manase had to fill in for the covid positive Marika Kobashi. Here’s hoping Kobashi stays symptom free and is back in the ring very soon! This substitution did not bode well for my enjoyment of the match, as I was overjoyed when Kobashi returned to the TJPW ring, while never having been a fan of Yuna Manase. What we got was a very fun tag match anchored by the always entertaining Pom Harajuku, with Yuna Manase turning in a performance that has me welcoming her guest appearances in TJP. Moka Miyamoto, no longer the most inexperienced member of the roster with the debut of Arisa Endo, continues to improve with seemingly every match and has added some impressive looking karate strikes to her offense.  Haruna Neko seemed to get lost in the shuffle however, perhaps overwhelmed by the blur of color and energy that is Pom Harajuku. Pom is never going to have 4 plus star matches for the Princess of Princess title, but in the lower midcard where her shin kicks are sold like shotgun blasts,  and the pure joy she brings to the ring is more important than star ratings, she will always have a place in both TJP and my heart. Of course, shin kicks and dropkicks can only take you so far, especially against an honored returning guest like Manase, and this match ended as it had to, with Pom looking at the lights after Manase’s finisher. ***1/4

New Year’s Red and White Rope Match : Loser gets new name for 1 month
Hyper Misao def. Shoko Nakajima

100 plastic containers, like the ones you get out of coin-operated “toy” (read as junk) dispensers at the grocery story were attached to the top rope, with 10 of these plastic bubbles containing winning pieces. The winner of the match would be the first to find 2 winning pieces.

I’m sorry, I apparently hate fun. This happened, and it took 10 minutes, and if it interests you, there is a lot of enjoyable wrestling both before and after this “match.” Hyper Misao tied Shoko Nakajima up so she could open the bubbles in peace, until she finally found the 2 required to win. She will announce Shoko’s new name at the next show. NA

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Miu Watanabe, Mirai Maiumi & Nao Kakuta def. Raku, Mizuki & Aja Kong

A “get people on the card” six-woman tag match that happened to include Aja Kong?  Yes please! Nao Kakuta is perhaps my favorite recent addition to the roster, while Mirai Maiumi’s version of strong style pops me out of my seat every time she hits the ring. Miu Watanabe is set to have a huge year as she is now one of the best workers in the promotion. Mizuki is definitely my favorite joshi performer, and perhaps my favorite wrestler overall. What can I say about Aja Kong that hasn’t already been said? Even at this stage in her career, having her in the ring feels special. Raku is getting a clean slate from me to begin the year, as I believe I’ve probably held the Good Night Express move against her a bit more than she deserved, especially when one of my favorite spots in this match was watching Aja Kong do the Good Night Express with Raku and Mizuki. Priceless! Other than that spot, the only thing that really stood out to me was Mirai Maiumi taking Kong out with several lariats. This served its purpose and didn’t overstay its welcome, but it also was far from anything special. ***1/4

Neo Biishiki-gun (Mei Saint-Michel & Sakisama) def. Sena Shiori & Hikari Noa

Oh Neo Biishiki-gun, how Tokyo Joshi has missed you. While Sakisama presumably lounged in luxury at her manse in Paris and Saki Akai starred in DDT, Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling was left without a true heel on the roster. While TJPW has always been more about wrestlers competing to prove who’s the best rather than face/heel dynamics, the presence of a true heel group gave the promotion the opportunity for storylines that otherwise wouldn’t have made sense, and gave the cards something that felt different than the normal matches. It was a Sakisama/Azusa Christie tag match that hooked me into Tokyo Joshi, and now that Sakisama has used her aristocratic connections to enter Japan during the pandemic, I find that her and Mei Saint-Michel are quickly becoming my favorite act, with Saint-Michel rivaling Christie as my favorite partner for Sakisama. The result of the match was a foregone conclusion; just another stop on the way to Neo Biishiki-gun’s inevitable challenge for the tag titles, but that didn’t stop it from being entertaining. Humor ruled the contest, with Saint-Michel’s silver serving tray involved enough to be an honorary match participant. As someone with a very specific sense of humor who tends to detest sitcoms and comedy films while tolerating rather than enjoying attempts at comedy in the wrestling ring, I must admit to laughing out loud when Saint-Michel successfully used the serving tray as a banana peel against Hikari Noa, then proceeded to leap around in celebration. For a mid-card tag match, this had it all; great characters, great humor, great action. Mei Saint-Michel picked up the win for Neo Biishiki-gun with her submission finisher on Sena Shiori. ***1/2

Miyu Yamashita def. Maki Itoh

For as long as I’ve watched Tokyo Joshi Pro, the “Fired Idol” Maki Itoh has had the same complaint lodged against her. While no one ever denied her incredible charisma and connection with the fans, it was taken as fact that her in-ring work was a liability that would forever place a hard ceiling over her career. The Maki Itoh that starts 2021 however is a very different performer, and while she will never be one of the top workers in Joshi, her in-ring is no longer the liability of the past. Those that cannot see the huge improvement are either not looking, or willfully blind. This match against the ace of Tokyo Joshi, Miyu Yamashita, was a fight for respect both in the real world and in kayfabe. This was Itoh’s opportunity, with an English commentary team and plenty of foreign eyes sure to be watching, to show the wrestling world she is more than a charismatic pretty face, and she showed everyone that she is worthy of respect. Miyu Yamashita made her earn every bit of that respect, decimating Itoh at every opportunity with some of the stiffest kicks in Joshi, yet every time Miyu knocked her down, Maki stood back up, defiant. The finish came when Miyu countered Maki’s middle finger by taking her head off with a Skull Kick. Itoh could not answer the ten count, giving the victory to Yamashita. The victor was never in doubt though; this wasn’t about Itoh beating Yamashita, this was about Itoh earning Yamashita’s respect as a stand-in for the respect of the larger wrestling world. The fist bump at the end, offered up by Yamashita and surprisingly returned by Itoh meant more than having her hand raised ever could.  She may have lost the match, but the respect was earned. ****1/4

Princess Tag Team Title Match
Nodoka Tenma & Yuki Aino(C) def. Mahiro Kiryu & Yuki Kamifuku

Sometimes foregone conclusions do not affect the enjoyment of a match, as seen with the previous Itoh/Yamashita match. Every possible outcome I could realistically imagine had Yamashita the victor, yet they were still able to put on my match of the night. This match, however, suffered mightily from my inability to give the challengers any amount of a chance at winning. The Bakuretsu Sisters are still new champions, fresh off winning the titles at Wrestle Princess, and I just could not see TJPW ending their title reign, the reign that took them so long to finally earn, before it even got started. Add to that the fact that Yuki Kamifuku just as recently won the International Princess title and you have a match that screams “get the first defense under their belt” to me. With me already being hot or cold on the Bakuretsu Sisters, this was destined to be what it was; just a match. Nodoka Tenma picked up the victory for her team with the Killswitch on Mahiro Kiryu. All four participants worked hard, and those that could suspend their disbelief and buy into the near falls probably got a lot more out of this one than I did. ***1/2

Princess of Princess Title Match
Rika Tatsumi def. Yuka Sakazaki(C)

Watch. Rika’s going to hit the missile hips, get the 3, and I’m going to shut my tv off in disgust and go back to sleep and miss Wrestle Kingdom.  -Me in the VOW Slack, before the opening bell.

First, let me make an admission. I went into this match assuming this was ending with a victory by the Magical Girl. During a middle of the card discussion on who would finally defeat Sakazaki for the Princess of Princess Title, I suggested several names while never considering for a second that she may not make it through the night with the title. Now I gave Rika Tatsumi more of a chance in this match than I gave Kamifuku/Kiryu in the preceding contest, but that isn’t really saying much, maybe a five percent chance versus nothing. And now, with 20/20 hindsight, I can see that Tatsumi being the one to end Sakazaki’s reign made all the sense in the world, and I should have seen it coming. Really seen it coming, not my throwaway satirical prediction quoted above. After all, who else was there at the top of the TJP card? Sakazaki won the title from Shoko Nakajima, and Miyu Yamashita already failed to take the title off the Magical Girl way back in April. And do we really want the title to just rotate between the three of them anyway? Mizuki, who I thought most likely to be the next champion, just lost at Wrestle Princess, and while I fully expect her to someday win the belt, it wasn’t going to happen for several months at least. But then we have the White Dragon, the only remaining year 1 wrestler in Tokyo Joshi Pro to never win the title, who in spite of her reliance on one of the most idiotic moves in pro wrestling definitely has the skill to hang at the top of the TJPW card. I never would have predicted it, but it was right there to be seen.

As for the match itself, I admit that after the botched hurricanrana that Rika sold anyway, flipping herself over as Yuka gave perhaps the most priceless look of annoyance in wrestling history, I thought this was heading to the trash heap. That they hooked me back in is a testament to the ability of both of these workers, and on the whole, I thought they were having a very passable match. One limiting factor for me, which I have said before, that I said during the match, and that I will continue to say until it stops, is Rika Tatsumi’s over-reliance on the missile hips butt attack. Yes, this is my pet peeve, but Tatsumi is such a good worker that it annoys me to no end that half of her offense consists of throwing her butt at people, leading to the commentary team remarking that “the buttocks are the strongest muscle in the body” and discussing the diamond hardness of her rear.

This was well on its way to a three and a half star rating until the very end, when Sakazaki missed the splash and landed hard on her legs. Tatsumi was on her like a shark that smelled blood, with an intensity I’ve never seen from her before, delivering vicious rapid dragon screws before locking on the Figure Four. Suddenly I was on the edge of my seat, with that feeling twisting in my stomach. For the first time, I actually believed Tatsumi could win this. Sakazaki made the ropes, but Tatsumi was not to be denied, reapplying the hold until, in a moment that confused the commentary team, Sakazaki apparently fainted from the pain, causing the referee to call the match. Rika Tatsumi, not Miyu Yamashita, Shoko Nakajima, or Mizuki, is your new Princess of Princess champion. ****1/4

Final Thoughts

Another big Tokyo Joshi Pro show, another success. While not as good of a show as Wrestle Princess, this show had a little bit of everything that makes Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling unique, and with the English commentary making the product instantly 100% more accessible to English speaking newcomers, I’d be surprised if the promotion didn’t win over a significant number of new fans. Chris Brookes did an impressive job on commentary, to the extent that I think he could have a career in the booth after he’s finished in the ring. Maki Itoh continues to improve in ring, the promotion took another step in the long build to the inevitable Bakuretsu Sisters/Neo Biishiki-gun collision, and Rika Tatsumi taking the top title, as much as I dread main events full of missile hips, opens up countless fresh main event possibilities, with her first defense to be against her tag team partner, Miu Watanabe. TJPW is set for another great year!