Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling
Princess Cup 2020 Night 1
August 8, 2020
Tokyo Kanda Myojin Hall
As WWE continues counting their money instead of writing passable television and New Japan seems stuck in a 1/3rd the fans, 1/3rd the effort rut, tournament season has come to Joshi not a moment too soon. For Toyko Joshi Pro Wrestling, this means it is time for the 2020 Princess Cup, a single-elimination tournament that takes place over multiple days, not unlike the New Japan Cup over in NJPW. This year the Princess Cup has 21 competitors and will take place over 5 events, with the finals, COVID willing, on August 29.
Unlike Stardom, TJPW does not subtitle their shows for an English speaking audience, nor do they include English commentary like New Japan. Since Tokyo Joshi is a bit storyline heavy, this can make getting started watching the promotion seem like a herculean task. That makes the Princess Cup a great entry point for new and lapsed fans. Just about every member of the roster will have the opportunity to show off their character in a singles match, with an overall storyline that translates easily. The winner of the Princess Cup can challenge for the Princess of Princess Title, TJPW’s main singles title. 20 women are wrestling for the right to challenge champion Yuka Sakazaki, while Yuka wrestles to deny anyone the right to challenge her.
With 21 competitors, it makes for a rather interesting tournament bracket.
The winners of the five tournament matches on this show will join the 11 wrestlers receiving byes in the second round on the 9th and 10th. But don’t think that these matches involve the lowest-seeded wrestlers in the tournament, as both the champion, Yuka Sakazaki and the Ace, Miyu Yamashita have matches on this card. Think of it more as a way to get some of TJPW’s most popular an extra tournament match.
UP UP GIRLS PERFORMANCE
The basic performance by the pro wrestling version of the idol group Up Up Girls, made up of Hikari Noa, Miu Watanabe, and Raku, that kicks off the majority of TJPW shows. The next idea Vince will try to improve Raw?
PRINCESS CUP MATCH
SUZUME DEF. HARUNA NEKO
While I must admit watching a bumblebee wrestle a cat dressed as a french maid brought a smile to my face, this was not good. Suzume has been wrestling for less than a year, and while she can hit a very crisp dropkick, she is at a point in her career where she needs a veteran hand to lead her to a good match. Haruna, with less than two years of experience herself, is not that hand. The fans are definitely into Suzume, and one great spot where Haruna attempted a codebreaker only to have Suzume roll through into a pin attempt saved this from being a dud. A flying cross body earned Suzume the victory. *1/2
PRINCESS CUP MATCH
MAKI ITOH DEF. HIMAWARI UNAGI
If Maki Itoh was a better worker, she could be one of the best performers in all of Joshi. She practically oozes charisma, completely controls the live audience, and has an attitude that screams “breakthrough star to a Western fan base.” Itoh’s “it-factor” guarantees that she’ll hang around the upper midcard in TJPW as long as she desires, but until she improves bell to bell, there is a hard ceiling on how far they can push her. While Itoh has definitely improved in-ring over the past year, with her opponent Unagi having only a little over a year of in ring experience, they wisely kept this one short, anchored with comedy spots involving Unagi’s corner breast smothering spot, and Itoh’s attempt to duplicate the move in spite of lacking the required “assets.” The finish came shortly after the five-minute call when Itoh locked in her version of the cloverleaf hold, The Itoh Special. An extra half star for Itoh’s entrance. **1/2
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2 V 3 HANDICAP MATCH
SHOKO NAKAJIMA & HYPER MISAO DEF. MIRAI MAIUMI, SENA SHIORI, & MOKA MIYAMOTO
With only Maiumi having wrestled for more than a year on her team, and Miyamoto only debuting two weeks ago, no one really expected them to pick up the victory over the veterans in this handicap match. That being said, the amount that Shoko and Hyper Misao dominated this match in spite of being outnumbered was a mild surprise. Other than a nice hot tag to Maiumi, that Misao derailed with well-timed interference from the floor, the only hope spot for the young ones came when Misao was caught off an ill-advised flying body press to all three opponents. It didn’t last long until Hyper Misao regained the advantage and tapped out Shiori with a crossface chickenwing. **
PRINCESS CUP MATCH
NATSUMI MAKI DEF. MINA SHIRAKAWA
While not expecting a mat classic, I was definitely looking forward to this one. Maki is one of the better workers in TJPW, and Shirakawa is coming off a victory over Yuki Kamifuku at the 7/23 Korakuen in a match that exceeded all of my expectations. When Maki came to the ring in the outfit given to her by Kairi Sane the smile it put on my face gave this match a 2-star floor from the start. Epic troll, a sign of things to come in TJPW, or as Maki claims, merely an attempt to find something pink to match Shirakawa’s ring gear? We shall see. The match itself did not disappoint, as it was the best in-ring work by far to this point of the night. Shirakawa shows good fire and is a much better worker than you’d expect with her gravure idol gimmick. She got the crowd into the match with a couple of close near falls, but Maki picks up the win in under 8 minutes with the Backlash after a superkick that almost took Shirakawa’s head off. A small botch on a reversal and the shortness of the match kept this from being more than good, but I have to recommend it just for Maki’s ring gear. ***
MIZUKI, MAKOTO SHIRYU, YUKI KAMIFUKU & YUKI AINO DEF. POM HARAJUKU, HIKARI NOA, MIU WATANABE & RIKA TATSUMI
We come back from intermission with a fun 8 woman tag match. Tatsumi, Harajuku and the 2 Up Up Girls try to gain an early advantage with a pre-bell attack that results in an opening comedy spot before the action settles down. Each participant got some shine, leading to a showdown between Mizuki and Tatsumi that the crowd was into. Tatsumi is a very good worker, but her butt based offense, similar to Taguchi in New Japan, does nothing for me. At the end it came down to Harajuku and Mizuki alone in the ring, and while Pom got a very close near fall with a flash pin, Mizuki put her away with the Diving Foot Stomp. **3/4
PRINCESS CUP MATCH
MIYU YAMASHITA DEF. RAKU
I was surprised to see this in the semi-main event slot on the card. While Yamashita has not had much success in previous Princess Cups, Raku is the least pushed member of the Up Up Girls and an upset here was practically unthinkable. For fans of NCAA basketball, this match is like a 1 vs 16 seed during March Madness. While Raku got in some offense, including her ridiculous Lullabye pin, a top rope brain chop and a beautiful slingblade, Miyu never seemed in danger, dominating the majority of the match with strikes. A vicious shining wizard followed by an Attitude Adjustment earned the victory for the Ace of Tokyo Joshi. **
PRINCESS CUP MATCH
YUKA SAKAZAKI DEF. NODOKA TENMA
Coming into the show, this was expected to be the match of the night, and in spite of that ending up as a low bar to clear, it took until after the 10-minute call for me to be sure it was going to get there. After starting off with some nice chain wrestling, Sakazaki slowed things down with some rest/submission holds that went on a bit too long for a 14-minute main event. Shortly after the five-minute call, Tenma went on offense with her strength advantage, including a beautiful Samoan drop, and what was either a botch or a top rope Rock Bottom. From that point, the two traded control and near falls until Sakazaki used the Merry-Go-Round and her new 450 Magical Girl Splash to pick up the win. ***1/4
Clocking in at 2:09 including the Up Up Girls performance and the intermission, the opening night of this year’s Princess Cup is an easy watch with little that rates as essential viewing unless you are a TJPW completest. I question both the placement of the Yamashita/Raku match and the fact that it got more time than Maki/Shirakawa. If pressed for time, watch Sakazaki/Tenma and check out Natsumi Maki’s ring gear. Add in Maki/Shirakawa, the 8 woman tag, and Maki Itoh’s match, because I cannot not recommend a Maki Itoh match, as time permits.