Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling
8th Princess Cup (Nights 1 & 2)
July 22 & 23, 2021
Shin-Kiba 1st Ring
Watch: Wrestle Universe
So apparently I spoke a bit prematurely about my life returning to “normalcy” back in April when I last reviewed TJPW for Voices of Wrestling. Within a week of that Inspiration show, my mother had passed and I’m sure I’m not surprising anyone when I tell you that grief sucks. As someone with past addiction issues, that adds a whole additional set of concerns to the menu. But now a few months later, the house has sold, my dog Loki and I are set up in our new digs and pretty comfortable, my new job is going incredibly, and I can’t think of a better time to jump back in than Tokyo Joshi Pro’s 8th Princess Cup tournament. And hey, I missed reviewing all of Rika Tatsumi’s Princess title reign, which given my opinion of the missile hips, probably saved us all some repetitive reviews.
As veteran Princess Cup viewers are aware, the first round of the tournament is akin to TJPW sticking their toes in the water, in the shallow end of the pool of course, rather than say the first night of the 5 * Grand Prix, where Stardom does a running cannonball into the deep end. There will be enough stars wrestling to sell the tickets, but many of the most over stars have byes into the second round. Rather than going match by match and feeling obligated to write something compelling about a 6 minute Raku/Miyamoto match, or much of anything about an 8 person tag that barely sets up one future tournament match, I’ll instead go through each night, pointing out anything interesting on the undercard, then a quick rundown on the first round matches, making sure to point out anything that is really required viewing. Not going to lie, these first two nights are for us TJPW hardcores, watching the shows live in our TJPW burger shirts. The more casual viewers may want to come back for night 3 when the tournament kicks into gear.
Rika Tatsumi, Hyper Misao & Shoko Nakajima (Handicap Match) def. Suzume, Haruna Neko, Nodoka Tenma & Yuki Aino
Hikari Noa, Yuki Arai, Miu Watanabe & Mizuki def. Kaya Toribami, Marika Kobashi, Yuki Kamifuku & Maki Itoh
Before writing about the undercard, I must take this opportunity to let you know that the Train of the day is the Izu Limited Express Line. Thank you Raku! Now to the matches! While there is nothing offensive about either of these tags, (other than poor Suzume having to sell shots from the White Dragon’s ass of steel that is) I just fail to understand why they don’t use these underneath tags to build to the tournament matches rather than the “hitting random in Fire Pro” method of filling out a card. For just one example, Rika Tatsumi vs Hikari Noa is the most interesting looking match on night 2 and ends up as the rightful main event, yet on night 1 they each wrestle in different tags rather than whetting the fans’ appetites for their night 2 match. On the other hand, they do a great job as always with the interactions between Maki Itoh and her former Itoh Respect Army partner Mizuki, both in the ring and in the backstage comments, which would be great if the two could possibly face each other before the semifinals, which due to shuffling in the semis, wouldn’t even be the guaranteed match up if they each got that far in the tournament. If they’re building to a big Itoh/Mizuki match in the semis or the finals, I’ll gladly take the loss and hope the match delivers, but at this point, I just don’t understand why Noa and Tatsumi or Marika Kobashi and Nodoka Tenma weren’t mixing it up at this show.
As for the matches, they are your average everyday TJPW multi-women chaos. Nothing that makes them must-watch, but if you’re a fan of the promotion you’ll enjoy the action. Hey, its better than Raw, that’s for sure.
Princess Cup Round 1
Mahiro Kiryu def. Arisu Endo
As someone who absolutely loves this promotion (seriously, watching Pom Harajuku kick shins and Mei Saint Michel tricking people with her tray helped to get me through some dark days of grief), I hope I can say this without it being taken the wrong way, but some of the TJPW roster members aren’t very good in the ring. Some of them are brand new to wrestling, learning the art in front of our eyes. Some have characters that are way over with the fans who attend the events and signings, and their work in the ring really doesn’t make much of a difference as long as they can be hidden in a multi-woman tag. One of the things I love about TJPW is the ability to watch these women from the very start of their career and see them evolve with experience, to watch them carve their niche in the promotion and then either settle into that slot or strive to improve and move further up the card. These two are still very early in their careers, with Kiryu’s two and a half years in the ring dwarfing Endo’s 110 some days, but they both clearly have some inherent talent in the ring. Kiryu worries me a bit to be honest, as even though she is more than acceptable in the ring, she has really failed to stand out on TJPW’s colorful roster. Endo, on the other hand, still has that new car smell surrounding her and is only in the beginning stages of her character. These two have decent chemistry together and I could see them wrestling quite a few times in the future. I can also see Endo climbing past Kiryu on her way up the card unless Kiryu figures out a way to get herself noticed. Kiryu wins this one over the rookie, as she should, with a spinebuster, setting herself up against Suzume on night 4 in what should be a good little match. ***
Raku def. Moka Miyamoto
There is a time and place for the Good Night Express. That place is decidedly not a minute into a singles match. I’m sorry Moka Miyamoto. You look like you are cringing from embarrassment every time you do your little ring introduction pose, and then you have sell like you’re dead off a weak elbow 50 seconds into the match and have Raku step on your stomach a few times. You deserved more than this match and cold spray in the face on night 2 for your one year anniversary in the business. Raku wins with a running neckbreaker about 10 seconds after stopping a pin attempt by raising her hand in the air. No, she didn’t kick out. No, she didn’t lift her shoulder off the mat. Raku raised her hand into the air and apparently that distracted the referee enough to stop counting the pin, because those shoulders certainly never left the mat. Poor Moka. *1/2
Mirai Maiumi def. Pom Harajuku
Mirai Maiumi is going to be a star in somewhere in the world of Joshi. She’s different enough from the majority of the TJPW roster that I’m not sure this will be her final home or if she will end up moving on to Stardom or another promotion, but with her interpretation of Strong Style and in ring talent, she is going to main event eventually somewhere. She’s just a no-nonsense ass-kicker. Okay, I hear you, she has an imaginary friend named SS-kun that Pom started this match by attacking. True, but I’m willing to bet a decent percent of TJPW’s English-speaking viewers learned about SS-kun from the previous sentence. This was a decent little match, and I got to give Pom Harajuku her due. I was pretty hard on her in last year’s review, and stand by my opinion that singles matches are not the best use of Pom on the card, but she did a great job working with Mirai this year. Maiumi picked up the win with the Miramare kimura. ***1/4
Miyu Yamashita def. Nao Kakuta
Nao Kakuta was a great addition to the TJPW roster and I have to be honest, with Miyu Yamashita holding the Princess title, I really thought this was going to be another early exit from the tournament for the Ace of TJPW, setting up the rematch for the title in addition to the title match against the eventual Cup winner. That was not in the booking plans this year however, as Yamashita picked up the hard-fought victory, pulling out the Crash Rabbit Heat to score the pinfall. This was definitely the match of the night, with a hot closing stretch and some really good selling from Yamashita during the match, especially a running boot to the face against the ropes that left Miyu sprawled limp over the bottom rope. Definitely left me wanting to see these two in the ring again. ***3/4
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Shoko Nakajima, Nao Kakuta & Hyper Misao def. Moka Miyamoto, Mahiro Kiryu & Mirai Maiumi
(3 Way) Haruna Neko def. Pom Harajuku and Mizuki
Yuki Kamifuku, Suzume & Raku def. Arisu Endo, Miyu Yamashita & Maki Itoh
Going to start with a quick return to my night one complaint. While they are doing a better job building the future tournament matches tonight, with Itoh and Yamashita going up against Kamifuku and Raku, Arisu Endo teaming with Itoh and Yamashita makes me pull my hair out. Why isn’t it Mahiro Kiryu rounding out the team since Suzume is Kamifuku and Raku’s third? If something this minor bothers me this much, can you see why I don’t watch WWE?
The underneath matches, once again, are just textbook TJPW. There is nothing that you will hate yourself for missing, and nothing that you will hate yourself for watching. If you are a fan of shenanigans or Moka Miyamoto, make sure to watch the beginning of the opener for her 1-year anniversary celebration. The three-way match wastes no time and ends with a shocking upset via a schoolgirl roll up. Maybe Mizuki needs more sugar?
Oh, I almost forgot. The train of the day is the Sunrise Seto! Thanks Raku!
Princess Cup Round 1
Miu Watanabe def. Kaya Toribami
While I am definitely not sold on the beak mask, I am very impressed with Kaya Toribami’s ring work this early in her career. She got in there with Watanabe, a worker with sky high potential, and held her own, putting on an acceptable little match. Watanabe hit a beautiful Teardrop for the three count to earn the triple snowflakes. ***
Yuki Aino def. Yuki Arai
Yuki Arai has the look, and from what I’ve seen of her in the ring, she has the potential to be a big part of the TJPW roster in the future. There are a lot of new faces in this year’s tournament, and after TJPW lost Natsupoi (Natsumi Maki), Mina Shirakawa and Unagi Sayaka, all three of who have shined in Stardom, there are definitely spots to be had up the card. For Yuki Arai, the question really becomes how badly does she want to wrestle? She has a career as an idol already, but if she decided to dedicate herself to joshi, she could be a major name to watch in the years to come. As for Yuki Aino, she just continues to shine when given the opportunity. She was a stand-out in last year’s Cup, and picked up right where she left off this year. This wasn’t a notebook match by far, but it was a fun watch for sure, with Arai slamming Aino right on her shoulder with a Full Nelson Buster, paid back with Aino hitting a stiff senton. Arai tapped out to a Full Nelson as Aino took the battle of Yuki’s. ***1/4
Marika Kobashi def. Nodoka Tenma
Huge upset alert, as Yuki Aino is the only Bakuretsu sister to advance past the first round as Marika Kobashi forces Nodoka Tenma to pass out to a guillotine choke. Meow! Before falling prey to the choke, Tenma was well on her way to victory, using her power advantage to maintain the upper hand. Down the final stretch, it looked like Kobashi was going to come up just short, hitting a flying kick followed by a springboard bulldog to seemingly take control, only for Tenma to come right back with a Samoan drop that looked like it sealed the feline’s fate, but when Tenma picked her off the canvas to put her away, Kobashi slipped around and rolled Tenma, yet rather than trying the leverage pin, used the opportunity to pounce on the guillotine as Tenma regained her footing. I loved this ending! ***1/4
Rika Tatsumi def. Hikari Noa
Back in the 80’s, right as I grew from a tween to an actual teen, there was this workout that was all the rage in the US called Buns of Steel. 4 years later, in the Nagano Prefecture, the White Dragon, Rika Tatsumi was born. Did little Rika’s mom work out to Buns of Steel when it first came out? Or maybe it took a few years to reach Japan, and she got the tape to help her lose the weight from carrying little Rika around for 9 months? And did little Rika innocently hit play on the VCR one day. when her mother forgot to put her workout tape away, in my mental image right after watching some All Japan women’s wrestling, and that’s what launched a thousand Missile Hips? But I digress…. Look, as much as the Missile Hips annoys me, this was great. Hikari Noa has passed Miu Watanabe in my mind as the most talented Up Up Girl, and I’d be a liar if I tried to say Rika Tatsumi isn’t a great wrestler. This was the best match of the first round, the only match I consider must see, and the only one to hit my notebook. The story made sense, with Tatsumi only surviving because Noa hit the Blizzard Suplex a bit too close to the ropes. Noa loses nothing by falling to the previous Princess titleholder, plus they set up an eventual rematch for the International Princess title, hopefully for Noa to get her win back. ****
Two easy watches to kick off this years Princess Cup, each clocking in at under 2 hours including an Up Up Girls performance and the normal warm-up of the crowd. If you only drop into TJPW for the bigger shows, you may want to take a pass on these and just drop in for night 3 and 4. If you are a fan of Joshi, which I assume you are since you are reading a review of a joshi show, make sure to at least check out Tatsumi/Noa from night 2, and you won’t be wasting your time watching Yamashita/Kakuta either. The second round has some nice matches coming up. Mizuki/Maiumi has the potential to be great, Kiryu/Suzume should be a lot of fun, and who knows what tricks Hyper Misao has in store for Rika Tatsumi? I’m also quite interested to see what Yamashita and Kamifuku can do together, and to follow the undercat Kobashi as she moves on to face TJPW’s resident kaiju, Shoko Nakajima. Another year and what looks like another great Princess Cup!