Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling
Wrestle Princess III
October 9, 2022
Tokyo Dome City Hall
Winter is around the corner, which means that Wrestle Princess is here.
Launched two years ago, Wrestle Princess is TJPW’s premier show of the year. Or is it? This year we’ve had Grand Princess and Summer Sun Princess (noticing a theme here…) which had similar big event feels, both of which had higher attendance than last year’s Wrestle Princess. Nevertheless, for this reviewer, at least, Wrestle Princess remains the biggest show of the year for TJPW, in no small part due to its legacy of fantastic shows. Let’s look at what TJPW has got for us this time around.
Princess of Princess Championship
Shoko Nakajima (c) vs. Yuka Sakazaki
There’s been a smattering of mumbling about TJPW booking this year, and for those who feel that the promotion books far too conservatively, this main event will hardly provide a rebuttal. I’ve certainly been critical in this regard too, particularly when it comes to Rika’s oddly truncated reign and the way that Mizuki and Maki Itoh feel like they’ve been waiting a long time in the title queue. That said, four champs in four years feels like a pretty healthy ratio for a promotion, especially when those four are your long-term pillars and company loyalists. Furthermore, if you want your main event sparkle, you can’t go wrong with these two.
While we can argue about who the best wrestler in TJPW is, we can probably all agree that Shoko and Yuka are up there. Back in 2019, at the superlative Ultimate Party, a multi-promotion supercard featuring wrestlers from DDT, Ganbare and Basara, it was Shoko and Yuka that flew the flag for TJPW. In my review at the time, I wrote that the match was “a victory not just for Yuka and not just for Shoko, but for TJPW,” in the sense that it was the moment where this so-called ‘idol promotion’ proved they could hang at the highest levels of pro wrestling.
It will be difficult, though not impossible, for this return encounter to reach those same heights, particularly regarding the emotional element. With pillar matches, TJPW often draws on the ‘look how far we’ve come since we were wrestling on mats’ story, which is a good company mythos, but also risks saturation, particularly when we’re fast approaching the ten-year anniversary, which is certain to feature bucket loads of nostalgic celebrations. That said, this match will thrive based on the in-ring and I wouldn’t put it against these two to deliver another match of the year contender.
Princess Tag Team Championships
Saki Akai & Yuki Arai (c) vs. Rhia O’Reilly & Nightshade
While I’m not familiar with the visitors, I’m excited to see new wrestlers on this stage and the natural charisma of both Yuki Arai and Saki Akai will certainly make this watchable, whatever the weather. Arai has been a huge success story for TJPW both in terms of ring work and cross-promotional synergy and it’s hard to see this going any other way except a win for the incumbents.
International Princess Championship
Alex Windsor (c) vs. Miu Watanabe
I firmly believe that In years to come, people will still be using the phrase “Miu-style Princess Cup run” to describe those kinds of tournament journeys that firmly elevate a wrestler to the upper realms. And while there were grumbles from some parts of the fanbase about her not winning the Cup outright, if I could find a bookie that has odds on TJPW matches, I’d be putting a cheeky fiver that it’s this match that will be her coronation (or whatever the correct word is for Princesses).
Alex Windsor was mightily impressive in her victory over Maki Itoh this year and brought a physical confidence to the fight that put her above many of her peers. A match with TJPW’s powerhouse is a perfect match up and this could steal the show. Seemingly conceived as a way to both expand TJPW’s international partnerships and to give the midcard something to fight for, the IP title has had something of a rocky history to say the least. Injuries, global lockdowns and luggage mishaps have led to few memorable reigns. A Miu win might be the victory that gets things back on track.
Miyu Yamashita & Maki Itoh vs. Riho & Hikari Noa
One of my biggest complaints about TJPW is the haphazard way they treat tag teams. Itoh and Yamashita are a semi-regular team and with both of them out of any title contention, it makes sense to team them up. So why isn’t this 121000000 vs Free Wifi? Why split up Hikari and Nao for the big show? Riho is a regular TJPW guest and I’m sure there’s some calculation that by having her on the show they might sell a few more tickets, but why not put her in the six man and let Free Wifi have the spotlight here? At least then there would be some intrigue in guessing which member of the team facing Yamashita and Itoh was taking the fall. I’m sure this will be a good match, but I can’t help feeling that this match doesn’t play to the strengths of any of the participants.
Aja Kong, Pom Harajuku & Raku vs. Max The Impaler, Rika Tatsumi & Yuki Aino
Someone along the line, Aja Kong and Raku became wrestling’s most unlikeliest tag team and since Summer Sun, Pom has apparently joined them too. We’ll likely get some fun spots with Max freaking out Pom and Raku only for Aja to step in and go toe to toe with the Impaler. Rika’s presence here should elevate the match to a higher standard than the usual fare.
Mizuki vs. Hyper Misao
So with their tag partners in the main event, it’s somewhat natural that the other half of Magirabbits and Kyoraku Kyomei would face off in a special singles match. This feels somewhat of an unusual combination. Since joining TJPW, Mizuki’s singles career has been a fairly stable upwards trajectory, picking up back-to-back Princess Cup wins and being a part of that match with Yuka Sakazaki at the very first Wrestleprincess. She’s a wrestler who seems destined for a POP title run. Misao, on the other hand, has always flirted with the more avant-garde nature of the promotion and has a portfolio as diverse as her personalities, from deathmatches with Jun Kasai, to her flirtations with the darkside, to ridiculous stipulations and announcements for almost every match. Misao generally puts being a hero ahead of winning matches. Mizuki can definitely have fun too, as her various Magirabbit adventures have shown us, and Misao, when she wants to, can get serious in the ring. Part of the fun here will be seeing what type of match they give us.
Suzume vs. Ryo Mizunami
With all the plaudits being aimed at Miu Watanabe this year as TJPW’s breakout star, it’s been easy to forget that Suzume’s Princess Cup run was almost as impressive, picking up a win against Rika Tatsumi in the quarter finals before succumbing to Yuka in the semis. There’s no way that she’s winning this, but a prestige match against Ryo Mizunami is a chance for Suzy May to get a bit of buzz going into the winter season.
Mahiro Kiryu, Yuki Kamufuku & Haruna Neko vs. Yoshiko Hasegawa, Yuna Manase & Nao Kakuta
It’s no fault of the performers that this feels like a filler match. Perhaps it’s just not the TJPW way, but I wish we got a bit more story to these undercard matches. Always happy to see Yuna Manase and the energy she brings to her matches these days. Not familiar with Hasegawa, but I am reliably informed by Joshi expert and VOW discord regular Donal, that she’s a rookie who had a big debut in 2019 against Tsukka.
Moka Miyamoto & Juria Nagano vs. Kaya Toribami & Arisu Endo
This is not the potential match of the night but it is the “potential” match of the night. It’s actually quite refreshing to see these four in a match, as normally they’d be your designated pin-eaters against higher ranked opponents, but it’s a little more difficult to see who takes the fall or picks up the win here. Moka has been getting one of those subtle TJPW undercard pushes this year, which means she’s been racking up the losses as usual, but in places much higher on the card, for instance, tagging with Hikaru Shida and getting a singles match against Mei Suruga. Arisu Endo has similarly had a year where she’s levelled up in terms of ability and I’m hoping that the build to her finally getting a singles win is sooner rather than later. I’d like to see either one of these two get the win for their team here and get some momentum going forward.
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