Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling
Grand Princess 2023
Watch: Wrestle Universe
Perhaps the biggest Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling (TJPW) event of the year, Grand Princess, comes to you from the Ariake Coliseum on March 18.
Suzume vs. Arisu Endo
I’m probably more hyped for this than any other match on the card, as this feels like a real proving ground for both wrestlers. Not that they need to prove they are good wrestlers, but let’s set the bar higher here. This is a real opportunity to see if the two Daisy Monkeys have a future in the main event scene down the road.
Storywise, it seems like this is a ‘friendly girl’ encounter so far, and the Daisy Monkey tag team is unlikely to explode, although I guess with the return of NBG, there’s always the looming threat that anyone can be turned to the dark side. It would be nice if these two played a bit into some of the tensions that were hinted at last year, particularly with Suzume seeming to thrive while Arisu struggled to get her first win. TJPW’s conservative booking tells makes Suzume the clear favorite here. Still, this is going to be a nice little match, with an outside chance of stealing the show. Prediction: Suzume
Mahiro, HIMAWARI, Wakana & Shino vs. Toga, Momo, Haru & Kaya
Who would have thought the phrase “Mahiro is going to carry this eight-person tag match” would manifest itself this year? This will be a good chance for everyone to get a look at the new additions but should be short and sweet. Prediction: A polite round of applause
Nao Kakuta, Hikari Noa & Ram Kaichow vs. Pom Harujuku, Yuki Aino & Raku
In many ways, this is the sort of tag match that could be on any TJPW card. Oh, but wait, they added Ram! Didn’t she ‘marry’ Raku last year? Why aren’t they on the same team? Another reason to suspect that TK books these undercard tags via some randomized gacha machine. I’m sure they have some funny Goodnight Express spot planned for this, but I don’t know if I can bring myself to care. Prediction: Free-Wifi put an end to the charade and start shooting on everyone
Ryo Mizunami vs. Moka Miyamoto
I see Moka as sitting just a little behind Arisu Endo in terms of potential. Maybe even more, I mean, I mark out for her woodchop spot more than Alice’s goofy pop-up dropkick. It’s plausible there’s an IP title challenge for Moka this year.
Look, we all know how this match is going to end, and I can’t see this match reaching the high gear, because in general, these outside vet vs. early career wrestlers matches that TJPW book are more about training up the latter than seeing the former go 100%. Nevertheless, this is an opportunity for Moka to shine. Prediction: Ryo Mizunami
Shoko Nakajima & Hyper Misao vs. Andreza Giant Panda & Neko Haruna
So when I said that Suzume vs. Endo was my most anticipated match, I was actually saying that to maintain my smark credibility. Enough with your strong styles, your King’s Road cosplayers, your technical wizards, I want to see a Giant Panda headbutt people.
Good for Haruna for getting this spot too. She’s been with the company for years, and I can’t remember the last time she did anything of interest, she’s normally tucked away on the forgettable multi man tags, but I’m looking forward to seeing how she handles the spotlight here. Prediction: Godzilla
Sakisama & Mei Saint Michel vs. Yuki Kamifuku & Billie Starkz
Neo Biishiki-Gun makes a triumphant return on the big stage! Sakisama is one of the last remaining holdouts from the era of TJPW where everyone had a clearly defined gimmick, and the one person on the roster who isn’t a ‘friendly girl.’ With Mei, this stable incarnation is arguably the most talented in-ring. However, their 2021 run, while strong, didn’t really have the sort of standout angle that previous years have had, and featured the all-time terrible booking decision to have Yamashita steamroll Sakisama in a no-build title defense in front of 200 people.
Still, I don’t think I’ve ever met a TJPW fan who wasn’t a Neo Biishiki-Gun, they are just too cool to be beaten down, and I’m hoping this is the start of a new dominant run in the tag division.
Kamiyu and Starkz are a good team, and if the chemistry is right, this could surpass expectations. Kamiyu’s had a growth spurt in recent years in terms of in-ring talent, and she’s a good ambassador for the brand, which means pairing her with the visiting rookie Starkz makes a lot of sense. Prediction: Neo Biishiki-Gun
Aja Kong vs. Yuki Arai
I will probably upset people now, but I can’t be bothered with Aja Kong in TJPW anymore. I mean, her career speaks for herself, and who the hell am I to complain, but if this is going to be a no-sell fest, with Yuki Arai bumping and emoting around the ring, then why not call in Yoshihiko?
Ok, this could be good, but if it is, it’ll all be on ‘Genius Girl’ Yuki Arai, who’s the sort of Kurt Angle figure of TJPW, in that she just freakin’ gets it. Prediction: Aja Kong
International Princess Championship
Rika Tatsumi © vs. Miu Watanabe
Have you noticed the theme of this show? Tag partners against Tag partners. Maybe having Raku and Ram on different sides did make sense after all, Koda you genius! It’s no shock that many people are excited for this match, and why wouldn’t they be, when you’ve got two wrestlers who have a habit of TURNING UP for big matches.
Over the past year Miu has made the jump to the upper midcard with real confidence and as I’ve said before, we’ll be talking about ‘Miu-style Princess Cup runs” for years to come. This is probably the most unpredictable match on the card, as tradition dictates the veteran, but momentum says Miu. Still, Rika as International Champion going into the US tour feels right. Prediction: Rika Tatsumi
Max the Impaler & Heidi Howitzer vs. Maki Itoh & Miyu Yamashita
I lamented above about the lack of cartoon gimmicks in TJPW these days, so you know I’m going to love the fact that Wasteland War Party are the current tag champs. They have some United States defenses lined up, so this match hasn’t been advertised for the titles yet, but come on, we all know they aren’t losing them to Jody Threat and Blair Onyx.
Itoh and Yamashita’s tag team comes across with a sort of ‘jocks rule’ type attitude. Itoh’s come a long way since her fired idol days and her character is now much brasher and less sympathetic. Given that the promotion’s meta is all about reaching the top of the pyramid, a place that Miyu has occupied pretty much since day one, it’s difficult to see what challenges are left to her. Well, apart from getting a return booking from AEW. Does a 121,000,000 tag run spice things up? Perhaps, but also, a WWP vs NBG tag match would be dimes. Or yen, or francs. Whatever currency, it feels like a slam dunk, and why else would they be bringing back NBG if not to set that up? That said, SuperCenaMiyu is always a threat here, and I can easily see a title change, especially going into the US tour.
I have no doubt this will be a really good match. It will likely be wildly overrated on Cagematch too. Prediction: Wasteland War Party
Princess of Princess Championship
Yuka Sakazaki © vs. Mizuki
About two and a half years ago, this was the match chosen to headline TJPW’s first-ever Wrestle Princess, and at the time, both myself and fellow reviewer Ed Grsevinsky gave it the full five stars. Now I’m no Dave Meltzer, and don’t give five stars lightly. The original Magirabbit vs. Magirabbit encounter was, and is TJPW’s best-ever match. So this is one of those matches where we need to temper our expectations because even if it doesn’t match the original, it will still be very good.
Whether you think the POP title has been booked well or you’ve been fuming at the Miyu/Yuka/Shoko carousel, it feels like we’re ready for a fresh champion, and Mizuki fits the bill in every possible way. As well as being one of the biggest merch movers in the entire DDT ecosystem, she’s arguably the most consistent in-ring performer in the promotion (hey, I said arguably). You don’t really get bad Mizuki matches. What better way to kick off the year of the Rabbit than with a feel-good moment at the biggest show of the Spring?
There have been times when the stars felt aligned for a title change that didn’t happen (Yamashita vs. Itoh at Wrestle Princess II, for instance), so this will be absolutely nail-biting right down to the end. Also, come on, Yuka’s good; when she’s on form, she’s absolutely scintillating. Someone needs to clip her forearm smashes and send the tape to American locker rooms as an example of how to make your strikes look good. Big expectations here! Prediction: Mizuki
Overall, you could sell TJPW Grand Princess 2023 on the main event alone, but in addition, we’ve got what should be a cracking tag title match and a couple of partner vs. partner singles that will likely be technically enthralling. Add to that a Giant Panda. What more could you want?
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