Tokyo Joshi Pro-Wrestling
Grand Princess 2023
March 18, 2023
Watch: Wrestle Universe
Following a long line of Tokyo Joshi Pro’s Princess-themed shows and title belts, it’s Grand Princess 2023!
Meet the reviewers:
Ewan Cameron has been reviewing TJPW for Voices of Wrestling since 2018. He has a twitter but he’s not telling it to you.
Scott Edwards covers Joshi wrestling for Voices of Wrestling and Fightful. His work with VOW is more often than not previews and coverage for STARDOM while he conducts interviews with Fightful as well as full-on coverage for the entire Joshi scene.
Suzume def. Arisu Endo
Ewan: Over time a certain unspoken rubric has crept into the western wrestling scene about what makes a great match, it’s difficult to pin down but it normally amounts to a certain grab bag of techniques, moves and structure. If you followed that very general consensus, you’d probably say this match was a 3-star match. But here’s the thing, star ratings have become so inflated these days that some people might think three stars is a bad rating. But there were no mistakes here; everything was smooth. In fact, put aside your expectations that a four-star match has to have people flying off the top rope, go 20 minutes, or have people bleeding for the sake of it, because this match was actually excellently executed. The grappling was innovative, the high flying was on point and Suzume’s struggle to escape the camel clutch was vividly real. This match was the equivalent of eating a really good sandwich. I’ll leave you to figure out what that means. A Match of the Year contender. ***
Scott: This was a perfect way to open this show. Set the tone, energy, and really anything else you’d be looking for. Daisy Monkey colliding was just the start of tag teams going head-to-head on the night. I think what I liked most about this match was the confidence of Suzume. She looked determined out there and as if she knew she should be higher on the card. They had somewhat of a high-speed style match as Arisu Endo showed flashes of what really makes her unique from much of the TJPW roster.
About as good an opener as they could have had with the right person getting the win. This should be the start of a big year for Suzume and the continuation of what is already Endo’s best year in her career. Please. ***
HIMAWARI, Mahiro Kiryu, Shino Suzuki & Wakana Uehara def. Haru Kazeshiro, Kaya Toribami, Runa Okubo & Toga
Ewan: I wonder how we’ll look back on this match in years to come. From the batch of rookies, I think HIMAWARI and Wakana have something that could be molded into “it”, as, to be fair, they all do. It was a decent enough introduction.
Scott: Not too sure what else you’d expect from a match featuring six rookies, some of which were just debuting, and two roster members who surely aren’t the top workers on the roster by any stretch. For a rookie showcase, it had its moments. Wakana Uehara was the clear star of the match with everyone else, including the “veterans,” feeling like an afterthought comparably. Not a fault to them but a credit to who Uehara has quickly become. She even did the Muta Elbow!
Other noteworthy moments are that Toga may be an interesting powerhouse somewhere down the line. She got the biggest highlight from the losing team (including being pinned) but definitely proved she deserved that shine. Shino Suzuki feels more like Hikari Noa and Miu Watanabe rather than Raku in terms of her future and HIMAWARI looked like she had a good time. *½
Free WiFi (Hikari Noa & Nao Kakuta) & Ram Kaicho defeat Pom Harajuku, Raku & Yuki Aino
Scott: Ram Kaichow and Raku had a wedding once and… never mind. This was exactly what you’d expect it to be when you read the names Pom, Raku, and Ram. There was sleeping, comedy, and everything in between. Oh, and a tad bit of wrestling. Free Wi-Fi won, so that’s good, I guess. ½*
Ryo Mizunami def. Moka Miyamoto
Ewan: Chris Brookes said, “nice effort by Moka Miyamoto” and I don’t have anything else to add. I’m a fan of Moka, but this wasn’t a notable match.
Scott: The weakest match of the “Ryo Mizunami Step Up Series” in TJPW but still accomplished the mission that it was supposed to. That mission? Having Moka Miyamoto show what she’s all about on the big stage. We saw it with Miu Watanabe and Suzume in 2022, and while I believe those two are levels above Miyamoto, she still had one of the better singles outings I’ve seen from her. The resiliency and heart were what everyone should take away from this one when it comes to Moka as her in-ring work is still a bit flat. Mizunami remains a great addition to any major TJPW card and should keep these up. Fine little match. **½
Kyoraku Kyomei (Hyper Misao & Shoko Nakajima) def. Andreza Giant Panda & Haruna Neko
Ewan: Andreza Giant Panda matches are like pizza to me; even when they’re bad, they’re good. And this was a margarita. There’s something inherently fun about watching a giant panda, totally out of scale with its surroundings, navigate the human world. Fun, and nice to see Neko get a spot outside the opening tag matches.
Scott: I do not have a connection to the Giant Panda. This is my nice way of saying I didn’t enjoy this. And I knew that going in! DUD
NEO Biishiki-gun (Mei Saint-Michel & Sakisama) def. Billie Starkz & Yuki Kamifuku
Ewan: There are two things this match was memorable for. Firstly, Mei played the scrappy sidekick to perfection. It’s a real throwback to when TJPW was an ensemble of cartoon characters, and it’s a joy to watch alongside an inventive and adaptive move set borne from the close confines of the GTMV set.
The other thing that people will remember is Billie Starkz launching herself head first off the top rope to the floor, managing to avoid maiming herself by a whisker. If any promotion proves that you don’t need to do big dangerous moves to get over, it’s TJPW. I feel like I don’t want to watch a Bille Starkz match live now. Like, I’d need to know beforehand that no Space Jesus’ were harmed in the making of this wrestling match. Chris Brookes essentially gives her a public scolding on commentary, after the match pointing out that if she wants to live to 19, she should “cut that one out of the arsenal.”
Scott: This is the type of comedy match I can get behind and get some laughs from. This match marked the grand return of Billie Starkz to TJPW, as she has only gotten better and better since the last time she competed in the promotion at the end of 2022. NEO Biishiki-gun’s Sakisama and Mei Saint-Michel also made their first appearance in almost a year, and they did not disappoint.
What was much better about this than the previous two comedy matches is that there was a lot of wrestling to go along with it. Starkz hit an insane Swanton Bomb to the outside of the ring onto Saint-Michel that looked terrifying. A crazy move to go for, but she nailed it! Sakisama and Saint-Michel did what they often do as a duo, and that’s shine. The mixture of roses, usage of a tray, and multiple tag team moves had this match reaching a level that made this match very entertaining. This is the match that got the show back on track. Good job to all four. **¾
Aja Kong def. Yuki Arai
Ewan: I may have to walk back my earlier comments in the preview about not being interested in Aja Kong, because her entrance and presence here really had a rockstar feel. This was also her most generous TJPW match by far, and while I don’t think anyone really believed Arai was winning, she got some great nearfalls and a 19 count. The star of the show was undoubtedly Yuki Arai, and with her performance here, you wonder if she’ll be getting a POP title shot soon. Among other things, she does a great bump/sell job with strikes, flopping in a way that just skirts the line of believability. More generally she just has that spark of charisma that makes marquee matches such as this incredibly watchable. This reminded me of her 2021 match with Mirai (which was better than this), but this was not the boring plod I thought it would be. ***1/2
Scott: There’s something special about the spirit and heart of Yuki Arai. It’s infectious. And it makes her matches, even when they aren’t nearly as technically sound as many of the best wrestlers in the world are, always an exciting watch. Up until this point, the match of the night was the one that saw Arai try to survive, claw, and battle against a legend of the pro wrestling ring in Aja Kong. It’s interesting to look at such a match with excitement seeing Kong is long past her prime years and Arai still has a ways to go before she’s ready to become a main event star. Interesting because it works. Interesting because it did everything it was supposed to do. Arai is not only a future Princess of Princess Champion but she has what it takes to be the face of TJPW. My thoughts on Arai have gone back and forth. Her Finally axe kick (which she hit five times), can look pretty bad seeing she misses more than you’d expect. But when she hits it like she did in this match, you understand the purpose behind it as it gives her hope and fans that hope as well. Watching Aja Kong club Arai with a slap and dropping her with a Saito Suplex was entertaining and worrying. The fact the SKE48 idol wasn’t done after that tells you all you need to know. This wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t pretty. A Brainbuster spelled the end for Arai. But it’s the exact match that highlights what TJPW does incredibly well. ***½
International Princess Title
Rika Tatsumi def. Miu Watanabe (c)
Ewan: The second tag team partners singles match on the card featuring a pair with very different approaches. Miu knocks down your HP in big chunks of hammer blows and slams, while Rika finds innovative ways to grind down her opponent’s strength, always with a wide impish smile, making the overall effect a sort of laser-precision mischief.
This was great, as we all expected. Rika Tatsumi is low-key one of the best wrestlers in the world when it comes to laying out a match because there’s always some intangible feeling that you’ve seen something great, but you can’t quite put your finger on what exactly it was. Take nothing away from Miu, either. She wasn’t in full-on desperate babyface mode here, but she delivered some great power moves and baseball chops that kept the result in balance. ****
Scott: Daydream going head-to-head. What could happen? Excellence. That’s what. When Rika Tatsumi laid down the challenge to Miu Watanabe, it was hard to be anything but excited about the prospects of the match. Watanabe has been on an unstoppable roll inside the ring since the Tokyo Princess Cup, carrying the momentum she gained by defeating Miyu Yamashita into an International Princess Championship victory. Through her reign, she’s taken on challenges from inside and outside of TJPW, never afraid of who stepped in front of her. That confidence remained the same against Tatsumi, and as we saw in the match, it nearly carried her to the most important title defense of her reign. The key word, however, is “nearly.” She believed she could beat her tag team partner and even hit the Teardrop from the top rope in stunning fashion—but somehow, Tatsumi had enough in her to bounce back. Bounceback to the point that the Dragon Sleeper would spell the end for Watanabe. And a brutal looking one at that. You could feel the end when she first locked it on, and you knew it was over when Tatsumi wrenched back until Watanabe had no other choice but to give up. There was no doubt by the end of this match that Watanabe was now ready to make the step up from the International Princess Championship to the Princess of Princess Championship — even in defeat. That’s how good of a performance she had. This match lived up to the potential it had in many people’s eyes, including mine. ****
Princess Tag Team Titles
121000000 (Maki Ito & Miyu Yamashita) defeat Wasteland War Party (Heidi Howitzer & Max The Impaler) (c)
Ewan: Was this a good match? Yes. Will people talk about it for years to come? Nope. Also, has anyone else said that the move that 121000000 does where Itoh stands on Yamashita’s thighs is rubbish? WWP has such a great look, and TJPW is bringing them back for more shows. Hey, why not let them keep the belts then and have a match with Shoko and Misao? Itoh’s new gear has a ludicrously big bow on the front, and now more than ever, she has strong Miyacoco vibes. This reminds me how much I enjoyed the Miyacoco-produced show from last year, which you can watch on Wrestle Universe. This was fine, but if the opener was the best 3-star match you’ll see all year, this was an ‘ok, that didn’t live up to the hype’ 3. Itoh and Yamashita versus Shoko and Misao remains the high watermark for TJPW’s tag division this year.
Scott: MIYU AND MAKI DID IT! That’s all that matters! The match itself wasn’t anything out of the ordinary as Miyu Yamashita, and Maki Itoh did all they could to cut down the monsters, and it worked out for them. The Wasteland War Party should have had the chance to defend the titles one more time in Japan prior to this but once this match was made, there was only one result that made sense. Itoh getting the win for them was the cherry on top. As she continues to try and get to the level of her tag team partner, it’s moments like these that will matter in the long run. A good match with the perfect winners. **¾
Princess of Princess Title
Mizuki defeats Yuka Sakazaki (c)
Ewan: I’ll get the headline out of the way first. This wasn’t as good as the Wrestle Princess 1 match. It was still a great match though, although I have a few problems/nitpicks with the overall structure. My initial thoughts as the pin was counted, was, “wait, that was it?”, despite Mizuki hitting her diving stomp and Cutie Special finisher, it felt like a slight anticlimax. However, the more I think about this match, the more I’m glad they decided to do something different, especially when I’m often the first to complain about “good matches” being too formulaic. What I’m saying is that you don’t need finisher kickout spam to have a great match.
What was great about this match was the elegance and the execution of the moves, which was underlined by an emotional story of a long-time tag team, one of whom was reluctant to go hard and the other who was going as hard as she could because she needed to step out of her partner’s shadow.
And that was kind of the problem with the match too. Early on, Yuka scoops Mizuki up for a slam on the concrete and then stops, not wanting to hurt her partner. There’s nothing wrong with this per se, but you risk having Mizuki win the match with a little kayfabe asterisk saying, “but Sakazaki didn’t try her hardest.” A lot of this match was Sakazaki in the driving seat, wearing Mizuki down but failing to really invoke that killer instinct. Mizuki fought valiantly back and finally put Sakazaki down with the Cutie special.
After the bell, Yuka hangs around, Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania 6 style, to hand over the metaphorical torch to Mizuki. I know this was meant to build into the lore, but come on, give Miz her moment. ****
Scott: My only wish is that the crowd existed more in this show. They had moments, but for this match and really everything we saw, there wasn’t enough noise. A shame. This match more than any other, would have benefitted from a crowd that felt like they were present. Mizuki’s Cutie Special for the win was more of a shock to them all rather than the moment that it should have been, and I think that hurt what I thought was an actual great match. I’m aware this is one that not everyone will agree upon, though. There was a good story to it with emotions all over the faces of both competitors. After all, Magical Sugar Rabbits have gone through a lot more since they last faced off with the gold on the line. This was the fifth opportunity for Mizuki to become Princess of Princess Champion and in a lot of ways, it felt like the final if she came up short. The emotional encounter only got better as it went on. Sakazaki was no longer letting up — she was hitting harder and harder. She was doing everything in her power to keep that championship by the end. She didn’t want Mizuki to take it from her and by that point, she knew things were going to have to change. Harder strikes and an eye on the prize. The Magical Merry-Go-Round from the top rope followed by another was jaw-dropping, but when Mizuki kicked out, you knew she wasn’t going to be denied her moment this time around.
The surge to close out the match and the win is what made the moment perfect. Mizuki was done playing second fiddle to a pillar like Sakazaki and she took the win, she certainly wasn’t handed it. A combo of Cutie Specials was all she needed to become the new champion. The finish felt sudden in a lot of ways — something that I put on the crowd’s inconsistency throughout the night — and maybe left me want just a little more but the win was still fulfilling.
Now is when the exciting part starts. Mizuki has her shot to write her own history with the belt. Lead TJPW by example and hopefully be the first of many new faces to hold the top prize in the company. An overall very good main event to close out a mostly good show. ***¾
Ewan: I’m in agreement with Scott on most things here (except Pandas!) This was a show carried by the three partner vs. partner matches, which were all excellent, and Mizuki/Yuka was only somewhat disappointing because it’s impossible not to compare it to the encounter at Wrestle Princess I, which might be the best TJPW match of all time. But it’s a match that was rich in history and deserves a second watch. Everything else was middling, and while the Ariake Coliseum certainly had a fresh vibe, the show couldn’t match the atmosphere of last year’s show, and at times, including the main event, things felt a bit subdued. On the whole, a good show, but not an all-timer.
Scott: Heading into the show, there was real potential on paper for this to not only be the Joshi Show of the Year but a true Show of the Year Contender. If the crowd wanted to have a bit more life from start to finish, I feel I’d be walking away from this show with a better mindset. At the very least, it will be in the discussion for some on the Joshi side of things, but for me will be bested (or already has been) to this point. Not a fault on anyone here as the big matches delivered with the fighting spirit of Yuki Arai and Mizuki being the true shining moments (for me) from this show, along with the big title victory for Maki Itoh and Miyu Yamashita—which mattered most to me in the end. I’ve never been happier with their crew of champions, however, so that makes the future exciting, which should be the goal at the end of any major show. Good job.
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