Live In Los Angeles
March 31, 2023
Los Angeles, California
If you’ve never watched TJPW before, this is a great intro. To be fair to the WM Weekend milieu, it does feel like this year we’re seeing more indies working on their brand, but TJPW really stands out as something that existed in a bubble all of its own and this made the show a richer experience.
TJPW’s brand is, for better or worse, friendly girls wrestling. There’s a general meta that instead of bloodfeuds or angles, every match is the ongoing story of individuals struggling their way up the mountain top. There might be some hurt feelings every now and then, but they’ll all come together at the end of the show for a group hug. Actually it was pretty funny at the post-main event celebration seeing Max the Impaler sort of hanging halfway inside the ring wondering whether to break their character and get in the ring for the photo op.
In terms of ring work, TJPW’s style has evolved with its performers. You certainly see a lot more dives in TJPW these days than you did 5 years ago. Overall, though, TJPW’s ring aesthetic has always been about doing the basics well and having a match psychology that works. This is after all the promotion where people cheer for a bodyslam (as they did today when Miu slammed Heidi and Max). In short, TJPW makes movez matter, as punctuation rather than prose.
Free WiFi (Hikari Noa & Nao Kakuta) def. Arisu Endo & Suzume (11:37)
At Grand Princess 2023, Arisu and Suzume had a brilliant opening match that was kinda my favourite thing on the whole show. There’s a real buzz (geddit she’s a bee!) about Suzume right now and Arisu is really putting the work in to be seen on her partner’s level. This match was excellent and Hikari and Nao really had their working boots on for this one too. Sumptuous wrestling. ***1/2
Janai Kai def. Yuki Kamifuku (5:11)
One thing about this show is how BAD the audio was. Seriously, the commentary was crisp and clear, while the crowd sounded like they were a mile away in a swimming pool. Still, you could certainly hear the boos when TJPW legend Kamiyu was pinned in just over five minutes. **
Hyper Misao & Trish Adora def. Raku & Yuki Aino (9:16)
Wow Trish is really over here! As is Misao. I don’t remember much about this match, but people new to TJPW were probably really confused by Raku’s lullaby spot which was muted for the audience watching at home due to the rubbish audio. **
Wasteland War Party (Heidi Howitzer & Max The Impaler) def. Miu Watanabe & Shoko Nakajima (11:51)
Nice match, with everything building to Miu doing consecutive bodyslams on those big ol’ WWPers and Shoko diving out the ring like a speeding bullet. Fun stuff, and Wasteland War Party continue to fit very snugly into TJPW. The over the top apocalypse gimmicks have been great for the other girls to bounce off, both literally and in terms of character work, and their return to Japan is welcome news. ***
International Princess Title: Rika Tatsumi (c) def. Billie Starkz (8:44)
Rika’s TJPW’s master of the match layout, but this never really went long enough to be a classic. Still, it was fun for what it was, and featured a crazy german suplex spot that went wrong, but then turned into a stumble that looked 500x more brutal. Rika quite literally claims Billie Starkz scalp at the end, stealing her bunny head gear as she left the ring victorious. **3/4
Princess Tag Team Title: Magical Sugar Rabbits (Mizuki & Yuka Sakazaki) def. 121000000 (Maki Ito & Miyu Yamashita) (c) (16:07)
Hey you TJPW non-watcher! Watch this match! So this show wasn’t really about the star ratings, it was about the holistic experience of seeing a TJPW show in America. But if you are the type of person with people to see and places to be and can only see one match on this card, then this is it. You probably know Itoh, Yuka and Miyu, and if you’ve not seen Mizuki before, be prepared for a treat. In fact the “poppin’ sugar rabbit” basically carried this match and even treated fans to the super secret Whirling Candy move, executed to absolute perfection on Miyu Yamashita. This is the one guys! ****
Overall, this was a solid showing for TJPW’s first US excursion. They decided to eschew any angles or convoluted storylines and just deliver a straightforward collection of matches to give fans both new and old, a snapshot into the promotion. If you’re new to TJPW, you’ll get the vibe from the first match and can see from there whether you want to go on, but wrestling fans of all stripes should enjoy the first and last matches.