January 4, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo Joshi Pro’s biggest show of the year helped start off 2019, and had three really intriguing matches scheduled for the top of the card.
A year to the day after their quadruple debut in a tag match against each other the Up Up Girls, sporting brand new gimmicks and names (kind of), teamed together in an 8-woman tag against Haruna Neko, Marika Kobashi, Mina Shirakawa & Pom Harajuku.
The Up Up Girls are now Hikari Noa, Miu Watanabe, Pinano Pipipipi & Raku. The new names and looks were unveiled at a concert a few days prior. For the most part the new gear stuck to the established color scheme for each but now varies by their individual tastes and personalities. I kind of feel like the one who most needed a new direction changed the least (including leaving her name the same with just a different Japanese spelling), but overall all the new looks are good, nicely unique, and complimentary. The way Hinano fully embraced repackaging is great (she’s the only one who really changed her name, not just adding a last name or changing the spelling, and she also went multi color in her gear and changed her distinctive pigtails), and Hikari’s goth tendencies coming through is awesome.
Back to the match, it was an ok affair with a fair bit of the expected awkwardness given seven of the eight competitors had a year or less experience. It went a bit too long for what it was, but the effort was there, a few wrestlers stood out, and the Up Up Girls felt like a nicely unified unit on their way to a victory.
I will admit that Pom’s wrestling tends to grate on my nerves a bit. For example I’ve never seen her even so much as feint anything other than the shin kicks when rushing people in the corner. So instead of Pom looking like she outsmarts her opponents or something by kicking the shins as a response when her opponents throw their hands up to block their faces, her opponents always look like complete morons for blocking their faces in the first place. She has potential and we’ll see how things go, but everyone has their own preferences and pet peeves and her act’s not coming together that well for me so far.
The second match was a triple threat “Queen of USA match” with Hyper Misao vs Yuna Manase vs Veda Scott. The three fought over a star spangled hat (which eventually became three star spangled hats), danced when they managed to wear the hats, and Veda won when she was able to dance long enough uninterrupted. Meh. Not my thing, but it was short enough and the rest of the crowd was highly amused.
With a bit of buzz about her departure from Actwres Girlz, Maki Natsumi made her TJP debut teaming with Millie McKenzie against the BAKURETSU Sisters (Nodoka Tenma & Yuki Aino). Really good match, with Maki and Millie both looking impressive and having great chemistry as a team. While I’m still waiting for a bit more momentum to be built for the repackaged Nodoka Temna, Maki & Millie going over here was definitely the right call.
My first look at Saki Akai in a while was honestly a largely forgettable affair. She teamed with rookie YUMI to defeat Himawari Unagi & Yuki Kamifuku, and my only recollection of this match is leaving it wanting to see more from Yumi in the future.
Ever since seeing Meiko Satomura come to TJP in August 2017 I’ve been dying to see my personal favorite from the promotion, the Muscle Idol Reika Saiki, get a shot at the legend. Reika just keeps getting better and better, utilizing her incredible power in wonderful ways and really strives to excel at everything she does. Meiko is quite simply the greatest wrestler in the world. I certainly wasn’t disappointed with this battle. Reika went toe-to-toe with the 23-year veteran at several points, and had an excellent, hard hitting, back and forth showing before Meiko put down the upstart. My match of the night.
In an interesting parallel, the Tokyo Princess Tag Team Title Match involved the same four wrestlers as the prior year’s event, but in different pairs. Yuka Sakazaki now held the titles with Mizuki, and her former championship partner Shoko Nakajima challenged alongside Gatoh Move’s Riho (who teamed with Mizuki to challenge Yuka & Shoko the prior year).
I found the previous year’s match just a touch better overall, but that’s slight criticism and this was still an excellent, high energy example of tag team wrestling. Again all four’s jaw dropping athleticism was on display in innovative double teams and exciting action. Down the stretch this became about Shoko trying to prove herself against her former partner, and she looked absolutely emotionally wrecked afterwards about coming up short and being pinned by Yuka.
The main event for the Tokyo Princess of Princess Championship saw the company’s ace versus the overachieving rebel as Miyu Yamashita defended against Maki Itoh
Itoh’s limitations in the ring meant this wasn’t a technical masterpiece, but that was never the point. She grown into being a decent wrestler through force of willpower, and that journey and her incredible charisma make her impossible not to root for. This was always going to be a battle of the champion outclassing the brash upstart punching above her weight, who would then either refuse to die long enough to wear down Miyu and score the upset, or eventually succumb to the champ’s assault.
Between Itoh’s unique moveset (including spots like blocking an axe kick with a headbutt) and the story and limitations I mentioned, this match might not be terribly accessible to new viewers in isolation. But for those who have been following Itoh’s quest it was captivating and exactly what it should have been, and the crowd was into it the whole time. It was not quite Itoh’s time it seems, and Miyu would emerge with her title intact.
Decent, crowd pleasing show from Tokyo Joshi Pro to kick off the new year. A little hit or miss in the undercard but still quite fun overall, with a pair of excellent matches plus an appropriately worked main event closing out the show in a strong way.