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Tokyo Joshi Pro-Wrestling ’19 results

Credit: @totaldivaseps/Twitter

Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling’s first show of 2019 was a good one, with Miyu Yamashita vs. Maki Itoh for the Tokyo Princess of Princess Championship in the main event, Reika Saiki vs. Meiko Satomura, and more.

You can watch this show on DDT Universe, where it also streamed live at 12 PM JST on Jan. 4. Any translations in this article come from DDT English Update on Twitter.

After announcements from the Bakuretsu sisters, the show opened with a new song from the Up Up Girls, “Upper Chop.” The Up Up Girls recently got new, more individualized gear, and new names. Hinano became Pinano Pipipipi, Miu became Miu Watanabe, Hikaru became Hikari Noa, and Raku became Raku (with different Japanese characters.)

The idol group gained a significant in-ring accomplishment at this show when they defeated the slightly more experienced team of Mina Shirakawa, Haruna Neko, Pom Harajuku, and the returning Marika Kobashi. The match was far from the best on the card, but it worked as an opener and gave everyone a moment to showcase their skills and character. Noa tapped out Harajuku to win it for her team and set herself apart, at least for this show, from the rest of the Up Up Girls.

The second match was originally billed as a normal triple threat between Hyper Misao, Veda Scott, and Yuna Manase, but gained a new stipulation at the last minute. After all three women were in the ring, it was revealed this would be the second-ever Queen of USA match. Whoever put a stars-and-stripes hat on her head and danced her heart out, as determined by the referee’s discretion, would win the match. Misao got on the mic and revealed that she hasn’t stopped thinking about this type of match since she lost the first one to Manase, and requested this match with Scott. Scott protested that she was not prepared for this at all, but quickly got right into the frantic comedy match action with the Misao and Manase.

The match was fun and absurd in a way that reminded you TJPW is part of the DDT Universe. The wrestlers all put the hat on the ref, who got booed for taking it off without dancing, and Misao used Scott’s cat head as a distraction. Everyone managed to dance for a few moments, but Scott picked up the win after taking Manase out with a spear for long enough to buy her time to show off her moves.

The third match on the card was a tag team contest between the Bakaretsu sisters (Nodoka Tenma and Yuji Aino) and TJPW debuts Millie McKenzie and Natsumi Maki. Maki, a hot free agent in the joshi world, and McKenzie, here through DDT’s partnership with Fight Club Pro, both got time to shine.

McKenzie and Nodoka tried to overpower each other as they went hold-to-hold in the match’s opening sequence, and the audience appreciated it. McKenzie’s series of suplexes and higher impact moves later in the match made her look like a powerhouse. Natsumi vs. Aino didn’t start out quite as strong, but Natsumi got to show off more of her moveset as the match went on, and won it with a beautiful German suplex followed by an impressive bridge out of it. Overall, this match made me excited to see more of these newcomers, and the Bakaretsu sisters played their supporting roles well.

The next match, in which Saki Akai and Yumi defeated Yuki Kamifuku and the debuting Himawari Unagi, was weaker. Unagi, a former Olympic candidate and synchronized swimmer (as you could guess from her gear), was the last of a series of graduates from the Tokyo Joshi Pro dojo. She started her first match by getting devastatingly kicked in the legs by Akai. The DDT regular/fashion model, who hadn’t shown up in TJPW for a while, was all business in her returning match. She and the enthusiastic, green Yumi made a cute odd-couple tag team.

Yumi looked a little stronger, maybe inspired by her more experienced partner than in the past, stomping Kamifuku and getting a nearfall after she trash-talked her for being 14 years old.  However, she spent much of the bout in peril, until Akai was tagged in to continue her rivalry with Kamifuku, then tapped out Unagi to win the match. This match didn’t show off enough of Unagi to create a strong impression about her, but it wasn’t a notably bad debut for her either.

The stories of Meiko Satomura’s matches with up-and-coming wrestlers are always compelling. She’s the final boss and a terrifying mentor figure. She cares about joshi and she wants her younger opponents to step up and raise the level of competition for the next generation. Because this is Japanese pro wrestling, the way she brings out the best in them is by beating the tar out of them, and also shows that as long as she can fight hard and win to keep her position in joshi world, she’ll continue to do both.

Reika Saiki, a fan of Satomura and her philosophy, helped accentuate the air of gravitas around her opponent as she took deep breaths in the corner, as Satomura’s theme song started to play. She looked like she knew what she was getting into as they stared each other down before the bell, and brought it as the match kicked off hard-hitting. Still, Satomura looked like she had thoroughly out-classed Sakai when she locked her in an arm submission that rendered the Muscle Idol unable to even struggle towards the ropes, then transitioned into an even more painful submission.

When Sakai powdered out, selling like crazy, it looked like maybe she actually didn’t know what she was getting into. Satomura being the one to bring Sakai back into the ring at this point was a nice touch. As the match continued, Sakai looked desperate, selling the heck out of more punishment and gaining more and more vocal support from the crowd. She finally got some offense and briefly locked Satomura in the Torture Rack, but the expert veteran countered it into a sleeper hold. It looked like the end when Satomura went up top for a frog splash, but Sakai managed to block it and deliver a variety of kicks.

But the fire behind this comeback wasn’t enough for the younger wrestler. Satomura was able to escape the jackhammer and cleanly hit the frog splash after a devastating cartwheel knee drop. Sakai kicked out, but the Death Valley Driver soon put her away. Afterward, the women shook hands and bowed. Sakai still has a ways to go before she’s on Satomura’s level, but she looked really good in this very special-feeling special singles match with a lot of passion, a straightforward story, and solid execution.

The Tokyo Princess Tag Team Championship match between Yuka Sakazaki and Mizuki (c) and Shoko Nakajima and Riho kept the show’s momentum going. The champs retained in a match that also delivered that passion between the wrestlers, a compelling story (more long-term than that or the previous bout), and some excellent technical wrestling. The match featured a lot of last year’s tag championship match partnerships, both Sakazaki and Nakajima and Riho and Mizuki, facing off, and both pairings brought out the best of each other. Nakajima showed off her submission skills against Mizuki and looked great, but this was nothing compared to when she and Sakazaki found themselves in the ring together.

Nakajima and Sakazaki actually allowed a moment for the crowd to go silent before they locked up, adding some temporary gravitas to this battle of the women who previously couldn’t seem to beat each other. They had counters for everything and pulled off that serious, strong style strike exchange. Nakajima went on an offensive tear with a brutal armbar that earned a scream out of her opponent, and she and Riho came close to winning multiple times.

After some engaging sequences of both tag teamwork and one-on-one wrestling though, it was Sakazaki who picked up the win by pinning Nakajima after a Magical Girl Splash. The winning and losing teams both hugged emotionally as Sakazaki’s hyperactive theme music played, and Nakajim, now firmly on the losing end of their rivalry, looked especially upset as she exited the venue.

The main event of the Jan. 4 Korakuen Hall show absolutely felt like the main event, the match everyone was at the venue or watching from home to see. This Tokyo Princess of Princess Championship match was the highest point Maki Itoh has reached so far in her compelling underdog story of a wrestling career. The dominant, perfect ace for TJPW, Miyu Yamashita, was her perfect foil. As shown in the hype video for this match, the stoic Yamashita has trained hard and steadily earned her way to her current success. But despite being the most accomplished wrestler in Tokyo Joshi Pro’s history, she still doesn’t feel like she’s at the top of the company.

In contrast, her challenger has an oversized ego for her level of accomplishments, freaks out when she loses, and screams and cries and loses her mind during matches. She’s worked hard, but she created an Itoh Respect Army before she stopped screwing up even the names the towns shows are in. But Maki Itoh knows she needs to start delivering results and as she steadily improves in the ring, the audience wants that for her more than anything. However, Yamashita pointed out, the former idol might be too preoccupied with getting that attention and approval she craves from the crowd in order to reach that next level as a fighter.

In this main event, Itoh quickly got the crowd on her side, delivering her catchphrase early, but was nailed with kicks from Yamashita after a missed headbutt. It looked like maybe the champ was right. Itoh briefly locked Yamashita in a body scissors, but Yamashita soon dominated with kicks and submissions. Itoh finally landed two kokeshis and, after yelling, a third, but Yamashita got back in control after some struggle. Still Itoh was able to keep herself in the game with a surprising rollup nearfall.

Yamashita got the better of a strike exchange, but Itoh’s next level of passion had been unlocked. She screamed, responded to a kick with a headbutt like an insane person, and managed to get Yamashita in the Boston Crab. She got a nearfall after a diving headbutt, but Yamashita managed to fend off a sleeper hold and get back in control after a chop and neckbreaker.

The crowd was still mostly on Itoh’s side as she again managed to gain the advantage, this time because Yamashita hurt her knee on her supernaturally strong head. The idol took the striker down with a DDT and they both struggled to recover, Itoh dry-sobbing and screaming more, crawling towards Yamashita, looking like she couldn’t get up as the crowd cheers for her. She landed a heck of a headbutt, but Yamashita escaped with a kick, and another kick won her the match.

It was the outcome most people expected, but they managed to make it still feel a little surprising with the way the match was put together. Itoh’s long journey of improvement will continue, and when she finally wins the big one it’s going to be such a huge, emotional moment for her character and the fans. Meanwhile, Yamashita is still the true, deserving ace of the promotion, and delivered a positive speech about her opponent (who just flipped her off and left), the promotion, and her championship reign to close Tokyo Joshi Pro’s first show of the year.

With spots for everyone from rookies to newcomers to more veteran guest stars to promotional mainstays, plus a variety of match styles and stories, this show was a fun watch overall. The main event wasn’t quite as clean as the two matches before it in terms of technical execution, but people cared about it more than anything else on the show, and all three of the post-intermission matches showed off TJPW’s main stars. Especially as the recent debuts develop, it looks like this company could have a really strong 2019.

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