Ever since it and fellow promotions DDT and Pro Wrestling NOAH were acquired by the Japanese company CyberAgent, it's been clear the new owners of Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling had sights set on expansion and growth. An increased focus on overseas markets, new trainees being brought in, a completely revamped online streaming service, and perhaps most telling of all, a new annual show: Wrestle Princess, whose second iteration took place in Japan on October 9th, early in the morning on the same date in the USA. So solid are TJPW's plans to make this a regular show that during last night's event, TJPW announced Wrestle Princess III, set to take place on the same date next year in the Tokyo Dome City Hall. Not to mention, they announced Grand Princess '22, a show for next March set to take place in the famous Ryogoku Sumo Hall sports venue.
But that's next year. How was this year's show? Well, expectations were high and in my opinion, they were handily met. In fact, before I go any further, I would encourage you to go ahead and watch the show yourself if you are at all interested. Not only was it a fantastic three hours of professional wrestling, the Wrestle Universe streaming service it's on is currently doing a promotion where if you sign up now, you pay ABSOLUTELY NOTHING for the rest of the year! You have to pay for January once January rolls around, but that's 4 months of not just TJPW, but DDT, NOAH, and Ganbare Pro Wrestling for only 900 yen (currently about 8 dollars), and you don't even pay for 3 months! It sounds like I'm sponsored, but I really do just think it's a great deal and a good hopping on point if you wanna check out some very good Japanese professional wrestling.
6-Woman Tag Match: Ram Kaichow, Pom Harajuku, & Raku def. Mahiro Kiryu, Haruna Neko, & Kaya Toribami
Those of you who read my predictions piece on this show might notice that this match isn't quite what was previewed there. Two members of the TJPW roster were potentially out of Wrestle Princess II when TJPW first announced the card, and were added into matches later once they were cleared. Here, "Passion Blue" Mahiro Kiryu, who was out with a neck injury, was added to the opening tag match. That necessitated a second addition to keep the teams even. Rather than add the other absent member of the roster, Rika Tatsumi, to the enemy team, TJPW opted to call in an outside talent in Ram Kaichow. I wasn't familiar with Kaichow before this match, but she is apparently checks notes a demon from hell. Which, you know, pretty sick! She brought a lot of speed and intensity to the match, which was greatly appreciated, and her attempting to fit in with her much more bubbly teammates was a fun contrast to her look and behavior otherwise.
Something else from my predictions piece I want to mention: I felt this match had the potential to be a breakout performance for the newest member of the TJPW roster, Kaya Toribami. She did well in the match, and is more confident and even quicker than when she first joined, but this match also showed she still has some kinks in execution to work out before she can truly start to excel. Still, that comes with time, and she's still quite impressive for her level of experience.
The only other thing I want to note about this match: I was a bit surprised at the end when Raku got the pinfall not on Kaya Toribami like I expected, but rather Haruna Neko. Not only is Neko the most experienced member of her team, she is also the most skilled professional wrestler and the most interesting character-wise of the three. I'm not sure why you'd have her take the fall rather than one of the other two; maybe they were worried about getting the closing sequence right? Nothing that ruined or especially affected my feelings on the match, just an odd bit of booking I wanted to mention.
VERDICT: A good opening bout that, while not exceptional, still provided a fun beginning to the show.
3-Way Match: Nodoka Tenma def. Rika Tatsumi and Hyper Misao
The other late addition to the show comes in this match, with the "White Dragon" Rika Tatsumi joining the bout to make it a 3-way. I'll be honest: I wasn't excited when Tatsumi being a part of this one was announced. Rika Tatsumi is one of the "Four Pillars of TJPW", a group of wrestlers within TJPW that have been around since near the company's inception in 2013 and are some of the most skilled and popular wrestlers in the promotion. They are the de facto favorites to win any match they're in, and her inclusion in this match turned it from "oh, I wonder which of these two wrestlers I really like is going to win?" to "I wonder which of these wrestlers I like is going to take the pinfall?"
This perception was not challenged much by the opening to this match; as part of her typical pre-match microphone shenanigans Hyper Misao, who is a huge Rika Tatsumi fan and came to the ring with a "Welcome Back Rika Tatsumi" sign, suggested that since she loves Tatsumi so much she should get to have a singles match and Tenma should be removed entirely. Tenma obviously objected to this idea, and Tatsumi took advantage of the two of them arguing to throw Misao out of the ring and start battering Tenma. When Hyper Misao started helping Tatsumi, Tenma rolled out of the ring as Tatsumi started battering Misao instead. Then, when Nodoka Tenma finally got back into the ring after recovering, Rika Tatsumi put both of them into submission holds simultaneously. In fairness, it was hardly one-sided; even as Tatsumi mostly controlled things, both Nodoka Tenma and Hyper Misao got plenty of offense in on her over the course of the bout. Still, Rika Tatsumi was very much treated like the strongest competitor in the match for the most part.
You can imagine my surprise, then, when a miscommunication late in the match between Hyper Misao and Rika Tatsumi knocked Tatsumi out of the proceedings, followed by Nodoka Tenma hitting a Samoan drop, a fallaway slam, and her Kill Switch finisher to get the 3. The obvious decision would have been to give the returning Tatsumi the win; I'm glad they ended up going with Tenma instead, and not just because I thought my prediction of her winning was kind of just wishful thinking on my part.
While I wasn't rooting for Rika Tatsumi to win, she's still a great wrestler, and it's obvious why she's one of the stalwarts of the promotion. It's one thing to be booked like you can stand your ground against two opponents; it's another to make a convincing argument through your skill in the ring. Hyper Misao brought plenty of fun to the match as well, trying to convince Rika Tatsumi to make it a 2v1 against Nodoka Tenma before eventually showing her undying affection for the White Dragon by beating her up using the sign she brought with her. And Nodoka Tenma was not only the powerhouse of this match, she also did great work selling the offense of two people who were mostly pummeling her rather than each other. I was worried when this match became a 3-way, but in the end I think everyone brought their A-game and made this an underrated gem on the card.
VERDICT: A fantastic undercard bout that showcased the skills and abilities of all three competitors. Plus, I can't complain about my favorite wrestler of the three managing to get the W.
Tag Match: VENYU (ASUKA & Yuki Kamifuku) def. Nao Kakuta & Marika Kobashi
The tone of this match was set in VENYU's entrance, which had them dancing to the ring to both Billie Eilish and Lady Gaga (How much do you think those music rights cost them?) then, when they finally made it to the ring, ASUKA making the ultimate power move of saying they already put on a show for the crowd and they shouldn't have to bother wrestling. They only changed their mind when Marika Kobashi smacked them, which only seemed to make ASUKA mad. Just absolutely incredible, VENYU have had one match together and they're already the coolest tag team in all of professional wrestling.
The actual match reinforced this idea, with VENYU absolutely mercilessly beating down on Marika Kobashi, the less experienced member of the opposing team, and only showing weakness when Nao Kakuta came in and brought the hurt. Honestly, my only complaint about the match came from this blueprint being followed too closely: toward the midpoint of the match, Nao Kakuta tagged out after beating the stuffing out of ASUKA for a while, but suddenly when Kobashi attempted to get any offense in it had zero effect. Marika Kobashi wasn't made to seem effective at all until quite a ways into the match, and only for the purpose of getting ASUKA out of the match so the ending could focus on Yuki Kamifuku and Nao Kakuta.
After a brutal back and forth, some broken up pins, and a middle rope Famouser to Kakuta, Yuki Kamifuku picked up a well-deserved 3 for her team. I don't know if ASUKA is going to continue to be a presence in TJPW, but they and Kamifuku made an incredible tag team and I hope to see more of them.
VERDICT: VENYU are going to take over the world, and it will be amazing.
Tag Match: TwinCam Monsters (Shoko Nakajima & Riho) def. Suzume & Arisu Endo
The story of this match was whether the newer team of Suzume and Arisu Endo, with a combined 2 years and 10 months of wrestling experience, could take on the experience of Shoko Nakajima and Riho, a combined 23 years and 5 months experience. This difference in experience informed a lot in the match: While Suzume and Arisu Endo went all out in their offense from the jump, Nakajima and Riho paced themselves to last longer. While Suzume and Endo would only tag out in moments of desperation, Nakajima and Riho frequently tagged for brief moments of offense before switching so neither was left exhausted. It was a fun contrast of rookie energy versus veteran skill.
As Suzume and Endo starting gaining the upper hand, the ending of this match had Nakajima and Riho finally having to go all out to seal the win. After a sequence where Suzume and Endo hit a double drop kick followed by Suzume hitting a top rope cross body for a near fall on Nakajima so close I was worried I had forgotten how the match ended while I re-watched, Nakajima and Riho hit a double northern lights suplex for a fall that was broken up by Endo. After Riho took Endo out with the Capital S Somato, Nakajima hit Suzume with a double arm DDT and a top rope senton for the 3.
While this match was certainly a showcase for the wrestling skill of Shoko Nakajima and Riho, it also served as an excellent showcase for Suzume and Arisu Endo. While they may be less experienced than the winners of the match, Suzume and Endo showed fire and inventiveness on a massive scale, and it proves a good sign for their future in TJPW and professional wrestling at large.
VERDICT: Just about the perfect "Veterans VS Rookies" tag match, this showcased both why Shoko Nakajima and Riho are top class joshi and the potential Suzume and Arisu Endo have. Cannot recommend this one enough.
Special Tag Match: Moka Miyamoto & Aja Kong def. Miu Watanabe & Yuki Arai
For me the big surprise of this match, besides Miyamoto and Kong actually winning it when I was certain it was gonna be Yet Another Notable Early Career Win for Arai, was them setting up a potential rivalry between Miyamoto and Arai. If they want this to be a long-term storyline, it could certainly work; I would completely understand Miyamoto being (in-kayfabe) frustrated at losing a match to Arai before she even had a singles win, and the two make a good opposing pair: Moka Miyamoto is a quiet, traditional karate master while Yuki Arai is a flashy and charismatic pop idol. They're opposites in a lot of ways, and a long term story between the two could be great for both of them.
That being said, this match finally let me pinpoint something about the much-hyped Arai that's bugged me since she first debuted: while her moment-to-moment wrestling is impressive, her in-ring storytelling is practically nonexistent with no care given for the offense she's taken. In her singles debut match against the now-departed Mirai Maiumi, Maiumi spent a lot of time working over Arai's legs, presumably to counter her axe kick finisher. Arai...completely ignored this offense later in the match and hit the axe kick as if nothing had happened to her legs. In this match too, Aja Kong nailed Arai hard in the head with her signature trash can. Arai sold it...for about 10 seconds, before getting to her feet and seeming completely unfazed by something that's meant to be devastating because it's a metal can slammed into your head. Every young wrestler has a blind spot or two in their skillset, and this is certainly Arai's.
Also of note is that Miu Watanabe did in fact attempt to perform her signature Giant Swing on Aja Kong. After getting the crowd hyped and attempting it two or three times...she failed, rather spectacularly. She also tried to body slam Kong, but much like Luger did to Yokozuna in the 90s it was more of a weird side slam than a proper body slam. I'm not criticizing Watanabe for being unable to perform the maneuvers to the full extent; Aja Kong is extremely large, Watanabe likely didn't have a reasonable amount of time to put on the muscle that she would have needed to do it, and considering her size even doing a partial body slam on Kong is impressive. I just hope the plan for the match wasn't for Watanabe to succeed at both maneuvers.
Those things aside, this was a fun match. The parts of the match that were Miyamoto VS Arai were good even ignoring the long-term story potential, Miu Watanabe is a skilled wrestler, and while Aja Kong is certainly getting up there in years her suplexes and drivers are still devastating and her elbow drops, including the middle rope falling elbow drop that eventually sealed the deal with a pin against Arai, still look fantastic. And hey, Arai kicked out of a back drop driver to the over-the-top excitement of commentary, so you can't say they didn't make her look good in this match.
VERDICT: The disappointment of missing out on a potentially cool spot of Watanabe swinging Kong was overshadowed by solid in-ring action and a good tease for a potential long term rivalry. Overall, good match!
International Princess Championship Match: Hikari Noa(c) def. Yuki Aino
This match really impressed me with the focus on in-ring storytelling. Aino had the strength advantage that she used to put Noa into tricky situations; Noa had the speed advantage that let her slip out of them. Both competitors put their opponents into submission holds not so much to get a submission victory, but to wear them down and hamper offense. This actually came into play very early in the match, where Hikari Noa went for her Blizzard Suplex finisher but couldn't maintain the bridge afterwards because of Aino working over her back.
I mentioned in my predictions piece that this would either be a garbage-filled slobberknocker or a solid technical bout, and I'm a bit surprised to say it leaned more towards the latter. There was certainly some hard strikes thrown by both competitors, but it was mostly a bit of a slower paced match with a lot of submission holds. Despite commentary teasing it at one point, Noa didn't even get any garbage out to match her Deathmatch Daisuki nickname. Which was maybe a bit disappointing if that's what you wanted, but I can't say the match suffered at all.
After a lengthy war of the two competitors wearing each other down with strikes, slams, and submissions, Aino attempted her Ultimate Burning Venus finishing move, but was countered into a successful Blizzard Suplex by Noa for the 3. I wouldn't have been upset if Aino won the belt here, especially given how impressive she was in this match, but I can't say I'm upset at getting to see Hikari Noa carry the belt into the future.
VERDICT: A surprisingly cerebral match that did a great job mixing in-ring psychology and wrestling skill. Really enjoyed this one!
Princess Tag Championship Match: Magical Sugar Rabbits (Yuka Sakazaki & Mizuki) def. NEO Biishiki-gun (Mei Saint-Michel & Sakisama)(c)
I'm not a huge fan of complaining about something seeming "unrealistic" during a wrestling match; I'm willing to put up with big size discrepancies between wrestlers and some offense that would definitely not fly in an actual fight if it's in service to putting on a better show. That said, one thing I do dislike seeing is one or more wrestlers standing around doing absolutely nothing to avoid interrupting opponents taking time to set up a maneuver. It's one thing if the wrestler is pantomiming being exhausted to give the opponent time to prepare, but if a match has two wrestlers stand around literally staring at their opponents for more than enough time to reasonably react and stop what's happening and instead just allow whatever's being set up to happen, it takes me out of the proceedings.
So, this match started off pretty bad when there were two such sequences in the opening 5 minutes. First, MagiRabi stacked Mei Saint-Michel on top of Sakisama on top of Mei Saint-Michel's trademark silver platter then, after very carefully making sure NBG weren't in danger of slipping and falling during the spot, spun them around at an honestly pretty slow rate to disorient the heel champions. Then, after fully recovering from being dizzy, NBG stood and watched in terror as Mizuki spent what felt like a full minute getting onto Yuka Sakazaki's shoulders for the purpose of a cross body. I'm willing to put up with some bullshit for the sake of Letting The Professional Wrestling Happen, but there's a point where it stops being "let wrestling happen" and becomes "do we need to be worried that these wrestlers had a petit mal seizure mid-match".
That said, the match was pretty good after that lackluster opening: While TJPW referee Kiso was once again acting like he was on NBG's payroll and ignored several blatant moments of cheating that REALLY should have been disqualifications, the action was good and much more believable from then on out; MagiRabi had some good tandem offense, NBG got some heel shenanigans in that actually made them seem clever instead of making their opponents look stupid, including an extended sequence where the referee was knocked out on the floor outside the ring and Mei Saint-Michel went to town with a mop, it was very fun. Unfortunately, I don't think the match ended especially strongly; Mizuki was in the ring for the entire final sequence, which saw her take 4 separate NBG finishers followed by near falls before hitting Saint-Michel with the Cutie Special for the 3. With a shorter ending sequence and fewer near falls, I think it would have been a solid ending to a match with a shaky start, but as it stands it feels like they were trying too hard to make Mizuki seem like she had superhuman resilience.
I'm not the biggest fan of either of these teams, but I still expected this to be a great tag match between 4 skilled competitors. Add in the history here, where NEO Biishiki-gun were the ones to end the Magical Sugar Rabbits' last tag title run in 2019, and you had the makings of a fantastic dramatic match. Unfortunately, for me personally, this was the only match on the card that didn't quite live up to the expectations I had. It's not a bad match by any means, and for what it's worth a friend of mine I was watching with enjoyed it more than I did, but for me personally this match was just a little disappointing.
VERDICT: A good match that should have been great considering the skill level of the wrestlers involved and the stakes at hand.
Princess of Princess Championship Match: Miyu Yamashita(c) def. Maki Itoh
This is one of only two matches I didn't successfully guess the winner of, and to be fair that's because all signs pointed to Maki Itoh finally winning a big match. Itoh's spent a lot of time as someone who falls short in big matches, but after a 9 month long storyline of facing Yamashita in January, teaming with her in the subsequent months, a depression-fueled excursion to AEW, winning the Tokyo Princess Cup tournament and not challenging for the belt herself but BEING challenged by her tag partner and current champion Miyu Yamashita, it really felt like this was going to be Itoh's time on top. Doubly so when you consider the focus in the build on this being a "happy ending" for Itoh, finally reaching the heights of wrestling that she once thought impossible. That was, apparently, not the plan.
The match itself was excellent; if you want hard hitting action from the best striker in TJPW, you've got it. If you want emotional moments from the best storyteller in TJPW, you've got it. If you want callbacks to their history that made at least one person I follow on twitter cry, you've fucking got it my friend. This match was everything I hoped it would be and more, an improvement on their match from January that feels so much better than a 9 month gap should allow. And while Itoh may not have won the match, she hardly looked bad in defeat; she showed great tenacity throughout the match and was only taken out by an amazing Skull Kick followed by a huge Crash Rabbit Heat from the champion.
My only issue with this match is that the story was leading too perfectly to an Itoh win for the conclusion to be Yamashita retaining. By which I mean, it would have been the perfect emotionally satisfying conclusion for this arc; Itoh finally reaching the top against not just a long-time rival but someone she had become close friends with over the last couple of years, and especially the last couple of months. Combine that with Itoh's popularity not just in Japan but overseas as well, and it felt like the perfect time to do a title change. While Itoh will almost certainly be able to come back from this and I have no doubt she'll eventually be Princess of Princess Champion, I'm very curious where Yamashita goes from here. Who takes the belt off of her? Is there a long story, or is it just another "hey I've been winning a lot give me a title shot" moment? Will someone besides Itoh be the first person outside of the Four Pillars of TJPW to hold the belt in a very long time, will one of the other pillars get another run with the belt first, or will Maki Itoh eventually get another runback? There are a lot of questions now as TJPW goes into the future, and with a couple of huge shows on the horizon I cannot wait to see the path they take.
VERDICT: A stellar finish to an overall fantastic show, well worth the amount of hype afforded to it. I urge you to check this match out for yourself.
Going into Wrestle Princess II, it felt like a lot of the focus was on the Princess of Princess Championship match with everything else being something of an afterthought. While the main event certainly lived up to the hype, it's hard to overstate how much the rest of the show impressed as well, with several fantastic undercard matches that made this one of the best TJPW shows I've ever seen. Even with the occasional hiccup, if you have even the slightest interest in TJPW, and maybe even if you don't, this is 100% a show worth checking out for yourself from top to bottom. I cannot recommend it enough. Watch Wrestle Princess II!