Last year, on November 7, 2020, TJPW held Wrestle Princess, a massive show that served as a capstone in a tumultuous year in TJPW as well as the rest of the world. In addition to the TJPW debut of Gatoh Move Pro Wrestling's Mei Suruga, who would go on to act as Mei Saint-Michel in a new version of NEO Biishiki-gun, it had the semifinals and finals of a tournament to crown a new International Princess Champion after the belt formerly held by Thunder Rosa was vacated, the Bakuretsu Sisters finally achieved a years-long dream of winning the Princess Tag Championship, and in a main event many considered to be the best match of the year in TJPW, Yuka Sakazaki retained her Princess of Princess Championship over her tag team partner, Mizuki. All of this is to say, it was a major show for the company, and it was a huge critical success as well.
It's no surprise, then, that TJPW seems to be turning the show into their own Wrestlemania, with Wrestle Princess II on October 9th from the Ota Ward General Gymnasium in Tokyo, Japan. Unlike the previous years absolutely stacked card, I would probably argue that Wrestle Princess II is much more of a one-match show, as evidence by the fact that they spent nearly a month promoting the show with only a single match, and no other matches were announced or made official until about a week ago. After weeks of waiting, TJPW finally announced the full card last night, so let's run down the card from bottom to top!
Pom Harajuku & Raku VS Haruna Neko & Kaya Toribami
Our first tag match of the evening is also the least important, a pair of teams with little to no history facing each other because it's a big show and you want everyone to be on the card if possible. That's not to say this match is throwaway, though. While I don't expect it to be a 5 star classic for it's in-ring action, this will likely be a fun match to open the card for you to turn your brain off during and just enjoy. Pom will employ shin kicks, Raku will perform the Good-Night Express, Haruna Neko will claw peoples eyes out, it'll all be good fun.
Of particular note here is Kaya Toribami, the newest addition to the TJPW roster. She had a bit of a shaky start in the promotion having been in the unenviable position of debuting at CyberFight Festival, one of the largest shows if not just straight up the largest show the TJPW roster has ever worked. Her greenness, and honestly her nervousness, was apparent in the match, and while she had a banger of a singles debut against Shoko Nakajima a few weeks later, her lack of wrestling skill was still apparent in the weeks to come. Recently, however, Kaya Toribami has improved considerably and seems to be much more confident and skilled than when she first started; if all goes well, this Wrestle Princess match has the potential to be a breakout performance for her.
PREDICTION: A fun, if technically slightly lacking match where the newest roster member has a chance to show what they can do before getting pinned as is tradition. WINNERS: POM HARAJUKU & RAKU
Hyper Misao VS Nodoka Tenma
Nodoka Tenma is typically a tag team wrestler in TJPW, but her sister and tag partner Yuki Aino is busy tonight fighting for the mid-card championship, which left Tenma in need of something else. And I present to you: something else.
For those of you not in the know, Hyper Misao is the hero of love and peace who nevertheless always manages to find ways to get wins in the sneakiest ways possible. She also has a penchant for adding stipulations to her matches at literally the last second, often presenting her ideas to her opponents after they're both in the ring and the match is about to start. This isn't being advertised as a stipulation match, but it will definitely be a stipulation match, I just couldn't tell you what because Hyper Misao always comes up with the stupidest, most preposterous, most absolutely fucking incredible stipulations in the world. And, she's legitimately a fantastic wrestler to boot, having had a serious run as tag champion during a stint with NEO Biishiki-gun. Toru Yano, eat your heart out.
I mentioned up top that Nodoka Tenma is a tag specialist, but she's also had some good singles matches in the past. She also serves as a perfect foil to Hyper Misao. While Misao is fast, mysterious, and too clever for her own good, Tenma is strong, straightforward, and honestly kind of dumb, frequently getting tricked by even opponents less on the devious side. I love her, she is one of my favorites.
I cannot tell you what is going to happen in this match, but I can tell you it will be stupid and glorious. Pre-emptively naming this one as a must-watch.
PREDICTION: The smart money in this matchup is 100% Hyper Misao. But I don't want to be smart, I want to cheer for wrestlers I like more, and if one member of the Bakuretsu Sisters is getting a singles push, why not the other? WINNER: NODOKA TENMA
ASUKA & Yuki Kamifuku VS Nao Kakuta & Marika Kobashi
This match features the first of three guest wrestlers on the show, independent wrestler ASUKA, perhaps known more to some as the name they went as on the AEW Women's World Championship Eliminator Tournament earlier this year, VENY. The World's First Genderless Wrestler will be teaming up with former International Princess Champion Yuki Kamifuku against her first challenger during her reign, Nao Kakuta, and the first woman to challenge the current champion for the belt, Marika Kobashi.
This match has the potential to be a sleeper hit on this card. ASUKA is a fantastic wrestler as evidenced from their matches in AEW earlier this year, Nao Kakuta has been a boon to TJPW since signing late last year, Yuki Kamifuku is a good worker and honestly one of the best heels in a promotion that doesn't really do face-heel dynamics , and while she's been a wrestler for 5 years having signed when she was 15, Marika Kobashi has really come into her own recently and put out some great matches against the likes of Shoko Nakajima and Hikari Noa. This match is mostly just a reason to have ASUKA on the card, but it should be a good time.
PREDICTION: This one could honestly go either way, but I'll guess this is one of two times a guest wrestler will win their match. WINNERS: ASUKA & YUKI KAMIFUKU
Shoko Nakajima & Riho VS Suzume & Arisu Endo
Well, this is a surprise! After moving to the US earlier this year so she could work in AEW, Riho is making an appearance at TJPW's biggest show of the year! And she's teaming up with my favorite professional wrestler in the world, one of the most underappreciated workhorses in the industry, the Big Kaiju Shoko Nakajima! Both Nakajima and Riho are fantastic wrestlers, and I have no doubt they'll put on one hell of a show here. Hey, here's a spoiler for the end of this section: I think Shoko and Riho are gonna win this one, guys.
Okay, I say that, but I don't want to discredit their opponents in the slightest. Suzume's future is a bit unclear now that her main tag partner, Mirai Maiumi, left TJPW, and Arisu Endo is one of the freshest faces in TJPW, but they're both still excellent wrestlers. Suzume has the potential to pick up the small-but-mighty banner Shoko Nakajima has been flying since TJPW's inception, and Arisu Endo is honestly the fresh recruit from this year that I feel has the most potential to be a major star someday, as she started off excellent in her debut match against Suzume in January and has improved considerably from there. If their opponents weren't one of the four pillars of TJPW and a major guest wrestler from AEW, I'd put their chances much higher. Still, they'll do great and look great in this loss.
PREDICTION: Again, Suzume and Endo are fantastic wrestlers in their own rights. But...it's Riho and Shoko Nakajima. I know who's winning this one. Oh man, do you think we'll get a stereo 6-1-9 spot? That'd be pretty cool. WINNERS: SHOKO NAKAJIMA & RIHO
Moka Miyamoto & Aja Kong VS Miu Watanabe & Yuki Arai
Our third, and honestly least surprising, guest wrestler is the legendary Aja Kong. I say "least surprising" because this is the 4th time Aja Kong has popped up in TJPW this year. Still, while her age is definitely catching up to her, Aja Kong is always fun in TJPW, and her elbow drops and suplexes are honestly still some of the crispest in the business. She'll be teaming up with Moka Miyamoto, the karate master who's been in TJPW for almost a year and a half now but still has yet to have a singles win to her name.
Unfortunately, the two of them are facing the team of Miu Watanabe and Yuki Arai. Miu Watanabe has been around for a fair bit, and is a former Princess Tag Champion alongside the currently-absent Rika Tatsumi, so especially against a team with a relatively new recruit without a singles win in Moka Miyamoto her chances of winning are pretty high. Yuki Arai is... well, let's talk about it. While Yuki Arai is considered a member of the TJPW roster, she actually only works the major shows and wrestling is kind of a side job for her at the moment; Yuki Arai's big job is being a member of the Japanese pop group SKE48, a very large and very famous music group whose songs are regular #1 hits in Japan. While Arai isn't the most notable member of SKE48, her inclusion still makes her a big deal, and TJPW have been milking her involvement with the promotion for all it's worth. I honestly find it frustrating; TJPW is a very typically Japanese wrestling promotion, which in part means that new recruits spend a lot of time getting pinned and losing before they start actually winning regardless of their talent for wrestling. They might get wins in tag matches, but they're never the ones who get the pinfall or submission, and even in a tag match when they finally get the win for their team it's treated as a big deal. I mentioned Moka Miyamoto has been around for nearly a year and a half without a singles win; she's also only gotten the pinfall in a tag match a single time, to my knowledge, in a 3v3 match back in June. It's a long time before people get wins in TJPW.
Yuki Arai beat Moka Miyamoto in a singles match in her fourth ever wrestling match. Grand.
Which is not to say that Yuki Arai is bad; in fact, she's shown a massive natural talent for professional wrestling. So has Moka Miyamoto, so has Arisu Endo, and outside of her early jitters so has Kaya Toribami, but none of them have actually gotten a singles win yet and only Miyamoto has gotten a pinfall at all. Yuki Arai has, and combined with her part-time schedule it's hard to shake the feeling she's getting preferential treatment for the sake of mainstream attention and some extra money from SKE48 fans. Which, as a purely business decision I understand, but it still bums me out, especially as a fan in the USA who hadn't heard of SKE48 until Arai joined TJPW.
All of that, combined with Aja Kong and Miu Watanabe having some history from prior TJPW matches, and Aja Kong actually having a pretty terrible record in TJPW this year with 0 wins and 3 losses, makes it feel pretty obvious who wins this one.
PREDICTION: Honestly the question for this one isn't "Will Miu Watanabe and Yuki Arai win" but "Will Miu Watanabe actually manage to Giant Swing Aja Kong before getting the win". I'm honestly not sure, but it'd be pretty impressive! WINNERS: MIU WATANABE & YUKI ARAI
International Princess Championship Match: Hikari Noa(c) VS Yuki Aino
On September 4, Yuki Aino pinned current Princess of Princess Champion Miyu Yamashita in a tag match. A week later, Miyu Yamashita pinned Yuki Aino in a singles match that was non-title because TJPW were already advertising Wrestle Princess II's main event. 4 days later, Yuki Aino pinned current International Princess Champion Hikari Noa, and decided to say "fuck it" and try to get an actual title shot out of pinning a champion this time. Hikari Noa agreed, and here we are.
Yeah, my biggest issue with the Wrestle Princess II card at the moment is that the main title bout is a culmination to the story between Maki Itoh and Miyu Yamashita that TJPW have been telling since January, and every other title bout is just sort of happening with very rapid builds to announcements so they can spend the next 3 weeks actually maybe telling a bit of a story for them. This stuff isn't helped at all by the fact Wrestle Princess is the first time any of the TJPW belts will be defended since before the Tokyo Princess Cup, which for reference started in mid-July.
Anyway, while the build is somewhat unexciting I still expect this match will be good. Yuki Aino is a power wrestler, and Hikari Noa is a striker who's willing to get some garbage for her matches now, so there should be some fun conflict of styles. Honestly, this match could go in either a technically-proficient-wrestling-match direction or a garbage-filled-slobberknocker direction, and either way I think we're in for a very good time.
PREDICTION: Either competitor could win this and I wouldn't be too upset. Personally though, I think the Deathmatch Daisuki has been a fun champion who hasn't been given nearly enough opportunities to defend the belt, so I'm hoping she pulls through and carries it into the future. WINNER: HIKARI NOA
Princess Tag Championship Match: NEO Biishiki-gun (Mei Saint-Michel & Sakisama)(c) VS Magical Sugar Rabbits (Yuka Sakazaki & Mizuki)
Okay so before I complain about this match, let me just say: I think in terms of in-ring action this match will likely be stellar. Yuka Sakazaki and Mizuki are some of the best workers in TJPW, and both Mei Saint-Michel (Mei Suruga) and Sakisama (Saki Akai) are fantastic in the ring as well. I have no doubt, from a technical perspective, this match will be great. But god I really wish it weren't happening.
For starters, the reign of NEO Biishiki-gun has been pretty annoying because no one booking in TJPW seems to know how to do heel shenanigans well. It's supposed to feel like the heels are getting one over on their opponents and the referees because they're so smart. It hasn't felt like that; between people being distracted by nothing and TJPW referee Kiso frequently just screwing over the challenging team, I have yet to watch a NBG match and go "wow, the heels are so smart!" rather than "Wow, the challengers are morons and the referee is acting like he's being paid off by the bad guys." Like, in the match where NBG won the belts, the referee physically restrained one of the other wrestlers to prevent them from coming in and helping their teammate while said teammate was being double teamed! It was absolutely obnoxious. TJPW referees make AEW referees look like omniscient deities.
As for the Magical Sugar Rabbits...they're fan favorites, a lot of people love them, but even after Yuka Sakazaki dropped the main championship and the two of them went back to being a pair of chaotic jerks I honestly can't bring myself to care about either of them. I can't even explain it, because when Yuka Sakazaki appears in AEW I get excited, but in TJPW I just find her so boring. The most I've ever been interested in MagiRabi was in the lead-up to a three way match the two of them were in for a title shot where the two of them teased dissension and turning on each other. Which of course went absolutely nowhere.
I'm really sorry to rag on this because again, this is going to be an excellent match. But it's a champion team I've come to loathe for the wrong reasons against a team I have tried and failed several times to be interested in. This match also suffers from the same issues the previous match has of little build, except here it's just "hey we've been winning a lot, we want a title shot" so the match is happening. It's not even like the International Princess Championship match where one of the MagiRabi's pinned a member of NBG or something. If you want a great in-ring match, or if you like either of these teams, then this is almost certainly a must watch. Speaking just for myself, it's definitely the championship match I care about the least and honestly even on the overall card it doesn't rank well. Again, just my personal opinion, and the actual match will likely be fantastic.
PREDICTION: As little interest as I have in a second reign for the Magical Sugar Rabbits, I'm even less interested in seeing NBG anymore. I'm good, I've had my fill, get them out of here. WINNERS: Magical Sugar Rabbits (Yuka Sakazaki & Mizuki)
Princess of Princess Championship Match: Miyu Yamashita(c) VS Maki Itoh
Here we are ladies and gentlemen, the entire reason this show is happening, the match that TJPW have literally been building to since January, Maki Itoh challenging Miyu Yamashita for the Princess of Princess Championship Match. It's hard to understate the ways in which this match is important, so let's start from the top.
When Maki Itoh first joined TJPW in 2016, her debut singles match was a loss against Miyu Yamashita. Ever since then, Maki Itoh has tried and failed to defeat her rival one on one, with the most recent loss of the series being a knockout loss on January 4th of this year. Shortly afterwards, Maki Itoh conscripted Miyu Yamashita into being her tag partner to take on NEO Biishiki-gun, prior to them winning the titles. Itoh and Yamashita, now going by 121000000 (read "One to One Million", representing that the two of them have the power of a million wrestlers when they work together), went on to defeat NBG in a match. They continued tagging and working together, before 121000000 and NBG met in the finals of the Futari No Princess Max Heart Tournament held in late February-early March, with NBG getting their win back. Maki Itoh, distraught over losing the match, left for a bit and appeared in AEW before returning, failing to win the Princess of Princess Championship from Rika Tatsumi, then being in Miyu Yamashita's corner when she fought Tatsumi for the title and won. And, honestly, it's here where this story started to fall apart for me a little.
Fresh off of Yamashita winning the main championship of the promotion and defeating Yuka Sakazaki at CyberFight Festival, 121000000 challenged NBG for the titles in June...and lost, with Yamashita getting knocked out in a triangle choke from Sakisama. After Yamashita was very supportive of Itoh when Itoh cost them the Futari No Princess Max Heart Tournament earlier in the year, and the two of them making their closeness as friends very open and apparent in the lead up to their challenge with lots of presumably platonic "I love you"s being tossed between them, Itoh returned the favor by immediately suggesting that the tag team wasn't working and they should break up, only sticking around when Yamashita basically begged her not to leave. She also responded to Yamashita saying "I love you" with "I guess," which is maybe not the best look for someone you're setting up for a feel-good win later in the year. Whatever the reason for this very odd post-match interview, it didn't go anywhere and the whole thing was immediately dropped and never mentioned again. Also of note, following her victory Sakisama challenged for the Princess of Princess Championship and the match took place...one week later on a glorified house show with no other notable matches on the card. An utterly confounding decision given that Miyu Yamashita had never beaten Sakisama one-on-one before and it could have easily been the main event to one of TJPW's major shows. Instead, Miyu Yamashita finally got her first-ever singles win against Sakisama in what appeared to be a random school gymnasium.
Anyway, Maki Itoh proceeded to have one hell of a run through the Tokyo Princess Cup in July and August, beating not only her former tag partner and another white whale of hers, Mizuki, in the semi finals, but eventually defeating Shoko Nakajima in one hell of a final match to win the whole damn thing. As you would expect, Miyu Yamashita came out and challenged Maki Itoh for the belt at Wrestle Princess II, and Itoh accepted. Since then...well honestly I'd argue TJPW is making another misstep in their storytelling. Part of Maki Itoh as a character is that she tends to fall just short of success; she'll make it all the way up to the finish line, then trip on her own feet and end up in last place. You'd think, given that past, they'd want to lean into it, implying she might once again fail in a major match when the chips are down. Instead, TJPW are telling a story of current champion and ace of the company Miyu Yamashita being in a slump and potentially going into Wrestle Princess II at less than 100%, with Maki Itoh needing to encourage her to get back into top form. It's an attempt at a role reversal that I really don't think works because why would you push this match by implying that Maki Itoh might only win because the current champ is going through some things? Feels like it'd cheapen the eventual win to me, if that is indeed what they're going for.
Anyway, that's all of the build, but what about the match itself? I'm not quite as high on Maki Itoh as some others are; she's a very good wrestler, but when you think of someone as an 8/10 and you constantly hear people gush about them as a 12/10, it's hard not to feel like they're overrated. That said, Maki Itoh is extremely capable of doing her part with the right story and an opponent who is equal or greater than her; despite the missteps I think the story overall has been really good, and the fantastic match Maki Itoh and Miyu Yamashita had in January tells me this will likely be the second year in a row that a Wrestle Princess main event will be the top of many fan's MOTY lists.
I think it's also worth noting that if Maki Itoh wins, it'll be something of a torch-passing. For those of you who don't follow TJPW, there are 4 members of the roster who have been around the longest who are generally considered the absolute top of what the promotion has to offer: Shoko Nakajima, Yuka Sakazaki, Rika Tatsumi, and of course the ace Miyu Yamashita. Not only are these "Four Pillars of TJPW" some of the best and most popular workers in the company, they've also had a stranglehold on the top championship for quite some time. On January 4th of 2018, Miyu Yamashita won the belt and held it for a record 484 days before dropping it to Shoko Nakajima. She held it for 184 days before losing it to Yuka Sakazaki, who had the belt for a pandemic-assisted 428 days. Rika Tatsumi won the belt from her and held it for 120 days before losing it to Miyu Yamashita, who at the time of writing has held the belt for 137 days and counting. That's 3 and 3/4 of a year straight of the belt being held by one of these four wrestlers, for a belt that's been around for less than 6 years. If Maki Itoh wins, it'll be a major moment of TJPW deciding that their newer wrestlers, even the ones who are only newer by a year or so, are ready to lead the promotion into the future. This match is a big deal, in more ways than one.
PREDICTION: 2021 has really been the Year of Maki Itoh. Championship challenges, several appearances in a major American promotion, a 9 month long storyline and years long rivalry finally coming to a head on this stage. It's all building to this, and I think it ends in success for the Fired Idol. WINNER: MAKI ITOH
Wrestle Princess II is effectively a one-match card, but oh what a match that is. Combined with other championship matches that while less fun will almost certainly deliver, and an undercard with some quiet classics in the making, and this is sure to be one hell of a show. Wrestle Princess II is set to happen on October 9 in Japan, which will be the evening of October 8 for us in the US. A great looking show with one hell of a main event lined up, I eagerly await Wrestle Princess and I highly recommend you all check it out as well!