Tokyo Joshi Pro: How Hilarity Inspired Fandom
By: James Carlin
Earlier this year, I watched my first full Tokyo Joshi Pro show.
Before this, I had never really had the chance to properly get into the promotion. I was plagued with lots of schoolwork, trying to enjoy my other hobbies that aren’t wrestling and obsessively writing about another joshi company, Stardom. A lot of my friends are into joshi puroresu, so I knew who some of these wrestlers were via osmosis, but I had never seen any full matches. The closest I had gotten was watching Maki Itoh and Yuka Sakazaki on AEW weekly programming, and as part of AEW’s Women’s Eliminator Tournament, last year. It opened the floodgates of what else there could be out there, and the consistency of my friends sharing gifs and photos from Tokyo Joshi Pro shows only strengthened that fear of missing out even further.
That’s not to say I didn’t want to watch TJPW. I love watching joshi and I’ve seen a lot of it. I’ve been watching Stardom on a regular basis since March 2021, and ChocoPro semi-frequently since June 2021. There’s something about joshi, and japanese wrestling as a whole, that provides something so much different to anything else in the world. Of course, it’s in Japan, but that’s not what I mean. The way that it presents itself to their audience is unlike what you’d see from wrestling in America or the United Kingdom, for example.
Unfortunately, I never had the time to fully dedicate any time into exploring the wacky world of TJPW. Well, that was, until now.
The show that I decided to start with to begin my journey into TJPW was their first show of the year, Tokyo Joshi Pro-Wrestling ‘22. I was advised to start with WrestlePrincess II, or any of the other big shows of the year. It felt necessary for me, however, to start my path to new wrestling experiences fresh, just like the company itself with its first show of 2022. New year, new show, new start. I’m not going to do a review of the entire show because there’s websites that already do that, but there was one match in particular that I want to detail in length, the one that made me a fan of TJPW almost instantly after it finished: Shoko Nakajima vs. Hyper Misao.
Just as the first match of the show ended, Baliyan Akki and Chris Brookes provided English commentary describing the scene as the Hall was readied for the next match, ring announcer Sayuri Namba in front of a ladder acting as a core visual. The presence of a ladder got a “Huh?” reaction out of me. The thought of a ladder stipulation on only the second match of the entire show confused and intrigued me. It was announced as a “New Year Tiger Child Rescue” match, where the only way to win was to grab the Tiger from the rope; no pinfalls, submissions, count-outs or disqualifications.
With TJPW being the sister company of DDT, shenanigans were expected throughout. Of course, it wouldn’t match the intensity DDT places on their “silly” moments, the reality that a joshi company was doing something equally as entertaining stood out to me. Sure, Stardom has done its fair share of silliness with the janken tournaments and various shows, but the integration of DDT’s whacky gimmicks into their sister company was something that I was oddly excited about.
Both Shoko Nakajima and Hyper Misao came out, and they grabbed my attention immediately. This shouldn’t be a surprise, because TJPW focuses more on character work than other joshi companies, but there was something about their presence that excited me even more about the match, their super upbeat entrance music and energetic personalities were a delight.
A few moments into the match, I realised there was something poetic about these two wrestling against each other. Misao, a heroic character, was fighting against Nakajima, an embodiment of a large monster (as she’s called the Big Kaiju). Misao was proving something by being in this match—she was a superhero trying to protect everyone, even the smallest of things.
What got me into this match, besides the stipulation itself, was the use of objects around them. Misao wrapped Nakajima in festive bunting, then tied her up so she couldn’t escape and hit her with the racket that she had brought from her entrance. Minutes later, a no-longer incapacitated Nakajima dropped a box full of Kaiju figures into the ring, followed by Misao dropping gacha balls in to the ring. If you’ve ever seen a spot with LEGO or thumbnails, you probably know what happens next. The creative use of the gacha balls later, when Nakajima tries throwing them at Misao and she’s deflecting them with the racket, is so fun, but it doesn’t take away from the spirit of TJPW, at all. I’m going to mention the part where Misao puts her head in the middle of the ladder and swings it, mostly because it’s a staple of any ladder match, and I enjoy it every time.
Whilst ladder shenanigans are common in matters that revolve around their usage, there were some things that I had never seen before, such as Nakajima just letting the ladder fall on Misao who was laying in the ring; something that’s normally considered not safe at all. It’s done so well, that even when it’s obvious that it’s done very safely, its impact is still there, whether comedic or not.
Less dangerous spots can be fun, too, of course. Mahiro Kiryu, who had wrestled in the first match, came out to try and help Misao get the Tiger down from the rope, but was unsuccessful. Although it was a small part of the match itself, I think it was one of my favourites—using creative and simple approaches to matches that haven’t been done before that you’d expect would have been.
Really, the match isn’t that long; it’s about as long as most of the other matches on the show, besides the title matches (which go a few minutes longer and don’t go above twenty minutes). Yet, every single second of it got me hooked. Even when it ended, I just wanted more TJPW. I watched the rest of the show, and that’s how a mere two matches created my TJPW fandom.
TJPW proved to me wrestling can still be wrestling, even if it’s more focused on silliness and character-driven in nature, rather than the pure sport of wrestling. That’s fine; it’s still fun to watch.
The absurdity of wrestling in Japan is what makes it so enjoyable. Wacky stuff carrying over from DDT to its sister company makes a lot of sense, and can appeal to absolutely anyone. And isn’t that the biggest joy of it all?
Some people try to discredit comedy in professional wrestling, but I never understood that mindset. Wrestling is entertainment, after all. It can fill a variety of different roles with the creativity shown throughout the medium.
Hyper Misao vs. Shoko Nakajima, a typical match in a typical Tokyo Joshi Pro show, shared a simple story heightened by entertaining spots and comedy gold, and sometimes that’s all you need to be hooked for life.
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