I watched TJPW Grand Princess '22
I really enjoyed it a lot!
Thoughts on Grand Princess
One thing I did miss from when I was watching WWE was the feeling of a PPV as a special occasion, an excuse to eat a lot and relax a lot watching a wrestling show on the weekend and making a time of it.
So I’m glad that this year I’m making more of an effort to pay attention to when shows are coming up and be excited about them beforehand to capture that feeling, instead of just watching them whenever I get to them (also glad for AEW PPVs filling that gap in a different way)! Picking up a bunch of fast food and watching Grand Princess really delivered on that feeling very well!
And I was very impressed with how throughout the show was good wrestling with an impressive amount of emotional investment tied to each show. It felt like TJPW really firing on all cylinders, although that might have been just my being more invested in it through the build and how I was watching it. There wasn’t really any match where I wasn’t entertained.
Obviously Hyper Misao’s match was a major standout. Doesn’t get much more emotional than the backstory to that one, and I love that it works both as an intense emotional match and an extremely silly comedy match.
My favorite match though was the main event! I love kaiju, so I was immediately rooting hard for Shoko right out of the gate, and obviously Yamashita is a perfect dominant foil for an underdog like that. Shoko’s post-match promo was also I think maybe the most moved I’ve been by a wrestling promo entirely in Japanese – which is to say, very moved indeed!
(Not that you need more motivation in this area but) it really went to show for me how studying the language really does make a difference and add something to the show - I knew astronomically more about what was going on than I would have otherwise (through shupro, this thread, etc.), could actually listen to the commentary like commentary and help stay engaged and keep track of who was who or what moves are 得意技 or which Toy Story is which, etc. (and I appreciate a lot how the Japanese commentary works as deadpan for the silliness - something about them not remarking on how silly NEO美威獅鬼軍 are, or treating characters who are clearly the same person as being different people, makes the whole thing that much funnier). And being able to hear and (mostly) understand what wrestlers actually say in the ring in the moment goes a really long way. Noticing that those like, “foreign” barriers had almost entirely dropped away was awfully cool.
Overall I do personally still prefer Stardom’s more competition/fight-oriented presentation. I don’t know that I need to have まけたくない stuck in my head at the start of every show, and the part at the end where everyone stepped up to the microphone and expressed happiness/thanks was fun but personally the “everyone’s happy to be here / idol performance” vibe of TJPW doesn’t click with me as much as Stardom’s really solid grounding in feeling like a prestigious fight league (come to think of it - it’s funny that it works out like that, since from their names you’d think it would be the reverse ). It’s obvious though that TJPW is doing a ton of things right, and it’s great that they have their own flavor and are running bigger and bigger shows! I’ll be sure to catch more in the future - I wanna see Shoko’s championship reign.
It’ll be interesting to see next week how Stardom’s shows in the same arena will be! Even though I’ve got more prior investment in Stardom - I could see this one big emotional show stealing the spotlight - I don’t know if I’ve seen a 2-day pro-wrestling show yet where I’ve been fully enthusiastic through both days… Looking forward to hopefully enjoying that too!
I’ve been neglecting posting about shupro for a while, so here’s three at once! I’m rather behind, so these are from January I think still.
Notes will probably be lighter since it’s been a while since I read the first one (and they aren’t incredibly dense issues)
週刊プロレス No. 2161
In Tanahashi’s column talking about the KENTA match, they talk about how “ノーDQ” is a confusing phrase in Japanese, since “disqualification” isn’t exactly an easy and clear English word. Tanahashi says it just sounds like a “No Dragon Quest” match!
The NOAH vs. NJPW Wrestle Kingdom show had just happened. Kenoh 100% dodges talking about it in his column. Talking about an upcoming match instead, he says when in Saitama to be sure to visit きいろいタコ, a food truck run by 新崎人生, a retired wrestler (Hakushi in WWE).
There’s a double page obituary for Strong Kobayashi, an older wrestler who passed away. It talks about how he was the ace for 国際プロレス and pulled very respectable ratings when that promotion was on television amid New Japan and All Japan. He also ran shows in Europe against Andre the Giant. His most famous match was when (with that history of being a star from another promotion) he went to New Japan and fought Inoki - here it is on njpwworld. And here’s a picture of him with Andre (warning - blood):
Here’s a picture of Hazuki and Koguma with the Stardom tag belts - not for any particular reason, I just think they’re neat.
The main feature in all three of these issues is picks of (mainly younger) wrestlers to watch in 2022. I didn’t read these super carefully or find them all that interesting, I confess. Master Wato is the pick for NJPW (I did not recognize the others in this issue).
I remember Tenryu’s column being really interesting in a way that’ll be hard to summarize from memory… He talked about the unfortunate situation in AJPW where right at the start of the year Jake Lee had an eye injury and had to vacate the championship – apparently this was in a match with a relative rookie, Ryuki Honda. Tenryu says the injury may have come from Lee underestimating Honda, and he hopes that in the fight for the vacant championship, Honda gets a larger spotlight from the situation.
He also talks about Prominence and groups of wrestlers going independent - he quotes Rossy Ogawa (the head/booker for Stardom - that old guy who comes out before every championship match) rather ominously: 「（’２２年は）女子プロ界統一。。。じゃなくて（笑）、女子プロレス界をもっと上に上げたいと思います」. I remember he said something about how the temptation as a smaller group is to look at what the most successful company is doing and try to do that, but what you need to do to survive is find your own niche (like e.g. FMW).
He also talks a bit about Chono getting surgery.
合体！ (oh no, Tenma’s the base? What will they do once she’s retired!)
週刊プロレス No. 2163 (2162 is a wrestle kingdom special issue I think)
Kenoh in his column explains more about his thinking behind not commenting on the Wrestle Kingdom match.
There’s a pretty cool interview with Naito talking about the anniversary show match with Okada, and how ten years earlier the 40th anniversary match was also Naito vs. Okada.
A sidebar has a rundown of their ten matches together - they are (were) 5-5, with apparently every match ending in a 片逆エビ固め (?!)
Giulia’s column is about cheering not being aloud in wrestling crowds. She talks about how since she only started getting fully popular in Stardom quite recently, there’s really only two moments that stand out where she got big cheers - her singles match with Hana Kimura, and the Cinderella Tournament final. She talks about the seconds in Stardom who pound the mat etc. to get people to clap, and says she does wish they would be sure to let the match breathe sometimes and build excitement on its own (personally, the Stardom seconds are my pandemic MVPs for masking the silence well – hard to believe I’ve not really ever seen a Stardom show with cheers, except maybe once before I got into it fully)
The wrestlers to watch in 2022 column this time has women wrestlers - Stardom’s is Koguma, and it talks about her history more and how she earned the “highspeed genius” name by especially standing out before she retired for 6 years. She talks about how now her power is 「引退してもいい」全力 - she’s giving it her all all the time, so that if she retires then and there, that’s fine. Sort of like, living every match like it’s her last, I think… Her standout moment in 2021 was jumping from the top of the ladder, and she says she wasn’t scared in the least when doing it - she was climbing and jumping off the roof a lot as a kid, so it was nostalgic!
Yuki Arai is the pick for TJPW, and it talks some about her path from idol to wrestling.
Here’s Takumi Iroha looking cool with three belts:
There’s a small recap about the OZ Academy show that had to be stopped due to a fire alarm in the building. It doesn’t sound like it had anything to do with the show or that anyone was hurt. The show took place at Shinjuku FACE, and the pictures reinforce my belief that the place where that venue is is 100% the inspiration for theater square in the yakuza series.
I did watch that (very fun) TJPW pool wrestling show by the way - and speaking of pools and wrestling, apparently All Japan Women’s Pro Wrestling in 1988 had their own pool built at their venue, リングスターフィールド - I don’t know if any wrestling happened in it, but here’s a Crush Gals concert:
The history column is very interesting in this issue - apparently in Sumo there was some recent controversy as a wrestler broke with tradition and took a position in the front office as well. So the columnist talks about that tradition’s history in wrestling and how it was broken.
Apparently in the early days - it was seen as like, “well, it’s fine for Rikidozan, but no one else” - like Rikidozan was part of management while still wrestling, but Rikidozan was so exceptional that the taboo still held even if he didn’t follow it. In his day, management types and “ときには裏社会の大物” but not wrestlers except for Rikidozan. After Rikidozan’s murder, 豊登道春 succeeded him, but the columnist paints a very negative picture of his management - making it sound like pro-wrestling seemed doomed to slip further and further into the corrupt and illegitimate sides of society. But 豊登 quit due to illness, and Giant Baba took over and took things in a much more positive direction.
I’m not full up on the details, but it sounds like from there 豊登 talked to Inoki and helped plant the seed in Inoki’s mind of starting his own promotion - because if he didn’t he would never surpass Baba because now Baba was management too, not just a wrestler. (later on, of course, Inoki would found New Japan and Baba All Japan, which NOAH would eventually split from, and the rest is history)
There’s pictures of Yuki Aino and Nodoka Tenma’s trip together as sisters to their home prefecture of Okayama ahead of Tenma’s retirement. Looks like it was fun!
There’s another Michael Nakazawa report on AEW - always nice to see.
週刊プロレス No. 2164
The big thing this issue is the reveal of the winners of the 2021 プロレスグランプリ!
This is a vote by shupro readers and mobile users, with 4376 votes in total. So it’s a reader popularity contest, not editorial decisions.
Let’s run them down why not:
- プロレスグランプリ - Shingo Takagi wins with almost double the votes of second place, Keiji Muto, who in turn got almost triple the votes of third place, Kota Ibushi.
- ベストマッチ - Shingo Takagi vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi at the dome in summer takes first place! This was the one that came together so suddenly because Ibushi had to drop out - and it would probably have been my pick too so I can’t complain. Second is the hair vs. hair match between Giulia and Tam Nakano. Which is cool! Because the way the magazine talked about it at the time, I thought maybe audiences were negative on this, but I guess it was just a case of the negative voices being disproportionately loud! Third is Shiozaki/Mutoh, fourth Hayashishita Syuri (I’m arbitrarily cutting off when I stop mentioning these - so there’s more runners up than these, just to be clear)
- 女子プロレスグランプリ - Utami Hayashishita wins, then Tam Nakano, then Syuri, then Miyu Yamashita. Starlight Kid, Tsukasa Fujimoto, Maki Itoh, Yuki Arai, and Rina Yamashita are also on the list.
- ベストユニット - Cosmic Angels wins, followed by United Empire, Los Ingobernables de Japon, and Donna Del Mondo. This list got me so grumpy – United Empire so high?! and above Donna Del Mondo…. A Very funny detail to me about lower in the list is Magical Sugar Rabbits coming in just above Bullet Club - not that I disagree!
- 最優秀外国人選手賞 - Jeff Cob, then ZSJ, then a big drop in votes and Will Ospreay. I wonder what this list would have looked like if travel were more normal?
- 新人賞 - Yuki Arai takes first place. Second place is Tiger Queen, from Strong Style, which I think is a promotion run by the first Tiger Mask? Don’t know anything about her but she looks cool! third/fourth are a couple of young lions.
- 好きなプロレスラー - for this award, people voting could write in a list of 3 names. The top 5 are Hiroshi Tanahashi, Tetsuya Naito, Yuki Arai, Tam Nakano, and Kazuchika Okada. And boy, before I caught a glimpse of this and the build to Grand Princess - I had no idea Yuki Arai was that popular an idol! That’s wild, seems like a major asset!
If I’d voted I probably would have written… Tanahashi, Giulia, and… Starlight Kid, I think.
This issue includes a poster of Syuri on one side and Saya Kamitani on the other - and can I just say I wish they would pick cooler pictures for these. Every few issues there’s a poster and I’ve never actually clipped out and put up any of them because they’re like, them posing normally against a white background.
Giulia talks about people complaining that MIRAI challenging for the belt immediately lowers its prestige - I think her point generally was that it’s a way to show another side of the competitors and bring out excitement that way.
More wrestlers to watch in 2022 - Suzu Suzuki picked for Prominence, and she chose to write a characteristically violent aphorism for the year:
The ‘here’s old back issues you could read on the mobile app’ page mentions Andre the Giant starring in ‘プリンセス・ブライド・ストーリー’ which made me really badly want to find a Princess Bride dub in Japanese, or at least subtitles for some of the famous lines - but alas, I couldn’t find one.
the Champ Talk (that’s usually just like, a promo) has Hanan talking about how much she looks up to Mayu Iwatani, and how she wants to follow Mayu’s path and slowly take all the belts in Stardom, rather than jump straight to the red belt. I feel like there’s always the (100% reasonable) chance that wrestlers who start so young decide they want to do something else and retire early, but at least according to her here she’s planning to be in Stardom for a long time it sounds like.
Takumi Iroha talks about those belts she won in that picture above – they’re the AAAW single and tag championships, tag belts with an old (for joshi wrestling) history, coming from GAEA Japan in the 90s, reactivated for GAEAISM recently, shows which Iroha regrettably had to miss due to injury. She wanted badly to win them here because it earns her the right of succession to GAEA, basically, and GAEA was apparently founded by Chigusa Nagayo and Takumi Iroha is like, really intensely Nagayo’s successor (again… they have matching tattoos), so this brings the belts to their promotion, Marvelous. Iroha says Nagayo always said if she wanted Marvelous to have championship belts, to go and take them from someone else - so she did!
the costume column is about Yuki Arai - it sounds like at least the first version of her costume was done by SKE48’s regular costumers, and she’s tweaked it some. She likes the buttons a lot, but they especially hurt when she gets kicked. Apparently she likes black leather but it looks too heelish so she’s going to maybe try to discreetly include more of it over time and see if she can get away with it that way…
There’s a column talking about Hideki Suzuki getting quickly fired from WWE. He’s a longtime indie wrestler in Japan who had a column in the magazine when I started reading - he went to NXT, where they changed his name to “Hachiman,” and then very quickly was let go along with a lot of others at the start of the year. Some of the shupro staff I think are definitely close friends with him, and Giulia definitely is, and they all tease him quite a bit here, while also hoping for the best in the future and wondering what he’ll do next.