It’s time for something a little bit different. We’re travelling back to Japan for some hard-hitting Joshi action from Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling. The sister company of DDT and also promoted by Cyberfight, TJPW has been responsible for providing an alternative Joshi experience and has been the home for some of the Japanese women’s wrestlers you’re familiar with. Maki Itoh, Yuka Sakazaki and more call TJPW home and for Inspiration, the company was getting experimental with some of its roster members. It would be the Up Up Girls, TJPW’s in-house battling idols taking on a trio of different opponents across three matches. Miu Watanabe would battle Mizuki, Raku would do battle with Rika Tatsumi and the main event would be the company’s first-ever hardcore match between Hikari Noa and the debuting deathmatch star Rina Yamashita. Let’s get into this new experience.

Mizuki defeated Miu Watanabe via Diving Bunny Hop

Up first was going to be a battle of the high-energy stars. It would be Miu Watanabe against the Popping Sugar Rabbit Mizuki. Both women are fast and furious fighters but would Watanabe be able to give the Up Up Girls a lead? The pair started with some attempted lock-ups and Watanabe showcased a power advantage. Mizuki cut her off with a side-headlock and Watanabe overpowered Mizuki again with shoulder tackles. Mizuki retreated outside and taunted Watanabe, baiting her outside so she could smack her in the head as she re-entered the ring. Watanabe repaid in kind and smacked Mizuki back to the outside with a forearm after dodging a crossbody. Watanabe wasted no time in getting her back inside, then hammered Mizuki with corner elbows to the back. She continued to apply pressure to the back with knee-to backbreaker stretches and Mizuki targeted the same area with a Bunny Hop. She tried to submit Watanabe with a Camel Clutch and punished her with a rope-assisted Bunny Hop before kicking her back to the outside for yet another Bunny Hop. She climbed to the top but Watanabe caught her out of the air and slammed her into the mat. Mizuki kicked her way free and knocked the wind out of Watanabe with a rope-hung dropkick into another Bunny Hop and springboard Bunny Hop.

She baited Watanabe into a one-sided slugfest but Watanabe made her pay with a double chop. She went on a comeback with shoulder tackles into another slam. Mizuki tried to charge but Watanabe caught her off the ropes into a nasty powerslam and took her on a Giant Swing. Mizuki fought off more shoulder tackles and snapped Watanabe in half with a backstabber. The pair slugged it out again and Mizuki countered a baseball punch into a submission. Watanabe made the ropes so Mizuki climbed to the top and tried to fend off Watanabe with kicks but got knocked off the top with a baseball club. She punished Mizuki further with a Canadian backbreaker and killed Mizuki’s fight with a stiff laser-beam chop. It wasn’t enough as Mizuki rolled her through into another Bunny Hop and flattened her with Whirling Candy. She climbed to the top for one final diving Bunny Hop and took the win. She was surprisingly sportsmanlike to her opponent and even hit Watanabe’s pose on the way out. This was a very manic opener but it was also a whole load of fun to watch. Both competitors brought their A-game and went all-out for a potentially new audience.

Rika Tatsumi defeated Raku via Missile Hip

Up next was Raku, the second Up Up Girl in competition against the current Princess of Princesses champion Rika Tatsumi. This was going to be a tough challenge for Raku as she was going to have to slay a dragon if she wanted to put the Up Up Girls on the scoreboard. She had brought a pillow for protection from Tatsumi’s diamond-hard hip attacks, so she was definitely prepared. There was no handshake as Raku had hidden under the ring. Tatsumi went on the hunt and Raku gave her the pantomime-style, she’s behind you routine before attacking from behind and riding Tatsumi like a surfboard. She taped the pillow to Tatsumi’s butt and took away one of Tatsumi’s best weapons. Raku proved this by tanking numerous hip attacks and rolling her up as she tried to remove the pillow. Raku continued to beat down Tatsumi with stomps, runs and a rolling senton but Tatsumi tanked it and took out her leg. Raku forced her way to the ropes but Tatsumi relentlessly continued to go after the leg. Raku fought free of a Dragon Screw and dodged a hip attack to down Tatsumi with a running elbow. She continued to fight back into the match with a bionic elbow and running dropkick but couldn’t keep Tatsumi down. She hit Tatsumi with a sunset flip but Tatsumi recovered and went right back to the leg with a Dragon Screw and Figure Four. Raku low-bridged her out of another hip attack and hung her up in the ropes with a bulldog. She trapped Tatsumi in a sleeper but Tatsumi drove her into the buckles and finally nailed a hip attack. She trapped Raku in the tree of woe and landed another hip attack. Raku dodged certain doom with a Slingblade and got caught into a backbreaker. Tatsumi killed her off with a cutter and climbed to the top for the missile hip and the victory. Raku had tried a crafty tactic but it backfired as the weapon she tried to take away was the thing that had put her away. Once again, this was good fun with a nice splash of creativity alongside the Joshi violence.

Rina Yamashita defeated Hikari Noa via Chair Pile Splash Mountain

Last but not least, the main event. The company’s first hardcore match felt like the perfect place to debut the deathmatch star, Rina Yamashita. She was taking on another self-proclaimed deathmatch fan and the final member of the Up Up Girls Hikari Noa. You could tell Noa was an admirer of the art-form as she had gone all out to give her gear a deathmatch flair, paying homage to Jun Kasai, one of its most iconic. This was going to get ugly. We had chairs, ladders, tables, glowstick boards(?) and more to be used. Yamashita overpowered Noa out of the opening lock-up but was nice enough to give her a clean break. The lock-up wars continued until the pair reached a head-scissor stalemate. Noa decided to pick up the pace with dropkicks and littered the ring with CDs and glowsticks. She trapped Yamashita in a rolling cradle amongst the plunder and tried for a slam but Yamashita overpowered her again and slammed her onto the CDs. Yamashita snapped the CDs into jagged pieces and cracked a glowstick in her hand for a glowing lariat. They danced around the glowstick board and Noa sidestepped a charging Yamashita to drive her through the board. She picked up a ladder for the Funk spin but Yamashita was wise to it and stopped her with a chair shot. The fight broke to the outside as Yamashita bounced Noa off the apron and dragged up the ringside mat. They fought over another slam and Noa was slammed into the concrete. Yamashita set up a table and dumped Noa on it. The pair fought on the apron, going back and forth on forearms until Yamashita stunned Noa with a headbutt and drove her through the table with a Fire-Thunder Driver.

Yamashita upped the brutality by retrieving a wrench from under the ring and ground it into Noa’s head. She gave Noa another wrenching in the ropes and slammed Noa onto a ladder. Yamashita tried to make a chair pile but Noa interrupted her by throwing more CDs at her. Yamashita dragged her away and smashed her back in a chair stack. Noa continued to try and fight back and successfully scored a knockdown by dropkicking a chair into Yamashita. The fight broke to the top rope as Yamashita slugged Noa into a Superplex onto the plunder. Another slugfest broke out and Yamashita took off Noa’s head with a German into a clothesline. Noa refused to quit so Yamashita broke another chair over her back. Noa pelted Yamashita with a chair and superkicked it into her face, then a chair duel broke out. Noa ducked another chair shot and booted Yamashita into a Sleeper Suplex. She broke a broken table part over Yamashita’s head and grabbed her goggles to climb to the top. She hit Yamashita with the Pearl Harbour Splash, continuing the Kasai honouring but only got two. Yamashita fought out of another Sleeper Suplex, dumped Noa with a backdrop and crunched her with a hammerlock clothesline. She decapitated Noa with another clothesline and hoisted her lifeless body into the air for Splash Mountain for the kill. Yamashita had won her TJPW debut and made a hardcore star of Noa. Heart and guts go a long way in those types of fights and Noa proved she had a ton of both. This was an excellent little hardcore bout that didn’t skimp on the violence. I’d say Noa opened more than a few eyes to what she is capable of when there’s plunder around and fun to be had.

That was that. The Up Up Girls may have gone 0-3 to their opponents but they had tried their best and it had been entertaining as hell to watch. This felt like the perfect little entry point to introduce people to some of the manic action that happens within TJPW. They knocked it out of the park with a nasty hardcore match and two excellent singles bouts. The next Inspiration show will be in July with three more experimental matches with select roster members. If you’ve never seen TJPW, this is a nice little standalone show that shows off some of their core action with a different flavour and definitely delivers. I had a blast as a semi-regular viewer and can’t wait to see what they do for the next one. Hopefully, though, Rina Yamashita becomes a regular roster member as she provides a new style of challenger for the roster as she will kill anyone and everyone in a ring. Hikari Noa now wants to go full-on deathmatch and there is a whole world of wrestler’s who’d happily introduced her to the violence. Next stop FREEDOMS, maybe or even wilder GKPW?

All images courtesy of ddtpro.com, TJPW Twitter, Special thanks to DDT/TJPW English Update for translations