Before one answers “who is Wrestler of the Year,” one must answer “what is Wrestler of the Year.” Is it championship dominance and prominence on a roster? Is it the most outstanding talent in the ring?
Or is it the person whose name keeps popping up, the one who becomes the main character of any given promotion or platform? In 2022, one wrestler was all of these things for Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling: Quality. Quantity. Consistency. With the matches, the moves, and the motivation, Miu Watanabe proved that she was the best in the world during the Summer of Pink.
Summer of Pink – Miu Watanabe:
Daydreaming of a Winter Wonderland
Before the musical number that opens every TJPW show, Miu Watanabe introduces everyself as 120% energetic, muscular, loves pink, and loves idols. She made her debut on January 4, 2018, as part of the Up Up Girls, a combination of an idol group meets pro wrestling. With a background in softball, the 18-year-old Miu was the strongest of the bunch and showed a high potential from the beginning.
By the end of 2019, she would win the Princess Tag Team titles with her senpai Rika Tatsumi as Daydream (Hakuchumu in Japanese) and held a lengthy reign until the end of 2020. At the start of 2021, she even challenged Tatsumi for the top prize, the Princess of Princess championship.
The rise was real. She honed her wrestling over the four years of her young career, impressing the audience not only between the bells but also through her singing and dancing. By Year 5, the expectations were heavy upon her broad shoulders.
On January 4, 2022, Miu celebrated her anniversary with a win, tagging with Rika at Korakuen Hall. Daydream would ride the wave into the second annual Max Heart Tournament and win the finals in February. Together they earned a shot at the tag champs, Magical Sugar Rabbits, at the first ever Grand Princess show in March. TJPW would be making their debut at the historic Ryogoku Kokugikan.
The tag match at Grand Princess was Miu’s first great match on the calendar. In a 17-minute bout, she was able to wow the biggest crowd TJPW had ever drawn on their own with her incredible power.
Bodyslamming both Yuka Sakazaki and Mizuki in one move, taking them both for a giant swing at the same time, and throwing laser beam chops like she was throwing fastballs. Alas, Rika comes up short against Yuka and Daydream falls just short of the tag titles.
Spring of Swing
Over the next few months, Miu Watanabe felt a bit of a reversal of fortune. She lost to Hyper Misao in April in a match that led Misao to challenge for the Princess of Princess championship. She lost in a four-way for an official number 1 contender’s match at the CyberFight Festival in June. But the fact that she was getting these opportunities to compete and fail on her own was growth in itself.
At TJPW’s next big show, Summer Sun Princess at Ota Ward Gymnasium, Miu was selected to face the debuting Willow Nightingale in a special singles match. However, due to visa issues, the Muscle Princess versus the Babe with the Power was not to be. Instead, the experienced freelancer Ryo Mizunami was chosen as replacement. And for those wondering what 120% energy looks like, this is it.
For Miu, it was a test of strength, not necessarily against a sturdy veteran but against adversity itself: what one does when things go wrong. The anguish on her face demonstrates how difficult it is to wrestle and how hard she is working.
She can’t knock Mizunami down with shoulder tackles at first until she eventually does. She can’t outstrike her opponent at first until she eventually does. She can’t do the giant swing until she tries and tries again and finally gets it to the roar of the crowd. Mizunami is the one who gets the pinfall victory on the day, but Miu’s perseverance can go along way in the war.
Miu Watanabe: The Summer of Pink
Every summer of the Tokyo Princess Cup, Miu Watanabe has had a better run than her last. She failed to qualify in 2018. She lost in the second round in 2019. She lost in the quarterfinal in 2020. She lost in the semifinal in 2021. Hope was high, but the bracket this year would not be an easy road.
In her first match, Miu took on an exciting young second year wrestler, Arisu Endo. At one point, Miu breaks out a new variant of the giant swing, using a front facelock instead of holding onto the legs. Miu can get creative with her moves, hitting a pop-up giant swing, countering holds and moves into the swing, even attempting to swing Aja Kong.
Ten minutes into the bout, the combatants get into a strike exchange with Endo holding the advantage. Miu drops her with a laser beam chop and hits her Teardrop finish for the win. She can smile and breathe easy as she advances.
Her next challenge came on an off day from the tournament. Daydream went against two Pillars of TJPW, Yuka Sakazaki, and Shoko Nakajima. Miu is able to hang with three top-tier talents in a great match. And with mere seconds left under the 20-minute time limit, she looks to be in control.
However, two finishers from Nakajima left Watanabe looking up at the lights in defeat. The chance for redemption came a week later in their quarterfinal match. The reigning Princess of Princess champion Nakajima would not be an easy out.
Miu goes to the mat for some chain wrestling and holds her own against the veteran grappler. She gains the advantage in the standup game, but her youth allows Shoko’s experienced trickery to turn the tide and take over.
Miu evens the odds, and the haymakers start flying, and the facelock swing makes an appearance. Learning from her mistakes, Watanabe counters Shoko’s finish, chops the life out of her, and hits the Teardrop to advance.
There’s nothing like following up the biggest win of your career like facing the ace of TJPW in the semifinals. Miu Watanabe fares well against Miyu Yamashita when it comes to chain wrestling early. But Yamashita is a world-class striker. Every time Miu starts to gain momentum, Yamashita lays in a kick that rattles the 22-year-old’s bones.
Yamashita keeps knocking her down and expects her to stay down. But Miu lets out a mighty scream and continues to fight. She smashes her fists against her opponent’s chest like a baseball swing trying to break down a wall. Miu dodges the famous Skull Kick and hits the Teardrop, advancing to the Tokyo Princess Cup finals.
There’s nothing like following a match-of-the-year candidate with another match-of-the-year contender. Dave Meltzer reported in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter that people were raving about these matches.
The moment was not too big for Miu Watanabe. She brought everything in this all-or-nothing match. She pulled out the inverted giant swing, her major league strikes, and her fighting spirit that refused to stay down. Yuka just kept hitting Miu in the head with absolute murder in her eyes, pinning the Up Up Girl in 19 minutes to win the Tokyo Princess Cup.
Defeating the Princess of Princess champion as well as the Ace, and going toe to toe with the Finals winner was more than enough to establish Miu Watanabe as a main event player. In the main event of Go Girl 3, a show designed to put their best foot forward in front of new fans, TJPW showcased Miu alongside Mizuki and the Four Princess Pillars in a 6-man tag.
It wasn’t long until Wrestle Princess 3 in October where Miu defeated Alex Windsor to win the International Princess Championship; the workhorse title meant to take on challengers from all over the world.
In addition to the number of great career-making matches she’s had across 2022, Miu Watanabe has grown into a must-see talent every time she steps in the ring. From the way she throws her whole body into hitting a shoulder tackle or a corner splash, to the way she adjusts her ponytail to boldly announce the giant swing to the audience.
Each show is an opportunity to witness a new swing variation and one day she might even take Aja Kong for a ride. Who Miu Watanabe is, is very clear in her theme song: “Loves pro wrestling, loves idols, loves everyone.”
Matches to Watch
- Miu Watanabe and Rika Tatsumi vs Yuka Sakazaki and Mizuki (March 19)
- Miu Watanabe vs Ryo Mizunami (July 9)
- Miu Watanabe and Rika Tatsumi vs Shoko Nakajima and Yuka Sakazaki (July 23)
- Miu Watanabe vs Shoko Nakajima (July 31)
- Miu Watanabe vs Miyu Yamashita (August 13)
- Miu Watanabe vs Yuka Sakazaki (August 14)