TJPW Top 10 Matches of 2023

Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling’s 2023 was a historic year and for more than just being the tenth anniversary of the company. A top 10 list could be created of all the major stories on the calendar from the princess promotion.

Among them being Mizuki finally grabbing the brass ring, the long-awaited debut in America, and Yuka Sakazaki’s graduation from TJPW.

But while the roster may change, what remained steady is the quality of bell-to-bell action. From the intensity of workrate style to the dramatics of emotional storytelling to the bizarre adventures of interdimensional travel, Tokyo Joshi had many standout bouts.

Ranked via this writer’s enjoyment,  the story of TJPW in 2023 is best told in these 10 matches.

TJPW Top 10 Matches of 2023                                          10. Yuki Kamifuku vs Miyu Yamashita (August 13th)

(Photo: Twitter @TJPW2013 – Tokyo Princess Cup 10 Finals, Korakuen Hall)

In the finals of the 10th Tokyo Princess Cup, two wrestlers entered the ring defying all the tournament odds. Miyu Yamashita, the most decorated of the TJPW roster, had been cursed with early exits in most years and had never before won the trophy.

Yuki Kamifuku had upset the presumptive favorite in the second round and advanced to the last night on a Cinderella run. For the irresistible Kamiyu, an immovable object stood in her path.

The amazing trait of this match is how much the flow of the match and the audience believes in Kamiyu. The Casual Beauty is a denim-clad slacker who is always quick to take a shortcut.

She has been a queen of the lower card, but she’s also a crafty veteran who knows how to rise to that upper level. Miyu breaking her curse was an inevitable outcome, yet their passion had the crowd in a loud frenzy in hopes of seeing the impossible happen.

TJPW Top 10 Matches of 2023                                         
9. Arisu Endo and Rika Tatsumi vs Mahiro Kiryu and Yuki Aino (May 25th)

(Photo: Twitter @TJPW2013 – Hyper Misao’s Produce Show “Hype!”, Kitazawa Town Hall)

Most marquee matches in Tokyo Joshi will go 15 to 20 minutes, maybe a little longer only a handful of times a year.

So when the main event of Hyper Misao’s produced show “Hype!” starts with more than an hour remaining in the broadcast, it’s hard to imagine what that looks like.

Given a blank check to flex her creative genius, Misao decided to center an epic cinematic match around the resident sad sack wrestler, Mahiro Kiryu.

The context of TJPW history is key, but the events happening on screen are so weird it’s worth it. Kiryu is an awkward undercard wrestler who always apologizes for things she thinks she’s done wrong.

When she finds herself in the familiar position of being on the wrong side of a submission, normalcy is thrown out the window as the lights flicker, time freezes, and an alternate Hyper Misao invites her on a dimension-hopping journey to save the world.

Kiryu gets to experience alternate worldlines where she could be a singing and dancing idol or a handsome romantic lead fighting off dastardly villains. Because isn’t all wrestling just make-believe?

Like any good movie, once the Space/Time Police have our heroes cornered, Kiryu comes to an emotional realization about her life, her sadness, and her inner strength. Because isn’t all wrestling just a power fantasy?

Find some fan translations because there must always be room for the spectacle, ambition, and heartbreak of Hyper Misao.

TJPW Top 10 Matches of 2023                                         
8. Mizuki vs Yuka Sakazaki (March 18th)

(Photo: Twitter @TJPW2013 – Grand Princess ’23, Ariake Coliseum)

The biggest championship match of the past few years was also one of the strangest. Mizuki last challenged Yuka Sakazaki in November 2020, and, like always, she came up short.

The perception of her had been that she was long overdue to join the hallowed ground of Princess of Princess championship holders. After two and a half years, the epic rematch was main eventing one of the landmark shows of the year.

As both competitors entered the ring almost in tears, the emotional weight was heavy from the start. The Magical Sugar Rabbits are more than just tag team partners, more than even best friends; they are wrestling soulmates.

From the first few moments after the opening bell, it was clear that Yuka did not want to fight Mizuki. It’s a bizarre few minutes where the champion either wanted to spare her opponent from pain or inflict as much damage as possible quickly to get this over with.

For a story-based match, it isn’t all just making faces and vocalizing their feelings. Mizuki and Yuka engage in high-flying action, brutal striking, and risky chances. The main event title fights of the Big 4 TJPW events are always great, but there’s something about these circumstances that made a special statement.

Mizuki has been the uncrowned Ace for years. And Yuka, perhaps with the knowledge that she would soon announce her departure from the company, is in the bittersweet position of having to stand in front of that dream and make Mizuki earn it.

TJPW Top 10 Matches of 2023 
7. Shoko Nakajima vs Miyu Yamashita (August 17th)

(Photo: Twitter @TJPW2013 – TJPW Inspiration #7, Shin-Kiba 1st Ring)

To celebrate 10 years to the day since their in-ring debut for DDT in Ryogoku Kokugikan, Miyu Yamashita and Shoko Nakajima had a match in a much smaller venue on short notice.

The TJPW Inspiration brand has been used to put on stand-alone shows of bouts that wouldn’t ordinarily happen. Gimmick rules. Outsider guests. A random top 10 match of the year.

A decade-old rivalry, built upon main event title fights on the grandest of stages, was being contested as a celebration.

Without much of a present narrative, this is just pro-wrestling as a pure art form. Grappling hold for hold. Dancing through reversal after reversal. All for the fun of it. If Miyu Yamashita is the Ace, Shoko Nakajima is her second in command.

Because sometimes you need two of the best wrestlers on the scene to have a 20-minute, down to the wire banger just to flex. Their last match made the top 10 last year, and the rematch might be better.

TJPW Top 10 Matches of 2023                                         
6. Rika Tatsumi vs Miu Watanabe (March 18th)

(Photo: Twitter @doratles – Grand Princess’ 23, Ariake Coliseum)

The third match from the top at Grand Princess was everything you could want in a workhorse title match and more. The tag team of Daydream collided with Rika Tatsumi, challenging her partner Miu Watanabe for the International Princess championship.

It was a clash of styles both similar and distinct, as the vicious, unpredictable Rika held nothing back against the powerful and innovative Miu.

Miu Watanabe won the blue belt towards the end of last year after a breakout season in her young career. She’s strong, she’s energetic, and she knows how to work the crowd.

Whether it’s a giant muscular maneuver or a small facial tic, her babyface fire is like no other. And not to be outdone by her junior on the rise, Rika probably has the most aggressive energy on the roster.

Put them together, and they flow as only tag partners can. Some of the counters are so smooth and spellbinding that if there were a list of top reversals for the year, this match would be in contention.

Two wrestlers going hold for hold, strike for strike, for more than just the victory at hand. Miu has been looking to break into the upper echelon and Rika was on the verge of becoming the first TJPW member to complete the grand slam of titles.

TJPW Top 10 Matches of 2023                                         
5. Miyu Yamashita vs Yuka Sakazaki (January 4th)

(Photo: Twitter @TJPW2013 – Tokyo Joshi Pro ’23 January 4th show, Korakuen Hall)

Main event of Ittenyon. The Princess of Princess championship. Two of the Four Cornerstones. Any one of these elements is likely to make a memorable match for end-of-the-year contention, let alone all three.

On the traditional January 4th show from Korakuen Hall, Miyu Yamashita and Yuka Sakazaki reignited their decade-long rivalry to kick off the 10-year anniversary celebrations with a bang. 

Like Okada/Naito or Misawa/Kawada, these two have wrestled each other enough times where their chemistry is undeniable. And to spice up the formula a bit, Miyu and Yuka decided to knock each other’s heads off.

Miyu tumbled to the outside early on and appeared to suffer the concussion she would be diagnosed with afterward. If plans changed as they often do in that case, then the quality of the final product is even more impressive.

There’s nothing too pretty or technical here, just haymaker after haymaker. It’s about as ugly as the thunking headbutt between the two that people seem to hate but always stirs a reaction.

The match is good on its own, but the later context paints it in a different light. By the summer, Yuka would be injured and announcing her departure from TJPW at the end of the year: so if this was their last time to leave it all on the dance floor, then they had one hell of a goodbye.

TJPW Top 10 Matches of 2023                                         
4. Shoko Nakajima and Hyper Misao vs Miyu Yamashita and Maki Itoh (February 11th)

(Photo: Twitter @TJPW2013 – Max Heart Tournament 2023 Finals, Korakuen Hall)

In the finals of the third annual Max Heart tag team tournament were two duos who had never before held the pink belts. Kyoraku Kyomei (Shoko Nakajima and Hyper Misao) against 121000000 (Maki Itoh and Miyu Yamashita).

Both units had solidified in the past two years and have already made it past two other teams to get closer to a title shot.

This main event had it all. The psychology of working over body parts. Creativity in working with the space inside and outside of the ring. Interesting dynamics when it comes to tag team wrestling and trusting in your partner.

For all the reversal spots and combo maneuvers to talk about, at the end of the day it’s all about one team dominating the other until the power of friendship evens the odds in a climactic showdown.

2023 was not a stellar year for tag team wrestling in TJPW. While the tag titles did main event the debut show in Los Angeles over Wrestlemania weekend and were featured on the joint show Combat Princess in December, the division was also put on pause for several months.

The belts were vacated during the summer due to Yuka Sakazaki’s injury and other factors delayed the crowning of new champions until October. There were a number of great duos, just not a whole lot of marquee matches.

But still, the finals of the Max Heart tournament was the best of them and made a statement for doubles wrestling.

TJPW Top 10 Matches of 2023                                         
3. Miyu Yamashita, Yuka Sakazaki, Shoko Nakajima, Rika Tatsumi, and Mizuki vs Miu Watanabe, Yuki Arai, Arisu Endo, Suzume, and Moka Miyamoto (December 1st)

(Photo: Twitter @endoarisu427 – We are TJPW 10th Anniversary Show)

For the 10th Anniversary show, the old guard was pitted against the next generation. One side was the only five members on the active roster to have held the Princess of Princess title.

The Four Cornerstones who were about to see the departure of Yuka Sakazaki in the coming days, with Mizuki joining their ranks in this year and on this show.

In the opposite corner were the stars hoping to take the reigns in the next few years, if not much sooner. In this 2 out of 3 falls match, many dynamics and stories were at play. A comedic first act.

A dramatic second act. A young prospect defeating a veteran and the crowd going wild. It’s the moments between the juniors and seniors that make it a movement and let you know that the youth are alright.

It’s great wrestling, smart storytelling, and a preview of the near future all rolled into one, especially when Miyu Yamashita and Miu Watanabe face off towards the end. The Ace and Princess of Princess champion against the wrestler possibly poised to be a breakout star, yet again, in 2024.

TJPW Top 10 Matches of 2023                                         
2. Miyu Yamashita vs Mizuki (October 9th)

(Photo: Twitter @mizupyon3 – Wrestle Princess IV)

While Mizuki had been Princess of Princess champion for most of the year, Miyu Yamashita has been the Ace of TJPW for most of the company’s existence. The transition of power between Aces has never been easy.

It often must be firmly taken from the incumbent, proving that the successor is worthy. Miyu went on an excursion for a few months this spring, leaving the house she built to the kids. She returned and ran through the Tokyo Princess Cup, including Mizuki, and set her sights on a record-setting 4th PoP title reign.

The main event of Wrestle Princess IV is two of the best at their best. It’s careful work at first, measured and meaningful. And once they up the pace, it’s all out warfare. Hitting giant moves, kicking out of near falls, and fighting like hell feels perfect for the climactic end-of-year show.

From an ongoing fan perspective, the booking around the match leaves something to be desired. But when it comes to moves and crisp action, it’s close to perfect.

Main eventing the Wrestle Princess show has historically been a surefire contender for the top spot of any given year. Miyu and Mizuki made the list last year, but there’s a unique quality to laying it all on the line when the world feels at stake.

This isn’t just a standout bout of 2023; it’s regarded as one of the best TJPW matches ever.

TJPW Top 10 Matches of 2023                                         
1. Maki Itoh vs Mizuki (July 8th)

(Photo: Twitter @mizupyon3 – Summer Sun Princess 2023)

The rivalry between former partners Maki Itoh and Mizuki has been a staple of Tokyo Joshi for the better part of 5 years and was reignited in 2023. Kicking off the Year of the Rabbit, Mizuki defeated Itoh at Ittenyon to win a shot at the Princess of Princess title.

She did indeed win the belt, achieving a dream they both had been racing towards. At Summer Sun Princess, they went head to head again for the number 1 spot in TJPW.

The best moment of the match, perhaps of the year, happened 15 minutes into this emotional main event. After knocking each other down in a stalemate, both wrestlers tumbled to the outside on opposite sides of the ring.

Exhausted, they crawled along the floor to find one another. They met around the corner and, after a staredown, started throwing bombs. As the referee’s countout got closer and closer to 20, Maki and Mizuki grabbed each other’s hand and rolled into the ring to continue their fight.

Numbers 1 and 2 on this list could be exchanged, as the Miyu match feels like it appeals to the brain, whereas this appeals to the heart. The Mizuki and Maki Itoh story is what hooked this writer into watching TJPW.

The tears are bound to fall, and not just between these wrestlers. They are both deserving of the spotlight and have earned all the flowers. 

(Photo: Twitter @TJPW2013 – TJPW 10th Anniversary Show, Korakuen Hall)

TJPW in 2023: Honorable Mentions

Shoko Nakajima and Hyper Misao vs Andreza Giant Panda and Haruna Neko (March 18)

Nao Kakuta vs Mizuki (April 15)

Sawyer Wreck vs Mizuki (May 5)

Yuki Aino vs Rika Tatsumi (July 8)

Rika Tatsumi vs Shoko Nakajima (July 29)

Wakana Uehara/Toga/Runa Okubo vs Shino Suzuki/Himawari/Haru Kazashiro (August 12)

Yuki Arai vs Miyu Yamashita (August 12)

Yuki Kamifuku/Mahiro Kiryu vs Arisu Endo/Suzume vs Rika Tatsumi/Miu Watanabe (September 10)

Nao Kakuta and Hikari Noa vs Yuki Kamifuku and Mahiro Kiryu (October 9)

Shoko Nakajima vs Miyu Yamashita vs Yuka Sakazaki (December 6)

The honorable mention list has been curated to provide to a diversity of supplementary material. One could just as well go to Cagematch and check out the matches rated 7 and above.

But that tends to favor much of the same faces. These all could be Miyu Yamashita matches quite honestly. TJPW is unique, comedic, young, experienced, heart-stirring, and awe-inspiring all at once.