Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
Miu Watanabe undersold herself.
When asked in 2020 to address fans in English ahead of what was supposed to be Tokyo Joshi Pro-Wrestling’s first show in the United States (damn you, COVID!), she said, “I am Japanese idol. Sing and dance and pro wrestle.”
All of those words are true, but they don’t fully capture who Watanabe is or what she does. It’s like describing Lady Gaga as simply a singer who also acts. You’re missing plenty of layers there. You’re missing the depth of her impressive multiplicity.
Watanabe, like much of the TJPW roster, is one part wrestler, one part idol.
Yuki Arai, a performer with the group SKE48, debuted for Tokyo Joshi in May 2021. Maki Itoh famously sought a career in the idol world before settling into wrestling where she now sings her own entrance music. The promotion is built around this blend of musical performer and mat-based athlete.
Watanabe’s many-sidedness goes beyond the usual TJPW combo of singing and suplexes, though.
The ponytailed bruiser is a great many things. She is a powerhouse, a prodigy, a charmer, the embodiment of Tokyo Joshi’s vibrant personality. Since her debut in 2018, TJPW fans have seen that whole spectrum at play regularly, Watanabe dealing her varied hand on the table, card by card.
It all starts with a song.
In 2018, the company introduced a quartet of young talents trained in wrestling as well as the song and dance stylings of the Japanese idol girl, a spinoff branch of the Up Up Girls group. They have since become a fixture on TJPW cards. Most shows open with a mini-concert from the group, a most peppy way to lead into the in-ring action.
Hikari Noa and Raku (their fourth musketeer, Hinano, retired in 2019) join Watanabe between the ropes where they shimmy in synchronization, armed with microphones and uncut bubbliness. Their songs are pulsing, sugary sweet numbers.
Seeing just this side of Watanabe, with her pink bow and selfie-worthy smile, you might make some off-the-mark assumptions about what she’s like in the ring. This part of the act makes her seem more like a Fanta spokesmodel than a fighter.
Her ring entrance is equally cutesy.
Watanabe hams it up. She flashes peace signs, bounces like a cartoon rabbit, tilts her head and grins. Sometimes she gets so close to the camera it feels as if she’s us hugging through the screen. She has all the flowing exuberance of someone picked to “come on down” on The Price is Right.
That is not the person that fights her battles for her. The bow and bubble-gum pink gear remain, but when the bell ring, a warrior emerges from her skin.
Watch her matchup against Yuki Aino from the Tokyo Princess Cup last July. Just seconds into the thing, Watanabe is firing off shoulder blocks and howling a battle cry.
She is dominant, single minded, a relentless force whether she is clamping on a hold or fighting like hell to get out of one. She slings the larger Aino around the ring, nails her with a series of double ax-handle blows, and at one point, hits a chop as loud as a firecracker.
This is hoss work. This is what we’ve come to expect from Watanabe.
Never mind that she’s 5’3” and doesn’t look old enough to get into a bar, she may be the strongest wrestler on the TJPW roster.
Watanabe has bodyslammed two wrestlers at once. She whirls her foes around with a giant swing a la Cesaro. She makes eye-popping feats of strength part of her regular arsenal.
But while her power is perhaps that first that grabs your attention, she’s no one-trick pony. Despite being so early into her career, Watanabe is well versed in the storytelling side of a wrestling match.
Look back at her clash with Shoko Nakajima in the Princess Cup. Watanabe surges with emotion here.
Her grimaces, her exhaustion, her fury all scream realism.
There’s a point near the end of the bout where Nakajima goes for a Tiger Feint Kick and Watanabe blocks it with her trademark double ax handle. The burst of a celebration that follows, with closed fists and strained face, is a hugely infectious one.
Watanabe’s athleticism and strength are plenty remarkable, but it’s the ability to connect to the crowd in moments like this that most speak to her true potential.
But if her passion doesn’t pull you in, she has options aplenty. Watanabe’s brawn might do the trick. Or else, her undiluted perkiness could grab your attention. Then there’s always her singing and dancing talent.
Watanabe can entertain by way of agony, showing off her strength, or high-energy pop music. She’s damn good at it all, too.
Should Tokyo Joshi Pro need a new franchise player, a fresh ace to supplant Miyu Yamashita, it knows just where to look. It’s easy to imagine Watanabe growing into the centerpiece for the promotion. She has the wrestling chops to deliver in the main event, the charisma to bring fans in, and plenty of ways to entertain an audience.
A songbird, a strongwoman, a soubrette, Watanabe is a multichambered organ that could be the heart of TJPW.