Can You Feel My Heart? The Powerful Story of Miyu Yamashita vs. Shoko Nakajima

Credit: TJPW

A small axe can cut down a massive tree.

It will take a backbreaking effort. You will end up with blisters and frustrations. You will be sore and tired and at some point, you will wonder if it’s just better to give up. But it can be done. A hatchet can fell a mighty oak.

That’s the story of Miyu Yamashita vs. Shoko Nakajima at Grand Princess Ryogoku Sumo Hall.

The running joke in Tokyo Joshi Pro-Wrestling is that Nakajima, all 4’10’’ of her, calls herself “The Big Kaiju”. Her furry gear is supposed to hint at her being a monster. She compares herself to Godzilla.

In reality, she’s a peppy dynamo who is the smallest wrestler in just about every match she’s in. That was again the case as she challenged for the Princess of Princess Championship on March 19.

To simply say that Yamashita has a good seven inches on her, though, doesn’t do the physical mismatch justice. Yes, Yamashita is stronger and taller, but there’s more to it. Yamashita is a dominant force. An end boss. An apex predator.

No one has held the Princess of Princess title longer than Miyu. 1065 days to be exact.

And she doesn’t just beat her opponents, she kicks the will from their soul.

Miyu Yamashita highlights

Maki Itoh has gotten close to knocking off the TJPW ace, but just as she seems ready to plant her flag on the promotion’s mountaintop, Yamashita has clobbered her off it. Rising star Hikari Noa has stepped up to The Pink Striker in singles action three times. Noa lost each time out and only once lasted longer than 10 minutes.

Nakajima has been the anomaly, however.

Sure, Shoko lost to Yamashita in the first-ever Princess of Princess title match back in 2016. History overall has favored The Big Kaiju, though. It was Nakajima who ended Yamashita’s record second reign in 2019. It was Nakajima who twice bested Miyu in the semifinals of the Tokyo Princess Cup.

Going into Grand Princess, Nakajima was up 3-2 in their singles matches together. As unlikely as it seems given Yamashita’s dominance, Nakajima was poised to win a best-of-seven series between them that has stretched out over nine years.

Credit: TJPW

It was easy to forget that possibility once the Grand Princess main event started and Yamashita took control.

There’s something special about Yamashita’s aura. When she stands there with the championship dangling from her hands and stares down her foes, it’s chilling. You might start worrying you are about to witness an in-ring homicide.

On this evening, that feeling came early.

After a brief exchange of waist locks and armbars, Yamashita began to do what she does best – kick as hard as an angry mule. Her boots cracked against Nakajima’s back, her gut, her kidneys, the very core of her being.

With gritted teeth, Nakajima had to shake it all off and push on. That is the crux of this match. Yamashita overwhelmed; Nakajima persevered.  

When the challenger shot out of the ring for a suicide dive attempt, she got absolutely clocked in the head with a Yamashita kick. Nakajima lie flat and lifeless on the floor as the commentators wondered aloud if she was still conscious.

The dynamic was never the same.

Nakajima now teetered, on the precipice of defeat and blacking out. Yamashita, meanwhile, shifted into a higher gear. Miyu waited for her foe to stand, a cold, bloodthirsty expression on her face. She was a cobra rising out of the grass. She was an archer with her bowstring pulled back.

As usual, Yamashita perfectly played her role of stalking, sneering predator. The ultimate counter to that is what Nakajima has long been – the never-say-die babyface.

Yamashita came hard with kicks. She twisted Nakajima’s neck like she was trying to open a bottle of soda. She nailed her with an Attitude Adjustment from the middle rope.

None of that power and fury could keep Nakajima down.

The challenger was outsized in every way but heart. She kept crawling and hanging on. Nakajima leaped at Yamashita, fearless and relentless.

And like a hand axe on an old oak, she chipped away at the champion. Her speed helped her dizzy Yamashita. Her relentlessness kept Miyu at bay. After withstanding a barrage of elbows to her jaw, coming back from everything thrown at her, Nakajima soared in the air with a senton that kept TJPW’s conqueror down just long enough to win once more.

Commentator Baliyan Akki shouted in surprise, “Nakajima against all odds! Oh my god!”

The story played out superbly. Both wrestlers shone. Grand Princess ended with a headline match befitting its scale.

How fitting, too, that on such an important show TJPW went back to the first two women to compete for its top championship.

The tale of the underdog was so damn good that it got me rooting against my favorite wrestler. In it, Yamashita reminded us that she’s one of the most clutch performers in wrestling today. Nakajima, meanwhile, showed herself to be the epitome of guts, a warrior with a kaiju-sized heart.

Under all the thunder of Yamashita’s kicks, beneath the sound of a killer’s methodical steps, it was the sound of that heart that empowered the song that these two sung at Sumo Hall.