To claim the championship, to seize the title of Ace, Yuka Sakazaki and Miyu Yamashita will have to suffer a great agony, to stand in the center of a storm of pain. But they do not care. They will not be deterred.
That’s the sentiment that powered Sakazaki and Yamashita’s Princess of Princess Championship match at Tokyo Joshi Pro-Wrestling’s 2023 January 4 show in Korakuen Hall.
These are the two top stars in the company’s history, the two best performers TJPW has ever seen. Yamashita the head-kicking hunter, and Yuka the Magical Girl with a right hand that would make Thomas Hearns proud, have won TJPW’s top title three times each, tied for most ever.
Yamashita has been a main eventer from day one. Sakazaki has twice been TJPW’s choice to be in the company’s top match at the CyberFight supershows with DDT and Pro Wrestling NOAH.
So, when they met to kick off 2023 with Yuka’s Princess of Princess Championship on the line, it was a case of apex predator clashing with apex predator.
That was clear from the very start of this match.
You could sense how well these two knew each other during the brief feeling-each-other-out phase. They saw moves coming and avoided them. They were a pair of snake handlers, carefully reaching in the basket to grab the cobra by the neck.
Then came the big bombs.
Sakazaki and Yamashita hit hard early and often. Soon, the two wrestlers were throwing each other around on the outside. Yuka flung Miyu with a frankensteiner to the floor before Miyu responded with a German suplex to the concrete.
It wasn’t just that they nailed each other with these haymakers, they delighted in them. Both Sakazaki and Yamashita celebrated, joyful, emphatic after inflicting great pain to the other. There was an extra oomph on everything – more fury behind kicks, more power behind punches.
The cost of this level of physicality was a legit injury. Yamashita suffered a concussion during the action, as Pro Wrestling Eve announced on Twitter. The news isn’t surprising considering how hard these two hit each other.
They upped the danger to tell a powerfully violent story. It was a story that played out the only way it could have.
Sakazaki knew the truth. The only way to beat a bully is to be a bully. The only thing a brute understands is brutality. So, to take down Yamashita, TJPW’s End Boss, she had to rely on pure force of will, clubbing her challenger wildly, swinging her limbs with no regard for her own flesh or Miyu’s. This was not a war one could win with technical skill and clever maneuvering.
Yamashita saw too that this match would require an elevated aggression.
She hit her Attitude Adjustment from the top rope. She increased the intensity of her attack. She fired off the filthiest forearms she could muster.
The knockout blows didn’t do their jobs, though.
Miyu kicked out of Yuka’s Miracle Merry-Go-Round which has finished many an opponent. Yuka, meanwhile, kicked out of Yamashita’s Skull Kick, one of the most protected moves around. When each woman forced themselves off the mat after these devastating attacks, it felt like seeing a character in a movie take a bullet to the chest and stand up in defiance after.
The level of violence we saw here stood out because of its placement. Sakazaki vs. Yamashita was a pit fight at the end of a vaudeville show.
They abused each other with primal offense on the same event where Hyper Misao and Shoko Nakajima fought to pull down stuffed rabbits off a wire, the same show where Raku, wearing fuzzy pom poms on her dress, took a quick nap before her match.
This is the cute and absurdist promotion except when it’s not.
Yuka and Miyu made sure that TJPW got its dose of slugfest. That slugfest ended with change in championship status. It took the worst Yuka had to offer to keep Miyu down, but eventually the Pink Striker fell.
That sight of Miyu on her back, eyes up at the ceiling, not able to will herself back up is a powerful one. TJPW wrestlers do not take down the alpha often.
But Yuka is more her equal than anyone. In recent years, theirs has been a back-and-forth battle, a struggle for shifting power. Miyu beat Yuka at the 2021 Cyberfight to remain champ. Yuka fended off Miyu on the Jan. 4 show in 2020. But Miyu won their title bout in 2019 at the Hakata Starlanes bowling alley.
The latest round goes to Yuka, with the price of victory being the hurting Miyu put on her, the emotional toll of tangling with a beast.
Now it is Mizuki’s turn, her chance at championship glory. Yuka’s tag team partner and good friend won a No. 1 contender’s Battle Royal on the same show and approached her post-fight with a title match on her mind.
That story will be the more emotional one, a tale of friends facing each other again, reluctant and repentant, but Yuka fending off Miyu will remain one of TJPW’s most violent and visceral offerings ever.