Hearts In The Sky: TJPW Live in LA

Credit: TJPW

There is so much joy in this room. It’s filled the entire Globe Theater as if someone has pumped it in through the air vents.

We stand here in Los Angeles’ historic theater district in an ornate venue under a row of glinting spheres hanging from the ceiling. We are all clothed in purple light. We crowd around a soon-to-be-filled ring, anticipation surging, many a fan in Maki Itoh gear, with the old TJPW burger logo on their T-shirt, with a giddy smile on their face.

The Tokyo Joshi Pro-Wrestling show hasn’t even started, yet I can feel a collective elation threading all these fans together.

TJPW intended to do their first US show back in 2020, but that event, like many a thing during the COVID pandemic, found its existence pushed back. The company had to wait until WrestleMania weekend in 2023 to make its debut on American soil.

Now, post-lockdown with the virus subsided, TJPW would get its shot to perform abroad, one circus of many on a crowded schedule.

It began with Sayuri Namba, the promotion’s ever-charming ring announcer, welcoming the crowd in English. Her key message was that she hoped everyone had fun.

As they normally do, The UpUpGirls kicked things off with their high-energy song and dance routine. The ring rattled under Miu Watanabe, Raku, and Hikari Noa as they performed. You didn’t have to know a single word of the song, the jubilant energy of it all shone through.  

TJPW then proceeded to deliver a show that was a true and illustrative demonstration of itself.

Fans, new and old, got to see the increasingly deep tag division at play right off the bat as Suzume and Arisu Endo faced Free Wi-Fi (Hikari Noa and Nao Kakuta) in the opener. A smart way to start, it was an energetic battle with some of the company’s most impressive athletes.

The grinning Suzume sped around the ring in her yellow, comic book-esque gear. Endo bounced off the ropes smoothly. Noa and Kakuta landed big, unforgiving blows.

It was a match that showed off both TJPW’s present and future. These women are certainly delivering now, but they are also making their case to be major players for the company moving forward.

In the matches that followed, TJPW’s wild and unique cast of characters made its mark.

The long-legged, swagger-rich Yuki Kamifuku sauntered into the spotlight. She gave Janai Kai all the eye pokes and big boots she could before falling victim to that kick-heavy offense.

Then two of TJPW’s strangest wrestlers faced off in tag action. Raku teamed up with Yuki Aino while Hyper Misao fought alongside American indies star Trish Adora.

Raku steps into the ring with a yellow dress and a pillow tucked under her arm. Misao wears a superhero mask and a pink-lined cape. A big part of Raku’s attack is singing a lullaby until her opponent starts to nap on the mat. Misao, meanwhile, uses cold spray in the eyes as often as most wrestlers use the DDT.

Hyper Misao sprays Raku and Yuki Aino in the eyes. (Credit: TJPW)

Both these shticks delighted the crowd on this day. They are both acts that you have to roll with and have fun with, savoring the ridiculousness.

TJPW did not hold back on these trademark shenanigans. Raku and Misao did their thing and the show was better off for it.

Wasteland War Party, Max the Impaler and Heidi Howitzer, were up next against the team of Miu Watanabe and Shoko Nakajima, a battle of hulking monsters in dark war paint against two bubbly fighters. Max and Heidi have been revelations in TJPW, playing the part of the ravaging predators perfectly. They kicked ass here against two of the company’s most reliable performers.

Watanabe, the powerhouse in pink, is very clearly a huge star in the making. If every element of the TJPW experience was new to you, seeing Miu fill the air with her electric exuberance as she cheesed it up for the camera or seeing her flex her muscles by swinging her larger foe like a pair of bolas would have to be convincing.

Billie Starkz vs. Rika Tatsumi followed.

Like Adora and the Wasteland duo, Starkz represents TJPW’s smart selection of foreigners to round out its roster. She fits into the fold perfectly. She’s goofy and fun enough to thrive in the comedy moments and skilled enough in-ring wise to hang with the International Princess Champion Tatsumi.

Their match was a thriller, complete with Starkz flinging Tatsumi into the corner with a scary-looking German suplex and The White Dragon choking the shit out of the young American.

Now it was time for the big guns. TJPW’s most well-known stars faced off in the main event, a Princess Tag Team Championship that saw champs Maki Itoh and Miyu Yamashita defending against Yuka Sakazaki and Mizuki.

A cry of “Let’s fucking go!” hit the air before Maki and Miyu entered. Maki got the crowd rolling with a performance of her entrance song, an eye-catching presence with her middle fingers and theatrical facial expressions.

Her tag partner is TJPW’s best in-ring performer. Yamashita kicks ass with ice in her blood. Her grappling is precise and picturesque. She has been the ace of this company for much of its existence for good reason.

Those two tore it up in there against Yuka and Mizuki, two of the most skilled aerial artists TJPW has to offer.

It was a dramatic match, efficient with its time, a showcase of four excellent wrestlers. This is the kind of action-packed struggle that those completely unfamiliar with TJPW could jump in and enjoy.

The wrestling was good up and down this card, but this Friday afternoon show wasn’t the only source of quality wrestling during WrestleMania weekend. What made this show special is what makes TJPW special—joy.

The characters, the gags, the overall energy of the place all screams happiness.

TJPW transferred that to a new stage. It served an American audience the wrestling equivalent of a six-pack of neon fruit sodas. You could feel that in the Globe Theater with all the grins the show put on folks’ faces. You could feel that on the internet when newcomers to the brand chatted about all the bliss put into the world courtesy of TJPW.

Wrestlers like the supercharged Watanabe and glorious weirdos like Misao make up a place like no other. All the singing and smiling, all the emotion and comedy in the ring is infectious.  

This was no niche show. This was a statement. TJPW is a player in this game, eccentricity be damned. This trip to LA and entry into the WrestleMania weekend fray was a resounding success, an emphatic arrival.

TJPW danced its dance: same steps, new stage. And it’s a routine you can bet on seeing outside of Japan many times over.