Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling held their big summer show on July 9th, the first ever Summer Sun Princess event held in Ota City General Gymnasium in front of nearly 1,200 fans. Fans who were finally, after two and a half years due to COVID-19 restrictions, allowed to audibly cheer and throw streamers for their favorite wrestlers. The show saw representation from promotions all over the world, including All Elite Wrestling, Pro Wrestling EVE, Gatoh Move, as well as representation from the Joshi independent scene. It was a night of great wrestling, with implications reaching out beyond Japan. But it is the main event of this event we’re here to talk about: a battle of monsters, as the “White Dragon” Rika Tatsumi challenged for the Princess of Princess Championship against the “147cm Big Kaiju” Shoko Nakajima.
Shoko Nakajima’s second title reign has been about redeeming herself from her previous reign and moving forward. She defeated the seemingly unbeatable Miyu Yamashita on March 19th at TJPW’s Grand Princess show in front of the largest audience in the promotion’s history. Since then, she has fought friends in Yuki Aino and tag partners in Hyper Misao until eventually defeating Yuka Sakazaki, the woman who cut her original title run shot.
Going into Summer Sun Princess, Shoko had the opportunity to accomplish something never done: of the four pillars of Tokyo Joshi Pro (herself, Yamashita, Sakazaki & Tatsumi) none of them have been able to defeat all three pillars in one championship reign. With victories over Yamashita and Sakazaki under her belt, the Big Kaiju was on the cusp of cementing herself at the top of TJPW.
The challenger, Rika Tatsumi, was also coming into this match with a chip on their shoulder. While one of the longest-tenured roster members, it does feel like Tatsumi can be overlooked in comparison to her fellow pillars. On top of her being the least recognized internationally, she sometimes felt like she existed just under the level of her peers.
Tatsumi saw the top of the mountain in January 2021 with a somewhat shocking victory over Yuka Sakazaki for the Princess of Princess Championship – her first major singles title win. Great victories over her tag partner, Miu Watanabe, and the insanely popular Maki Itoh cemented that Rika should be in the main event, never mind overlooked.
This success came to a divisive halt when she was beaten by Miyu Yamashita in an empty Korakuen Hall, ending her reign at 120 days – the shortest in the title’s history. Since then Rika has floated, having incredibly good singles matches (including one in last year’s Tokyo Princess Cup against Nakajima) and an attempt at the tag titles until she won the #1 contendership in a four-way at Cyberfight Festival ‘22. Like Shoko, this match for Tatsumi is also about redemption, to right her time at the top and show she is just as worthy as her peers.
Showdown in Ota Ward
While both bring in complicated baggage with wanting to redeem themselves, their styles to start the match scan as simple: limb targeting. Both Nakajima and Tatsumi have kill shots that have served them well in the past: Nakajima’s Double Underhook DDT that sets up for her Top Rope Diving Senton finisher, whereas Tatsumi has the move that won her the Princess of Princess Championship the first time: the Figure Four Leglock. As such, Nakajima’s mission in life was to brutalize the head and neck of Tatsumi while Tatsumi went for Nakajima’s knees.
As the match continued Tatsumi’s viciousness began to take its toll on some of Nakajima’s speed and aerial-based moves she tried to implement. A stand-out spot early on was when Nakajima went to the top rope only for Tatsumi to hit with near pinpoint precision a dropkick that caused Nakajima to fall and twist her knee up in the rope. Pulling Nakajima out and having a bit of showmanship running down the ramp to land the Iron Hip attack on Nakajima’s knee, followed by throwing the Big Kaiju headfirst into the ring post and then back into the ring. It is here that Nakajima gets a chance to regain some momentum before Tatsumi gets in the ring by launching a running Tope Suicida to the outside, crashing into Tatsumi and a bunch of seconds.
Tatsumi’s viciousness is matched by Nakajima’s fantastic selling. Her more crazy spots are getting hampered by the damage to the knee, just as she regained control. A second Tope causes her to start limping, but in the ring Nakajima begins to assault the back of Tatsumi’s neck with heavy strikes and elbows to more zone-specific moves like catapulting Tatsumi throat first into the bottom rope and flipping neckbreakers, all leading to a spot that encompasses Nakajima’s do-or-die spirit: using her legs to repeatedly smash Tatsumi’s head into the canvas, even at cost of further knee damage.
The gears begin to kick up when Tatsumi is able to regain control and begin implementing Dragon Screw Leg Whips to multiply the damage to the knees before finally getting the first attempt at the Figure Four in the middle of the ring. But Nakajima, in desperation, manages to roll both of them to the ropes to break the submission. It is at this point the limb targeted becomes overtly bombast as Tatsumi smashes Nakajima’s knee into the ring post. Nakajima briefly regains momentum to bulldog Tatsumi into a ring post and get a dropkick from the top rope but the knee damage is slowing her down. The Big Kaiju tries to repay the Figure Four by getting Tatsumi into a Butterfly lock around her neck but Tatsumi manages to get out. Tatsumi firmly regains control after countering a Double 619 into a sick Dragon Screw before applying the Figure Four.
The cheering crowd comes more to life as Shoko Nakajima desperately struggles – we can now come to talk about the key aspect of the champion. I said it when she won the title back at Grand Princess: Miyu Yamashita is the strongest wrestler in TJPW, but Shoko Nakajima is the toughest wrestler. From her own almost reckless style to the amount of punishment that Miyu, Misao, Yuka and now Rika Tatsumi inflict on her, you have to kill her to stop her.
And Tatsumi tries. After getting her Twist of Fate kicked out of, more bombast Iron Hip attacks (one from the top rope to the outside of the ring!) to powerbombs and it’s still not enough!
It’ll all come down to Tatsumi’s last bullet – the move invented by the man who’s name she took as her’s: Tatsumi Fujinami’s Dragon Sleeper submission. Sinking deep in the middle of the ring, Tatsumi is practically breaking Nakajima’s spine before trying to intertwine their legs. But The Dragon has underestimated how much fire is in this Kajiu as Nakajima, still cranked in the Sleeper, flips over Tatsumi, twists around and hits the Double Underhook DDT! Roaring to life, Shoko Nakajima crawls up the top rope and hits the Diving Senton for the 1-2-3.
Queen of the Monsters
Shoko Nakajima and Rika Tatsumi showed that, while a good amount of people look towards Miyu Yamashita and Yuka Sakazaki, the monsters are just as important to the foundation of Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling – not only main eventing one of the largest shows but having, in my opinion, the company’s Match of the Year so far. While Tatsumi’s story of redemption continues, she has shown that she is not only deserving of another reign on top but she will most likely accomplish it. A stalwart worker with a performance that has pushed her into even more of a star despite defeat.
Shoko’s reign has been about proving that she’s worthy, and from Yamashita to Tatsumi, she has proven to be a stalwart focus for the company. Being the first of the company’s four pillars to beat her fellow three in one title reign, the company is in interesting uncharted waters. October 9th will see Nakajima defend the belt against Tokyo Princess Cup 9 winner Yuka Sakazaki at Wrestle Princess III at Tokyo Dome City Hall in another first: the first rematch between the same challenger and champion in a single reign. Whether she can pull another upset off is still in question, but I’ve come to understand this one truth: never doubt the littlest Big Kaiju. Because she’ll fight to her very end.