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Q&A with Miyu Yamashita, on Carrying the TJPW Torch Abroad

2 years ago

Q&A with Miyu Yamashita, on Carrying the TJPW Torch Abroad

By: Thom Fain

Special Thanks: Christopher Macias, Rui Guimarães, West Smith

When the “Ace” of Tokyo Joshi Pro-Wrestling arrived in SoCal at PRESTIGE on 9.17.22 for her match with indie star Trish Adora, her presence backstage was felt immediately. Yamashita may have lost her bout with AEW’s Thunder Rosa for the women’s title at Fight for the Fallen, but she remains intensely focused on her mission to popularize the unique style she’s formed within TJPW as its standard bearer – Queen’s Road? – and grow as a wrestler in the process.

She is at once lighthearted and serious, a dichotomy Wrestle Universe subscribers are all too familiar with. A big TWICE fan – the cheerful, wholesome K-pop group –  Miyu also has that killer instinct, and unique determination to be one of the best in the world. This duality is sensed in the way she moves and carries herself; backstage, we cracked jokes through a translator tool and her amiable side made it easy to forget “The Pink Striker” has a that switch she can flip… the kind Fumi Saito talked about Bull Nakano having in Monthly Puroresu Issue #9. When she turns it on, the Karate-trained joshi star enters a skull-kicking assassin mode.



The West Coast crowd roared in anticipation once her music hit, and the nearly 20-minute bout that followed was a feast of fan service and athleticism as she and Trish Adora exchanged strikes, slams and submissions in a bout worthy of a sequel.

I’ve been told after her appearance at PRESTIGE, Yamashita and Maki Itoh paid their own travel expenses in New York it to Arthur Ashe Stadium, where the pair of elite joshis waited backstage in their ring gear – yet weren’t booked in a match. That night, Athena broke Britt Baker’s nose with an ugly-looking “don’t try this at home” suplex, crushing the face of AEW’s most marketable women’s star in the process. Trish Adora vs. Miyu Yamashita, by contrast, was everything legit wrestling fans clamor for. After the match finished, Miyu was gracious enough to talk about wrestling in America, where she sees TJPW in the canon of joshi puroresu, her inspirations and much more.

Monthly Puroresu: What kind of music do you listen to, who are some of your favorite artists to listen to while traveling in America?

Miyu Yamashita: I listen to K-pop – a Korean idol group called TWICE. I also like to listen to Justin Bieber’s music, which I listen to throughout the flight.

Monthly Puroresu: Is there a type of food you really enjoy when you come to visit?

Miyu Yamashita: Hamburgers and Coke! When I come to America, I drink more Cokes than when I am in Japan.

Monthly Puroresu: The two matches you had with AEW Women’s Champion “Thunder Rosa” helped introduce you to even more international fans. Can you walk us through what you were thinking and feeling during those encounters and if you would like another shot at the AEW Title?

Miyu Yamashita: Well… I was very happy that Rosa came back to Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling after a long time, and not only that, she returned as a really big star. And, that she fought me in the ring of TJPW with the belt. It was a great experience for me to be able to fight for the AEW women’s championship belt in the AEW ring, and it made me realize that I have weaknesses and things I need to work on.

Miyu Yamashita: But, I want to grow and challenge myself more and more, both in the U.S. and in Japan. The fight with Rosa and the title match on AEW was a key point in my wrestling career, and I think it was the third time I felt this change. I really want to challenge for the title, the AEW title that is, and of course in the future – I would like to take advantage of any chance I’m given.

Monthly Puroresu: You have been with TJPW since its inception 10 years ago. How much pride do you take in the company’s accomplishments thus far, and what are your hopes for the future?

Miyu Yamashita: I really, well – I want to be a part of this. I have been competing overseas more and more this year, and every time I compete overseas, I realize how big TJPW’s existence is to me. I will continue to fight as Miyu Yamashita of Tokyo Joshi, and also as a wrestler, I want to challenge myself more and more. I would like to challenge myself more and more as a wrestler.

Monthly Puroresu: You and Maki Itoh are arguably the most well known Joshi stars internationally today. Do you feel any pressure to try and draw new eyes to not only TJPW but Joshi as a whole?

Miyu Yamashita: Well, there is no pressure that I really feel. I have no pressure. I am really, seriously enjoying myself. I enjoy it very much when I come here, and I have confidence in myself because of my history of working hard at Tokyo Joshi. So, in that sense, I think I am enjoying the competition without any pressure. But, you know, if you look around the world, there are still many different types of wrestlers, and I think that pro-wrestling is really a very big world. It’s really fun.

Monthly Puroresu: TJPW has such a unique style and presentation that one of our magazine writers dubbed “Queen’s Road.” In your minds, what is one aspect of TJPW that separates it from more well known promotions like World Wonder Ring Stardom?

Miyu Yamashita: Yes, that’s right. The difference is… Well, I have never been involved with STARDOM before. And, I don’t know about the depth of this kind of thing, but we are conscious of the fact that we value individuality, and each of us fights in various styles, and that’s why we are able to enjoy the fans who come to our group. Each one of us has a strong character. Hmm, I’m really unsure how to answer this, but I think it’s the same for everyone – we really want to entertain the audience who comes to the show. You know, they have strong feelings. And that is why the wrestlers are so rich in individuality, and although there are many girls with various characters, we are all united in this way and can enjoy every event or tournament! I think that’s what Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling is all about.

Monthly Puroresu: Is your preparation for a match with “Thunder Rosa” or an American talent different than when you prepare against other Japanese competitors?

Miyu Yamashita: Hmm… I think the size and physicality of foreign athletes can be a serious disadvantage. Like with Trish Adora, I was very challenged and amazed. Foreign wrestlers have a lot of amazing ideas. But I have to be more physical, and I think that I have to be more flexible in terms of my thinking. My thinking is very rigid, so I have to keep an open mind – like, uwwaaaaaa something like that [laughs]. You know? I have to stretch my mind [to come up with techniques to match their size and style] and, it almost feels as if I’m twisting my brain.

Monthly Puroresu: Has any particular wrestler in America caught your eye recently, and why are they making you pay attention?

Miyu Yamashita: I’m really very interested in people like Taya Valkyrie. I’ve been meeting a lot great women here at PRESTIGE, or over in AEW I would like to face Toni Storm. They are two people I would like to fight.

Monthly Puroresu: When you look at 1990s All Japan Women’s aka Zenjo “AJW” – what do you see are the similarities between today’s world of Japanese wrestling, and the glory days of Crush Gals, Bull Nakano-san and Manami Toyota-san?

Miyu Yamashita: Similarities? I don’t know about the actual similarities in style… but when I watch the film of the fighters who were active in this era, they really fought with a lot of feeling and emotion, and they had this passion to defeat their opponents. I enjoy watching the videos. And they are the coolest! It reminds me of how I should fight. And I am very conscious of that in my own fights, and when I am in a tough situation, or when I am being beaten, I’m influenced by that feeling of “I will not be defeated!” But what I feel when I study the AJW videos is not only the technique, but also the feeling of the fighters, and the fact that they entertain the audience with their passion. I am learning a lot from the players and athletes who have such passionate hearts to entertain the audience… very difficult question, I hope that’s ok!

Monthly Puroresu: Which younger wrestler in TJPW do you think has the potential to be an international superstar?

Miyu Yamashita: The young girls of Tokyo Joshi now are really interesting, and they all want to improve themselves! I also felt that I was able to lean on them, and that’s why TJPW is getting more and more exciting these days. It is difficult to choose one, but I always ask the promoter of the organization when I come overseas: “Are there any young Tokyo Joshi players, or rather, any young Tokyo Joshi players that you are interested in?”

Miyu Yamashita: Miu [Watanabe] is an idol, but Miu has a lot of power, and Raku is a great mix of being playgirl who also likes to train, and Hikari [Noa] is hardcore and has a variety of fighting styles. Of course, I hope that not only the UpUp Girls will be offered the chance to participate, but I also hope that when the younger girls are offered the chance, and I hope that they will be active in the future.

Monthly Puroresu: What were your experiences wrestling in Barcelona, and is there anywhere else in Europe you’d love to visit? What about the culture in Europe do you notice is different than America?

Miyu Yamashita: Europe and England? [pauses] I would like to visit England again. I don’t know where else I would like to go, but I would like to go to there. The difference between Europe and the US is that in the US professional wrestling is a very popular genre known by many people. But in Europe, especially in Spain, there are still very few Spanish wrestlers and professional wrestlers. And in the UK, I think it is possible to be more popular… when I went to Barcelona, I was able to practice with local wrestlers, and I think it was a great experience for me to be able to practice in a different way than when I practice in Japan.

Monthly Puroresu: What advice would you give to young women who want to be a Pro Wrestler, and be like Miyu Yamashita?

Miyu Yamashita: Ah, right. First of all, you have to practice a lot, and then you have to enjoy it. I think it is a good idea to make wrestling a priority. When I was young, I was always pushing myself to do my best, to do my best, but when I started to enjoy wrestling again, I truly fell in love with it all over again, and that is why I think that the most important things are training and having fun.

Monthly Puroresu: You have wrestled in different parts of America. What do you think makes West Coast wrestling special (Oregon, California), and specifically how do you think of your time wrestling PRESTIGE in front of its fans?

Miyu Yamashita: I guess there’s a difference, yes. But the fans at PRESTIGE are also very excited, and they express their enjoyment with their whole body, which really raises my spirits when I am fighting. I really feel that, especially with the PRESTIGE fans.

Monthly Puroresu: You wrestled Masha Slamovich before, can you walk us through your experiences of that match from your recollection?

Miyu Yamashita: I still can’t forget that Masha was a really good fighter, and I felt that we were a great match – that we had the same feeling and fighting style. And, I feel that I wanted to fight her again. That match has remained in my memory as a very special memory, in a very special space.

Monthly Puroresu: You wrestled Trish Adora tonight, how do you perceive her as an opponent compared to other western-trained wrestlers you’ve faced?

Miyu Yamashita: Hmmm… Trish really enjoyed the fight. Trish really had a lot of fun fighting, and I felt that she directly accepted my reactions and really enjoyed it while we were fighting. That’s why I was able to hit them, and they doubled back on me, so it was a lot of fun. Trish is really powerful, and she also has a funny sense of humor, which I thought was very interesting. It was the first time for me to come to the US and wrestle for a long time, and I had a lot of fun; I really enjoyed the time!

Photos C/O West Smith. twitter/1800WESTSMITH


Photos C/O West Smith. twitter/1800WESTSMITH


Photos C/O West Smith. twitter/1800WESTSMITH


Photos C/O West Smith. twitter/1800WESTSMITH