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Tokyo Princesses: Miyu Yamashita & Maki Itoh Hold the Joshi World in Their Hands

2 years ago

Tokyo Princesses: Miyu Yamashita & Maki Itoh Hold the Joshi World in Their Hands

Words: Mitchell Adams
Photos: Jacob McGonigle
Special Thanks: Mr. Koda

The story of Miyu Yamashita and Maki Itoh delivered fans their payoff for some of the best long term booking in all of Japanese wrestling, at Ota Ward Gymnasium in Tokyo on October 9th. It was a gut-wrenching, action packed match.

Without spoiling anything for the fans who’ve yet to stream the event, this is in league with Monthly Puroresu top picks for Match of the Year – and we don’t throw that term around lightly.

Yamashita and Itoh’s Wrestle Princess II bout was an exclamation point atop a journey that saw many twists and turns, as well as staggering personal growth spurts for both women. Not just as in-ring competitors – but as friends, and cornerstones that Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling can build their budding business around.

Ahead of the match Itoh drew a figurative line of chalk around her opponent with her words.

“I’ve done so much to catch up to Miyu Yamashita, only to see her lose before our title match? I want to beat Yamashita at her best – but now, it’s being ruined by this weaker version that showed up today.”

On the 4th of September Itoh issued a warning to Yamashita through teary eyes. Yamashita had taken the fall in their tag-team match against Yuki Aino & Marika Kobashi. They were supposed to showcase their strengths before preparing for their match to decide The Princess of Princesses Champion. While Yamashita redeemed herself later in a singles match versus Aino, the image of Itoh walking away from Yamashita in disgust and Yamashita leaving the ring looking ashamed is one that will stick in fans’ minds forever.

Tokyo Princess Cup Tournament Drama

The Tokyo Princess Cup ran from late July to mid August. It’s considered TJPW’s answer to rival promotion World Wonder Ring Stardom’s popular Cinderella Tournament – and delivered plenty of intrigue as a setup for Yamashita’s title defense at WP II. The seven-day elimination tournament featured 23 joshis, winner getting a chance to main event at TJPW’s biggest card of the year.

“I don’t have a great track record when it comes to tournaments, but I won the belt from Rika Tatsumi in May and then defended against Yuka Sakazaki and Sakisama in June, so I was in great condition with momentum behind me,” Yamashita told Monthly Puroresu. “I was determined to win the Tokyo Princess Cup as the Princess of Princess Champion, and I had the confidence to do so, too.”

The tournament featured many incredible matches, but a story arc developed that overshadowed many of the feuds – would the ascendent Itoh and current Princess of Princess Champion, Yamashita settle their score for supremacy in the tournament?

The unique brackets of Tokyo Princess Cup included one Joshi earning a bye in the second round. This meant that if it was going to happen, it would happen in the semi-finals, so fans circled September 14th on their calendars. And yet, despite the buzz, neither competitor talked much about the prospects of squaring off during the tournament. Instead, they spent most of their time talking about facing other joshis while praising one another.

“Mizuki vs. Maki Itoh was my favorite match of the tournament. I was ringside as a second, and I cried. The emotions of the two wrestlers were overwhelming,” Yamashita told us through an interpreter.

The champ made it clear she would do everything possible to defeat Noa Kakuta and preserve her tournament legacy, while Itoh told the world her biggest goal in the tournament would start her journey to the top with a win over her former tag team partner (and 2020 Cup winner) Mizuki. For her to deliver on that, Yamashita would have lose to Mizuki – dashing fans’ hopes of a semi-final showdown. All this led to a very awkward situation after her first-round win against Kakuta. Yamashita gave a post-match interview where she claimed she had no intentions of losing to Mizuki. After those strongly worded comments, Itoh walked into the press interview area revealing she had been eavesdropping. Normally, Itoh is more than happy to tell the world exactly what’s on her mind in the loudest, most bombastic way possible. But instead, she seemed more… reserved. Perhaps Itoh was actually hurt by Yamashita’s comments, and the tension between them only seemed to build as the tournament progressed.

But both women – especially Yamashita – played it off as nothing more than competitive spirit and camaraderie. “Once I lost, I was rooting for Itoh to win it all. I had confidence in her because she was in better shape than she was ever before,” Yamashita said. “But at the same time, I also knew that she had tough opponents to beat too because the Tokyo Joshi roster is stacked. She managed to pull it off though; she showed exceptional strength.”

Miyu Yamashita is a lifelong athlete trained in many martial arts disciplines. She was part of the very first class of female students the DDT Pro dojo took in during 2012 when the seeds were planted for their Joshi sister promotion (TJPW). From the beginning, she was pegged to be the promotion’s top star – and she fit that role without many challengers, outside the possible exception of Yuka Sakazaki. Yamashita is TJPW’s first-ever Princess Of Princesses Champion and only joshi to hold the title on three separate occasions. Ironically enough, she originally wanted to be a J-pop Idol. But she wasn’t a natural singer, and her reserved personality sent her in the direction of the dojo. It could be why she and Itoh are such natural rivals.

Maki Itoh entered the wrestling world as a special guest for a DDT show in 2012 as a member of the Idol group Linq. The young singer quickly grabbed the attention of DDT executives, and she was asked to join Yamashita in the first class of female students at the DDT Pro dojo. Itoh was struggling to get noticed as a member of Linq. Afraid of being cut from the group, she dove headfirst – literally, at times – into the industry in hopes of jump starting her career as an Idol. Disappointed after being dropped from the group, Itoh became far more famous and successful within the world of joshi. Her in-ring development was slow and she mostly got by with her larger than life personality, drawing in fans by the thousands. She eventually became skilled enough in the ring to face Yamashita on several occasions, coming up short every time. But their rivalry has blossomed while both women have begrudgingly drawn great respect and admiration from the other.


The match was one of the most physical of their careers with Itoh dropping Nakajima to the floor with a vicious and dangerous DDT on the apron and Nakajima hitting a spectacular Tope Suicida on Itoh that drove them both into the security railing. In the end, it was Itoh who gained the victory by applying one of the most painful submission moves ever created on Nakajima forcing her to tap out. An elevated, Arm Trapped Texas Cloverleaf dubbed the Itoh Deluxe.

Standing with her trophy, the crowd waited anxiously to hear what Itoh would say next. She told everyone this has been a long time coming. It may seem like she’s successful at everything, but she’s been through a lot. She got fired as an idol, and even had her face broken during the tournament.

This may not have been a happy ending for Nakajima or Mizuki, but Itoh wanted them to know there is no such thing as a bad ending. It was clear this was something Itoh had to share with the world – and with her 1to1000000 partner. She invited Yamashita to come to the ring, and that’s when it became official.

“I named her as my challenger. I saw Itoh in the tournament, and I immediately made up my mind that I want to face and beat the best and strongest version of Maki Itoh that she has ever been,” Yamashita told Monthly Puroresu in the days leading up to their match.

Perhaps it was the joy and pride both women felt at that moment, but neither exchanged harsh words or declared their tag team was ending. They both expressed love for one another and claimed their tag team was not dissolving in spite of the main event of WP II, or its outcome. With Itoh in high-demand over in the States, and Yamashita having beaten everyone there is to beat in TJPW – the future of both women hangs in the balance. The company would be remiss not to offer them lucrative opportunities, but rumors have swirled.

Yamashita holds the Princess of Princess Championship records for the most reigns, the longest single reign, most days as Champion and the most number of Championship defenses. What’s left for her to do? Most of all, fans had to be wondering what Itoh and Yamashita’s future together would look like. Yes, they both agreed not to split up, but two people can’t go through a journey like they have and not be forever changed both as individuals and as a unit – can they? No matter who holds the title, no matter what their futures hold, it’s 2021 and both Itoh and Yamashita have been crowned before our very eyes. They’ve put the Joshi world on notice, twin stars shining brighter with every match.

Written by:

I'm an Australian based freelance writer who covers joshi wrestling for Monthly Puroresu. Since the third issue, I've been an integral part of story ideation and helping the publication branch out into new areas. In the past, I've written for wrestling dirt sheets, Aussie newspapers, and pop culture websites.