We’ve all heard of people coming to Japan and teaching English or practicing martial arts. Maybe you even know someone in the US navy that’s stationed there; but what you may not know is that women’s pro-wrestling in Japan is considered one of the best in the world, which brings a few international fighters into the ring. In a small hall on the 3rd floor of a building in Ryogoku, chaos and ass kicking is about to ensue.
A crowd of mainly middle aged men and women have gathered to watch four matches – three single matches; one tag team match and the grand finale; a three-on-three match.
To warm up the audience one of the wrestlers, Sonoko Kato, comes out in a simple T-shirt and shorts ensemble and sings a song she’s released. Her fans know all the words and sing along. A short announcement of the matches and their times is heard and then the lights dim, the music gets loud and the first wrestler is introduced. Aoi Yoshiki comes out with beautiful iridescent butterfly wings, and colourful streamers in her colour scheme are thrown at her. Next, Akino is introduced and she comes out wearing all white, streamers being thrown at her too. Their allotted time is 20 minutes but the match ends within 10 minutes. It’s a choreographed match meant to show lots of poses, but not much skill. They rest in each pose for a long time and make sure to get it from different angles. A bit of humour is thrown in there as well. Who said choreographed ass-kicking should be serious? The women throw some very impressive moves making sure each fighter gets to throw is some fancy moves – this way the win isn’t one-sided. Akino wins and Aoi is left to roll out of the arena.
Not a minute passes and the lights dim again to introduce the next fighters. Hikaru Shida and Kaho Kobayashi come out wearing a deconstructed samurai outfit and an orange and green two piece respectively. This fight seems more serious, more intense. They use the whole 20min and the result is a tie. This result might sound disappointing and it certainly seems so for the fighters, but it was a gripping performance where in the end you really couldn’t tell who would overtake the other.
Next was the tag team – Ajakong and Yoshiko as one team and Hoshi Hamuko and Akane Fujita as the other. Unfortunately it was quickly apparent that if the previous match was serious, this one would consist mostly of gags and schticks.
After a short break the last singles match began. Kaori Yoneyama came out to cheers and towel spinning. Sonoko Kato came out next, this time in her fighting outfit. It’s her first singles match! Will she be able to hold her own?
After a lot of kicking, stomping, slapping and overall insanity, she did it! Sonoko Kato wins!
Now it is time for the main event!
The lights dim, the music gets loud and a “police officer” stands near the ring with a big long chain and sunglasses. Out come our three bad girls, Maya Yukihi, Mayumi Ozaki, and Alex Lee (the only non-japanese fighter) all clad in black and gold.
Their three opponents soon come out as well. The Good girls team featuring Rina Yamashita, Hiroyo Matsumoto and Tsubasa Kuragaki. They pose and get ready for battle but before they finish and the streamers are removed from the stage, the black trio pounces in a coordinated attack. It’s on!
The battle is chaotic, six women fighting on stage. Chairs are flying, the chain that was earlier in the policeman’s hands is now used in the ring. A whip found its way into the ring and even the policeman is dragging the referee off. It’s a tag team fight but most of the time that rule is ignored. The Good Girls team climbs on top of each other and together they drop on Alex Lee, crushing her. This doesn’t stop the black team as they keep kicking and whipping. Finally the winning blow is thrown by Alex Lee, a knee kick to the head of Tsubasa Kuragaki getting the three-count and winning the match!
Overall, it was a nicely paced event. The times of each fight sounded a bit daunting at first (a 60 minute match?! Really?!), but when you find out it’s only the time limit and the fight can finish a lot earlier than that, it’s relieving.
The venue choice was a poor one as most of the audience sat across from the fighter’s entrance and the ring was in the way. Not to mention that the distance between the doors and the ring was extremely short, so the fighters didn’t really get much of a grand entrance.
The referee’s choice of pole was also a bit distracting as she seemed to prefer one over the others thereby blocking the view for a portion of the crowd and the majority of the matches.
The fighters however were all full of charisma and gave it their all. No doubt about that! The outfits were great, their moves were fantastic, their battle cries were excellent.
For a first time viewing a live wresting match, this match left me with a taste for more and I hope to see matches in bigger and better venues in the future!
Photo credit: Courtney Brittan