All photos by David Falcon @ SHIMMER
Ayumi Kurihara came up about ten years ago training with Michiko Ohmukai and others in the M-Style promotion that Michiko began after leaving ARSION. Ayumi worked extrememly hard to learn everything she could about wrestling. She cut no corners in her training, logged in many extra hours in the dojo and demonstrated a work ethic second to none. This is really what separates Ayumi from others. She has idol looks and is extremely popular with fans, but rather than rest on those laurels, Ayumi has outworked everyone else in the business and made her name with skill and courage in the ring rather than just popularity and magazine-cute looks.
Cheerleader Melissa with a near fall on Ayumi
Having had the privilege of meeting Ayumi at SHIMMER in September (2010) and March (2011) I can testify to her strength, athleticism, and positive spirit (optimism in the ring and sweet patience with her fans). These qualities have propelled her to international super-stardom! Ayumi now wrestles regularly in Mexico, defending her title belt. She has made the long flight to O'Hare airport in Chicago four times to wrestle at SHIMMER. I'm sure she would go to Australia and Europe if invited.
Ayumi and Ayako on the top rope -- anticipation!
And why do her fans love her so much? She puts out 110% in the ring every time she hears the bell. I have never seen her "take the night off" or "mail in the result." She often is covered with bruises from a brutal match only days before -- rarely have a met a wrestler that works more often, for more different promotions, than Ayumi does -- she is tireless about getting her name out there -- and she backs up that effort with memorable ring appearances. Despite her jetlag or bruises there she is with a plancha off the top to the outside at the Eagles Club, eliciting gasps of wonder and appreciation from the Berwyn faithful. No wonder whe has gotten the "This is Awesome!" chant at SHIMMER more than once.
Daizee haze takes in to Ayumi on the outside (Sept. 2010)Ayumi has a solid body -- very different from the fragile, unathletic bodies of the sterotypical idol wrestler like Mimi Hagiwara in the 1980s or Cuty Suzuki when she started out. Ayumi is rock solid with well developed legs, broader shoulders than most, solid core strength, and toned arms and back. Just watch her give Aja Kong a german suplex -- Manami Toyota-like -- to appreciate her deceptive strength and her great balance and athleticism. Add to that her ability to do crazy lucha highspots; these not only take acrobatic skill they take incredible courage, even fearlessness to flip backwards to opponents stand ten feet below you on the hard concrete floor with steel guard rails and scattered chairs littering your paths -- hazards galore. Who would do this? Very few people. A short list -- Toyota, KOARU, Ayako Hamada, Io Shirai -- and Ayumi Kurihara!
Ayumi logs in hours at the merchandise table
Interstingly, Ayumi has never taken a heel turn that I know of. She is a babyface with athletic intensity and she plays that role as if born to it. Her tag work with Tamura in NEO and with Hiroyo in ROH lat April is always phenomenal. She never hogs the spotlight but rather shares the spotlight in the ring with self-effacing humility. How does one not love a wrestler who backs up her good looks with extraordinary effort, skill, and spirit? I am a HUGE Ayumi Kurihara fan! North America loves her -- mexico especially. If you get a chance to see this amazing athlete live, don't miss it!
Ayumi has Ayako Hamada in a head scissors
Ayumi emrges for her battle with Nicole Matthews
Ayumi demonstrating her core strength on Nicole