2011 is Heaven for US Joshi Fans thanks to SHIMMER and CHIKARA
Hiroyo Matsumoto at SHIMMER 10/1/11 (Photo: David Falcon)
The year 2011 will be remembered as the year Tokyo came to USA -- at least for female wrestling fans. SHIMMER picked up the baton dropped by WCW back in the mid 1990's. SHIMMER boss Dave Prazak brought Joshi stars in on the April 2010 tapings and a core group of former Ibuki girls have come at each of the tapings since. Ayumi Kurihara (27), Tomoka Nakagawa (28), Hiroyo Matsumoto (25), and Misaki Ohata (21) have come to at least three of the past four tapings (Ayumi and Tomoka are 4 for 4 in appearances). This past weekend SHIMMER upped the ante by bringing Kana(30) and Yumi Ohka (32) to the continental USA for the first time to wrestle. These wrestlers, largely in their twenties or early thirties, are in their prime -- among the very best workers in the energetic Joshi scene in Japan. Kana holds the SMASH title, Hiroyo and Tomoka hold OZ tag titles, Ayumi holds several titles and Yumi and Misaki have won big matches and held belts as well. Apart from Nanae Takahashi and Emi Sakura there are few wrestlers in Japan that equal the SHIMMER imports. SHIMMER fans have been treated to the very best and when you add Ayako Hamada (30) you also have a thirteen year veteran whose heyday goes back to ARSION and the late 1990's.
SHIMMER Tag Champs Ayako and Ayumi (Photo: David Falcon)
Tsukasa Fujimoto holds down Makoto @ CHIKARA (Photo: David Falcon)
CHIKARA has the respect of every independent wrestling federation in America. What Mike Quackenbush and the CHIKARA visionaries understand is wrestling history. They recently brought Johnny Saint and Johnny Kidd over from England to put on a great wrestling clinic in Reading (PA) and Philadelphia. CHIKARA fans appreciate the sense of history and the respect and honor shown by the classy CHIKARA federation for wrestling greats who have made hall-of-fame-like contributions to wrestling. The women have not escaped CHIKARA's notice. Arguably the best female wrestler still working, Manami Toyota, has twice been brought to the USA (during the past two years) to compete under the CHIKARA banner. This summer CHIKARA brought in Ice Ribbon girls Tsukasa Fujimoto and Makoto as well as the great Mima Shimoda. At the Asylum Arena in South Philly, on July 31, CHIKARA ran a video promoting Joshimania, their December extravaganza of Joshi talent. The clip showed Toyota and promised that she would again return -- then the screen went snowy, as if the connection had been lost -- when the picture returned, the camera was focusing on the purple ring boots of Aja Kong who had very little respect for Toyota. Aja can rightfully claim to be the other pillar of wrestling power in the joshi world -- and now she is coming to America. The crowd went wild at the prospect not only of Aja but of a dozen or more other Japanese wrestlers coming to the States for three big shows December 2-4.
Each Wednesday since September has brought us a new name and a new promise of tantalizing matchups. The first seven names have been legendary veterans many in their 40's; many of these are also heads of promotions. Named among the first seven are Toyota (40), Kong (41), Toshie Uematsu (37) who came to CHIKARA this past spring, Command Bolshoi of JWP (over 40 but exact age is uncertain), Mayumi Ozaki of OZ Academy (43), GAMI of WAVE (42), Meiko Satomura of Sendai Girls (31). But this past Wednesday, we all received a refreshing jolt to our system when Mio Shirai (23) was announced. Mio is from the newest generation of Joshi talent, like her sister Io and Misaki Ohata, she is in her early twenties and among the most beautiful and talented young joshi stars working today. This is a move much more in line with the talent choices SHIMMER has made. It raises a burning questions for women's wrestling fans, will Mio be an aberration in a roster that will go on to include Takako Inoue, Yumiko Hotta, and other "old guard" legends, or will CHIKARA use the next six Wednesdays to announce a younger, more vital group of current talent that may include Io Shirai, Syuri, Makoto, and Yuzuki Aikawa, and Kaori Yoneyama. Either way, CHIKARA will field one of the most exciting Japanese rosters ever to be assembled outside Japan.
Meiko Satomura (in red)
If there was ever a year to save your airline ticket to Tokyo and stick closer to home, it is this year. Thanks to SHIMMER and CHIKARA Joshi Puroresu fans have so much to anticipate, right here at home! Do you have your tickets yet?
Mio Shirai unloads a stiff kick