Japanese women are taking over the pro wrestling industry. They are proving that they are some of the best to ever compete in the ring. This article looks at the careers of 6 Japanese women who previously performed for the WWE.
Asuka is the current WWE Raw Woman’s champion and has achieved everything possible for a woman in the WWE. Not only has she won every female championship in the company but she is also a Royal Rumble, Money in the Bank and Mixed Match Challenge winner. Many believe she is one of the greatest female superstars to ever compete in the company.
Her Kabuki Warriors team mate has also made a name for herself in the WWE. Kairi Sane won the first ever Mae Young Classic tournament in 2017 when she defeated Shayna Baszler. She would later go on to hold the NXT women’s championship and alongside Asuka the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship. In 2018 Kairi Sane was named NXT’s best overall competitor of the year.
Meanwhile on NXT, the Women’s Champion Io Shirai is proving that she is also one of the best in the industry. In 2018 she was ranked number 4 of the top 50 female wrestlers on the PWI Female 50 list. The Genius of the Sky is one of the most exciting performers to watch in the company with her wide array of high flying moves.
In February 2020 it was announced that Sareee had signed to the WWE. However her debut with the company was delayed due to the coronavirus outbreak, but fans can expect that when she does arrive she will bring great things to the company.
This article takes a look at the history of Japanese women who performed in the WWE during times where women weren’t given equal opportunities as the women are today. Some went on to become some of the greatest to ever compete in the ring whereas others went on to provide entertainment through catfights and kimono matches. Take a look at 6 Japanese women who paved the way for the women of today.
Bull Nakano first arrived at the World Wrestling Federation alongside Dump Matsumoto in 1986. The pair were known as The Devils of Japan and competed in two tag team matches in March 1986 defeating Velvet McIntyre on both occasions. McIntyre teamed with Dawn Marie Johnston in the first match and Linda Gonzales in the second.
Despite the two victories the Devils of Japan did not compete as a team inside the WWF ring again. However almost 10 years later Nakano made a return to the WWF as an associate of WWE Hall of Famer Luna Vachon to compete at Summerslam 1994 against another WWE Hall of Famer, Alundra Blayze for the WWF Women’s Championship. Although Nakano failed to capture the WWF Women’s Championship at Summerslam, she eventually defeated Blayze in the featured match at The Big Egg Wrestling Universe Event, a professional wrestling event based in Japan. Nakano successfully held onto her title for 134 days before eventually losing it to Blayze on Raw in April 1995. Soon after Nakano departed the WWF but this did not end the rivalry between Nakano and Blayze. The two would meet again in WCW.
Alundra Blayze would go on to say that Nakano is an “incredible talent” with whom she had some of her best matches. Current WWE star Paige has also praised Bull Nakano multiple times stating that she “grew up watching Bull Nakano, and she was amazing”. There is no doubt that Bull Nakano is one of the most important women to ever compete in the WWE and deserves a spot in the WWE Hall of Fame.
The Jumping Bomb Angels (Noriyo Tateno & Itsuki Yamazaki)
The Jumping Bomb Angels are the first notable Japanese women to make an impact inside the WWE ring. Arriving at WWF Prime Time Wrestling in 1987 they started a historic feud with the WWF Women’s Tag Team Champions, the Glamour Girls (Leilani Kai and Judy Martin). The Jumping Bomb Angels quickly became crowd favourites with their exciting high-flying wrestling style. The two teams constantly put on exciting matches for the fans as Yamazaki and Tateno had their sights set on becoming the first Japanese female champions in the history of the company.
With the crowd very much behind The Jumping Bomb Angels, they would fall short on getting their hands on gold on multiple occasions as the The Glamour Girls would use dirty tactics to keep their Women’s Tag Team Championships. It is not until the very first Survivor Series pay-per-view in 1968 that Yamazaki and Tateno got the upper hand whilst competing in the first ever women’s 5-on-5 Survivor Series elimination match. Teaming with fellow legends, The Fabulous Moolah, Rockin’ Robin and Velvet McIntyre. The Jumping Bomb Angels were not only victorious but were also the sole survivors of that match, last eliminating their rivals, Kai and Martin.
The Jumping Bomb Angels made history at the inaugural Royal Rumble event in January 1988 where they ended the 906 day championship reign belonging to The Glamour Girls in a 2 out of 3 falls match. The crowd went wild for the pair as they become the first ever Japanese women to hold championship gold in the company.
After several successful title defences, Yamazaki and Tateno returned to Japan with their WWF World Women’s Tag Team Titles and would not compete in the WWF ring again. Kai and Martin would make an appearance in Japan to challenge for the championships in June 1988 which they successfully won back by way of count out, ending the 136 day reign of The Jumping Bomb Angels.
Aja Kong made her WWF debut at the 1995 Survivor Series pay-per-view. She teamed alongside Bertha Faye, Lioness Asuka and Tomoko Watanabe to take on the team of Alundra Blayze, Chaparita Asari, Kyoko Inoue and Sakie Hasegawa. Both Aja Kong and Alundra Blayze dominated the match eliminating every member from the opposing team. Although Kong was making her WWF debut at the event, she already had a history with the WWF Women’s Champion. The two had competed against each other in kick boxing competition some years earlier.
Aja Kong eventually got the pinfall victory over Alundra Blayze and sent a statement to the WWF Women’s Champion by being the sole survivor of the match. Kong would go on to defeat fellow Japanese pioneer Chaparita Asari on Raw in a match where she broke Asari’s nose. Shortly after she would team up with Tomoko Watanabe to take on Alundra Blayze and Kyoko Inoue in a match which Kong pinned the Asuka-like Kyoko Inoue and became the clear number one contender the for the championship.
Unfortunately this match never got to happen. Alundra Blayze infamously appeared on rival show WCW Monday Night Nitro and put the WWF Women’s Championship in a trash can. This meant that women of WWF had nothing to compete for and many were let go from this company, including Aja Kong.
Lioness Asuka first appeared in the WWF during the 1980’s as part of a tag team called The Crush Gals alongside Chigusa Nagayo. The pair had already made a name for themselves as huge stars and were a dominant tag team in the Japanese scene. The pair did not disappoint when arriving in the WWF and as a team defeated huge stars including Judy Martin, Leilani Kai and Black Venus. After 3 dominant victories in the WWF, the pair returned to Japan however this was not the end of Lioness Asuka’s time in the company.
She would return almost ten years later to compete in the 1995 Survivor Series elimination match in which she was eliminated first by Alundra Blayze however her team which was led by Aja Kong ultimately went on to win the match. After the team’s victory Lioness Asuka was given a WWF Championship match against Alunda Blayze. Although Lioness Asuka was unsuccessful in this match, it was historic as it was the last time the WWF Women’s Championship was defended in the WWF before it was thrown in the trash can by Alundra Blayze. Unfortunately with no championship to compete for, the womens division was no longer featured on the show and Lioness Asuka’s time with the company was cut short.
Hiroko performed for the WWE as a valet and occasional wrestler between 2004 and 2005. She was a stereotypical Japanese geisha and would accompany her real life husband Kenzo Suzuki to the ring acting as his valet and translator. Her trade mark catch phrase was “You cheer Kenzo Suzuki on to the victory” with victory being pronounced as vic-to-wee. Hiroko is best known for her feud with Torrie Wilson.
Hiroko and Torrie Wilson took part in a number catfights over several weeks. Their rivalry heated up when Torrie called Kenzo Suzuki a jerk after he sent her a bouquet of flowers. Hiroko didn’t take kindly to Wilson insulting her husband and stripped Torrie to her bra and panties. This eventually led to a 6 man tag team match where Hiroko teamed up with Kenzo Suzuki and Rene Dupree to take on Torrie Wilson, Rey Mysterio and Rob Van Dam. Both ladies exchanged in a catfight during this match which was eventually won by Torrie’s team. This however did not end their rivalry, Hiroko wanted to compete against Torrie Wilson in a bra and panties match.
Bra and panties matches were common during this time period where women weren’t given as many opportunities as the women who competed before them in the 1980’s and 1990’s and the women who compete currently. Although Hiroko’s wish of a bra and panties match with Wilson did not happen, instead the pair took part in a kimono match on a Smackdown episode in Japan in February 2005. This match followed the same rules as a bra and panties match, with the only difference being both ladies must wear a kimono. Torrie Wilson was the the first to remove Hiroko’s kimono and therefore won the match. Later that year Hiroko and her husband were drafted to Raw however were released from the company before they could ever appear on the red brand.