In 2020, internet is widely available, and people all around the world can watch events, shows and performances happening in any nation, provided the said event gets uploaded on the internet. Pro Wrestling fans are slowly coming out of the WWE-TNA (now Impact Wrestling) bubble and are putting their eyes on other promotions. While AEW attracts a lot of attention, to the purists, there’s no place to wrestle quite like Japan. In Japan, wrestling is a respectful form of art, the term for it being ‘Puroresu’ (a fragmented version of pro wrestling).
While watching physical, unbelievable matches in New Japan Pro Wrestling, one must have seen the complete absence of women and have wondered, is Puroresu simply reserved for men, like Sumo once was? The answer is, No. Japan has given to us legendary female wrestlers since ages, starting from the days of Bull Nakano and even today with Asuka being the Raw Women’s Champion while Hikaru Shida is the AEW Women’s Champion.
There are female-only promotions in Japan, called ‘Joshi’ promotions, where only females wrestle and show their worth. Some of the more prominent of them includes World Wonder Ring Stardom, Ice Ribbon and Tokyo Joshi Pro. The wrestling style consists of the same physicality seen in male wrestlers, and the dojo system is extremely tough. They are not exempt from deathmatches, and to the inexperienced eyes, the brutality can be shocking.
One of the shining lights of Joshi wrestling today was Hana Kimura. The word ‘was’ is extremely tough to write, or to soak in, as it is almost unbelievable to think that at just 22, Hana Kimura is no more in this world. Cyber-bullying has taken its toll upon one of the most promising wrestlers of the last few years. In a reality show, Kimura’s behaviour to a fellow showmate drew criticism from the audience, who shamed her in every form imaginable, even to the extent of death threats, resulting to the suicide. But let us not get into the reasons behind the death, but observe her life and career. Hana Kimura was the daughter of Kyoko Kimura, an iconic Joshi who was once as famous for her one-feet afro as for her incredible wrestling ability. While known for her deathmatches in the ring, at home Kyoko is an absolute sweetheart, as remembered by current ROH star Brody King.
The word ‘Hana’ in Japanese translates to ‘Flower.’ Born in 1997, Hana was acclimatized to pro wrestling from a very young age, winning her first championship, the DDT Ironman Heavymetalweight Title (imagine 24×7 title, only more funny in approach) as an eight-year-old, before losing the title to her mother. While growing up, Hana decided to become a pro-wrestler like her mother and was promptly enrolled into the training academy of Wrestle-1, a promotion founded by Keiji Mutoh.
After years of training, Hana debuted against fellow trainee Reika Saiki in a losing effort. Throughout 2016, the two trainee feuded, as in the approach of Puroresu. Hana quickly became a promising talent, securing the dream of having matches against her mother and winning one championship after another. She started appearing more and more in Stardom, the numero uno promotion for Joshi wrestling. In Stardom, she won the Artist of Stardom championship twice, with one of the reigns having her mother as a partner. She also held the Goddess of Stardom championship with Kagetsu. In JWP, the oldest Joshi promotion in Japan, she won the Princess Of Pro-Wrestling Title and the JWP Junior Title.
Her acclaim was such that in the last two years, PWI had been including her in the famous PWI Women’s 100 for the last two years. In 2020, with Stardom being bought by Bushi Road, the parent company of NJPW, women of Stardom appeared in an untelevised match at Wrestle Kingdom 14. The historic match saw Hana Kimura and Giulia lose to the team of Mayu Iwatani and Arisa Hoshiki. Not only was it the first women’s match in the iconic Tokyo Dome since 2002, but also the first ever women’s match in Wrestle Kingdom history. Her final match ever was against Mayu Iwatani, and it went to a draw. The Wrestling community remembered Hana with stories and anecdotes. Brody King mentioned how he had known Hana as a child and his meeting with the now grown-up, pink-haired girl. Will Ospreay reminisced how Hana gave her company once despite the obvious language barrier.
Every wrestler who knew her mentioned how kind a soul she was. A talented performer gone way before her prime, Hana shall forever be remembered as a gentle soul and a not-to-be great Joshi. Cyberbullying needs to stop immediately, and I sincerely hope that now, with the death of a supremely talented individual, the world understands the problem and tries to correct it.
Goodbye, Hana, with your dubstep theme and bubbly persona and deathlock submission. Rest In Peace.