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Celebrating Black Women in Joshi Puro

For years, women’s wrestlers have traveled to and from Japan to share the universal language of professional wrestling beyond borders. In honor of Black History Month, here’s a look at the history of Black women and their legacies in Joshi puroresu. 

  1. Aja Kong: Aja Kong is a Joshi puro pioneer with over thirty years of wrestling experience. Kong founded Arison Pro Wrestling after winning over nine championships and a Hall of Fame induction in All Japan Pro Wrestling. In 1985, she joined the World Wrestling Federation, All Elite Wrestling, Dramatic Dream Team, Sendai Girls’, and OZ Academy. Since her debut at 16, Kong has won 33 championships, almost one for each year of her career, making her a legend in the sport.

  2. Awesome Kong: Awesome Kong and Aja Kong have no familial relation; however, their stories are inextricably connected. She actually began the ascent of her prestigious career in Japan, named a replacement for Aja as “Amazing Kong” in 2002 in the All-Japan promotion. Awesome Kong would then wrestle Aja in her Gaea Japan promotional debut in 2004 and eventually form a successful tag team with her is known as W Kong. During her accumulated time in Japan, Kong garnered six championships to add to her already prestigious name. 

  3. Ayesha Raymond: Also known as “the Amazon,” Ayesha Raymond has competed in wrestling promotions all over the world since her 2009 debut— from Germany to Scotland, Austria to the US, and, of course, Japan. She spent time in World Wonder Ring Stardom in the early 2010s with a place in Kyoko Kimura’s faction Kimura monster-gun, the foundations of what is now known as Oedo Tai. There, she won the Artist of Stardom trios’ belts with Kimura and Alpha Female. Raymond signed with the SEAdLINNG promotion in May of 2022 with high prospects of success. 

  4. Brandi Rhodes: Unbeknownst to many, Rhodes spent 2018 with Stardom in the Oedo Tai faction, participating in the Cinderella Tournament and three successful tag bouts that year. In the tournament, she would defeat the iconic Sumire Natsu but lose to Io Shirai in the semifinals, leaving a small but impactful mark on Stardom during her brief time with the company. 

  5. Holidead: The fearsome Holidead spent 2015-16 with World Wonder Ring Stardom and debuted under the name Karian 2.0. Though she did not win any of the promotion’s championships, Twisted Sisterz (tag team with Thunder Rosa) had a successful defense of their Vendetta Pro International Tag Team Championships during the 2016 Stardom Year-End Climax. Holidead spent her Joshi career competing against the likes of Kyoko Kimura, HZK, Momo Watanabe, Yu Ishino, and Act Yasukawa in a statement time-limit draw. 

  6. Janai Kai: The Baddest Black Belt Janai Kai made her TJPW debut this past week on February 11th, teaming with UpUpGirl Hikari Noa to defeat Rika Tatsumi and Yuki Aino in a tag bout at Korakuen Hall. On the 18th, she is scheduled to face Noa’s stablemate Miu Watanabe for the International Princess Championship.

  7. La Rosa Negra: La Rosa Negra made quite a splash during her time in Stardom. The Black Rose defeated Star Fire on September 23, 2015, for the High-Speed Championship belt, meant for agile highflyers with a need for speed. She also won the 5-Star GP Technique Award that year and had notable matches with Toni Storm and teamed alongside Yu Ishino and Hana Kimura to face Io Shirai, HZK, and AZM. Though her championship reign was brief, Rosa certainly left a considerable mark on Stardom during her visit. 

  8. Mercedes Monè: Mercedes Monè (Sasha Banks) debuted with World Wonder Ring Stardom at NJPW’s Wrestle Kingdom 17 last month, much to fans’ delight. Her challenge to KAIRI for the IWGP Women’s Championship and her claims to take over both companies sparked wrestling community discussion. Monè’s fame will likely attract new fans to Joshi puroresu, and she wants to make more history.

  9. Mia Yim: Mia Yim spent time in Japan after she graduated college when Universal Women’s Pro Wrestling Reina invited her to train in 2011. She spent time there learning both Joshi puro and lucha libre thanks to Reina’s contract with Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre. Additionally, Yim is a former Ironman Heavymetalweight Champion in Dramatic Dream Team Pro Wrestling with one reign. 

  10. Nicole Savoy: Nicole Savoy’s Stardom career was a highly successful bout, in which she competed against many iconic Joshi stars. She debuted on January 3, 2018, at Stardom New Year in a six-man match with Kay Lee Ray (aka Alba Fyre in NXT) and Rachael Ellering against Team Jungle (Jungle Kyona and Natsuko Tora) and Mary Apache. She lost the Wonder of Stardom Championship to Io Shirai a month later. Savoy defeated Jungle Kyona on February 24 to defend her Shimmer Women’s Championship. In September, Savoy and Rachael Ellering defeated Mayu Iwatani and Shiki Shibusawa and Odeo Tai’s Hana Kimura and Yu Ishino in a three-way tag team match.

  11. Queen Aminata: The “Juicy” Queen Aminata has traveled over to Japan many times, mainly with Marvelous and SENDAI Girls Pro Wrestling. There, she competed against the likes of DASH Chisako, KAORU, Yuu Yamagata, and Megumi Yabushita. 

  12. Renee Michele: Renee Michele too worked in Marvelous, most notably in a hard-hitting bout against Nyla Rose for the Dream Messe Miyagi show in Sendai. 

  13. Roni Nicole: “Big Bang” Nicole wrestled in Marvelous Pro Wrestling, Pro Wrestling Diana, and Sendai Girls’ SEAdLINNNG during her Japan tour. In January 2017, she faced Manami Toyota and Ryo Mizunami in a tag team match with Maya Yuhiki, and in February, she faced Kaoru Ito.

  14. Trish Adora: In January, Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling debuted Pan-Afrikan World Diaspora Champion Trish Adora with two statement matches. Her first was a hard-fought championship match against International Princess Champion Miu Watanabe, who retained her title. Adora and the Wasteland War Party defeated Watanabe, Rika Tatsumi, and Pom Harajuku in a six-man tag. Though a brief tour in Japan, Adora was well-received, and her fans are eager to see her return. 

  15. Willow Nightingale: Willow Nightingale debuted in TJPW and DDT last November with three wins. She faced former International Princess Champions Maki Itoh and Yuki Kamifuku in the first. She competed with Moeka Haruhi in DDT Ganbare Pro show “Dirty Heroes” three days later. Nightingale and former Princess of Princess Champion Shoko Nakajima teamed up to face Suzume and Miu Watanabe in her final match in Japan.

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