Among the most important traditions in professional wrestling is the upholding of legacy. Whether it be a teacher and student, a tribute, or family titles, legacies within the wrestling community are sacred possessions. Hispanic Heritage Month is a good time to recognize Hispanic and Latina pro wrestlers worldwide, not only in Western promotions. And even more so, it is crucial to appreciate legacies that may not often receive a spotlight.
El Gran Hamada’s daughters Ayako and Xóchitl are among his legacies. Their names may not be as well-known as their father’s, but they are just as essential for Mexican Japanese wrestling.
For the uninitiated, El Gran Hamada completely revolutionized Japanese wrestling when he first incorporated Lucha libre style into his performances. Struggling to find success in New Japan early in his career, the then “Little” Hamada moved to the Universal Wrestling Association in Mexico. Here, he was completely immersed in the world of Lucha and decided to adopt the acrobatic, high-flying style. He became so popular in UWA that he was renamed “El Gran (Great) Hamada.”
Xóchitl’s career began in 1986, and she has spent most of her time working in Mexican promotions such as AAA and CMLL (Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre). From the early point of her career, the elder Hamada sister made her mark. In 1993, she fought Joshi Puroresu legend Bull Nakano to become the second CMLL World Women’s Champion and first Mexican Japanese champion in company history. She and her coworkers eventually clashed with CMLL over their lack of attention to the women’s division.
Four years after her historic title win with CMLL, Xochitl would move to AAA and continue paving the way for female wrestlers. After a grueling four-way match against the likes of Miss Janeth and both Rossy and Esther Moreno, Xochitl was crowned the inaugural AAA Reina de Reina’s Champion. She would hold that title for 229 days before a loss to Esther Moreno in October of that year. During this time, the eldest Hamada began a more intense feud with the Moreno family as a unit. With myriad tag partners and allies, Hamda fought against various Moreno family members— Esther, Cinthia, Rossy, and eventually El Oriental. Whether allies or enemies, in AAA or the independent circuit Hamada and the Morenos frequently found themselves together in the ring for a plethora of unforgettable matches. Likewise, Xóchitl participated in a great deal of mixed tag team matches with her husband, Pentagon Black, as well as several high-stakes Luchas de Apuestas style matches. These stipulation matches involved opponents placing bets on themselves— Xóchitl’s case typically being mask versus hair. She remained undefeated in these staples until losing a hair vs hair match to her younger sister, Ayako. This symbolic torch pass would help pave the way for her younger sister’s career.
Ayako started her wrestling career in Arison, Aja Kong’s Joshi puroresu promotion, and would travel internationally to various other locations.
Hamada worked largely in Mexican promotions like AAA and Joshi promotions like Shimmer, but also for TNA (Impact Wrestling). She won Knockouts Tag Team Championships alongside Awesome Kong and Taylor Wilde. She also fought Eric Young for the Global Championship but was cheated out of the gold despite controlling her opponent.
Ayako’s fierce in-ring technique has earned her accolades worldwide. In 2003, Ayako won the Tokyo Sports Joshi Puroresu Grand Prize. She’s held championships in nearly every promotion she’s visited: the singles and tag championships of Pro Wrestling Wave (1x and 3x) and All Japan Women’s Pro Wrestling (2x and 1x), the Queen of Arison championship, the Sendai Girls World Championship, and the Reina de Reina’s Championship in 2017—18 years after her older sister won it.
Ayako was charged with drug possession in May 2018 and retired from pro wrestling to become an interpreter. A year later, she returned to Pro Wrestling Mexico and AAA to contend for the Reina de Reina’s crown.
Currently, Xóchitl is semi-retired and still married to Pentagon Black, making infrequent stops in Mexican wrestling promotions. Ayako is married to Tiger Mask IV and occasionally works with various promotions in Mexico.
The Hamada family may not be a household name, but their impact is undeniable. Ayako and Xochtil combined Lucha and Japanese styles thanks to El Gran Hamada. Each woman’s work ethic and raw talent illustrate the relevance of Mexican Japanese background in professional wrestling, making them all deserving of appreciation for their impact on the sport. They are true icons in their own right and trailblazers for Asian and Latina wrestlers worldwide.