Tag Archives: cmll

Akira Hokuto: Defying Traditions and Societal Norms

Art created and contributed by L. Planas (TOFU + BEAST)
Guest contribution article by @LagerWhat

Akira Hokuto is a feminist icon. Not because she’s been in some of the greatest women’s matches of all time, held titles in numerous companies, or because she continued to wrestle after suffering a legit broken neck (watch her tag match against Kazue Nagahori and Yumi Ogura and try not to cringe when she takes that piledriver at 1:36). She is a feminist icon because she turned two fingers up at Japan’s conservative patriarchal culture, which dictated when women worked and when they stopped, whether they wanted to or not.

Japan’s postwar constitution, signed in 1946, established equality between the sexes, but life and culture has not yet lived up to this ideal. The notion of otoko wa shigoto, onna wa katei to shigoto (“men at work and women at home”) is at the core of traditional Japanese society: A woman’s role is to marry, have children, and be housewives in support of their husbands. Even in 2015, Japan is a “nation of housewives” and it’s generally accepted that women will leave the workforce after marriage. 70% of Japanese women stop working after their first children are born, due to financial and cultural restraints, as well as lack of childcare availability. Divorce is frowned upon and female divorcees are stigmatized for going against traditional values. It’s simply the woman’s job to be a housewife. This expectation to marry and tend house was evident in an unwritten rule at All Japan Women’s Pro-Wrestling (AJW) that required its wrestlers to retire from the ring when they turned 26 years old. For their health, so they can go home and start families.

Turn 26? Get out of the ring, get a ring on it,  and get in the kitchen!

Got married? Mazel tov! To the kitchen!

Had a baby? What kind of mother are you?!?!! Feed that baby and make your man some dinner. To the kitchen!

Abiding by such rules was not for Akira Hokuto. Starting her wrestling career at AJW in 1985, she quickly built a reputation for toughness, tenacity, and skill in promotions all over the world, working matches in LLPW, JWP, CMLL, GAEA, and WCW. She co-held the WWWA World Tag Team title on multiple occasions and won the top women’s titles in AJW, CMLL, and WCW.

In 1993, the year she turned 26 and reached AJW’s mandatory retirement age, Akira met Shinobu Kandori at Dream Slam I and battled what is arguably one of if not the greatest match in all of women’s wrestling. The bout, which ended with rounds of stiff punches, raised the bar for what was possible in women’s wrestling and earned a perfect five-star rating from The Wrestling Observer. Further flipping the bird to convention, she married a luchador, Máscara Mágica, and moved to Mexico, performing as Reina Jubuki in CMLL. Her skills and her star were too strong, too bold, and too bright to retire to the kitchen.

Returning to Japan a divorcee in 1994, Akira Hokuto faced Aja Kong in the main event of “Big Egg Wrestling Universe”, an inter-promotional show held in the Tokyo Dome; the all-women event had a $4 million gate. Without taking inflation into account, Big Egg out drew WrestleMania X-7, where Steve Austin beat The Rock ($3.5 million), and WrestleMania XIX, which saw Brock Lesnar pin Kurt Angle ($2.76 million). Who ever said women can’t draw?

1995 saw her WCW debut — and a new marriage, this time to NJPW’s Kensuke Sasaki, a legendary wrestler in his own right. Akira continued to wrestle and became WCW’s first — and only — women’s champion in 1996. Hokuto and Sasaki welcomed their first child, a son, in 1998. Returning to the ring after a brief maternity leave, she wrestled for three more years and had her farewell match in 2002.

Akira Hokuto defied tradition and societal norms. She wrestled, aged, married, divorced, remarried, had a baby, continued to wrestle, and left the ring when SHE felt the time was right, not when a conservative patriarchal culture (repeatedly) expected her to.

Feminist. Icon.

 

Bull Nakano

Here we have a woman who was as stylish in the ring as she was tough. With hair that stands almost as tall as I am, that also barely moves, and the most electifying shade of blue lipstick that would make David Bowie proud, she brought a unique and terrifying brand of beauty to women’s pro wrestling. Bull Nakano started wrestling in AJW at the age of 15, and over time has competed in multiple promotions including CMLL, WWF and WCW. Winning her first title Bull was a trailblazer of sorts, and was CMLL’s first ever World Women’s Champion. Her strongest matches were primarily tag matches alongside Dump Matsumoto, and she has held the WWWA World Tag Team Championship on three separate occassions.

This isn’t to say that she’s not a raging monster in the ring when she’s by herself. When she regained the WWWA World Heavyweight Championship title in a Japan Grand Prix tournament, she remained the title holder for just shy of three consecutive years before dropping the belt to Aja Kong.

Bull is my ideal type of wrestler: she’s slow, strong, throws her weight around and doesn’t give two shits about you or how hard you’re going to go down to that mat. No stranger to technique, she uses a lot of brute force moves to exert dominance over her opponent. My personal favourites are when she utilizes the Moolah Whip landing her opponent flat on their face across the ring, or the ever so arrogant standing on someone’s chest when they’re down for a pin. What’s even more impressive is Bull’s ability to be perceived as a tough, unbreakable monster even when she loses a match.

If she hasn’t scorpion crosslocked her way into your heart just yet, then check out this Joshi match on a SUBWAY TRAIN between her and Yumi Fukawa:

As for a suggestion on what else to watch? I’ve yet to be let down by any match of hers, so internet search to your heart’s content. (But don’t just stick to the WWE).

Foreign Objectification: Toyota/Yamada vs Ozaki/Kansai |AJPW Dreamslam II

At WrestleMania 31 this weekend, the entire Divas division will be compressed into a single tag match with no payoff or forward motion for any of its competitors. This bag of crumbs callously offered to long-suffering believers in women’s wrestling in America will purposely underwhelm in the undercard, making assured shit show stoppers Sting vs Triple H and Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns seem like a stumbling attempt to provide an earnest near-miss of what the WWE audiences actually want.

WWE has gotten hip to the social media, but the overwrought hashtags belie veritable tears in the veneer modernity.

A combined age of 167 in your upper card is not progress. Putting 6 of your 8 wrestlers of color on the pre-show is not progress. Shoehorning women into a tag match whose booking goes contrary to the storylines of the wrestlers involved is not a victory lap for diversity and “reaching the people”. It is a stumbling, begrudged forced march into the dark ages of tone deafness that has sunk the industry again and again.

In 1993, one week after Hulk Hogan won the then-WWF title in a main event he wasn’t booked in, Manami Toyota, Toshiyo Yamada, Mayumi Ozaki, and Dynamite Kansai put on a women’s tag match in Osaka that broke the gender barrier like a shoot kick to the face behind the referee’s back, earning the first Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s Match of the Year for women in the sport.

When brought up, the match is often weighed down by hobbyist wrestling historians as an example of how far wrestling had fallen in that time. And, for real: WWF had shit every bed at the Sleep Train with their non-televised title changes, mismanaged younger talent, and letting Hogan job to a fireball.

But this was the same year that Shane Douglas won and then rebuked the NWA Heavyweight Championship to announce the formation of Extreme Championship Wrestling. AAA put on their first TripleMania and NJPW’s Fantastic Story in Tokyo Dome brought in 63,500 attendees.

A bleach-proof blemish in WWE’s history, 1993 was nonetheless a formative year for professional wrestling across the world.

This match is not the low hanging fruit of an industry in decline. It is, even without the benefit of understanding the commentary, one of the greatest matches in the history of the sport. Full stop; fight me.

image

To Set the Scene

This match was the second of a trilogy of contests between AJW’s Toyota/Yamada and JWP’s Ozaki/Kansai. While WWF spent the mid 90’s (and really, the whole of their ouevre as an organization) pilfering talent, no matter how useless, from their competitors, fans of joshi puroresu (primarily women) witnessed rival promotions kick and scream through a series of wrestling clinics that cinched Japan’s fourth consecutive Match of the Year award.

David McLane struggles to keep a women’s promotion open in America–there are 12 listed-as-active women’s promotions in Japan, notwithstanding women who appear on the more mainstream “men’s” promotions. The competition in Japan is mayhaps more collectivist than individualist–but it is yet, as Dynamite Kansai’s face will attest, strong style stiff.

Continue reading Foreign Objectification: Toyota/Yamada vs Ozaki/Kansai |AJPW Dreamslam II