One of the biggest angles happening within the world of Joshi wrestling currently involves two companies : Stardom and SEAdLINNNG. In Tokyo’s Budokan Hall, on March 3rd, former Stardom wrestlers Nanae Takahashi and Yoshiko will respectively face Momo Watanabe and Mayu Iwatani in what will make for two highlights of Stardom’s biggest show ever.
Today, I would like to focus on Yoshiko, and specifically the second part of her wrestling career in SEAdLINNNG, as we approach what may be the biggest match of her career, against an old friend from the Heisei-Gun days !
First of all, let’s get as much general context and information out of the way, for those of you who may not know much about Yoshiko. Just like Mayu Iwatani, Arisa Hoshiki, and others, she was part of the core of Stardom wrestlers as the promotion launched, debuting her career on January 23rd 2011, at Stardom’s very first event. She’d spend the next four years with the promotion, winning the Goddesses of Stardom tag league in 2012, thus becoming the second ever Goddesses of Stardom champions alongside current SEAdLINNNG High Speed referee Natsuki Taiyo. Fast forward to August 2014, where Yoshiko defeated Io Shirai for the World of Stardom championship. She’d hold onto the title until a day many people either remember or are aware of : February 23rd 2015. Following the infamous shoot incident with Act Yasukawa, Yoshiko would be forced into vacating the title and be suspensed indefinitely. Not only that, she would then on leave wrestling altogether. That incident would also sign Nanae Takahashi’s (Stardom’s head trainer at the time) Stardom departure the following May.
Let’s again fast forward, this time to March 7th 2016. This is SEAdLINNNG’s third event ever, and Yoshiko’s first appearance as an in-ring performer, ever since the infamous incident. Her first match back would be against none other than Nanae Takahashi, SEAdLINNNG’s owner and the woman who had to take a good chunk of the blame, following Yoshiko’s actions a year prior. The road towards redemption and acceptance could start.
With all this historical context now in mind, I suggest we look at how Yoshiko’s return to wrestling can be called a redemption, and how that translated through her return match in SEAdLINNNG, laying the foundation for the following years.
What makes Yoshiko’s return to wrestling a « redemption story », you ask ? Her story is about making up for what had been a career-ending wrongdoing. Redeeming oneself through hard work alone. Being granted an opportunity to start again in a new landscape, with new faces with different reactions to her arrival, made Yoshiko feel grateful. Watching her first match back, and the post-match angle fully showcased that. From refusing Nanae’s handshake at the start of the match (feeling like she had to earn it ?), to constantly bowing at the center of the ring once it ended, to then look to shake hands with some of her new comrades (Arisa Nakajima, Rina Yamashita, Sareee), all of them reacting differently, which would set up different dynamics moving forward. All of this encapsulate what Yoshiko’s career would become from that point : A blank slate where she could rebuild her own image, while never forgetting what she had done and learn from that. Build a « new and improved » Yoshiko which hopefully, would transcend the image she left on many minds as she left Stardom in 2015.
What is the best way to try and transcend said image ? I would say that trying your best, earning everything again to eventually stand at the top of the wrestling company created by her mentor, a place she once occupied in Stardom, is a good way to do so.
From her emotional return to the ring, to becoming the first ever Beyond The Sea tag team champions alongside Rina Yamashita, all the way to the just as emotional victory over rival Arisa Nakajima to win the Beyond The Sea singles championship last July. Yoshiko’s last four, soon to be five years in wrestling have been about one thing, among others : Trying to clear her image, and thus redeem herself from an action she regrets, through hard work and dedication to the sport she gave her life to. Which has been accomplished to a large degree. And now, she’s scheduled to return to the company where it all began, facing a woman in Mayu Iwatani, who says herself that she wouldn’t be where she is without her. When it comes to Yoshiko’s redemption, her being able to walk through the curtain, towards the ring she had to leave 6 years ago, may very well be seen as the last step for her to take in order to complete said redemption.
At the end of the day, I think it is fair to qualify the second part of Yoshiko’s career as inspirational. We all make mistakes, some that costs us a lot, and we don’t always get the chance to make up for said mistakes. Yoshiko received that chance, and look where she is now. Joshi wrestling’s « black sheep », if I may use that term, will get to wrestle on one of Japan’s biggest stages, for the company she first started with, in just a matter of hours as these lines are being written.
An emotional in-ring return, capping off the emotional story of a genuine, compelling wrestler.
And since I cannot talk about Yoshiko’s years in SEAdLINNNG without feeling the need to recommend matches, allow me to close this piece with a short list of Yoshiko matches you ABSOLUTELY should go out of your way to watch, hopefully making you wish to see more :
- Nanae Takahashi vs Yoshiko – 03.07.2016 – SEAdLINNNG Let’s Get d!!!
- Yoshiko vs Takumi Iroha – 08.24.2017 – SEAdLINNNG Summer Blast
- Rina Yamashita & Yoshiko vs Nanae Takahashi & Tsukasa Fujimoto – 07.25.2018 – SEAdLINNNG Summer Blast 2018
- Nanae Takahashi vs Yoshiko – 01.20.2019 – SEAdLINNNG Let’s Get d!!! 2019
- Arisa Nakajima vs Yoshiko – 07.13.2020 – SEAdLINNNG Close To You
- Hiroyo Matsumoto & Yoshiko vs Arisa Nakajima & Tsukasa Fujimoto – 08.26.2020 – SEAdLINNNG 5th Anniversary
- Yoshiko vs Sareee – 09.24.2020 – SEAdLINNNG Fall In Love With d!
- Yoshiko & Sareee vs Arisa Nakajima & Nanae Takahashi – 01.22.2021 – SEAdLINNNG Shin-Kiba NIGHT