If you’ve never heard of Manami Toyota before now, I don’t blame you. It’s hard enough keeping track of the male Japanese wrestlers who make waves in the wrestling world. Many wrestling fans’ knowledge of the Japanese scene comes from the imports they send over here.
If your knowledge is limited to the mainstream feds, you’ll only know guys like Keiji Mutoh, TAKA Michinoku, Ultimo Dragon, Yoshihiro Tajiri, Yoshi Tatsu and Masato Tanaka, among others. If you follow the indies though, your knowledge is a bit more broad. KENTA, Kenta Kobashi, Daisuke Sekimoto, Kota Ibushi and Takeshi Morishima have all made appearances in America for ROH and Chikara, with Morishima having won the ROH World Heavyweight Championship.
[adinserter block=”2″]However, the women have rarely gotten the spotlight they deserved in the States. It’s a propos really, since native women really don’t get a platform to shine in the WWE, and really never have either. Not until TNA started seriously pushing the Knockouts and until SHIMMER popped up onto the scene did women’s wrestling start to get serious here. However, in Japan, the women’s scene has been popping for almost as long as the men’s scene has. In fact, the women are by-and-large the innovators when it comes to new moves and wrestling styles. They were doing the hardcore stuff way before it got big with the men. A lot of the moves we know now, either from the men or in America, came from the women. Tiger Driver ’91? Mitsuharu Misawa used it first in 1994, and it was a woman who innovated in the titular year. Burning Hammer? Innovated not by Kobashi, but by Kyoko Inoue. Vertebreaker? It was originally called the Kudome Valentine and done by Megumi Kudo. The women had to do twice the work to get half the respect, but now, at least one of them is going to get her time in the sun in America.
I apologize for burying the lead here, but Chikara is importing Manami Toyota, who is one of the best if not THE best female Japanese wrestler of all-time to make her first appearance Stateside ever. Toyota is to the joshi scene what Ric Flair is to American wrestling. She’s an innovator, a legend and a woman who is revered by anyone who gets into women’s wrestling looking to take it seriously. Toyota’s appearance has been hyped up since Chikarasaurus Rex in July, and of any of the American indie feds, it’s not surprising that if it wasn’t going to be SHIMMER, that Chikara would be the one to bring her over.
If you haven’t been paying attention, Chikara has been giving mad respect to women for years by allowing them to compete against the men. This has been no more prevalent than this year, when Sara del Rey and Daizee Haze have formed a very successful tag team, almost capturing the 3 points necessary to be able to challenge for the Campeonatos de Parejas (the Chikara equivalent to tag titles and the top straps in the fed) and then playing spoiler to Mike Quackenbush and Jigsaw, preventing them from accruing their third point in Reading last month at Young Lions Cup.
So it is very fitting that Toyota takes the stage for America’s premiere lucha libre/puroresu hybrid federation this weekend – Saturday in Baltimore and Sunday in Brooklyn, both new markets for the rapidly growing fed. On Saturday, Toyota will battle Haze in a singles match, and Sunday, she’ll team with Quackenbush to take on del Rey and Claudio Castagnoli. Both matches should be off-the-charts.
[adinserter block=”1″]Listen, I’m not one to steer you wrong. Forget everything the WWE has taught you about women’s wrestling and check out Chikara this weekend in Baltimore or Brooklyn if you can. Even if you’re among the super-sexist, you’ll get to see your fair share of men wrestling as well. Both cards are stacked even outside the Toyota matches, featuring appearances from Chicagoland favorites Da Soul Touchaz, Eddie Kingston, UltraMantis Black, newly crowned Young Lions Cup Champion Frightmare, Delirious and Helios, whom you might recognize more without his mask as Ricochet in other promotions.
But if you’re into women’s wrestling, these are the cards for you. Tickets are still available – go to http://www.chikarapro.com to get information of how to purchase, or just show up at either event. You won’t be disappointed.
Especially with the women.
Tom Holzerman is a lifelong wrestling fan and connoisseur of all things Chikara Pro, among other feds. When he’s not writing for the Camel Clutch Blog, you can find him on his own blog, The Wrestling Blog.