In the run-up to Pro Wrestling: EVE’s huge She-1: Ace of EVE weekender on Saturday and Sunday, we’re introducing you to the 12 women you need to know about before they tear Bethnal Green a new one. Read our last post about the stars in Block A, then come back for Block B – which is headed by some of the most influential names in the industry.
Meiko Satomura and Emi Sakura
There’s a moment in the recent match between Meiko Satomura and her star pupil Chihiro Hashimoto where – and please consider this a MASSIVE SPOILER WARNING – Hashimoto kicks out of Scorpio Rising, Satomura’s rarely-used super-finisher, and Satomura, on her knees, cries out and waves both fists at the heavens. Wrestlers sell frustration after kick-outs all the time, but this is different: Satomura looks almost triumphant.
This match provided a blow-off to a near year-long angle in which Hashimoto had struggled to establish herself as the new ace of Sendai Girls. The moment where Hashimoto kicked out of Scorpio Rising was the moment at which she had finally replaced, or at least joined, her trainer at the head of the company. So Satomura’s gesture of anguish at her failure to put her trainee away was laced with a sense of accomplishment; her methods had finally produced a true equal.
It’s moments like this that make Satomura such a legendary figure in joshi wrestling today. Sure, there’s her exceptional body of work as a fiery young rookie in GAEA around the turn of the millennium, but it’s as a bridge between the 90s and the 00s and a gatekeeper for the present joshi landscape that her importance really comes into full view. Opening Sendai Girls a year after the closure of GAEA in 2006, Satomura took the torch from the revered previous generation of joshi talent and used it to help nurture a future for the medium.
The same year that Satomura opened Sendai Girls, Emi Sakura, who trained in IWA Japan and had a number of matches in AJW under her belt, opened Ice Ribbon, which along with Sendai Girls remains one of joshi’s top three or four promotions. At show three of the She-1, on a Sunday afternoon in a tiny room in Bethnal Green, Satomura and Sakura are going to wrestle one-on-one for the first time in seven years. This is an extremely fucking auspicious turn of events.
You could quite easily book a solid card with the wrestlers that Satomura and Sakura have trained over the past ten years. In the red corner, Satomura is responsible for the careers of Kagetsu, Ryo Mizunami, Cassandra Miyagi, DASH Chisako, Mika Shirahime and, of course, Chihiro Hashimoto. In the blue corner, Sakura has trained the likes of Tsukasa Fujimoto, Hikaru Shida, Hiragi Kurumi, Mochi Miyagi, Hamuko Hoshi, Riho, comedy wrestler Miyako Matsumoto and the inexperienced but extremely enthusiastic Maika Aasa. At least in my eyes, Satomura and Sakura’s match will be impossible to disentangle from this broader picture; if the Sendai Girls and Gatoh Move rosters wanted to turn up as to act as seconds I wouldn’t complain.
But as important as Satomura and Sakura are for their place in joshi history, they also remain totally compelling performers in their own right. Sakura’s manic energy is a perfect foil for Satomura’s intimdating stoicism. Enough has probably been said about Satomura already, but Sakura is underappreciated, bringing an unpredictable weirdness to her in-ring work as much as to her booking of Ice Ribbon and Gatoh Move. Sakura is an EVE veteran, a former champion, and one of the more violent performers to regularly appear on their cards. At an EVE show in February she chopped Rhia O’Reilly’s chest red raw, and then speared Sammii Jayne into a slightly less-than-stable load-bearing wall during their match in May. Satomura’s only singles match in EVE to date also came against Sammii Jayne, and I’d be surprised if one of these two didn’t make it out of the group and into the triple threat that will determine Jayne’s opponent at York Hall, following what promises to be a seriously memorable encounter.
Looking to stop these two joshi legends from advancing is a performer who herself is no stranger to Japanese wrestling. Last week, Viper tweeted that, once up a time, watching Satomura ‘dropkick a girls face off’ in GAEA Girls had made her resolve never to go to Japan. But ‘then life had other ideas’ – 2017 has seen Viper make multiple trips to Stardom, establishing herself as a member of Io Shirai’s Queen’s Quest stable and a trios champion in the process. Her work really clicked in the 5 Star Grand Prix this Autumn, with matches against Mayu Iwatani, Yoko Bito and Hiromi Mimura standing out among the many, many highlights of that tournament. Here she gets a chance to expand her horizons beyond the Stardom roster, and her encounters with Satomura and Sakura are sure to present some really fascinating clashes of style.
Viper is one of the true marquee names of British women’s wrestling and it’d be stupid to write her off from progressing in the tournament, but I wonder if there isn’t another story to be told here: back in May, after failing in her quest for the then-vacant Pro Wrestling: EVE Championship, Viper grabbed a mic and called out her hero Aja Kong. The announcement of that particular dream match – let’s say for the York Hall semi-main – would be a fitting reward for a valiant losing effort here, and would unquestionably provide one of the highlights of the whole weekend.
Much like North Korea in the 2010 World Cup, Jetta’s best chance of coming out of this group with her head held high probably relies on some creative editing after the fact. Actually, that’s a bit unfair. Minus a four year hiatus between 2011 and 2016, the ‘Shit Talk Queen’ has 15 years of experience, even if the paths she’s travelled during that time have been less glamorous than those taken by her rivals. She’s a seriously accomplished performer and her distance from the joshi equation should make for some very entertaining contests, but the way that Jetta has been built up as a heel in EVE this year – mainly stemming from her ongoing rivalry with Erin Angel – leads me to believe that she is in this group first and foremost to have her ass handed to her in three distinct ways. Let’s just hope that she can emerge from this ordeal and still ‘be sportsmanship’.