The Meiko Satomura Story Pt. II - Scorpion Rising
By James Truepenny
Posted On 24-09-2015 20:21 GMT
Tags: Meiko Satomura

How do you build the perfect wrestler? Well, it's hard to quantify, but if past experience has been anything to go buy it should go something like this; pick an athletic standout, train them from very young, not only in the nuts and bolts aspects of the sport like arm drags and take downs, but deeply in the culture of your training regimen. Then expose them gently to the world, let them make an impression at their own pace and then finally when the mood is right unleash them, repackaged if necessary, but firmly onto planet wrestling. They also have to have "It". No one is quite sure what "It" is, but it's a sense of authority and belief in what you are doing. That thing that literally makes you stand out. This is about that bit in the career of Meiko Satomura. As we left her, she was a hot rookie and tag team star. Having learnt on the job in GAEA and in WCW, with occasional jobs out for other promotions but she was GAEA through and through, dropping into her role as "The Next Big Thing" and as the day to day leader of the GAEA Dojo. She clearly had the "It" factor, but everyone needs a little push.   

Her opportunity to shine as a wrestler still largely developed in the tag team ranks with Sonoko Kato through 1998, despite being the champions they were up and down in the win loss strokes, but they kept mixing it with Joshi legends. Mayumi Ozaki and Sugar Sato would team up to defeat Satomura and Kano not long after LCO had beaten them. But Satomura was also catching on as a singles draw. Teaming with Chigusa Nagayo for the big grudge match showdown with Ozaki and Aja Kong in April and making a surprise New Japan date to wrestle Chikayo Nagashima another of GAEA's excellent home grown talents to a ten minute time limit draw. When the pair had a rematch early in '99 Satomura would win over the more GAEA friendly 30 minute time limit. In fact that is where her momentum began for the rest of '99.  

She would clearly need to go up in the world, she had proven her worth time and time again, but GAEA were drawing big houses with some Joshi veterans who had come over from AJW having done all they could in the company. Perhaps the biggest name of which was Aja Kong. Aja had become a title threat in May of '99, she challenged the then and two time champion Chigusa Nagayo to the title and came up trumps. Though it may not have seemed like it then, Kong would become Satomura’s defining opponent over the length of her career. Their first title showdown would be in September of 1999, but they would tangle before that bout in both GAEA and Ozaki's heel stable based offshoot Oz Academy. In a series that would define GAEA and determine its legacy, they would meet many times in the coming years over the AAAW World's title, telling a gripping and hard hitting story. In that first encounter at Yokohama Bunka Gymnasium, Kong would come out the winner. There would be more opportunities, as Satomura was there for the long term.  

It wasn't just Kong who would be her bench mark. As explored in the last episode of this series her matches with Akira Hokuto would address her state in the wrestling world. Each time she would get a step closer, but never quite make it until a match in November of 2001. The match opened hard and heavy, with a respectful handshake turned into a slapping contest by Hokuto. A mistake she instantly regretted as Satomura was as intense as she had ever been. She hit hard and often taking the lead in the early going with a series of vicious kicks, rounded off with a Pele kick for good measure. Surviving the onslaught, Hokuto looked to control as was always her game plan. She grabbed Meiko by the hair and let loose with an almighty open handed slap, but Satomura kept firing back. This was high stakes Joshi at its finest, intense and hard hitting from the opening bell. Hokuto woman handled Satomura up into the Fireman's Carry and snapped off a Death Valley Driver, then tried to take control with an Armbar, when that didn't work she resorted to knees to the temple to slow down the ever charging Satomura. It worked, but Satomura was playing possum and launched Hokuto across the ring with a Release German Suplex and went back to her preferred wear down kicks. Hokuto retaliated with hellacious slaps to the head and that is how it went back and forth with heavy, heavy strikes.  

When Satomura finally downed Hokuto the crowd roared in approval. They then went to the mat when Satomura missed a Heel Kick and tried to convert it into a Reverse Cross Arm Breaker, but Hokuto used the momentum and applied a Leg Bar. Torquing up Satomura's knee in an effort to slow her truly dangerous kicks. Satomura crawled for the ropes carrying all of Hokuto's weight. Hokuto then went for her main submission manoeuvre; the Scorpion Deathlock. Satomura had other ideas, she kicked her off and tried a Deathlock of her own, but Hokuto reversed that into an STF, adding a Fujiwara Armbar for good measure. Meiko got the rope break to a round of supportive applause, the fans didn't want to see this one end. Like a lot of Hokuto's matches, this wasn't a picture perfect classic wrestling exhibition, it was a fight. As she dominated, she used heavy Yakuza Kicks to subdue Satomura, offering pain and humiliation as was her want. The finest heel of her generation she was not going to let this go easily. She gave Satomura her signature Top Rope Missile Dropkick, then a second sending Satomura sprawling across the ring. Then came the Dangerous Queen Bomb, she was sensing the end. Both manoeuvres only garnered a two count. Satomura was to strong for her and the look of resignation in Hokuto's face showed her frustration. She went for her husband's favourite submission, the Sasaki Strangle Hold, trying to finish off Meiko but Satomura found the ropes yet again. In the following exchange, Satomura delivered the Death Valley Bomb and went for her sure fire submission winner the Cross Arm Lock struggling to get Hokuto in the hold.  

In a bizzare twist, Hokuto managed to struggle free but found herself in her husband's own finish manouvere, bang in the middle of the ring. Satomura hung on for grim life. Hokuto found the ropes with some helps from her seconds as they pushed it to her feet. She rolled out to gather herself, but Satomura delivered a flying forearm as she stood on the ring apron trying to get back in the ring. She trapped Hokuto's arm and delivered a perfect Northern Lights Suplex, but only for a two. The pair were going through each other's finishers at an alarming rate, and then Hokuto's husbands, then his best friends Hiro Hase. Another Release German Suplex set up Hokuto to be Frog Splashed, but she got her boots up in time to meet Satomura on the way down. Hokuto slammed Satomura with a reverse Northern Lights Bomb bagning her on the mat with a sickening thud, but she kicked out on two with authority as Vince McMahon used to say. A Back Drop Driver and another two count. She ran Satomura into the ropes and tried for a Yakuza Kick, but was caught and given a shockingly heavy kick to the thigh and as she crumpled to the mat an even heavier kick to the head. As she came too, Hokuto dodged another Pele Kick, but Satomura would not be denied getting up from everything that was thrown at her.  

The pair became so basic and desperate they started head butting each other on their knees. Eventually they went to the floor, with Hokuto trying a Crack Smash from the top rope, but Satomura got out of the way leaving her hapless second to take the move and leaving Hokuto on the floor in in heap. Satomura stood over her fallen opponent and in a guttural rage screamed out in exultation. The fans roared back as she slapped herself back to life, as Hokuto crawled back into the ring, Satomura was waiting and lifted her dead weight body onto her shoulders and dropped her with another Death Valley Bom for another two count. Another stiff kick to the head and yet another two count, another DVB, another two count. Satomura came closer and closer but couldn't put The Dangerous Queen away. Satomura gripped the Stranglehold yet again. Hokuto just touched the ropes with her foot. A Sliding Knee got another two count, with Hokuto defiantly bridging out. Momentum came back to Hokuto slightly as she rose to her feet, but Satomura kept on her. Hokuto went for the Northern Lights Bomb, the vicious elevated Pile Driver that had made name, but she didn't have the strength to lift her opponent.   

A second attempt scored, but she was to far away to make the cover. The referee started counting as both were on the floor in exhaustion. Her count went on and on, but it was Satomura who survived. Raising to her feet with another scream. She had done the impossible, she had beaten the legend that was Hokuto. The wrestling world took notice as she had such a big singles win. Taming The Dangerous Queen with a Knock Out victory was the most important piece of the puzzle in her development to the main event.   

It wasn't just wrestling fans who took an interest. Director Kim Longinotto was looking for a documentary project along with her collaborator Jano Williams. Thinking that they could showcase the amazing female athletes of GAEA in a documentary, she was able to create an anthropological study of the GAEA Dojo in action. I wrote more extensively about GAEA Girls here. It is a fascinating and an incredibly honest portrayal of a hot house educational environment. It was shown by the BBC, which gave GAEA, and Satomura incredible impetus when it was aired. The film told a story of the three levels of the women involved; The owner of the company Chigusa Nagayo, the trainers led by Satomura and the trainees best exemplified by Saika Takeuchi. I talked to Kim about the project, what she thought of Satomura and the effect the film has had on the wrestling industry.  

What were your first impressions of Satomura?  

I don’t know if it comes through the film or not, I hope it does, is that in order to be a true champion, in order to be number one at something, you can see immediately that Satomura is going to be a huge star. I think It's a lot of things, it's not just ability, though you do have to be talented. But I’m really interested in sport anyways. I just watched Serena and Venus Williams play last night (in the US Open) and I was reflecting on what makes Serena great. What it is is strength of mind, it is determination and it is something that Serena Williams has. An absolute determination to win at all costs. To be the absolute best, to be the strongest, the fittest to last the longest to be out there to win and it is a real quality.  

That to me is what the whole film is about. You love Chibi (Saika Takeuchi) and you want her to do well, and you want her to succeed, but she hasn’t got that thing that you need to succeed, and it is more extreme in wrestling than in any other sport. In a way you have to have that instinct that you want to win above all else, that you are going to get the better of the other person. That’s what it comes down to and you will do absolutely anything to get there and in a way, what that means is you are always going to be slightly apart from everybody else. You are going to be slightly alone. You are not necessarily going to be popular with your peers. You are not going to be loved unreservedly, you are going to be admired and feared, you are going to have total adulation.  

You see it in Chigusa (Nagayo), she loves the girls that she is coaching, but in a way she is quite abusive of them, because she wants the best for them and sees this as the best way of doing it, like her father did with her. With Chibi she goes too far. She is quite lonely, it is all of those things mixed up really. She wants them to love her, but has this kind of way of trying to instill this killer instinct , and I don’t think you can instill that in people. You either have got it or you haven’t. That is her tragedy, you can’t instill that into people, by the way you treat them, you have to have it or they don’t and Satomura has just got it. She has absolutely got it. We thought she was extraordinary, she was very young at that time but she already had it.  

She was so young and yet when you are in the ring filming her, she seems like this old wise person who is a champion. At the end of the film Satomura is the champion, even though there was just that one match we followed, because the film isn’t about an individual person’s career, it's about the new recruits, is Chibi going to survive or not, who Nagayo is, it is about all of those things. For me though I watched a champion. When we left I remember saying Satomura is a champion. Chibi isn’t going to survive, Satomura is. You can’t do what Nagayo is trying to do. You can’t make a champion, a champion has to make themselves, you can help them, but Satomura had it, she absolutely had it. The other girls could see that and stood back from it, she is detached from the other girls already she is on her way.     

I can see that in the film, her peers like Uematsu and Kato, both of whom had great careers but didn’t reach the level Satomura has.  

They stand back from her.  

It does fascinate me as she has become the matriarchal figure of her own company now as the co-owner of Sendai Girls. To me it is like she took all of that culture from the women of GAEA, and that Nagayo philosophy of pro wrestling and put it into Sendai Girls, because the women that work there all seem to have that philosophy.  

Well GAEA was an extraordinary organisation, and you can see in the film that none of the new girls there could deal with that workload. None of them. They all left, that was the only reason they stuck with Chibi, but they ran away every single one of them. They are just in this shed cut off from everyone in Yokohama, working and working all day training it is really awe inspiring. It reminded me of Serena Williams growing up in The Projects, a really tough housing estate, going on to really beaten up tennis court. Growing up with violence and shooting, and doing weights and building her body and being absolutely determined to survive and be the absolute top player and now she is looking to be the greatest player ever. I always thought that those two Meiko and Serena were very similar about them.  

They are both so absolutely beautiful, charismatic, determined, who invoke fear in their opponents and both of them have raised the level of their sport, so much that they have driven other people to do so much better. You know Serena & Venus had galvanised the world of women’s tennis and I am sure that Meiko has done much the same in wrestling. I think what is important and why I am so happy you are writing this piece, it's not just an inspiration for people who are into wrestling it's an inspiration for people to say; "Look I can be more like Satomura, I can survive, I can win, I can do it and I want to be the best."  

It's the mystery of that what it that makes someone want to be the best? What is it that drives them on for ten, fifteen, twenty years? Serena Williams is thirty three now, it's unheard off. She's still going, she is still the world's number one and she is probably going to win the US Open (JT: Unfortunately for Serena she didn't, but she did look majestic up until the semi finals) and I really hope she wins and she is an absolute genius.. You say Satomura was seventeen when she came back from the US? I never felt she was younger than me, it felt liked looking at a champion. Look at Chibi, and she looks like a little girl, as we're all the other girls in the Dojo were just little girls. I hope you uncover what it is that makes a champion. Why is she one in a generation? Why is Serena Williams one in a generation?   

It's fascinating to me because when she came along, women's wrestling in Japan was at its hottest and the generation before her were possibly the greatest wrestlers ever; Nagayo, Lioness Asuka, Toshio Yamada, Akira Hokuto, Manami Toyota, The LCO, Aja Kong, all these women who in any other era and in any other company would have been flat out main event stars for their whole careers. The bar that they set was just so ridiculously high, the matches they put together haven't been topped since and it was twenty years ago. Satomura grew up in that environment, an Nagayo was her heroine, and it left me with the impression that Satomura wants to be the best pro wrestler she can possibly be.   

Yes, Nagayo was such a heroine to all of them, but that's what you get and that's what we saw and that's what we admired. Sport is not just the sport, and why we are all obsessed with sport, you can watch Andy Murray or Tiger Woods, you can watch football, and it's not what Man City did, get all the best players money could buy. It's some magic that happens. Tiger had his injury and he hasn't won since, it's so mental. It's to do with this incredible drive and will. With Tiger it's that he lost his confidence, but it's so interesting, and he keeps saying "I'm back" and he's not back, but if he does it will be a miracle, but with Satomura it was there in a seventeen year old. I want to know about that mental journey, from the age of eight or seven? What it was that brought her to that seventeen year old, but what is it that kept her going to strive to be the best?   

I just watched the match where she won her first AAAW title in GAEA, and she's 22, and at 22 she's been running the dojo for a couple of years, she has responsibilities well beyond her age and she's wrestling in front of a massive crowd, and she walks out there like she owns the place. She's wrestling one of the toughest women that ever lived who had done everything in pro wrestling that you could do at the time, and they knocked seven bells out of one another, but Satomura still looks like a champion at the end.   

That match is one good story, but you need to ask the question why? She hasn't gone the traditional route which there is such pressure on girls to do. To get married, there is that Japanese phrase; a girl I like a Christmas Cake, when you are twenty four you are stale. She has given up everything to do to be the best. She hasn't stopped when she could have done, she must have enough money money live on, so what is driving her forward to be the best and stay the best? And then go on and on and on?  

She is an amazing athlete and before we went people going "Oh, women's wrestling" they imagined it was going to be some mud wrestling you know sort of cabaret thing, but when you see the training that goes into it and you see and how skilled they are, I think people in the UK were very shocked and surprised how fit, talented and skillful they are.   

I think if you look at what was going on in mainstream wrestling at the time of the film, it wasn't very female friendly. Not so much now because it's changed largely because of Joshi influence, but it wasn't very female positive, it was Bra and Panties matches, and things like that. It didn't appeal to people who want to be athletes.  

No I'd have hated that, what I liked about them, was that they had muscles and they were athletes that make you go WOW! When Satomura does those amazing backflips and scissor kicks, and you see Chibi and she's saying "That's not how you do it.". But Chibi wasn't a star and the kindest thing was to tell her to leave, but they were trying so hard to make her. They just didn't have the recruits coming in, that sweet girl who comes in with her Mum and you can see “Nooooo you're not right.”  

I still see it today in some debuts. When I see the new girls in Stardom who are there to sell posters and T shirts, and I'm thinking "You don't have the weight or the body type for this to work" and they just plough through them, there will be five debuts in a year and maybe one left at the end.  

I think Satomura is beautiful though, but I did keep in touch with Chibi for a bit, but she didn't last long did she?  Not for long after the documentary. She didn't have that it, and it's one in every million. I am really proud of Meiko, she went way beyond any of my expectations.   

When we see Satomura now, her in ring presence is a very stoic person, like a female Clint Eastwood almost, do you think the softer moments in the film, enabled to soften her public image against what she did in the ring and endeared her to her audience who watched the film?  

Yes you have to have that. Courage is only courage with fear. Otherwise you're just a psychopath, or a machine and you become that Hollywood Clint Eastwood kind of character. What I loved about Satomura is that she is this young girl as well, but she is putting so much behind her because she wants to be the best. That to me makes her stronger and more interesting. That last interview with Nagayo is what makes her softer. If you just had her as this tyrant who was dominating the girls it wouldn't have worked. But it's so interesting to know that she wanted her Dad to lover and she wants the girls to love her, that she is trapped in this role of this trainer that can't show any emotion. That's what makes her so much more interesting. What Hollywood does is you have The Joker Jack Nicholson and Batman and you don't get to know much about them, they never change. But what you can see Satomura is a little behind the mask. But you have to have a mask in wrestling because your opponent needs to be afraid of you.   

What I liked about Satomura was what she did was so beautiful. I don't like watching what my parents watched which was mostly on the mat and it's like long submission torture. I love her athleticism. It's like Olympic gymnastics it's just beautiful.   

Back in the ring all roads led to Kong and In 2001 Satomura got another shot at the AAAW Champion. In the midst of her second reign as champion, by this point Kong was a bonafide superstar. Her run in AJW had begun in '86 where she instantly stood out as swimsuit wearing, mohawked mega monster heel in the mould of her then on screen mentor Dump Matsumoto. She had broken out of that role to lead heel stable Jungle Jack and had finally risen to the top as the heir apparent of Bull Nakano becoming WWWA Champion, the highest position AJW had to offer. With the ascension of Manami Toyota to that rank she had moved on to try new things including the experimental hook and shoot style of ARSION a company she had helped establish, but now she was the top dog in GAEA, and it was Satomura's turn to chase. The date would be set for Kawasaki on December 12th 2001 for another title challenge from Satomura. Could she overcome the monster two time champion Kong? The fans of Kawasaki, who loved their brawling and violence were about to find out. They would not be disappointed.  

The coverage of the match itself began with the backstage preparation of Satomura, offering a short prayer as her music hit, then letting out a scream of defiance. She headed to the ring with a look of confidence and swagger. She walked to the ring like she owned, the only attitude to have when you're facing quite frankly the best monster heel wrestling has ever created. When she got to the ring she eschewed her normally subdued ring entrance and climbed to the top rope letting out another roar, the fans, the GAEA faithful who had nurtured her as their own roared back in approval. Game time.  

Kong came to the ring as always with her two trash cans painted in Kong face paint colours. While any wrestling superstar has to show a decline over the years, it was clear after thirteen years of the toughest ring wars imaginable Kong still hadn't lost a step. Twenty Nine years old then and still in her awesome prime she looked like she could go another thirteen years and indeed she has. We didn't know that then though, all you could see was this awesome presence. She towered over Meiko, and the GAEA fans called out her name in a shrill mantra hoping for the best for their favourite. The crowd favourite was not in doubt. During the announcements the usual flurry of paper ribbons that meet the participants were a deep red, filling the ring with a clear message to the Champion. Satomura was as over as over could be.  

The match opened with a telling sight, Aja was trying to finish early, aiming her Spinning Back Fist at Satomura's head, but Meiko dodged again and again until she went for a kick. However Kong who had been on of the pioneers of the martial arts wrestling hybrid in Joshi caught her leg, drove her into the corner and proceeded to land forearms into the chest of Satomura. Satomura retaliated when she found separation, landing with a flying forearm and then a series of kicks landing and Axe Kick on the kneeling Kong. Kong would get back in the groove when she finally swatted Satomura off the Apron with a running Lariat. This was going to be no walk in the park defence for the veteran.  

When they got to the floor, surprisingly it was Satomura who took over on the master brawler. Forearming her to the floor from the top rope, but Kong came back with a Backdrop Driver and hurling her into the first row. As Meiko gathered her wits Aja picked up a guard rail and hurled it at her. However in the follow up exchanges it would be Satomura who took over, delivering a Death Valley Bomb on the floor to the yelps of delight from the adoring fans. She followed that up by hurling a row of chairs at Kong, the consummate technician had learned a lot when it came to the ways of main event brawling. Kong retaliated with her trusty trash cans, bouncing them off Satomura's skull. As the referee struggled to regain control Kong pile drove Satomura through a table before the pair continued brawling back to the ring with Satomura on the receiving end of the punishment.  

The ref refused to count a Brainbuster from Kong as Satomura had been dumped on one of the trash cans. As Aja remonstrated with the referee, Meiko gathered her wits and came back with a Pele Kick, a move she popularised long before the likes of AJ Styles took it on. The comeback was short lived, Kong delivered another Brainbuster, but Satomura defiantly bridged out. A Piledriver also failed to do the trick. The big moves were coming thick and fast as Satomura landed her signature Death Valley Bomb, but Kong got out on two. Kong blocked Scorpio Rising and landed a Spinning Back Fist of her own, but again only for two. Kong started showing signs of frustration dumping Satomura and delivering an elbow drop from the top rope, but still only two. She signalled for another back fist, but Satomura blocked it with a Pele kick and took over with palm strikes knocking Kong to her feet with a solid combination. Another Axe Kick, another Death Valley Bomb another kick out. Was there nothing this woman couldn't stand?  

Another Death Valley Bomb, another two. Satomura slammed the mat in frustration, a third DVB and a another kick out. Then she tried to do what looked like the impossible. Lifting Aja's bulky frame into the fireman's carry position she needed to set up the Bomb, she attempted to climb the ropes. Kong came too fast enough to stop her, and delivered another Spinning Back Fist, and collapsed in a heap. Another Backfist, another two. The pair began exchanging blows in the corner, before Satomura got enough separation to hit a frog splash, but again it was only two. The pair had produced so many near falls by sheer weight of numbers the crowd was on the edge of its collective seats. Satomura ran again for Scorpio Rising, but Kong caught her and hit her own Death Valley Bomb to add insult to injury. Satomura proudly, but obviously exhausted bridged out of the pin attempt.  

In the ensuing scrap, Kong managed to grab a sleeper and scissored her young challenge bang to rights in the middle of the ring. Satomura eventually found the ropes, but the die had been set. Or had it? Satomura groggy and coming to saw an opportunity when Kong called her shot. She raised her hand in the air and yelled for the Back Fist. Satomura caught her arm, pulled hard on arm breaker and went for the Death Valley Bomb once more Kong kicked out on instinct, but she was still not in great position to do anything as Satomura ran towards her, stood on her knee and delivered the perfect Axe Kick. Scorpio had risen right down the middle of Aja Kong's skull. A three count delivered the inevitable, Satomura was now AAAW Champion and the crowd roared it's approval. She was the youngest champion of Joshi's major title holders at 22 and now the Joshi world was hers.  

I would like to thank Kim Longinotto for her time and her help in this article. You can find her on the internet on Twitter where you can find out more about this amazing director.   

Next time we look at how her main event run played out in GAEA. Meiko Satomura Part III - The Road to Sendai. 

Tags: Meiko Satomura

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