The Meiko Satomura Story Pt. III - The Road To Sendai
By James Truepenny
Posted On 05-12-2015 11:21 GMT
Tags: Meiko Satomura




When we left Meiko Satomura, the world was at her feet. She was the AAAW Champion, head trainer at the GAEA Dojo, which was the subject of a BBC documentary, and Joshi, GAEA in particular, was at the top of its creative height. However, all champions must fall eventually. After 172 days she would drop the belt to Chikayo Nagashima.

Nagashima was an outstanding college wrestler, the ideal candidate for GAEA's dojo, and she would debut for them in 1995. Satomura had broken the glass ceiling for GAEA's home grown talent and Nagashima pushed through the hole after a dynamic trip to the top via some very interesting story telling. Having made her debut as a faithful student of Chigusa Nagayo, she turned her back on the GAEA regular army and joined Oz Academy, Mayumi Ozaki's stable of thugs with Carlos Amano and Sugar Sato. Having turned heel she was a supreme opportunist, quite the turnaround for the bubbly always smiling clean cut amateur wrestling baby face. Teaming up with Sato she won the AJW Tag Team Championships, when Nagayo's hand picked team couldn't get the job done, and then would take the AAAW tag titles. Sato and Nagashima would tire of Ozaki's dominant influence on their careers and they returned to the Regular Army in 2002. Nagashima then won a number one contenders tournament and defeated Satomura on the same day, invoking a mega push. The final showdown with Ozaki would take place some eleven years later. Joshi fans have long memories.

Satomura was without the belt, but her in ring main event style had evolved. Her run to her second AAAW title would take two years, with many twists and turns along the way. GAEA was now an equal too All Japan Women's wrestling in terms of a draw, and was available in the UK via The Wrestling Channel. While Satomura bubbled up around the top of the card, many others came in from Joshi promotions all over Japan. Manami Toyota would be the next AJW star to come in for a long term run and she would defeat Nagashima for the AAAW belt in October of 2002. She would hold the title for over a year in a dominating heel performance as champion. "The Queen Bee" would in turn drop the title to her long term cross promotional nemesis Dynamite Kansai in November of 2003. It would be a short reign for Kansai as yet another import and former WWWA Champion Ayako Hamada would relieve her of the belt in Tokyo on January 11th of 2003.

If there was one woman in wrestling to come out of a Japanese Dojo in the late nineties that was an equal to Satomura, it was Hamada. She was a frighteningly good wrestler. A second generation star who would revolutionise Joshi, just has her father had done the same for men's wrestling. Her father was Grand Hamada. The former NJPW rookie who had adopted Mexico as his second home, and found a wife there. Ayako Valentine Hamada Villarreal was born and raised in Mexico. While her sister Xóchitl Hamada gravitated towards a pure Lucha style, Ayako looked back to Japan for her inspiration.

Blessed with super model good looks, wrestling talent to burn, and being trilingual (she is fluent in Spanish, Japanese and English) and being incredibly tough, when she debuted for the ARSION promotion in 1998 at the age of 17 she was an instant hit. She would take the Twin Star of ARSION title with Mika Akino in June of 1999, but less than a year on from her debut. She continued on her upward direction in the Aja Kong run promotion and in December of 2000 won the Queen of ARSION title, sealing her main event status. When Kong left the promotion in 2001, she fell out of favour with new booker Lioness Asuka, and it wasn't long before she hit the road as well.

All Japan Women gave her a home and another title run, taking the WWWA championship from Momoe Nakanishi in May of 2003. All Japan was in its dying days, and her last run was a sad sight to see as the once brimming Korukean Hall would be half empty even for title defences. It was a shame for her because she had not dropped off in match quality, but Japan was in long term decline economically and splintering nature of Joshi had left fans breathless and the product over exposed. She would drop the title to Amazing Kong and move on, one week later she would turn up in GAEA and challenge Dynamite Kansai. The title would go to the Hamada family on January 11th 2004. But who would be the challenger?

Satomura was in an uneven run in this time period, in both tag and singles action. On the same card as Hamada took the title she beat Hitomi Hayashi, she then tagged with former Oz Academy member Carlos Amano to beat veterans Devil Masami and Lioness Asuka. The following month she lost to Ran Ran Yu. She was also AAAW Tag Team Champion again, this time with Nagashima, but they dropped the belts to Ran Ran Yu & Toshie Uematsu in a battle of GAEA's Wild Generation. Then in an unprecedented run of success she defeated Joshi legends; Mayumi Ozaki, Devil Masami and Toshiyo Yamada in less than two months in singles competition. A title run was indeed a possibility and the match would be set for the 30th of April at Yoyogi National Gymnasium in Tokyo.

She would take the title in tumultuous times for the GAEA Girls. The pro wrestling bubble was bursting around them. After fifteen years of unparalleled success across the board for all companies Joshi had hit its peak and was on a downward spiral. A huge recession that Japan is only just getting out of, and appears to have slipped back into again, mixed with a widening of platforms to view media on, and an over reliance on the established stars meant that gates were heading through the floor.  AJW bore the brunt of the downward trend first. Relying on the younger stars it had produced like Amazing Kong and Nanae Takahashi, it lacked the star power it needed to push the company forward. GAEA was not suffering as badly, but it wasn't going great guns either.

Chigusa Nagayo saw the writing on the wall and began to set up the close of the company before it started to lose money, or started to look to small time. In the meantime, Meiko had to deal with an old enemy. Her first defence would be against Aja Kong. The pair had come to define each other with their epic and titanic battles of speed and skill over brawling and power. Aja would take the title in Yokohama on April the 3rd 2005. For Satomura it would actually feel like a minor blip, because her next match would be the biggest of her career. To wrestle Chigusa Nagayo, her mentor and friend one last time at GAEA Eternal Last Gong, her home promotion's final show on April 10th 2005 at Korukean Hall.

The Hall was packed to the rafters for the farewell performance of the GAEA Matriarch, ten years later she would be back, but this would end her second run that had solidified her as Joshi's all time champion draw. Satomura was announced first, oozing a cool calm confidence that had replaced the frantic run and shoot offence of some ten years before on her debut in the same building. Nagayo was equally as slow moving and calm as she entered the ring. Bigger physically due to the vagaries of age and the ability to protect her body from bumps, she was a master brawler at this time. The early days of GAEA had been fruitful in feuds with FMW's slice and dice roster, Nagayo had used that style wisely in a more limited format in GAEA; though this was more likely to be a mat classic given the closeness of the participants.

The teacher met her greatest student for what everyone would think was the last time. They stared each other down as Nagayo's music rang around the building "Hearts on fire, strong desrie"; a line that summed up the GAEA philosophy. Satomura was announced and was drowned in red streamers as is the tradition on nights like this. Nagayo was announced and the ring became a sea of red obscuring the referee and the wrestlers buried underneath the paper. The ring cleared it was time to get to business. A shrill chant of "CHIG-U-SA" filled the room, just as it did at the height of The Crush Gals infamy some fifteen years before, as the pair sized each other up.

In the opening of the match they went to the floor, exchanging holds before returning to a vertical base. Satomura went for a leg dive and kicked away hoping to weaken Nagayo's knee and then applied a spinning toe hold. When she did break Satomura's grip, Nagayo went to the floor and removed her knee brace, so they could start again. They would then enter into a kicking stand off as each one dared the other to hit harder. Having kicked each other into oblivion, the standoff moved on to forearm uppercuts that would have made Cesaro wince. They would then exchange advantage with Satomura landing a Death Valley Bomb but she wasn't fast enough to cover Nagayo. A second and Nagayo got up again. Nagayo got one of her own in as the pair started to push on with the heavy artillery. Nagayo smiled as she slammed Satomura down with a running Powerbomb and a straight up Yakuza Kick to the face. When she went in for the kill, Satomura countered with a Pele Kick.

The crowd oohed and ahhed as the pair swapped their signature strikes and the momentum moved back and forth. Eventually Satomura would gain enough advantage to deliver her third Death Valley Bomb, Nagayo got up and dared her onward, seizing her chance Satomura delivered a crushing Scorpio Rising to take the win and cement herself as the star of Joshi's next ten years. As she came too, Nagayo smiled, gave a kneeling bow to the referee and shook her hand then turned to Satomura. Satomura bowed to her senior, who bowed lower in return signifying the changing of the guard before the pair hugged and celebrated together. The company the pair had built was now coming to a close. Later that evening, the belts of the company were surrendered and the banners that adorned Korukean Hall were ceremonially removed. To finish the evening, GAEA's roster removed their tracksuit jackets and left them in the ring.

GAEA had done a lot in its ten year existence. For Satomura it had been her home, her responsibility and her launching pad. She had been epitome of a GAEA Girl. She was technically adept, as tough as nails, fearless and smart. She was spirited, fiery babyface, but now she had nowhere to run. Aja Kong would give her first post GAEA home with a self-produced show at Korukean. However later in the year she would head up a new promotion that would change the face of Joshi, consolidate Satomura as a drawing card, and be a prolific training ground for the stars of the next 10 years.

Sendai Girls, known colloquially as Senjo, was founded jointly by Satomura as lead worker and president, and Jinsei Shinzaki, best known to western fans as Hakushi. The principle behind Senjo was totally different to the any other Joshi company. It featured a roster that was trained in house, but small, never more than four. Because it was small, Sendai shows feature matches with the Sendai roster working against or with wrestlers from others around Joshi. The first show featured the first four graduates of the Sendai Dojo making their debuts. Meiko went back to the old enemy and the ongoing storyline thorn in her side Aja Kong.

Aja and Meiko's relationship have been the backbone of the company ever since, both as enemies and friends. The Hometown Team concept was a winner as it gave the Sendai Girls a natural advantage in fan support. While Senjo would be the main focus of Satomura's business, she would be in demand for most of the other offices in the Joshi circuit. Oz Academy would become a top priority. However Aja Kong would be her first opponent and the pair would once again clash in the main event of Senjo's debut show.

The presentation of the show rested heavily on the past. Having access to the GAEA and Oz Academy tape libraries helped for sure, setting up the narrative of the pair's long term rivalry. Showing Satomura's debut in 1995 and a quick video recap of her career it gave her quite the build-up. The celebration of Kong's work in GAEA was equally as flattering. It also covered the pairs wars in GAEA and what had brought them to the table. Their back and forth over the AAAW title had always been evenly matched, but the ongoing story was of Aja desperate to beat Satomura as the wars raged on. In their final encounter it looked liked Kong was willing the bout to be over, this would be another chapter in their legacy of great matches.

Kong brought her weapon choice, two trash cans with her unique face paint design on them, to the ring with a look of purpose as she stared down the Sendai crowd. Then the ring announcer called out Satomura's name, the lights dimmed and a spotlight shone on her silhouette behind the curtain. The great gunslinger of GAEA's Wild Generation was ready as Rock The Night Away blared from the speakers. She threw up her arms and broke through the curtain and the crowd applauded their champion.

This was High Noon on Satomura's career, one bad performance here and her new company was sunk. She had a locker room to lead by example, and as President of the company she had to deliver, even if all the rookies failed, the company would be judged on her alone. As usual the pressure didn't show on her impassive, intense face. The crowd were hot for this match, booing Kong relentlessly, far more vocal than fans are in other parts of the country, that home town promotional effect being felt widely in the audience. Just as it had done a year before with her farewell to GAEA, the ring was flooded with red streamers. The fight for the future of the company was on.

The early going was inconclusive as the evenly matched veterans locked up time and again, neither one taking an advantage. Kong eventually took the initiative stamping on Meiko's feet to back her into the corner. From there she chopped away at the home town favourite. Resting from the back handed razor edge smacks to raise an "Up Yours" to the crowd. Meiko broke it up and ran cross corners to deliver a Flying Headbutt, Kong reversed her whip though and delivered her signature Double Chop. As she went in to her so-good-Vader-had-to-steal-it celebration, Meiko nipped up and dared her for more.

The style of the match was nothing new, it was still in the GAEA tradition, lots of stiff kicks and mat work. How could it not be with Kong in full on beast mode? Lacing Meiko through the ropes, Aja fired a series of kicks into her exposed throat and chest, then laid in heavy chops to the leader of Senjo. For the next few minutes it was classic Aja; stiff shot an elbow drops before settling into a sleeper hold to weaken Satomura further. During the match, in contrast to the introductions, the crowd were old school in manner: quiet and respectful, but they reacted to each pin and submission attempt with resounding applause.

As Meiko's corner shouted encouragement, she turned the sleeper into a Hammerlock and took control again. Now it was her turn. Using a wrist lock to control the monster, she levelled her tree trunk thighs at her opponent, before she was fended off with with big slap, but Aja's arm was hurt. She stopped the attack to shake it off. This was much back and forth storytelling struggle. Squaring of a test of strength would follow and Meiko would come out on top to give herself a psychological advantage despite her huge physical effort.

The crowd roared their approval. Finally coming awake, Satomura unleashed a series of kick into her fallen opponent and forced her over the bottom rope where she pounded her with more kicks. Her focus went back to Kong's weakened right arm, no right arm, no Back Fist, Kong's primary striking weapon. The logic was sublime. A Wrist Lock to an Armbar to a Cross Arm Breaker in short and smooth transition. Kong laced her hands and held on for dear life. The Cross Arm had been Satomura's calling card in her career, seemingly able to put it on from any angle at any time.

Grimacing with pain, Kong Power Bombed her way out of trouble. Kong manoeuvred for more big moves, but Satomura was plotting and reversed a Brainbuster attempt into a Fujiwara Armbar. Not getting the purchase she wanted she went to a Handstand Knee Drop, then Yakuza Kicks to the hurt limb. Aja broke free with a body block and they were back to square one, standing off with Aja delivering hellacious chops and Meiko answering her call with kicks to her upper thigh that smacked out around the arena. A Kong Short Clothesline levelled Satomura, but she reversed a Back Drop Driver attempt for a two count. She tried to follow up with a Frog Splash, another Satomura signature, but caught nothing but Aja's feet as the crowd called out in disappointment.

Kong got the Back Drop Driver she had been looking for, Meiko held her head but the referee still only got to two. Satomura broke free of another Brainbuster attempt with a knee, then her stunning Forearm Uppercut before finishing the sequence with a flourish, her patented Hand Spring Knee Drive right into Kong's exposed neck. The picture perfect Frog Splash that followed would only garner a two count. A flurry of kicks would be interrupted by Kong as she finally hooked The Brianbuster, the crowd and The Sendai Girls would scream in relief as their boss kicked out on two.  

At this point the crowd lost its quiet reserve and began chanting "SAT-OM-URA" to a slow clap of support. They were on the edge of their seats, Aja was at her wits end. As she does in moments of great distress, when she has thrown everything at an opponent and they have still kept coming, she reaches for a trash can. The crowd roared in disapproval. Hurling the referee out of the way she took a big swing, but Satomura had it scouted and kicked the trash can into the crowd. She then blocked a Back Fist attempt, the first of the match, but bounced off the ropes into a Sleeper. She reached for the ropes but Aja dragged her back to the middle of the ring, scissoring her body and giving her nowhere to go. The crowd, roared out Satomura's name as she desperately tried to turn the hold, looking for the ropes anyway she could with her feet. Polite applause rang out when she finally got out of it.

Aja had been thwarted yet again. She picked up Meiko for another sleeper, but Meiko got out of it with a Jaw Breaker drop. A Lariat sent Satomura crashing to the ring ramp however as she tried to gain separation. It would do he no good as Kong blasted her with a Suplex out on the ramp. She would fight back but Kong would gain control and lace her in the ropes, walking up the ramp way to deliver a Body Block with Satomura stuck in position. Satomura got out of the way in time and dashed to the top rope, she delivered with a flying forearm but then got caught in a slapping contest. She ended that conversation in pain with a Pele Kick. A top rope knee to the back of Aja's head gained a two.

They exchanged holds and escapes, but Satomura came out on top with a Death Valley Bomb for a two count that the crowd groaned out in frustration at. She signalled for Scorpio Rising, but Aja pushed her off. She headed back to the trash can and delivered a hefty blow to Satomura as the referee remonstrated with her. A Brainbuster demolished the trash can with the help of Meiko's forehead. Laying flat out, Kong went for the kill with the Top Rope Back Elbow Drop. However Satomura caught her arm and put her straight into a Cross Arm Breaker. The crowd erupted as she yanked back hard on Kong's arm, and chanted in support as it was Kong's turn to find sanctuary. Kong managed to get her hands laced, but the crowd screamed again as Satomura kicked her off and got the lock in deep one more time. Kong screamed in pain as she found the bottom rope with her foot.

The pair got back to their feet and entered into another exchange, Kong no selling the Death Valley Bomb only for Satomura to do the same to her. Clutching an elbow, Kong hit a Lariat and got a two count. Kong put Meiko on the top rope for a Superplex, but her opponent reversed it into a sunset flip delivering Kong into a Power Bomb and a two count. No sooner had Aja kicked out then Satomura had her in a Cross Armbreaker again. The back and forth was moving so quickly it was hard for anyone to follow. Aja found the bottom rope again, the submissions being less effective as the wrestlers tired after a gruelling bout. Satomura tried to bring Kong to her feet, but was caught full force with a Spinning Back Fist. Both wrestlers were slow to get to their feet, the crowd getting behind the hometown hero Meiko. Another Back fist sent her to the floor sliding along it until Kong landed on top of her for another two count.

Her trainees were now screaming their lungs out her as Satomura tried rally for the umpteenth time in the match. Kong went back to the Top Rope, and dropped a perfect elbow right into the back of Satomura's neck. She only had the energy to cover with her head and Meiko bridged out defiantly. Kong was showing he weakness, the pressure on the arm had gotten too much she kept holding I and shaking it off which added to the effect when Satomura faked right and Pele kicked the weakened limb. Kong screamed out in pain and hit the floor, Satomura screamed out her Warriors yell and went back on the offensive. She landed in perfect Scorpio Rising Axe Kick and covered, but Aja was to close to the ropes. Aja got to her feet as Meiko went for a second attempt and countered with a Leg Lariat that received a two count. She delivered the perfect Back Fist, and Satomura absorbed it and stared down her opponent with a guttural scream.

A second one rocked her to her knees but still she stood up for more. Aja threw her gloves down, determined to get the job done and struck Meiko again in the face with her bare back hand, again Satomura stood there and took hold of the offending arm and wrenched it with an over the shoulder breaker. She blocked the next attempt, and drove her boot into Kong's arm again, knocking her to the floor and delivered Scorpio Rising not once but twice. Exhausted and dripping in sweat, a Satomura trademark, her hand would be raised again over her most feared opponent.

The main event delivered in spades, exactly how it needed to do. Shown on Gaora TV it would make Sendai Girls a fixture promotion on the Joshi scene. The cameramen crowding ringside told their own story, the wrestling press had a field day. Satomura was a credible company matriarch, just as Commander Bolshoi had become for JWP as it's President and perennial Ace, so Satomura would channel the spirit of her fighting style and pro wrestling philosophy into the way Sendai Girls did business. Over the coming years she would become a trendsetter in terms of booking, style and presentation.

For the fan of Joshi it was a marked move to something more credible. While GAEA had done some entertaining things, it's bread and butter was straight up and down pro wrestling and the feature performers for the promotion; Kato, Umematsu, Kong, Yamada, Nagoya, Toyota, Hokuto and Hamada had either grown up in the GAEA Dojo following that true path or had come from other companies that held the ideas of tradition and in ring work quality in high esteem. Sendai Girls was the embodiment of the GAEA tradition, with some Satomura personal twists, but it began to gain a large following in Joshi circles, and Satomura would become its leading figure.

For Satomura this started another chapter in her already storied career. Those first ten years of Senjo will be my subject in the next instalment of this series. Join me next time for The Meiko Satomura Story Pt IV - Fight Another Day


Tags: Meiko Satomura



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