The Meiko Satomura Story Pt. IV - Fight Another Day
By James Truepenny
Posted On 28-02-2016 17:05 GMT
Tags: Meiko Satomura, Joshi

The story of Sendai Girls is really the story of Meiko Satomura over the last ten years, providing a worthy second chapter to her career as the Joshi world splintered, never to consolidate. The business of Joshi split into several promotions, but the basic model was of a strong matriarchal figure, usually a veteran of Joshi's prime period from 1993 to 2003. Sendai's leader was obviously Satomura. JWP was led into battle by its president and genius comedy wrestler Commander Bolshoi. Oz Academy devolved directly from GAEA and started out life as a heel stable in its home organisation, Mayumi Ozaki formerly of JWP and GAEA was in charge of its insane mix of mat work and violence. Diana is headed up by AJW mid card mainstay Kyoko Inoue.

Wave would begin and thrive under the guidance of LLPW's Gami. Ice Ribbon put together some incredibly creative shows under the guidance of Emi Sakura. While it wasn't a concentrated run of success for one company, it was the way business was going to be done, and there was money to be made because now all the big name players of Joshi were separated out. The legends of Joshi's golden era like Aja Kong, Manami Toyota and Jaguar Yokota began to work less dates, but spread the load, helping the business by getting fledgling companies off the ground. The Sendai model of a "Hometown Team" for Sendai would be incredibly successful. With a tightly structured roster of no more than five names, they would become associated directly with the brand. Add in the habit of taking Satomura's colours of deep red, and you had an instantly recognisable house style and look. It also helped that the trainees Satomura produced where top notch.  

The Sendai Sisters, Dash Chisako & Sendai Sachiko would be in the inaugural class, passing auditions in 2005 and training from 2006 onwards. In their careers they would sweep the board of Joshi tag team titles. The alumni of Sendai Girls including, Kagetsu, Hiren, Mari Harada, Miyako Morino, Ryo Mizunami and Tyrannosaurus Okuda would become big names on the Joshi circuit. Like Chigusa Nagayo before her, Satomura's total package of legacy was working out nicely. It would also have a wider effect on the Joshi world.

Inter-promotional feuding had been a key element of Joshi since the inception JWP in 1990. Once JWP had established stars like Cutie Suzuki, Mayumi Ozaki & Dynamite Kansai, it was only natural that All Japan Women's Pro Wrestling would want to cherry pick their big stars for money feuds with similarly skilled veterans in AJW. As JWP split into JWP and LLPW, as well as the FMW women's roster blossoming into the the drawing card for that promotion, then it became a necessary tool which drew huge gates.

However, it was usually two characters with opposing or like minded mind sets that drove the narrative like the dream matches of Akira Hokuto vs Shinobu Kandori that took the lead. Hence the name of the Dream Slam series in 1993. With Sendai Girls settling on a small defined roster, it made invasion angles much simpler. It also allowed their feuds to focus on the titles. Until recently Sendai Girls didn't have home grown titles. They were an invading force that targeted organisations and their key players. The first successful use of this new format began with a rivalry with the Ice Ribbon promotion in 2010.

Ice Ribbon, like Sendai Girls, was founded in 2006 by former FMW and IWA trainee Emi Sakura. Ice Ribbon's concept was quite far removed from Sendai Girls realism concept. Ice Ribbon has always been closer to a fun entertaining product. Promoting such concepts as under age wrestling, some of their stars debuted as young as nine years old, conceptualised wrestling shows on U-Stream a full ten years before WWE developed The Network, they were wrestling visionaries. Having no direct links back to Joshi's heyday, Sakura was trained just after the fall of the FMW's women's roster, they had a blank slate to think about Joshi. Their involvement with TV production for shows like Three Count, led them to training up actresses to full wrestler status, some of whom chose Joshi as a sideline career. Their shows would become big production numbers, including full dance troupes coming into matches to run interference. Compared to the ground and pound realism of Sendai it was like night and day. The perfect environment for a rivalry and of course a money making feud.

The first showdown between the matriarchs of the respective companies would be on the 23rd of September at Knights of Ice Ribbon at Korukean Hall Tokyo. The match went for twenty minutes and showcased both company aces unique and varied talents. Up and down the card Sendai would be in a rush to make off with Ice Ribbon Gold. Though they didn’t, Kagetsu and the Sendai Sisters Sachiko and Dash put in great performances for what would be a blueprint of success. The next major challenge for the group, once the money making feud with  ice Ribbon was over would be World Wonder Ring Stardom.

Stardom have been created in MMA veteran, pro wrestler and model Fuka Kakimoto, longtime promoter Rossy Ogawa and AJW veteran Nanae Takahashi. Stardom took the elements of the JD Star promotion that was its forerunner; good looking athletic women who sold posters, and mixed it with Takahashi’s AJW credibility and training regime (she would become the head of the Dojo) and the would begin in 2010. By the time the Ice Ribbon/ Sendai feud had run its course, Stardom was establishing itself, with Takahashi as its matriarch, as a very different kind of product. Reliant on comedy, lucha and drama as much as it was tough wrestling action. When you look at it from that point of view they seemed like the opposite ends of the spectrum to Sendai’s ultra realistic approach. However a new innovation, devised by Meiko Satoura herself would bring the two companies directly in conflict, in a storyline sense.

The Dantai Taikou Flash Tournament pitted the major offices of Joshi against each other in a single elimination format on 27th of October in 2011 at Korukean Hall. Diana, REINA, JWP, Sendai, Stardom, Ice Ribbon (back to avenge their losses to the Sendai Girls), Wave, and a team of Freelancers would be the entrants. Sendai don’t make the trip to Tokyo often, but when they do it is usually with something big like this. It allowed all the companies to deliver a unique show with lots of publicity. It also put some unlikely dream matches on the card, and it rounded off the Ice Ribbon/Sendai story of the previous summer with the two teams meeting in the opening round five on five competition. In the semifinals the teams were reduced to trios, and in the final it would be straight up tags. Anyone on the full time active roster was eligible for your company, and could be named in any round, this brought, excitement, speculation and talking points to the fore. You really could not pick a better way to expose your company in the biggest wrestling market in Japan.  

The Flash tournament was a spectacular event, and it really got going in the second match. No offence to the JWP and Wave crews who were top line talents, but after a year of chasing the Ice Ribbon roster, The Sendai Girls had them where they wanted them. Emi Sakura told her team not to shake hands and pushed them all back. Meiko did the same on her side and the two aces stared each other down, however as Meiko returned to her corner for a last minute tete a tete, Sakura rushed her and body blocked her against the turnbuckle taking out the entire Sendai Team, the Ice Ribbon women jumped the Sendai team and the match was on.

Sakura went to the top rope for what Dann Read, Pro Wrestling EVE's booker and promoter calls "The prettiest 450 in the business." it looked like it killed Satomura, but she got up at two and the hometown team tried to get off the back foot. Kagetsu took on the Ice Ribbon rookies, and levelled them with pinpoint offence, almost offended by their efforts, only to have the entire Roster follow her into a corner to deliver their signature strikes. Miyako Marino took over from her and started trading blows with Hikaru Shida, now known for her acting and adult modelling nearly as much as her wrestling. Marino had the measure of her though and the Sendai Team built momentum.

With five on five though, the match was always going to be back and forth, no more so than when both teams attempted dueling Quintuple Suplexes. The Sendai Crew won with Meiko batting clean up, her kicks taking it out on the young Ice Ribbon roster. Shida and Sakura were clearly in charge of ring generalship for Ice Ribbon, but when the Sendai Sisters hit the ring Dash and Sachiko, they set about showing them what tag wrestling was all about. This was big hit high stakes Joshi now. Hikari Minami and Shida delivered perfect Double Missile dropkicks, but the Sendai Sisters took over again. Not once did the pace let, up the crowd were also hot for this match, giving it the full big match appeal. The diminutive Tsukushi took over for Ice Ribbon and things went downhill fast as Meiko Satomura came in, took her best shots to the chest and face and reverse kicked her from the middle of the ring to the bottom turnbuckle. An ass kicking of the highest order was about to ensue and the K Hall fans were baying for a massacre. Knowing her troops limitations, Emi Sakura interfered as Satomura tried for the Death Valley Bomb.

The two big hitters of the teams went heads up one last time. Her own team mates would have to save Sakura as she ended up the in The Bomb herself. From then on it was finisher after finisher, ridiculous Suplex combinations and counter wrestling which made this one of the most exciting multi person tag matches in Kurokean history. Eventually Dash Chisako nailed a perfect Frog Splash on Tsukushi. They were going to the second round. Ice Ribbon went home to lick their wounds.

In the next first round match, REINA brought all of its heavy hitters from their working agreement with CMLL, led by Yumiko Hotta they all towered over the Stardom crew who looked young, slight, small, but united. Stardom, the only team not to field their Ace in the first round, placed Mayu Iwatani in the ring first to take on Hotta and was battered as a result; just a slap can mean a thousand words. The story was youth versus experience and like the other matches was fought at breakneck speed. Other highlights included a kicking contest between Yoko Bito and Hotta that Bito can probably still feel to this day.

Affronted that she would try such a thing against one of the women who popularised kick striking in Joshi, she went to town on the young Stardom mid carder. Hotta then squared off against Stardom's heavy artillery in the shape of Yoshiko. The two monsters trying to demolish each other at high speed. In the end the problem for REINA was unity, with the biggest names in the team, the heels couldn't get along with the faces and it would be Yoshiko who would deliver the winning senton, sending Nanae Takahashi delirious in her post match admiration.

Diana, led by Kyoko Inoue would take on Team Freelance who bizarrely were led by comedy genius Sakura Hirota despite featuring Manami Toyota, Jaguar Yokota and Mio Shirai. Her insistence on team T Shirts and a sense of unity helped the team as the hired mercenaries tried to act like a unit. Hirota also didn't hide her disappointment that Toyota and Yokota had not got with the dress code, but when they took off their ring gowns Hirota's Mercenary Manga design was being proudly displayed. A neat little story that had been a mid card attraction in the run up to the tournament.

The match itself was a little sloppy in execution, but it showed what great sports Toyota and Yokota were to play along with Hirota's slightly ridiculous leadership. Toyota and Inoue relived some of their AJW magic, they had once gone for an hour time limit classic some 15 years before and Yokota showed off all that skill that had made her the best in ring performer in all of 80's Puroresu. The first woman the men stopped and watched. The Diana crew were crisp and sharp, and even Hirota got to display her underrated technical skill, though trying to Half and Half the massive Kaoru Ito was a step too far. In the end Hirota was double foot stomped from the top rope by the near 240lb on a 5' 3" framed Ito and was down for the count, and possibly not eating solids for a month.

The Semifinal brought together JWP vs Sendai Girls. Satomura was still the anchor woman for her team, but Baby Monster Ryo Mizunami and Hiren accompanied her this time out. They would face JWP's all star Heavyweight lineup of Kayoko Haruyama, Nana Kawasa & Tsubasa Kuragaki. Kuragaki is hellishly strong, and her other two partners were no slouches in the power department, this would be a true test for the sweetly scientific Sendai Crew. Hiren and Satomura would end up in Kuragaki's Torture Rack at the same time to start the match out, and the JWP team work almost overpowered them in the early going, but Mizunami would not be denied. She took control of the match and brought it back to strikes, the Sendai Girls main weapon of choice. Hiren then came into apply submissions and slow down the pace. However Kuragaki would take over on her, only for the Sendai Crew to find cohesion. Satomura took over, and went in hard and heavy. That's when the bodies started flying around the building. Eventually a Hiren Big Boot to the face of the bloodied Kawasa would end the match in the Sendai Girls favour. JWP took their bows for a solid effort, but they weren't quite good enough on this day.

Stardom would take on Diana in the other Semi. This time Nanae Takahashi would lead her team of Taiyo and Bito against Ito, Inoue and Saree. Saree was young, and out to prove her mettle against the veteran Stardom Ace. Ito was at her hard hitting best. Bito tagged in and changed the complection of the match yet again. She was well matched with Saree, and before long this match of the six biggest babyface draws for both companies would be a rule bending brawl as things got desperate quickly. Run ins and interference became the order of the day. Slowly Stardom took the momentum on the rookie Saree. Takahashi was particularly good at playing up her dominance despite being a life long face star. A rested Inoue took over and demolished the Stardom contingent. Eventually it came down to Takahashi and Inoue, the two aces trading blows relentlessly.

Taiyo tagged in and for a while her speed was too much for Inoue, but she managed to get some hideously successful strikes in to tag Ito back in. The two teams kicking specialists, Ito and Bito, it amped up the contest as Ito clobbered Bito with kick after kick. Saree would dominate on Bito and Takahashi, before Takahashi could get a backbreaker in. Eventually the speed of the Stardom crew took its toll, and Saree fell victim to a Reizouko Bakudan Splash from Takahashi. Bito looked like she had been through hell, as did Saree. The finals would mean a different line up. Yoshiko would be Takahashi's pick. Kagetsu would be Satomura's. The match would kick off a whole series of feuds, but history had to be made first.

It was a heavy streamer night at K Hall for both teams, and as they went back to their respective corners to strategize, it must have been hard. This night had seen bona fide legends defeated, and young upstarts made in a single match. They had to deliver, with some of the greatest wrestling talent ever assembled on one night watching Takahashi, Yoshiko, Kagetsu and Satomura set about delivering a tag match classic. Yoshiko decided she would start of with Satomura, but this was a match about cohesion and working as a unit, and staying on the game. Satomura annihilated Yoshiko, but Yoshiko took out her frustrations on Kagetsu. Takahashi and Yoshiko finally showing some cohesion. Kagetsu's ground and pound offence met it's match in Takahashi's well schooled technical excellence. However we would eventually get the matchup everyone was waiting for, Takahashi versus Satomura. A counter wrestling back and forth and big, big strikes.

When they reached stalemate the youngsters took over and tried to find an edge. Kagetsu actually did find an edge on Takahashi, but the flow back and forth was breakneck. Stereo Lung Blowers gave the Stardom women and chance to get ahead, and Takahashi locked in a Dragon Sleeper on Kagetsu, however she managed to Suplex her way out of it, in time for Satomura to unload the heavy, and I do mean heavy, artillery. Takahashi took it all and came back with strikes of her own and an Nana☆Racka for a two count. Confidentially, she called Yoshiko in to block for the finish, but Satomura hit a perfect Pele Kick and set up for the Death Valley Bomb, Yoshiko just made the save. A Sleepercreated more tension as the fans rallied behind their favourites. The back and forth continued, frustration setting in as Yoshiko started choking out Meiko. A Nana☆Racka/Second Rope Senton combination had Meiko down for a near three but Kagetsu made the save.

Kagetsu would be on the receiving end next, but waited her time reversing the final Yoshiko Senton Splash in a five run series that was a Yoshiko special, into a Fujiwara Armbar. With her arm hurt Yoshiko couldn't throw her signature lariat, but Kagetsu could get off her Fireman's Carry. Then it was back and forth again, a Double Power bomb from Yoshiko. A flying heel kick from Satomura on Takahashi, a Lariat from Yoshiko, a Sling Blade from Kagetsu, and finally a Death Valley Bomb from Kagetsu on Yoshiko that sealed the tournament for Sendai Girls.

Kagetsu and Satomura stood tall over their fallen opponents as Takahashi tried to console her partner. However the seeds were set for a heated and ongoing feud as Kagetsu cut a promo. Yoshiko took the mic from her and challenged her to a singles match. Satomura offered her hand, Takahashi refused, and the normally at odds Takahashi and Yoshiko left arm in arm as the Ace helped her lead heel to the back. Amongst the verbiage, Takahashi challenged Satomura. On all levels, this was going to lead to something big.

The Sendai Girls had made their mark with this series, showing wrestling dominance over the whole Joshi world. However the manner of victory, Sendai's number two pinning Stardom's number two left the possibilities open to a Meiko Satomura vs Nanae Takahashi match in the future, as well as rematches for Kagetsu and Yoshiko. The showdown would take place on the 20th of March 2012 and in many ways it was the ideal legends match.

Satomura was the product of GAEA, a devout student of the Chigusa Nagayo philosophy of wrestling. Sendai Girls was her twist on that for sure, but it was stamped with all the hallmarks of GAEA, believability, pure wrestling, martial arts and toughness. For her part, Nanae Takahashi was the equivalent of AJW.

Stardom had her fingerprints all over it too, the belt designs even echoed AJW's lineage; Red for the main title, white for the secondary belt, just like AJW's World and All Pacific titles years before. Stardom was about fun, young girls who sold posters and T shirts and looked good in bikinis, but who could wrestle a streak. They were all highly trained in Lucha style offence with a touch of martial arts kicks provided by the other guiding light of Stardom, Fuka. It wasn't just two great wrestlers in the ring when they got together, it was a battle for the very soul of Joshi itself. The legacy of two great companies, and their prime exponents going head to head for the first time on a major stage, defending not only the honour of their respective companies but also the legacy of the Matsunaga Brothers and Chigusa Nagayo. It would be the main event of Stardom's premier event The Highest at Korukean Hall, Stardom's main stomping ground for big shows.

As the belt and the wrestlers were presented, Takahashi was breathing hard, this was the biggest night so far for her company and she had a right to look pensive. Satomura as usual had that calm confidence about her. She is a big match player, and in modern day Joshi this is as big as it got. They both had their game faces on as the took of their ring robes and stared each other down centre ring. Nanae refused a handshake and the match was on. In just over a year, Stardom had built quite the following, and Satomura found herself in the centre of a Nanae love fest. It didn't phase her, but Nanae's trash talk did, starting a shoving match to begin this epic tale. Exchanging slaps, the two greatest workers in Joshi resorted to hair pulling for their opening series which was slightly bizarre.

This was personal, and they started laying in heavy forearms to back that up. Nanae was not in a mood for a classic wrestling match and had to be admonished by the referee for knocking down Meiko with a straight right hand. She was proving the lengths she would go to to be dominant in this match. The hair pulling and rough handling continued until climbing the top rope Meiko kicked her leg and while her head was bowed delivered the perfect Pele Kick to turn the tide. An angry growl and a straight kick to the face cleared the ring and gave her back to momentum. The referee stopped the match while he checked on Nanae to see if she'd been concussed, this was a genuine concern because she looked out of it as she swayed on her knees at ringside. She was back in the ring at five though and maybe now the shenanigans would be over.

Learning her lesson, Takahashi took it to the mat, hoping her superior size would favour her in a grappling contest. It did, until she pressed her luck on a Grovit for a little too long and ate a Forearm Uppercut for her trouble. Takahashi took it back to the floor, hoping her superior size would give her an advantage in the grappling game. It didn't Satomura was too good for her and she was struggling to find an area of dominance to put her opponent on the defensive. Even in a test of strength, Takahashi ended up flat on her back. What could she do to gain an advantage? After a mat wrestling stalemate, the answer came in getting back to her feet. Big strike gave Takahashi the edge, pushing Satomura back convincingly for the first time I the bout. Climbing to the second rope she pulled Takahashi into the chin lock, virtually hanging Satomura. Desperate times called for desperate measures, and with the biggest prize in Stardom on the line, Takahashi was going to take every opportunity she could. Missile Dropkicks, and harder Corne Lariats were the order of the day. Satomura was sent to the floor, Takahashi followed her out with with pin point plancha. A second missed though, and she landed amongst her own seconds, but she continue with the offensive recklessly, Satomura caught he on the apron and used a Fireman's Carry to drop he on the floor from nine feet up. Another Uppercut set up Meiko's Backflip Double Knee and she looked in control. She followed that up with a Superplex, but Takahashi fired up as they exchanged Back Drop Drivers. She followed that up with the German Suplex and a seated Enziguri, only to to cut off by the Pele kick from Meiko. They got to their feet at the count of nine.

The match broke down then into the series of strike exchanges, back to the basics of hitting each other really hard. Takahashi got the better of it, ending with the huge standing Lariat that garnered a two count. Satomura cut off a series of Short Closelines from Takahashi with the knee and hooked in a Dragon Sleeper which was reversed into a regular sleeper. Takahashi would not be denied, he physical demeanour growing more confident as as landed each big blow. However with eac offensive flurry Satomura counter attacked a vengeance.

A constantly screaming Takahashi reversed the first Death Valley Bomb attempt of the night, getting out quickly but hitting a Lariat on the way down to the mat, the match was entering it's final phases now. A Michinoku Driver from Takahashi garnered a two count, with Nanae screaming in desperation, but with a signature guttural scream Satomura locked in a sleeper hold. Eventually Takahashi caught a rope, and broke lose to gain the offensive, but the defensive nature of Satomura gained another advantage reversing a top rope Lariat and landed a DVD and a kick to the face that got a two count. Meiko went back to the Sleeper as the crowd rallied to Takahashi, but she missed a Pele Kick after Takahashi got to the ropes. In another counter attack, Satomura held on through a Power Bomb and applied a Cross Arm Lock that grounded the champ once again. The pace quickened as Takahashi pulled out a Sidewalk Slam that set up Satomura for her Reizouko Bakudan Splash from the top rope. She kicked out on one and fired back up to lay in a thick Forearm to Nanae's chest. She ducked however and applied a unique Hammerlock Slam variation for a three count. She celebrated like she had just won the World's Series, and for her company she basically had. A lifetime performance just when she needed it meant the world to Takahashi. For Satomura who looked devastated it was equally as rewarding, another high profile life time performance meant that she was able to push the Sendai Girls brand in the biggest Japanese market; Tokyo.

Though she lost the match, Satomura would become a regular for Stardom. Widely touted as the best wrestler available to them, she would be a challenger for the World of Stardom title in future years, but more on that later episodes of this series. She would also be seen as a rites of passage; surviving a match with her would put you up in the world. You didn't have to win, and as the narrative went, you couldn't, but she was their to make stars with her presence and her abject devotion to the sport. While the rookies were cannon fodder for her, they would learn, and they would go up in the world's admiration, Stardom needed Meiko, she gave them a sense of credibility die to their legacy. Rossy Ogawa's previous promotion was JD Star, much like Stardom it featured models and actresses who were easy on the eye, but lacked ring time and serious wrestling credentials.

They were so far from the expectation of what Joshi could be that the fans had disdain for the product, and other wrestling companies refused to work with them should the expose themselves too much. As a result the company floundered as there were no cross promotional options. Ogawa was not going to make the same mistake twice and Stardom put the wrestling back front and centre, alongside the humanising videos and details that introduced the stars of the company. Stardom would be a great success, but after the title match the Sendai Girls called a truce with Stardom for a while. They had other fish to fry, several thousand miles away. The Meiko Satomura Story will continue with Pt. V - Queens of Trios.

Tags: Meiko Satomura, Joshi

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