The Meiko Satomura Story Pt. VII - Rock The Night Away
By James Truepenny
Posted On 09-05-2016 19:39 GMT
Tags: Meiko Satomura, Kana, Asuka

In the modern world of Joshi, very few people have grown to be beloved as well as Kana. You know her better now as NXT's Asuka, but for quite some time she was Joshi's darling of shoot style combat. A stickler for realism, she kicked harder, worked harder and fought harder than anyone else to rewrite the Joshi rulebook in her own image. Fans were so besotted with her, it got her to Shimmer from her home base of Japan on fan demand alone.  She was outspoken and did things her way. Floating from promotion to promotion she built herself a reputation as someone with creative flair, visual impact and with booking ideas that where as aesthetically pleasing as they were financially rewarding. She was a self made woman. In many ways she was very comparable to Meiko Satomura, in fighting style and presentation. Both no nonsense hard cases, their aura defined them. However in other ways the couldn't be further apart.

Satomura is Joshi Royalty. Her passion for wrestling was built from her training on up, the loyalty to the traditions of GAEA and Chigusa Nagayo are in her every walking step. For Kana it was different, her public persona was that of an outcast, a hired gun and an individual free thinker. Promotionally they were made for each other and over the space of two years, between 2012 and 2014, they had some epic battles on Kana's self promoted shows that built another chapter in the legend of both women. The series drew in key feuds from NOAH and hit all the numbers when it came to making great wrestling stories. It also rehabilitated Kana’s public image to the point of being signed by the WWE, the first Japanese woman to appear on NXT.

Their first match was an unheralded effort on one of Kana's Triple Tails self promoted shows on the 13th of February 2011. The main event of an Osaka show, this was Kana as she tried to find an identity for herself as a solo promoter. The production quality of that show was not as involved as later ones would become. In this early effort, this put the attention on the two fighters and the fireworks they could deliver.

The short haired Kana looked apprehensive, as well she should, despite years of reputation building as a hard case, this would be one of the first times she would promote such a high profile match. Shaking off the doubts she shed her Kimono and set to work. Meiko was smiling, never a good sign for someone else's physical health and wellbeing. The premier kickers in the business were about to set to work. Kana decided intimidation was the key to success, and ignoring the traditional handshake went straight into the Forearms to the head.

The pair had a striking stand off to the start the match hitting each other hard with forearms and kicks to the thigh, jostling for position in the ring. As strikes went back and forth, Kana took advantage and rolled up Meiko who countered into a Cross Arm Breaker, this would prove to be a mat/submission specialists show case, but it was the kicks that both of them were famous for.

Kana rolled to the floor having taken the Arm Breaker hard. Mio Shirai attended her, another third of Triple Tails with Kana and her sister Io Shirai. Meiko allowed Kana to get going again with cold spray and then went back in for the kill. Delivering kicks while Kana was on the floor and generally trying to take as much advantage as she could. Kana would not back down and the pair continued the high tension back and forth, giving each other stiffer and stiffer kicks. Meiko would come out on top, hurling Kana back into the ring, for her part Kana would take over once she was back to a vertical base.

It seemed nothing could separate these two warriors. Kana backed Satomura into a corner and managed to string together some combination offence of kicks and forearms, ending with a brutal kick to the head. Meiko took to the ring apron to recover while Kana tried to work her elbow free. They would get back to a vertical base and the crowd would applaud their efforts so far. This crowd was very much in the old school tradition of Japan, fairly emotionless until the intensity was up, but always, always rewarding effort and heart.

Meiko offered a test of strength, which she used as a ruse to lull Kana in, then she kicked out hard and spun her opponent into a Wrist Lock that doubled Kana over to the floor. With a wicked grin that reflected she had outsmarted her pray, she began to apply the pressure. She moved into a Top Wrist Lock that she used to Arm Drag her opponent over. After rolling through into a Head Scissor, Kana took the advantage, looking for a Leg Bar, she eventually got one and now it was Satomura's turn to find an escape. She did find her way out initially, but was back on the defensive straight away. Kana seemed to have superiority though, every submission Satomura tried, Kana had an answer for and Meiko would be back in a leg lock sooner or later. Eventually, Satomura made her way back to controlling Kana's head, then she went back to the strikes; elbows to the base of the neck seemed to work really well, enough to free her up for a DDT. She followed that up with a signature Forearm Lifter, and then with that familiar guttural roar, a running forearm from corner to corner.

An Arm Bar into a Back Heel Kick started to give Satomura some momentum, and she started to feel the end coming, but how do you put one of Joshi’s premier exponents like Kana away? She went back to the kicks, but Kana came out on top of that exchange to secure the first pinfall attempt of the match with a vicious kick to the head. It gained only two and for Kana it was time to build her own momentum. She got back to the Leg Bar that she had had so much success with, but it would be a reverse DDT that would get the next two count. It seemed every two count fired up your opponent, Meiko took the best of a strike exchange and delivered the Handspring Double Knees to Kana's exposed head. Kana came back with a Spinning Back Fist and another two. Meiko's turn to take over with a Pele Kick and a Back Drop Driver another two. She checked her jaw, a victim of Kana's educated feet, and set about finishing the job, but Kana had other ideas, catching a Pele Kick she hooked up Leg Bar once again. Satomura got to the ropes, and broke the hold.

She reversed it into an STF, Kana reversed that into a Fujiwara Arm Bar, as the press photographers flashes clicked. This big stakes, big money match had attracted a lot of the right attention. An Avalanche German got Kana a two count, and the momentum that had swung back and forth looked to be decidedly in her favour. She went in for the kill with heavy kicks to the head, but it was to no avail. Satomura regained the momentum with a Spin Wheel Kick and a Death Valley Bomb, but her usual finisher could not do the trick. Kana was a special case. So back to the well she went with a Arm Assisted Triangle Choke. When she thought Kana had passed out, or was close to it, Satomura picked her up for the Death Valley Bomb, and again only garnered a two count. Kana suplexed her way out of trouble and then it was back to the strikes, heavy hits now as they rode to the climax of the match.

Kicking each other to exhaustion, Kana drove home a kick into Satomura's chest and then applied a perfect Chickenwing Crossface, what we know today as the Asuka Lock. The referee stopped the fight when she saw Satomura could not defend herself, so now you know where that NXT: Takeover Dallas finish came from.

The match wasn't picture perfect Joshi, but it was as stiff as a row of terraced houses with lead lined walls. Something to filter in the memory banks, you can almost imagine fans saying in polite conversation "Hey remember when..." and recall this match. It left plenty on the table for a rematch, but that rematch would be two years in arrival. Satomura would spend the rest of 2011 and 2012 working in Sendai Girls and establishing its presence as well as aforementioned foray into World Wonder Ring Stardom. Their paths would cross on Oz Academy Cards, but never together nor in tag team matches.

The next meeting between the two would occur on August the 30th 2013, on a Sendai Girls card at Shinkiba First Ring in downtown Tokyo, the spiritual second home of Joshi. The pair would go to a twenty minute draw. It would be the set up for one of the most heavily hyped show downs in recent Joshi memory. On the 25th of February 2014.

That initial match had been part of Kana's evolution as a promoter. Her early days had featured more of a shoot wrestling approach. Kana preferred a mat style that was more realistic and more directed towards a sporting context. As she grew as a promoter she realised how limiting this was and developed shows that were pure comedy cards, and others more in line with traditional Joshi fair. As she got better at it, taking pointers from her mentor at WNC, “The Japanese Buzzsaw“ Tajiri, she developed new notions of how to produce and present her big shows. She also favoured Intergender competition, this would effect this feud some months down the line, but for now it would be Meiko Satomura vs Kana, at a Kana produced show. It would be Kana Pro Mania at Korukean Hall.

The layout of the hall had been changed for the evening. Cutting down seating but giving a much better production look to the building. Meiko Satomura came out to her usual theme and waited patiently for her opponent. This had become a heated feud for Joshi supremacy and was a highly anticipated match, especially after that first classic. Press photographers littered ringside. Kana was announced, but instead of her usual bombastic theme, the sound of a Shamisen, a traditional lute like banjo traditionally popular in the 19th century, would accompany the show's main star.

If the music was from the century before last, then Kana's attire was from the next. Dressed with the a Mecha helmet, she looked like an anime character in vinyl lingerie. She removed the helmet and gown to show a war face that was covered in an intricately designed jewel encrusted visage. The implication was clear; to beat Satomura, Kana had to turn herself into a machine, and find inspiration from the warriors of the past. The crowd politely applauded the performance of both artists, and awaited the bell. This time there wouldn't even be an offer of a handshake from Satomura. This was all business, just who was the best wrestler in Japan? The music struck up again as the ring was bathed in blue. The steady drone of the Shamisen accompanied them as they stalked each other. This was partly a wrestling match and partly a tribute to film director Akira Kurosawa.

The pair started out with some basic grappling, as the tempo in the music shifted to their speed. The blue light also highlighted the luminous portions of Kana's costume. Kana was in charge of this opening sequence, delivering kicks and counter wrestling her way through the submissions. Eventually though Satomura found an edge levering a Knee Bar back with a snap. Kana responded by picking and ankle and manoeuvring into an Ankle Lock. Knowing what was at stake both women were supremely cautious. As if one mistake could be their last. The kicks which had been their calling cards in the first match the two years before had been rendered useless by good scouting and defence. The first big move would come from Kana with a release German Suplex which she landed with a smile of satisfaction. Satomura found her range with her kicks though and sent Kana into the corner with a Forearm follow up. Using her Muay Thai training, she opened up with knees to the head, before Kana fought her off and took over. A series of back and forth strikes brought the crowd into the bout more keenly, and gave them something to cheer when Satomura missed the Pele Kick and Kana caught the Ankle Lock once again.

She turned that into a Leg Bar, with Satomura screaming for release and trying to kick her way free. The music leant an eerie air to proceedings as Satomura reached for the ropes, the victim of Kana's tight STF. She was launched with a German Suplex, but manage to struggle free of the follow up and a sleeper attempt with a Back Drop Driver. An exchange of kicks left them both laying, the crowd started to rally behind Kana as Meiko began complaining of the hurt knee. Satomura began to take the advantage after another strike exchange and followed that up with a DDT, really hitting home the advantage.

The Handstand Double Knees hit it's mark and gained an “ooh” from the crowd who could sense the end coming as the music quickened in pace. Satomura also came out on top from an strike exchange from the top rope, but the landing woke up Kana who screamed out before running at Satomura and hooking in a Cross Arm Breaker, rolling off the shoulder with consummate ease.

Satomura managed to work a reversal and wound it into a headlock, but Kana remained a step ahead, getting behind her opponent to hook in the Chicken Wing Cross Face that had given her victory in the first match. Satomura managed to keep her vertical base, and actually turned into it to set up the Death Valley Bomb, but Kana pulled back down and reapplied using her weight to pull Satomura down to the ground and Leg Scissor her, but Kana hadn't trapped the Hammerlock Arm properly and Satomura made the ropes. Kana landed some devastating kicks and went for the pin, getting a two count. Kana went back to the strikes, but one Back Fist rotation to many meant that Satomura could hook her Sleeper hold, now it was Kana's turn to reach for the the ropes in desperation. When Satomura sensed she could win she laid her down for a two count. A follow up Death Valley Driver garnered another two count, things were getting tense. Meiko went back to the sleeper then an Arm Trap Leg Choke, but Kana would not give up. She reached the rope after struggling in the hold for a long time. The crowd, behind her all the way, gasped in applause.

The Satomura Frog Splash gained an incredibly close two count, but the DVB that followed up was reversed into a Cross Arm Breaker, which out of desperation Kana turned into a Leg Choke. Satomura struggled through it but once again she couldn't hold on, passing out before giving up.

Two matches and two wins for Kana, but under inconclusive conditions. Could Meiko have continued if the ref hadn’t stopped it? This feud wasn't over, but it needed something special to pay it off, and in 2014, it would set the tone for a whole year's worth of wrestling stories in Pro Wrestling NOAH. On the 16th of June, a match was booked as a Kana Promoted show at Korukean Hall. The main event would pit Kana and her partner, and Pro Wrestling NOAH Vice President Naomichi Marufuji against Meiko Satomura and shoot legend, Minoru Suzuki. It would be a precursor to the NOAH/Suzuki Gun feud that would invigorate NOAH's flagging popularity in 2015.

Mixed tags have grown popular in Japan in recent years, and are a staple of Kana's promotional efforts. She tends to favour mat workers when it comes to male wrestlers, though Marufuji is know as an aerialist, his skill sets when it comes to mat work are exemplary. Similarly, Suzuki is her kind of wrestler, a shooter and a hooker who had innate understanding of character led wrestling. Satomura being on level with both when it came to mat work, this would prove to be a grapple fans dream match up.

A more traditional lighting right at The Hall was used this time, it would be this more familiar setting that would great the futuristic looking pair of Kana and Marufuji as the stared down their no nonsense opponents, the Mecha outfits gleaming in the K Hall lights. With four of the biggest names in wrestling in one match, the Japanese press where out in abundance. Kana and Satomura would start, and they went to feeling each other out. An exchange of reversals and strikes ended when Kana landed a kick between Meiko's shoulder blades and slapped Minoru Suzuki in the mouth. As statements go, this one was loud and clear. Never one to back down quietly, Suzuki answered the call with a tag in, a kick to the gut and a toss to the corner. He wanted Marufuji. Who tagged himself in to oblige the shoot master. The pair exchanged holds before Marufuji took a short-on-the-gentlemanly exchange with a knee to the gut and he and Kana showed surprisingly crisp double team work for you new pairing. Being a fighter of honour, Satomura needed no such dirty tactics.

When Suzuki backed up Marufuji into the corner she backed off and let him get back to centre ring. She was determined to prove how good she was on her own terms. A wristlock exchange followed, with Marufuji taking a stiff kick to the chest. This was going to be interesting. The pair set about showing striking contest next, with Suzuki barking orders, or encouragement from the sidelines. Meiko was going to come off worse, just on sheer size alone, and Marufuji knocked her down with stiff chops. Kana tagged back in and followed up the strikefest with more kicks an open hand blows until she was cut off with a Snap Suplex. As if they were trying trying show their male counterparts how it was done, they were actually hitting harder than in their singles matches.

All four went to the floor, with Satomura and Suzuki dominating Kana. A series of slams, kicks and slaps ended with Suzuki spitting in Kana's face and tossing her into the ring. Satomura locked in a double arm wrench and slowed her down. Marufuji broke it up, but as the referee remonstrated with Suzuki, who was showing his usual disdain for the rules, Satomura levelled Marufuji with a running forearm so she could concentrate on Kana unimpeded. Following up twice when he refused to go down. Suzuki tagged in and proceeded to tear Kana apart with Arm Submissions of varying cruelty. Satomura tagged in and continued the beating. While Satomura and Suzuki were hardly the Midnight Express, they were doing serious damage to Kana. Suzuki laid in heavy Yakuza Kicks and knee strikes, humiliating and debilitating offence, matched with forearm jabs that just floored his opponent. He dealt with her the same way he had dealt with Shinsuke Nakamura and AJ Styles; with derision.

A Sliding Kick to the chest gained a two count, but Kana refused to give up. Satomura tagged in and aimed to end the slaughter. She followed up on Suzuki's relentless attack and again got a two count. Suzuki tagged in again and as usual was relentless, kicking Marufuji in the face to keep him out of the game drew him into the ring, and distracted the referee enough for Kana to gain a slight advantage and tag out. Now it was Marufuji turn.

A flurry of Marufuji’s unique kick based offence followed gaining a two count. An endless change of direction on a Criss Cross kept Suzuki guessing till he met a boot to the face which set up Sliced Bread, but Suzuki was too smart and caught Marufuji momentarily in a Triangle Choke. He rolled through and the speed demon went back to work. Suzuki managed to apply the Choke, and backed into the corner tagging in Satomura. She unleashed her Forearm attack only for Marufuji to level her with chops, but she was too small and too fast for him. Dodging a series of attacks, then she levelled Marufuji down to one knee with a kick to the chest and landed second time around with a Rewind Kick to the head.

This created a pinning opportunity that delivered a two count, the pair went back on the strike offensive exchanging kicks, counters and variations with Satomura coming out on top. However Marufuji rolled into a Cartwheel Dropkick to buy some time and tagged in a semi refreshed Kana. She signalled her arrival with a Missile Dropkick and a series of strikes that were incredible fast for someone who had been through one hell of  a war with one of the greatest shoot fighters of all time. A German Suplex gained a two count, as did a running Front Kick, gaining the closest count of the contest. Satomura forearmed her way out of trouble and the Handspring Knee Dive gave her room to make the finish stick. Suzuki covered for her as she applied the Sleeper with a Sleeper of his own on Marufuji. As is her way, and to speed the process up, when her opponent is fading, Satomura will let go of the Sleeper and try an get a three count. It didn't work this time, and Suzuki slunk back to his corner disappointed.

Kana slipped out of Satomura's next attack and applied a Cross Arm Breaker and then into a straight Arm Bar. Suzuki jumped in and stalked his prey to break up the submission attempt. A well placed Yakuza Kick to Kana's left ear managed that. Satomura made the break and the tag, Suzuki came into the ring with nothing less than devastation and pain on his mind for Kana. Kana looked up and tried to hit everything she could on the Black Prince of Shooters. It didn't work, and she crumpled into a heap at his feet.

The only thing that did was a low blow when Suzuki Waist locked her, and then she could get her strikes in. When Suzuki got to the ropes and separation, he stood up and closed in for revenge. Headbutts and open hand slaps rained down on the fallen Kana, then fists, the referee moved into stop Suzuki, she was thrown to the side, he lifted her head by the hair and hammered in forearms, Marufuji came in to save her, he was kneed in the gut and flung to the outside. Finally Satomura tried to reason with him seeing the possible damage that could be done. It was interesting moment and moral fodder for those of us who love Intergender wrestling. This was a work, but how uncomfortable could it make us?

Eventually Kana found her feet and with Suzuki daring him on, landed some of the hardest shots of her career. Suzuki hooked a Leg Bar and halted her momentum. After what seemed like an age, Kana struggled from centre ring to the ropes. Seemingly unable to stand on her damaged leg, she eventually and with the crowd's support, pushed the referee out of the way an rained down blows on Suzuki' chest. However a straight right hand stopped her momentum. Marufuji and Satomura brawled on the outside of the ring, with Satomura being Backdrop Drivered onto the apron, but when Marufuji came in close she held on tight, seeing Suzuki set up for the Gotch Piledriver. The match was over. Kana had lost to Satomura, though not directly, but had also found a new nemesis in Suzuki.

While at the time, this match didn't seem earth shattering, a great bout and another notch up on Kana’s promotional value for sure, but another one of the growing number of great Korukean Hall shows, it would end up being incredibly important to Japanese pro wrestling in general. It was a follow up big main event for Kana's self produced shows. A sell out of Korukean was nothing to be sniffed at. Secondly it produce a high profile meeting between Suzuki and Marufuji, something that NJPW booker Jado parlayed into the Suzuki Gun/NOAH war which would begin a few short months later and is still the main focus of NOAH's booking to this day as Jado took over the book from Marufuji in 2015. Their obvious ring chemistry was a key focus of the narrative of the match.

Thirdly this entire series upped the profile of Kana as an individual wrestler. Her subsequent singles war with Suzuki pushed her over the top into true puroresu superstardom. Her subsequent tag team with Suzuki, based on mutual respect also helped, and focussed the attention of the NXT talent machine, a place she has made her own.

Meiko Satomura was no small part of this matches incredible influence. Though she is "The Establishment" of Joshi, it's standard bearer and keeper of the holy flame, she is not afraid of working with the rebellions to keep Joshi fresh and exciting. To strike out new paths and develop new ways of doing things. However, as much as she had stamped her authority on Joshi, she had no belt to prove her greatness. Sendai Girls wanted to build a legacy so any title they had meant something, she was their top drawing attraction, but in 2015, 20 years after her debut, Sendai Girls announced it would form it's own World's Championship. The journey to that title, and the incredible anniversary year that Satomura had will be told in the next installment of this series; The Meiko Satomura Story Part VIII - Best in the World.

Tags: Meiko Satomura, Kana, Asuka

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