Posted on


With numerous major championships on the line and scores to settle (The Bloodline, Seth Rollins & Finn Balor, and more), SummerSlam 2023 was sure to be an eventful return to Detroit, Michigan for WWE.


At SummerSlam 2023, Jey Uso is attacked by Solo Sikoa while attempting to lay out Roman Reigns in the stands.

THE LAST TIME WWE held a SummerSlam in the greater Detroit, Michigan, area was 1993, when Lex Luger rolled into town hoping to thwart the seemingly unstoppable World Wrestling Federation champion, Yokozuna. Luger had spent the summer trekking across the United States in a tour bus nicknamed “The Lex Express” in an attempt to drum up support for his championship collision against the supposed sumo superstar. The road to that year’s SummerSlam main event had started onboard the decommissioned warship, the USS Intrepid, where, on July 4, Luger had shocked the world by doing the seemingly unthinkable: bodyslamming the mammoth Yokozuna.

The main event of the 2023 iteration of SummerSlam came about thanks to a similarly shocking July scene—that of Jey Uso pinning the seemingly unpinnable WWE Undisputed champion, Roman Reigns, in a tag team match at Money in the Bank. With the main event of Reigns vs. Uso set for SummerSlam, fans packed Ford Field in Detroit to see if “Main Event Jey” could succeed where Luger had failed, by taking the title from a dominant champ.

Ricochet drops Logan Paul from the top rope with a swinging neckbreaker

Of course, that would be the night’s main event. SummerSlam 2023 opened with a fast-paced contest between veteran high-flyer, Ricochet, and social media maven-turned-WWE wrestler, Logan Paul. Given the natural athleticism of both competitors, it was no surprise that this contest quickly escalated into a dangerous game of high-risk one-upmanship.

After a series from Paul that included a flapjack and a frog splash for a near-fall—and Ricochet gaining the upper hand again, only to miss his patented 630 senton—a mysterious, hooded figure at ringside slipped Paul a set of brass knuckles with which to clobber Ricochet. To the chagrin of ring announcer (and Ricochet’s fiancee) Samantha Irvin, it was Paul who was announced victorious.

Brock Lesnar raises the hand of Cody Rhodes after their match at SummerSlam 2023

Next, the trilogy of matches between Cody Rhodes and Brock Lesnar offered up its final chapter, with Rhodes picking up the hard-fought win in the rubber match between the pair. In a rare post-match show of respect, Lesnar proved that “The Beast” might not be all bad, as he shook the hand of “The American Nightmare.” Though Lesnar’s gesture was a nice one, Rhodes had to earn it by surviving a barrage of suplexes, F5s, and Kimura Locks along the way.

Professional wrestling and Slim Jims go together like Randy Savage and, well, Slim Jims. These days, it appears that LA Knight is the new wrestling face of the brand—thanks to winning the meat sticks’ namesake battle royal at SummerSlam.

LA Knight competes in the Slim Jim battle royal at SummerSlam

Knight outlasted a field that included the Miz, Omos, Austin Theory, Santos Escobar, and others in order to have his hand raised at the end. The crowd in Detroit exploded with joy after seeing the increasingly popular Knight get the win.

Ronda Rousey had what, for now at least, seems to be her last hurrah in WWE. This was an MMA Rules match against former partner, Shayna Baszler. The hard-hitting affair between the two mixed martial arts veterans produced plenty of bruises. And, for Rousey, it offered an unsatisfactory ending to her WWE run, as she passed out while in Baszler’s Kirifuda Clutch submission hold. Still, for former NXT Women’s champ Baszler, this win should serve as a potential springboard to bigger things on the main roster.

Shayna Baszler takes Ronda Rousey down with the Kirifuda Clutch

The lengthy Intercontinental championship reign of Gunther continued next, as the Austrian brawler disposed of Drew McIntyre. Although McIntyre undoubtedly tested his opponent in the early going of the match—thanks to his arguable strength advantage—the Imperium general kept himself going. And, in the end, Gunther put the Scotsman away with a powerbomb. Gunther now stands on the edge of making history, as his title reign approaches that of the historic 454-day run of The Honky Tonk Man.

Both Seth Rollins and Finn Balor came Into their WWE World heavyweight championship bout with differing motivations. For incumbent champ, Rollins, it was about beating Balor for a second time on consecutive pay-per-view events and solidifying his status as champion. For Balor, it was about exorcising the demons (pardon the expression) of seven years earlier, when an injury sustained in a Universal championship tussle with Rollins ended Balor’s reign before it could properly start.

Finn Balor has Seth Rollins on the ropes, literally speaking

Despite how talented Balor is as a wrestler, he has continually leaned on his Judgment Day colleagues’ interference as of late. But, on this occasion, it proved to be his undoing. After Damian Priest slipped his Money in the Bank briefcase into the ring, seemingly so Balor could use it against Rollins, some miscommunication saw the plan backfire. In the end, Balor’s face collided with steel, as he was curb-stomped into the briefcase by Rollins (who picked up the win and remained champion).

Charlotte Flair with mist in her eyes

A choice triple-threat match for the WWE Women’s championship saw Asuka, Charlotte Flair, and Bianca Belair do battle for the belt … only for none of them to leave Detroit with the gold. After twenty minutes of action, Flair locked Belair in the “Figure-Eight” leglock to try and force a submission. Before that could happen, Asuka sprayed mist into the eyes of Flair.

Hoping this would be her opening to retain her title, Asuka tried to go for a pin on Belair, but found herself quickly rolled up by “The EST” for the three-count.

Any celebratory plans Belair may have had were quickly out on ice, as Iyo Sky marched to ringside and cashed in her Money in the Bank briefcase for the title shot and, eight seconds later, the victory. While it’s another SummerSlam heartbreak for Belair, anyone who has followed Sky’s career couldn’t help but be happy for her as she celebrated her success with Damage CTRL teammates Bayley and Dakota Kai.

Iyo Sky smacks Bianca Belair in the face with the Money in the Bank briefcase

And what of Jey Uso? Could one of the most decorated tag team wrestlers of all-time do what Lex Luger couldn’t do all those years previously? Could he dethrone the champion in the main event?

As it turned out, no.

Jey Uso leaps over Roman Reigns during their main-event match at SummerSlam

Uso put up a tremendous fight and even stood up to the interference of Bloodline enforcer Solo Sikoa. Yet, what Jey couldn’t have planned for was the interference of another one of his brothers … his twin brother, Jimmy.

Just as it appeared that Jey had Reigns put away thanks to a spear and Uso Splash combination, a masked man pulled him from the ring before the referee could count to three. In a shocking turn of events, the masked man revealed himself to be Jimmy Uso, who proceeded to lay his twin out with a superkick and help Roman Reigns to victory.

Maybe if Jey had procured his own tour bus, things would have been different.


Posted on

Sareee-ISM Chapter 2: A Pro Wrestling Dream Team

Saree sits on the ring apron and smiles at the camera

From on the ground in Japan, here’s a special preview of the second produce show promoted by Sareee, complete with words from the joshi superstar herself.

[except for official show graphics]

Following the success of Sareee-ISM Chapter 1, a complete sellout with a high streaming rate, Sareee is ready to do it again. This time, at Sareee-ISM Chapter 2, she is giving fans the best of the Western and Japanese styles by forming a pro wrestling dream team with the former IWGP Women’s Champion, KAIRI

While in Japan, I had the opportunity to speak with Sareee about Sareee-ISM Chapter I and choosing KAIRI as her partner for this latest round.  

“It had been a while since I last wrestled in Japan … wrestled Chihiro Hashimoto,” Sareee reflects. “Unfortunately, I was not victorious in my triumphant return match, but not being able to win fueled me.  I have now made it my personal goal to defeat Hashimoto in our next encounter.”

Sareee is speaking of the main event of her first produce show. Aside from the headline match not ending in her favor, the card was a resounding success on all counts. “That night, I was able to use all of the knowledge I gained here in Japan and overseas,” she tells me. “And I am very happy with the results and success of Sareee-ISM Chapter I.” 

Loss aside, the overall experience of the first Sareee-ISM show was all the encouragement she needed to want to do it again. But why only a four-match card?

“I believe that in pro wrestling, quality outweighs the quantity of the matches ,” said Sareee. “Fans pay to watch the best pro wrestling.”  And ain’t that the truth!

A higher number of matches doesn’t necessarily translate to selling more tickets. However, I would say that teaming with KAIRI will certainly help. Smiling, Sareee explained that “for the second show, I wanted to show the fans the best of both worlds [Western and Japanese styles of pro wrestling] and I can only do that with KAIRI; we are the only ones that can do it!”  While their respective experiences were very different, both Sareee and KAIRI worked tirelessly to incorporate their deep-rooted joshi training into their sports entertainment wrestling while under the WWE umbrella.

Headlined by the tag team match featuring Sareee and KAIRI, Sareee-ISM Chapter 2 will stream live worldwide via Friday August 4, 2023, 7:00 p.m. JST/6:00 a.m. EST/3:00 a.m. PST. 

The match card is one you will not want to miss:

Opening Match
Chi Chi vs Ibuki Hoshi

Second Match
Kaoru Ito & Kohaku vs Jaguar Yokota & Kizuna

Semi-Main Event
Miyuki Takase vs Mio Momono 

Main Event
Sareee & Kairi vs Arisa Nakajima & Takumi Iroha

I didn’t need much convincing to watch this show But, if you’re still unsure, Sareee has a message for you:

“I hope that all fans around the world stream this second chapter, where the beauty of Strong Style is showcased by the wrestlers that came before me, and the future of Joshi. This match card is a dream come true, from America to Japan, WWE/NXT to Sareee-ISM, KAIRI and I want to show you the best of pro wrestling of both worlds.  Thank you for your continued support! I look forward to the day we can meet again!”

And stay tuned for Part II of this interview, where Sareee and I talk about her typical day … and I share what it was like to watch her train with her mentor, Kauro Ito!

Posted on


Beyond the pages of Pro Wrestling Illustrated, here is the extended version of our written conversation with freelance joshi standout Miyuki Takase, which formed the basis of our “One To Watch” feature in the October 2023 edition of PWI magazine. Our special thanks to Mr. Haku for his assistance with conducting and translating the interview.

Miyuke Takase: PWI One To Watch

PWI: What are some of your earliest memories of wrestling? Who were the performers that drew you to the sport?

Takase: I actually began wrestling with zero knowledge; I didn’t know the rules, the history, or wrestlers. The first wrestler that caught my attention as being cool, after I debuted, was Rina Yamashita. I wanted to become a cool wrestler like her. Years removed, I think I can safely say that I had an eye for talent from the outset!

PWI: Who trained you? Where and when was your debut?

Takase: My debut match was on January 15, 2017, at Shinkiba 1st Ring. The wrestler that taught me how to bump was Leon, from JWP (currently PURE-J). Initially, we only trained a few times a month at a Judo dojo that didn’t even have a ring. Eventually, we were allowed to train at dojos of other promotions, and Leon as well as the other JPW wrestlers taught us everything from scratch, including bumps, basic throws, dropkicks, etc. From there on, a lot of wrestlers taught me a lot of things, and I am grateful to all of them.

PWI: Share a bit about your signature moves, move set, and finisher.

Takase: I’ve used the Kamikaze ever since my debut; it’s a move that Ricky Fuji gave me permission to use. I also use the Rolling Stone (spinning brainbuster), which Ricky Fuji named for me, too. Other than that, the fans might associate me with the backhand chop and lariat.

PWI: What are some of your biggest accomplishments and bouts to date?

Takase: Winning the “Catch The Wave” singles league (round-robin tournament), which featured a lot of participants with much longer careers than mine.

PWI: You’ve had some great runs as a tag team wrestler; what does tag team competition offer to you that is different from your work as a singles competitor?

Takase: I am attracted to the fact that you can accomplish things in a tag team that you cannot do alone. 1 + 1 can be more than 2, even 10 or 20. I also learn a lot from my partners; not just moves and techniques, but also about looks, presentation, etc. I also attempt to, and enjoy,  making my partner shine.

PWI: You show incredible ability to withstand pain and to come back against your opponent stronger and stronger as the match goes on. How do you explain this?

Takase: During my matches, I listen a lot to the seconds [wrestlers in Takase’s corner] and fans. I start my matches by depending on my momentum and willpower, but when the going gets tough, the fans cheering for me is what gives me infinite power; it gives me the will to get back up, telling myself that it’s not like me to give up just yet. The cheering sinks in deeper when my situation is particularly dire. The fans are my greatest strength and my treasure, so I am really happy that vocal cheering is back at shows.

PWI:  What are your goals for the future?

Takase: I want to have more matches overseas, meet wrestlers I haven’t met yet, and want many more people to get exposed to Japanese pro wrestling. I want to enjoy pro wrestling together with all of those people. One day, I want to bring together all of my favorite wrestlers and run a show outside of Japan!

Learn about freelance wrestling promotions in Japan, including NOMADS (cofounded by Miyuki Takase, Rina Yamashita, and others) via the video below from Karen Watches Wrestling:

Posted on

What’s Old #AndNEW Again

Mystery Pack #1: Classics

Introducing: Vintage Wrestling Magazine Packs

THREE YEARS INTO my tenure as PWI Editor-in-Chief, I continue to be amazed by the depth and breadth of the archives around Pro Wrestling Illustrated magazine and its sister publications.

The former London Publishing empire once adorned newsstands with numerous wrestling titles. Well before the 1979 debut of PWI, Stanley Weston’s team of journalists and photographers was responsible for numerous other titles. Most notably, these included Inside Wrestling and The Wrestler, which survived until about a decade ago as a two-in-one publication. Other former mags included the somewhat-sensationalist Sports Review Wrestling, the bold Wrestling Superstars, and the patriotic Wrestle America.

Over the last three years, I’ve frequently been asked whether any of these titles might ever be resurrected. My answer has always been this: If the demand is there, we will do our best to rise to meet it.

Wrestling Superstars, 1990s Turnbuckle Turkey Awards

For those among the PWI readership in search of the nostalgic rush of those fallen sister publications, I have some very exciting news: We’re now able to offer vintage mystery bundle packs from our archives!

Just recently, our fulfillment center uncovered a treasure trove of back issues from the London Publishing archives, with boxes full of well-preserved, unread magazines from the late-1970s through the early-2000s. Most of these publications fall under those aforementioned former titles, which we would call “sister publications” to PWI. Among them are Inside Wrestling, The Wrestler, and Sports Review Wrestling … there are even some immaculately kept PWI Almanac editions in the mix! In all cases, these are long, long out-of-print issues, many of which have been widely coveted by collectors on internet auction sites.

Inside Wrestling copies inside storage box

Of course, the last thing I wanted was for these books and magazines to sit in storage for any longer. Once the most recent issue of PWI was sent off to our printing plant, I canceled all my other plans and made the drive to our fulfillment center to take stock (literally and figuratively) of what was unearthed.

Carefully, I packed my car full of various titles of vintage pro wrestling magazines, and returned to the PWI offices, where I promptly organized and cataloged these precious tomes. Some will be added to our magazine archives for posterity and safekeeping. And yes, it is likely that many of these magazines will be digitized in the not-so-distant future. But the rest? Well …

Rather than start a bidding war over these classic wrestling mags, we figured the most democratic thing to do would be to offer them as part of the aforementioned mystery bundles. Yes, we are selling these for a bit more $$ than some of our more contemporary magazine bundle packs. However, we feel the contents more than justify the slightly higher price. Each mystery pack will be lovingly crafted, packed, and mailed out from the PWI offices, shipped by USPS Priority Mail to those who order them (tracking info available upon request). Dare we say … this is a wrestling mag collector’s dream?!

Don’t miss out on this incredible opportunity to own some amazing artifacts of yesteryear, presented in their original (sometimes wild and controversial) glory. Click on any of the bundles below to claim your piece(s) of wrestling history.

Posted on


ACT Yasukawa wrestles

How Actwres girl’Z Continues To Shape Joshi Pro Wrestling


(*except where noted)

IN PRO WRESTLING, the desire for viewing alternatives may be at an all-time high. Fans and analysts consistently speak on the need for promoters and wrestlers to provide something truly different. And yet, in Japan, you will notice that most companies share a similar structure in their training and business models … and that is why Actwres girl’Z stands apart.

Sixteen years ago, AWG President Keiji Sakaguchi created one of the most innovative concepts in the industry: a school and promotion that specialized entirely in training actresses and idols in the art of pro wrestling. His vision was to appeal to a fan base not traditionally drawn to the world of wrestling. And he wanted to create an alternative that would open opportunities for women in the field. To his credit, President Sakaguchi has succeeded on both counts!

Actwres girl'z training ring

While in Japan, I was invited to attend an Actwres girl’Z training session, to get a better perspective of who these folks are and what they do. Immediately, what stood out to me was the shared work ethic and how welcoming the trainers were to prospective talent. That day, three new recruits participated in their first training session, and the rest of the team ensured they were properly integrated and included.

And that is what makes Actwres girl’Z so special: a group of women working together, building a space where everyone is welcomed regardless of their level of training; where the only requirement is to be willing to work hard and give it your best.

Act Yasukawa poses

Understanding that most of the newer recruits have actual jobs, the promotion is very flexible with its schedule, to ensure every member is able to meet their training commitments.  I believe ACT (Yasukawa) said it best during her interview: “All of us are professional actresses. Every expression, every move, we put our soul and heart to entertain the audience. The organization is still very new when compared to the other promotions, but there is so much potential and talent in every member; everyone has what it takes to become a superstar. And, when we do come out to the states as a group, I want the U.S. fans already looking forward to Actwres girl’Z.”

ACT Yasukawa wrestles

What distinctly separates Actwres girl’Z from all other Japanese joshi organizations is its ability to recruit and maintain new talent throughout the year. The strength of Actwres girl’Z lies in the system of building these budding performers into diverse professionals who wrestle and perform across various media. Aside from in-ring action, the talent make TV appearances, host radio programs. They participate in magazine and online interviews, modeling, live talk shows, and other individualized events. 

Since 2007, Keiji Sakaguchi has created opportunities: training, managing, producing, and transforming actresses, idols, models, and athletes. And, in doing so, he markedly changed the landscape of women’s wrestling in Japan, founding the platforms that launched some of the most recognized names in joshi, allowing them to thrive and even reshape the wrestling industry: Kairi Hojo (KAIRI), Saori Anou, Natsumi Maki (Natsupoi), Himeka, Tam Nakano, Miyuki Takase, SAKI, Rico Kawabata, Act Yasukawa, Yuna Manase, and Fuuka. Mr. Sakaguchi is responsible for the exchange program that allowed many of his young talent to wrestle in various organizations, where they established themselves as superstars.

AWG behind the scenes

In 2015, Actwres girl’Z’ event promotion and talent management saw the creation of its first branded group, called “Beginning.” Through TV and media exposure, many prospects applied and joined from all over Japan. By demand, Actwres girl’Z added another brand, “COLOR’S,” in 2019. [Editor’s note: Representatives of this group notably went on to compete in Stardom throughout 2022, as AWG alum SAKI continued the brand as a traveling unit of wrestling freelancers.]

Before long, both brands grew to their maximum capacity. And, in December 2021, Actwres girl’Z retired both brands, with a plan to renew and reinvent its system into more broadly appealing and acceptable style.  

In 2022, Actwres girl’Z relaunched and reorganized, splitting the company into “ACTRING” and “ACTwrestling”—distinct brands where the wrestlers are able to portray different roles and styles, showcasing their diverse abilities.

“ACTRING” is a theatrical experience, using the ring as a performance stage where plots and anime storyboards play a big role. Pro wrestling (moves & bouts) are incorporated into the scripted battle-act scenes. Actwres girl’Z performers play characters specific to ACTRING, with new shows premiering monthly.

In contrast, “ACTwrestling” is focused on solid pro wrestling shows with minimum staging and no elaborate setups. The stars perform as themselves (read: their joshi selves), and their goal is to connect with the fans while gaining Actwres girl’Z “points.”

Actwres girl'Z training

A promotion that runs under its own rules and regulations, ACTWrestling is creating a new and true form of sports entertainment … and a brand-new vibe.  At times, match cards are decided by fan votes and through the Actwres girl’Z point system. The Actwres girl’Z stars collect credit points by fan votes, individual ticket reservation sales, merchandise sales, participation in wrestling practices, number of media exposures, luck, etc. And their rankings help determine future show bookings.

AWG in the ring

Presently, the current Actresgirlz roster is made up mostly of newer and younger stars: Misa Matsui, Kouki, Sumikawa, Marino Saihara, Chika Gotoh, Natsuki, Naru, Chiaki, Iwai Kyoka, Marina Hamada, with many more to debut, under the mentoring and guidance of veterans Miku Aono, Act Yasukawa, Mari Sakamoto, Mii, and Yumi Agawa.

Now, international fans can experience the show across the promotion’s multiple outlets:

Streaming Service: Actwres girl’

YouTube Channel: GIRL’Z

Official Website: Actwres girl’

But that’s not all! Follow along with me on this website, as I take you through a journey of discovery—or, if you have been following AWG for a while, rediscovery—in a series of upcoming blog posts.  Stay tuned for individual spotlights on the roster members and so much more!

RESTRUCTURED AND REVITALIZED: How Actwres girl’Z Continues To Shape Joshi Pro Wrestling


Actwres girl'z training



Actwres girl'z exercise



新入生の多くが仕事をしていることを考慮し、団体側ではメンバー全員が練習に参加できるようスケジュールを柔軟に設定しています。 惡斗さん昔こう言った:「私たちは全員プロの女優です。表情も動きも、お客さまを楽しませるために魂を込めて演じています。この団体は、他の団体と比較するとまだ新しいのですが、メンバー全員に才能があり誰もがスーパースターになるために必要なものを持っています。そして、私たちが団体として全米に進出する時には、米国のファンの皆さんには、すでにアクトレスガールズを楽しみにしていてほしい」とのことです。

Actwres girl'z training ring



2015年、Actwres girl’Zは初のブランドグループ 「Beginning 」の誕生を見ました。テレビやメディアへの露出により、日本全国からたくさんの応募が来ました。ご要望にお応えして、Actwres girl’Zは2019年にもう一つのブランド「COLOR’S」を追加しました。








現在の所属メンバーは若手が多く含まれています:松井珠紗、皇希、澄川菜摘、才原茉莉乃、後藤智香、夏葵、なる、CHIAKI、岩井杏加など。練習生の方はベテランの指導のもとデビューを目指しています。そのベテランたちは:青野未来、惡斗、坂本 茉莉、未依と阿川 祐未となります。


配信サービス:Actwres girl’

YouTube チャンネル: GIRL’Z

公式ホームページ: Actwres girl’

しかし、それだけではありません!このシリーズでは、今後のブログ記事を通してみなさんを発見の旅にお連れします。 このブログでは、アクトレスのメンバーそれぞれの魅力に迫ります!

Posted on


Close-up of Superstar Billy Graham, casual clothing, in NYC, shot by Bill Apter

ALTHOUGH WE ARE not always able to react to such sad events so soon after they occur, we felt it was important to commemorate the late “Superstar” Billy Graham, who passed away yesterday, May 17, 2023, at the age of 79.

Standing at 6’5” tall and weighing in at a muscular 275 pounds, Graham profoundly impacted the industry with his memorable promos and one-of-a-kind ring presence.

Reflections from PWI Contributing Photographer (and longtime friend of Graham’s) George Napolitano

Graham was a larger-than-life performer, both due to his physique and ability to draw thousands of paying fans all over the U.S. After holding championships for NWA Florida, NWA Texas, and the Japanese IWA promotion, the Arizona native defeated the legendary Bruno Sammartino on April 30, 1977, to win the WWWF World heavyweight championship. That title win—and subsequent 296-day reign as champion—defined Graham’s career.

Superstar Graham has Bruno Sammartino on the mat, as the WWWF official looks on (1977)
“Superstar” Graham attempts to pin Bruno Sammartino’s shoulders to the mat. (PHOTO BY BILL APTER)

Able to draw the ire of fans like no one else, peak-era Graham similarly inspired strong reactions in his would-be peers. His persona, brightly colored attire, and flashy promos influenced the work of all-time greats including Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, and Dusty Rhodes.

Over the course of his career, Graham regularly graced the pages of publications such as PWI. He was a close friend of wrestling magazine giant George Napolitano, who, in an interview around his 2022 Stanley Weston Award acknowledgment, recalled being invited by Graham to a WWWF show in Baltimore. As fate would have it, that was the day when Graham unseated Sammartino as World heavyweight champ. Napolitano was on hand to photograph the unforgettable title change.

Today, the news of Billy Graham’s passing has been widely reported by most major news outlets, indicating the iconic grappler’s lasting impact on the world at large.

Simply put: “Superstar” Graham was one in a million. He will be missed.

Superstar Graham pays for food from a NYC street vendor, photographed by Bill Apter
A shirtless, musclebound Billy Graham looms large over this New York City street vendor and other customers as he pays for his food. (PHOTO BY BILL APTER)
Posted on


Sareee poses

Following her stay in WWE NXT, “Sarray” is gone … but Sareee has returned to Japan to rejoin the fight!


IN MARCH 2023, Sareee confirmed her departure from WWE, where she had competed on the NXT brand for the better part of three years under the name of “Sarray.” Now, she has returned to her original home of Japan with a reignited purpose: to show what pro wrestling, from her perspective, is all about.

Ahead of her much-anticipated produce show, Sareee took the time from her busy schedule to meet up with PWI Japan correspondent Issa Marie at TERA CAFÉ SHIEN ZOJOJI in Tokyo, for a special, in-person interview.

“Pro wrestling is a fighting art,” Sareee told PWI. “Strong showing between opponents. And, after two years of not being able to show it, my goal is to reintroduce the fans to my core fighting style.”

Though she impressed sizable, global audiences with her spirited performances on NXT, longtime fans of Sareee knew that she was not being utilized to her full potential. Prior to signing with WWE in early-2020, and relocating to the U.S. months later, this prodigy wrestler seemed destined to carry on the legendary, traditional Japanese style of All Japan Women’s Pro-Wrestling. She debuted at age 15 for World Woman Pro-Wrestling Diana, the only organization to carry on All Japan Women’s training system under the tutelage of joshi greats Jaguar Yokota, Kyoko Inoue, Kaoru Ito, and Nanae Takahashi. She pushed her body to the limit, learning foundational pro wrestling moves that require long years of discipline to truly master.

Sareee poses, raising both hands

In doing so, Sareee became “the last surviving hope” of joshi strong style wrestling. After six impressive years with Diana, including a tag title reign with Yokota, she joined up with Takahashi’s burgeoning SEAdLINNNG promotion. At Meiko Satomura’s Sendai Girls, she battled Chihiro Hashimoto in a series of hard-hitting and globally acclaimed matches. After returning to Diana in 2018, she finally claimed her home promotion’s top single championship … twice.

So impressive was Sareee that she was publicly applauded by her wrestling idol, Antonio Inoki, gifted a mask by Satoru Sayama (Tiger Mask), and given the blessing of Masahiro Chono to use his STF hold. It is unsurprising, then, that Sareee was recruited by WWE, where she would spend two years of her career learning the entertainment aspect of the sport she held so dearly.

While signing a WWE contract is a lifelong goal for many grapplers, for Sareee, it was an exciting new challenge. “At the time I was recruited, I was unfamiliar with the company,” she admits. “I was told I would be able to be a similar version of the pro wrestler I was in Japan … however, it wasn’t long before everything changed.”

Often working alongside newer and less experienced talent, the NXT talent known as Sarray was notably more subdued than the fiery ring warrior who had initially grabbed the attention of the industry leader. Her look and on-screen persona also changed, much to the chagrin of longtime supporters.

“While it was not what I had expected, I have no regrets,” Sareee reflected. “That time in WWE, I was able to learn about the entertainment side of the ‘industry’ that is not as prominent in most Japanese promotions.”

Called “The Sun Goddess” for her explosiveness and charismatic in-ring presence, Sareee speaks kindly of her former coworkers. “I really enjoyed working with Zoey Stark and Tiffany (Stratton) during my time in NXT and training with Franky Monet (AEW’s Taya Valkyrie),” she said. “We (Franky and I) wanted to have a match on TV because we had great chemistry when we trained and practiced together. We even went to management to see if it would be possible, but it did not happen.”

Sareee poses

Sadly, there were other matches Sareee looked forward to that were, for various reasons, not able to take place. “When I first learned about NXT, I saw a match of Ember Moon (AEW’s Athena), and I was amazed by her,” she recalls. “We were supposed to have a match, but it was canceled.”

Similarly, planned bouts with Toni Storm and Meiko Satomura were called off. If given the chance, Sareee would still like to wrestle these women. She also expressed interest in facing record-setting WWE Raw champion Bianca Belair. “I am very curious about her strength, testing her abilities and her limits,” said Sareee.

Considering that she had strayed away from the big promotions while in Japan, it seems reasonable to wonder whether competing at NXT was ever in Sareee’s best interests. On the other hand, the move made perfect sense, given her desire to showcase her vision of pro wrestling on a worldwide platform. After all the unique challenges she has faced, we had to ask: Does “The Sun Goddess” have any advice for her Japanese peers who might be considering training and wrestling overseas?

Sareee poses, spreading arms

“If there’s an opportunity to go, go for it!” she says. “Opportunities are few and far between [for us], so take advantage of them! Go for the experience!”

And that experience has inspired the 12-year veteran to produce her own card, Sareee-ISM, taking place on May 16, 2023, at Shinjuku Face event hall in Tokyo. The event will feature joshi wrestlers carrying on the torch of the traditional fighting art of Japanese women’s pro wrestling.

“I want to thank all of the international fans gained for their support, by performing and fighting in the style of pro wrestling that I have always believed in and love,” said Sareee. But, above all, she wants to be able to meet the high expectations that have been set.

“I received a lot of support and encouragement from the fans during my time with WWE, which helped me pull through during the hardest of times,” she told PWI. “I really appreciate them all, and want to give back to those who supported me, by being the best version of myself. I am very grateful for you all and look forward to seeing everyone again!

If you are not in Japan to watch Sareee-ISM Chapter 1, fret not, as the event will be streamed LIVE at

Note: The English Language Option can be found in its drop-down menu, top right). Start time is 7:00 p.m. local time, (6:00 a.m. on the U.S. East Coast, and 3:00 a.m. Pacific).

Poster for Sareee-ISM, Chapter 1

The match card for Sareee-ISM is as follows:

Opening Match
Riko Kaiju (SEAdLINNNG) vs. Yurika Oka (Sendai Girls)
10-minute time limit

Second Match
AKARI (Pure-J) & Arisa Nakajima (SEAdLINNG) vs. Ibuki Hoshi (Ice Ribbon) &
Miyuki Takase (Freelancer)
20-minute time limit

Semi-Main Event
Jaguar Yokota (Diana) & Nanae Takahashi (Freelance) vs. Kaoru Ito (Ito Dojo) & X [mystery competitor to be revealed at a later date]
30-minute time limit

Main Event
Sareee vs Chihiro Hashimoto (Sendai Girls)
30-minute time limit

Posted on


Madoka Kikuta connects with a lariat

Dragongate’s Madoka Kikuta Gets Deja Vu, Challenges Shun Skywalker A Second Time


TWO YEARS TO the date of his last Open the Dream Gate challenge, Madoka Kikuta finds himself in familiar territory as he is, once again, challenging Shun Skywalker—the man he faced that fateful night for Dragongate’s top prize. And the self-proclaimed “Game Master” has not only reminded Kikuta of his inability to finish that match, he has also “demanded” that Kikuta earn the opportunity and privilege to face him.

Skywalker has put the Kikuta through the “SSW Quest,” a series of games designed to break Kituta’s will, prove that he is an unworthy contender, and eliminate the undeserving (in Shun’s estimation) D’Courage powerhouse. As of this writing, the games are still ongoing, but Kikuta has vowed “to not back down or run away, no matter what obstacle Shun puts in front of me.”

As the standout of the 2019 DG rookie class, Kikuta set himself apart from his classmates, partly due to his size. And not only his size, but, as Dragon Dia initially pointed out—and Dragongate’s Jae was gracious enough to translate for us—Kikuta’s “Pixar Mom” build. Shortly after aligning himself with the now-defunct R.E.D. unit, the young grappler (then dubbed “Hip Hop Kikuta”) challenged Skywalker at #DEADorALIVE2021. Skywalker, then the leader of MASQUERADE and the company’s youngest-ever Dream Gate champ, shut down Kikuta in a very short and career-derailing match. 

Kikuta dislocated his shoulder early in the bout and would go on to miss an entire year of in-ring action. He would eventually make his return at #DEADorALIVE2022, teaming with his dojo classmate, Jacky “Funky” Kamei. This followed Kikuta’s rejection of SB KENTo’s offer to join Z-Brats, which had evolved out of the discontinued R.E.D. group.

The old “Hip Hop” was no more. Madoka Kikuta began his urgent quest to reset and restart his career. Dragongate fans all over the world were excited for his return. However, many of those fans were concerned when Kikuta showed a lack of confidence in some matches. It was as if something wasn’t clicking; like there was no “SPARKING (in his) CORE.” Thankfully, it wasn’t long before those missing pieces fell into place.

After months spent reacclimating himself to Dragongate, Kikuta offered a lending hand to D’Courage—the team of Dragon Dia and former Open the Dream Gate champion Yuki Yoshioka—as their enforcer, as he needed to prove that he belonged. And it wasn’t long before he won the Open the Twin Gate championship with Dragon Dia, stepping up to show what he was made of in Shingo Takagi’s return match at #FinalGate2021. More recently, Kikuta won the #ReyDeParejas2023 tournament with Yuki Yoshioka.

In the February 2023 edition of Pro Wrestling Illustrated, I wrote that Dragongate “…is the promotion where units are families, who will love, support, train, and encourage one another.” And the “BEST BOYS,” as I often refer to them, exemplify just that! This is a family made up of three men who want to create a new chapter in Dragongate history. In his own words, Kikuta is “here to kick ass.”

On the path of boosting his confidence and winning titles, Kikuta still felt a void—a feeling that his purpose had yet to be defined. To the surprise to no one paying close attention, a special return match last Christmas set his career path on the trajectory it is today. At #FinalGate2022, Kikuta teamed with YAMATO to face BxB Hulk and the returning Shingo Takagi. “Standing toe to toe with all of the participants in the match gave me confidence and reassurance in my abilities as a pro wrestler,” reflects Kikuta.

Madoka Kikuta originally chose to join Dragongate after seeing Uhaa Nation (now known as Apollo Crews), who became the talk of wrestling fans worldwide through his incredible mix of power and agility. “I was inspired by him,” says Kikuta. And, indeed, the two share similarities in power, strength, and in-ring abilities—the very qualities the rising Dragongate star wants to see fans associate with him.

Kikuta tells us he wants to experience lucha libre first-hand, as many Dragongate stars have. However, his recent overseas tour began with a two-day stop in Singapore, where his opponents learned the power of his mighty hip attack. “If the money is right, I am game to go anywhere and wrestle anyone,” he said.  

So, what’s next for Madoka Kikuta and his D’Courage allies? “We are on a quest to hold all of the titles and be the unit that carries the new generation for DG,” Kikuta told PWI. “Don’t take your eyes off my ass!”

PWI will be present at Aichi Prefectural Gym on May 5, covering the action live. If you are in Japan, make your way to Nagoya to witness Dragongate’s first major event of 2023. If you can’t be there, you can still watch the action via the promotion’s streaming network at

And don’t forget: Two days earlier, the company’s May 3 live event from Kyoto KBS Hall will stream for free on the Dragongate Network. No registration will be required to watch!


Madoka Kikuta vs SB KENTo, First Round of King Of Gate Tournament 2022 (May 11, 2022)

Open the Twin Gate Championship Match, D’Courage (Dragon Dia & Madoka Kikuta) vs Kung Fu Masters (Jason Lee & Jacky “Funky” Kamei (September 19, 2022)

Rey de Parejas 2023 Semi Finals, D’Courage (Madoka Kikuta & Yuki Yoshioka) vs Z-Brats (Shun Skywalker & KAI) (March 3, 2023)

THE MORE THINGS CHANGE: Dragongate’s Madoka Kikuta Gets Deja Vu, Challenges Shun Skywalker A Second Time


前回の「オープン・ザ・ドリームゲート」挑戦からちょうど2年が経って、菊田円選手は再びドラゴゲートの頂点を立つ機会が廻ってきました。今回も王者・シュン・スカイウォーカー選手に挑戦することになりました。だが自称 “ゲームマスター “のスカイウォーカーは、菊田にあの試合をやり遂げられなかったことを思い出させただけでなく、菊田に自分と対戦する権利を要求してきた。

スカイウォーカーは菊田に「SSWクエスト」という一連のゲームを課しました。その目的は菊田の意志を破って、不甲斐ないことを証明し、D’Courageの強豪選手を排除するための試練となります。一方菊田は「どんな困難が待ち受けていても、必ず逃げない 」と宣言しています。

2019年のデビュー選手の中で、菊田の体格のおかげで同級生とは一線を画していた。そしてドラゴン・ダイヤは「素晴らしすぎる身体を持って、体型はまるで別次元のように見える。*」まで言われました。あの頃はR.E.D.に所属し、DEADorALIVE 2021年でスカイウォーカーに挑戦した若きグラップラー(当時は「ヒップホップ菊田」と名乗っていた)は、その直後だった。当時MASQUERADEのリーダーであり、ドリームゲート史上最年少王者であったスカイウォーカーは短期間で菊田を完封し、キャリアに傷をつけるぐらい試合となった。


Madoka Kikuta connects with a lariat

菊田は試合開始早々に肩を脱臼し、その後1年間活動を休止することになる。その後、DEADorALIVE 2022年で同級生・ジャッキー “ファンキー “亀井とチームを組み、復帰を果たすことができた。その後菊田はSB KENTo選手のZ-Bratsへの誘いを断った。

かつての「ヒップホップ」はもういない。菊田円選手は、ご自身のキャリアをリセットと再スタートするための緊急ロードを歩みだした。同時に世界中のドラゴンゲートファンが菊田の復帰を待ち望んでいた。しかし、ある試合で菊田が自信をなくなって心配を掛けられた。まるで、”芯 “に火がついていないような、そんな感じだった。ありがたいことに、菊田が復帰してすぐに、その欠落していたピースがうまくはまった。

改めてドラゴゲートに慣れ親しんでいた菊田は、自分の居場所を証明するためにドラゴン・ダイヤ選手と元オープン・ザ・ドリームゲート王者の吉岡勇紀選手のユニット、D’Courageの強豪選手として手を貸すことになった。そしてダイヤと共にオープン・ザ・ツインゲート王座を獲得し、FinalGate 2022年での鷹木信吾選手の復帰戦では、自分の実力を示すためにステップアップしていった。さらに最近では、菊田は吉岡とともにReyDeParejas2023のトーナメントで優勝した。

2023年2月号で、私はドラゴゲートを「…ユニットが家族であり、互いに愛し、互いに支え合い、互いに訓練し、互いに励まし合う団体である」と書きました。ドラゴゲートの歴史に新たな1ページを刻もうとするこの3人の男たちも家族である。菊田自身の言葉を借りれば、「ぶっ飛ばしに来た 」のである。



菊田は、多くのドラゴンゲート選手のように、ルチャリブレを直接体験したいと話す。最近の彼はシンガポールでの2日間ツアーの滞在から始まり、対戦相手は菊田の強豪なヒップアタックの威力を知ったのである。「お金が良ければ、どこにでも試合をし、誰とでもプロレスするつもりです 」と彼は言った。

菊田選手とD’Courageの盟友たちのこれからの目的は何だろう?「私たちはすべてのタイトルを保持し、ドラゴンゲートのために新しい世代を運ぶユニットになることを探求しています。」 菊田はPWIに語った。「私のお尻から目を離さないでね!」


そして!5月3日に京都KBSホールで行われる大会はDragongate Networkで無料配信されます。視聴は登録不要です!

Posted on



Over WrestleMania Weekend, DDT Pro Wrestlers Battle Big Names From Game Changer Wrestling

Here’s What You Can Expect (In The Words Of The DDT Stars, Themselves!)


FOUR YEARS AFTER taking over NYC and its streets, DDT Pro Wrestling does Hollywood in the only way it can. As part of The Collective, Dramatic Dream Team (DDT Pro), is returning to the U.S. to bring back its essence and wild uniqueness to North America. The promotion will present two highly anticipated shows: DDT Goes Hollywood (March 30) and GCW vs. DDT (March 31).  And, if President Sanshiro Takagi, has his way, this two-day overseas tour will be the first of many of its kind. 

I had prepared a lengthy dissertation as to why you should buy your tickets to the show before they are all gone; but instead, I’ll let the DDT roster coming to Hollywood do the honors themselves:

“It’s been two months since my last visit [to the U.S.’, so I hope to hear ‘welcome back’ chants, okay? MAO is back!  I’m going to run wild! Look forward to the DDT style.” – MAO, who will be teaming with his ShunMAO partner, Shunma Katsumata, to take on Chris Brookes and Yoshihiko at DDT Goes Hollywood; then reuniting with his Moonlight Express partner, Mike Bailey, in a match versus the East West Express, Nick Wayne and Jordan Oliver, at GCW vs. DDT.

“I’m very glad to be able to take part in DDT’s Hollywood show!  I’ll turn America into a sauna, so please give me your support!  I hope you feel my NEPPOWER!” – Shunma Katsumata, who also teams with his frenemy, Chris Brookes, and Mizuki Watase to take on Second Gear Crew at GCW vs. DDT.

“I’ve been dreaming of wrestling in America ever since I was Universal champion! My dream! Wait for me, and please remember my overflowing NEPPOWER! Neppower is my fighting spirit!” – Yuki Ueno, who will be facing Konosuke Takeshita at DDT Goes Hollywood, following their time limit draw at Itabashi Green Hall back in January; and Joey Janela at GCW vs. DDT.

Saki Akai

“DDT’s first Hollywood show! Everyone couldn’t come over, so I’ll do my best for the rest who couldn’t make it over to show the joys of DDT! Please enjoy the world of DDT☺️ My long limbs and kicks! And how graceful I am ♡” – Saki Akai, who will be facing Vertvixen at DDT Goes Hollywood and DARK Sheik at GCW vs. DDT.

“I won my very first KO-D openweight championship at the New York show in 2019, so [the U.S.] is a special country to me.  This time, I’ll make sure to be at the Hollywood show as Universal champion and make it a success with my high-flying moves and these big buttocks of mine that are disproportionate to my upper half,” – #AndNew DDT Universal champion, Tetsuya Endo, who will be facing Joey Janela at DDT Goes Hollywood; in an effort to avenge his loss during the 2022 D-Oh Tournament, he teams with Jun Akiyama to take on Tony Deppen and Homicide at GCW vs. DDT.

Jun Akiyama

“I hope that American pro wrestling fans can see how intense our wrestling is.  Even in my 31st year as a wrestler, I’ll show you that I can still be aggressive,” – Jun Akiyama, who will be teaming with Eddie Kingston at DDT Goes Hollywood, and will be teaming with his BURNING mate, Endo, to take on Tony Deppen and Homicide at GCW vs DDT.

“America will be my first time overseas, so I’m very excited. I’ll tap out whoever my opponent may be. What I hope you remember is … my Cobra Twist and everything about me!” – KANON, who is teaming with DAMNATION T.A.’s Charisma (Daisuke Sasaki) to take on Eddie Kingston and Jun Akiyama at DDT Goes Hollywood.

Yuki Ino

“SEXY!! OH! SEXY!! SEXY!!!” Pheromones’ Yuki Iino, who along with Danshoku “Dandy” Dieno, will be facing DDT’s Peter Pan, President Sanshiro Takagi, and DDT/AEW star Michael Nakazawa at DDT Goes Hollywood; at GCW vs DDT, the Pheromones will be unleashed when they take on BUSSY (Allie Katch and EFFY).

“I won a young guys’ league in DDT to go to Hollywood. I have to show I’m the number one in the young guys.  I learned Shorinji-kempo, which is a Japanese martial art. So, I want you to see my kick and punch.” – Takeshi Masada

If you haven’t done so, get your tickets before they sell out … these are two shows you won’t want to miss!


Posted on

Act Yasukawa Looks To Hollywood

Act Yasukawa pose by Issa Marie

The Actwres girl’Z Star Brings Her “Evil Actress Spirit” To WrestleMania Weekend


THE “JAPANESE DRUNKEN Samurai” with the “Evil Actress Spirit” is headed to Hollywood, and you do not want to miss out on seeing her!

The former Act Yasukawa, better known for wrestling in STARDOM as a member of Oedo Tai, wants fans to meet ACT (pronounced AKUTO), the current incarnation of Yasukawa representing ACT Wrestling (popularly known as Actwres girl’Z, or AWG).  “I am ready for the fans to meet this current and revolutionized version, ACT, who is very different from the past version most fans are familiar with.”

Act Yasukawa competed by Issa Marie

In pro wrestling, fans and analysts continually talk about the importance of an alternative. They reason that it makes sense to provide a product that is more appealing to a different demographic. Yet, when you look at most promotions—specifically in Japan—you will notice that nearly all of them share a similar structure in their training and business models.

And that is why AWG stands out. ACT wants to show the wrestling world the diverse talent that resides in the growing promotion, which, notably, differs from all others in one key way. “All of us are professional actresses,” she said. “Every expression, every move, we put our soul and heart to entertain the audience.  The organization is still very new when compared to the other promotions, but there is so much potential and talent in every member. Everyone has what it takes to become a superstar.  And, when we do come out to the states as a group, I want the US fans already looking forward to Actwres girl’Z.”

Act Yasukawa competed by Issa Marie

While that group trip hasn’t yet been realized, ACT is looking forward to the new experience of representing AWG over WrestleMania Weekend. “Previously, at Stardom, I traveled and wrestled as a member of Oedo Tai,” she recalls. “But this time, I am on my own, tagging with Aspyn Rose for the first time, as well as being a part of a four-way match against Brooke Havok, Kidd Bandit, and Billie Starkz. I have to prepare for the match, study their movements.  I am looking forward to it.” 

Indeed, with the latter four-way, Relentless Wrestling is starting off WrestleMania Weekend by giving us joshi fans a dream match we did not know we needed in our lives!

Act Yasukawa pose by Issa Marie

Speaking of dream matches, ACT is no stranger to them.  When asked to name hers, she could not settle on a single bout. “I have to say, it was Yuzuki Aikawa, August 19, 2012, Stardom 5STAR Grand Prix [tournament] match,” she said. “Or versus Kairi Hojo (KAIRI), on January 26, 2014, the Wonder of Stardom championship belt match. I cannot decide, because both bouts gave me a special impression that I will never forget.”

For the fans that will be introduced to her via her many appearances during WrestleMania Week, ACT has a personal message: “Hello everyone, I’m ACT from Actwres girl’Z. I am the ‘Japanese Drunken Samurai,’ by loving the Japanese culture and its sake, as I am called the ‘Evil Actress Spirit.’  Please enjoy meeting my different personalities, in and out of the ring. If you enjoy meeting me and my pro wrestling, I would also like you to know Actwres girl’Z through me.  Thank you very much!”

WrestleMania Week Schedule:

Act Yasukawa pose by Issa Marie

March 29

Pandemonium:  Pro Wrestling
5:00 – 7:30 pm PDT
Don Quixote Event Center

Relentless Wrestling
9:00 – 11:00 pm PDT
Don Quixote Event Center

March 31

WrestleCon (appearance/signing)
9:00 am – 2:00 pm & 3:00 – 5:00 pm PDT
Millennium Biltmore Hotel

April 1

WrestleCon (appearance/signing)
9:00 am – 2:00 pm PDT
Millennium Biltmore Hotel

April 2

WrestleCon (appearance/signing)

9:00 am – 2:00 pm PDT
Millennium Biltmore Hotel

Merchandise for Sale

Red USA-Exclusive T-shirts
Black USA-Exclusive T-shirts
4 different Act portraits
Two Shots (Cheki)
Act Yasukawa Lapel Pins
Actwres girl’Z Lapel Pins
Act Yasukawa Stickers
Additional Actwres girl’Z portraits