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Q&A with Act Yasukawa

2 years ago

Q&A with Act Yasukawa

Interview with Actwres girl’Z performer Yuka Yasukawa

By: James Carlin

Special Thanks: @sadjabroni, Abid Chowdhury, GPS Promotions, Actwres girl’Z

She may not use the name anymore, but most hardcore japanese wrestling fans would recognise the name “Act Yasukawa”.

Yuka Yasukawa always dreamed of being a samurai – growing up on the classic samurai and action films of the 1960s as a child before going into kendo.

By luck she would meet Yuzuki Aikawa at a stage production of Wrestler Girls that they were both involved in, and was offered an opportunity to train as a professional wrestler by Fuuka Kakimoto; Yuka saw it as her last chance to become the fighter, samurai and hero she had always dreamt of being as a kid.

She was almost blind in her right eye but she incorporated it into wrestling persona, wearing an eyepatch to create a unique one-eyed samurai look, inspired by the samurai Date Masamune. Soon enough her presence on the roster would lead to her becoming known as the Samurai Spirit of STARDOM.

With the persona of a drunken samurai who brought her own rum to the ring in her entrance, Yasukawa’s ingenuitive in-ring style and character made her an important figure in the early years of the World Wonder Ring, being their first ever two-time Wonder of Stardom champion and one-third of their inaugural Artist of Stardom champions alongside Saki Kashima and Natsuki Taiyo.

Yasukawa is also responsible for the formation of the company’s longest tenured unit Oedo-Tai (literally, Tokyo Samurai Corps) and her charismatic over-the-top presentation set her apart from everyone else wrestling at the time. If her future was certain, she was destined to be a big star one day in the wrestling world.

Although she retired at the end of 2015, the Act Yasukawa character returned to wrestle for one night only in December 2021 teaming with Saori Anou against Natsuki and Natsumi Sumikawa.

Now Yuka Yasukawa performs for Actwres girl’Z (aka AWG) under the name Wild Bunny, and as part of their sub-group Action RING Girls as the leader of Kaguya known as Hisen, which features a more current and up-to-date look of a samurai that was previously used as Act Yasukawa.

As well as being a performer, she takes an active role in helping the younger talents in the company, training them and supporting them to become even better than before, where her previous experience as a regular wrestler for STARDOM between 2012-2015 comes to good use.

Yuka’s significance to the establishing years of STARDOM and rebirth of joshi wrestling cannot be understated. Her passion for wanting to entertain the fans and be a hero to those who watched her made her a lovable and well-respected name in the company and the joshi scene as a whole.

I had the opportunity to speak to Yuka Yasukawa in one of her few English-language interviews, and her first English written interview since 2014.

Act Yasukawa after winning the White Belt from Mayu Iwatani in January 2015. Credit: STARDOM

Compared to people like STARDOM’s legendary Threedom of Io Shirai, Mayu Iwatani and Kairi Hojo, her career was relatively short – having been trained as part of the third generation of STARDOM in 2011 alongside current High-Speed champion AZM and the aforementioned KAIRI, debuting in 2012 and retiring at Year End Climax 2015. She was AZM’s elder by fifteen years and only really competed for less than two of those years, sidelined by various health issues.

For someone who had been in active competition for such a short period, Yasukawa had an energy that most of the trainees were still yet to develop and evolve. Effortlessly cool and her appearance made her stand out from anyone else performing in the company at the time.

After making the decision to step away from wrestling, she would manage her unit Oedo-Tai for a brief period in 2016 before seemingly stepping away from the world of wrestling forever.

That was the first question that I wrote to her when I had the opportunity – asking her about her time away from professional wrestling and what she did in those four years before making her return at Actwres girl’Z in 2020.

“As I am an actress by nature, I went back to acting after I retired from professional wrestling.

Furthermore, I worked for GPS Promotions and was active as a ring announcer for barrier-free wrestling for disabled people. As a result, I started watching a lot more of the men’s wrestling than I did before I retired, which I hadn’t really seen much of before”

Having originally had a background in performance as an actress, returning to that career but in a less physical way that professional wrestling had been was a logical next step. She wouldn’t have got into being an actress if it wasn’t for her childhood and being brought up on a variety of different action and samurai movies by her parents.

Her father worked as part of the Self-Defence Force, and Yasukawa used her imagination with walkie-talkies to pretend she was an action hero by listening to the radio transmissions from the nearby military base.

Being a samurai is one of the main things that define Act Yasukawa to most people in the wrestling world, and I wanted to know if there were any films or shows that she had watched, either as a child or currently that she would recommend people to take the time to watch.

“I watch a lot of dramas, but I recommend the Japanese shows Abarenbo Shogun” (TV show that aired from 1978 to 2008), “Mito Komon” (TV show that aired from 1969 to 2011), “and the Hissatsu series” (Hissastsu is a long running television series that transitioned to being aired annually from 2007 onwards and had multiple different incarnations, “Shigotonin” being the one that Yasukawa specifically names.)

“As for foreign films, I really love watching The Last Samurai!”

It was at a 2011 stage production that Yuka Yasukawa would find her first gateway into professional wrestling. She met Yuzuki Aikawa who was training to become a wrestler for the newly established STARDOM at that time. A few conversations were had and that led to Yuka getting into contact with former JDStar performer Fuuka, who was a trainer alongside Nanae Takahashi in the company. Yuka never gave up on training, seeing it as her final chance to be a fighter in real life.

It was interesting that it was never really known if she was ever inspired by other wrestlers besides those that she had met such as Aikawa and Fuuka, or if Fuuka had her trainees watch old matches from older companies that precedessed STARDOM.

“Yuzuki Aikawa was the reason I joined STARDOM, she was also the reason that I was able to shine as a villain and character, and become the best version of myself in the ring”.

Watching Act Yasukawa wrestle, there it was evident that it wasn’t only just her look that made her stand out. Compared to the other trainees at the time, Yasukawa’s moveset in the ring was much more unique and versatile than the rest. Despite the hurdles that stood in front of her, Act was one of the most promising prospects in STARDOM during her tenure.

“I have always had a rough style. I was called different because I had a unique expression, a fighting style that was neither power-oriented nor speed-oriented, but I don’t really understand it myself. I have always fought with the character of Act Yasukawa in mind.”

STARDOM was also a much different company than it was now, and compared to where Yasukawa now resides in Actwres girl’Z, it was much tougher.

“[STARDOM] was the ‘sports organization’, so to speak. There was a strict hierarchical relationship between senior and junior members, hard training and a lot of anger. It was an environment where you had to really like wrestling to survive.”

Training would also prove to be difficult with Yuka suffering from Graves’ disease, giving her blindness in her right eye. Years ago, she had spoken about how it had made wrestling harder for her, but almost eight years on, I wondered whether this was still something that she dealt with against more agile wrestlers even when she returned for a one-off in 2021.

“Yes, I cannot grasp the distance. So it’s hard for me to properly interpret the distance of a move that is flying at me from above. That’s why I retired from wrestling, because I found it difficult to continue wrestling in a setting where it’s all on-the-spot.

Now, because Actwres girl’Z is entertainment wrestling, we can practice over and over again. Therefore, I can perform in the ring in the non-wrestling ACTwrestling. That is why I belong to AWG – I have the ability to make sure that everything goes smoothly and that I can perform within the boundaries of my health.”

Most performances in Actwres girl’Z and its secondary group feature most moves and performances taking place on the ground, which compared to STARDOM who had talent like Yuhi, High-Speed champion Natsuki Taiyo and freelancers like Kagetsu and Io Shirai that had high-flying parts of their style, it doesn’t come as a surprise that unfortunately Yasukawa wasn’t compatible with that sort of moveset.

But even despite the negatives of her eyesight, Act Yasukawa was still one of the most popular stars in the company during her tenure in STARDOM, and is one of only three people to have won the Wonder of Stardom championship twice (the others being Thunder Rock, Io Shirai and Mayu Iwatani, respectively).

“I’m very thankful. I was an athlete who was not marketed or expected by the company. I was able to win the White Belt twice because of the support of the fans to the company. I am a champion who rose to the top because of the support of my fans. I am just full of gratitude.”

The 4th Anniversary Show, where Act won the White Belt for the second time against Mayu Iwatani, was also significant for another reason: It was the show that first brought together Kyoko Kimura’s Monster Army with Act, Dragonita and Heidi Lovelace (now, Ruby Soho) to form Oedo-Tai. The group is still around today under the leadership of Natsuko Tora and interim leader Starlight Kid, but it first rose to prominence under Act and Kyoko, and then with Kagetsu after Act and Kyoko retired.

Yasukawa told me about the memories that she had of her time in the unit and why it stood out from all the other groups in the promotion.

“In the beginning, Oedo-Tai were all foreign wrestlers. We wanted the foreign wrestlers who had come all the way from abroad to enjoy Japan, so we asked them to enter the venue wearing traditional kimonos and with Japanese weapons.

I have good memories of touring Asakusa and cherry blossom viewing in Japan with the unit members. They are all still great friends today and keep in contact with each other.”

A few months before Act would retire, STARDOM held two shows in California during October 2015 where Oedo-Tai would team up on both nights against American talents such current WWE star Shayna Baszler. This was her first time performing outside of Japan, so I took the opportunity to ask her how it contrasted to performing in front of a Japanese audience.

“I felt energised by the American audience, who applauded and were happy with just the performance of me spitting alcohol in my entrance. The tension was high and it was fun. I would definitely like to go back to the United States one day!”

In 2019 and 2020, Yuka would silently return to the wrestling industry at a smaller scale, participating as a host of shows ran by GPS Promotions under her former stage name Act Yasukawa, but would slowly return to physical performances as Hisen, the leader of Kaguya, in Action RING girl’Z in 2020 and as Wild Bunny in Actwres girl’Z in 2022.

One of the most interesting things about AWG is that in recent years it has brought a few of STARDOM’s former talents under the same banner once again. Yuka Yasukawa and Natsumi Showzuki (now, Sumikawa) were in the same generation of trainees in 2012 and Act’s return match in 2021 saw her wrestle against Sumikawa again for the first time since their days in the World Wonder Ring.

For a short period of time, the “Shining Star” Arisa Hoshiki took part in performances at Action RING girl’Z shows as Mikasa Martin, leader of Red Fragment, who were “a group of humanoids entrusted with the last hope at the end of sadness”. The two had only shared the same ring once before back in 2012 at STARDOM Golden Stars in the historic Korakuen Hall.

Arisa Hoshiki may have left, but she passed down her blue wrestling gear to current AWG performer Riko Fukunaga, who carries on her one-of-a-kind legacy by wearing the costume in performances every so often.

This year, former STARDOM General Manager, trainer and former JDStar performer, Fuuka, would step into a role as an advisor at AWG, uniting herself with her former trainees once again.

“Fuuka is also still my coach now, and we sometimes met up with her when she invited me to her home parties.

I met Natsumi Sumikawa again for the first time in 2021 at AWG, and we could talk about anything like we had never been apart.

Now, we are very reliable and important partners, including with consultations and as colleagues.”

Act Yasukawa and Natsumi Sumikawa perform together again in AWG. Credit: Actwres girl’Z

December 2021 was the month in which Act Yasukawa would make her one-off return to the wrestling ring alongside “Absolute Indomitable Girlfriend” Saori Anou against Natsuki and Natsumi Sumikawa. Yuka was reflective on wrestling as Act again in the ring for the first time in six years.

“I was only worried, I was afraid of disappointing the fans. But I was told by many people that my performance ability was better than it was the past, even more so than when I was active. It seems that with age, I was able to wrestle more calmly. I was surprised.

I had a maximum weight of 70kg when I was an active wrestler, so in December I got up to 55kg, but my body shape was too different.

The Act Yasukawa costume was actually too big; I had to tie it up with a string so I was worried that it would come off, haha.

When I put the costume on for the first time since 2015, I felt nothing but happiness and nostalgia for those times as Act Yasukawa.”

For the last few years, Yuka Yasukawa has worked in Actwres girl’Z as part of their shows ACTwrestling and Action RING Girls. Yuka was kind enough to explain to me the differences between the two shows and how she got into working in the company.

“AWG is entertainment wrestling. Unlike Japanese wrestling, it is a show with a set storyline and a winner.

ARG is a full-contact action performance art. It is a group of actresses who act and fight as characters in the ring.

I first joined Actwres girl’Z because I wanted to do action theatre as an actress, where I could play the role of a character and fight in the ring. But now I have a lot of friends and juniors, and my enjoyment has become to help train them.

I’m here to nurture and look after the juniors who look up to me and make them stars just like I am.”

As part of her performances in AWG, Yasukawa plays the parts of three different characters: Wild Bunny, who is a masked performer that debuted this year, Hisen, who debuted in 2020, and Act Yasukawa, who debuted in 2012.

“The only difficulty is the use of different techniques. I don’t find it difficult to perform as different characters, really.

I always enjoy playing Wild Bunny because she is a comedic, hilarious character that I’ve never done before and she does pranks on other people in the organization.

Hisen is the leader and protects her friends. The character has both a good and bad part to her. Hisen is probably the character closest to my private life, I think.

Act is the worst role. She’s a heel, but I’ve been playing this character for years in STARDOM, so it’s a well-established character that I’m comfortable playing.

However, I’m so established with her that sometimes when I play the characters of Wild Bunny and Hisen, the bad faces and habits that Act has does come out, so that’s something I have to be careful about as an actor, trying not to accidentally leak different characters’ personalities into each other’s performances.

But as an actress, I enjoy playing many characters and I’m very proud that I’m able to do that.”

Wild Bunny is one of the three characters that Yuka Yasukawa performs as. Credit: Actwres girl’Z

I asked more about her character, Hisen, and her group that she leads in Action RING Girls known as Kaguya. As a basic description, Kaguya are “ancient samurai from a secret village with the unpredictable ability to time travel.” (taken from AWG’s website).

“Most of the members of Kaguya are friends I invited to ARG and brought from outside.

Yumi Agawa (Kikyo), is my partner. She is the friend I am with the most in my private life. She is not an athlete in ACTwrestling but a ring announcer. but in Act Ring, Kaguya would not be possible without her, so she is my partner.

Naho Yamada (Hinata), is one of the girls I want to promote. She is a talented singer, dancer and actress, and if she blossoms, she will become a star. I want to take her to even greater heights.

Ren Kyan (Hakuju). Firstly, she’s a girl who resembles my old self when I was a pro-wrestler. She is a hard worker who is clumsy but stubborn and cannot be left alone. Her character is funny and her talk skills are high, so I want to be able to promote her character more and more.

The members of Kaguya are my emotional support, trustworthy and important friends.”

Recently, Yasukawa has taken up a more prominent role in AWG by helping to train, educate and develop the newer performers that arrive in the organization. I asked her what her ambitions were for Actwres girl’Z, performers that fans should keep an eye on, and what the company could look like in the future.

“Developing talent and educating newcomers is what I find rewarding at AWG at the moment. In the future, I would like to promote Actwres girl’Z not only in Japan but also internationally. As a performance group that can fight and perform, I want to transcend the boundaries of professional wrestling and make Actwres girl’Z a profession.

There are so many performers that I could mention for people to look out for! They all have their own merits, so everyone should pay attention to them. But among the newcomers, I think that Kouki and Natsuki will be the future aces of AWG. In my opinion the current ace is Miku Aono, the Heart Fighter.

Some people have criticised AWG for “not being a wrestling company”. But that criticism is very half-hearted and disingenuous.

We want to create a new genre. We are aiming to create an entertainment group that can use wrestling techniques, action and acting. We are still in our infancy, but we will practice and practice and in a few years’ time we will be recognised not only in the wrestling world but also in a wide range of genres, and we want to become an organization that can give energy and courage to many people.

I appreciate any support from fans who have supported Actwres girl’Z so far. It means a lot.”


If you would like to follow and support Yuka Yasukawa’s endeavours, AWG or ARG, you can find them here:

Yuka Yasukawa:

Wild Bunny:


Actwres girl’Z (in Japanese):

AWG (in English, fan-run):

Action RING Girls: