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Q&A with Heidi Katrina

3 years ago

Q&A with Heidi Katrina

Sendai Girls’ First Gaijin Talks Up Living and Training in Japan While Plotting Her Return

By: Thom Fain

The path for gaijins to become respected, admired, feared – and champions – over in Japan, is different for everyone. For trailblazer Heidi Katrina it started with a dream, and a ton of hard work. While STARDOM has reached levels of fame in just the past year previously thought impossible, smaller promotions such as DDT and Sendai Girls have procured talents to follow in the footsteps of Io Shirai. On a nightly basis, fans in Tokyo are treated to an international blend of East/West women’s wrestling that remains the best in the world. While Katrina awaits travel restrictions to lift and go back to Tokyo, she took some time to talk with us about what it’s like for a foreigner to train in a Japanese dojo.

Monthly Puroresu: Tell us about your training regimen – I don’t know if you’re trying to take on The Rock out here in Hollywood, or what’s kept you motivated to stay so fit, you know with everything that’s been going here during COVID-19.

Heidi Katrina: Well you know, I’ve actually just been back to basics really! I feel quite rustic, kind of like a martial artist back in the day training with like stones and bricks. At first it was annoying, but I’ve kind of gotten used to it now. So, I’m thinking outside the box a little bit.

Monthly Puroresu: Can you tell us about when you received that first call to Sendai Girls? Leading up to when you first started appearing on shows with Asa Kong, Mika Iwata and what it was like transitioning from the independent circuit in Britain over to this strange and foreign land full of feisty, hungry wrestlers…

Heidi Katrina: So originally I was invited to Japan about four and a half years ago. And my first ever tour, it’s supposed to be three months and it was with a company called REINA. And I had success there, three months ended up being four years! And then I kind of made my way through different companies, going from REINA to just wrestling on the Joshi independents, and then I was with DDT and then Satomura-san; she spotted me at a DDT show. She had hunted me essentially and invited me. She invited me into a meeting in like a boardroom, after a show. And I was like, ‘Oh God, what’s going on?’ I’m scared. This is on, I think my fourth tour or something.

Heidi Katrina: She asked me to be the first foreign member of Sendai girls. And I was like, ‘Okay…That’s not really a question!’ Is She’s like, ‘So you know, you have the option, but please. Can you be my first ever official gaijin member of Sendai Girls?’ I had the choice of staying in Tokyo – where I lived in a really cool place opposite the Tokyo Dome – or I could go to Sendai! And I was like… Silly question, of course! So I set off and started a new life in Sendai. So, yeah.

Monthly Puroresu: Wow! So you just up and leave to join a dojo, a foreigner with nothing holding you back? How welcoming were they towards an outsider at the dojo?

Heidi Katrina: It was just awesome, that dojo life! Training in the dojo with the girls every day. Just tell you a little bit about how they do their training… on that first day I was excited and they’re like, ‘Yeah, we’ll go for a run!’ And then I think it was Ami, or Minami, one of the two young girls. She’s like, ‘Okay – up there!’ And I was like, what? And there were these steep steps up to a temple… And then I looked over at Mika Iwata, who was on top of someone’s shoulders and they were going up and it was like – if you fall, you die. Understand. And from that moment, I was like, ‘this is the place for me.’

Monthly Puroresu: So you’ve got some training partners you developed some friendships with, and I love that. What are some of your original dojo mates doing right now?

Heidi Katrina: Everyone’s still wrestling as far as I know, I think things are a little bit more normal for Senadai Girls during covid-19. Like they still got regular shows and they’re just getting stuck in really? So, yeah. I’m happy for that.

Monthly Puroresu: I’m sure they miss having a top gaijin, I think your addition to the roster really makes an impact. I saw a video of you wrestling with Cassandra Miyagi, oh man! She was wild. Some of these Joshi wrestlers are just so enigmatic. And you kind of have more of a Charlotte Flair presentation, more of a serious wrestler bringing the British flag and carrying yourself with grace. And the contrast is, wow.

Heidi Katrina: Well, you can thank Satomura-san for that! She thought it would be a brilliant idea to put Miyagi and me together, like chalk and cheese, right? It was like having a pet like beast. But somehow we had some type of chemistry and we had some crazy matches, but yeah, she’s definitely a handful.


Monthly Puroresu: Do you feel the need to bring yourself up to that level of energy, or do you try to be the balanced act that kind of brings things back to a sports-centric feel? Because your wrestling is very fluid, it’s very sports centric versus the wildness of Miyagi.

Heidi Katrina: So Miyagi kind of symbolizes more of a runaway train, and I’m the track. That’s our tag-team! I would have to be the one like, ‘Okay, the track’s this way.’ So a lot of the time I would have to reel her in or I’d have to carry us. Like, she just got absolutely obliterated by Azure. And I’d just pick up the pieces, and say ‘Come on Miyagi!’ Put her on my shoulders, ‘Let’s go!’ And she’s like, ‘No! No!’ And I’m like – ‘No really, let’s go. ‘ [laughs] But it happened a lot after we became the Sendai Girls tag-team champions, which is actually very significant for me as a gaijin! Because I was the first gaijin to hold the Sendai Girls tag-team championships. So I’m very proud of that moment, but Miyagi was definitely a handful – never a dull moment, I’ll tell you that.

Monthly Puroresu: For sure. Is there anybody you have an eye on, maybe somebody you want to tag with in the future or somebody who you admire and want to face?

Heidi Katrina: Honestly, the last time I was over in Japan Io Shirai was still there on the Sendai Girls show and I felt like eventually we would get an opportunity where we could tag. Or there was going to be some type of angle with the girls over there. So, I would just love to fight anybody from the Joshi promotions. I’d even like to go if Sendai Girls would do like a joint show, that’d be awesome. Anything like that… I love watching anybody over there, New Japan on. I just really admire the craft over there. It keeps me very excited as a wrestler, but also from a different viewpoint too – watching it as a fan, but also just admiring the sport.

Heidi Katrina Photo by Serpentine Gallery / Simon Norris

Serpentine Gallery / Simon Norris

Monthly Puroresu: As a wrestler on the independent circuit and specifically as a female, I would think things are different from someone like Will Ospreay who’s brought to Japan by the biggest promotion, probably gets the finest care and support. What was it like for you to have to lean on your dojo mates or depend on others to get around the different promotions in Japan? You both worked and lived there, right?

Heidi Katrina: When I first got there, I was with an independent promotion and didn’t really know anything about Japan as a whole. And, also was discovering myself as an individual. I kind of just ‘found’ myself over there… while moving through the companies, and going up the ranks so to speak. And, everything just made more sense as I went along. But Satomura-san honestly has looked after me like one of her own, she’s so loving. And sometimes, I couldn’t really focus with the way I was treated and the way I was accepted as the first gaijin, it was remarkable and overwhelming all at once. And as the years went on, I found myself. And I’m not sure if I’m just a bit ‘out there’, but Japan felt really normal to me. It just felt like home.

Heidi Katrina: But it’s incredibly strange to come over to Britain and have reverse culture shock, because you’d have a lot of gestures and norms that are implemented that you kind of carry on in daily routines. And I find that very interesting and also quite embarrassing sometimes, like when I left Japan on one of my tours of North America as soon as I landed in LA, and I was like bowing and making weird hand gestures! It takes a while to get it out of your system, really.

Monthly Puroresu: As far as other promotions – so, Jimmy Suzuki, the CEO of Tokyo Championship Wrestling recently followed us on Twitter. He seems like an intriguing guy promoting a unique mix of fabled veterans and young talent, in kind of a co-ed wrestling atmosphere. What would you say is unique about TCW, and how did you fit into that?

Heidi Katrina: Jimmy is, he’s a great businessman, and he has an eye for pro wrestling having taken photos for WWE back in the day while studying wrestlers and how they’ve climbed the ranks over the years. He really understands pro wrestling. We worked quite well together, myself and Jimmy. He originally was with SANADA and as it was, he was kind of a manager for SANADA and then he was a manager for me. His vision for TCW is to incorporate old school wrestlers and bring them together in one place in Tokyo, and just take a blow the roof off and have this feeling kind of like old school WWF. He’s a really big fan of that classical style.

Monthly Puroresu: That’s the sort of stuff that we love at Monthly Puroresu. But for beginner fans new to Joshi and the Japanese style, what would you say they should look for – what makes it unique and special?

Heidi Katrina: Well, Joshi has come a long way since I started. I used to see a lot of the young girls just panicking about their performance, getting stressed out and flustered and I would always have to remind them it’s all going to be okay and work out. Metamorphosis happens in the ring as we go along, but having respect and an open mind – allows you to just go for it. For us as wrestlers, it is hard and the challenge is out there for everyone to see.

Monthly Puroresu: Amazing. So are you still, deep down a fan of pro wrestling? Or more focused on the craft, and becoming the best you can be? And if you’re still a fan, who do you like to watch and what’s inspiring you right now?

Heidi Katrina: I think it’s very important and fundamental as a wrestler to be able to switch the angles a little bit, you have to be a good wrestler but then have the visuals, and then switch to like third person and analyze your abilities. And that’s kind of where I’ve been at. So certainly in the last year I’ve tried to keep up with all of the different promotions and watching an awful lot of Japanese wrestling. I just like watching anyone from New Japan, anyone from Sendai, Girls, just all the Joshi promotions. I study the older stuff as well, like the classic from the ’80s. If I’m really studying, it depends what viewpoint I have, but I’m always taking notes and I’m observing, trying to learn things I might like to try. You have to have vision when it comes to wrestling.

Monthly Puroresu: It sounds like you really miss it, and I know the fans and everybody reading the magazine wants you back in Sendai Girls and DDT. So do you have any unfinished business there? Or, do you have your eye on touring around and moving throughout different promotions or is there a title belt or something that that’s kind of the sparkle in your eye right now?

Heidi Katrina: Obviously, a bit of both. I’ve always had my eye on the Sendai Girls championships, from the beginning. And having worked and I’ve wrestled against some of the greatest Joshi wrestlers of all-time, that kind of hunger just increases as you go along. And I’ve always kind of had my eye on the Sendai Girls Championship. And I always thought I’d have a good chance of stepping up to the plate to represent myself and also Sendai Girls. So, that’s kind of the unfinished business I have – and hopefully that that’s what 2021 will have in store for me.

This Q&A first appeared in Monthly Puroresu Issue #4