Subscribe

Cum sociis natoque penatibus et magnis

Error: Contact form not found.

Subscribe elementum semper nisi. Aenean vulputate eleifend tellus. Aenean leo ligula, porttitor eu, consequat vitae eleifend ac, enim. Aenean vulputate eleifend tellus.

Error: Contact form not found.

Subscribe elementum semper nisi. Aenean vulputate eleifend tellus. Aenean leo ligula, porttitor eu, consequat vitae eleifend ac, enim. Aenean vulputate eleifend tellus.

Error: Contact form not found.

Q&A with Miyu Yamashita, on life and wrestling aspirations

8 months ago

Q&A with Miyu Yamashita, on life and wrestling aspirations

Issue 12 cover star Miyu Yamashita talks life and aspirations as a wrestler

By: Thom Fain

Miyu Yamashita wants everyone to know one thing: There is no other like her. To be sure, whether watching at home or from the broadcast booth calling her matches, words sometimes elude me when seeing Yamashita’s duality emerge; at once stunningly graceful and brutally proficient and cunning. There aren’t many comparisons that come to mind. Miyu pulled me aside after TJPW Live in LA and said, “Let’s interview again!” to which of course I responded, “With a cover star feature, right?” She beamed that patented smile and agreed, before preparing for another long line at the merch table. What many don’t realize is that, even at small venues on the indie circuit, the amount of personal attention required to develop the fanbase she and partner-in-crime Maki Itoh enjoy is astounding. Having connected with so many people with her tireless effort as the Ace of TJPW, they have been able to enjoy her in independent dream
matches and on ROH and AEW television for two years.

Japanese wrestlers take their craft in the ring seriously, and Miyu is no different. A light-hearted world traveler and goofy big sister of TJPW’s juniors outside of the ring, the Pink Striker has been a catalyst of TJPW’s rapid expansion and as durable and reliant as any top star there is.

She wouldn’t have it any other way, and demurred when I asked if she’d entertain wrestling women in any other league over in Japan. The training, the hectic travel schedules, the one-on-one connections Miyu has developed in the U.S. make her a trailblazer and leader of this current joshi puroresu popularity explosion across the West. For her effort, Yamashita is rewarded with much-deserved adulation and a hardcore fanbase dedicated to championing her and TJPW’s every move.

I was let in on a little secret about her future plans, and when the time is right, Yamashita will announce it to everyone herself. In the meantime, she took some personal time during this year’s Tokyo Princess Cup tournament to reflect on the past two years of wrestling at home and on excursion – mostly in the U.S. – and what her fans can expect in the months and years to come.

Monthly Puroresu:
You have wrestled on three different continents, you’ve held four different championships and you’ve wrestled in 23 different promotions. I’m guessing you get a lot of messages from promoters. How do you go about deciding where to wrestle and saying, “This would be a really good place to fight”?

Miyu Yamashita:
I haven’t really had many issues of two competing offers on the same day in particular. So, it really boils down to the timing and who is giving me the offer first. Because I’m not super particular in, you know, going to this place, or that place. So, if they give me the offer first, then I’ll go wrestle!

Monthly Puroresu:
So when you look at opponents overseas – you mentioned in our last interview in September that American wrestlers are a lot different in the way they might approach a match – and they might not wrestle as often as you. And, I guess there’s a different experience for you to be had when you go to certain regions. So, do you take all of your own bookings or do you have somebody to help you?

Miyu Yamashita:
So honestly for me, anyone is fine really at this point. But if I really had to pick a particular style someone I might face, I like the challenge of someone who’s physically larger than me.

Monthly Puroresu:
At Spark Joshi, when I had the opportunity to ring announce you and your opponent, you won and successfully defended their title! We also had Korean barbecue that day, and I know you really like spicy food. Now that borders are reopened in Japan, I’m guessing foreigners will come see Miyu Yamashita in Tokyo rather than waiting for you to always come here. Is there somewhere, with really good spicy food, you can recommend when fans come to see you in Japan?

Miyu Yamashita:
Hmmm… I recommend going to Shin-Okubo Station because there’s a lot of Korean food there. And normally when you think of Korean food, you think of spicy food. So, there’s a lot of great spicy food around there.

Monthly Puroresu:
That night, we also talked about some of the dreams you have. It came up that you have different sides of your character, ones that maybe Western fans haven’t seen yet. In writing about you previously, I noted you have kind of a killer instinct once you get in the ring – and maybe there’s an edgier side to Miyu Yamashita that Western fans haven’t seen yet. Would you agree with that? You’re overwhelmingly seen as kind of a sweetheart here.

Miyu Yamashita:
Really?! [Laughs] It’s the first time maybe I’ve ever heard someone say I look like I’m very nice. Actually, whenever I’m in the ring, I am always wondering how to defeat opponents. I think back to my experience in karate; it just, like, switches on naturally. So I always keep in mind how to best express myself to the fans. So I never expected you to say that American fans think I’m a very sweet, nice person. [Laughs]

Monthly Puroresu:
Well that’s the perception, right? You’re a babyface and the fans have come to really love you, not just the ass-kicking “Pink Striker” but also from the videos you post, kind of like the goofy big sister of TJPW. And what I’m getting at is we talked about maybe there’s an edge to your personality – maybe that killer instinct that we see in the ring stays buried a lot. We talked about pop culture, like Uma Thurman in”Kill Bill… I’m wondering if you have thought since the last time we talked about maybe further exploring that side of yourself.

Miyu Yamashita:
What you’re saying about the edginess, I expect to show it in the ring. That’s something that I really like, actually. It’s something I enjoy – but you know, anything’s possible in America! I would definitely like to incorporate and explore that side of myself in the coming months when I come back.

Monthly Puroresu:
We’ve also talked about your thoughts on NOAH and their women’s division, well at least when I was there backstage with Jungle Kyona at Great Muta ByeBye. The joshis expressed wanting to create more of a women’s division. What are your thoughts on this new era of mixed-gender promotions that New Japan and NOAH are bringing to center stage in Japan? Would one of those promotions be a better place for your edgier side to come out?

Miyu Yamashita:
Women’s division? Women’s division of NOAH? Hmm, I like TJPW as my home in Japan. So, it might be a little bit different than the answer you’re looking for, but like if it means that it raises the stock of Tokyo Joshi Pro-Wrestling, I would definitely love to wrestle in NOAH. But I don’t think I’d want to face a joshi wrestler, rather I would love to face Naomichi Marufuji in NOAH instead.

Monthly Puroresu:
I remember you talking about the different strikers in NOAH and how fluid Marufuji is, and if that would be somebody you wanted to learn from and maybe get in the ring with.

Miyu Yamashita:
I love watching his matches – the timing of his kicks is very pinpoint and the rhythm he carries in the match is something that I really learned from Marufuji. He’s one of my biggest influences! So, if there is an opportunity for joshis in NOAH, I would love to face Marufuji. I believe a few years ago when he was asked if there’s any joshi he would love to face if able, my name is one he mentioned. So if there’s a chance and the time is right, whether it’s in Japan, America or anywhere else in the world! – if it helps to expand TJPW and further my wrestling goals, I would definitely like to make it happen [in NOAH].

Monthly Puroresu:
What are your general thoughts of those floodgates opening for joshi wrestlers in NOAH, even while TJPW is obviously the primary and go-to attraction for women’s wrestling in CyberFight? How do you feel about this new era of mixing the genders in Japan? I know the fans here would be more than happy that you’re open to the opportunity with Marufuji and NOAH if it were to come to fruition.

Miyu Yamashita:
If there’s an opportunity to fight more joshis, I would definitely love to do it because I love challenges. That’s in all aspects [of wrestling]. If it means TJPW would get more exposure this way, I’m all for it. It’s really good that we have a lot of exciting times for joshi wrestling growth in this modern era.

Monthly Puroresu:
Speaking of timing, now is a very different landscape than when you were younger and a new trainee of TJPW. What do you think is the greatest challenge for the younger athletes coming up today, and some of the joshi wrestlers that we’ve seen debut recently in TJPW? Do you have any advice for them?

Miyu Yamashita:
I’ve thought about this during my three months in America. What I learned is to really set out your goals and what you want to do – and do it! Do it in order. And, that’s been very important for me [in my own journey]. Challenging yourself is fine; it’s okay to succeed and it’s also okay to fail. But the most important thing is to get yourself moving and doing something that you want to do.

Monthly Puroresu:
Well obviously you’ve spent a lot of time on the road this year. As I mentioned earlier, over 20 different promotions and counting. Have you had time to develop any new hobbies or artistic pursuits while you’ve been on the road this year? Or what do you do to keep yourself centered?

Miyu Yamashita:
So one of the things I actually picked up during my time in America, is pilates. Because while weight training is a hobby and connects me to wrestling, pilates helps me spiritually. It helps me relax. I definitely would like to do pilates in Japan.

Monthly Puroresu:
That’s really cool. Obviously, the fans are very thankful that after such a crazy first half of the year, you’re in good health. As a follow-up, when you see a significant injury like what Yuka Sakazaki is suffering, does it ever concern you? I know you write down your goals, meditate on them every day. But is that enough to get past any fears you might have of getting hurt?

Miyu Yamashita:
Injuries are part-and-parcel of wrestling. It’s the same when it comes to every single sport, or anything to do with your body. Even when I’m wrestling, there’s somewhere inside the back of my mind that’s always got a small amount of fear. But fighting through for the fans in my matches and the stimulation you enjoy through the fight [outweighs any fear]. At the end of the day, if you’re injured, you are injured. So I always try to take care of myself every day to make that possibility smaller.

Monthly Puroresu:
Just reviewing your matches of 2023, going from Spark Joshi to DEADLOCK Pro-Wrestling and EVE in England and obviously TJPW and everything in between, it’s really impressive that you’re able to give 100% percent dedication with such a crazy schedule.

Miyu Yamashita:
[Laughs] Thank you.

Monthly Puroresu:
Going back to that laser focus, that killer instinct – the drive and determination, I feel it is kind of rare. It does come down to opportunity and you mentioned timing being everything. Do you sense that there’s an interesting timing, or this sort of destiny that you’ve had intertwined with Maki Itoh? And is it coming to an end anytime soon – has 1to1000000 maybe run its course a little bit? Will there be some sort of culmination or big ending between you two, or have you even thought of you two pursuing your own separate destinies?

Miyu Yamashita:
Itoh-chan is the best partner for me. It’s great to fight with her and it’s also great to fight against her. I don’t for one minute think this story is going to end anytime soon. We’ll definitely fight many more times over the course of our careers and produce a match that only the two of us can make for all the fans to enjoy. And because the last time we got the tag belts, we couldn’t even even defend one time! So actually, I was talking to Itoh recently and she agreed! We definitely want to get the TJPW tag-team belts again and defend them many more times. So, the story is far from over.

Monthly Puroresu:
This story between you two won’t end, even if someone goes on to wrestle in America more frequently?

Miyu Yamashita:
Well, obviously I feel like I don’t want this story to ever end. There’s a thing between us. We’ll definitely fight forever, in some way. So even though we don’t have to be in the same place at the same time, my partner will always be the same.

Monthly Puroresu:
So you’re soulmates in a way, inside the ring. Because of course Itoh-chan says you’re just business partners! And actually, you know, when I’ve seen you two warming up before the events you do just seem to be all about your business – which is impressive to me, again, to be able to flip that switch.

Miyu Yamashita:
Like I said, I think we’re soulmates in the ring. I’m really glad to meet Itoh as a wrestler because if it wasn’t for meeting Maki Itoh as a wrestler, then maybe Miyu Yamashita would not actually be here right now. I’ve seen a brand new world thanks to Maki Itoh. So, I’m really glad to have become a wrestler and Maki Itoh’s a very important presence to me.

Monthly Puroresu:
Of course. And in our last interview, we talked about maybe helping bring the younger TJPW wrestlers over to America. Like maybe Arisu Endo or, Raku? Are you hearing any whispers that we can publish about any other TJPW fan favorites following in the footsteps of 121000000?

Miyu Yamashita:
I actually didn’t ask them directly, but I feel like if they’re called over to go, they’ll definitely go! The most ideal thing is to have another TJPW wrestling show in America because it’ll help to make us bigger on a more global scale in the current era. As you know, we already had the very first show in Los Angeles. So if we run more of those, you can see Miu Watanabe, Raku, and the newer generation as much as the current one. And maybe there will be a few more of them coming to America in the future!

Monthly Puroresu:
It was so successful, and I was so excited to be there as an announcer. We’ve all been eagerly awaiting for an actual TJPW show because it has a totally different vibe and the production just feels more holistic than, for instance, when an American promoter does a joshi inspired wrestling event. What’s the secret sauce in TJPW’s formula?

Miyu Yamashita:
Hmmm… the secret sauce is the worldview of Tokyo Joshi Pro-Wrestling in America. Because I’m very confident that the fans in America love the style, and the world of TJPW. When I wrestle in America, I understand that the TJPW style would work across America! And going around America for three months, I know… That’s the secret. Like if we bring the “world” of Tokyo Joshi Pro-Wrestling to America, it would definitely be a great success.

Monthly Puroresu:
It’s interesting you say that, obviously MP thinks TJPW would be a smash success if promoted live in America. If there’s something I could compare it to, I was a bit of an otaku when I was a kid – during that late 90s to 00s era there was this raw energy and buzz surrounding the export of anime and J-Pop. Obviously K-Pop would become much bigger, and I know you’re a big TWICE fan…

Miyu Yamashita:
Yes!

Monthly Puroresu:
But, there just seems to be that feeling, at least in America, that TJPW is just such a hot commodity right now. And I was wondering if you can sense the opportunity for things, maybe not to get to be as big as TWICE but do you sense the opportunity for growth is sort of in this very moment, is right now, and is TJPW going to capitalize on the excitement?

Miyu Yamashita:
Yes, I feel it too. And the fans love it too! You can see from the fans’ reactions all over America that now is really the best time to make our move and bring Tokyo Joshi Pro-Wrestling to the next level. So yeah, definitely I agree with what you’re saying right now.

Monthly Puroresu:
Going back to life on the road here in America for you girls coming from Tokyo – I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw Itoh-chan’s recent interview where she was comparing New York City and LA. The interviewer asked which city she liked better and she said, “Well I like LA better because in New York City, a street artist tried to get me to take a photo with them and then demanded I pay them and I had to run!” Do you have any funny stories like that, and do you prefer certain cities over other cities?

Miyu Yamashita:
[Laughs] So I like LA. In the sense that there’s a lot of greenery there. And, the elegance of the people’s freedom there! I like to just sit down and people watch in Los Angeles. When it comes to New York, I like the entertainment there. I go see Broadway. I go see burlesque in New York City. So, I love to go around different theaters and see the entertainment culture of New York City. When it comes to funny stories, it’s been nothing like Itoh. No problems during my three months. So I guess it’s just not funny at all because nothing strange happened to me.

Monthly Puroresu:
It sounds like you need to hang out with Itoh-chan outside of the ring more, live it up!

Miyu Yamashita:
[Laughs] Maki Itoh has a lot of drama. A lot of interesting things happen to her when she goes to America. So I definitely want to have some distance from Maki Itoh. But then maybe if I was there, I would come and save Itoh-chan! [Laughs] We might be friends in the ring, but maybe not so much outside the ring because…I’ve noticed it’s a lot of interesting stuff [going on with Itoh].

Monthly Puroresu:
When it comes to your path to glory in wrestling, I guess what does that path look like to you? I know you’re very loyal to TJPW and you told me during our time at Spark Joshi that you don’t want to wrestle anywhere else in Japan. But, in terms of that path to really making it, making your dreams come true – what does that look like in the short-term and then maybe three years down the road?

Miyu Yamashita:
So, for me I don’t want to be, like, the top person in any place. I just want there to be only one existence for me, for the fans to really understand me and get to love me. So of course in the short term, the biggest thing on my mind is – what kind of wrestler the fans see me as. And I want more fans to come to see me, especially those who have not known about me previously, to get to know me more. But again, my goal is to be the only person like me – for there to be only one of my kind in existence – the one and only Miyu Yamashita. So, I guess you could say my goal at the top is to be that one and only.

Monthly Puroresu:
What right now should the fans reading at home know about Miyu Yamashita?

Miyu Yamashita:
So, I definitely want to come to America again. I’m looking forward to meeting more of my existing fans! And for people who have never met Miyu Yamashita before – please look forward to seeing me in America!

Interview translated and interpreted by Ash Mann of CyberFight