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Five Magnetic Joshi Stars

3 years ago

Five Magnetic Joshi Stars

And Their Anime Counterparts

By: Mitchell Adams

Joshi puroresu is almost as rich and prestigious in Japan as men’s wrestling. It’s so hot that some of America’s biggest female wrestling stars are now crossovers from Japan. AEW and WWE have been taken over. Meanwhile gaijins (like co-cover star Heidi Katrina) go the opposite route, continuing to train in dojos and call Japan home.

Let’s make one thing perfectly clear: These athletes are total badasses.

They’ve bewitched new eyes and sprouted popularity in promotions like STARDOM and Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling (TJPW). The presentation is not at all unlike the anime boom of the ’90s. Shows like Dragon Ball Z and Sailor Moon spread across TV networks worldwide, while movies like Princess Mononoke and Akira showcased the depth of possibility within the genre. With Joshi, it’s Guilia bringing the complexity as Maki Itoh delivers the pop culture crossover.

To get you caught up, here’s an introduction to five popular athletes – characters who bring to life the villainous and heroic enterprises of their anime counterparts while wrestling some of the most high-quality matches anywhere in the world.

Maki Itoh
Company: Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling
Anime Counterpart: Rini from Sailor Moon

Maki Itoh is every Joshi fan’s favorite cute, vein, foul-mouthed, hilarious, attention-seeking little brat. A former member of the Japanese Pop Idol group Linq, Maki only really got into Pro Wrestling to gain more fandom for herself in the cut-throat world of Japanese pop culture. Anytime she entered the ring, fans would marvel at how far she would go to promote herself. From stopping matches midway through to unveiling a new poster of herself, to setting up makeshift ticket stalls at the end of her matches, to sell tickets to a concert she would be performing in, nothing can stop her from grabbing the spotlight.

It’s always appeared as though Maki Itoh’s greatest enemy is herself. She is, without question, a real-life version of Rini from Sailor Moon. Rini is a spoiled princess, so hungry for attention that when forced to travel back over a thousand years for her own safety, she brainwashes Sailor Moon’s family into falling in love with her and taking her in so she can feel like the center of attention at every moment. Just like Maki.

Every time she comes to the ring singing her own entrance theme, every time she demands the crowd tell her who the cutest wrestler is, every time she screams at the top of her lungs in frustration, it’s because she must have all eyes on her at all times. Even after a historic reign with the International Princes Championship in TJPW, or six reigns with the DDT Pro Ironman Heavymetalweight Championship, and a successful mainstream crossover with top-ten pop hits on the Japanese iTunes charts, it’s never enough for her.

Despite finding Maki’s antics entertaining, Joshi fans may still hope that she will grow out of all this and find greater success and happiness, like Rini did. But fans should also remember that Rini had to become the evil villainess known as Wicked Lady, who nearly destroyed Sailor Moon, before she became the sweet and pure Sailor Mini Moon. Then again, imagining Maki Itoh as sweet and pure sounds kind of boring!

Yuka Sakazaki
Company: Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling
Anime Counterpart: Arale Norimaki from Dr. Slump

Yuka Sakasaki calls herself the “Magical Girl” for a very good reason. Originally planning for a career in stand-up comedy, Yuka conveys a unique sense of warmth, charm and humor. Above all else, she brings heart to her matches, which is increasingly rare in today’s pro wrestling landscape. People can’t help but cheer for her as she comes to the ring all smiles. She jogs up to the ring to the tune of jumpy, instantly-recognizable entrance music. However, it hasn’t always been this way.

At the very start of her career in TJPW, Yuka was seen as a bit of a joke. She had not yet developed the high flying in-ring style Joshi fans know and love today. Instead, she relied on comedic antics like making opponents feel uncomfortable by forcing them to cop a feel while stuck in an arm ringer or blowing party poppers into their open mouths. It wasn’t until she began a long series of matches with TJPW’s “Ace” Miyu Yamashita that her act really began to click, leading her to become a two-time Princess of Princess Champion.

If Yuka has a weakness, it is her lack of common sense, taking unnecessary risks in the ring that have resulted in avoidable injuries – the most serious of which was a possible concussion earlier this year. Yuka botched a springboard headscissors to her opponent outside of the ring, smacking her head against bare concrete and leaving her opponent to land badly on her hip.

Such a lack of risk assessment is 100% comparable to the world’s most perfect android: Arale from Dr. Slump, who also doesn’t realize her own power. While managing to defeat both Vegeta and Goku in battle on Dragon Ball Super, Arale had no perception of the colossal amount of collateral damage happening around her. Fans can only hope Yuka learns to be a bit less like Arale, before she hurts herself –or someone else– beyond repair.

Until then, Yuka is still “Co-Ace” of TJPW. She is taking her talents all over the world, competing for independent promotions and AEW, representing her own take of Joshi puro and TJPW at large.

Company: World Wonder Ring Stardom
Anime Counterpart: Major Motoko Kusanagi from Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex

Giulia has one of the most interesting and unique upbringings of any Joshi working today. Born in London to an Italian father and a Japanese mother, Giulia was raised in Japan, enjoying the riches of multiple cultures. As she speaks both Italian and English with nearly the same fluency as she speaks Japanese, STARDOM knew they had a bonafide international star when they signed Giulia away from the Ice Ribbon promotion in late 2019. It hasn’t taken long for Giulia to make her mark. Within a week of her Stardom debut, she formed the heel stable with Donna Del Mondo.

Along with Syuri, Maika, Himeka, and Natsupol, they began a feud with STARDOM’s best-known star, Hana Kimura, culminating in a ferocious match that sadly turned out to be Hana’s last. Despite this tragic event, Giulia pushed forward. Winning the 2020 Cinderella Tournament as well as Wonder of Stardom Championship cemented her place as one of Stardom’s best competitors.
It seems much of Giulia’s success comes from her stoic and practical approach to pro wrestling. A skilled in-ring technician, she can find and exploit any opponent’s weakness. Sound familiar? She’s a lot like Major Motoko Kusanagi, from Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex. Motoko leads an elite team of cybernetic lawmen and women in futuristic Tokyo. As a consequence of her cybernetics, she can be cold and logical to the point where it becomes a weakness by underestimating the will of her opponents. Giulia fell victim to a similar fault when she lost a hair vs. hair match against Tam Nakano at All-Star Dream Cinderella. Despite her near-perfect technical wrestling, Giulia could not overcome Tam’s heart and determination.

Despite this, she’ll no doubt be in the title picture for years to come. Losing her hair while miscalculating her opponent’s strength of will was a hard lesson learned… one that she’ll be forced to remember every time she looks in the mirror and sees her hairless reflection.

Guilia, before she shaved her head, stands ready to fight.

Shoko Nakajima
Company: Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling
Anime Counterpart: San from Princess Mononoke

Shoko Nakajima is one of the smallest Joshi wrestlers fans will ever see. At a mere four feet ten inches tall in her 2013 Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling debut, many believed she would not amount to much. Little did those people realize that size is only a matter of perspective.

A lifelong fan of kaiju films, Shoko would draw both inspiration and strength from the likes of Godzilla and Mothra to become, figuratively, one of the biggest female talents in Japan. Her opponents often tremble with fear when faced with her grit, determination and mighty roar. This was never more true than her fantastically physical match with Sakisami in 2015. Despite being nearly an entire foot taller than Shoko, Sakisami would go on to suffer her very first loss in TJPW. Sakisami even fainted in the middle of the ring after the loss and had to be carried out of the arena, much to the delight of fans in attendance.

Shoko’s habit of acting like the biggest person in the ring can lead to destruction just as easily as it can lead to success. While she is no doubt courageous, Shoko is also stubborn and short-tempered– not unlike San from the 1987 Studio Ghibli classic film Princess Mononoke.

Raised by a wolf god to be more animal than human, San is openly hostile to human villagers while denying her own humanity to protect her forest home and all the creatures in it. Eventually, San learned to embrace parts of her human nature. However, it seems unlikely that Shoko will ever acknowledge the fact that being big in spirit isn’t the same as being big in real life. Joshi fans wouldn’t have it any other way, especially as long as Shoko keeps picking up wins.

Bea Priestley
Company: World Wonder Ring Stardom
Anime Counterpart: Queen Beryl from Sailor Moon


Bea Priestley may be the most wicked woman in Joshi Wrestling right now. Her influence is not only felt in World Wonder Ring Stardom, but also New Japan Pro Wrestling as a founding member of Will Ospreay’s United Empire. The self-styled “Top Gaijin” has never been one to take the feelings of others into consideration when it comes to her own goals. Such cold, callous and conniving tactics have always been the main characteristic of her in-ring performances.

As much as Joshi fans may dislike her methods, they certainly cannot argue with the results. Bea has held multiple championships in Stardom, including the promotion’s top prize: The Wonder Of Stardom Title. Fans could easily imagine her as some dark force who is manipulating the entire Oedo Tai stable into becoming a truly wicked force within World Wonder Ring Stardom.

Perhaps she is even the one who poisoned poor Will Ospreay’s mind, leading him to turn against his friends in CHAOS and form the United Empire. For that reason alone, she is the puroresu world’s version of Queen Beryl from Sailor Moon. Can you see it? An evil witch from the dark side of the moon, determined to be worshipped by all living things through the use of dark magic and emotional manipulation.

Bea is a top in-ring competitor for STARDOM, but don’t be surprised if NJPW fans see more of her – there’s no way Ospreay is getting away with his actions at the New Japan Cup final unscathed. Everyone should pay serious attention to Bea Priestley, now and in the future. There’s no telling what sort of black magic she is preparing after being slighted by the United Empire.

This article first appeared in Monthly Puroresu Issue #4

Written by:

I'm an Australian based freelance writer who covers joshi wrestling for Monthly Puroresu. Since the third issue, I've been an integral part of story ideation and helping the publication branch out into new areas. In the past, I've written for wrestling dirt sheets, Aussie newspapers, and pop culture websites.