Japanese history contains many examples of inspirational women who forged a legacy. Onna-bugeisha like Tomoe Gozen and Nakano Takeko led the way for modern Japanese women to break the mold and make a name for themselves. The wrestling industry is the perfect place for seeing contemporary onna-bugeisha in action, and one of the most decorated modern Japanese women warriors is Meiko Satomura.
With a wrestling career that has spanned over twenty years, Satomura has not only revolutionised women’s wrestling, but she’s also helped to train a new generation of Japanese female wrestlers and keep the industry moving forward.
An originator of Japanese strong style
Satomura began her wrestling career in 1995 and joined the all-female promotion Gaea Japan. She soon established herself as a talented wrestler, using a mixture of submission holds and a discipline that would become known as ‘strong style,’ a wrestling technique that incorporates hard strikes and high impact moves.
In 1996, Satomura captured her first championship with Chikayo Nagashima and they became the inaugural AAAW tag team champions. The same year she started appearing in World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and failed to win a tournament to decide the first WCW Women’s World Champion. Satomura continued to wrestle for WCW until the business relationship between the company and Gaea Japan ended.
Revolutionising women’s wrestling
Satomura wrestled for Gaea Japan until the promotion shut down and she went on to form her own company called Sendai Girls’ Pro Wrestling in 2006. As a trainer, Satomura was responsible for teaching other female wrestlers like Dash Chisako and Chihiro Hashimoto.
Sendai Girls proved to be one of Japan’s most popular wrestling promotions because it showcased women as legitimate athletes during a time when women’s wrestling wasn’t taken seriously. The performers took risks in hardcore matches and they were able to show off their athleticism in the same way that male wrestlers could.
The promotion became popular enough to appear outside of Japan and the first Sendai Girls show in the UK took place in Manchester. I was at the show and was blown away by the amount of talent that was on the roster. Satomura was in the main event against Toni Storm and her storytelling ability and wrestling skills are truly incredible.
Satomura has also appeared in WWE, wrestling in the second Mae Young Classic tournament and demonstrating her skills to a worldwide audience. Although she was defeated by Toni Storm in the semifinals, Satomura left behind a memorable impression.
What makes Satomura such a talented wrestler is her dedication to furthering the industry and creating opportunities for younger women. With a long list of championship credentials, Satomura isn’t just one of the greatest female wrestlers in the history of sports entertainment, she’s one of the greatest wrestlers full stop.