In Japan, the role of women has varied greatly across the ages. From master sake makers to fierce fighters, many Japanese women have carved out lasting legacies across multiple fields. This includes the world of wrestling and one of most successful Japanese women wrestlers of the modern era is Kaori Housako, better known by her ring name Kairi Sane.
Starting from an acting background, Housako translated her love of theatre into the realm of sports entertainment. It put her on the path to joining the ranks of other influential Japanese women wrestlers like Meiko Satomura and Dash Chisako.
From the theatre to the squared circle
Since her earliest days, Housako has had a creative spark tempered by an athletic spirit. Before she became a wrestler, she had experience in yachting and entered many national competitions with the hope of one day competing in the Olympics.
After she graduated from Hosei University, Housako took up acting and found that she enjoyed playing characters. One of her performances involved her playing a heel/professional wrestling villain. This was seen by the general manager of the Japanese wrestling promotion World Wonder Ring Stardom (WWRS), Fuka. Seeing something in her, Fuka invited Housako to a WWRS event and she quickly fell in love with the sport.
Housako started training with WWRS in 2011 and made her wrestling debut in 2012 under the ring name Kairi Hojo. Taking inspiration from her yachting background, Housako was dubbed the ‘Pirate Princess’, a gimmick that would bring her great success in her later years.
Rough sailing towards the WWE
While a part of WWRS, Housako participated in various feuds that helped her gain more in-ring experience. Her hard work culminated in 2013, when she won her first championship by teaming up with Natsumi Showzuki to win the Goddess of Stardom titles from Hailey Hatred and Kyoko Kimura. However, their reign only lasted a month because unfortunately Showzuki suffered a cervical spine injury, forcing them to give up the titles.
Undaunted, Housako continued to get over with Japanese fans and regained the Goddess of Stardom championship in 2015 with Nanae Takahashi. Yet tragedy struck again when they were forced to vacate the titles because Takahashi was sidelined with an ankle injury.
It was only a matter of time before Housako’s in-ring work caught the attention of the WWE. She was offered a contract in 2016 but was initially undecided because she’d considered retiring due to the injuries she’d sustained over the years. In the end, she rolled the dice ad signed with the company that took her career to the next level.
The Pirate Princess of NXT
Under the ring name, Kairi Sane, Housako made her WWE debut during the 2017 Mae Young Classic, defeating Tessa Blanchard in the first round. She made it all the way to the final round, only to lose to Shayna Baszler.
This led to Housako making her TV debut in October 2017 on NXT. With her Pirate Prince moniker, Housako quickly won over the fans because of her athleticism, intensity and loveable attitude. She steadily built herself up to having a shot at the NXT Women’s Championship and engaging in a heated rivalry with Baszler. After trading victories back and forth, Housako overcame her rival at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn IV and won her first NXT Women’s Championship. The Pirate Princess’ reign lasted 71 days, before she lost the title back to Baszler.
Housako’s next important storyline saw her team with her long-time friend Io Shirai to form the Sky Pirates. Both women’s chemistry helped to elevate the NXT Women’s division even more. The Sky Pirates teamed together until Housako was called up to the main roster in April 2019.
Kabuki Warriors and descent into darkness
Housako joined Smackdown as part of the newly formed women’s tag team division. She started a new team with the indomitable Kanako Urai/Asuka to form the Kabuki Warriors. Managed by Paige, the Kabuki Warriors pursued the Women’s Tag Team Titles, battling the likes of Alexa Bliss, Nikki Cross, Mandy Rose, Sonya Deville and The IIconics.
The Kabuki Warriors finally won the titles from Bliss and Cross during the Hell In a Cell pay-per-view in October 2019. During the match, Asuka sprayed Cross with green mist, signifying a villainous turn for the team.
The heel turn was much needed and helped to revitalise the Kabuki Warriors. Housako abandoned her colourful pirate costume in exchange for black ring gear and face paint. Her mannerisms became more sinister, her attitude more aggressive.
Whether as a face or heel, Housako has proven that she’s one of the greatest wrestlers of her generation.