Ever since the days of the caveman, people have been making lists of things to show other people. Whether it be movies, shops, restaurants, games, men, women, friendliest animals, meanest animals, or most over-priced shoes, more lists have been made than there are stars in the sky.
This is another list, ranking the Top 20 Joshi Wrestlers of 2015. This is clearly subjective, but I will try my best not to over-rank ‘personal favorites’. To make things easier, I will provide the criteria on how I evaluated each wrestler, the list is partly kayfabed as I do think if a wrestler held championships/won tournaments that should factor into how good of a year they had. In no particular order, the following criteria was used:
- Championships and Tournaments Won: This includes any championship won during 2015, or any championship that was held when 2015 began. The prestige of the championship or tournament will be taken into account.
- Match Frequency: How often a wrestler wrestled is taken into consideration. A wrestler with 100 matches is more likely to be on the list than a wrestler with 5 matches. This is the least important criteria as quality is more important than quantity but is still worth mentioning.
- Match Quality: The most subjective criteria, extra consideration is given to wrestlers that had high quality matches throughout the year, especially if it was with a variety of opponents.
- Wrestler Popularity: Being able to connect with the crowd is important in wrestling, wrestlers that have success interacting with the crowd and getting reactions will get credit for that.
One criteria I am not using, because I disagree with it, is ‘drawing power’. In the current wrestling landscape there are very few wrestlers that by themselves are draws (I could probably count them on one hand), usually it is more the benefit of a good storyline or a hot region that impacts the size of the crowd. While the larger Joshi promotions will have more wrestlers on the list due to the other criteria, the size of the crowds will not be taken in consideration.
1. Io Shirai (Stardom)
Championships Held: World of Stardom Championship (8 days), Goddesses of Stardom Championship (239 days), NEO High Speed Championship (52 days), and the Wonder of Stardom Championship (190 days)
Biggest Matches: vs. Mio Shirai on 2/14, vs. Kairi Hojo on 3/29, with Iwatani vs. Candy Crush on 5/6, vs. Nikki Storm on 5/17, vs. Santana Garrett on 11/23, vs. Meiko Satomura on 12/23
Best Match: TBD (match against Meiko Satomura will be aired on Tuesday)
Io Shirai showed in 2015 why she is the Ace of Stardom. Shirai held four of Stardom’s five titles in 2015, including a big win over Satomura on the last show of the year to bring their most prestigious title back to Stardom. Shirai had high-end matches against a variety of opponents and had 23 title matches during the year.
2. Mio Shirai (Formally in WAVE, OZ Academy, Ice Ribbon, and UNION)
Championships Held: WAVE Tag Team Championship (189 days), OZ Academy Openweight Championship (1 day), OZ Academy Tag Team Championship (35 days), Union Pro Fly to Everywhere World Champion (104 days, two reigns), and the International Ribbon Tag Team Championship (150 days)
Biggest Matches: vs. Io Shirai on 2/14, with Ohata vs. Hamada and Yamagata on 3/15, vs. AKINO on 6/7, vs. Hibiscus Mii on 6/17, with Ozaki vs. Kagetsu and Kobayashi on 7/19, vs. Minoru Suzuki on 8/9, with Ohata and Fujimoto vs. Nagahama, Sera, and Tsukushi on 9/20
Best Match: vs. Io Shirai on February 14th in M.I.O. 3
Mio Shirai retired in September, however she had almost 140 matches before she did, having one of the most active nine months of any wrestler in Japan. During that time, Shirai won titles in all four of the promotions she was contracted to, at one point holding all four at the same time. Besides her title matches, she also had quality singles matches against her sister Io Shirai, Minoru Suzuki, and Jun Kasai.
3. Meiko Satomura (Sendai Girls’)
Championships Held: World of Stardom Championship (151 days) and Sendai Girls’ World Championship (82 days)
Biggest Matches: vs. Ayako Hamada on 4/19, vs. Kairi Hojo on 6/14, vs. Hojo on 7/26, vs. Hamada on 10/11, vs. Io Shirai on 12/23
Best Match: vs. Kairi Hojo on June 14th in Stardom
Meiko Satomura had a resurgence in 2015, as she invaded Stardom and won their top singles championship. She also won the Sendai Girls’ World Championship, and still held the title as 2015 came to a close. Satomura wrestled in nine different promotions in over 40 matches, keeping a busy schedule for a 20 year veteran. She also helped train Chihiro Hashimoto and Mika Iwata, two of the most promising rookies of 2015.
4. Kairi Hojo (Stardom)
Championships Held: Goddess of Stardom Championship (forfeited in April), Artist of Stardom Championship (reign length unknown, never defended), and World of Stardom Championship (118 days)
Tournaments Won: Stardom 5STAR GP
Biggest Matches: vs. Io Shirai on 3/29, with Chelsea vs. Shirai and Iwatani on 5/6, vs. Iwatani on 5/17, vs. Satomura on 6/14, vs. Satomura on 7/26
Best Match: vs. Meiko Satomura on June 14th in Stardom
Hojo started the year hot, as she held multiple titles in the first half of the year. While her matches against Satomura were great matches, she lost the World of Stardom Championship to her in July and she never got an opportunity to win the title back for the rest of the year. She did win the 5STAR GP, however, and will get a shot to win back the World of Stardom Championship in early 2016.
5. Ayako Hamada (Freelancer, primarily wrestles in WAVE)
Championships Held: Regina Di WAVE Championship (319 days) and the WAVE Tag Team Championship (137 days)
Tournaments Won: Dual Shock Wave Tag Team Tournament
Biggest Matches: vs. Hikaru Shida on 2/11, vs. Mio Shirai on 3/15, vs. Meiko Satomura on 4/19, vs. Satomura on 10/11, with Yamagata vs. Haruyama and Kuragaki on 10/30
Best Match: vs. Hikaru Shida on February 11th in Pro Wrestling WAVE
Hamada did most of her damage in Pro Wrestling WAVE, where she dominated the promotion. Hamada’s 319 day reign was the longest of any top singles title in any Joshi promotion in 2015, and she held the tag team championship for over a third of the year as well in two different reigns. Hamada had a total of four successful defenses in 2015, including wins over Mio Shirai and Meiko Satomura.
6. Arisa Nakajima (JWP)
Championships Held: REINA World Tag Team Championship (56 days), JWP Openweight Championship (95 days), International Ribbon Tag Team Championship (76 days), Daily Sports Tag Team Championship (5 days), and the JWP Tag Team Championship (5 days)
Biggest Matches: with Kana vs. Shida and Syuri on 2/25, vs. Kayoko Haruyama on 4/5, with Fujimoto vs. Kizuki and Haruyama on 10/17, with Fujimoto vs. Chisako and Sachiko on 12/27
Best Match: vs. Hikaru Shida on June 19th, 2015 in JWP
Nakajima saw a lot of success in 2015, mostly in the tag division as she held tag belts in three different promotions. Two of her title wins came right at the end of the year, so Nakajima is poised to have a big 2016 with three title belts already around her waist. If Nakajima has more successful title defenses next year (she had none in 2015), she will no doubt climb up the ranks.
7. Mayu Iwatani (Stardom)
Championships Held: Wonder of Stardom Championship (18 days), Artist of Stardom Championship (105 days), Goddesses of Stardom Championship (240 days) and the NEO High Speed Championship (82 days)
Biggest Matches: with Shirai vs. Candy Crush on 5/6, vs. Kairi Hojo on 5/17, vs. La Rosa Negra on 10/11, vs. Meiko Satomura on 11/15
Best Match: vs. Kairi Hojo on May 17th, 2015 in Stardom
The youngest wrestler in the Top 10 at age 22, Iwatani in 2015 showed she is ready to be the future ace of Stardom. Iwatani held four different Stardom Championships during the year, only missing out on the World of Stardom Championship. Most of her wins were not against the top stars in the promotion (she was unable to pin Shirai, Hojo, or Satomura in regular singles matches), however she had success against everyone else and had high-end quality matches as well. 2016 could be a big year for Iwatani if she can break through to the top of the promotion.
8. Aoi Kizuki (Ice Ribbon)
Championships Held: ICExInfinity Championship (191 days), International Ribbon Tag Team Championship (24 days) and the Union Pro Fly to Everywhere World Championship (50 days)
Biggest Matches: vs. Haruyama on 5/10, vs. Kurumi on 6/24, vs Mio Shirai on 7/29, vs. Tsukushi on 8/30, with Haruyama vs. Leon and Nitta on 9/23
Best Match: vs. Kurumi on June 24th in Ice Ribbon
Kizuki held the primary Ice Ribbon title, the ICExInfinity Championship, for 191 days in 2015 to cement her as one of the best wrestlers from the promotion. She successfully defended the championship against Mio Shirai and Tsukushi, and also won the Ice Ribbon Tag Team Championship as well. Kizuki flew under the radar for much of the year but is one to watch in Ice Ribbon.
9. Kana (currently in WWE)
Championships Held: REINA World Women’s Championship (243 days) and the REINA World Tag Team Championship (56 days)
Biggest Matches: with Nakajima vs. Shida and Syuri on 2/25, vs. Hikaru Shida on 5/10, vs. Yumi Ohka on 7/20, with Shida and Syuri vs. Nakajima, Yamashita, and Mizunami on 9/15
Best Match: with Konami Takemoto vs. Hikaru Shida and Syuri on March 8th, 2015 in Kana Pro
Only taking into account Kana’s run in Japan before leaving for WWE in September, Kana still had a very solid year. She wrestled in nine promotions (including her own) and held two titles in 2015, both in REINA. Kana reached the Semi Final of the Catch the WAVE Tournament and had three successful defenses of the REINA World Women’s Championship before forfeiting the title when she left Japan. Kana also promoted several of her own shows, providing a unique variety of wrestling entertainment.
10. Syuri (REINA)
Championships Held: CMLL World Women’s Championship (100 days) and the REINA World Tag Team Championship (194 days)
Biggest Matches: with Shida vs. Nakajima and Kana on 2/25, vs. La Silueta on 3/25, vs. Marcela on 4/17, vs. Tsukasa Fujimoto on 11/3
Best Match: with Hikaru Shida vs. Konami Takemoto and Kana on March 8th, 2015 in Kana Pro
The star of REINA, Syuri took a bit of a step back in 2015 but still had success in the tag team division and also did two tours in CMLL. REINA does not make TV as often as the other promotions on the list, however when it does it is always clear that Syuri is the best wrestler in the promotion. Syuri mostly made the top ten due to her in-ring skills as she is one of the best in Japan, hopefully she gets more big matches in 2016 so she has more of a chance to show what she can do.
11. Tsukasa Fujimoto (JWP)
– Few wrestlers ended the year as strong as Fujimoto, as she teamed with Arisa Nakajima to win three tag team titles in the last three months. She also won the REINA World Women’s Championship on November 3rd, so she enters 2016 with four titles. She is guaranteed to be in the Top 10 next year if her success continues.
12. Jumonji Sisters (DASH Chisako and Sendai Sachiko) – This is the only tag team that I am listing together, as the vast majority of their accomplishments this year were as a team. Together they held the Daily Sports Tag Team Championship, JWP Tag Team Championship, and the Diana Tag Team Championship in 2015, and they also challenged for the tag titles in Stardom as well. Sachiko is retiring in January 2016, but the Jumonji Sisters went out with a bang.
13. Sonoko Kato (OZ Academy) – Kato being on the list may surprise some as her name is not mentioned much, but she had a really solid last six months of the year. Kato won the OZ Academy Openweight Championship on August 23rd and held it for the rest of the year, making successful defenses against Mio Shirai and Yumi Ohka along the way. The current top wrestler in OZ Academy, Kato goes into 2016 with a lot of momentum.
14. Mayumi Ozaki (OZ Academy) – Ozaki is 47 years old but still knows how to get it done in OZ Academy. Ozaki leads the main heel stable, and they get involved in all aspects of the promotion, making Ozaki one of the most visible wrestlers in the promotion. Ozaki held the Tag Team Championship in OZ Academy in 2015, and also won the JWP Openweight Championship, which she still held as the year concluded.
15. Hikaru Shida (Freelancer) – Shida was one of the top Freelancers in 2015, as she wrestled in at least 13 different promotions in Japan during the year. Shida saw title success as well, as she entered the year the Regina Di WAVE Champion and also won the REINA World Tag Team Championship. Shida was one of the top in-ring talents in 2015, and would have been higher on the list if she had more in-ring success to go along with it.
16. Kaho Kobayashi (WAVE)
– Kobayashi was one of my personal biggest discoveries of 2015, she is a pleasure to watch. Her visibility went up quite a bit in 2015, as she won the Oz Academy Tag Team Championship and the JWP Jr./Princess of Wrestling Championship. Wrestling in over 120 matches in at least eight promotions, Kobayashi is putting in the work to continue to impress next year, she is only 23 years old and still has plenty of time to grow.
17. Kayoko Haruyama (JWP) – Title-wise, Haruyama had a successful 2015 as she won the JWP Openweight Championship and the Ice Ribbon Tag Team Championship. Unfortunately she only had one combined successful defense, and she ended the year without any titles. Haruyama is easily one of the top three wrestlers in JWP and is always a threat to challenge and take the gold, which I am sure she will try to do again next year.
18. Misaki Ohata (WAVE) – Ohata wrestled in ten promotions in 2015, as even though she officially affiliates with WAVE she does visit other places as well. Ohata held the Wave Tag Team Championship with Shirai for 189 days, and all told she had over 100 matches this year. A skilled wrestler, Ohata makes the list more for her in-ring skills and versatility as she looks to have more title success in 2016.
19. Chigusa Nagayo (Freelancer) – I wanted to include Nagayo on the list because she had a special year, even though her matches rarely make TV. Nagayo wrestled much of the year in her own promotion, Marvelous, but also took part in Onita’s new promotion called Super Fireworks. Teaming with Onita, she won the Super Fireworks Tag Team Championship, and has been blown up and thrown into barbed wire more times than I can count. Going the hardcore route at the age of 51, Nagayo continues to show that age is just a number.
20. Yumi Ohka (WAVE) – Ohka was one of the most successful stars in WAVE in 2013 and 2014, but had a bit of a down year in 2015. She did win the Catch the WAVE Tournament, which is the only reason she made the list, but failed in both of her title challenges during the year. Still one of the biggest stars in WAVE, she will need to rebound in 2016 or risk being permanently passed by the new rising stars.