Kyoko Ichiki: Celebrating a Forgotten Joshi Star
Before yesterday, very few wrestling fans knew the name Kyoko Ichiki. She had a career that lasted 20 years and led her to over a dozen wrestling promotions, but she was never a main eventer and was always in other wrestlers’ shadows. Many of her matches there is no record of as she mostly wrestled in smaller Japanese promotions, and she likely would have been remembered as only a supporting character by those that knew who she was at all.
Until yesterday. There is a saying that “bad news travels like wildfire, good news travels slow.” Especially in today’s age of social media, information spreads very quickly, and the worse the news the faster it tends to spread. And this was certainly bad news, as a star in New Japan Pro Wrestling was accused of abusing Ichiki over many years. As the information is still fresh and developing I don’t want to get into the allegations, there are plenty of other articles and websites where that can be read. This is about Kyoko Ichiki, as I got a few messages from people wanting to know more about her career since there is limited information on Ichiki (in English anyway) currently available. So I hope you don’t mind me taking a moment to discuss the wrestler without going into the full allegations of abuse being made.
Ichiki debuted in IWA Japan on December 10th, 1994 against Cynthia Moreno. She was 21 when she debuted, which is young by most standards but a bit older than usual for Joshi wrestlers during that time period. IWA Japan was a predominantly male promotion so Ichiki had a limited number of opponents to wrestle, meaning she ended up wrestling Emi Motokawa more often than not. Emi Motokawa would later be known as Emi Sakura, and the pair would continue wrestling with or against each other off and on over the next 20 years. While affiliated with IWA Japan in 1996, Ichiki had several matches in AJW, the largest Joshi promotion at the time. She was not successful in AJW, but it was still a major milestone in her career to have gotten a chance to wrestle at Tokyo Nippon Budokan.
Kyoko Ichiki vs. Tomoe Araya in IWA Japan
After leaving IWA Japan in 1996, Ichiki officially became a Freelancer and wrestled for many different promotions. This is the phase of her career that is a bit hazy, as results were not kept as meticulously in the 90s as they are kept today for smaller promotions. She wrestled primarily in GAEA after leaving IWA Japan, but soon went back to wrestling in predominantly male promotions including DDT and Big Japan. Her longest stint during that time period was in Big Japan, where she wrestled from late 1998 to 2000. Here is a match of hers against Tomoko Watanabe in Big Japan Wrestling on 1/2/00:
Kyoko Ichiki vs. Tomoko Watanabe in Big Japan
After leaving Big Japan, she wrestled in various small indies until joining again with Eri Sakura in 2008, as Sakura had started a new promotion called Ice Ribbon. In Ice Ribbon, Ichiki saw her most success as she won the ICEx60 Championship on January 18th, 2009 against Seina. She defended the title successfully against Makoto and Tsukasa Fujimoto before losing the title to Makoto on August 23rd, 2009:
Kyoko Ichiki vs. Makoto in Ice Ribbon on 8/23/09
She wrestled in Ice Ribbon until 2010, when she left and went back to being a Freelancer. By 2010 she was 16 years into her wrestling career, and was certainly winding down as she did not wrestle regularly for any promotion after that. She did wrestle in TAJIRI’s promotion (another old friend from her IWA Japan days) called SMASH on November 24th, 2011 as she teamed with Hirano and Matsuda (former IWA Japan wrestlers also) against Konaka, Mio Shirai, and Yuji Kito:
Kyoko Ichiki in SMASH
After that, she wrestled for Emi Sakura again in Sakura’s newest promotion, Gatoh Move as well as other smaller promotions. The last match I could find of Ichiki was wrestling for WWA in April of 2014, so she was still wrestling as of last year. Now 42 years old, Ichiki is likely done with her in-ring career, but her career was far from dull. She didn’t win the titles or have the classic matches that other stars did, but she had a long career and contributed in her own way. I hope that with the matches and the brief history lesson, Ichiki will be remembered not just as being in an abusive relationship with a popular New Japan wrestler, but also as a talented wrestler herself and one that helped develop many younger wrestlers during her years in Ice Ribbon. As I am writing this the day after the accusations of abuse were made, not all the details are known yet nor the outcome, but nothing can take away from Ichiki’s successful career and the positive impact she had on her fellow wrestlers and fans.
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