Top 20 Joshi Wrestlers of 2020
It is finally time to announce my Top 20 Joshi Wrestlers of 2020! To see how I ranked wrestlers in past years, check out the 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019 versions of the list. I would hope it would go without saying, but just in case there is any confusion – this list is purely subjective, as I am a human, so some personal biases are bound to have an impact. But that is why no two lists are ever the same and this is certainly not a definitive ranking. The ranking is certainly based partially on “kayfabe” aspects such as titles and tournaments won, however other factors are taken into account as well. I do try to have something resembling a method to my madness, to make my ranking the following criteria was used:
- Championships and Tournaments Won: This includes any championship won during 2020, or any championship that was held when 2020 began. The prestige of the championship or tournament will be taken into account.
- 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.
- Wrestler Status in a Promotion: Generally speaking, the Ace of one promotion will be ahead of the #3 wrestler in another promotion, since wrestling on top means bigger matches, longer matches, and more opportunities. There isn’t a direct correlation, but leading a promotion or being the ‘face’ of a promotion can help a wrestler’s rank as it increases the wrestler’s visibility and match importance.
- Match Frequency/Availability: 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 10 matches. Also, it is harder to ‘rate’ a wrestler if their matches rarely were distributed via TV or an online streaming service, so visibility is a factor.
One criteria I am not using 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 may have more wrestlers on the list due to the other criteria (visibility being a major one), the size of the crowds will not be taken in consideration. Also, it should be noted that this ranking is based only on a wrestler’s matches/participation in Japan. This is not a list of my personal favorite wrestlers or fun rookies that I enjoy watching, but rather my version of what a “real” ranking of Joshi wrestlers would look like based on their success and status in 2020.
2020 was a very unusual year, not just for Joshi wrestling but for the world as the pandemic raged from March to December. This lead to some promotions trying new things to stay active, with other promotions drastically cutting down on events. OZ Academy, for example, only had 15 events for the entire year while Ice Ribbon had 102, just showing the different paths that promotions took. Due to that, the wrestlers in promotions with more visibility will do better in the ranking, even if in a normal year that may not have been the case. That makes this year’s list perhaps even more subjective than usual, and the bigger promotions that ran frequent events (particularly Stardom and Ice Ribbon) may be over-represented compared to prior (and hopefully future) years.
Onto the Top 20 Joshi Wrestlers of 2020!
Championships Held: Wonder of Stardom Championship (159 days) and the Artist of Stardom Championship (280 days)
Biggest Matches: with Syuri and Maika vs. AZM, Watanabe, and Hayashishita on 2/8, vs. Tam Nakano on 7/26, vs. Tam Nakano on 10/3, vs. Konami on 11/15, vs. Syuri on 12/20
Best Match: vs. Tam Nakano in Stardom on October 3rd, 2020
There was no other wrestler I could have justified putting in this spot, 2020 was the Year of Giulia. She ticks all the boxes – a major championship, high end matches, popularity, recognition from Japanese media, major storylines – everything a wrestler could hope for was achieved by Giulia in 2020. Giulia also successfully led a new stable, Donna del Mondo, and had memorable feuds against Hana Kimura and Tam Nakano. All in all, a banner year for Giulia, and she will likely be a force to be reckoned with in Stardom for many years to come.
2. Yuka Sakazaki (Tokyo Joshi Pro)
Championship Held: Princess of Princess Championship (365 days)
Biggest Matches: vs. Miyu Yamashita on 1/4, vs. Yuki Aino on 7/23, vs. Hyper Misao on 8/10, vs. Mizuki on 11/7
Best Match: vs. Mizuki in Tokyo Joshi Pro on November 7th, 2020
After years of being on the cusp of being the top wrestler in Tokyo Joshi Pro, Yuka Sakazaki finally ascended to the top in 2020 and once she was there she never left. Yuka won the Princess of Princess Championship in late 2019 and held it for the entire year, and even during the pandemic she was an active champion with four successful defenses. Two of those defenses were highly rated matches, against Miyu Yamashita and Mizuki. The fact she became known to more American fans from wrestling in AEW wasn’t considered for this ranking, but it still worth mentioning. A great year for Yuka, as she cemented her place in Tokyo Joshi Pro as she dominated in one of the top Joshi promotions.
Championships Held: SEAdLINNNG Beyond The Sea Championship (172 days) and the SEAdLINNNG Beyond the Sea Tag Team Championship (312 days)
Biggest Matches: vs. Arisa Nakajima on 7/13, vs. Sareee on 9/24, with Hiroyo Matsumoto vs. Best Friends on 10/3, vs. Aja Kong on 11/4, with Sareee vs. Best Friends on 11/27
Best Match: vs. Arisa Nakajima in SEAdLINNNG on July 13th, 2020
Most of the wrestlers in the Top 10 had a fair number of matches in 2020, all things considered. Yoshiko had less than the rest, as SEAdLINNNG did not run very often, but she did a lot with the opportunities she had. Yoshiko dominated SEAdLINNNG in 2020, as she held both the singles and tag team championship. Not only did Yoshiko hold the singles title the last half of the year but she did it against very stiff competition as she defeated Arisa Nakajima, Sareee, and Aja Kong. Teaming with Sareee, Yoshiko ended the year with her new partner beating Best Friends and MAX VOLTAGE, two of the top Joshi tag teams. On top of all that, she appeared in Stardom, as she plots to invade the promotion where she began her career. Even with the pandemic raging, it was a very successful year for Yoshiko.
Championships Held: World of Stardom Championship (320 days)
Biggest Matches: vs. Momo Watanabe on 1/19, with Kagetsu vs. Jungle Kyona and Momo Watanabe on 1/26, vs. Takumi Iroha on 2/8, vs. Jungle Kyona on 7/24, vs. Syuri on 10/3, vs. Takumi Iroha on 10/18, vs. Utami Hayashishita on 11/15
Best Match: vs. Takumi Iroha in Stardom on February 8th, 2020
The Icon may have been overshadowed in 2020 by Giulia, but she still had a great year and stayed a focal part of Stardom. She held one of the top titles in the promotion for the vast majority of the year, and had four successful defenses. She also had a great mini-feud with Takumi Iroha, as they put on two of the best Joshi matches of the year. Beyond her title success, Mayu also led the STARS faction and dealt with various comings and goings in the stable, keeping her in the spotlight. A high-end and popular wrestler, Mayu will likely maintain her high status in 2021, even though she goes into the year with no titles.
Championship Held: ICExInfinity Championship (145 days)
Biggest Matches: vs. Tsukasa Fujimoto on 3/14, vs. Maya Yukihi on 6/13, vs. Maya Yukihi on 8/9, vs. Tsukushi on 9/20, vs. Saori Anou on 12/31
Best Match: vs. Maya Yukihi in Ice Ribbon on August 9th, 2020
For the past few years Ice Ribbon has been slow to elevate talented young wrestlers, but they did not make the same mistake with Suzu Suzuki as at age 17 she won the ICExInfinity Championship. When 2020 started she immediately signaled she was ready for a bigger spotlight, as she defeated Tsukasa Fujimoto on March 14th. Unlike other promotions, Ice Ribbon did not take as long of a pause as they continued running events from their Dojo, giving Suzu a chance to tally more wins. After failing to win the ICExInfinity Championship in June, she came back in August and defeated Maya Yukihi for the championship. She had three successful defenses before the year closed, as she was an active champion. Between her age and skill set, if Ice Ribbon keeps her on the path she will likely be an Ace for the promotion for many years to come.
6. Utami Hayashishita (Stardom)
Championships Held: SWA Undisputed World Women’s Championship (26 days), Artist Of Stardom Championship (39 days), Future Of Stardom Championship (47 days), Goddesses Of Stardom Championship (154 days), and the World Of Stardom Championship (47 days)
Biggest Matches: vs. Arisa Hoshiki on 1/19, with Saya Kamitani vs. Jungle Kyona and Konami on 7/26, with Saya Kamitani vs. AZM and Momo Watanabe on 11/14, vs. Mayu Iwatani on 11/15, vs. Momo Watanabe on 12/20, with Saya Kamitani vs. Bea Priestley and Konami on 12/26
Best Match: vs. Mayu Iwatani in Stardom on November 15th, 2020
As is her tradition, Utami Hayashishita was a Title Collector in 2020. At some point during the year, Utami held five different championships, and ended the year with one of the top titles in Stardom. She also put on a series of high end matches, including memorable fights against Momo Watanabe and Mayu Iwatani. On top of that, she also won the FIVE STAR GP, one of the biggest Joshi tournaments every year. Just a couple years into her career, Utami continues to gain more and more steam which is a trend that will likely continue.
Championships Held: ICExInfinity Championship (222 days) and the International Ribbon Tag Team Championship (one day)
Biggest Matches: vs. Hamuko Hoshi on 5/31, vs. Suzu Suzuki on 6/13, vs. Suzu Suzuki on 8/9, vs. Risa Sera on 10/31, with Maika Ozaki vs. Frank Sisters on 12/31
Best Match: vs. Suzu Suzuki in Ice Ribbon on August 9th, 2020
Even though Maya in 2020 was (perhaps temporarily) passed in the promotion by Suzu Suzuki, she still had a great year. Maya held the main singles title for the majority of 2020, with successful defenses over Akane Fujita, Hiragi Kurumi, Suzu Suzuki, and Hamuko Hoshi. After losing the title in August, Maya then failed to win the FantastICE Championship from Risa Sera but rebounded by winning the tag titles on the last day of the year. Maya may start 2021 focused on the tag scene but will no doubt be back trying to regain the ICExInfinity Championship before long.
8. Miyuki Takase (Actwres girl’Z)
Championships Held: Actwres girl’Z Championship (365 days) and the Diana Tag Team Championship (124 days)
Biggest Matches: vs. Nagisa Nozaki on 3/15, vs. Nagisa Nozaki on 3/21, vs. Sareee on 10/5, vs. Andras Miyagi on 11/1, vs. Akane Fujita on 11/16
Best Match: vs. Sareee in Actwres girl’Z on October 5th, 2020
A sleeper pick to be this high, but I think well deserved. Even though Miyuki is based out of AgZ, she wrestled in many other promotions in 2020 to help build her visibility and put on quality matches against a variety of opponents. During the year she had five successful defenses of the AgZ Championship, including wins over Nagisa Nozaki and Andras Miyagi. In other promotions, she challenged for the Regina di WAVE Championship and successfully won the tag team titles in Diana. Miyuki is AgZ’s undisputed Ace, and since in the past they have had trouble hanging onto wrestlers with Miyuki’s popularity, it remains to be seen how much longer she will stay in the smaller promotion.
9. Tsukasa Fujimoto (Ice Ribbon)
Championships Held: International Ribbon Tag Team Championship (222 days) and the SEAdLINNNG Beyond The Sea Tag Team Championship (56 days)
Biggest Matches: with Tsukushi vs. Ram Kaicho and Rina Yamashita on 2/24, with Tsukushi vs. Hiragi Kurumi and Mochi Miyagi on 8/9, with Arisa Nakajima vs. Hiroyo Matsumoto and Yoshiko on 8/26, with Arisa Nakajima vs. Hiroyo Matsumoto and Yoshiko on 10/3, with Arisa Nakajima vs. Sareee and Yoshiko on 11/27
Best Match: with Arisa Nakajima vs. Hiroyo Matsumoto and Yoshiko in SEAdLINNNG on August 26th, 2020
Tsukasa Fujimoto stayed out of the main title scene in Ice Ribbon for 2020, but she still was very active and had a successful year. Most of her notable victories and big matches were in the tag division, as she teamed with Tsukushi in Ice Ribbon and Arisa Nakajima in SEAdLINNNG to find title success. Particularly in her run for SEAdLINNNG, Best Friends had a number of high end matches against Hiroyo Matsumoto and Yoshiko, with the feud ending when Best Friends took the belts. Even at 37 years old, Tsukasa hasn’t lost a step as she continues to be an important part of Ice Ribbon.
10. Nagisa Nozaki (Pro Wrestling WAVE)
Championship Held: Regina Di WAVE Championship (362 days)
Biggest Matches: vs. Miyuki Takase on 3/15, vs. Miyuki Takase on 3/21, vs. Yuki Miyazaki on 7/7, vs. Sareee on 8/30, vs. Sakura Hirota on 9/6, vs. Sakura Hirota on 12/27
Best Match: vs. Miyuki Takase in Actwres girl’Z on March 15th, 2020
Pro Wrestling WAVE flies under the radar more often than not, but Nagisa Nozaki’s dominance of the promotion deserves attention. Nagisa held the Regina di WAVE Championship for almost the entire year, and had wins over Miyuki Takase, Sakura Hirota, and Rina Shingaki in defense of it. Her matches with Miyuki Takase were highly rated, and she had a special attraction match with WWE-bound Sareee over the summer. Nagisa was very loyal to WAVE in 2020 which impacted her visibility, hopefully in 2021 she is able to branch out more to other promotions.
11. Risa Sera (Ice Ribbon) – Risa continued in 2020 to not have success at the very top of the card in Ice Ribbon, but she really increased her overall impact in the promotion with the birth of the FantastICE Championship. Risa won the title in August and had seven defenses, with all the matches having a fair amount of violence attached to them. Risa is making the most of her opportunities and goes into 2021 still the FantastICE Champion.
12. Mei Suruga (Gatoh Move) – It is hard to really describe Mei Suruga and the impact she has on her fans. Gatoh Move became a popular niche promotion in the West due to their ease to watch as they started regular Youtube shows during the pandemic. While most of the action is just fun casual viewing, Mei set herself apart by not only having a ton of charisma but being entertaining and talented to boot. She didn’t win any titles in 2020 until the last day, but her impact went beyond that and under the right circumstances she could become a real force in Joshi in a very short period of time.
13. Rika Tatsumi (Tokyo Joshi Pro) – While Yuka Sakazaki dominated Tokyo Joshi Pro, Rika Tatsumi had a good year as well. She was one half of the Princess Tag Team Champions for the bulk of the year and continued to be one of the most popular wrestlers in the promotion. Aside from losing in the Tokyo Princess Cup, Rika didn’t lose any singles matches in 2020, setting herself up for a big 2021.
14. Arisa Nakajima (SEAdLINNNG) – Arisa wasn’t super active in 2020, with only 27 total matches, but when she did wrestle she made sure to make it memorable. Six of her 27 matches were title matches, as she had two runs with the SEAdLINNNG Beyond The Sea Tag Team Championship with Tsukasa Fujimoto. She also came into the year with the Beyond The Sea Championship until losing it to Yoshiko in July. Arisa continues to wrestle at a very high level as she goes into her 15th year as a wrestler, which boosted her some in this ranking as she is still one of the best in the world.
15. Syuri (Stardom) – Syuri started the year as a Freelancer and had big matches against Chihiro Hashimoto, Saori Anou, and Tsukasa Fujimoto before joining Stardom full time later in the year. In Stardom, she won the Trios titles and challenged for the World of Stardom Championship before winning the SWA Undisputed Championship in November. With her unique offense and infectious smile, it will be fun to see where Syuri’s career in Stardom takes her.
16. Rina Yamashita (Freelancer) – In a year as crazy as 2020, I have to give some love to the Broken Dumptruck. Rina Yamashita stayed very active in 2020, with almost 100 matches, and held the PURE-J tag title for half the year. She had several other memorable title challenges, including against Arisa Nakajima and Risa Sera. Rina was everywhere in 2020 and was entertaining wherever she went, showing that not even a pandemic could stop her from leaving a lasting impression with fans.
17. Mizuki (Tokyo Joshi Pro) – Mizuki didn’t hold any titles in Joshi promotions during 2020, but she still had a solid year in Tokyo Joshi Pro. She won the Tokyo Princess Cup in the summer, defeating Shoko Nakajima in the Finals. She also had what many consider one of the best Joshi matches of the year against Yuka Sakazaki on November 7th. A popular wrestler with the Tokyo Joshi Pro fandom, Mizuki will look to build on a good 2020 to have an even better 2021.
18. Takumi Iroha (Marvelous) – Before her injury in October, Takumi was having a solid year. She didn’t hold any titles, but continued to lead Marvelous and had two really great matches against Stardom wrestler Mayu Iwatani. Takumi will be on the shelf for awhile, but hopefully she can fully recover and continue being one of the most entertaining wrestlers in Japan.
19. Tam Nakano (Stardom) – Tam Nakano didn’t have a lot of success in the title scene in 2020, but she still had a big impact in Stardom as she was regularly involved in the promotion’s biggest storylines. Between her feud with Giulia and her splitting away from STARS, Tam was hard not to notice as she was one of the most visible wrestlers in the promotion. Tam may never be the “Ace” of Stardom but she will be an important part of the promotion for the foreseeable future.
20. Chihiro Hashimoto (Sendai Girls’) – Chihiro is one of wrestlers hardest to place, due to the impact of COVID. Sendai Girls’ ran less shows than most other Joshi promotions, and even though Chihiro held the championship all year she only had one defense (which was back in March). Her ranking here isn’t a statement for her future in Joshi, and I expect her to rebound once the world returns to normal.
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