Mariko Yoshida had a storied career spanning three decades and several of the greatest Joshi promotions. She went from a beloved, high-flying mid-carder in AJW to a dominant shootstyle main eventer in ARSION. She had done it all in Joshi, including winning several titles, wrestling in the US, and even starting her own promotion, IBUKI, to train the next generation. As the years passed by, her pupils grew, and her injuries mounted, she quietly walked away from the ring having accomplished all there was to accomplish as a Joshi wrestler. Or so we all thought. Earlier this year Mariko Yoshida surprised fans, wrestlers, and promoters alike by making her return to the ring after a multi-year absence. She’s also recently joined twitter and started her own UStream channel, in hopes of connecting with her legions of longtime fans. We are proud to present to you our interview with the legendary Mariko Yoshida.
Co-authored by Leslie. Translation by Aoikougei.
Please tell us why you chose to become a professional wrestler? When you started, who were some of the wrestlers that guided you?
I was attracted to wrestling by watching the Crush Gals. I wanted to be like them. It was my trainer, Jaguar Yokota, [that guided me the most].
You were injured in 1992, and didn’t wrestle for two years. During that time, you were still one of the most popular wrestlers in AJW. What was that period like for you?
I was really glad to have the people behind me, it was great. I had the support of everyone, and after my recovery I fought very hard for the fans.
You often teamed with and wrestled against Manami Toyota. What are your thoughts on her?
Outside the ring, she is a very gentle and kind person. But inside the ring, she has impeccable focus!
In 1997 many wrestlers left AJW. Why did you choose to go to ARSION?
At that time, I had fractured my arm and was out of action. ARSION invited me to join them and, when I was set to make my return, that is where I wanted to go.
In the early years of your career you had a high-flying style. However your wrestling became much more mixed martial arts based. Why did you make this change?
I changed companies, going from AJW to Arsion, so I wanted to change my image. I was very interested in different submission locks and techniques.
You were considered the “ace” of ARSION and were the first champion. What was that like?
Being in ARSION was very different from being AJW, as I had the responsibility of carrying the company on my back.
Ayako Hamada made her debut for ARSION as a new star. Please give us your thoughts on her and her career.
Ayako had been around the ring all of her life, and when she made her debut, she was completely different. Something new and cool! The moves she did, for being a rookie, were incredible.
You had many great battles with Aja Kong. What where those matches like for you?
Yes! Aja Kong is such a great wrestler. Being able to wrestle someone of her caliber, as many times as I did, made me very happy.
ARSION had many great wrestlers like Michiko Ohmukai, Azumi Hyuga, Lioness Asuka, and others. Who here some of your favorites on the roster?
Lioness Asuka. I was 15 years old when I first watched her, and that was when I said, “I want to become a wrestler!” When I had my first singles match against her, my heart was about to beat out of my chest!
In 2005 you started the Ibuki promotion, and trained many women like Misaki Ohata, Hiroyo Matsumoto, Tomoka Nakagawa, and Ayumi Kurihara. Why was training the new generation important to you? What do you think of their success?
By training younger wrestlers I have learned a lot of things as well. I am happy for their success and that they are making it on their own!
You wrestled Megumi Fujii a few times. After your matches, she went on to become the best female MMA fighter in the world.
Megumi Fujii is fast. If you give her the slightest opening, she will move on that chance and you could be in an armlock so quickly. Wrestling against her, I’ve never experienced that kind of tension in the ring before.
You previously wrestled for Chickfight in the US and became Champion there. What was your experience wrestling in America like?
The American fans cheered for me loudly, and it was a great feeling. I could raise the level of my game and I really enjoyed the matches.
How was Cheerleader Melissa as an opponent?
Melissa’s technique is so good, and she has power and stamina. She is a smart wrestler. I love Melissa!
Would you like to return to America and wrestle some day?
Yes, I want to!
What do you feel has been your greatest accomplishment in wrestling?
That I was able to meet so many people. That I was even able to go to America to meet the fans.
You took some time off these past few years, but recently returned to wrestling for Diana. Why did you leave? What made you decide to come back?
I took a break because my health wasn’t good, and my wrestling game wasn’t where it should be. While I was off, I started “core training” and my body was renewed! I heard that Kyoko Inoue had started DIANA, and I thought that I’d like to join, so I showed up. Also, I wanted to see the effects of my core training [on my wrestling], and how my body would feel now.
Besides training, what are some other things you like to do in your free time?
What I enjoy doing in my free time is just relaxing, daydreaming, and reading.
Please give your thoughts on Bull Nakano and Akira Hokuto.
Bull Nakano was very fierce and frightening inside of the ring; but she is so very kind outside of the ring.
Akira Hokuto was my senpai [senior colleague], and in my rookie days I was often her ring attendant. I learned more from her than any other veteran.
You wrestled at the highest point of Joshi in front of tens of thousands of fans. Do you think Joshi will ever return to that point?
If the way things are done are changed, then it’s a possibility. It is being planned right now!
In closing, is there anything that you would like to say to your fans in America?
I am very happy and touched to do this interview with you. Currently, I am planning a new venture involving stunt-people. We hope to show it to American fans in the near future! Thank you so much. I′m looking forward to seeing you some day!
You can learn more about Mariko by following her on Twitter (@mariko21585), her UStream Channel, and checking out her Official Website (yoshida-mariko.com) . Also, see below as we’ve put together and uploaded a compilation of some of Mariko’s greatest matches from her days in ARSION. It’s all amazing. Enjoy!
Mariko Yoshida: Air Raid Crash Vol. 1
- 1999.02.18 – Mariko Yoshida vs. Hiromi Yagi
- 1999.12.11 – Mariko Yoshida vs. Aja Kong
- 2001.07.03 – Mariko Yoshida vs. Lioness Asuka
- 1998.12.18 – Mariko Yoshida vs. Candy Okutsu
- 1999.01.17 – Mariko Yoshida vs. Mika Akino
- 2002.07.21 – Mariko Yoshida vs. Takako Inoue