When Jamie Hayter challenged Emi Sakura for the January 27, 2023 episode of All Elite Wrestling: Rampage, she wanted to face someone she deemed worthy to fight for the Women’s Championship. Someone who has been left in the Dark for American audiences for far too long.
In the midst of appearances at indie, Joshi, and lucha promotions, alongside AEW’s YouTube shows, many aren’t aware of how deadly, significant, and historical she is. Just as Mildred Burke once set about to bring professional wrestling to an international market, Sakura brings her own vision of what it could be.
Sakura carries a legacy that demands to be televised and broadcast to the masses, exploding upon what was once thought possible for her.
In fact, at age seventeen, she was trained and grown in an environment that would create badasses – IWA Japan and FMW, which were the rage in the 90’s, hard hitting and with bloodshed. Under the name Emi Motokawa, she got her start, but she was far from done, even after her departure from IWA Japan and the collapse of FMW.
Eventually, she would change her name to Emi Sakura and in her time as a freelancer, changed her moniker to Emi Sakura. Years later, she would form her own promotion, Ice Ribbon, in 2006, which is still going today, despite her having left the company in 2012. In this time, she wrestled many legends and future stars, such as Meiko Satomura, Kyoko Inoue, Nanae Takahashi, Hikaru Shida, Kana, and Syuri. Sakura would even ven
Though I admittedly don’t catch Ice Ribbon as often enough as I would like, I recommend it for any fans of women’s wrestling. Her influence left a lot of talented women that are bound to be future stars, and some of the popular freelance wrestlers would benefit, be they members of Stardom, AEW, or even WWE!
In 2012, Sakura would form what is known as Gatoh Move Pro Wrestling, which is more commonly known as Choco-Pro, which can currently be viewed weekly on their YouTube channel. It was at Gatoh move, where Sakura would bring about the promotion’s title, the Super Asia Championship and where the stories of Lulu Pencil, Riho, and Chie Koishikawa in a small building with no turnbuckles, no ring posts, and no apron. Just a “chocolate” square, serving as a mat in the middle of the ring.
It’s some free entertainment, paid only in support and features some memorable storylines, especially if you can get over the language barrier.
But what about Emi’s time so far in All Elite Wrestling? It is true that the company sought to deliver the wonder and spectacle of Japanese women’s wrestling, with the character and stiffness that grows with it, at the recommendation of Kenny Omega, which has seen its fair share of diminishing returns. This is due to a lack of focus on the women’s division (which is being rectified and improved upon immensely weekly at the time of writing), the Covid restrictions, and travel issues, and has saw Sakura work on the independent circuit with promotions such as Deadlock Pro Wrestling (which you should definitely watch), and AEW Dark and Dark: Elevation.
Those who have watched these Dark tapings weekly know that any match featuring Sakura is going to be a delicious treat, be it her summoning the spirit of her hero and inspiration, Freddie Mercury, in bohemian tribute or forcing referees to bend the knee and succumb to her feminine wiles. She’s someone who deserves to be in the spotlight as much as her fellow members of the roster, commanding the attention of her loyal subjects watching in the arena or watching at home.
That said, though she can be fun and entertaining, there is a reason that Jamie Hayter chose the legend for this match.
If you thought Hayter’s battles with Toni Storm and Hikaru Shida were awesome as of late, then prepare yourself for a treat and bend your knee to the queen as she prepares to rock the champion, my friends. She’s going to make this a match that helps make the title and makes Hayter’s reign.
And even if she loses, she’ll keep on fighting ‘till the end.