Greg DeMarco looks at the wrestling side of the death of Joshi sensation Hana Kimura.
It seems weird to sit here and type this article on Hana Kimura–but I am going to do it. I’ll explain why in a moment. But the world is a really screwed place right now. Truth is, the world has always been a screwed up place, it’s just at the forefront right now. Regardless of states “opening up” and some areas even seeing wrestling show, we are still dealing with COVID-19 and the Coronavirus…with no end in sight. But that’s been going on for 3 months now. Add in the deaths of Larry Csonka (who gave me my start), Shad Gaspard (who you won’t hear a bad word about), and today Danny Havoc, and wrestling has been rocked lately.
But the death of George Floyd has brought back up an issue that has no end in sight, but the beginning is far out of sight as well. #BlackLivesMatter is a real thing, because black lives matter! White people, especially in America, control far too much of the money, opportunity, and future to pretend that black people haven’t been oppressed for pretty much our entire existence as a nation. And because of the money, opportunity, and future I listed above, it’s time for the silent majority to stop being silent. That includes me, and it’s very likely–just based on the demographics of wrestling fans online–that includes you as well. And the fact that far too many white people are trying to divert any attention to businesses that are being looted and riots that are out of control proves my point. Stop trying to address the symptoms and address the real problem. Peaceful protests don’t work, because we keep saying “…but not like that.” It’s time for a systemic change, and it’s not coming from the government. It has to come from us.
That is another column for another time. This is about Hana Kimura, a beautiful soul taken from the world of professional wrestling far too soon.
You’re likely either puzzled or intrigued by the title of my article, because I am not looking at the personal side of a death, I am looking at the business side of it. I am but a very casual fan of Joshi at the most, and that’s probably giving me too much credit. I can never give the passing of Hana Kimura the justice it deserves, but Andrew Balaz did just that last week, in an article you can (and should) read here.
Writing about the business side is my wheelhouse. It’s what I do. I promote wrestling events (another thing impacted by COVID-19), so I look at the business differently than many of you. So for me to put the passing of Hana Kimura into perspective (and perspective is what we, as writers, offer), I have to do it from the business side.
At the time of her passing, professional wrestler and reality TV star Hana Kimura was 22 years old. She had been performing in Stardom in Japan (along with multiple appearances in the United States, notably for Ring Of Honor and AEW), and was also a part of the Stardom showcase match that took place in the Tokyo Dome before WrestleKingdom 14 in front of over 40,000 people. She took her own life due to harassment related to her involvement not in professional wrestling, but as a member of the cast of Terrace House, a reality putting six people in a house together and creating dating scenarios for them to encounter. Reports later surfaced that she tried to get out of the show back in December, but was unable to do so. Thus, she continued to meet her obligations to the show on which she was contracted to appear.
Hana Kimura was trained by the Wrestle-1 University, but her mother is Kyoko Kimura, who wrestled from 2003 to 2017. Hana was born in 1997, meaning she was 6 years old when her mother debuted as a pro wrestler. Hana saw every bit of her mother’s career…the wrestling business was literally in her blood.
Hana only had 4 years of wrestling experience, but had become one of the most well known performers outside of the United States, with her in-ring acumen growing exponentially during that time. As I said, I am a casual Joshi fan at best, but if you said “Stardom” to me and asked me who comes to mind, you’re getting two names: Kagetsu and Hana Kimura.
At her young age, the potential she had in the business was unlimited, especially when you add in her look, charisma, and popularity. That’s where the title of this article comes into play: Hana Kimura could have been one of the biggest stars in the wrestling business–male or female.
As I mentioned, Hana Kimura was 22 years old when she passed away last week. Let’s take a look at the ages of the biggest female stars in WWE today:
- Becky Lynch, arguably the biggest women’s wrestling star in the world when she left to start a family, is 33 years old
- Charlotte Flair is 34
- Sasha Banks is 28
- Bayley is 30
- Ronda Rousey, currently inactive, is 33
- Shayna Baszler is 39
- Asuka is 38
- Alexa Bliss is 28
- Io Shirai is 30
- Rhea Ripley is 23
- Candice LeRae is 34
Let’s fast forward 10 years, when Hana Kimura is a 14-year veteran of the business at age 32. It’s entirely conceivable that the only person on this list still active is Rhea Ripley. there is a chance that Sasha Banks and Alexa Bliss, at 38, are also active. But for all intents and purposes, we would be into the second wave of female talent atop WWE, and if she chose to come over, Hana could be the leader of the pack.
It’s very possible that Hana Kimura wouldn’t go the Shinsuke Nakamura route in wanting to prove himself on American soil, instead taking the Kazuchika Okada route and carrying the Japanese product on her shoulders. Stardom has been purchased by Bushiroad, the parent company of New Japan. According to my conversation with the aforementioned Andrew Balaz, the whole reason Hana went on Terrace House was to spread the joy of Joshi and Stardom.
But it would take a cultural shift for Japan’s focus on women’s wrestling to match what we see here in the States. If I am placing a bet, I could see WWE aggressively signing more Stardom talent in the coming years. I would expect Hana Kimura to be one of the prime targets. I don’t know how strong her English was, but there would have been plenty of time for her to pick it up. And if how fast she picked up the wrestling business is any indication, she had it in her to become really strong in English.
To be blunt: in 2029-2030, it’s 100% reasonable to see Hana Kimura at the level in WWE that Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair are in 2019-2020. Hana Kimura vs. Rhea Ripley could easily have main evented WrestleMania 45m and we could easily throw Becky Lynch in as the special referee. Kimura would be a media darling in America, carrying the flag with Charlotte Flair and Bayley rooting her on via social media. She could be retiring Sasha Banks and/or Alexa Bliss, she could be singing the praises of Triple H and the impact he’s had on her career.
When you look at the facts, it’s more than reasonable to say this could happen. Add in Hana’s ability, charisma, and age, and it’s damn near probable. But because of some coward fanboy keyboard warriors, none of it is going to happen.
Well, it will happen…with someone else. But it’s fair to say that if Hana Kimura wanted it, it would have been hers for the taking. Instead it was taken from her, and it was taken from us. It was taken from wrestling.
The world is a crazy, and sometimes scary, place right now. It largely always has been, and probably always will be. We can make a difference. Be a good person, stand up for what’s right even if you’re not the one being wronged, and let’s make this a better place. Stay safe, stay healthy, and stay good to each other.
Greg DeMarco is a life-long wrestling fan who has been providing analysis and perspective online since 2010. He’s also worked for various wrestling promotions including the NWA and Ring Of Honor, and currently promotes IZW Wrestling in Arizona.
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