Monday, September 25, 2023

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Exclusive: Kyoko Inoue on Her Return to the US, Forming World Woman Pro-Wrestling Diana in Japan & More

Veteran Japanese star, Kyoko Inoue, returned to US soil for the first time in 16 years this week for some appearances and a match at CZW against Sumie Sakai. Inoue has been wrestling for over two decades and was awarded the Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s Match of the Year in 1995 for her bout with Manami Toyota. She also had a stint in the WWF.

Inoue was the founder of NEO, a once-highly successful joshi promotion which closed its doors last year, but this year she formed World Woman Pro-Wrestling Diana which recently held its first show. Diana has drafted some familiar names from the US independent scene including Annie Social and Rain.

While visiting the US, Diva Dirt had the chance to interview Inoue about her visit, Diana and more!

Interview translated by Sumie Sakai.

How are you enjoying your trip to the US so far?
I’m really enjoying my visit. Steaks and hamburgers are so good here!

You recently launched World Woman Pro-Wrestling Diana in Japan. What was behind the decision to leave NEO after a decade and open Diana?
I wanted to start my ideal joshi puroresu organization.

What has the experience been like so far in Diana? Are you happy with the first show and the talent?
In addition to being a wrestler, I now have more office work as the president. Prior to the opening card, I wasn’t able to spend much time on training because of my duties as the president, and I wasn’t satisfied with my own match. However, other girls showed great matches!

Kyoko & Annie Social in Japan (Image: Kyoko inoue)

You’ve brought in some girls from America to Diana including Annie Social. Have they gotten a good reaction? Will you continue to bring in more Americans?
They all showed the best performances. I want to find more wrestlers from the US.

What are your thoughts on being the first woman to hold a men’s title in Japan?
I give all the credits to to my tag team partner Fuyuki-san. I was scared everyday, but I’m glad I never fled!

How does it feel to be recognized as the 1995 Match of the Year vs. Manami Toyota in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter? Your memories of that match?
I had most matches everyday during that time, and I’m really surprised to find out that my endless effort was appreciated by the fans overseas.

What was it like working in WWF (now WWE) in 1995? Would you have worked for them again if they had asked you?
Back then, yes! Now? No way! I just started Diana in Japan!

What was your time in CMLL like in Mexico?
I was surprised by the size of the Arena Mexico and the exciting reaction from the audience.

You are well known for your bright and colorful wrestling attire – was there any particular inspiration behind it?
I wanted to be “ichiban” (number one) like Hulk Hogan.

In 2004, you appeared in a small role in the movie “Beautiful Boxer” – a film based on a true story about a Muay Thai boxer who undergoes a sex change operation to become a woman.
I enjoyed the filming that. I had a VIP treatment in Thailand because we [the subject of the film, Nong Thoom] became friends after I had a match against her.

In March, Japan was unfortunately hit by a massive tsunami which then triggered a series of earthquakes (the largest being a 9.0 on the richter scale) – aside from emotionally, were you affected by these disasters at all?
I lost one of my friends [in the disaster]. Japan is really going through a tough time right now. However, I hope puroresu can encourage Japan.

Do you have any advice for anyone who would like to travel to Japan soon?
If you travel to Japan, come to the arena for the Diana cards!

Visit Kyoko’s official website here. Visit the official website of World Woman Pro-Wrestling Diana here.

Kyoko will wrestle Sumie Sakai tonight at CZW in Philadelphia. For more information & tickets click here.

With thanks to Jamilia Craft for her help with the interview and Sumie Sakai for translation.

— Additional reporting by Katelyn

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