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WRESTLING COLUMNS

Making The Dangerous Queen
October 1, 2005 by Neel T.


In my previous column, 'All That Joshi', I aimed to explore joshi puroresu's (Japanese women's wrestling) glory days and how it achieved acceptance by male audiences.

This column looks specifically at one key wrestler of joshi's last heyday. The 1990's produced a set of arguably the best workers ever. High class matches and distinctive characters were made, but for me, one woman significantly stood out from her peers. She was a pioneer of the business and was probably the most complete wrestler in joshi puroresu of the said decade. I give you Akira Hokuto! Born Hisako Uno on July 13th 1967, the pro-wrestling world was about to welcome a new deity of the squared circle. Uno graduated from the All Japan Women Dojo in the mid 1980's. The joshi scene had almost immediately taken notice of the youngster as she had her debut match in June 1985. Glimpses of a future breakout star had already seen the light of day: fortunes could only be on the rise! She quickly earned her first junior title in 1986. That same year, her fine in-ring abilities were put on show when she tagged with Yukari Omori to wrestle then-icon Chigusa Nagayo and Yumiko Hotta. It was regarded as All Japan Women's top match of that year.

Prior to her 20th birthday, Uno introduced an element of her character that stuck around throughout her caeer. Not many wrestlers could emulate this. Having beaten the Glamour Girls for the prestigious WWWA World Tag Team Titles with partner Yumiko Hotta, they went onto defend the belts against a team called the Red Typhoons. This was a 2/3 Falls match. Uno was on the receiving end of a vicious tombstone piledriver from the top-rope. Much to the utter perplexity of the crowd, Uno literally got up and held her head back in place and continued wrestling though the entire third fall! This match was the very start of Uno's great reputation as joshi's most gutsy performer, who fought through injury and still sustained a high level of workrate.

The neck injury prevented her from wrestling for about a year. Upon her return, a newly repackaged Uno emerged as Akira Hokuto. Named after the hugely popular male wrestler Akira Maeda, Hokuto's trademark bleached blonde hair and highly decorative ring attire caught the attention of fans very quickly. The Dangerous Queen had arrived!

Hokuto formed a new tag-team with the underrated Suzuka Minami called the Marine Wolves. They traded the WWWA Tag Titles back and forth with other teams.

The Japan Grand Prix Tournament was held annually to determine a new number one contender for the highly regarded WWWA World Singles Title. Hokuto was to be booked as the winner in 1990. She faced Manami Toyota, another phenomenal worker. Unexpectedly, however, Hokuto suffered a new setback during the match. A botched plancha meant that her knee made full impact with the guardrail. There was an unsettling visual of Hokuto's knee being torn open as she writhed in pain. To the surprise of the crowd, Hokuto chose not give in. She tied a tourniquet around her knee, but could barely even stand. Her ability to withstand injury and determination to carry on fighting grew on this night. As well as the fans' deep concerns, great admiration was shown for her heart and willingness to continue. This was the true spectacle of the Grand Prix final.

Though injuries old and new would come and go, Hokuto still delivered an assortment ****+ of matches in 91 and 92.

Entering 1993, Dangerous Queen would step her game up to a whole new level. AJW was the top Japanese promotion of the time and its inter-promotional matches with companies like JWP played a pivotal role in its success. 93's biggest card was undoubtedly the two-part All Star Dream Slam. Hokuto had began an enormous feud with Shinobu Kandori of the LLPW promotion. Their match at All Star Dream Slam I is probably my all-time favorite. Many people see this as a benchmark in wrestling. Not only was the actual wrestling outstanding, but the sheer drama and storytelling throughout went unrivalled. From the very first cheap shot Hokuto gave Kandori, you could tell that this was going to set up a classic grudge match. It went on for an exciting 30 minutes and felt like absolute hell for both women. Hokuto was nearly flattened by Kandori's stiff offence (she was using shoot-style submissions a lot). Her selling was near flawless and had the crowd in her favor throughout. She even bladed after receiving a sick tombstone pile-driver over the announce table. Despite all these odds, she never once backed down. Akira fought with every ounce of blood and sweat she had. Executing some of her well-known signature moves like the spin kick and Northern Lights Bomb certainly got the crowd's approval. She even delivered two consecutive high-spots onto the outside. A flip plancha followed by a missile dropkick! I was truly in awe of her at this point. In the final few minutes both women reverted to a hard exchange of punches. After a near double KO, Hokuto slowly crawled over Kandori for the win. ***** undeniably. The Dangerous Queen had clearly secured her place as a future legend. If any one match could epitomize Akira Hokuto this was the one. While there were many amazing AJW wrestlers being produced, all of them were just transcended by Hokuto on this night. She was a warrior and the finest representative of joshi puroresu. The way she could tell a story within that ring was so original and like no other.

Her legend and legacy kept on growing that same year. Most notably, at the Japan Grand Prix Finals, she wrestled two ****+ matches. Her semi-final bout against Manami Toyota was, as usual, excellent. But the final was even more memorable. Hokuto had been suffering from a pretty bad back injury, so that could've hindered her ability to work a second match on the same night. Not only did she fight through the pain, but also managed to carry an unspectacular opponent in Yumiko Hotta to something special. Though she won the match and tournament, her title aspirations were pretty much shot down as she required surgery soon. It felt like a bit of an empty victory, and in hindsight quite upsetting as she would never win the WWWA World Singles Title.

'94 and '95 saw her maintain her tough image. Her feud with Kandori was settled in a unique match at Queendom 1994. The rivals were paired to take on AJW's premier monster heels Bull Nakano and Aja Kong. Here the running narrative of the match was very interesting. The rivals often miscommunicated and had a few altercations. Kong and Nakano took full advantage of this. The result was a stiff, high impact match with varying pace and a great deal of psychology. With Hokuto picking up the win for her team, Kandori slapped her hand in respect. Nice closure to a brutal feud!

Hokuto went onto enjoy international success by winning titles in Mexico (CMLL) and the United States (WCW). The latter, to me, felt more like an added bonus for being such a tremendous worker. After all, WCW would soon scrap its ill-fated women's division! She took time off to have a baby in 1997.

Miraculously she returned to the ring after giving birth in 1998. It was just another indicator of her enigmatic character and how it evolved over time. Now she wrestled for the upstart GAEA promotion. Though arguably past her prime, she still showcased enough savvy as a ring veteran to take on the new-blood of the business. She had an impressive singles match against GAEA's brightest young star Meiko Satmoura in 2001. Hokuto displayed as much passion as she did 7-8 years ago.

A year later, the fascinating career of one of pro-wrestling's elite finally came to a close. She teamed up with Satomura this time to face the legendary Chigusa Nagayo and young newcomer Ayako Hamada. The emotion and poignancy of the occasion was felt throughout the arena. Even as a retirement match, she was STILL willing to put herself on the line just to entertain her fans everywhere. She was wrestling with a broken rib proving that she could still go with as much tenacity as she had in her prime.

The Dangerous Queen would end her career with as much fighting spirit as ever. Although she would never obtain the WWWA World Singles Title, I believe that she didn't need to win it. She was ahead of everyone in joshi puroresu and was really the champion representative of the entire AJW promotion. Thank you Hisako, your legacy will reign on for generations to come.

by Neel T. ..


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