Spotlight: Bull Nakano

As we approach the historic Joshimania shows, presented by CHIKARA, Dirty Dirty Sheets will present a number of articles in hopes to increase fan awareness and knowledge about the women coming to Joshimania, and the history of Joshi Puroresu in general. Today we present a spotlight of one of Joshi’s most enduring icons, Bull Nakano.

Once you heard her music, you knew things were going to pick up, big time. Bull Nakano was one of the most feared wrestlers of her time. With her gargantuan hair and her intimidating face paint, you knew immediately upon seeing her that Nakano was not to be messed with.

Nakano made an impact quickly in the wrestling world, debuting at the tender age of fifteen for All Japan under her real name, Keiko Nakano in 1983. She won the AJW Junior Championship in September of the next year and held it for eight months. She joined the Gokuaku Doumei (Heinous Alliance) of notorious “Super Heel” Dump Matsumoto, shaved half her head, and transformed into the face-painted beast we know today. At this time she won the AJW Championship, the secondary singles title in AJW, and held it for a full three years. She also took over the stable, renaming it Gokumon-to, and over the years led women like Bison Kimura, Bat Yoshinaga, Aja Kong, and Kyoko Inoue.

In 1986 she had a short run in North America with Dump Matsumoto, who was her mentor. She also then won the WWWA World Tag Team title with Dump, who retired, leaving Nakano to hold the title two more times with two different partners (Condor Saito and Grizzly Iwamoto) after this she focused more on her singles career in which she briefly appeared in Mexico and won the CMLL’s first Women’s title in 1992.

In AJW, Bull was famous for her epic matches with and against Aja Kong. They were factios mates and a dominant tag team together, but it was Kong who Nakano dropped the WWWA title to her in a brutal steel cage match. This was after Bull had another historic, nearly 3 year-long reign.

She then returned to the US in 1994, this time with a bigger role. She was a main stay in the Women’s title picture feuding with Madusa Miceli. She lost to Madusa in the summer of 1994 but then went on to win it in her home country at the Big Egg Wrestling Universe event in November. She held the title for five months until she dropped it back to Madusa. Soon after this, she was released from the company. She then went on to wrestle for a rival US promotion where she continued her feud with Madusa, with Madusa winning their final match together. This was the last of Nakano in the USA and soon after Nakano left wrestling altogether.

Since then, Nakano spent time becoming a professional women’s golfer as well as writing books on cooking and weight loss. A few years ago she opened up her own restaurant, as retired Japanese wrestlers are known to do, though she closed it temporarily in order to find a larger location.

With her strong offense and her outlandish hair, Nakano stood out to me when I first started watching old wrestling tapes. When I found out she started at such a young age it was someone I felt I could relate to. Her passion stood out and that’s why I consider Nakano to be one of the best ever.

While Nakano left wrestling in 1997 (she never had an official retirement ceremony), her legacy and impact lives on through many wrestlers today, including Sara Del Rey who even uses Nakano’s entrance music. Countless other female wrestlers, in both Japan and North America, have listed her as an influence in their wrestling style and one of the reasons they chose to step in the ring in the first place.

For years fans and wrestlers have clamored for her to return to the ring, this January in Tokyo, Bull will produce a show which will finally include her retirement ceremony. As of now, she is not scheduled to wrestle on the show itself, though it is known that Aja Kong will appear.

As Bull walks away from wrestling for good, please look back at her career via the matches selected below. Nakano is a certified wrestling legend and we can thank her efforts for helping pave the way for the Joshi of today.

  1. Bull Nakano vs. Jaguar Yokota
  2. Bull Nakano vs. Aja Kong – WWWA Title Cage Match
  3. Keiko Nakano & Yumi Ogura vs. The Jumping Bomb Angels
  4. Keiko Nakano vs. Yumi Ogura – AJW Jr. Title Match
  5. Bull Nakano & Aja Kong vs. Manami Toyota & Toshiyo Yamada
  6. Bull Nakano & Aja Kong vs. Harley Saito & Eagle Sawai

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