by Sonny Gutierrez
I am currently 48 hours removed from Sunday’s Stardom show at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo and I am still trying to decompress my thoughts and feelings. No matter how many times you go to Korakuen Hall, every time you walk through the stairwell and through the lobby doors the history and the prestige just hit you.
This was going to be my first time watching Stardom at Korakuen, having seen them several times at Shin-Kiba 1st Ring in Tokyo. Korakuen is home to big shows, and this was to be no exception. My favorite wrestler, Act Yasukawa was going to be challenging for Stardom’s World of Stardom belt in the main event against champion Yoshiko.
I expected it to be a fun card and an exciting afternoon. For the most part, it was. It was great to see Koguma win the High Speed title from Io Shirai. Koguma is just 16 years old, but is developing into something really special, and has gained a really big following.
But I was at Korakuen Hall to see Act. As a fan, I fell in love with Act Yasukawa’s wrestling style and her charisma as soon as I saw her. She has that star personality; she puts everything she has into her Act persona. When she started wrestling she was rough around the edges, but with time she developed into a wonderful and unique wrestler.
It was just roughly one year ago that DDS editor-in-chief Leslie and I sat down with Act Yasukawa for dinner and interviewed her for dirtydirtysheets.com and listened to her life story. I met a woman that was kind, and polite, and sweet. She had nothing but the utmost respect and passion for professional wrestling as an art and a craft, and all that she desired was to become the best in the business.
Act has faced a myriad of health problems over her lifetime and just last April was hospitalized for months due to her fight with Graves’ disease. During this time, I kept in touch with Act. She would always say how much she missed wrestling. All that she wanted was to make her way back to the ring and perform. The squared circle was her grand stage in life.
Due to Graves’ disease Act was blind in her right eye, but during her hospitalization she underwent successful surgery to correct her eyesight.
I remember attending a Stardom show at Shin-Kiba in September 2014, and being surprised that Act was there. She had only recently been released from the hospital, but here she was, back around the sport that she loves so much. Act had been a main event wrestler, and Stardom’s Wonder of Stardom champion at the time of her hospitalization in April, and had to give up the title. Now she was back, and was not cleared to even train yet, but she wanted so badly to be around wrestling that she took up any jobs that management would give her, such as selling merchandise before shows and at intermission, being a ring second, and cleaning the ring and wiping down the ring ropes in between matches. She didn’t care about pride, she just wanted to be around wrestling.
On October 26th Stardom ran two shows at Shin-Kiba: a normal morning show and a Halloween show at night. Act and I were speaking before the morning show, and she told me, “This is a secret, but I am coming back to wrestle in December right here at Shin-Kiba.” She was beaming with pride, and I was so happy for her. She did come back and in January she once again won the Wonder of Stardom championship, a belt that she had never lost in the first place.
All of her life, Act was a loner but upon her return to Stardom she was welcomed back into the Monster Army faction, and allowed to rename it Oedo Tai. Stardom rookie Kris Wolf, who is also in Oedo Tai, is someone that I have had the opportunity to befriend. Being two foreigners living in Japan and sharing a love for pro wrestling has given us a special kinship and we often talk about things going on in wrestling. Wolf told me: “When Act joined Oedo Tai, we were both happy that we had this group to be in. We were both kind of on the outside, and now we have this group. Act is always so kind to everyone and she is very sweet and caring.”
Sunday was Act’s time to be at the top again, and main event a show at Korakuen Hall. I wasn’t going to miss this for anything. Act’s mother and father were also present at this show. This was supposed to be a special day.
Once all of the formalities had ended and the match between Act and Yoshiko began that feeling of excitement and anticipation dissipated. I was there to see my friend Act Yasukawa wrestling a pro wrestling match, but instead I saw Yoshiko beat her bloody with repeated punches to her face. I had a knot in my stomach as I watched, knowing that it just wasn’t right, and wishing that I could do something to help Act, but knowing that I couldn’t do anything. I’m sure I wasn’t the only person in the crowd feeling that way.
Korakuen Hall was silent. Legendary referee Kyohei Wada looked to Stardom President Rossy Ogawa for guidance, and even with 50 plus years of experience between them, they failed to act. The match was thankfully stopped when Kyoko Kimura threw in the towel to save Act from further damage (she was still trying to get get back into the ring).
As Act was dragged away to the back, bloody and crying, she screamed “I want to do pro wrestling!” She didn’t want to stop; she wanted to wrestle for the fans. She didn’t want things to fall apart the way that it did, especially after all she went through to get back into wrestling and Stardom and the main event of Korakuen Hall. What happened was a travesty.
Act issued an apology to fans yesterday her blog. She can’t open her eyes, so her mother typed for her. She was beaten senselessly, yet she felt the need to apologize to the fans because she felt that she had let us down. Her left orbital socket is fractured, and her right can’t be checked due to swelling, and she may have suffered a retinal detachment, but she apologized and asked fans to not think badly of Stardom.
When we asked Act last year how she would describe herself, Yuka Yasukawa, she said: Zasso damashi. It means, “Like a weed that doesn’t die, even if it is stepped on, or crushed, it keeps on living.”
Yuka Yasukawa has a heart of gold. Ask anyone that has met her. They will tell you the same. She has a deep love, and respect for professional wrestling, and a desire to be the best that she can be within those ropes. Act has faced adversity all of her life and has constantly had to fight to overcome the odds. I have no doubt that Yuka Yasukawa will return from this stronger than ever. She won’t feel humiliated, she won’t be apprehencious. She will tackle this like a real champion, headstrong, and make her way back to the top of the mountain. She is a real pro wrestler.