Puroresu Spirit 2017 Joshi Year End Award Winners

Thank you to all who participated in the voting of our second annual Joshi Year End Awards! The results were extremely close in all but a few categories, which just goes to show that this past year featured no shortage of excellent matches and shows in joshi wrestling. We’re thrilled to once again take a look back and highlight some the best of them. This year, in addition to the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners, we’ll show the percentage of votes for all nominees who received votes, including the write-ins, in order to ensure that everyone who was voted for is represented. And with that, here are the winners!

 

Wrestler of the Year: Hiroyo Matsumoto (40%)

2017 may have been a strong year for Joshi wrestling as a whole, but it was the also the year of “Lady Destroyer” Hiroyo Matsumoto. She dominated the voting in this category, amassing a whopping 40%, and it’s not hard to see why. Matsumoto began the year with her first successful defense of the OZ Academy Openweight Championship, and held onto the title all the way until late October. That reign lasted a grand total of 350 days, during which time she also captured the Sendai Girls World Championship, as well as the Goddesses of Stardom and Artist of Stardom Championships, and for a very brief period held all four of those titles simultaneously. Those who voted on these awards may have also noticed Matsumoto’s name appear quite a bit in the “Match of the Year” category. On top of her multiple title victories, she had a stellar year in terms of match quality. Matsumoto wrestled in 14 different promotions this past year, not including the many self-produced shows she made appearances on, and always left her mark. Many women had a great year in 2017, but it’s hard to argue that anyone stood out more than Hiroyo Matsumoto.

2nd place: Io Shirai (13%)
3rd place: Risa Sera & Mayu Iwatani (tie, 9%)
5th: Chihiro Hashimoto (8%); 6th: Misaki Ohata (5%); 7th: Rina Yamashita & Kagetsu (Write-in) (tie, 3%); 9th: Tsukasa Fujimoto & Arisa Nakajima (tie, 2%); 11th: Hanako Nakamori, Kris Wolf (Write-in) & Tam Nakano (Write-in) (tie, 1%)

 

Match of the Year: Hiroyo Matsumoto vs Hikaru Shida – OZ Academy “Plum Hanasaku,” Aug 20 (17%) 

The votes were extremely close for this category, though it should probably come as little surprise the Wrestler of the Year was part of the Match of the Year. Though the match happened in August, the story between these two began when Shida pinned Matsumoto in a tag match near the end of 2016. Shida repeatedly voiced her claim to contendership for the OZ Academy Openweight Championship, but one obstacle after another prevented her from challenging. Matsumoto had a scheduled defense against Kyoko Kimura. Shida & Syuri defended the tag titles against Matsumoto & Kagetsu, the latter of whom defeated Shida in a singles match to earn a title shot before her. Finally Shida earned her right to challenge after defeating Mayumi Ozaki in a match with the odds heavily stacked against her with Police as the special referee. Eight months of hurdles were overcome to bring about the climactic conclusion of this feud, and it lived up to the hype. The raw determination of Hikaru Shida taking on the power and stubbornness of Hiroyo Matsumoto was a tremendous and memorable battle of wills that left a lasting impression.

2nd place: Chihiro Hashimoto vs Meiko Satomura – Sendai Girls “Big Show in Sendai,” Sep 24 (15%)
3rd place: Io Shirai vs Toni Storm – Stardom “5★STAR GP 2017 Day 2,” Aug 20, Mayu Iwatani vs Kagetsu – Stardom “5★STAR GP 2017 Finals,” Sep 18, & Risa Sera 60-Minute Ironwoman Deathmatch Gauntlet – Ice Ribbon/Risa Sera 4th Produce “Last Death Match,” Nov 14 (tie, 9%)
6th: Yoko Bito vs Takumi Iroha – Oct 17 (8%); 7th: Hiroyo Matsumoto vs Chihiro Hashimoto – July 15 & Hiroyo Matsumoto vs Meiko Satomura – April 6 (tie, 6%); 9th: Best Friends vs Avid Rival III – Aug 27 (5%); 10th: Miyu Yamashita vs Meiko Satomura – Aug 26 (3%); 11th: Arisa Nakajima vs Nanae Takahashi – Jan 26, Io Shirai vs Shayna Baszler – Feb 23, Chihiro Hashimoto vs Rina Yamashita – March 20, Rina Yamashita vs Yoshiko – Aug 12, Avid Rival vs Best Friends II – Aug 24, Takumi Iroha vs Chihiro Hashimoto – Dec 25 (tie, 1%); Write-ins: Io Shirai vs Mayu Iwatani (June 21), Kotori vs Riho (Sep 22), Rina Yamashita vs Misaki Chata (Oct 9), Manami Toyota vs Tsukasa Fujimoto (Nov 3)

 

Rookie of the Year: Maki Ito (19%)

Though she technically did not debut in 2017, it was her first full year as a wrestler. And in that time she very quickly became a standout on the Tokyo Joshi Pro roster. Ito is hardly the first idol singer to jump into wrestling in Japan, but not all of them have the tools to make it really work. Although she’s lost far more matches than she’s won, Ito has an admirable level of spunk and fearlessness. Ito’s also a great fit for comedy matches, which further enhances her status within Tokyo Joshi Pro. It’s hard not to root for her when you couple her equally funny and tenacious attitude with the relatively surprising quality of her matches given her rookie status. She’s already off to a good start in 2018, and at her current rate it’s likely she will continue to be one to look out for in Tokyo Joshi.

2nd place: Manami (17%)
3rd place: Hana DATE (14%)
4th: Nao DATE (10%); 5th: Miyuki Takase (9%); 6th: Nori DATE (8%); 7th: Karen DATE (6%); 8th: Ami Sato (5%); 9th: Satsuki Totoro (4%); 10th: Miki Tanaka (3%); Write-ins: Hana Kimura, Maho Kurone, Aasa Maika & Starlight Kid

 

Tag Team of the Year: Oedo Tai (Kagetsu & Hana Kimura) (32%)

The year was a bit of a roller coaster ride for Oedo Tai. Kyoko Kimura retired early in 2017, making Kagetsu the faction’s new leader. The addition of Tam Nakano to the team was met with joyous celebration, while Kagetsu’s executive decision to bring in Sumire Natsu briefly brought them to the brink of civil war. But through it all Oedo Tai has maintained their position as one of the mainstay groups of Stardom. Kagetsu and Hana Kimura specifically have consistently been at the top of both the Goddesses of Stardom and Artist of Stardom title scenes for almost the entire year. And while their antics can at times be controversial, several of their tag title matches have been borderline show-stealers on Stardom’s shows. They have since lost Tam Nakano in their faction war with Queen’s Quest, but one can only assume Kagetsu & Hana will aim to lead Oedo Tai to as much success this year as they experienced in 2017.

2nd place: Best Friends (Tsukasa Fujimoto & Arisa Nakajima) (28%)
3rd place: Avid Rival (Misaki Ohata & Ryo Mizunami) (10%)
4th: Hikaru Shida & Syuri (9%); 5th: NEWTRA (Takumi Iroha & Rin Kadokura) (5%); 6th: DASH Chisako & KAORU (4%); 7th: Azure Revolution (Risa Sera & Maya Yukihi) and MISSION K4 (AKINO & Kaho Kobayashi) (tie, 3%); 9th: Miracle Apricots (Yuka Sakazaki & Shoko Nakajima), Command Bolshoi & Leon, and Lovely Butchers (Hamuko Hoshi & Mochi Miyagi) (tie, 1 %); Write-ins: Team Jungle (Hiroyo Matsumoto & Jungle Kyona), Tsukushi & Hiragi Kurumi

 

Show of the Year: Sendai Girls “Big Show in Sendai” (September 24) (24%)

Sendai Girls put on several great shows in 2017, but the “Big Show in Sendai” is the one that takes this year’s Show of the Year award. The show featured several fun matches on the undercard, including a pair of “David vs Goliath” matchups with rookie Ami Sato vs Hiroyo Matsumoto and Rin Kadokura vs Heidi Katrina, an entertaining comedy match between Aiger and Sakura Hirota, and a tag match featuring legends Jaguar Yokota and Manami Toyota on opposite teams. But the what really makes this show special are the two headlining title matches. First the team of Strong Style Rush (Mika Shirahime & Alex Lee) took on DASH Chisako & KAORU in a physical battle for the vacant Sendai Girls Tag Team Championship, pitting the heart of the former against the experience of the latter. Then in the main event, Meiko Satomura challenged Chihiro Hashimoto for the Sendai Girls World Championship in a bout that very narrowly missed the 1st place spot in the Match of the Year voting. Any match involving Satomura and Hashimoto is always a treat, but they outdid themselves with this spectacular main event.

2nd place: Stardom “5★STAR GP Finals 2017” (Sep 18) (22%)
3rd place: Ice Ribbon/Risa Sera 4th Produce “Last Death Match” (Nov 14) (12%)
4th: Stardom “Cinderella Tournament 2017” (April 30) (8%); 5th: Sendai Girls “Big Show in Niigata 2017” (July 15) (6%); 6th: OZ Academy “Sakura Hanasaku” (April 12) & OZ Academy “Yokohama Undersea Unexplored Expedition” (Oct 29) (tie, 5%); 8th: Pro Wrestling WAVE “10th Anniversary ~Never Ending Story~” (Aug 12) & Tokyo Joshi Pro “Brand New Wrestling ~ The Beginning of a New Era ~” (Aug 26) (tie, 4%); 10th: Pro Wrestling WAVE “Joshi Pro Festival” (March 21) & SEAdLINNNG “Summer Blast” (Aug 24) (tie, 3%); 12th: Tokyo Joshi Pro “Tokyo Joshi Pro ’17” (Jan 4), Ice Ribbon “Ice in Wonderland 2017” (Aug 27), Gatoh Move 5th Anniversary (Sep 22; Write-in) & Ice Ribbon – Ribbon Mania 2017 (Dec 31; Write-in) (tie, 1%)

 

Most Improved: AZM (24%)

This category was yet another close race in the voting. Many wrestlers showed a significant amount of growth over the course of the year, but your winner for Most Improved is Stardom’s AZM. It’s hard to believe that at only 15-years-old she already has four years of in-ring experience. At times her youth can be a glaring factor, particularly when she’s in the ring with much older and experienced veterans. But her crafty mind and resourcefulness have often helped to accommodate for her shortcomings, and lately her in-ring work has become noticeably more fluid. AZM joined Queen’s Quest in early 2017, and later held the first title of her career when she, alongside faction teammates Io Shirai & HZK, won the Artist of Stardom Championship. Queen’s Quest is full of talented wrestlers, and there’s no doubt working closely with them is rubbing off on her. While it’s still far too early to speculate on what the future holds for AZM, it doesn’t seem like much of a stretch to say she’s on a very good path.

2nd place: Mio Momono (22%)
3rd place: Reika Saiki (13%)
4th: Starlight Kid (9%); 5th: Hiromi Mimura: 8%); 6th: Kyuri, Natsumi Maki & Maika Ozaki (tie, 5%); 9th: Natsuko Tora (4%); 10th: Satsuki Totoro (3%); Write-ins: Chihiro Hashimoto and Kris Wolf

 

Technique Award: Chihiro Hashimoto (29%)

From the moment she debuted in Sendai Girls in late 2015, Chihiro Hashimoto’s unique style and impressive technique set her apart from everyone else. She calls her High-Angle German Suplex Hold the Albright, which could hardly be more fitting. Her devastating suplexes are a force to be reckoned with, and her grappling is on a level very few in Joshi can match, if any. Not every wrestler who has used the same kind of style can make it interesting or exciting. The fact that Hashimoto does so with apparent ease is just another testament to how great she is.

2nd place: Konami (21%)
3rd place: Arisa Nakajima (14%)
4th: Syuri (9%); 5th: Miyu Yamashita (8%); 6th: Command Bolshoi, Mika Shirahime & Yuu (tie, 4%); Saori Annou & Mary Apache (tie; 3%); Write-ins: Tsukasa Fujimoto and Maruko Nagasaki

 

Fighting Spirit: Risa Sera (13%)

For the second consecutive year, Risa Sera is the winner of the Fighting Spirit award! Much of what earned her the nomination in last year’s awards was repeated this time around, including the return of her self-produced 60-Minute Ironwoman Deathmatch Gauntlet as a means to celebrate her birthday. Once again that match featured a large number of Deathmatch wrestlers from the BJW roster, and anyone crazy or brilliant enough to set something like that up for herself is more than deserving of this award. But what made this year different for Sera was that she spent the entire year as Ice Ribbon’s ICExInfinity Champion, amassing seven successful title defenses in 2017 against opponents of a variety of styles. Her reign lasted a full year exactly, beginning on New Year’s Eve at Ribbon Mania 2016, and ending on the very same show in 2017. It still may be debatable who is the real ace of Ice Ribbon between her and Tsukasa Fujimoto, but there’s no doubt Risa Sera perfectly embodied everything the Fighting Spirit award is about as she led the promotion’s main event scene throughout the year.

2nd place: Kaho Kobayashi (10%)
3rd place: Mayu Iwatani & Io Shirai (tie, 9%)
4th: ASUKA, Kagetsu, Jungle Kyona & Meiko Satomura (tie; 6%); 8th: Yoko Bito, Mika Shirahime & Rina Yamashita (tie; 5%); 11th: Mio Momono (4%); 12th: DASH Chisako, Heidi Katrina & Sareee (3%); 15th: Cassandra Miyagi, Ryo Mizunami, Hikaru Shida, Aja Kong (Write-in) & Yoshiko (Write-in) (tie, 1%)

 

Promotion of the Year: Sendai Girls (30%)

No category was a closer race than this one. Many Joshi promotions were on fire this past year, and only a single vote separated the first and second place spots, but the 2017 Joshi Promotion of the Year is Sendai Girls! Much of the story for this promotion revolved around their ace-in-the-making, Chihiro Hashimoto, trying to cement herself into that role. She struggled initially, losing the Sendai Girls World Championship on her first defense on two separate occasions, but finally found her footing after reclaiming it from Hiroyo Matsumoto mid-year. And beyond the story of Hashimoto herself, Sendai Girls once again produced a multitude of excellent shows across the calendar year. Both the singles and tag title scenes there gave us lots of memorable bouts in 2017, one of which came just a few votes away from winning the Match of the Year award. Their shows feature a variety of styles ranging from the always-enjoyable Aiger comedy matches to the epic, big match performers like Meiko Satomura and Chihiro Hashimoto. They also debuted two rookies, Manami and Ami Sato, both of whom already show signs of high potential despite their youth and inexperience. If the current rate with Sendai Girls is any indication, then we can likely expect another excellent year from them following their impressive 2017.

2nd place: Stardom (29%)
3rd place: Ice Ribbon (16%)
4th: OZ Academy (10%); 5th: Tokyo Joshi Pro (5%); 6th: SEAdLINNNG (4%); 7th: Gatoh Move & Pro Wrestling WAVE (tie; 3%)

 

Special Honor: Manami Toyota

Manami Toyota’s retirement show, also her 30th Anniversary show, was held on November 3, 2017. Her legendary career ended that day in grand fashion with a gauntlet match against more than 50 opponents, which featured an emotional passing of the torch to Tsukasa Fujimoto in the end. I couldn’t possibly hope to fully capture the enormity of her career accomplishments and the impact she’s had on the wrestling world in one paragraph. Many consider her to be one of the greatest, if not the greatest wrestler to ever step into a ring, and she’s entirely earned such a reputation. The amount of memorable matches and stories she’s given us, and how hard she worked for the enjoyment of the fans can’t be overstated. Manami Toyota is simply one of the best and brightest stars we have ever had the privilege of seeing in a wrestling ring, and we wish her all the best in her well-deserved retirement.

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