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Posted in: Kleck Presents
The Most Shocking Moment In Pro-Wrestling You Didn't Know About- A Case Study Of Act Yasukawa Vs. Yoshiko
By Kleckamania & Mizfan
Oct 15, 2016 - 7:28:07 AM

Hello all and thanks for joining me today! If there is one thing above everything else that makes professional wrestling possible, what would you say it is?

For me the only answer is the fans. Without fans no money comes in, sponsors have no need or desire to advertise, and the whole profession comes undone. And like any avenue of entertainment, or any good or service- if there is no demand for it, then there will be no supply.

I say this because in turn, products tend to take the shape of what fans, or consumers ultimately want. And that right there is exactly why we are here today to discuss this topic. Who is we? Well besides all you wonderful readers who have amazing taste in columns ;), I have an LOP friend joining me today- a guy you may know, considering he has spent some time up here writing in the past, as well as him having a complete stranglehold on the Columnist Of The Month record books down in the Columns Forum (go join, great place to talk wrestling with a bunch of very smart wrestling fans!), and recently inducted LOP Columnist Hall Of Famer- I am speaking, of course, about Mizfan!!

Mizfan: Thanks, Kleckster! Always a pleasure to work with you. I’m really glad you reached out to me on today’s topic especially, since it’s one I have spent a lot of time mulling over. Let’s get to it!

Kleck: Today’s topic ties into supply and demand, consumer/fan need, and morality- within a subject many reading may have zero to little knowledge of, as it involves one singular match in a Woman’s Japanese (Joshi) professional wrestling federation that took place on February 22nd, 2015. The federation? Stardom. The wrestlers? Act Yasukawa vs. Yoshiko (C). And trust me, you don’t need a working knowledge of the performers or the federation in order to find this highly interesting. Hence why I dropped everything I was doing to reach out to the Bright one about this topic.

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Act Yasukawa (left), Yoshiko (right)

I stumbled across this match upon chance, and it has consumed my mind ever since it was watched. Why? It highlights the absolute worst parts of both humanity, and professional wrestling in a mere 15 minutes and 29 seconds. And considering it was a Japanese federation- I had little to (in this case) no exposure. And Mr. Mizzington has become quite the ‘anything outside of WWE’ aficionado, so when I had questions, I thought to seek him out. And here we are…

Mizfan: The wrestling world is deep and wide, so why limit oneself to just the tip of the iceberg? I do have some familiarity with Stardom and with modern Joshi in general, hopefully enough to shed some light on this ugly incident.

Kleck: I know I said that you don’t even need a working knowledge of the details in order for this match to affect you, but this column would be a little lame if we didn’t give you any, so here we go- Miz, will you do us the honors?

Mizfan: For anybody who wants to watch the incident itself, it can be found here:

Act Yasukawa Vs. Yoshiko
{Fair warning however, it is very graphic and disturbing, so approach with caution.}

For those who don’t want to put themselves through that, here’s briefly what happens. The heelish but extremely popular Act Yasukawa is challenging the monster Yoshiko for the top title of the promotion, the World of Stardom Championship. However, the moment the match begins something seems to be wrong. Joshi wrestling is known for being incredibly hard hitting, but it is still very much wrestling, and the way Yoshiko begins throwing straight punches looks very out of the ordinary. Any doubt is removed the moment we get a look at Act’s face, which after the first exchange is drenched in blood and appears to be broken in at least one place.

Incredibly, it seems Act wants to continue the match. There’s a close up of Yoshiko’s hand which is covered in angry red marks, presumably where fist met bone in a very real way. They come together again and it’s the same as before but worse, the much, much larger Yoshiko bludgeons her brutally and seems to be trying to target her eye, which has a history of surgery. Act is seemingly STILL trying to keep the match going, and they even do a semi-cooperative rope running spot at one point, but in the end it’s just a disaster. Act ends up outside the ring barely able to stand, and she is STILL trying to get back in the ring while her group physically holds her back and the match ends up thrown out. Act is pulled to the back, screaming all the way.

Act Yasukawa was taken to the hospital after the match and was found to have severe damage to her fractures in her nose and cheekbones, and a broken orbital bone, along with a concussion. Surgery was required to fix the damage and ultimately Act was forced to retire due to the injury.

Kleck: This shoot reminded me of Tyler Durden in Fight Club when he “Just wanted to destroy something beautiful”. And reports were that Yoshiko harbored ill will and some jealousy towards Act. That in itself, is enough to make this interesting, but this topic just gets deeper and deeper. The best way to lead you all down the rabbit hole is to tell you what Act Yasukawa was screaming over and over as she was being carried away from the ring after the match- in translation to English, “I want to do pro-wrestling”.

This woman had just had her face essentially caved in by another woman who was very obviously fighting for real against the planned match, and yet Act was determined to finish that match. Why? Honor, integrity, and for the love of the game. She loves wrestling that much.

She loves wrestling so much that she did it despite being blind in one eye. In fact, she took medication for that, that in turn made her infertile- and she did it for professional wrestling. And when she had surgery to see out of that eye and was not cleared to perform in the ring yet, she worked as a stagehand and merchandise seller just so she could be around wrestling. Act Yasukawa would do anything both for professional wrestling, and to be a professional wrestler, which is why she wanted to finish that travesty of a match.

It was shortly after Act was cleared to come back that this match happened. Act was wildly popular, and she was set to win the Stardom Title from Yoshiko in the match. But a pairing of terrible decisions led to Yoshiko purposefully shattering the side of Act’s face that had just been surgically repaired, thus ending her career for good.

And one of those terrible decisions was highlighted by how Yoshiko was punished by Stardom- she was merely stripped of her title and indefinitely suspended. Which some might think suggests if she is still under contract by Stardom, then she cannot be booked for shows outside of the federation, so the punishment was actually a really strong one. Those people would be incorrect, as Stardom showed extreme displeasure when Yoshiko wound up signing with another federation once her contract ran out with them, but the reason why? Stardom was displeased because they had intended on her wrestling for them again.

This is a woman who just went off script and intentionally caved in another woman’s face, possibly even trying to kill her. And multiple federations in Japan were clamoring to have her work for them afterwards…

Is it a cultural thing? A Joshie/Puro style? Did Act herself play a part in it? Miz, what do you think?

Mizfan: I think it’s clear there’s a lot of factors at play here, Kleck, and it’s tough to really unpack everything. Most people, myself included, likely wrote this off when they first heard about it and just assumed it was a case of a seriously disturbed person simply taking things too far, but actually watching it and investigating the case shows there is a lot more to it. While nothing can ever diminish Yoshiko’s personal responsibility, we have to come to terms with the fact that Act essentially accepted the beating and wanted to keep the show going, even if it meant risking even more damage to herself than she actually sustained, and that’s a chilling thought.

Some of that mentality absolutely comes from the culture of Joshi itself. If you ever check out some of the stuff women did in Japan in the 80s and 90s, you will likely find yourself shocked at the brutality of it. Thankfully it almost always stayed within the acceptable confines of a wrestling match, but even so these women often took extreme risks and risky bumps, and it was absolutely the expectation of the locker room and of management that you would continue no matter what. I don’t think I have ever seen a Joshi match stopped for injury. It’s an extreme culture no doubt. Act’s desperation to live her dream only made that mentality even more powerful, and caused her to try to push herself into an absolutely unacceptable situation.

This may seem shocking, but I would actually argue this idea exists in all of wrestling, not just in Joshi or Puro culture. I recall an incident several years back where Alberto Del Rio and Sin Cara had a match on Raw, and early on Sin Cara suffered a dislocated finger. The match ended up being stopped but ADR seemed to be downright pissed about that fact, and the general consensus I saw at the time is that Sin Cara should have gutted it out and finished the match regardless. It seems like a small example in the “wrestling mindset”, but can you imagine doing your job with that kind of injury? Wrestling is full of examples of wrestlers who did just that. The legend of Triple H allowing Chris Jericho to put him in a leg submission after blowing his quad the first time is legendary, and let’s not forget the little matter of Daniel Bryan and his detached retina, or Sabu supergluing his shredded bicep back together, and a million other examples. Many wrestling fans downright worship this stuff, but if you think about it, isn’t it actually a bit disturbing? Triple H blows out his leg, he doesn’t know what happened or how bad it is, but he’s going to let somebody jerk his leg around because the show must go on. It’s hard for me not to imagine an alternate reality where Paul Levesque never walks again. There will always be risks with wrestling, but where do you draw the line between the health of the performer and the need for the show to continue?

Kleck: You know I’ve started to feel a little like a buzzkill thinking the exact way you do based on what you just said, Miz, but the older I get, and the more wrestling I experience, I can’t help but feel guilty for some of these injuries and deaths these wrestlers suffer in the name of our entertainment. I mean the line is drawn at us, the fans, right? We dictate the line through our desires, our wants, and our needs. Any smart business tries to shape their product to fit consumer need as best it can. In wrestling that roughly translates into the Attitude Era.

Chairs to the face, tons of blading, barbed wire and thumb tacks, cages and dropping from extreme distances- we craved it, so it happened. Sure the industry holds some responsibility, considering they foot the bill, and carried it all out, but a fortune 500 company doesn’t roll out that kind of product revamp without concrete market data, paired with the financial numbers to back it up.

We like violence. Sometimes we say we don’t, but regardless we are drawn to it. At the least it satiates a curiosity, though whichever side you find yourself on you would still watch, doubly so considering the source of entertainment being discussed. We are drawn to wrestling. Why? I’m sure there are many answers but I believe there is a very deep rooted one- as humans, we are drawn to the primal urges of our species.

We are pulled by strings that go deeper than our own lifetime’s stage. Things like procreation, death, and everything inbetween drive most every single motion we have. When you look at how animals live, and conduct themselves in wild habitats, you kind of see a simplified version of our own wants and needs in motion.

The aggression comes from a place of protecting what we consider to either be ours, or what we need. I can’t count how many species of animal fight one another for potential mates, territory, food source. Aggression is a tool we have learned to use to get what we need through history.

And the Attitude Era in the USA represented professional wrestling using aggression as a tool to get what it needed. Numbers/sales were way down, and WWE going down (then WWF) would have potentially triggered a catastrophic chain of events for professional wrestling collectively. After all, if the top federation in terms of consumer volume and revenue sinks, what chance do federations on less secure footing have? So the then WWF, and subsequently professional wrestling as a whole tapped into something very primal, and very taboo in order to ensure its survival.

Taboo because in modern, civilized society we’d like to think that we have a more evolved, civil nature and sensibility. Essentially we have urges, but we have learned to suppress them in the name of decency, and respect. So in modern times when you see someone get tossed over 20 feet off a cage and directly through a table, it mesmerizes you. No matter how much we’d like to think we’ve evolved, when we see a guy with blood all over him, and his own teeth stuck to the outside of his face we can’t look away.

So yes, the Attitude Era saved professional wrestling as a whole, but it also kind of ruined it. And this particular situation seems to encapsulate that. Granted Japanese culture is much different from American, but things as guttural as extreme violence translate across all languages and cultures. And the Attitude Era has served as a reference to modern professional wrestling federations across the world that extreme violence sells.

In Japanese culture, honor is highly regarded, and protecting one’s honor justifies many actions. This, I think, tends to partially help explain why Japanese wrestling is a bit stiffer than American wrestling in general. And many might claim that the levels of aggression on display in the Attitude Era weren’t exactly new to professional wrestling, even citing Japanese wrestling prior. The fact is it comes up in our entertainment in cycles throughout human history, but WWE had the tallest stage and the loudest speakers in modern times figuratively speaking. And their success signaled that it is worth revisiting financially.

In my mind, I see no honor in allowing a woman who destroyed another woman’s life to wrestle again. It was a scripted match, and there was supposed to be a mutual trust- a trust all wrestlers need to have between one another in order for wrestling to not devolve into chaos. If wrestler’s cannot trust one another, then the machine breaks down. I think what Yoshiko did was prove that she can’t guarantee that her emotions won’t get the best of her in the ring. Her actions in the ring that day were dishonorable to say the least, possibly unforgivable to many (myself included), and yet multiple Japanese federations clamored to sign her after the incident.

Doesn’t that seem to go against a code of honor? And as a matter of fact, the executives within Stardom enacted a 25% pay cut for themselves the following year as a seeming act of contrition to atone for a perceived cultural line being crossed. And yet what speaks louder than honor? Apparently money based on the fact that even Stardom themselves were very upset that Yoshiko didn’t remain as a competitor for their federation. Pair that with the fact that numerous other promotions pushed to hire her on over there, and you start to realize that the money gained exceeds the honor lost.

And as the fans, or consumers- the ones pumping the money in, we kind of enable that, don’t we Miz?

Mizfan: Perhaps not intentionally, but it’s pretty clear that on some level we do. Yes, the promotions may allow things to get out of control, and yes each individual must make the choice for whether they want to be involved or not, but it is we as fans who push the industry to extreme limits. At least in this case it’s pretty obvious that the management of Stardom didn’t want this to happen, but indeed the fact that they let the match play out for far longer than they should have, and the fact that they didn’t ultimately consider it worth firing Yoshiko over, is a pretty disturbing outer fringe of pro-wrestling mentality, and definitely not one we should be moving towards.

I don’t think we have to feel guilty as fans for watching wrestling. Almost every athletic or performance industry will ultimately ask a lot from their top stars, and that carries risk and consequences. That’s life. But this incident is more than just one disturbed individual going off at random. It’s about testing the limits of what wrestling fans will accept, pushing an envelope that is already stretched to the breaking point, and getting a glimpse into the insane levels a wrestler may try to push to in order to carry on in an industry that they all but worship.

Kleck: And a glimpse into the levels a federation, or even the industry itself will go in order to make money. Yoshiko still wrestles regularly nearly 2 years later, often featured, while Act can not only never wrestle again, but even function normally, or without pain…

Isn’t that telling? That to me says if the money is there, a federation or industry will run with it. And if you peruse the comment sections in some of the articles discussing this incident that we did, you will see a lot of fans saying this kind of stuff is simply commonplace in wrestling, and they were excited to see what Yoshiko would do next. Though not solely responsible, we as fans who carry that mentality attribute to some of these dangers endured by the performers, as we buy that product. And I personally feel I owe those performers more than that kind of treatment.

Which is why years later I kind of hate the Attitude Era. I loved quite a few wrestlers, gimmicks, storylines, and matches within it, but the level of violence was almost too much to come back from. And the industry nose dived as a result of having to follow it up. And when people clamor for it to return I think of matches like the one we discussed today, or Mick Foley in the cell, and realize some of our fondest wrestling memories are propped up on the broken bodies of the performers we claim to love.

And of course the very nature of the business is dangerous, but if we as fans draw a line in how far these performers need to go in order to entertain us, we can help limit the dangers they face, if even slightly. That is the sole reason I would be happy to never see that level of aggression come back to pro-wrestling again. If not for anything, or anyone- for Act, or any wrestler we have loved to watch in our fandom. To me, Act represents a majority of wrestler who love the profession so much that they would sacrifice themselves for it, and for our entertainment willingly. And I imagine we all know how far we are willing to go beyond reason for the sake of love- it often defies logic or reason. We do have some power in determining how far these athletes need to go in the name of that love though. Which is a notion that shouldn’t be lost on any of us.

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This match encapsulates so much. It essentially is a case study in morality within professional wrestling, and in human nature ultimately. I hope those reading this enjoyed it, and it stimulates the level of thought it did in myself, and my partner in crime for this, Mizfan- whom I thank for joining me as well.

Comments, discussion? Would love to hear them. Until then I’m Kleckamania, and thanks for reading.

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