As we drew close to our WrestleMania weekend coverage, the news of a women’s tournament created by the WWE marks a new dawn for women’s wrestling. This site and other wrestling websites have chronicled the recent growth of women’s wrestling with WWE being in the forefront as the industry leader which is a contrast to their own history. But as one sun rises, another sun sets as a wrestler that influenced many of the women you see today across the world (WWE included) announced on March 17 that she would retire later this year. That wrestler was Manami Toyota. Possibly the greatest women’s wrestler of all of time and hands down one of the greatest wrestlers to step in the ring regardless of gender.
When Manami Toyota debuted for All Japan Women’s Wrestling in 1987, women’s wrestling in her native country was a bigger business as the Crush Gals, Dump Matsumoto and the Jumping Bomb Angels were stars on Fuji TV. All Japan Women continued that success until they lost them to the age 26 retirement restriction by the end of decade. Slowly the teenage schoolgirls that followed their idols started to leave and it forced to AJW to produce a new crop stars to hopefully salvage the fanbase. What came in the 1990s would bring a change with in the style and quality of matches as Toyota, Bull Nakano, Aja Kong, Akira Hokuto, Kyoko Inoue, Etsuko Mita, Mima Shimoda, Yumiko Hotta, Takako Inoue, and others, brought in the ire of Japanese businessmen that used to go only men’s shows and hardcore western fans. Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, who was part of this hardcore community, was one of the first to report about what was happening with AJW and word of mouth spread among tape traders. And the wrestler that notices the most was Toyota. Her high flying, fast paced style was breath taking and exhilarating to view. Her matches would become legendary as Meltzer gave 10 of her matches 5 Stars and earn Match of The Year accolades not only in Japan but also twice with the Observer readers. Those same readers voted her the Most Outstanding Wrestler in 1995 making her the only woman to receive the honor.
For us here at Wrestling With Words, we immediately thought about her career because of the landscape of the Japanese women’s wrestling has changed dramatically once AJW closed in 2005 and need to to be revisited. Thus, we are starting this review series to paint a picture of her Hall of Fame career. You, the reader, will get reviews not only from our staff who has viewed Toyota in the past and have a fondness to her career but also people that have not seen a second of her wrestling. The purpose of this project to give a diverse view of Manami Toyota and see if she still has the same impact that she had in the 90s for fans like myself. So come back to Wrestling With Words frequently and enjoy the Final Countdown Review of the woman dubbed as “Flying Angela”.