The transformative power of pain is on display at the Differ Ariake sporting arena in Tokyo. A 15-year-old Sareee begins her career with not just a match but a violent rite of passage.
The sweet-faced teen will not be eased into this world. There are no warm-ups, no tomato can opponents, no training wheels. In her debut, Sareee must face Meiko Satomura and all the suffering that entails. Satomura, she of the knock-you-on-your-ass European uppercut. Satomura, The Final Boss, the wrecking ball in wrestling boots.
The year is 2011. Joshi legend Kyoko Inoue’s new promotion World Woman Pro-Wrestling Diana debuts with a five-bout card in Tokyo’s Ariake district.
This is where Sareee, a student of Inoue, will step out of the dojo and into the fray for real.
Before the bout, Sareee poses for promo pics alongside Satomura. Tears wet her cheeks as she holds up her fists and poses. She looks like a kid awaiting dental surgery, struggling to keep a brave face.
When all the pre-match hoopla is over and it is wrestler versus wrestler, staring at each other from opposite sides of the ring, the juxtaposition is striking. Satomura’s frame is stout, her thigh muscles like oak branches. Sareee, meanwhile, looks very much like a high schooler, her build more debate team captain than fighter.
The difference in experience couldn’t be greater.
It’s rookie against icon. One combatant enters with a 0-0 record. The other has over 230 wins to her name, has twice held the All Asia Athlete’s Women’s Championship, has founded her own promotion. While Sareee cooed in her crib as an infant, Satomura was busy traveling Japan and the U.S. battling the likes of Akira Hokuto, Chigusa Nagayo, and Devil Masami.
Undeterred, Sareee steps up to the heavy favorite.
She locks up with Meiko but is unable to move her. Eyes closed, body churning, her efforts have no effect.
This is the story of the match. It is an exhibition of domination.
Satomura’s elbows hammer down on Sareee. The veteran kicks the newbie off her feet. She clamps on suffocating headlocks. Meiko is always in control, the captain guiding the helm at all times. She beats down the teenager until she is red-faced, off-balance, hopeless.
And this is where Sareee shines.
Her fearlessness is palpable. She keeps leaping back into the lion’s mouth. Her face is filled with fierceness. Her body language tells the story of her anguish and the spunk she shows to push forward regardless.
Sareee keeps running at the sadistic Satomura, flying off the ropes back into danger. Her undying heart pounds through the arena.
Sareee’s dropkicks don’t drop her opponent. Much of her offense has little impact. The passion behind it all, though, sizzles.
You cannot help but root for her, hoping to see her breakthrough this wall she keep crashing into. In only her first match, Sareee has already learned to wield the power of pathos. She’s already a likable, intriguing, relatable babyface.
When Sareee is finally able to gain control for a moment and she applies the Boston Crab, a loud ooh echoes from the crowd. They want her to succeed. They are sold.
Satomura denies the upset. A cartwheel kneedrop to the back is enough to keep the upstart down for three.
But this is no ordinary loss. In defeat, Sareee showed herself to be a hero in the making. It doesn’t take a talent scout to see that she’s going to be a star.
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Dazed and writhing afterward, Sareee sells the aftereffects of the match masterfully. It looks like she has gone through hell.
Then comes a handshake and a bow from Satomura, all of it an onscreen seal of approval.
Everyone who believed in Sareee early was spot on. She went on to become one of joshi’s young aces. Wrestling everywhere from Sendai Girls to SEAdLINNNG, Pro Wrestling Wave to Ice Ribbon, she showed off undeniable star power. She tore it up against veterans and rising stars alike.
It wasn’t surprising in the least when WWE came calling.
She signed with the company in 2020, but the COVID-19 outbreak delayed her start. 10 years after her first match, Sareee is now set to start her NXT career as Sarray. And now a whole new audience will see the fiery prodigy perform.
A glimpse of her potential flashed a decade ago at Diana’s debut event. Her ordeal against Satomura was but the first page of a grand book that she will be writing in front of us in the years to come.
Title includes quote from “Destroy Me” by Mr. Kitty.