Failures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement. One fails forward toward success. – C.S Lewis

Has there been anything you tried to succeed at but kept coming short? Was it professional? Was it personal? Was there something to gain? Pride, money, promotion, status, satisfaction?

Most, perhaps all of us fit those categories. We have something, maybe a multitude of things, that we wanted to achieve so badly but always came up short. For me, there is a list of things. I will spare naming them all. My life is a thousand failures, each one as disappointing and as deflating as the next. Sometimes that’s ultimately what it takes. A thousand failures to get that success, that one feels good, sweet-tasting moment in time. That success is never guaranteed but you hope will one day arrive. That success that if you could only grab it once, you will do all you can to hold on to it for as long as you can. You always come so close, but then that dreaded blue shell comes and knocks you back to the last position.

Success is fleeting, but the memory of it can be timeless. So many failures can be erased in an instance, in a flash, by that one success that trumps them all.

I think that is why my heart swelled with so much emotion when this previous weekend Maki Itoh won the Tokyo Princess Cup for the first time. At long last her happy ending was achieved. Sure, she’s had some cup of coffee moments with success. Her forgettable, and barely existing, Multi DDT Iron Man Heavy Metal Title reigns. Her international princess title reign she got a few defenses in before Thunder Rosa defeated her for it. They were fleeting, they were short, they were forgettable. Maki Itoh tried as she might could not get that capstone moment. That one significant achievement that would shine a spotlight on her and make her efforts, her struggles, her desire to succeed matter and count.

Maki Itoh is cute as hell.

Maki Itoh tries really really hard.

Maki Itoh has a supportive, outspoken, and loving fanbase.

Maki Itoh does not win the big moments in the end.

In a lot of ways, I think that’s why I’m drawn to her and enjoy her output. My life used to feel like that in a lot of ways. Someone who works hard, is really cute (Make no mistake I AM FUCKING CUTE), I have the support that is vocal and loving, but in the end, I rarely get that big moment, that big win, that one achievement that I can point at and say I DID IT. I kept trying though, I kept getting back up. I would double, triple, quadruple my outputs. Eventually, my results changed. My biggest goal, well one of them, of my life will soon be accomplished. I will have published a novel. It may never be read by many, it may only make enough money to buy me a beer at my local brewery, but I will have done it. I will have achieved that goal. It took a lot of missteps, it took a lot of setbacks, trials, and tribulations, but at long last that one small moment of success after a mountain of failure will be worth it. For Maki Itoh, she has experienced so many of these. So many setbacks, so many missteps, but it is all worth it. The pain, the anguish, the humiliation, it is all worth it for that ONE BIG MOMENT.

THAT is why I love Maki Itoh. She has a mountain of failure beneath her feet, but it’s that mountain of failure that lets her climb high enough to the point she can reach up and grasp that brass ring. The cliche is if you first don’t succeed try try again. Better yet, as Chumbawamba use to sing “I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’ll never gonna keep me down.” That is Maki Itoh at her best to me, that is why I loved her so much. She would come close, she would have her fingernails touching her goal, and she’d be pulled away from it. She would be heartbroken, you would feel the heartbreak and yours would shatter along with it. It wasn’t the jaws of defeat, it was the crushing blow of reality. Your best was not good enough. You do everything right and still, lose. You gave it your all and got absolutely nothing for it in return. It’s not fair, it’s not comforting, it absolutely sucks, it’s life.

That is what makes this moment so much better, so satisfying, and what makes it even more authentic is you know it wasn’t simply handed to her on a platter. She had to fight for it, she had to earn it, she had to work for it. She had to improve, adapt, expand and experience levels of growth. She had to find and discover herself and her abilities to get to this moment. The timing was everything. This was the time when it made sense when it needed to be done. Several years ago, hell even last year it would have been too soon. She needed to struggle toward this point, stumble and fall on her face countless more times before it could happen before it would hit as it did. It might end up one of my favorite moments in 2021. The moment where Maki Itoh gave one giant middle finger of success to her trash pile of failures.

This wasn’t just a tournament she was slated to win, this was a tournament she was a star and excel in throughout. This wasn’t a Maki Itoh who got undeserving wins over better and more deserving opponents. This was a determined and inspired Maki Itoh. A Maki Itoh who was often criticized for her bell to bell work put in the effort that matched the moment that would soon be hers. In particular, her final two matches light up and are what I love about pro wrestling. Well worked, hard-fought, full of emotion, and you become invested. When she makes Mizuki submit in the semi-finals, how impactful it hits you and knocks your wind out. It is a really significant moment. Mizuki, the winner of the previous two. For all intents and purposes once again should be an obstacle Maki Itoh trips and falls. But this is a Maki Itoh that has grown, that has persevered. This was a Maki Itoh who would not be denied. The emotion after the match wasn’t an acted display for show, it was real and raw, and we cried along with them as they showed each other love and respect. You got a feeling at long last you were watching something special unfold, you now clung to the hope it wouldn’t unravel.

Then she faces Shoko Nakajima in the finals. Nakajima, knows what it means to be on top of the world, and she has no desire to let Maki Itoh stand there on this night. She planned on snatching from Maki Itoh’s fingertips her moment once more. Deny her once again. Maki Itoh was not to be denied. This was a great match. A worthy final and one filled with great wrestling, drama, and emotion. There were several times I bought into Maki Itoh’s dream transforming into a harsh nightmare once more. When Maki Itoh weakly, and with what little energy she had left, extends a middle finger defiantly at Nakajima it hits me hard. That’s what I have done so many times in my life. Weakly told the world to fuck off before it crushed me before it drowned me. I would lose, but at least I would lose letting how I felt known and understood. When Maki Itoh weakly showed Nakajima how she felt I thought that was her end… AND THEN IT WASN’T!

Maki would eventually trap Nakajima in a submission after a failed 619 attempt and as Nakajima weakly and slowly tapped Maki Itoh would release her. You could almost see and hear years of frustration and desperation released from her.  That is the power of pro-wrestling at its best. My eyes watered, Maki Itoh had done it. She had gotten her happy ending. A storybook ending to cap off years of struggles. The failed pop idol, at the risk of being a failed pro-wrestler, had achieved her dream. There was no waking up, there was no snapping out of it. There was no pinching herself and it was all gone. This magic moment was hers, and we got to be witness to it and celebrate in full. Beautiful.

Life is filled with failures. Those reading this have experienced their share, and truth be told you will experience more. Never lose hope, never lose sight. Get back up every damn day life knocks you down and tell yourself “I’m doing this.”

That’s the Maki Itoh way.

She fought, she lost, she fought, she lost, and then she won. The harsh truth is this could be a moment in time, a moment that eventually followed by a thousand more losses, but now it’s different. Now you’ll no longer wonder if she will, you now know SHE CAN, and so does she. That mindset can make all the difference in the world. I rooted for Maki Itoh because I desperately wanted her to win not just for herself, but for everyone who loves something but comes up short in it no matter how hard they try. It’s that constant struggle, that daily grind. It wears you out, it cuts you to the bone, and it hurts so bad. You swallow the pain and you try once more. Maybe because that’s all you know how to do? Maybe because it means so much to you to get that success? Maybe it’s spite? I must confess spite got me through a lot of years. No matter what it is, know this, and know I mean it. You too can be like Maki Itoh and be on top of the world… you’ll just never be as cute as her. That’s impossible. Those are the rules. Now go out and get your happy ending and revel in every moment of it when you get it. You will have deserved it. I promise you, it feels damn good.

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