For most women’s wrestling fans, especially the majority of fans of Joshi, Meiko Satomura is said to be an easy hall-of-fame-level candidate. The common arguments in her favor range in the aspects of in-ring work as one of the greatest women’s wrestlers of all time, being the one to keep Joshi alive in the “dark ages,” and her work as a trainer/booker in her own promotion Sendai Girls’ Pro Wrestling. However, is it so cut and dry for the WWE coined “Final Boss” and “Living Legend of Joshi Puroresu?”
Satomura debuted in 1995 as the first class of Gaea Japan. She trained under the hall-of-fame legend and founder of Gaea Chigusa Nagayo. Her career spans from brief appearances in WCW from 96-97, being a highlight and eventual main eventer in Gaea from 1996 until the company’s closure in 2005. From there, she opened up her venture, Sendai Girls’ Pro Wrestling (Senjo), in 2006.
She would also function as the head booker and trainer for the small promotion. From 2006 to 2017, Meiko would be a freelance wrestler, rarely wrestling away from Senjo. Finally, to the present, in 2018, she appeared in the WWE Mae Young Classic, and the rest is history between Sendai and WWE.
She has effectively been an active wrestler since 1995, and Joshi main eventer since around 1999. Meiko wouldn’t see her first big singles title win until December 15, 2001 defeating Aja Kong for Gaea’s main title (AAAW title) at the Kawasaki City Gymnasium with an alleged attendance of 4,200. Gaea, among other promotions at the time, were known to vastly inflate their attendance numbers. Use these figures and statistics with some discretion.
First off, let’s quickly review the titles of historical importance Meiko has been involved in and won.
December 15, 2001 Gaea – AAAW champion – Aja Kong vs. Meiko Satomura
This was her first major title win. One defense. 169 days.
April 4, 2004 Gaea – AAAW champion – Ayako Hamada vs. Meiko Satomura
Her second reign with the title. One defense. 338 days.
July 26, 2015 Stardom – World of Stardom champion – Kairi Hojo vs. Meiko Satomura
Her first major title win in 11 years comes after Rossy Ogawa books Meiko into a storyline following the Queen’s Shout incident. One defense. 150 days.
October 11, 2015 Sendai – Vacant Sendai World title – Meiko Satomura vs. Ayako Hamada
Despite the promotion being around since 2006, it was not until 2015 where a title would be introduced. She becomes the inaugural champion. Three defenses. 371 days. The reign ended putting over Chihiro Hashimoto one year after her debut on October 16, 2016, at the Sendai Sun Plaza with an attendance of 2,080.
June 10, 2021 WWE NXT UK – UK Women’s Champion – Kay Lee Ray vs. Meiko Satomura
Nine defenses with most coming during the COVID-19 pandemic while in the UK. 451 days. Lost in a three-way match, not taking the fall, on Sept 4, 2022.
As seen above, the list is not as extensive as people might believe, nor were her reigns involving many defenses. What was surprising was how long a gap there is between Gaea and Meiko winning her next major singles title in Joshi. However, there is a factor to consider. One is the way some of these promotions book. For example, Gaea and Sendai booked singles titles like a boxing title with long reigns and few defenses in between which were very common since the days of AJW in the 1970s-1995.
Joshi, throughout the 2000s, was in a dark period with aging stars of the 90s, little to no financial backing, and many promotions split between small rosters and freelancers. Not to mention the top two companies in AJW and Gaea both closing shop in 2005 almost simultaneously. Drawing power was effectively gone to be a measurement, unfortunately. Maybe the scene booked Meiko Satomura in main events during this period to occasionally pop a decent house for the time? The answer to this was no. In fact, Meiko did not have a main event title match from the closure of Gaea until in 2010 during NEO’s final year before closing. Her first main event title match in 5 years got a putrid 1,122 at Kawasaki City Gym that likely had many tickets given away for free on top of it. It remains a topic among fans whether Meiko was even a top star of Gaea when Aja Kong, Akira Hokuto, and certainly Chigusa Nagayo among others were the more featured acts and bigger stars for the promotion. Would a legend, a top star, a generational in-ring talent be so left out of the scene as much as she was? Perhaps this was by her own choice to focus on Sendai and training? This is certainly something to consider.
More on that specific aspect later.
Case 1: In the Ring
Is Satomura’s in-ring work levels above those of her peers? Was she the best of the last 20 years? Longevity and Meiko being regarded as a great wrestler has really never been a controversial topic. However, interestingly enough since Tokyo Sports Magazine started the award for Women’s Wrestling Grand Prize in 1995, Meiko Satomura has only won it once in 2013 representing Sendai. Strangely though, Meiko in 2013 only wrestled 48 matches (according to Cagematch), zero title matches, and no main events of significance. Oddly enough, 2014 did not have a prize awarded as well as 2004-2008. To recap, this award has been around since her debut and her lone win came under questionable merit. She has received merit for some top matches over her many years in the business without a doubt:
April 29, 2001 Gaea – Akira Hokuto vs. Meiko Satomura
Match of the Year candidate in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, Cagematch rating 9.54 off 79 votes, and almost universally her most famous recommended match of her career.
June 14, 2015 Stardom – Kairi Hojo vs. Meiko Satomura
World of Stardom title match, and her most famous match in Stardom’s history as she feuded with Threedom (Io Shirai, Kairi, and Mayu Iwatani), Cagematch rating of 9.46 off 106 votes. This match is available on Stardom-World.
December 23, 2015 Stardom – Io Shirai vs. Meiko Satomura – World of Stardom title match, Cagematch rating 9.42 (85 votes)
Perhaps her most well-known match among modern wrestling fans. Her run in the Mae Young Classic perhaps started a trend along with “WWE’s women’s revolution” of fans outside Japan taking notice of Joshi and seeking out more.
September 15, 1999 – Aja Kong vs. Meiko Satomura – AAAW title match
Satomura’s first major title challenge featured in the semi-main of GAEA Yokohama Double Destiny Battle Of The Crush Gals seeing The Crush Gals clash in the main event. 4.25 stars in WON.
Once again, I must point out how shockingly limited a “best of” Meiko Satomura matches list is.
There are numerous good to solid to great tag matches she’s certainly had along with nice little one-off singles over the years. However, her singles career is astoundingly low when discussing and reviewing a Hall of Fame case. Next question, was Meiko Satomura the best wrestler during her “era?” Maybe to some people, without a doubt perhaps. Looking back, personally, I am not as sure. In the early 2000s, there were still the stars of the 90s like Manami Toyota and Aja Kong still at the top, Chigusa Nagayo in Gaea, JWP had the emergence of Azumi Hyuga, and NEO had Yoshiko Tamura. If we continue to use the Tokyo Sports Awards as a loose gauge then in 2002, the winner was from AJW Momoe Nakanishi, 2003 in her own company Gaea won with Ayako Hamada, and in 2004 during Meiko’s supposed defining run Tokyo Sports did not have a winner. Fast forward to Sendai being at its “peak” in the scene or at least competitive, Sendai never won the award, let alone Meiko Satomura.
Case 2: Kept up Joshi through the “Dark Ages”
To recap back to two of the three arguments for Meiko Satomura in the Hall of Fame: one of the greatest women’s wrestlers of all time, and being the one to keep Joshi alive in the “dark ages.” Personally, on the resume of in-ring and best matches, there is not enough there along with my personal opinion she was not the best from her era. The case of her helping keep Joshi alive is a non-case. Sendai was never the top or even near the top of women’s promotions from 2006-2015 nor was Satomura used to help attend main events. As mentioned earlier, she was effectively absent from the scene from late 2005-2010. Certainly has no case currently from 2019 onward.
Case 3: Sendai and Training
Now that only leaves her booking and training. Maybe Satomura concentrated all her efforts on creating the stars of the future, and put over as many people as possible to make Sendai a destination? She is certainly a good trainer, and the wrestlers seen on a Sendai show trained by Meiko are solid, ranging over the years from Tyrannosaurus Okuda (Basara), Sachiko sisters, Mika Iwata, among others, and her prized pupil Chihiro Hashimoto. The argument firmly against Satomura, in this case, is, unfortunately, outside of Hashimoto, Meiko herself has never put anyone over, never books anyone from inside her own company in prominent main events or title matches, and unfortunately, not a single one of them has made it “big” outside of Sendai. Maybe an argument could be made for Hashimoto, but even then, in 2022, it’s certainly up for debate.
I would argue, in cases like Kagestu and Ryo Mizunami, that they never “made it” until they left Meiko Satomura and Sendai, and swept away all aspects of their “Sendai identity.” Kagetsu became a stalwart in Stardom, and Ryo Mizunami contemplated retirement before having an opportunity in AEW late into her career. It’s tough to see a case for Satomura in terms of booking and training when the talents are limited to Sendai, and the promotion is booked and continues to be booked for nice little indie shows for the area in Sendai. None of this is a case for the Hall of Fame.
Where does this leave the case for Meiko Satomura?
She was arguably never the best wrestler of her era, she was never the top star in her own promotion Gaea, she never won any prestigious awards while champion, she was absent from the scene when the scene needed stars the most, and her training record has produced little to no stars for the next generation.
Sorry to say: Meiko Satomura is a good to great wrestler, but certainly no Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame women’s wrestler.
For those interested in more Joshi history, check out the All Japan Women’s Destiny podcast, currently covering the history of All Japan Women and a journey of joshi wrestling out of the dark ages called Joshi 2010s.