Hana Kimura.  In some ways it’s still doesn’t seem quite real.  I remember that Friday evening when there were odd comments coming from her Twitter account but there seemed to be hope from someone “in the know” that someone had reached her and that she was ok for now. Switching my phone on the next morning it became clear that that had been a false hope. 

    Although Kimura’s career only lasted for around four years and it was clear that the sky was the limit and the best was still to come, she still managed to pack an awful lot into those years.

    If Madison Square Garden and the Tokyo Dome are at the top of the list of Wrestling Meccas, there also has to be the realisation that 99.99% of grapplers who ever lace their boots never perform in either of those iconic venues, never mind both of them (and that’s before we even throw in Korakuen Hall).  Hana Kimura had done that before her 23rd birthday.  A 23rd birthday she never got to see.

    Born in September 1997, Hana Kimura was a second-generation wrestler, being the daughter of Kyoko Kimura.  Her mother had been a pro for almost fifteen years, wrestling for the likes of JWP, NEO and perhaps most famously, Stardom.  She’d also been seen in the United States for SHIMMER.  Kyoko’s retirement match had been in January 2017 when she had teamed with her daughter Hana and her husband in a defeat to a trio of legendary names in Aja Kong (recently seen in AEW), Meiko Satomura (currently working with WWE’s NXT UK brand) and Minoru Suzuki.  Straight afterwards Kyoko wrestled one last bonus match, against her daughter.  Hana pinned Kyoko to end her career. 

    This hadn’t been the beginning of Hana’s pro wrestling career though, or indeed her first interaction with her mother in the ring. Years prior to her official debut in 2016, Kimura won the DDT Ironman Heavymetalweight Championship (essentially a parody of the WWE’s Hardcore 24/7 title belt and rules) in August 2005 at the fair old age of seven, defeating Tanny Mouse before dropping the belt to her own mother later on in the same show. Perhaps she caught the bug of wreslting around this time, or perhaps it was just a case of it always being her destiny with the family connections.

    It was 2016 before an official debut came, after she had undergone training with the Wrestle-1 Professional Wrestling University.  Within six months she had won her first title, the JWP Junior Championship, and had begun to appear in Stardom alongside her mother.  In October of that year mother and daughter teamed with Kagetsu as part of the Oedo Tai faction to defeat Threedom for the Artist of Stardom title.  You may well know the latter trio of Io Shirai, Kairi Hojo (aka Kairi Sane) and Mayu Iwatani.  Injury forced Hana to vacate the the title (she was replaced by another familiar name in the form of Viper/Piper Niven) as 2016 became 2017 and she had also lost her JWP Junior Championship by this point. 

    After the aforementioned retirement matches of her mother, 2017 saw Hana continue to wrestle for Wrestle-1 and Stardom as well as making appearances for Sendai Girls.  In June of that year Hana tasted gold again as she teamed up with Kagetsu to win the Goddess of Stardom Championship, defeating the team of Hiroyo Matsumoto and Jungle Kyona at Galaxy Stars 2017.  The pair would make numerous successful defences and held the titles for almost a year.  They would also receive the award for Best Tag Team that year.

    In January 2018 Hana Kimura was officially announced as a Wrestle-1 roster member but she continued to work elsewhere, both in Japan and overseas.  In Sendai Girls she continued a feud with Mika Iwata and the two had a good match at on an April 19th show that also included as battle between Io Shirai and Meiko Satomura.  Earlier that month Hana had shown that it wasn’t just a case of having good matches with the more established names in Japan.  At Stardom Dream Slam she battled another up and comer in the form of HZK in a what was a very well received match up.  Overseas, Hana wrestled for the likes of Ring of Honor and Pro Wrestling: EVE as well as in various Mexican promotions.  As in the old days, when young stars from Japan were sent overseas for “seasoning”, this experience was to prove vital in helping to round-out both her in-ring work and her character. She would be ranked no. 60 in the PWI Women’s 100 in 2018. 

    In 2019 she officially re-joined Stardom but still had time for outside gigs. One came at the Ring of Honor / New Japan Pro Wrestling G1 Supercard as those promotions invaded the WWE’s turf to hold an event at Madison Square Garden on WrestleMania weekend.  There she teamed with Stella Grey and Sumie Sakai to take on Jenny Rose and the Odeo Tai duo of Kagetsu and Hazuki.  Admittedly it was a dark match, but it must have been a thrill nevertheless. 

    In the 2019 Stardom draft just a week or so later, Hana was named as the leader of the International Army faction, soon to be renamed the Tokyo Cyber Squad.  More gold would follow as she teamed with stablemates Jungle Kyona and Konami to again win the Artist of Stardom Championship. The match where they beat Mayu Iwatani, Kashima and Tam Nakano at Stardom Gold from Korakuen Hall is well worth seeking out.  In September of that year she also won the Five Star Grand Prix tournament, defeating Konami in the Grand Final, joining the likes of Mayu Iwatni, Toni Storm and Kairi Hojo as winners over the years. 

    Hana Kimura

    2020 started with a bang as Hana teamed with Giulia to wrestle Mayu Iwatani & Arisa Hoshiki in a dark match prior to New Japan’s Wrestle Kingdom 14.  Some fans were disappointed (but not surprised) that the match wasn’t part of the “official” show but by the same token it was the first women’s match held at the Tokyo Dome in 18 years or so.  It also showed that Bushiroad, NJPW’s parent company who had acquired Stardom in late 2019, had plans to develop the Stardom brand and take it to new heights. 

    Hana Kimura wrestled her final match during Stardom’s Cinderella Tournament on March 24th, battling long-time foe Mayu Iwatani to a draw.

    It seems clear that Hana was being lined up to be one of THE top names in Stardom and would have been in line for a big push once Stardom could get back up and running properly (to an extent at least) after Covid. Her match with Giulia at Stardom Year End Climax 2019 had shown a more aggressive style than fans had perhaps been used to and a sign that perhaps she was ready to take even yet another step up the card.

    With the improvement that she had shown over the first four years of her career in the ring, which had accelerated in the final twelve months or so, and the personality and charisma that shone through our TV screens every time she stepped into the ring it was clear that she would have succeeded in making an even bigger name for herself.  It’s also clear from tales that her dedication to improving her English would have made her a good bet to one day make her way to WWE/AEW and become a star there too if she had so wanted.  Although she may have not been able to see it, the world was truly her oyster. 

    Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be. It’s impossible to tell from afar whether or not the lessons that could be learned from the tragic death of Hana Kimura have been and it’s perhaps worth noting that the cyber-bullying that led to Hana taking her own life appeared to stem from her appearances on Japanese Reality show Terrace House, rather than, as such, from wrestling.  On there she had spoken about her mixed-race heritage and had gotten into an argument with a housemate when they had dried her wrestling gear, ruining it in the process.

    As ever, wrestling goes on.  New names rise to the top, new stars shine and break through.  It’s always the way. One can hope that those who sent her toxic messages realised what an effect they can have on people.  If only a handful of people think again before pressing that send button, maybe Hana’s death won’t have been completely in vain. But the fact that a wrestler, and more importantly a daughter and a friend, is no longer with us when, by rights, she should still be here entertaining the wrestling world is not something I can easily forget. 

    Hana Kimura