Spotlighting the Indies: Mariko Yoshida, One of the Greats

Christi LottCorrespondent ISeptember 2, 2009

I'm really glad everyone enjoyed reading about Faby Apache and enjoyed the YouTube videos that went along with it.

Today is the day that I finally cover someone I've mentioned on many occasions. To me, she is without a doubt, one of the greatest wrestlers to have ever stepped foot in a ring, and is rightfully considered one of the best wrestlers, male or female.

Her name is Mariko Yoshida.

The first time I ever heard of Mariko Yoshida is thanks to my friend Kim, a foreign exchange student from Japan who lives with my neighbors. She asked me if I liked wrestling and if I had ever watched Japanese wrestling. I of course said no, and she took me into her room and showed me a couple of videos from a promotion called ARSION. I was in awe from beginning to end, especially as I watched a woman named Mariko Yoshida battle in the Queen of ARSION tournament. Kim said, "She's really good huh?!" Good is an understatement.

Mariko was trained by another woman considered one of the greats, male or female, legendary women's wrestler Jaguar Yokota. Yoshida started her wrestling career in now defunct All Japan Women's Pro Wrestling (AJW) in 1988 at the age of 18. AJW to this day is the longest-running promotion in Japan, a surprising feat for an all women's promotion. She quickly established herself as a top star, shining through with a lucha-inspired moveset along with naturally good mat skills. She held the AJW title once, and was tag team champion twice, all against and with Takako Inoue.

In 1997, she shocked many by leaving AJW to join fellow great Aja Kong's new ARSION promotion. Determined to help create a new group of stars, Yoshida became its head trainer, bent on creating another generation of joshi stars. Stepping away from her high-flying moveset that made her popular in AJW, she was pushed as a mat wrestling star, helped by her training in mixed martial arts. Through this, she adapted a much more fluid style of submission holds and shoot style wrestling, which allowed her to enhance her lucha-inspired moves as well. In ARSION, she was Queen of ARSION (champion) twice as well as Twin Star (Tag Champs) twice.

Mariko hasn't only wrestled in Japan either. Thanks to her lucha moveset, Mariko held Mexican promotion CMLL's Women's Championship. She has also wrestled her in the states, most noteworthy in women's wrestling tournament ChickFight, which she won twice in 2005.

Mariko herself created Ibuki in 2005, a bi-monthly event aimed at helping up and coming stars from various promotions gain experience through not only wrestling each other, but veteran wrestlers as well. Today, it stands as one of the best promotions aimed at allowing the opportunity for constant training and is open to wrestlers from around the world.

If you wish to see Yoshida's training and influence, some of her trainees include Cheerleader Melissa, Faby and Mary Apache and Ayako Hamada, just to name a few.

In 2006, she was presented with the Cauliflower Alley Club Future Legend Award, only th esecond woman to receive it, as well as being nine years into a great career.

Yoshida is credited with being the innovator of two great finishing moves. The first is an Air Raid Crash:

The second is known as the Spider Twist, and is one of the coolest submission holds I've ever seen:

It's hard to pick which matches could be Mariko's best, so I've picked my personal favorites. If you want to see a wrestling clinic at its best, watch this match from ARSION 1999, in which Yoshida takes on Yumi Fakawa:

Another favorite of mine is another classic with fellow great Takako Inoue, from 2002, a match which determeined the Queen of ARSION:

An extremely great match to watch, Yoshida took on fellow legendary wrestler Manami Toyota in 2001:

If you're one of those who'd like to see how Yoshida fares against a familiar face, check out this match with Cheerleader Melissa:

Check out another Instant Classic from 2001, featuring Mariko taking on one of her students, new TNA Knockout Hamada:

I highly recommend looking up anything and everything about this woman. I truly wish there was more to her to find apart from Wikipedia and a few websites. Mariko Yoshida deserves every kudos and praise possible. She is, to me, one of the greatest wrestlers to ever step foot in a ring.