Top Joshi Wrestlers of 2022

Saya Kamitani entrance - top joshi wrestlers of 2022

Over the past few years LWOPW has put together a list of the top Joshi wrestlers of a given year, beginning in 2019 and running until now.  This time around we have got nominations and contributions from a number of people involved in covering Joshi wrestling to various degrees to represent the viewpoint of as many different voices as possible.

Contributions from: James Carlin (Freelance Writer, Known for work with Monthly Puroresu, Check out his Substack), Peps (Wrestle Purists), Scott Edwards Jr. (Fightful, Voices of Wrestling, Last Word on Sports, Host of the Five Star Joshi Podcast & More), Dylan Murray (Wrestling Inc., Last Word on Sports, Co-Host of Stardom Quest). Alex Richards (Last Word on Sports, Voices of Wrestling, Cultured Vulture, Co-Host of Stardom Quest)
Note: This isn’t a competitive ranking or an article with a “winner”. This article aims to put a spotlight on the best Japanese women’s wrestlers of the past year!

The Top Joshi Wrestlers of 2022

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Miu Watanabe – Nominated by James Carlin

James – “Miu Watanabe had a star-making performance in the Princess Cup against Miyu Yamashita, going on to win the International Princess title afterwards, even with Koda’s weird reluctance to create new stars in place of the big 4, Miu showed the world that she has that capability and international appeal to bring a wider audience to the company whilst giving performances that emotionally invest the fans for a company not typically revered for its match quality like Stardom is”

Itsuki Aoki – Nominated by Alex

Alex – “Itsuki Aoki is a familiar face to fans of a number of Joshi promotions. Not only is she incredibly active but she consistently delivers entertaining matches. No matter the promotion, no matter the situation, you can trust Aoki to deliver. Her year was highlighted by a match with Takumi Iroha for the AAAW title that stands out as one of the best Marvelous matches of 2022. Her work alongside Rin Kadokura has also bee a bright spot of the year with the duo winning the AAAW Tag Team Championship earlier in the year”

Momo Watanabe – Nominated by Peps

Peps – “If we talk about the Top Joshi of this year from STARDOM then Syuri, Giulia, Saya Kamitani and Mayu Iwatani will be the ones that come instantly to the minds of most of the Joshi fans but some of them are sleeping on one name – Momo Watanabe. The Black Peach got a character change after joining Oedo Tai and totally shined in her role. Her matches in the 5STAR against Suzu Suzuki or her bigger matches against Mayu Iwatani and Syuri were great, while her Tag Team Bouts with Starlight Kid put the Black Desire tag team really high on every Tag Team of the year list. While she was never the focal point of STARDOM, she was always a great asset to the show and made the whole Promotion a lot better this year. A great year for a future World of Stardom Champion.”

Syuri – Nominated by Scott

Scott – “In a year where it was supposed to be all about Saya Kamitani and her Wonder of Stardom Championship reign, Syuri still managed to be STARDOM’s greatest champion and possibly the wrestler of the year for a second straight year. The challenge of following up her 2021 was a bigger challenge than following up the unbelievable run Utami Hayashishita had with the title.

Syuri getting her own faction felt more like an added hurdle than anything else. Establishing the group and finding out who they are throughout the year is a credit to Syuri as it didn’t always seem easy but they’ve figured themselves out. But back to her reign as champion. She started the year as the World of Stardom Champion, SWA Undisputed Champion, and one-half of the Goddess of Stardom Champion. While she very well may close the year without all three, it supports the dominance that went into her World of Stardom Championship reign as she committed herself to the gold.

Looking at the defense of Syuri, the most impressive accomplishment has to be beating Giulia and Mayu Iwatani on back-to-back nights at Stardom World Climax. Her defenses against Risa Sera and Tam Nakano in the summer brought the reign to new heights as they were necessary challenges to bring her out of her comfort zone. And she managed to have the best 5STAR Grand Prix run of the Red Stars Block, furthering her special year all the more.

Likely to close the year with one final Match of the Year Contender against Giulia, maybe Syuri’s most memorable match came at one of the year’s most important shows. At Hana Kimura BAGUS run by Kyoko Kimura, Syuri main evented against ASUKA. The match was special and brought the whole show together.

As the year closes out, Syuri deserves all the flowers she will get as one of wrestling’s very best and, without a doubt, the best world champion of 2022. That’s not up for debate.
It’s been a special, special run for Syuri”

Tomoka Inaba – Nominated by Dylan

Dylan – “The JUST TAP OUT Dojo has produced some high-caliber wrestlers in recent years, and while Aoi has grown a lot since the year has begun, it is her “Aoitomo” contemporary who truly made 2022 her year. After losing the Queen of JTO Championship to end 2021, Tomoka Inaba’s feud with Yurika Oka led her to win the Sendai Girls Junior Championship in February. Inaba’s Future of Stardom Championship challenge against Hanan over the summer was her first bout on a mainline STARDOM show and was one of the best in the title’s history. The match, which went to a draw, also marked the point that Inaba surpassed the Future/Junior titles, with her vacating the Sendai Girls belt and regaining the Queen of JTO Championship occurring around this time as well.

The second half of Inaba’s year was really when things got kicked into high gear. Inaba became the new member of Syuri’s God’s Eye faction in STARDOM, making her a regular contributor to the company while remaining the Ace of JTO’s women’s division. While Inaba had a breakout performance amongst STARDOM audiences in the 2022 Goddess of Stardom Tag League, her JTO TakaTaichimania matches were where she truly showed the extent of her wrestling skills. Her match alongside Aoi against Maika and MIRAI at TakaTaichiDespeMania was one of the best on the card, and the last ever TakaTaichi event in December featured Inaba defeating Suzu Suzuki in what could be considered her best singles match to date.

Inaba’s year has been one of major improvements both in-ring and in name value. While her notable victories throughout the year may pale in comparison to some of the other women on this list, Inaba’s projected ceiling as a wrestler has risen tenfold since January. With her continued involvement in STARDOM, the God’s Eye member could have an even bigger year in 2023.”

Ibuki Hoshi – Nominated by Peps

Peps – “The current International Ribbon Tag Champion alongside AEW’s Hikaru Shida had a tough task after the retirement of Tsukushi and the absence of Tsukasa (Fujimoto). Ibuki Hoshi was one of the chosen ones to lead Ice Ribbon into the new generation and she does her job perfectly and proved that she will be one of the top girls in the promotion for the next decade. Her stellar performance alongside and against Shida alone proves why she deserves to be in the conversation, but aside from that, she had multiple great matches on the Dojo Shows against other future Ice Ribbon Stars. 2023 will be the year of Ibuki Hoshi and nothing can stop her rise to the top of the Joshi World.”

Suzu Suzuki – Nominated by Scott

Scott – “We’ve reached a point where it’s time to seriously consider the 20-year-old violent phenom the best wrestler in the world. What Suzu Suzuki did in 2022 was shut up a lot of doubters of hers when she decided to leave Ice Ribbon to go with Risa Sera and be a member of Prominence. It ended up being a total game changer for the Joshi scene and her.

She was the rejuvenation many promotions needed. Sure, the former ICExInfinty Champion could have stayed in Ice Ribbon for years and year and never looked back as their probable ace (they would have loved that). But she challeenged herself and it led to her finest year yet. Her arrival to STARDOM was met with surprise and rightful excitement. She proceeded to become a fan favorite for many through her incredible matches and undeniable style. The run she had in the 5STAR Grand Prix very well might have been the best of anyone in the tournament — including winner Giulia. Her match with Giulia on the final night was one of the most emotional matches of the year and, frankly, one of the best. She’s closing out the year teamed up with Risa Sera and Kurumi Hiiragi to possibly win her first title in STARDOM.

But it feels wrong to only talk about what she’s done in STARDOM. Suzuki also won the Regina Di Wave Championship earlier this year after going on to win the most prominent Joshi indies tournament of the year, the Catch The WAVE tournament. Her match with Miyuki Takase in the unexpected final was another one for her to add to the long resume of greatness from 2022 alone.

As we set sail into 2023, there’s no one with more exciting potential to be on this list again than Suzuki. She is one of the best in the world at 20 years old and should be well on her way to being an all-timer. She’s generational.”

Yuka Sakazaki – Nominated by Alex

Alex – “Miyu Yamashita may be the ace of TJPW and Maki Itoh may be their international star, but Yuka Sakazaki was undoubtedly the focal point of the promotion in 2022. In the earlier part of the year she and Mizuki had a really fun reign as the tag champions, highlighted by an excellent defense against Miu Watanabe and Rika Tatsumi. Sakazaki proceeded to go on an absolute tear for the second half of 2022 as she won the Princess Cup, debuted in PWG, and capture the Princess of Princess Championship from Shoko Nakajima.

In a year when TJPW had some big names take a back seat, Sakazaki stepped up in a big way, delivering in just about every spot they put her in.”

MIRAI – Nominated by James

James – “Having seen only two or three matches of her in Tokyo Joshi prior to her debut, MIRAI has put in a lot of work to improve herself not only in the ring but with her presentation. She won this year’s Cinderella tournament and defeated Mayu Iwatani and Giulia in back-to-back matches in the 5⭐STAR alongside a great performance in the Goddess Tag League. If this is only her rookie year in the company, who knows what she can achieve in a few years time.”

Yuu – Nominated by Dylan

Dylan – “One of the many journeywomen in joshi wrestling today, Yuu has left her mark everywhere she’s competed throughout the year. In what could be considered the best calendar year of her career, Yuu’s run as one-half of the Sendai Girls Tag Team Champions alongside Chihiro Hashimoto was a dominant one, with its end in October only coming at the hands of the Reiwa Ultima Powers, one of the most decorated tag teams in Sendai history.

Yuu also found new companies to invade over the year, making her long-awaited return to the United States to start the year, facing Ryo Mizunami at DPW You Already Know. Then, at the inaugural STARDOM in Showcase event over the summer, Yuu debuted for the Rossy Ogawa-led company and has since won the Goddesses of Stardom Tag League alongside Nanae Takahashi. Yuu was the woman to win in the final match of the tournament, gaining a pinfall victory over reigning Wonder of Stardom Champion Saya Kamitani in the process.

Yuu also became a double singles champion near the end of the year, holding both the EVE International Championship and the PURE-J Openweight Championship simultaneously throughout November and December.”

Mayu Iwatani – Nominated by Scott

Scott – “What’s there to say about Mayu Iwatani that hasn’t been said before? She’s the greatest of all time. And what she managed to do this year was remind the world of that in every opportunity she had. Starting with her match against Giulia at the first STARDOM PPV of the year and closing out her special year with the most important STARDOM match in history against KAIRI at Historic X-Over — she delivered each and every time she was expected and many times went above and beyond.

Her never ending ability to have a Match of the Year Contender doesn’t do justice of how amazing she is but it’s not a bad way to appreciate her. The match that spoke volumes to not only her greatness but how she can turn it on at any moment is her match with Starlight Kid on the final night of the 5STAR Grand Prix. That match captured the story of those two, what they’ve been through, and most importantly where they’re going. It’s one of wrestling’s best matches of story, struggle, and action. Nearly perfect and the embodiment of why Mayu Iwatani continues to be the best wrestler in the world even when she’s not in the spotlight.

If you need an accolade from her to justify this spot, winning the SWA Undisputed Championship can be that. While her reign wasn’t anything to the levels of Syuri’s reign, it put her in the same conversation as Io Shirai in winning ever major title and tournament STARDOM has to offer. She’s “The Icon.” The Ace. And the greatest.”

Mika Iwata – Nominated by Alex

Alex – “There are few wrestlers who I have enjoyed more this year than Mika Iwata. Her partnership with Miyuki Takase was a welcomed addition to the Sendai Girls tag team scene and anytime she was given the opportunity, she shined in singles competition. She closed out the year with a really fun encounter against Takase which showcased everything that makes Iwata enjoyable”

Miyuki Takase – Nominated by Peps

Peps – “Accomplish-wise, Miyuki Takase wasn’t near the top of any Promotion in 2022, but performance-wise, she proved once again why she’s one of the best talents in wrestling out there. Week for week she delivers great matches in every Joshi promotion that you could imagine against the likes of Nagisa Nozaki, Suzu Suzuki, Yuu, Mika Iwata and more while also having fantastic matches in the United States for DPW like a dream Match against Miyu Yamashita.

Takase put her working boots on in 2022 after leaving Actwres girl’Z. With over 130 matches in 20 different promotions, she wrestled a match on average every three days, and these weren’t some random Tag Team Matches. Takase wrestled in over 10 title matches, including for the Regina di WAVE Title (twice) and the EVE International Title, but she couldn’t capitalize on her challenges and only won two of them together with her Tag Team Partner Haruka Umesaki. In 2023, the Phoenix of Osaka will rise again and reach the top of the Joshi World.”

Saya Kamitani – Nominated by James & Dylan

James – “Saya Kamitani has probably had the most consistent title reign all year, one that is almost on the level of Arisa Hoshiki’s reign with the White Belt. As the tradition goes, the holder of the Wonder of Stardom title represents Stardom itself, and Saya Kamitani has certainly done that; having excellent matches each time she’s defended the belt as well as delivering on smaller touring shows.”

Dylan – “There can not be a Top Joshi Wrestlers of 2022 list without including the reigning Wonder of Stardom Champion, Saya Kamitani. After two years of being “next up” in STARDOM’s championship hierarchy, Kamitani entered this year with the White Belt and hit every mark of a great champion as it comes to a close. Her widely underrated matches against Natsupoi and Maika could easily find themselves on MOTYC lists, her October defense against Mina Shirakawa saw a masterful rendition of a high-flier vs. technician battle, and her 30-minute draw against KAIRI made her one of only a handful of women in STARDOM who could deliver a phenomenal performance in a singles match of that length.

Saya has become the most can’t-miss wrestler in all of joshi this year, with her unique style truly making many of her matches both unique and exhilarating, whether it’s a PPV or a small tour show in the countryside. Saya is easily one of the most consistent competitors in STARDOM and has regularly helped younger members of Queen’s Quest thrive in their tag team encounters.

Kamitani’s 5STAR Grand Prix run also echoed this as her matches against the likes of Hazuki, Momo Watanabe, and Suzu Suzuki made her one of the true standouts of the summer’s hottest tournament. While the Goddesses of Stardom Tag League saw fewer incredible performances from the champ, her matches alongside Utami Hayashishita against Meltear, Karate Brave, and 7Upp were some of the best of the entire tournament.”

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