Those of you familiar with the fight scene in Japan, particularly Pride FC and the kickboxing platform K-1, will likely remember the names of competitors of color like Bob Sapp and Bobby Ologun. Last year, there was even an excellent documentary called "Doglegs" about a pro wrestling league where fighters with disabilities battle the able-bodied in order to smash stereotypes.
One thing these platforms have in common is that they are male-dominated. But female fighters have also taken to the rings here in Japan. These leagues — World Wonder Ring Stardom, Universal Women's Pro Wrestling Reina and World Woman Pro-Wrestling Diana — are not household names, but the sport's popularity is on the rise thanks to the talent, athleticism and diversity of its members. This month, Black Eye has had the good fortune to share a conversation with one of pro wrestling's up-and-coming stars, Roni Nicole.
If you made your way over to Korakuen Hall in Tokyo Dome City or the Lazona Kawasaki Plazasol earlier this year for a WWW Diana event, you might have caught a glimpse of this young woman in all her garish glory. If not, think of the last person you'd expect to see in a Japanese wrestling match, then super-size that and paint it black. I myself have not had the pleasure of seeing her in the ring yet, but I have watched several of her matches on YouTube, and she does not disappoint. Perhaps the Diana events are bit scaled down from the kind of pageantry and pyrotechnics an American like myself, weened on what is now the WWE, has come to expect, but most of the other elements are there: plenty of spine-snapping piledrivers, gut-smashing banzai drops and whiplashing lariats to go around.