Arisa Hoshiki: The Brightest Stars Burn Twice as Fast

151 matches.

That was the amount of matches that makes up the career of Arisa Hoshiki. A career split up into two stints; the first as a fresh faced sixteen year old when Stardom first opened in 2011, and then from late 2018 for a year and a half. The second run, which consisted of 103 matches, is what most fans know of her. Despite only wrestling for such a short period of time, Arisa managed to establish herself as one of the most popular performers in a promotion that was rapidly rising, and has fans to this day wondering what could have been.

When Bushiroad bought Stardom in late 2019 Arisa was one of the key figureheads of this new period, positioned front and centre in all of the promotional material. She was in the middle of a dominant reign as the Wonder of Stardom Champion that would last 370 days and just won the Stardom awards for Most Outstanding Performer and Best Match (against Tam Nakano) at the year end celebration.

Unfortunately, the star that shines brightest burns twice as fast. Arisa’s time in wrestling was as impactful as it was short. On 20th May 2020, after being absent from the two shows Stardom ran during the initial COVID pandemic lockdowns, Hoshiki announced her retirement from pro-wrestling, vacating the belt.

Her passion for pro wrestling kept her going, but a combination of head and neck injuries as well as deteriorating mental health led to the unavoidable reality. It had been something she had battled with for some time, hiding those struggles behind her beaming smile.

Arisa didn’t get to enjoy a proper send-off. Stardom wouldn’t start running shows again for another month so she couldn’t come to the ring and say goodbye to the fans, and then just days later her retirement was (understandably) overshadowed by the tragic passing of Hana Kimura.

Arisa being showered by streamers at Shinkiba 1st Ring. Credit: Stardom

In the grander history of Stardom, Arisa is ultimately just a footnote – a sparkle as the promotion began and then a bright flourish right as the company readied itself for a historic boom period. However, to say she’s just a footnote would be to undersell just how big an impact she made during that time. Arisa’s popularity and legacy over such a short run highlights just what a phenom she was – proof of not only how good she was but how good she could have been if given the time to grow into her full potential.

Again, it’s important to note that her entire Stardom career only lasted 151 matches and was broken up by a six year gap. Arisa Hoshiki was only active for roughly three years, which is the amount of time a wrestler is considered eligible for the Future of Stardom Championship, a title for youngsters and ‘rookies’. Yet she held the prestigious White Belt and was constantly main eventing shows for the majority of her second stint with the company.

She shouldn’t have been as good as she was, it defies common logic. Yet Arisa already seemed like a veteran with years of experience in how she carried herself inside the ring. Just five months into her return she won the Cinderella Tournament and set the trend of using the ‘wish’ from that tournament to challenge for the White Belt. After winning the title from Momo Watanabe she had her award winning match with Tam Nakano for her first defence.

It was a violent affair, highlighting the best of both the champion and the challenger’s style; Tam’s emotionally charged offence and Arisa’s precise and vicious striking. It also worked towards the grander story between the two, one of the more memorable in Stardom’s history.

Arisa’s return to Stardom was a welcome sight for Mayu Iwatani, who quickly welcomed her to the STARS faction, ignoring the protests of Tam Nakano who had already found herself pushed down the pecking order once before by a returning figure of Mayu’s past. She tolerated Saki Kashima when she came back, but Arisa was a step too far.

The dichotomy of personality between Tam and Arisa. Credit: Stardom

Over the course of Arisa’s entire second run, Tam was there. Stardom’s storytelling is at its best when the talent are allowed to do their own thing, and it was apparent throughout their story. The little moments where Tam would buff Arisa’s advances in pre match promos or trying to interrupt her during group poses all added together to grow their story, showing the gradual change in Tam’s antagonism from genuine hatred and jealously to begrudging respect and friendship. Even the coldest heart couldn’t help but warm around the presence of Hoshiki, who seemed immune to Tam’s antics and abuse.

There was an infectiously happy charisma surrounding Arisa that endeared her to the audience. Her bright and bubbly personality radiated as she strode to the ring or joined in with her teammates in promos. She was almost saccharine sweet in nature. The joy she got from wrestling was apparent, and it’s understandable that it kept her going as long as it did despite the growing ailments.

Once the bell rang, that passion turned into a highlight reel of spectacularly brutal striking. A flurry of flying knees, head kicks and acrobatic moves, all punctuated by the most visually awe inspiring striking finisher in wrestling: the Question Mark Kick (or Brazilian Kick, which she could hit with either foot). Arisa was genuinely one of the best strikers in wrestling. Everything looked like it hit, and everything looked like it hurt. It all seemed to fuel her joy.

Alongside her was a roster that was willing to give as good as it could receive, Arisa felt perfectly placed in Stardom circa 2019. She was able to trade strikes with heavy hitters like Konami, Hazuki, Jungle Kyona and Momo Watanabe, who not only matched Hoshiki’s ferocity but also her hunger. Through every bone rattling kick, that grin remained. She was a smiling assassin and a violent artist who was exciting in and out of the ring. It’s no wonder fans flocked to her and why Bushiroad had her front and centre in their marketing. She joined Mayu Iwatani, Hana Kimura and Giulia in the Tokyo Dome for the first Stardom appearance at Wrestle Kingdom. A symbol of Stardom’s bright future as they appeared on the grandest stage

Arisa hitting her Question Mark Kick on a bloodied Utami Hayashishita. Credit: Stardom

What an alternative universe looks like with a healthier Hoshiki in 2020 and beyond can only be imagined. With the influx of new talent there would have been new matchups and opportunities. For example: Syuri joined right before she left and is someone who could have matched her in striking like perhaps no other. Her Wonder of Stardom reign had already left its mark as one of the best with an impressive ten defenses, anything more would have been icing on the cake before she likely passed it on to Tam and completed their story.

Of course there was also the money match we never got. Arisa Hoshiki and Mayu Iwatani faced off in their debut matches on Stardom’s first ever show and then fought one more time later in that year – and that was it. What the two of them could have accomplished nearly a decade later at their peaks could have been the stuff of legend. But, 2020 took a lot of things from us all.

Arisa’s career was cut short; 151 matches was only a taste of what could have been from such an entertaining and captivating performer. Yet at the same time we’ve been blessed with 151 exciting matches from a skilled artisan. Even when she transitioned to the more theatrical stage show style of ARG – which toned down the physical burden of wrestling considerably – you couldn’t hide the ferocity of her style and the innate aura of her personality. She was a born performer. Even when she wasn’t in the ring her creativity shone as a part of Unlimited Dream Navigator, singing under the name Udon Sato. When she walked out to the ring, she did so to music she created.

What Hoshiki accomplished in such a short time is nothing short of incredible. She came in like a hurricane and left a trail of destruction and wonder. Plenty of wrestlers have made an instant mark, but none carried themselves with quite the same vibrancy as Arisa Hoshiki. There are a bevvy of supremely talented strikers in wrestling, but none could match Hoshiki in skill and creativity.

There is only one Shining Star, and that was Arisa Hoshiki. And even one was seemingly too much for the wrestling world, forced to retire right as she was beginning to realise her potential. Her star might have burned out quickly, but while it shone, it illuminated the world.