There is simply no one else like Maki Itoh.
That combination of spunk, pigtails, middle fingers, headbutts and English curse words is unique to Tokyo Joshi Pro-Wrestling’s plaid-clad renegade. And now, as she ventures outside of Japan more, new fans are experiencing that singular force.
Itoh spent much of the year as TJPW International Princess Champion, defending the gold against the likes of Mia Yim, Rhio and Yuki Arai before losing it to England’s Alex Windsor at the Summer Sun Princess event in July. Following the title loss, Itoh-chan headed back to America. This trip came after a brief excursion to AEW where Itoh both teamed and tangled with Britt Baker.
This time around, Itoh headed to the American indies. On the same weekend, she battled Billie Starks on a Jersey Championship Wrestling show and made her GCW debut against Dark Sheik.
This is only the beginning. Itoh was already getting plenty of attention even before her recent marked improvement in the ring. Now she’s adding skilled in-ring storytelling to her standout character and big-as-a-Buick personality.
What’s in her target sights at TJPW? How is the American audience different from the one back home? I had a chance to ask Itoh a few of those questions with the help of a translator. The self-proclaimed Cutest Wrestler in the World had this to say:
Q: What was the most fun thing you’ve done while in the United States?
Becoming friends with many wrestlers overseas. I’m bad at communication! But somehow, I’m able to communicate in English, and its enjoyable to speak with them! I’m really close with Excalibur; he’s kind of like a dad to me. When I lost my credit card and phone, he really helped me out when I needed it. (laughs)
Q: What are the biggest differences between American fans and Japanese fans? What is different about wrestling in each country?
The reactions of American fans are really frank. If they like it, they’ll go wild and if they find its boring, they will react accordingly. In Japan, they won’t react negatively to any kind of match. In terms of matches, their expressions are all [over] the place there! I don’t think the Japanese wrestlers are as expressive as American ones.
Q: What’s your number one goal in TJPW and what will it take to achieve it?
I want to be #1 in the world in TJPW. I think in terms of followers I’ve already achieved it but it’s not enough. I want to be a superstar loved by all around the world. I thought of what really makes a superstar a superstar. I think it’s when Maki Itoh gets a figurine released. To that end I’ll go to as many overseas excursions as I can and appear in AEW as much as I can. When my figure is released, make sure to buy 100 copies okay??
Q: Miyu Yamashita is both your biggest rival and your tag team partner. What have you learned from wrestling either against and alongside her?
No matter how weak I am, I will fight with my all. Yamashita’s tough. I’ve been fighting her ever since my debut, but she always went straight for me regardless of how weak I was. She has that same look even against people stronger than me. Regardless of how strong anyone is, she taught me that going all in against your opponent is important.
Q: What’s your favorite memory of TJPW so far?
Winning last year’s [Tokyo Princess Cup] tournament. I broke some bones on my face and yet I went all out to win. And I did. How amazing is Maki Itoh?!
Q: What are the requirements to join the Itoh Respect Army?
Buy my T-shirt.
It’s not surprising Itoh squeezed in two sales pitches in the answers to six questions. She’s a master marketer.
American fans will get to see that skill up close again when The Broken Idol wrestles for Prestige Wrestling (along with Yamashita) in Pomona, California on Sept. 17.
And one has to assume she will be back in AEW, too. She has history with Thunder Rosa who beat her for the International Princess Championship and earlier this year told Itoh: “You must be out of your freaking mind if you think you can defeat me.” Plus, AEW and TJPW clearly have a strong relationship considering all the talent Tony Khan brings over from Japan.
But there’s still work to be done for Itoh in her home promotion. She has never won TJPW’s top title. She has yet to knock off Yamashita. Should she accomplish both those things, she may very well claim her spot atop that company and rename herself ‘The Cutest Ace in the World.’