Early Friday morning, joshi icon and living pro wrestling legend Manami Toyota officially announced her impending retirement. Arguably one of, if not the greatest pro wrestler of all time, the 46-year-old cited neck and back issues as her reason for stepping out of the ring for a final time on November 3rd.
Trained by Jaguar Yokota, Toyota began her wrestling career at the tender age of 16. At the time, AJW would only accept someone so young with permission from their parents — a permission paper she forgot, thus failing to get in the first time. Said Toyota in her first official interview in 1987, “I wanted to be pro wrestler. I never thought about Karate or anything else. I only wanted to be a wrestler.” Her drive and passion for pro wrestling led to an incredible thirty year career. She cemented her calling as a true legend of the sport early on, having 17 five-star matches (as rated by The Wrestling Observer).
While it’s incredibly hard to condense such a decorated and lengthy career into a few paragraphs, those familiar with Toyota’s body of work can attest to the fact that she sits amongst the great pantheon of pro wrestlers whose skill and innovation transform pro wrestling into an art form. If you’re not one to devote your time this weekend to March Madness, it’s more than worth it to dive into her archives. Be it the pure emotion of her 1992 Hair vs. Title match against Toshiyo Yamada, or the sheer perfection of the trilogy of matches match between her and Yamada against Dynamite Kansai and Mayumi Ozaki that same year, you’d be doing yourself a disservice as a wrestling fan to miss out on the legacy Toyota will be leaving behind.