On November 20, 2022, Kairi Sane—now simply known as Kairi—made history by becoming the first woman to hold the title of IWGP Women’s Champion in recorded history. That’s right, after a lengthy stint in WWE during which the former Kabuki Warrior won the NXT Women’s Championship and the Tag Team Championship with Asuka, Kairi finally returned to Japan.
She quickly seized the opportunity presented to her in Stardom and dethroned Mayu Iwatani in a historic cross-promotional event with New Japan Pro Wrestling known as the NJPW/StardomHistoric X-over.
In an interview with NJPW, Kairi was questioned about what it was like to win the inaugural IWGP Women’s Championship. She was giddy about the match. It’s a true honor, Kairi remarked. “Timing is crucial, too. I must thank the pro wrestling deity for giving me the opportunity. It’s huge because, in all of my wrestling, I’ve never come in first.
Even though the match was clearly well-received by Japanese fans because it was a significant point in the history of both businesses, the largest reactions came from America, notably from the WWE locker room where Kairi is still held in very high regard.
“Not just from the WWE locker room, but also from the fans. It was wonderful to receive congrats from ASUKA, Io, and Shayna Baszler even after I had left that firm. After I won, (Shinsuke Nakamura) liked my post! I’d like to attend his match against the Great Muta on January 1 because I know he’ll be in Japan.
For those who don’t know, Kairi didn’t want to entirely quit WWE for Stardom. Kairi, a native of Japan, had plans to move back there after getting married and even occasionally compete for her original promotion, Stardom, in addition to any part-time work options with WWE.
But sadly, Mr. McMahon wasn’t as progressive in terms of booking and was allowed to leave without restrictions when her contract came to an end in February of 2020, but not before she could say goodbye to her new friends and fans. If Paul “Triple H” Levesque had been in charge of WWE at the time, perhaps that would have at least been taken into consideration.
Kairi stated, “My experience in the NXT & WWE locker rooms was great. Every day was filled with enjoyment since everyone was nice, funny, and talented. In addition, the helpful employees working behind the scenes saved me.
All of the experts I had the pleasure of working with are people I will always love and respect. The last three years have seen me accomplish a lot, but it wasn’t due to my skill or fortitude. It was a result of the supporters’ unwavering, cordial support. I’m very glad I got to meet you all. Please accept my sincere gratitude, Kairi Sane.
Kairi Actually Suffered a Sprained Foot Before Her Biggest Bout Outside of WWE
When questioned about her encounter with Iwatani at the Historic X-Over in another section of her interview with NJPW, Kairi accidentally revealed that she had a foot issue and had to work the match, which received a 4.5-star rating from Dave Meltzer, according to Cagematch.
“I believed I was mentally and physically ready for the two nights. But then, just before Osaka, I sprained my foot while working out,” Kairi recalled. The doctor advised me not to wrestle because of the severe swelling in my ankle. I managed to get through the Osaka match, which was incredibly beneficial for me mentally, but I was undoubtedly concerned about Mayu the following day.
Kairi never even considered ending the fight because of the pair’s common promotion history; instead, she gave it her all for more than 25 minutes. The Three Daughters of STARDOM were the name given to Kairi, Mayu, and Io Shirai in the past. Things were difficult back then, and because there were so few wrestlers, it was inevitable that you would compete twice on the same evening.
We had reached the absolute lowest point. I believe Mayu decided she wanted to support STARDOM when I departed in 2017. I understand where those remarks are coming from, and while I appreciate it, they just served to energize me.
This is a fight, and the better the fight would be if we were both more obstinate. Due to my level of engagement, even though the game lasted a long 25 minutes and 28 seconds, it only seemed like three at the time. Both of us were under a lot of strain, but I believe that it worked to our advantage.
The NJPW’s biggest event, Wrestle Kingdom 17, features Kairi’s first scheduled championship defense against Tam Nakano. With the possibility that Sasha Banks or Mercedes Mone may be there to promote a future huge match, Kairi has a chance to have even more of an impact on the event.