The always interesting world of professional wrestling has lent itself to those willing to accept the challenge of entering the “squared circle”. While the patterns in history of this field suggest that general interest by promotions both large and small on women’s wrestling have shifted directions on numerous occasions, this industry nonetheless owes a debt of gratitude to the many women who have accepted that challenge and in the process have entertained millions of fans willing to appreciate their skills. But as the tide currently favors a strong contingent of women’s wrestling being displayed at the highest of levels (as showcased by the recent Mae Young Classic in the WWE), who of these talented ladies now or in the past can be considered the best and brightest of them all?
A sampling of those who could be considered seems to span various times the ladies themselves got the chance to shine in this vaunted profession. From the “glory days” of the the 1950’s where greats such as the aforementioned Young and Fabulous Moolah reigned supreme to the 2000’s where talents like Trish Stratus, Lita, Gail Kim, Charlotte Flair and more have embraced a more athletic style that has given their version a more credible look that matches up to what the guys are doing as well on a nightly basis. Lest we not forget the transcendent names of the past like Madusa Miceli and Sherri Martel who became big names in their own right at times here in the United States when the attention on the ladies side of things was less than what was actually deserved.
But at seemingly no time was there ever a better focus than in the always fervent hotbed of Japan in the late 1980’s to mid 1990’s. The action featured was intense, spirited and exciting with the All Japan Women’s promotion becoming one of the hottest wrestling promotions on the planet at that time and created a following larger at any other point in time in history for women’s wrestling. The stars that graced the All Japan Women’s ring during that time was a virtual “who’s who” of talents who crafted seemingly one great match after another. Names such as Kyoko Inoue, Akira Hokuto, Aja Kong, Toshiyo Yamada, Dump Matsumoto, Bull Nakano and The Crush Gals (Lioness Asuka and Chigusa Nagayo) appeared in matches that continually grabbed the headlines in Japan but there was one woman whose body of work provided more thrills than any other in her chosen sport.
Always the consummate professional, Manami Toyota thrilled audiences in Japan night after night with a dazzling array of skill and technical prowess that exceeded all others. Her role as the dominant character in her chosen field was accentuated with eight single and three tag team title runs and also a number of high profile feuds with the likes of Kong, Hokuto, Yamada, Inoue, Nakano and more that kept her pushing the creative envelope as far as it will go and the only woman to ever garner a Most Oustanding Wrestler Award from the prestigious Wrestling Observer in 1995. Every time she stepped into the ring willing to excite the crowd with an array of moves that would put her health at risk, her talent would allow her to perform even the most dangerous maneuvers including the Japanese Ocean Bomb, Victory Star Drop and the Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex with seemingly a great deal of ease.
Being the inspiration for both fans and wrestlers alike, Toyota’s career proved beyond a shadow of a doubt where she stands within the realm that only the greatest this sport can achieve regardless of gender. The sacrifices made for the sake of the wrestling profession has made her career one of the very best and can compare favorably against the resume of virtually any other wrestler. And that’s just a small sample why Manami Toyota is widely regarded (including our own poll) as the greatest women’s wrestler of all time. Now it’s time to discover the many videos of her matches on YouTube, Daily Motion and other streaming sites if you haven’t already because if you are a wrestling fan, you’ll be glad you did. (Reference: Wrestling Observer)
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