- text by Mugiko Ozaki
- translation by Dana Maier
Not just limited to Japan, Maki Itoh boasts of her explosive popularity overseas as well. Undeniably, her appeal is the way her matches burst with her way of life, and her performances on the mic. But lately, she says she feels like she "can't express her way of life" any more. What the heck could have happened to Itoh?
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"In the past, I was an underdog, right? I was weak, I was always getting the crap beat out of me, so I was so so frustrated and I couldn't take it any more. I already felt like my life had just been one thing after another, so this was just too much on top of it and I'd explode. But, if you get your ass kicked as consistently as I did, you'll pick things up along the way too, and little by little I got stronger."
With respect to not being able to express her way of life in her matches, she'd also worried about that. She started to think, "The way I was in the past, my pro wrestling was good then, wasn't it?" That is, until recently, when she re-watched her January 4th, 2018 match against Danshoku Dieno. Towards that, she was, let's say.... Harsh.
"That match really got people talking, that was like, the match that people knew me for, it defined me. But when I watch it now, all I think is, "The Maki Itoh from back then was a nobody." If I were to do something like that now, now I'm at the point where I could actually think about how I'm going to do things in the match and stuff like that. But now I also don't know whether or not that would resonate with the audience."
Back then, she felt like she wanted to let out absolutely everything that she could.
"I had always felt, like, "I'm gonna mess up my life". The ring seemed as good a place to do that as any. Back then, nothing went smoothly, so I was always thinking 'what's even the point of living like this?' but, I gave absolutely everything I had to pro wrestling and people praised me, and that became my reason for living. So then before long, I was wrestling like I'll do this no matter what it takes, and I didn't care about anything else."
She wrestled like her life depended on the support of the fans in front of her. But now, it's different.
"I'm looking at it on a global scale, I want to do things that people will find interesting. So in order to do that, the way I expressed myself needed to change as well. So for example, I stopped doing the Lip Lock (a kiss, and this was before the Covid pandemic) kinda stuff, or the languages I used, I started using more English on social media."
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