U.S. woman fights for her dream in Japanese pro wrestling

Thu Apr 7, 2016 9:35am EDT
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By Elaine Lies and Thomas Peter

TOKYO (Reuters) - Forget cherry blossoms and delicate slices of raw fish. The Japan on which Kris Hernandez has pinned her dreams is the thud of body slams, sweat, and garish costumes - the world of professional women's wrestling.

"I fell in love with it - the drama, the excitement," the 31-year-old from the United States said of her first encounter with this unusual side of Japan.

"I was on the edge of my seat with every move, thinking 'Oh my God, how come they are not dead? Can I make a living doing this? Let me try'."

So Hernandez, who lived in San Francisco before coming to Japan, became the first foreigner to train from scratch and work her way up into Japanese women's pro wrestling.

She quit her teaching job and shared a house with women wrestlers, living off savings as she began a tough daily training regimen including gymnastic moves.

"I was pretty poor then, but I wanted to become a wrestler so badly. I would walk four hours across Tokyo to get to practice, do three-hour training and then get the train back," she said.

"If I saved the train fare one way, it would be all right."

She made her debut in August 2014 under the name Kris Wolf, wearing a costume with a wolf's head and tail.   Continued...

Wrestlers Kris Wolf and Starfire fight during their Stardom professional wrestling show at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, Japan, July 26, 2015.  REUTERS/Thomas Peter