Mariko Yoshida has once again elected to take an absence from professional wrestling, except this time she’s retiring. Yoshida’s short-lived comeback to the sport happened at last year’s tenth-anniversary celebration for a former trainee, Hiroyo Matsumoto. Trained at the hands of the legendary Jaguar Yokota back in the late 1980’s, like Yokota, Yoshida is responsible for molding the next generation of Joshi with her expertise. Misaki Ohata, multi-champion Matsumoto, Faby Apache, former SHIMMER Champion Cheerleader Melissa and even current retirees, Tomoka Nakagawa, Ayumi Kurihara, Shuu Shibutani were all raised under Yoshida’s tutelage. However, those few names are not even the tip of the iceberg when it comes to who all were trained by Yoshida in the last twenty-years. Mariko also innovated a move that is seen today, the Air Raid Crash and was one of the many hands involved in the launch of Aja Kong’s ARSION back in 1997.
As the head trainer alongside Sakie Hasegawa acting as the manager and as president, Rossy Ogawa, the current president of STARDOM, ARSION’s debut event, “Virgin” took place in front of a sold-out crowd in Tokyo on February 18, 1998, and footage from the show can usually be found via YouTube. The promotion eventually folded in 2003 after the departure of Kong two years earlier due to conflicts with Ogawa. Kong walked out on the promotion during a tag team match with Mariko against Etsuko Mita and Mima Shimoda at Korakuen Hall and declared that she was “quitting.” During that time, Lioness Asuka was brought in as the new booker and eventually pushed herself into the major storylines along with other veterans, leading to a young Ayako Hamada leaving the promotion after being pushed down the card and jumping to Gaea with Kong.
Despite all the backstage politics, ARSION’s been lauded after over the last decade and change since it’s closure for it’s Lucha Libre and shoot wrestling infused style, which was patterned after Yoshida herself, whom had repackaged her skills by adopting more submission mat-based wrestling and even incorporated mixed-martial arts to be even more of a technical performer. Yoshida dropped her high-flying style that made her a three-time AJW Tag Team Champion and one-time AJW titleholder and even switched out her old ring attire for her infamous spider webbed design. Yoshida was crowned the inaugural Queen of ARSION Champion that same year the promotion had launched in December and is also the final titleholder, winning the championship via an eight-woman elimination tag team match in August of 2003. Yoshida’s second reign as champion was ended two months after winning the then-vacant title over Rie Tamada in a seven-way elimination match in June of 2003 by Mima Shimoda, who won it on ARSION’s final show. Yoshida won the belt back two months later and officially retired it the same day and went onto launch, “IBUKI” a new promotion aimed at fostering young, up and comers just two years later.
Hiroyo, Misaki, Tomoka, and Kurihara would turn out to be Ibuki’s / S-Ovation’s (production company) most recognizable and biggest stars to date. All four women would go on to debut for SHIMMER in 2010, leading the way for future Joshi contingent and winning the promotion’s tag team titles down the line. Yoshida continued to wrestle during this time and began making appearances for DIANA before taking a three-year hiatus in 2013. She teamed up with Kyoko Kimura and Cherry for her in-ring return and fought Ohata, Aoi Kizuki and DASH Chisako to a twenty-minute time-limit draw at last year’s produce for Matsumoto and managed to squeeze in one appearance for DIANA that October before reappearing at a Korakuen Hall show earlier this year, where she unsuccessfully challenged Jaguar Yokota and Manami Toyota in a number contendership three-way for the DIANA World Title. Yoshida made her announcement at a recent show in Tokyo and stated that her final match is scheduled for November 20th at Shinjuku FACE. In the meantime, she continues to wrestle for DIANA until her career winds down.