Below is the English translation of the interview for Riho by Weekly Playboy Japan.
Congratulations on winning the Inaugural AEW Women’s Championship!
Riho: Thank you!
I didn’t expect you to become a champion in the United States in 3 months after going freelance and make a name for the world!
Riho: I never thought I would do that!
I thought I am an unknown part-timer when I was starting to wrestle in the US.
Moreover, the physical difference between you and the opponent, Nyla Rose, was like adults and children.
Riho: In fact, I got big cheering from fans rather than her and that made me think “I can’t lose”!
On top of that, I don’t fear physical differences because of having been many experiences for matches between Male competitors.
I know you had many mixed matches and heard that you were teamed up with Kenny Omega.
Riho: That was when I was 12. He has cared about me ever since.
That connection made you join AEW?
Riho: I got a mobile message that “Perhaps I might have a match in the US, but are you interested in Riho?” from Kenny then I replied in an easy mood like “Lemme do that!”.
I never thought that was such a big new company.
I stepped in front of almost 20,000 crowds, I had wrestled on a small venue with only 60 peoples in Japan though.
And there weren’t fans who have supported me in the US.
I feel very lonely and upsetting so I thought I would be back home every time.
Do things have changed after becoming a champion?
Riho: It has changed a lot!
At first, there was a feeling that a stranger came in the waiting room.
After becoming the champion, they called me by my name “Riho”, I wonder if I’d have been recognized.
People have recognized me even if I’m on the road or in the hotel.
Airport inspector who looked out the champion belt said “Oh, Riho! Congratulations!”.
I have understood how popular pro wrestling is in the US.
People would be surprised if the champion belt found in the luggage. [laugh]
By the way, how about the treatment by AEW?
Riho: After arriving at the airport, a hired car for the venue arranged properly.
Hotels are also luxury, for example, there are 6 pillows and have no idea how I can use it all[laugh]
That’s a huge difference between Japan, where I left home in the middle of the night and tripped by a car and go back immediately after the match.
That’s exactly what the American dream is!
But you didn’t have a specific goal and saying “I’m having fun now” when we had the interview one and a half years ago.
What made you go freelance.
Riho: When I leave the ring in a month by injuring neck, I could look myself objectively the first time.
Even though I’ve been in pro wrestling for 13 years, asking myself if I would do more 13 years, then the answer would be no.
So I had the feeling want to be challenging rather than being enjoyable at the same place.
That was the period just starting to appear in other promotions, I found that how pleasant to meet new fans who cheered me in the match against the first-ever opponent is.
In the same period, You expand your opportunities for England, Taiwan.
And becoming the champion in Singapore.
Did you gain confidence from that?
Riho: That was the feeling of making the base as a pro wrestler rather than the confidence.
I wished I would be showing that in various places.
So I told honestly Miss Sakura about the thought, then she said “The right time has come, I will let you go with confidence”
[ snip ]
You had almost 300 matches from October 2012 to May 2017 and there were so many counts from your debut in 2006.
Riho: Certainly there is a part that can improve the match more than practice.
For example, the timing to use my leg right after finding the chance to roll up, or the timing to get to the fan’s heart, intuitive things largely depend on the experience.
And due to my physical small size, I think I’m pursuing how to put my weight on or moving my body to turn over big opponents.
Even if worn out, you have the stamina for counter-attacking on the right occasion!
Your quickness and various maneuver make fans hot, on the other hand, you are described as an “Idol” wrestler from your adorable looking.
What is your opinion about it?
Riho: My mentor Miss Sakura said so, also American fans seem to accept and cheer me along with “Japanese Idol culture around”.
That might be my strength, but I’m ambivalent.
Because I’m a professional wrestler and feel “Don’t take me lightly!” [laugh]
You won a High-speed championship belt immediately after joining Stardom which you have chosen as a Japanese base.
Riho: Fans might not find the way how to look freelance wrestler like me.
The belt is the best way for the expression, so got it fast was nice to me.
Why you chose Stardom?
Riho: Not just I was offered but also I think there was the place where I potentially change most.
They are famous enough that when I said “I do woman pro wrestling” abroad, every people said, “Is it Stardom?”.
From that point, they are closest to the world.
And they might become dominant in Joshi promotion, after having affiliated with Bushiroad.
It’s my joy to appear in such a promotion.
On the flip side, how was joining AEW?
Riho: Everyone is aware of being a star and especially I’ve been learned from female rosters’ “Looking at me!” vibes.
All rosters are free anyway, and I got excited about the atmosphere that they are doing as they like.
Well, what about the future?
Riho: I will appear in AEW at least two times in a month.
Thus It seems to be a busy life going back and forth between Japan and America.
But pro wrestling is fun and I’m fulfilling, so I only have eyes for my business.
The current professional wrestling is completely different from the old one, and ordinary people like me are also doing it.
If people were getting known that fact, they would be much more enjoy it.
I also aim to tell that.
After I became freelance and many people could see the match, I started thinking about what I could do but I have never thought about it in the past.
I want to do anything if there is a possibility of knowing professional wrestling!