The shining star with the lethal Brazillian kick. On the 20th May 2020, it was announced that STARDOM’s Arisa Hoshiki has retired as a result of neck injuries. A nine-year veteran at age 24, this represents another substantial blow to World Wonder Ring STARDOM after within the last six months, the retirements of two other top-tier talents, namely Hazuki and Kagetsu.

Hoshiki only held one title in her career: the Wonder of STARDOM Championship (the equivalent of an intercontinental championship), a title she held for 370 days till her retirement, along the way beating, appropriately, the likes of Kagetsu and Hazuki.

Apologies for the somewhat clinical start, but it’s important to foreground the facts. Here’s the truth of it: Arisa Hoshiki was STARDOM. At the time of her retirement, she was possibly the most inventive wrestler in the world, she was a right face kicker. Let’s break these truths down one-by-one:

Arisa was STARDOM

Hoshiki made her debut on the 23rd November 2011 at STARDOM’s debut show, Birth of Nova, against another wrestler in their first match: Mayu Iwatani. Here, Hoshiki got the win, as she would in their successive three-way match also involving Yuzuki Aikawa the following March and in a singles rematch in August. Hoshiki and Iwatani also formed the tag team of AMA, a team which I haven’t been able to find a definitive answer for what the initials stand for so if you know, answers on a postcard.

It’s fascinating watching these two compete right at the beginning of their careers. Lacking much of the definition they would bring to their game later – especially some faintly lacking dropkicks – this was an issue across the card, to the point where I was concerned Meiko Satomura might come in and break a few jaws. But there’s clearly something happening here. There are sparks of inspiration, especially when it comes to hitting a variety of kicks. Warning: kicks will come up again.

The thing is, the match is fun but forgettable. A lot of early STARDOM was; relying heavily on Natsuki Taiyo and Nane Takahashi being f*cking legends to raise the level of competition, but it was all about the promise. It was suggested that there were two young women ready to kick the world in the face.

Hoshiki would remain in STARDOM till the 20th May 2012, when she wrestled Yuhi to a 15-minute time limit draw. From then, it would be five and a half years before she would be seen in a wrestling ring again.

She was the most inventive wrestler

On 20th November 2018, Hoshiki returned, teaming with her old pal Iwatani to defeat the Queens Quest team of AZM and Konami. She would go on to win the 2019 Cinderella tournament and challenge Momo Watanabe for the Wonder of STARDOM championship at Gold May on the 16th May 2019.

There are a lot of people who, if you look online, seem to say this match was anti-climactic, which it seems is code for ‘under 15 minutes’. Here’s a secret for all of you, and it’s not a big one because the match is out there waiting for you: it f*cking bangs. Like so damn hard.

When I claim Hoshiki was at her peak the most inventive wrestler, I’m not talking about moves. She does some cool moves but anyone can do cool moves. What I’m talking about is structure, is character, is storytelling. And that’s what wrestling is: it’s storytelling, just instead of discussing a slavish devotion to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we get people arguing whether destroyers should be transition moves.

What Hoshiki was doing was experimenting with the formal construction of matches in a way that was astonishingly bold for someone so young. Think of how Mad Max: Fury Road seems like almost the entire film is a climactic sequence, how so much of its audacity is its unrelenting energy. That’s what her matches were like: not spotfests, just relentless. Constantly when Momo was in control, Hoshiki looked not just like she was in pain but looking for openings, trying to find an opening. Every time she found one, she exploited it fully. No dragging it out, just trying to put her opponent away before she could be.

When she hits her finishing flurry, you feel it, every kick of it, the sheer emotion she throws into every blow is astonishing. And this isn’t even the best match of her run. That comes arguably a month later in her modern classic with Tam Nakano. A match better seen than described, but put simply, one that is probably better than whatever you said your MOTY was in 2019.

I wanted to put the Momo vs Arisa match here but that one isn’t on their official YouTube page anymore so this will have to do.

She was a right face kicker

This was not her final match but on the 19th January 2020, at the Ninth Anniversary show, dead centre in Korakuen Hall, Hoshiki wrestled her final masterpiece. Defending her Wonder of STARDOM championship against Utami Hayashishita, she took a competitor capable of some very strong work (as well as some that are frustratingly unsatisfying) and helped make her look like a top-tier talent.

The virtues of Hoshiki’s legitimate kickboxing experience during her years away from the Queen’s Road were that as much as her natural charisma, likability and position in top hero stable Stars lent her the position of a face, she was very capable of physically dominating an opponent with a single kick and working a brutal, punishing heel style.

I’m sure Hoshiki the person is wonderful, but Hoshiki the character is fully aware of her considerable abilities and can be prone to cockiness. In this match, an errant kick busts Hayashishita wide open, not only enhancing the action but also making Hayashishita look like a world-beater simply for surviving Hoshiki’s onslaught – including a devastating running knee off the apron.

What worked especially well about Hoshiki as the Wonder of STARDOM is that her average match times were between 15-20 minutes. You feel like she understands that not every match has to be an over-extended epic and that frankly, they are often better for it. By condensing the big match feel into a more digestible format it showed what she was best at: a lot of strong competition, an appropriate amount of flash to make the big moments matter more and – this can not be overestimated – the sheer joy of a well-placed kick.

Hoshiki was meant to face Natsuko Tora at No People Gate in March 2020 but was unable to due to illness. After she won this year’s Cinderella tournament, Donna Del Mondo’s Giulia announced her intentions to face Hoshiki for the belt. It’s not clear what, in a perfect world, we would be looking forward to but it’s safe to say there’s no point thinking about it too hard. Such thoughts are just bittersweet. It’s far sweeter just to look back fondly at what she left behind.

The Postal Service only made Give Up before they went back to their day bands. Tom Stoppard only directed an adaptation of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead before he went back to writing. It is possible to see that the beauty of Hoshiki’s work is revealed partially in the brief nature of it. Hers is not a perfect matchography but it’s of impressively high quality considering the brevity of it. And though I don’t know how serious Hoshiki’s injuries are, at least we know she’s still young. She could do anything else she wants to.

I was trying to avoid using the word “I” during this because I didn’t want this to be about me. If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you know about Hana Kimura and frankly, all of us are heartbroken. There is no way around it, hers is the type of loss that we all hope remains unimaginable.

So just know, speaking for all SteelChair, when STARDOM returns, the lack of Hoshiki kicking heads will be felt but that we respect her decision to put her health first. The knowledge that she is out there, doing what is right for her is a little victory but a victory nonetheless. Whatever she does next, we genuinely wish her the best in her future endeavours.

All images courtesy of World Wonder Ring Stardom