The life and career of Kagetsu is unlike that of many of his contemporaries. While he career did begin at the age of 18, which wasn’t uncommon, it also ended just short of his 30th birthday. In Western culture, women wrestlers’ careers don’t typically end early but tend to last for many well into their thirties and, in some instances, their forties.
So from the onset, Kagetsu’s career wasn’t comparable to wrestling’s most successful women’s wrestlers in North America. For 12 years, Yu Ishino made a name for himself as a notable name in Joshi Wrestling.
Kagetsu – The Rise of A Warrior
But like many Joshi wrestlers before him, Kagetsu would have a career that would move quickly and end equally as quickly. He initially trained under the Sendai Girls Pro Wrestling promotion and would join the promotion not that shortly after their high school graduation.
In fact, a few months after joining Sendai, Kagetsu would face another notable Joshi in Ryo Mizunami. That exhibition would eventually lead to his debut match taking place a month after that.
One of the most notable relationships in Kagetsu’s career was against former co-Artist of Stardom Champion Hana Kimura. Together Kagestu and Kimura were part of Oedo Tai, one of Stardom’s most villainous stables. Kagetsu would join after Oedo Tai was rebuilt with Kimura.
With time, Kagestu would recruit Sumire Natsu, adding to the strength in numbers of Oedo Tai. On May 23rd, 2020, tragedy struck the Joshi wrestling community as Hana Kimura passed away. While her passing has largely been talked about, as have the causes of it, it also symbolized change for Kagestu.
“I think it was after that, I realized, I really need to start conducting myself properly as a veteran (for the sake of the junior wrestlers). I dropped calling her “Hana-chan” and addressed her just as “Hana (like everyone else), instructed her on things she was doing incorrectly, and became able to give her better direction on how to do things.
I think everyone around us was in the same situation, too, but you [Kimura-san] were the most stringent with her over all of us.”
Kimura’s death left a cloud over Kagetsu as it did many of their contemporaries. He was beginning to slow down, and signs were beginning to show that it was time for him to call it a career. But in doing that, he could only have one person be the one to do that. However, before we talk about who that person is, we needed to look back at his initial run-in wrestling.
A couple of years after competing under the name Yukari Ishino, he changed his name to Kagetsu. With the change came other matches and notable opportunities in and around the promotion. One of those opportunities came against his trainer, the legendary Meiko Satamura.
The wrestling legend curated a career and trained a bevy of wrestlers, but Kagetsu was different in more ways than one. But there was always something that Kagetsu was open about, and that was his sexuality. While it doesn’t define the person, Kagestu was more than admired. He was respected for being a talent in the ring and true to himself outside of the ring.
At times, there are instances that come when the student feels that they can supersede the master. This was the case for Kagetsu. After trying to gain the attention of their former trainer, Satamura, who admittingly felt she should have ignored Kagetsu’s challenges, decided that enough was enough and he was going to be the one that finished her once and for all.
On February 24th, 2021, Meiko Satamura would retire her former pupil at what was the Kagetsu Retirement Show. Kagetsu would lose to his mentor, but much respect came with this battle, and to leave losing to greatness doesn’t make him any less amazing.
“Originally, I should have ignored him, but I would like to take responsibility for raising a wrestler named Kagetsu in my own way,”
But the loss of Han remained with Kagetsu, and the following year, a year to the date after Kimura’s passing and his retirement, Kagetsu would reveal herself as being transgender. On May 23rd, 2021, Kagetsu was gone, and Yu Ishino would replace him.
It was only fitting that on Kagetsu’s return to the ring, the Hana Kimura Memorial event that he would face another transgender Joshi talent in ASUKA/Veny. In a match that was just over ten minutes in length, it was less about wins and losses and more about the symbolism of this match and on this night.
“All right! If you’ve already purchased a ticket, I will also be returning to Korakuen Hall for the first time in a very long time. Let’s celebrate the memory of Hana together and have a bagus4 (Indonesian: good; great) time together.
Also, if you’re unsure about buying a ticket and joining us… ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT TO MISS OUT?!” *laughs* “Of course, the global pandemic is still continuing, so I know it is difficult to say, ‘Please come to our show,’ but May 23rd only happens once a year.
No matter where you are, we want to bring everyone together as one not only to celebrate Hana’s memory but do it in a way that reaches her during this one-day celebration.
I hope you’ll consider joining us if possible, and know that I’ll be waiting for you at Korakuen Hall. I’m looking forward to seeing as many people as possible at the show.”
As mentioned above, the one-day celebration wasn’t about wins or losses but to respect the person that walked alongside Kagetsu and who he called a friend. While it sadly wouldn’t bring Hana back, it became less about hoping to undo what was done and about valuing and cherishing the memory of who Hana Kimura was and what she meant to fans and colleagues in the industry.
This act was as much a reflection of who Kagetsu was as a person as it was about Hana. But time was moving forward, as was Kagetsu’s relationship. It was time to move on.
“I know how beloved the name Kagetsu is, but with this video, I would like to put that name to rest, so please use Yu Ishino moving forward.”
While Ishino has turned the page on his career onto the next phase of his life, it’s important to recognize her accomplishments. He was a two-time co-holder of the Artist of Stardom championship, a two-time co-holder of the Goddess of Stardom Championship, a JWP Junio Champion, and a World of Stardom Champion for nearly a year.
The adage it is better to burn out than to fade away. But in the case of Yu Ishino, he did neither. He came, he battled, he succeeded, and he concurred. Too often, talent leave as little an impact in an industry as Kagetsu has, but with his professional achievements and personal freedom, many can look to him with respect and admiration.