With over a decade of in-ring experience and another added for her training and development, Kaori Housako (Kairi Sane) began to flourish as part of Japan’s Stardom promotion. After graduating from Stardom’s Pro-Test, she assumed the ring name of Kairi Hojo.
She was also affectionately known as the Pirate Princess. That name was based on her very competitive boating background, including Olympic participation. But for all that, Kairi Hojo accomplished in Stardom, Kairi Sane hopes to outdo that on WWE’s NXT brand.
Kairi Sane – Rise In Stardom
During her time in Stardom, Hojo formed alliances with the likes of Natsumi Showzuki and Kaori Yoneyama. Though only 5’1, she didn’t allow her size to prevent her from doing everything she could to put on compelling matches and tell great stories. Her first championship was captured after a year of being in the promotion when she captured the Goddess of Stardom Championship.
She followed this up by co-holding the Artist of Stardom Championship alongside Yoneyama, holding that title for more than four months. These title reigns were only a sign of things to come during her tenure with the company.
She went on to capture the promotion’s top championship, the World of Stardom Championship, by defeating new NXT signee Io Shirai. While her title reign wasn’t long, it still reflected her importance to the company. In fact, she was named the company’s Most Valuable Player in 2015. She held four championships for Stardom and had nine different title reigns during those six years with the company. Her value could not be mistaken.
Her WWE arrival
Her departure from Stardom for WWE had to be a big loss for the company. However, for her, a new company presented a new opportunity. She was initially offered a contract in 2017 but was unsure as to whether she would pursue this opportunity.
Such a move had to mean great pressure, as she would be following in the footsteps of former WWE NXT women’s champion Asuka. But despite that pressure, she made the move, altering her last name to Sane. She still brought her Pirate Princess persona to North America, though.
She was introduced as a participant in WWE’s first-ever all-women tournament, the Mae Young Classic. Sane defeated Tessa Blanchard, Bianca Belair, Dakota Kai, Toni Storm and eventually Shayna Baszler to win the tournament.
It was an incredible moment, and Sane was heralded for her accomplishment, receiving in-ring congratulations from NXT trainer Sara Amato, Triple H, and Stephanie McMahon. That win enabled her to be a participant in a four-way match for the vacant NXT Women’s Championship at NXT TakeOver: War Games. She may not have won the match, but she certainly played a pivotal role in the contest.
A rise in the ranks
Her continued elevation within the company was evident when she took part in the inaugural 30 women over the top rope Royal Rumble. It was a particularly important moment as she was one of only a few women on the NXT roster taking part in the match. Her brief time in the ring wasn’t the most important part, it was her inclusion.
That inclusion was because there is something special about her that has endeared her to the WWE universe. Sane would later participate in the Women’s Battle Royal at WrestleMania. Again, while she may not have won, to even be included suggests that the company believes she is a complete package that stands apart from the rest.
Still, Kairi Sane couldn’t simply appear in one-off matches; she needed to be involved in programs that could help her to sink her teeth into her character and better adjust to WWE’s style. Her first small program was against Lacey Evans, with Sane ultimately walking away as the victor.
A much greater program that she would be involved in was against NXT Women’s Champion Shayna Baszler, the woman she defeated in the finals of the Mae Young Classic. By that point, though, Baszler was on a completely different level, and a win by Kairi Sane seemed unlikely because of how dominant the submission magician had been since her arrival.
The Shayna Baszler Feud
What was different to see was how in the lead-up to the match. Sane showed that she has a killer instinct and is just as willing to administer punishment. This was illustrated in her match with NXT superstar Aliyah. The Pirate Princess was relentless in her pursuit to show how she could go toe to toe with Baszler.
During their match at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn IV, Sane and Baszler didn’t have a one-sided matchup. This is unlike what some may have thought. It appeared as though Baszler might get the better of Kairi Sane as she was relentless and, at times, sadistic.
However, Sane was able to use her skill and ability to catch the champion by surprise. Pinning her due to the champion’s dogged refusal to release her submission hold on the challenger.
Kairi Sane was one-half of the WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions, with Asuka as the Kabuki Warriors.