Ghastly Match Incident: The Legit Nightmare Beat-Down in Japan

Act Yasukawa was one of Stardom’s most charismatic and passionate wrestlers. In 2015, she had a match against Yoshiko that went badly off-script. This is the gripping tale of The Ghastly Match Incident, a Stardom bout gone terribly wrong!

Remember the name: "Act Yasukawa"! Although her photo might not scream tough wrestler at first glance, she is one of the most resilient ever to lace up a pair of boots!
Remember the name: “Act Yasukawa”! Although her photo might not scream tough wrestler at first glance, she is one of the most resilient ever to lace up a pair of boots!

Act Yasukawa, Yoshiko, and The Ghastly Match Incident

Before we explore the infamous match that has since been remembered as The Ghastly Match Incident, examining the history of women’s professional wrestling in Japan is important.

Japanese Women’s Pro Wrestling is called Joshi Puroresu, or Joshi for short. It has a rich history worth exploring.

Famed trailblazing wrestler Mildred Burke sparked interest in women’s wrestling in Japan after she and her students toured the country in 1954 as part of her World Women’s Wrestling Association.

Then, after a title defense by The Fabulous Moolah against Yukiko Tomoe in 1968, where they traded Moolah’s title, several promotions formed but unfortunately dissolved.

The AJW (All Japan Women’s Pro Wrestling) soon became the dominant promotion and stayed that way until 1997, with 1992-97 considered a boom period for all Joshi Puroresu.

Other notable promotions of the era were JWP Joshi Puroresu, Ladies Legend Pro-Wrestling (LLPW), and GAEA Japan. All showcased excellent matches as well and are worth seeking out.

All Japan Women’s Pro Wrestling

AJW, or “Zenjo” as it was commonly known, became the staging ground of legendary bouts featuring some of the most talented wrestlers. “Victory Through Guts” wasn’t just their motto; it was a creed they lived by.

They are too numerous to name all, but here are some standout stars of the era:

The serious ace grappler and mentor to a generation Jaguar Yokota was a superb talent whose mat training was extraordinary. If you wanted to learn mat wrestling and good ring psychology, you went to Jaguar.

The "Dangerous Queen" Akira Hokuto [right] was so fearless that she left you breathless yet so reckless that she sometimes seemed like she was trying to die in the ring.
The “Dangerous Queen” Akira Hokuto [right] was so fearless that she left you breathless yet so reckless that she sometimes seemed like she was trying to die in the ring. [Photo: bdgastore.com]
You had the ever-popular Crush Gals (Chigusa Nagayo and Lioness Asuka). The scary Devil Masami too. Also, the foxy Mima Shimoda, and enforcer Etsuko Mita known as Las Cachorras Orientales, frequently styled as LCO, formed an outstanding tag team.

Remember, too, the tough-as-nails Meiko Satomura. Ayako Hamada, who has roots in Mexican Lucha Libre. Monsters like Aja Kong and Bull Nakano gained international notoriety.

But whatever goes up must come down, and the fall is usually rough.

Greatest of all time? Many believe so. The high-flying and beautiful Manami Toyota is often considered a once-in-a-generation athlete and is regularly the centerpiece of highlight reels of this era. She is perhaps Jaguar Yokota's finest protégé.
Greatest of all time? Many believe so. The high-flying and beautiful Manami Toyota is often considered a once-in-a-generation athlete and is regularly the centerpiece of highlight reels of this era. She is perhaps Jaguar Yokota’s finest protégé.

A Downward Spiral

Joshi was always a niche of a niche, especially in the late ’90s and increasingly so after AJW’s untimely 2005 demise.

It then splintered more than usual, and the diluted product lost itself in a limbo of numerous small promotions putting on shows in tiny venues and grateful to attract a couple of hundred fans.

Gone were the days of the incredible Big Egg Wrestling Universe at the Tokyo Dome in 1994, where the ten-hour card containing twenty-three matches (four not pro wrestling) drew 32,500 rabid fans. The Wrestling Observer reported a whopping 42,000.

Here, Bull Nakano entangles Alundra Blayze and dethrones her of her WWF Women's Championship.
Bull Nakano entangles Alundra Blayze and dethrones her of the WWF Women’s Championship. [Photo: Reddit]

“We Are STARDOM”

Long after Joshi Pro’s peak years, and even with wrestling going through constant changes, Joshi Puroresu never disappeared completely.

World Wonder Ring Stardom, founded in 2010, gained a modicum of success throughout some of Joshi’s most challenging years. Then it began making waves in various wrestling circles outside Japan.

Although it heavily emphasizes the physical attractiveness of its wrestlers, it isn’t just about looks. The totality of the presentation, production values, and wrestling athleticism have garnered the promotion a solid following. Stardom is said to have “Zenjo’s” soul but with a modern twist.

Most wrestling promotions seek mainstream publicity. But the kind of publicity Stardom garnered on February 22nd, 2015, is the kind that can permanently shut down a company.

Act Yasukawa

May of 2015 saw the release of a documentary chronicling Act Yasukawa’s life and wrestling career. Below is the trailer for GAMUSHARA, which got released three months after The Ghastly Match Incident.

YouTube video

Her real name is Yuka Yasukawa, and she always considered herself a “tomboy” growing up in Aomori Prefecture on the northern tip of Japan’s main island.

She dreamed of becoming a real samurai, like what she saw brought to life on TV. Her parents convinced her to practice Kendo from 1st through 6th grade because that is how she’d supposedly become one.

But in middle school, unkind classmates crushed her dreams when they revealed that there hadn’t been any real Samurai for almost 150 years. It almost sounds like when a wrestling fanatic is presented with indisputable evidence of wrestling being a work. Reality hits hard.

Yuka was timid, and her unique personality was often misunderstood at school. That and suffering from an undiagnosed ailment that caused near blindness in her right eye got Yuka bullied.

She lacked a close relationship with either of her parents, and Pro Wrestling is Art, in their insightful interview with Yuka in 2014, suggests that she also had ADD and mental illness.

Feeling that she had no place to turn and no help, ending her life seemed like an acceptable solution for the troubled teen. Thankfully, things never got to that point.

But she was still fearful of socializing with her peers. Yasukawa then discovered acting and joined the Drama Club. It was as if she’d seen a shining light of hope, and her life became meaningful once more.

Yuka attended the Japan Institute of the Moving Image but soon fell ill. Being diagnosed with Grave’s Disease, which develops in people due to an overactive thyroid, explained the severe visual impairment in her right eye and her rapid weight loss, shakiness, and inability to stand for long periods.

Now thinner and weaker, she wasn’t getting the acting parts she desired.


“My weakness gives me strength. If I was healthy and everything was all right, I wouldn’t have tried so hard; I would have given up.”

– Act Yasukawa, in an interview with Pro Wrestling is Art


Act Yasukawa Finds Her Place in Professional Wrestling

In 2011 Yuka Yasukawa was cast in the stage production of Wrestler Girls alongside model-turned-wrestler and the face of Stardom at the time Yuzuki Aikawa.

Former JDStar wrestler and Stardom General Manager Fuuka invited Yuka to a tryout.

Still frail from her thyroid problems, the future “Act” Yasukawa figured this might be her last chance to become a fighter and went for it.

She had been a respectable Kendo player, but the differences between Kendo and wrestling were night and day. A couple of months of wrestling training become too much of a physical burden.

The doctor suggested she take some medications promising to improve her condition significantly but with the possible side effect of never being able to bear children. Yuka took the risk anyway and went through the treatment.

“My doctor told me not to wrestle or even do anything too active, but I refused. I couldn’t live with giving up,” Act confessed.

Her resolve to become a wrestler was unstoppable, and her samurai spirit kept her moving forward.


“I Wasn’t a Pirate!”

– Act Yasukawa


Grave’s Disease robbed Act Yasukawa’s right eye’s vision, but she made the best of this impairment and incorporated it into her character by wearing an eye patch to the ring. She’d also drink rum and spit on the fans, but don’t call her a pirate!

“People think pirates inspire me because I wear an eye patch and drink rum, she said in her 2014 interview with Pro Wrestling is Art. “There’s a samurai named Date Masamune from northern Japan. He had an eye patch.”

Act Yasukawa turned heads but may have also sparked jealousy amongst fellow workers. [joshicity.com]
Act Yasukawa turned heads but may have also sparked jealousy amongst fellow workers. [joshicity.com]
She continued, “As for the rum, it’s just because I like alcohol! I chose rum specifically because it has color and a smell, so fans know I’m drinking the real thing when I walk to the ring.”

Her gimmick caught on; even as a heel, the fans loved her and wanted to be doused in the oak barrel-aged concoction!

The charismatic Yasukawa was destined for greatness and obtained the Artist of Stardom Championship (a six-woman tag team championship) with Natsuki Taiyo and Kashima Saki.

She also became a two-time Wonder of Stardom Champion, a notch below the title she was gunning for: the World of Stardom Championship held by the imposing Yoshiko.

Tension Leading Up To The Ghastly Match Incident

Since Act Yasukawa’s debut on February 5th, 2012, she had gone from an awkward and sickly teenager to a Stardom headliner in mere months.

Act was deeply dedicated to her craft, an artist at heart, and loved acting. Her look, asymmetrical gear, face paint, and overall charisma propelled her to this moment.

Yoshiko, however, was a staunch defender of some dubious old-school values. And she was perhaps a little jealous of Act’s skyrocketing career, natural talent, and good looks that could’ve also steered her into modeling if not for her commitment to wrestling.

The strict hierarchical relationship between senior and junior members may have also factored in. Stardom was an environment where you had to love wrestling and work hard to survive.

And maybe she didn’t want to drop the title and put Act over; if Act were to beat her, she’d have to earn it.

Joshi wrestler Yoshiko.
Joshi wrestler Yoshiko.

Things Go South: The Ghastly Match Incident

It was a shocking incident that rocked Stardom and Puroresu to the core. Before the match, an angle was filmed before a live house show audience, but nobody could have predicted the brutality that followed.

Act Yasukawa, with her trainer Kyoko Kimura (mother of Hana Kimura) and her group, pressured Yoshiko, who’d arrived alone to confront Act, to sign on the dotted line to make the match official.

After much stalling with Act and Yoshiko exchanging disagreeable looks and surlier comments, veteran Kyoko Kimura whispered something into Act’s ear. Then she ambushed Yoshiko, with the others following her lead in taking shots and overwhelming the lone world champion.

When finally subdued, a noticeably peeved Yoshiko reluctantly signed the contract and got in the ring.

The match was a go, champion vs. champion!

Opposites collided at Tokyo’s famed Korakuen Hall when Act Yasukawa challenged Yoshiko for the World of Stardom Championship on February 22, 2015.

Act Yasukawa and Yoshiko square off on February 22nd, 2015, in a match later remembered as the "Ghastly Match" incident.
Act Yasukawa and Yoshiko square off on February 22nd, 2015, in a match later remembered as The Ghastly Match Incident.

The two were now alone in the ring. Only the referee stood between them.

The tension in the air was palpable, and there was visible heat between Act and Yoshiko.

In their respective corners, they awaited the bell while coldly staring each other down from afar. Neither dropped their gaze as the announcer enthusiastically introduced them, and the customary colorful ribbons flew over their heads and landed on the mat. Needles seemed to launch from Act’s eyes; the unfazed Yoshiko stared back and seemed calm but focused.

It was the young star climbing to the top, knowing there were those who didn’t want her there, versus the veteran who resented the upstart’s push.

Things were about to get uglier than anyone could have imagined.

The bell rang, and Act landed the first punch but quickly got taken down. Less than four minutes in, Yoshiko became enraged, and Act became the unfortunate victim of one of the most heinous attacks in any wrestling promotion to date.

Events soon got out of hand. Closed-fisted blows rained upon Act, with only her face stopping them.

The referee seemed to sense something was wrong and separated both champions.

Once she got off the canvas, the damage Act sustained was obvious.

While crumpled in her corner, a concerned Kyoko Kimura rushed in and poured water from a bottle, and the water flowed down her nose and mouth, mixing with heavy blood. There was no doctor or even ice in sight. Why?

With Yoshiko patiently leaning in her corner and waiting for the match to continue, the referee stepped up and warned her not to use closed fists.

But Act wasn’t ready to back down just yet.

Act Yasukawa was overmatched against Yoshiko, but she never surrendered.
Act Yasukawa was overmatched against Yoshiko but never surrendered during The Ghastly Match Incident.

The match resumed, and Act stunned Yoshiko with a flurry of shots but got quickly taken down and pummeled with a barrage of even stiffer ones. What the fans were watching was no longer wrestling; it was an assault.

Once the two separated again, the crowd was now clearly behind Act, urging her to battle back. But fans quickly noticed that Act needed much more than just heart to win this fight.

Her samurai spirit prevented her from quitting; Act switched it up and attempted a kick this time, but Yoshiko grabbed the incoming strike and brought her down.

Act then got brutally shoulder-tackled a couple of times and violently thrown across the ring. More potent closed fists by Yoshiko landed flush, and Act rolled out for a breather. Once again, attended by Kyoko Kimura and her seconds but with only water and now a blue towel.

Act’s pretty face now looked like a bomb had imploded inside. If the blood didn’t concern the referee, her horribly swollen face did.

Her face was deformed and monstrous looking with the severe injuries sustained. Yet she pleaded to continue fighting!

Kyoko Kimura showed the extent of the damage to Act’s face and threw her blue towel into the ring. The ref finally stopped the onslaught.

With Act still screaming like a crazed banshee outside the ring, wanting to continue, Kimura charged past the referee, went after Yoshiko, and seemed to want to pull Yoshiko’s hair out of her roots. A second referee entered the ring and helped pull her and keep her away from Yoshiko.

The world champion held her title for the time being, and Act went to the hospital.

Because of the violence and horrific ending, the match was soon coined Seisan Matchi, which translates into English as “The Ghastly Match.”

Aftermath

In reviewing the bloody mayhem, some claimed Yoshiko was acting in self-defense after Act Yasukawa landed a couple of stiff blows at the very beginning. But with blindness in her right eye, Act had challenges with depth perception.

The referee is seen here asking if Act Yasukawa wants to continue while a concerned Kyoko Kimura looks on. Things would get worse.
The referee is seen here asking if Act Yasukawa wants to continue while a concerned Kyoko Kimura looks on. Things would get worse.

With a broken cheekbone, nose, and a fractured orbital socket on her right eye- the eye she had surgery on, Act retired from wrestling and was forced to vacate her Wonder of Stardom Championship.

In December 2020, Act Yasukawa wrestled for Actwres girl'Z (AWG), which mixes stage theater and wrestling.
In December 2020, Act Yasukawa wrestled for Actwres girl’Z (AWG), which mixes stage theater and wrestling. [Photo: theovertimer.com]
There were also companywide repercussions.

The president, general manager, and head trainer took pay cuts. The referee was fired, and Stardom began employing ringside doctors and prohibited punches.

Yoshiko was stripped of the title and suspended indefinitely.

Nanae Takahashi and Natsuki Taiyo (Yoshiko’s trainers) left Stardom and founded SEAdLINNNG on June 12th, 2015. Yoshiko went with them, is still active in wrestling, and had a brief MMA career. She made a surprise return to Stardom in 2020.

Meanwhile, Act recovered and returned seven months later, on September 23rd, 2015, but would retire from wrestling in December of that year.

She continues to work in theater and is now in GPS_PRO. You can follow her on Twitter here.

To this day, fans talk about The Ghastly Match Incident and ponder why it went so violently wrong. And like many shoots, often such questions are never fully answered.

Watch The Ghastly Match Incident between Act Yasukawa and Yoshiko in its entirety:

YouTube video

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https://popcultureretrorama.wordpress.com/author/javierojst/

Javier Ojst is an old-school wrestling enthusiast currently residing in El Salvador. He's been a frequent guest on several podcasts and has a few bylines on TheLogBook.com, where he shares stories of pop culture and retro-related awesomeness. He has also been published on Slam Wrestling and in G-FAN Magazine.