The world lost Hana Kimura too soon. We didn't just lose a great wrestler and performer, but someone who helped make the culture in Stardom much easier for new wrestlers.
Alex Gracia was once one of those new wrestlers, and just a year into her career landed in Japan for a Stardom tour. The promotion has served as one of the most integral in gaining experience for women around the world, and it would seem like Kimura was a big part in making sure those women were comfortable.
"She was considered the gaijin helper because she would always be like, ‘Speak English to me’ and she was just so sweet," Gracia remembered when speaking to Fightful in a new interview. "There was a night specifically. We were, I think, in Osaka or something, I don’t know if it was the homesickness was getting to some of us or the internet can be cruel, too. We were just all kinda down for some reason that night. She’s like, ‘We’re going to dinner.’ We went to dinner and we just had the best night with her. She’s always so sweet. Even if it’s like, if I wasn’t in their match, she would just come up to me be like, ‘You okay? You feel good?’" It just felt good to have someone there that you knew genuinely cared, and she was just such a sweet soul. She wanted to learn all these languages and just get better. You could just see that. She was a natural star in and outside of the ring. She was just a presence. She walks in the room and she was that ‘it’ girl. So, yeah, that was horrible and very tough and all that comes with it too is just from the internet. So, just hopefully people start to be aware that, especially, she was so young. It’s hard for anyone to hear those things. But, especially, at that age I couldn’t imagine.
Gracia said that it wasn't just Kimura, but many others that helped make the transition as easy as possible. She remembers the experience in working with Hana fondly.
"A lot of the girls, like I said, especially her, just want to make sure you’re comfortable. Because they know you’re away from home. They know that his is different for you. You’re just there trying to figure out how to fit in the best you can and do your best. She was just always so great and so sweet and I know that she was close with a lot of the girls that went there. So, it was very tough," Gracia said.
The Stardom tour itself came very early in her career, and having a person already important to the promotion in her corner offering help was a big morale boost
"Oh, yeah," Gracia confirmed. "Like, day one. But, that’s what I thought was so cool. Funny story, when I went there, we flew in and the very next day was the first show. So, I’m already freakin’ terrified and then on top of that, I’m asking Sonny, who’s kinda like helping with the foreigners ‘cause he knows English, ‘Okay, so, like show me where I go out for my entrance, and this and that.’ He’s like, ‘Oh, you’re first match, by the way.’ ‘Cause I’m was like, ‘Well, at least I can watch somebody first.’ It’s the very first match of 2019, or whatever year, and so, I’m like, ‘Okay, I can just watch somebody and I’ll be fine with that,’ and he’s like, ‘Oh, you’re first match and you’re the first person to come out. You’re starting the year off.’ I was like, ‘Okay, okay.’"
That first day got even more hectic, but going out of the frying pan and into the fire is something that Gracia thinks helped her out in the long run.
"So, I’m terrified out of my mind, but that match specifically I had no clicking," Gracia said. "But, after that, once I was a little relaxed, we had gotten to go to training and I figured it out, throughout the process I agree 100% with what those other girls were saying. We can go out there and make magic and it felt good. They know what they’re doing and they’re bringing you up to try to be to where you’re able to comprehend and work, and I felt like I grew so much over there that I’m still always scared and always anxious and nervous before matches. But, when I came back to America, I was like, ‘If I gain anything from that it’s that I feel like I can go in the ring with anybody.’"