My exclusive interview with the first Women Of Honor Champion Sumie Sakai.
In January of 2018, Ring Of Honor took the next step in growing their women's division when the tournament to crown the first-ever Women Of Honor Champion commenced. The tournament featured the likes of Madison Rayne, Fightful alumni Deonna Purrazzo, Kagetsu, Tenille Dashwood, Brandi Rhodes, Sumie Sakai and Kelly Klein. The finals of that tournament occurred at ROH's Supercard Of Honor XII in New Orleans in April of 2018. It was Kelly Klein and the world-traveled Sumie Sakai battling it out in the finals and in the end, Sumie emerged victorious.
Sumie Sakai went on to hold the Women Of Honor World Championship for nine months until she lost the belt at 'Final Battle' this past December. I recently had the opportunity to chat with Sumie and she shared that it was an honor to become the first Women Of Honor Champion and added that she always wants to perform at a high level but wants to crank it up a few notches in title matches.
I am good," Sumie responded when asked how she was doing. "I was so honored to be the first Women Of Honor Champion. Also, I always want to perform my best and [do my best] in title matches for Ring Of Honor."
Sumie then took me on a virtual trip through her 22-year career in the wrestling business. In the midst of Sakai reflecting on her career, she touched on the relationship that Ring Of Honor has with STARDOM and how that has led to the likes of Mayu Iwantani capturing the Women Of Honor World Championship. Sakai expressed that she feels she has accomplished an amazing goal in working with stars from Women Of Honor and STARDOM. Sakai also went on to praise Iwatani for being an "amazing" professional wrestler.
"I started pro wrestling in Japan. I am so honored to have began my career as a pro wrestler in Japan. I am so happy that Ring Of Honor has a great relationship with New Japan Pro Wrestling and STARDOM. Mayu, Kagetsu, Hazuki and Hana wrestling with Women Of Honor means so much to me." She said. "I am so happy that I decided to move to the USA for wrestling. I wrestled at STARDOM a few times. I always wrestled Mayu. She is one of my favorite friends and wrestlers. I am genuinely 10000% happy that she became Women Of Honor World Champion. Mayu is an amazing pro wrestler." Sumie continued, "I feel like I’ve accomplished an amazing goal in STARDOM and Women Of Honor."
In just two months, Ring Of Honor is partnering with New Japan Pro Wrestling for the G1 Supercard show that has sold out Madison Square Garden. The stars of both companies are anticipating April 6th. I asked Sumie does she have a preferred opponent for G1 Supercard and she stated that she'd love to wrestle anyone because it would be an honor for her to wrestle in the "World's Most Famous Arena".
"I would love to say that I can wrestle at MSG. I'd really appreciate any opponent and any match." She said.
On top of her career in professional wrestling, Sumie established herself as an MMA fighter. Sumie tallied up a 2-4 record in the sport with her first win coming by way of unanimous decision and her second victory by way of submission. Sumie last stepped into the octagon in 2013 for the 'Cage Fury Fighting Championship' promotion and she was present at their last event and posted a photo on social media with former WWE Champion CM Punk who was on the call for the show. Sakai explained why and how she got into MMA and added that she still loves the sport and cheers on many current fighters.
"I did MMA because I needed money to live in the United States. I am a 3rd degree Black Belt in Judo. My friend knew that. He is an MMA manager." Sumie revealed. "He asked me to fight in MMA on 10 days notice although I never trained in MMA before that. When I started training in MMA I met so many great people. I still love Mixed Martial Arts, and still cheer on so many MMA fighters."
To wrap up the interview, I asked Sumie how does she want to be remembered when she decides to hang up her wrestling boots. After capturing the All Japan Women's Tag Team Titles, holding the JDStar 'Queen Of The Ring' Title, PWW Women's Title along with her accomplishments in Ring Of Honor and countless other accolades, Sumie responded by noting that she does not know how she wants to be remembered because she does not judge people by their careers and would like the same to be reciprocated for her. The 2018 WOH Wrestler of the year added that she will answer the question of how she wants to be remembered when she steps away from the business.
"I don’t know. I don’t like to judge people." Sumie said. "That’s why I don’t want people to judge me. When I decide to quit pro wrestling, I will answer that question."
Sumie Sakai is spotlighted in ROH's Women Of Honor division and as she expressed, she is hoping to be a part of the G1 Supercard match card and to stay up to date with that match card, click here. You can keep up with Sumie Sakai by following her on Instagram at @sumippe1124 and on Twitter @SumieSakai.