KAIRI officially returned to pro wrestling at Stardom World Climax last March as she teamed with Mayu Iwatani against Tam Nakano and Unagi Sayaka on night one of the event before taking on Starlight Kid in singles action on night two. Since then, she's gone on to challenge for the Wonder of Stardom Championship, compete against a number of STARDOM's top stars, and even main evented the Historic X-Over show between NJPW and STARDOM against Iwatani.
It was in the Historic X-Over main event where KAIRI defeated Iwatani to become the inaugural IWGP Women's Champion. She'd go on to defend the championship against Tam Nakano at Wrestle Kingdom 17 and then lose the championship at Battle In The Valley against Mercedes Moné.
"The Pirate Princess" will be back in action on April 23 for All Star Grand Queendom as she will team with Natsupoi and Saori Anou to challenge PROMINENCE for the Artist of Stardom Championship.
Ahead of STARDOM's big show at Yokohama Arena, Fightful's Scott Edwards had the chance to interview KAIRI. She answered questions about her return to STARDOM, her favorite opponent, her time in WWE, facing Mercedes Moné, and so much more.
Here's what KAIRI had to say!
It’s been a year since you made your return to STARDOM! How have you enjoyed being back with the promotion?
Once again, I felt that Japanese professional wrestling and American professional wrestling are similar and different. I think I'm having fun fighting with my own new fight-style while incorporating the professional wrestling style I learned in America.
How’d you feel the night you returned at Stardom World Climax? Were you excited? Nervous?
Both. However, I was very nervous because it was my first match in about two years. I wonder if I could still fly for my Insane Elbow like I used to, haha! (Laughs)
We haven’t had a chance yet to see you and Giulia in a ring together. You also haven’t challenged for the World of Stardom Championship since your return. What are your feelings about Giulia and does that match appeal to you?
That's a special match. I can't wait to fight against her, too. I'm sure we'll face each other in the ring at the best time. And it will create a good chemistry.
As for Giulia, I think she is very good at making her opponents shine and making the match dramatic, and I think she has a strong power to attract everyone.
You were able to make history with Mayu Iwatani in the main event of Historic X-Over. What did it mean to you to be a part of that match and for it to be against someone you have so much history with like Iwatani?
It was a very honorable moment. I was as happy as when I was selected for the main event at WWE's PPV TLC.
You’ve talked about this before but I’d like to ask you now that the reign is over — what did it mean to you to be the first IWGP Women’s Champion?
I wanted to make it a world famous belt. Unfortunately, that dream ended in the middle, but as the first champion, I think I engraved my name firmly on the history of IWGP's belt.
Is there anyone from your previous World or Wonder of Stardom Title reigns you’d like to face again in singles action?
Koguma, Hazuki, Momo Watanabe, Natsuko Tora, AZM, Starlight Kid, Konami. And Saki-san.
Who has impressed you the most since returning to STARDOM?
Everyone, but if you want me to say one person, Saya Kamitani.
Where does your match against Mercedes Moné at Battle In The Valley rank in terms of favorite matches in your career?
It became a big treasure in my career.
What does it mean to you to see someone like Mercedes Moné challenge herself in Japan as part of NJPW and STARDOM?
I'm happy to be able to work with her again. Along with that, I feel the change of the times.
How’d you feel returning to the United States for such a big match to compete for the first time since leaving WWE? Was it fulfilling to return with the title and in a match that had so many fans so excited?
It was very rewarding. I was really happy. I love American fans with all my heart.
You competed in WWE for four years. You were the first Mae Young Classic winner, NXT Women’s Champion, WWE Women’s Tag Team Champion, and a fan favorite to so many. What are you most proud of from your time there?
I sincerely thank WWE for giving me so many opportunities.
Your match against Mercedes Moné was incredible. Is there anybody else that you wrestled during your time in WWE that you would like to face again in a STARDOM/NJPW ring?
I want to team up with Asuka and IYO again, but I also want to fight against them.
Since coming back you've had incredible singles performances, but have also shined in tag team matches as well. Is there one partner you've teamed with over the past year that you would like to team with again?
I like singles matches, but I also like tag matches as much. The tag with Nanae (Takahashi) is thrilling and fun.
There are many wrestlers that were very early into their careers when you left STARDOM in 2017 that remain on the roster today. Is there a specific wrestler who you think has grown the most while you were away in America?
AZM. I'm very surprised at her growth.
You were a part of Stardom's third generation alongside the likes of Haruka Kato, Natsumi Showzuki, and AZM. While the first two currently compete elsewhere, does a reunion between you and AZM (either against one another or as a team) interest you?
Yes! I want to team up with her.
How do you feel you've changed as a wrestler since joining WWE and then returning to STARDOM?
There was a lot to learn from both organizations. I was able to combine them well and incorporate them into myself and evolve into Neo-Super KAIRI, haha!!︎ (Laughs)
You've shared the ring with many legendary names like Meiko Satomura, Io Shirai, and many others. Who has been your favorite opponent in your career?
It's hard to decide because everyone loves it, but the biggest rival was Shayna Bayzler. Because of the rivalry story with her, my career at WWE became wonderful.
In your most recent two singles matches in a STARDOM ring, you went to draws with both Saya Kamitani and Utami Hayashishita. Do you plan on having another match with each of them in the future to try and get the win?
Yes, of course.
Threedom have all taken different paths since the last time all three of you were together but as we’ve seen with you and Mayu, you’ve come back together. Before it’s all said and done, are you hopeful to see Threedom share the ring at least one more time in the future?
Let's ask the Gods of Professional Wrestling!!
What’s one match you’d like to have before the end of your career?
I love Royal Rumble on PPV, so I want to participate again.
What are your goals for your career moving forward?
I think there are various ways of working for women in this day and age, so I'm thinking about various ways. I want to be a person who can deliver dreams, hopes, and happiness to someone from now on.
We'd like to thank KAIRI for taking part in this interview as well as Mitsutoshi Kuroda for helping set this interview up.
You can follow KAIRI on Twitter: @KAIRI_official
We also want to thank Chiyoko and Justin Knipper for their help with this interview. Chiyoko helped me translate the questions from English to Japanese. Knipper translated the answers into English.
You can follow Chiyoko on Twitter here: @chiyoko_asakura
You can follow Justin Knipper on Twitter here: @justinmknipper