She was a member of the Crush Gals, one of the greatest female tag teams in wrestling history, but as a wrestler and a promoter, she has had a huge impact on the sport of professional wrestling.
Real Name: Chigusa Nagayo
Stats: 5′ 5″ 192 lbs.
Born: December 8, 1964
Chigusa Nagayo was born on December 8, 1964, in Ōmura, Nagasaki, Japan. She was the youngest of four children. Her father was a farmer and her mother was a housewife. Nagayo was a shy and quiet child who was bullied by her older siblings and classmates. She found solace in watching professional wrestling on television. When Nagayo was 14 years old, she saw a professional wrestling match for the first time and was immediately hooked, deciding that she wanted to become a professional wrestler.
She began training as a professional wrestler in 1980 at the All Japan Women’s Pro-Wrestling (AJW) dojo. She trained under the legendary joshi trainer, Kazuo Yamazaki. Yamazaki was known for his brutal training methods, which included running, weight training, and endless drills. Nagayo was one of the few wrestlers who could withstand Yamazaki’s training.
Nagayo’s training was also very technical. She learned all the basic moves of professional wrestling, as well as more advanced moves like suplexes and moonsaults. She also learned how to take bumps and how to sell moves. The training was very hard, but she was a natural athlete and she quickly learned the skills she needed to be a successful professional wrestler.
Nagayo debuted on August 8, 1980, for All Japan Women’s Pro-Wrestling (AJW) against Yukari Omori. She cried upon losing and was scolded by Tommy Aoyama, a member of the Queen’s Angels, who was retiring that night. Through 1981, she only wrestled eight times due to the promotion having too many wrestlers. Her early career was marked by a series of setbacks. She lost her first several matches and was often injured and was criticized for her lack of charisma. However, she persevered and gradually began to improve.
In 1982, Nagayo formed a tag team with Lioness Asuka. Known as the Crush Gals, they quickly became one of the most popular tag teams in AJW. They won the AJW Tag Team Championship on several occasions. They were extremely popular during the 1980s and are considered one of the most influential female tag teams in the history of professional wrestling. Both wrestlers had successful individual careers, but their partnership as The Crush Gals truly elevated them to legendary status. Their high-energy matches, combined with their distinctive personalities and looks, quickly made them fan favorites. The Crush Gals’ popularity extended beyond the wrestling ring, as they released multiple pop albums and appeared in various media outlets. As a tag team, The Crush Gals won the WWWA World Tag Team Championship on three occasions, defeating top teams of their era. Their intense and hard-hitting matches against rivals like The Jumping Bomb Angels (Noriyo Tateno and Itsuki Yamazaki) and The Glamour Girls (Leilani Kai and Judy Martin) are still remembered as some of the most exciting bouts in women’s wrestling history. The Crush Gals’ popularity and success in the 1980s helped raise the profile of women’s professional wrestling, not only in Japan but around the world. Their matches inspired a new generation of female wrestlers, and their influence can still be felt in the wrestling industry today.
Nagayo also enjoyed success as a singles wrestler. She won the AJW Women’s World Championship on three occasions and also won the AJW Tag Team Championship with Aja Kong.
Chigusa, as part of The Crush Gals and as an individual wrestler, was involved in several notable rivalries throughout her career. These rivalries not only showcased her in-ring talent but also helped elevate women’s professional wrestling in Japan and beyond. Some of the most famous rivalries involving Chigusa Nagayo include:
In addition to her tag team rivalries, Chigusa Nagayo also had notable individual feuds, one of which was with Dump Matsumoto. Matsumoto, a fierce and dominant heel, often clashed with Nagayo in brutal and highly emotional matches. This rivalry highlighted Nagayo’s fighting spirit and resilience, as she often stood up against the larger and more aggressive Matsumoto.
Another significant individual rivalry for Chigusa Nagayo was against Devil Masami. Both wrestlers were highly skilled and pushed each other to their limits in their matches. This rivalry showcased Nagayo’s technical abilities and her capacity to perform in high-pressure situations against top-tier opponents.
These rivalries played a significant role in defining Chigusa Nagayo’s career and helped establish her as one of the greatest female wrestlers of all time. The intensity and passion displayed in these feuds also contributed to the growing popularity and recognition of women’s professional wrestling during the 1980s and beyond.
Chigusa Nagayo is known for being relatively private about her personal life. However, there are some aspects of her life outside of wrestling that have been documented. Nagayo was married to fellow professional wrestler Kazuo Yamazaki, with whom she had a son. The couple later divorced.
Awards & Titles
Chigusa Nagayo has had an illustrious career in professional wrestling, earning numerous awards and accolades for her accomplishments in the ring. Some of the most notable awards and achievements she has received include:
Wrestling Observer Newsletter Awards:
1984 Rookie of the Year
1987 Most Outstanding Wrestler
1987 Best Babyface (shared with Lioness Asuka as part of The Crush Gals)
1985, 1986, and 1987 Feud of the Year (Crush Gals vs. Dump Matsumoto and her allies)
Championships and accomplishments in All Japan Women’s Pro-Wrestling (AJW):
3-time WWWA World Tag Team Champion (with Lioness Asuka)
2-time WWWA World Single Champion
1987 Japan Grand Prix Winner
Pro Wrestling Illustrated (PWI) ranking:
No. 169 in 1991, making her one of the highest-ranked female wrestlers on the list that year.
Hall of Fame inductions:
Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame (Class of 1996)
AJW Hall of Fame (Class of 1998)
Chigusa Nagayo’s retirement from professional wrestling took place on April 3, 2002. The event was held in Tokyo at the Nippon Budokan arena and marked the end of her storied in-ring career. Her final match was a six-person tag team match, where Nagayo teamed up with Meiko Satomura and Ayako Hamada to face Mayumi Ozaki, Lioness Asuka, and Sugar Sato.
Nagayo’s retirement was a significant moment in the world of women’s professional wrestling, as she had been an influential and pioneering figure in the industry for over two decades. Her contributions to the sport, both as a wrestler and a mentor, helped shape the future of women’s wrestling and inspired countless wrestlers to follow in her footsteps.
Although Nagayo retired from in-ring competition, she remained involved in the wrestling industry. In 1995, she co-founded GAEA Japan, a women’s wrestling promotion, which operated successfully until it closed in 2005. In 2015, she founded another women’s wrestling promotion, Marvelous, further demonstrating her ongoing commitment to the growth and development of women’s professional wrestling.
Chigusa Nagayo’s retirement marked the end of an era, but her impact on the world of professional wrestling continues through her work as a promoter and mentor to the next generation of female wrestlers.
Frequently Asked Questions
Chigusa Nagayo, born on December 8, 1964, in Nagasaki, Japan, was a prominent figure in professional wrestling. She gained fame as a member of the Crush Gals, a renowned female tag team, and later became a successful wrestler and promoter.
In 1980, Chigusa Nagayo started training at the All Japan Women’s Pro-Wrestling (AJW) dojo under the tutelage of Kazuo Yamazaki. Her training was rigorous, including endurance exercises, weight training, and technical wrestling instruction. She excelled in the demanding training environment.
Chigusa Nagayo debuted in 1980 and faced initial challenges, but she persevered. In 1982, she formed the Crush Gals tag team with Lioness Asuka, achieving massive popularity and winning AJW Tag Team Championships multiple times. Nagayo also had successful solo career, winning the AJW Women’s World Championship and the AJW Tag Team Championship.
Chigusa Nagayo engaged in fierce rivalries, both as part of the Crush Gals and as an individual wrestler. Her intense battles with wrestlers like Dump Matsumoto and Devil Masami showcased her fighting spirit and technical prowess, contributing to her legacy.
Chigusa Nagayo received numerous accolades, including being named Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s Rookie of the Year (1984) and Most Outstanding Wrestler (1987). She won championships such as the WWWA World Tag Team Championship and the AJW Women’s World Championship. She also earned spots in various wrestling halls of fame.
Chigusa Nagayo’s retirement marked the end of her wrestling career, but her legacy lives on through her pioneering contributions as a wrestler, promoter, and mentor. She played a vital role in elevating women’s wrestling and inspiring future generations of female wrestlers.