With the 2013 Year End Awards rapidly approaching, we have been covering the fortunes of our 2012 winners. So far, we have looked at how Kimber Lee continued her ascent after being named the Discovery of the Year, and we’ve given an update of Allysin Kay‘s successful 12 months since winning the Breakout Star of the Year title. Rounding off our recap of 2013 is the woman who we proclaimed to be 2012’s Wrestler of the Year: Ayako Hamada…
We justified our choice to select the 32-year old as our top grappler for the simple reason that when it came to in-ring match quality, nobody impressed us or entertained us more than Ayako Hamada in 2012, and that was illustrated in a quote from NCW Femmes Fatales booker Stephane Bruyere during a Women Of Wrestling Podcast this time last year:
All of my ten favourite matches I’ve seen this year, there’s six of her. That’s six out of eight she did at SHIMMER, and six of them are in my top ten favourite matches […] She’s just amazing. She’s the best right now. When we talk about quality of matches, there’s nobody that can top what she can do. There are a lot of great wrestlers – we know Mercedes Martinez, we know LuFisto, we know Cheerleader Melissa – those are really, really great wrestlers and they had good years, but none of them had the year Hamada had this year.
When it comes to picking a Wrestler of the Year, it’s sometimes as easy as that.
Let’s focus on her work in North America first. Hamada’s only visit to SHIMMER this year was in April where she participated in the SHIMMER Volume 53 live iPPV in Secaucus, NJ – falling to Athena in a rematch from their encounter on the previous volume where the veteran smartly took advantage of the Wrestling Goddess’ knee injury – and then wrestled on all four volumes over the following weekend in Berwyn, IL. While it was not the best match of the volume, Hamada gave Melanie Cruise her best SHIMMER match to date on Volume 54 and then participated in a stormer against Martinez later in the day. A crazy 4-way involving she, Martinez, Kana and Yuu Yamagata thoroughly entertained the fans on Volume 56, and was part of Allison Danger‘s retirement match where she and Melissa lost to Danger and Leva Bates via a reversed decision.
Unfortunately, Hamada missed the second tapings of the year due to transportation issues – and while the roster did their best to compensate for the huge hole that her absence left, it was noticeable that she wasn’t there.
It’s funny – for someone who has been wrestling hard for 15 years, Hamada stepped into the ring on a more frequent basis in 2013 than in any other year in her career. With more than 50 matches under her belt, she has certainly been busy – though the reason for her frequency may have something to do with the type of matches that she has been involved in. Instead of the bulk of her wrestling being in solo outings, Hamada has focussed more on tag team competition, where she has enjoyed the bulk of her success over the last 12 months.
While she has wrestled matches for promotions like OZ Academy, Ice Ribbon and Sendai Girls, 2013 saw Hamada continue her affiliation with Pro Wrestling Wave. Her participation in the Catch The Wave League between May and July was not that successful, as she fell to GAMI, Tomoka Nakagawa and Yamagata, along with drawing with Kagetsu, though she did receive the Best Bout Award for the league for her victory over Ryo Mizunami on May 26. Much more successful was her participation in the Dual Shock Wave tag team league and tournament between September and October. Teaming with good friend Yamagata, Las Aventureras won four of their six league matches, putting away Cherry & Shuu Shibutani, Hamuko Hoshi & Sawako Shimono, Hikaru Shida & Tsukasa Fujimoto and Moeka Haruhi & Nakagawa, then won the whole shebang by emerging victorious in a Dog Fight final involving Shida & Fujimoto and Kana & Yumi Ohka. The win gifted them a crack at the Wave Tag Team Championship, and they took full advantage of the opportunity on October 30 by ending Cherry and Shibutani’s short reign to become the promotion’s 9th titleholders. To date, the tandem have successfully defended the titles once, beating Mio Shirai and Misaki Ohata on November 9.
While fans outside of Japan may not have got their usual fix of Ayako Hamada in 2013, she has certainly forged ahead in her home country and is likely to return to the United States next year. After such a busy 12 months, can the 2012 Wrestler of the Year keep it up? I certainly wouldn’t bet against her.
– Lee Burton
– Photos by Stephane Bruyere, Ringbelles, Pro Wrestling Wave
This year’s Wrestler of the Year announcement will take place next Sunday (December 22nd). While the decision has already been made, we would love to know who you think will be our winner. Leave us a comment below or on Facebook or Twitter, and check back next weekend to see if you were right.