Women of Honor Champion Sumie Sakai passed on the news early this morning that former joshi wrestler and MMA fighter Aliya’ – also known as Aya Koyama – had succumbed to her battle with cancer and passed away at age 45.
Aliya’ passed away early this morning in Japan. I will never forget about her. Thank you so much for supporting her retirement show.
She loves Pro wrestling so much. She was wrestling at her retirement show with stage IV cancer…
Rest In Peace あーやさま
Love you!!! HUGS!!! pic.twitter.com/FzRZxwLLI4
— ✌️Sumie Sakai✌️ (@SumieSakai) August 27, 2018
Aliya’ was a 20 year veteran of joshi in Japan, debuting with Jd’ Star in 1996 under the name Aya Koyama. The hard hitting youngster made an impression and the following year was working intergender matches in Big Japan and was facing joshi legends like Command Bolshoi in Japanese Women Pro-Wrestling Project (JWP). In 1998, she found herself facing arguably the greatest joshi wrestler of all time, Manami Toyota, in an All Japan Women’s Wrestling (AJW) event (she would reunite in 2010 with Toyota, this time tagging together in a match at Big Japan‘s 15th Anniversary show, against a team lead by Aja Kong).
In 2001, she took a break from pro wrestling to get into the world of Mixed Martial Arts, going 4-9-1 in a three year career in the sport (she actually left on a two fight win streak after a disastrous five match losing skid to start), working with such Japanese MMA promotions as DEEP and Smackgirl.
She returned to pro wrestling and JWP in 2005, now known as Aliya’, and became more of a tag team wrestler. In 2008, she wrestled for All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW) at New Year Shining Series alongside Shinigami, facing off against Shineway and an emerging star named Kana (who would go on to become WWE’s Asuka). In 2011, she began to work with REINA, where she would finally win her first titles, capturing the REINA X World Tag Team titles on three occasions (twice with Aki Shizuku, and once with Makoto). She also worked for CMLL in 2014, as well as DIANA. She had her retirement show somewhat recently and wrestled her final match – which in Japan is traditionally a gauntlet where you face an array of past rivals and emerging stars – battling stage four cancer. One of joshi‘s toughest unsung heroes, Ariya’ was only 45 years old.