TOKYO — They soar, slam and swan dive. Japan’s professional women’s wrestling is a uniquely local blend of baby doll fantasy and unbridled aggression, shattering the stereotype of the docile Japanese woman.
“They express things that we cannot express openly,” one fan said.
The spectacle has drawn guest wrestlers from around the world, but one is unlike the rest. Standing at just 4 feet, 11 inches tall, New Jersey native Kris Hernandez is the first foreigner to come up through the Japanese ranks and go pro.
“What do you become when you walk into the ring?” CBS News correspondent Adriana Diaz asked.
“I feel like I’m on fire. I feel like every last part of my being is exploding,” Hernandez said.
In the ring, she’s goes by her alter ego: Kris Wolf.
“I eat lots of meat and I do like to bark and howl, so I guess it just fits,” Hernandez said.
But Kris Wolf wasn’t always so wild. The 33-year-old college grad moved to Japan four years ago after a bad breakup and started teaching English. Then one day she saw Japanese wrestling online and was hooked.
“I thought ‘holy bleep.’ Sorry, I have to censor myself or else I’m going to curse. I thought, ‘I need to do this,'” Hernandez said. “The fact that these girls were flying through the air, kicking each other in the face and not dying was pretty impressive.”
Starting from scratch, it took months of weight training and learn moves until she was ready to debut.
“What does your mom think about this?” Diaz asked.
“She hates it. She is like, ‘You are too educated for this!'” Hernandez said with a laugh.
Hernandez said the rough and tumble of Japanese wrestling is harder hitting than in the U.S. She’s often bruised and in near constant pain, even suffering a career-pausing concussion in 2015.
Unlike in America, where the theatrics are as rich as the paychecks, Hernandez earns just $250 a week for the privilege of getting pummeled, juggling four side jobs in order to afford to wrestle full time.
It hasn’t been easy for her, but she said she still feels like she should continue.
“I’ve put in so much time just to debut,” Hernandez said. “Maybe if I can do this, then I can tag some other fool who’s watching, and make them feel like they can do anything.”
Anything to achieve a dream – no matter how outside the box or inside the ropes.
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