Sareee’s ‘WWE Countdown’ is over: After an almost year-long delay due to the COVID-19 outbreak last year, the 24-year-old phenom will finally head to the United States and debut with WWE in the very near future. Yahoo JP reported that Sareee is expected to travel to the US as early as next week.
On January 17, Sareee wrote on her Twitter account that the “final process” of her arrangement with WWE was now complete, which ends the “WWE Countdown” branding she used for herself a freelance wrestler in Japan all throughout last year.
Sareee’s final match in Tokyo was this past Saturday, January 22 at Shin Kiba 1st RING, a tag team match for the SEAdLINNNG Sea Tag titles. She and former rival-turned-best friend, Yoshiko, formed a team earlier this year and captured the titles as Onikana, though over the weekend they dropped the belts to Arisa Nakajima and company boss and lauded joshi wrestler, Nanae Takahashi. She was supposed to participate in Ice Ribbon’s Korakuen Hall tournament this weekend on the 23rd, but of this writing, she has been replaced with Nakajima. “The schedule for going to the United States has been accelerated and I can no longer participate,” Sareee said.
Sareee was originally scheduled to move to the US early last year, though the COVID-19 outbreak put the process on pause. She was able to reach a deal with WWE in the meantime, allowing her to wrestle as a freelancer with the phrase “WWE Countdown” attached to her appearances after officially announcing her departure from her home company, World Women’s Pro Wrestling Diana, a subtle way of explaining to fans that while not yet a part of their official roster, Sareee would indeed head to WWE. “When?” was the last question left to be answered.
In the aforementioned Yahoo JP piece, the reason for this sudden decision to bring Sareee to WWE has to do with WrestleMania in April. According to the article, a source explained that since WrestleMania will be held in Tampa on April 10 & 11 this year, any of the various projects that were previously pending in Japan because of the pandemic have started to move forward. The source claimed that Sareee is “probably one of them.” Another project that was delayed under the same circumstances last year was that of Jiro “Ikemen” Kuroshio, whose move to WWE was delayed for similar reasons. After a short delay, Kuroshio was able to make it to Florida late last year, and it’s assumed Ikemen will make his NXT debut within the next few months.
Upon arrival, Sareee will undergo medical checks and do a self-quarantine period before her debut at the Performance Center.
A 24-year-old ring veteran
Though she’s just 24, Sari Fujimora has been wrestling for ten years already. She initially wanted to join NEO Women’s Wrestling, AJW legend Kyoko Inoue’s company, though due to a number of reasons, NEO was forced to fold at around this time, closing its doors for good in 2010.
Sareee never had a chance to try out for the promotion, but in July 2010, Inoue took her on as her personal trainee. She also began training simultaneously at Animal Hamaguchi’s famed dojo, with specific guidance from Hamaguchi’s daughter, Kyoko, a two-time Olympic bronze medalist and multiple-time gold medalist wrestler at 72 kg.
Dubbed “Sareee THE FINAL,” at SEAdLINNNG’s Shin-Kiba 1st RING show, her last match was over the weekend, where she and rival-turned-BFF, and rising superstar in her own right, Yoshiko, lost their Beyond the Sea Tag Team titles to Arisa Nakajima and Nanae Takahashi in the main event. Onikana’s reign was short but revealing in that I’m quite positive these two have the chemistry to become the next iteration of the wildly popular Crush Gals, Chigusa Nagayo and Lioness Asuka. The two had their last series of singles bouts against each other in September, and they were no less brutal than any of their other past encounters, which makes their tag team chemistry it that much more interesting and dynamic. Down the road, these two will surely meet again, but the chapter between these two has closed for now.
— Sareee (@1996Sareee) January 23, 2021
So, what’s the big deal about Sareee?
In ways, she’s a throwback. All substance and passion. No flash, just heart, and one that burns like no other wrestler’s I’ve seen recently. It’s clear she was built to wrestle, or rather ironically, built to win, or suceed. She wrestles with visible insatiability, someone obsessed with winning over all, the kind of drive we saw in athletes like Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods.
Does it sound like hyperbole? If so, plus if you haven’t seen her wrestle before, just do it right now. Her singles battles with Yoshiko and Sendai Girls’ star Chihiro Hashimoto are every bit as good as some of the best wrestling Japan has to offer, female or male. Onikana’s tag run in SEAdLINNG was joshi wrestling at its purest, particularly in their matches with Arisa Nakajima and Ice Ribbon’s Tsukasa Fujimoto this year. If joshi wrestling had proper digital distribution, Sareee would already be a bigger name than she is now, but the available platforms are simply too small for the “big” type of wrestling Sareee employs.
Also of note is that that she has received big-time endorsements from stars outside the joshi world, one that often stays separated from the male division of pro wrestling in Japan. Antonio Inoki publicly approved and supports her decision to move to WWE. Masahiro Chono gave her official approval to use his patened STF submission hold. Jaguar Yokota served as one of Sareee’s main confidants before deciding to head to the US. The original Tiger Mask, Satoru Sayama, held a presser where he handed down one of his masks to Sareee, giving her his “Tiger Spirit,” while ex-WWE storyline president, Hisashi Shinma, announced she will be the true representative of Yamato nadeshiko spirit. For these legends to put their name on the line in support of another wrestler, let alone a joshi wrestler, is not common; it’s almost unheard of, really. Endorsements like these aren’t common PR strategies, and for the likes of Inoki and Sayama to give her the rub with media present, the situation becomes more telling.
And how will it turn out in WWE this year?
What’s most intriguing is how Sareee will adapt inside the ring, which all depends on who she is programmed against throughout the year. She’ll shine with main event talents on any of WWE’s top shows, and I imagine her paired against larger opponents, say Rhea Ripley or Reina Gonzalez, she will impress as a giant killer-type. The ultimate lesson here is that we should all have our eyes peeled on Sareee in WWE, because someone who wrestles with a passion that burns as though their life actually depended on it will always be “what’s best for business.”