Manami Toyota was born on March 2, 1971 in the town of Masuda, Japan on the southwest corner of the main island of Honshu. Toyota has a sister older by four years, a brother now 28, and a father who is 57. Her mother died in 1990 just as she was approaching stardom. Given her all-out style and the number of high risk maneuvers she routinely incorporates into nearly every match, it would seem her risk of injury is high. Any one of her dropkicks off the top rope to the floor could result in physical disaster. Amazingly, she has suffered only one serious injury--a broken right foot while touring Mexico in 1992 and even that did not prevent her from doing dives and Asai moonsaults just days later on a floor with no protective mats.
Toyota debuted on August 5, 1987 in a singles match against Sachiko Nakamura. Toshiyo Yamada, Mima Shimoda, and Etsuko Mita also graduated from the Class of '86 and debuted around the same time. Her big break came in her second year on the first Wrestlemarinpiad show from Yokohama Arena on May 6, 1989. Teaming with Mima Shimoda, they defeated Mita and Yamada in a lightning-like paced four-star match that nearly stole the card from the more established veterans. The bout has all the basic ingredients that made Toyota a star including flashy moves, fast and frequent tags, double-team moves, and a long series of dramatic near falls. When the bout was released as part of a four-hour commercial tape, Toyota became a wrestler to watch.
The AJW braintrust felt they could well be the Beauty Pair or Crush Girls but that was not to be. Toyota's real chemistry came not with Shimoda but with Toshiyo Yamada whose style was unlike Toyota's and provided more of a contrast. Yamada was a slightly built, short-haired kicking specialist who idolized both Chigusa Nagayo and Akira Maeda. But unlike other wrestlers who rely on kicks and submissions, Yamada could also work the rapid-paced matches and was wonderful at building to near falls with repeated kickouts at the last possible moment. Starting in late 1989, the two were matched together in a series of bouts not as partners but as singles opponents. Over the next two years, they wrestled many times producing bouts that rivaled the quality of main events the group's champions were presenting. The singles feud climaxed on August 15, 1992 at Korakuen Hall in a hair vs. hair match for the IWA Women's World Title. The match was a dramatic one as well as what happened after the match was over. Toyota, even though she won the match, didn't want Yamada to get her head shaved and had to be forcefully restrained by four prelim girls who eventually forced her back to the mat. Yamada wanted her head shaved, however.
Toyota has had some classic matches with a wide variety of opponents such as Kyoko Inoue, Aja Kong, Akira Hokuto, Dynamite Kansai, etc. Some of those bouts were tag team matches. Toyota teamed with rival Toshiyo Yamada and won their first WWWA World Tag Team title in March 1992. They lost the belts to Dynamite Kansai and Mayumi Ozaki on April 9, 1993 in a classic 2/3 Falls encounter. Toyota and Yamada regained the belts on December 6, 1993. Toyota would not hold the WWWA World Tag Team Title again until 1996, this time with Mima Shimoda.
But Toyota's main goal was to win the WWWA World Singles Title. She finally accomplished that goal on March 26, 1995 defeating rival Aja Kong. Kong regained the belt on June 27, 1995. Toyota became the top contender to the title by winning the AJW Grand Prix Tournament. She defeated Dynamite Kansai to regain the belt on December 4, 1995. Before then, Toyota faced Akira Hokuto in a classic encounter on September 2, 1995. During her first reign as WWWA champion, Toyota retained the title in a classic 60 minute time limit draw against Kyoko Inoue on May 7, 1995. The match was voted Match of the Year in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter.
Toyota's fame is spreading beyond the normal confines of Japanese wrestling fandom. She is attracting media attention in the same way that Akira Maeda did when the UWF was riding high in the '80s and Atsushi Onita did just a few years ago. She has been featured on articles and on covers of magazines throughout Japan. She has won numerous year-end awards in the U.S. She is starting to get guest appearances on TV shows as a celebrity. In 1996, she appeared on a game show where a man paid $4,500 to engage her in a five minute mud wrestling match.
Manami Toyota may not be at the top of AJW anymore, considering the financial difficulties the promotion faced in 1997. Toyota was loyal to AJW and has stayed with the company for now. The bumps and bruises she has taken over the years are now finally catching up with her. However, Toyota is still one of the best women wrestlers the 1980s has ever produced and the fans of the 1990s are benefitting from her contributions to Japanese womens' pro wrestling.
August 15 1992: Manami Toyota vs. Toshiyo Yamada April 11 1993: Manami Toyota & Toshiyo Yamada vs. Dynamite Kansai & Mayumi Ozaki November 20 1994: Manami Toyota vs. Aja Kong May 7 1995: Manami Toyota vs. Kyoko Inoue September 2 1995: Manami Toyota vs. Akira Hokuto
Credit also to: Chris Zavisa
See also: Manami Toyota profile