WRESTLING NEWS
Maki Itoh's
J-Pop Idol Past Explained
By RUSS GOOD
INFLUENCED BY A CRUSH
In an interview, Maki Itoh said she felt like an outsider growing up in Japan as her city style clashed with the rural schools she went to, saying she was "bullied just for wearing a miniskirt." When she found out a boy she was interested in had a crush on idol Yuki Kashiwagi of the group AKB48, she decided to audition to become a Japanese pop (J-pop) idol.
INTRO TO PRO WRESTLING
Itoh joined the idol group LinQ to sell tickets, attend meet and greets with fans, and occasionally perform. On August 13, 2013, she was in an idol lumberjack match for DDT Pro-Wrestling when she met DDT President Sanshiro Takagi and remembers, "When I was about 17, I stood in a ring in Ryogoku for the first time and head-butted Mr. Takagi and became famous."
BOLD MOVES
Maki trained to be a professional wrestler while also working as an idol, with the pressures of both jobs bearing down on her. She battled depression after being put on hiatus by LinQ, but she was inspired by Takagi's return to the ring from an illness and moved to Tokyo to pursue her dreams in both wrestling and performing.
THE FIRED IDOL
Despite her ticket sales, Itoh was dismissed from LinQ in 2017, tweeting "Good morning! I got fired from LinQ! I'm Maki Itoh, an idol who fights even after being fired!!" She then announced her firing to the crowd and sang an impromptu cover song before winning her first solo match, causing "Fired Idol" to trend as number one on Japanese Twitter.
CAREER AFTER LINQ
Next, Itoh turned her two-person wrestling stable, the Itoh Respect Army, into an idol group, making an album in 2018 and a music video produced by DDT Pro-Wrestling. She performed solo at the 2018 Tokyo Idol Festival, before becoming a part of the "entertainment group" Tokiwoikiru with the other women released from LinQ around the same time as Maki.