Ayumi Kurihara will be retiring on 8/5 due to a mesh of different injuries.
I'm not sure what to say about this one. I didn't see it coming, that's for sure. Ayumi Kurihara has always shown a love of wrestling and dedication to the business. She's also been one of the few non-Stardom younger stars along with Kana.
There are three things that have always hurt Ayumi Kurihara's career. The first is her injuries, which have now caused her retirement. A few years ago she was out for a really long time and she's always had a habit of getting banged up and bruised. The second is NEO closing. On NEO's last show, she won their title and finally was in the position to become a star with a promotion behind her. However, as I mentioned, this happened on NEO's last show. Therefore, she won the title and that was mostly the end of it. There wasn't any way to build onto her momentum and I don't think it did for her what it should have. She never got the big main events against other names and didn't do a ton of stuff after it, minus REINA. Everyone was clamoring for her to win the NEO title sooner, but it never happened and the third reason is probably why.
Ayumi Kurihara was Ayumi Kurihara's biggest enemy. She refused to sign with multiple promotions and instead always chose the freelance route. While the freelance route is great if you are already made a star, it has a glass ceiling to it if you aren't. Sure for a lot of fans, she was the star, but she wasn't their(a promotion's) star and it limited her. I can't say it for sure, but I'm sure her winning the NEO title so late in the game had something to do with it. Her freelancing also hurt her career after NEO. She was a champion in REINA, but REINA was mostly a failure and from what I've been told, half the people who went to those shows didn't pay anyway. I know that DIANA tried to get her and that she refused and I'm sure it was a similar story elsewhere.
Had Ayumi Kurihara joined a promotion a few years ago, her career may have been different. She would have been protected and had a constant push surrounding her and this would have went over to other companies as well. She could have used this to help build her name and make it more valuable, but she didn't. Instead, she ended up working for a lot of different companies and aside from REINA, didn't accomplish very much. STARDOM would have been a great fit for her, but it never happened. JWP could have surely used her and definitely would have, but no dice. Oz has been using her as of late, but it is Oz Academy and unless you are already 35, you can forget it. WAVE is WAVE and they cannot really offer much and that was the same story with DIANA, SENDAI and Ice Ribbon.
I'm saddened to see her go and like always, it is a big loss for joshi. She was arguably one of the top 5-10 stars and she always felt like a joshi-lifer to me. I thought she really missed the boat by never getting with Stardom/JWP and I felt the NEO title win was her peak.
Where does joshi go from here? Sadly, the same place it has been going which is further down the drain. The industry needs a model that it doesn't have the power to have that includes a constant influx of younger but good looking women. Other kinds of entertainment in Japan like the idol and adult business have this and can offer a lot more than wrestling can and I don't see a way to change it. As always, I'd expect more retirements, though who is next is anyone's guess. I'm pretty sure it will not be Kana though, as wrestling is only secondary for her.
Ayumi Kurihara will be missed and hopefully she can heal up a bit and at some point will return. Joshi and its fans will miss her.