EXCLUSIVE: Ayesha Raymond reflects on Mae Young Classic, talks World of Sport, Kyoko Kimura

Former IPW: UK Women's Champion Ayesha Raymond spoke with POST Wrestling's Andrew Thompson. She talked about her experience with WWE in the 2017 Mae Young Classic, working in various promotions in Japan and learning from Kyoko Kimura. Ayesha also opened up about what went wrong with the World of Sport reboot in 2018.

 

Ayesha Raymond, also known as “Amazon” has been in the wrestling business for over a decade. Throughout her time in the sport, she has competed all over the globe and does not plan on stopping any time soon. Ayesha was involved in WWE’s inaugural Mae Young Classic tournament, she is the second black woman to hold the IPW:UK Women’s Championship, she has wrestled in multiple promotions in Japan and competed all over her home country, the United Kingdom.

Growing up as a black woman in London was “interesting” as Ayesha described it. When it came to wrestling, she knew that there would not be many black people but she had the support of her mother who made her aware of the field she was about to jump into. With the drive and determination to succeed along with the support from her family, Ayesha decided to immerse herself in pro wrestling and feels that she has paved the way for some of the female African-American talents of today.

“It was interesting because as you know, there aren’t that many of us. When it comes to wrestling, it’s a cultural thing, it’s a parent thing — my parents are Caribbean, and no one wants to be a wrestler so, my mom always pushed us to accomplish our dreams but when it comes to black people in terms of careers and jobs and opportunities, you always aspire for your child to be a doctor or a nurse or a lawyer. I went to my mom and said I want to slam people for a living. I always wanted to be an entertainer. She pushed me to do drama schools and performing arts and I was always into art and music, but when I told her I wanted to be a wrestler, she said the same thing I found out. ‘There’s not gonna be many people like you’ and there weren’t. I was the first of then what became many, and as much as you can look back at history and see it, there weren’t that many of us. It was myself and Amarah the Voodoo Queen, and I carved the way now as Amazon and its opened the door for so many other shiny new faces.”

The IPW:UK Women’s Championship is a title that has only been held by eleven people. Two of the names on that list are Xia Brookside and Mickie James. The first-ever IPW:UK Women’s Champion is Tennessee Honey and following behind Tennessee Honey as the second black woman to hold said title is Ayesha Raymond. IPW:UK was sold in January of 2020 but regardless of ownership, Ayesha will always hold the aforementioned feat in the women’s division and she credited Tennessee Honey, now known as Livii Grace for being a pioneer for women in IPW:UK.

“Yes, I was the second black person to win that title. The first person was Tennessee Honey, now respectively Livii Grace and she, in my eyes, opened up the women’s division for IPW at the time. If it wasn’t for her at the time, it would’ve been no women’s division. She was the women’s division, and just generally, being in that division at the time, it was a very small pool. The match was amazing. I got to face one of my best friends, Pollyanna…”

Pro wrestling is currently in the midst of the empty arena setting. Companies such as All Elite Wrestling and WWE have inserted wrestlers around the ringside area to create the background noise that a crowd would create. The likes of Pro Wrestling NOAH, Ice Ribbon, All Japan and a few others have continued to run shows without many people at ringside. For Ayesha, she personally wants to get in the ring and work an empty arena match and relates it to training to become a wrestler.

Ayesha stated that when one trains to become a wrestler, there’s usually not a crowd around to react to what’s going on so she would just channel her days as a trainee and continue to entertain the masses that will be watching from their own personal space[s].

“Oh yeah, to be honest, it’s not — it’s weird to say that some people — I get the aspect of not having an audience because as wrestlers, we’re trained to react to an audience. But realistically when you’re training as a trainee, as a wrestler, there’s not that many people there apart from ten people? So, a no-audience kind of setting isn’t that much of a difference. You’re still supposed to be living and reacting to the moment. You’re still supposed to be an entertainer. To me, I can’t wait to do one of those matches. It’s just basically a cinematic, athletic exhibition and you’ve been trained to do that since day one so I don’t understand why it’s alien to some people. I really don’t. To me, it’s a concept that I don’t get. I don’t get why people go, ‘No! I don’t like it,’ but if you were training, you’re doing that from the beginning. What’s wrong with you?”

As mentioned in the earlier portion of this article, Ayesha is well traveled and her career has guided her to Japan where she has wrestled for STARDOM, Ice Ribbon, Sendai Girls, SEAdLINNNG, Marvelous That’s Women Pro Wrestling and Pro Wrestling ZERO1. During her time in STARDOM, Ayesha captured the Artist Of STARDOM Championship with ‘Alpha Female’ Jazzy Gabert and Kyoko Kimura, the mother late of the late Hana Kimura.

Hana passed away last month and her death sent a shock through wrestlers, fans and those alike. Hana was only 22 when she passed away and when Ayesha began her run in STARDOM, she did not have the opportunity to interact with Hana that often seeing as how young she was. Ayesha did recall some of her experiences with Kyoko Kimura and what she was able to pick up from the former MMA and pro wrestler.

“When I went out to STARDOM and I met Kimura-san, Hana was very young so I only had very few interactions with her and again, my condolences to the family and friends. But, my experiences with [Kyoko] Kimura, she definitely taught me how to be more violent in the most safest way. But she opened more doors for me in terms of the Japanese entertainment and how they present things and how they are able to make things exciting, safe and kind of chaotic at the same time, which is why when I came back, most people were afraid.”

In 2018, Ayesha Raymond was a part of the World of Sport reboot on ITV. There were tapings held in May of 2018 and those episodes aired from July until September of 2018. Kay Lee Ray, Bea Priestley, Will Ospreay, Piper Niven, Kip Sabian, Davey Boy Smith Jr., Joe Hendry and many others were a part of the reboot of World of Sport. After the season wrapped up, a live tour was announced for January of 2019 and throughout that tour, there were multiple title changes but as far as a second season, nothing came up. Ayesha spoke about her experience as a part of the tapings and stated that the inmates should not have been running the asylum.

“Mate, I was in Japan,” she laughed. “We did the tapings, and I went to Japan. Most of the social media stuff I was doing, I was doing from my apartment in Japan. When I came back, I got told off. I got told about the tour that was supposed to be happening. Some things led to another and there was no Amazon on tour. But as far as I’m concerned, it was something that happened, I’m grateful for the opportunity but… I don’t know. It’s COVID, I’ll say it — they shouldn’t have let the inmates run the asylum and it would’ve been fine. That’s all I’m saying.”

A year prior to the World of Sport reboot, Ayesha was a part of the first-ever Mae Young Classic tournament.

The tournament was commentated by Jim Ross and Lita and took place at Full Sail University. Many of the names in the inaugural tournament are currently with WWE such as Bianca Belair, Candice LeRae, Dakota Kai, Lacey Evans, Kairi Sane, Mia Yim, Mercedes Martinez, Racquel Gonzalez, Rhea Ripley and Toni Storm. In the first round, Ayesha was defeated by Toni Storm who went on to lose to Kairi Sane in the semi-finals.

Ayesha looks back on that tournament with fond memories because it symbolizes her chasing her dream. She reflected on how far she’d come within that moment and remembered the days of creating herself in WWE video games to then competing for the WWE.

“Like I said at the beginning, the whole story of Amazon is the story of a kid accomplishing their dream. I gave the story in the Mae Young Classic about my brother. My brother is blind. We did grow up watching wrestling. But that was me. I was a baby born at 20 weeks, I was two pounds, they gave me all the food, I got bigger and I wasn’t supposed to live. Everything that has ever happened to me in my life and everything that I’ve gone through was collectively justified in that one moment, because it’s what I watched when I was little, it’s what I stayed up on Friday nights to watch, what I woke up on Saturday mornings to watch. These people that I’m working around who have given me advice, people that I’ve idolized since I was little. So, the entire experience alone was breathtaking. I got to basically stand in an arena that I had been making on SmackDown vs. RAW for God knows how long, and the character that I had been making, it was in the ring for real.”

Ayesha Raymond revealed that the 2017 Mae Young Classic was the first and only time she has wrestled in the United States. She wants to compete in the States again but also wants to continue her career in Japan.

Ayesha can be found on both Twitter and Instagram @bigfemvader and her Pro Wrestling Tees store link can be found here. The full video interview can be watched at the top of this article or on the Andrew Thompson Interviews YouTube channel.

About Andrew Thompson 459 Articles
A Maryland native and graduate of Norfolk State University, Andrew Thompson has been covering wrestling since 2017.