June 20, 2023

Words: Mimi aka #TheWrestlingChic

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, pro wrestling evolved into an acknowledged stream of entertainment for female fans. As a reflection of the impact Black women have made in the space, it would be remiss not to recognize mainstream trailblazers such as Awesome Kong (the first Black woman to enter WWE’s Men's Royal Rumble), Jacqueline (the first African American WWE Cruiserweight Champion), and Jazz, the last Black woman to hold the Women's Championship under then World Wrestling Federation (WWF) brand, and the first Black woman to hold it under World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). Alicia Fox, WWE's first Black Diva's Champion and have since passed the torch to Naomi (now known as Trinity), Sasha Banks (now known as Mercedes Mone), and the woman many feel will be #1 on the #BRP50 for a second year in a row, Bianca Belair. While these mainstreamers continue to create pathways for up-and-comers in women’s pro wrestling, the Black and Afro-Latina female independent circuit will surely follow, and #30 on this year’s list, 'The Kick Demon' Janai Kai being one of them.

Originally from the DMV, Janai Kai (née Gaia Terra), like most fans, grew up watching pro wrestling with a parent, her father. At 13, Kai knew she wanted to become a professional wrestler, particularly after practicing Tae Kwon Do, Muay Thai, and Dutch Kickboxing. Her tenacity and diligence has earned recognition when we think of women's pro wrestling in the Indies. With Cheeseburger and Santana Garrett as her trainers, she was determined to find the comfort level she needed in her style of wrestling to be successful. Her first match was a "student vs. teacher" match to introduce herself to the world. A solid understanding of the professional wrestling business is vital to a successful wrestler. While she credits legends such as Victoria and Rob Van Dam as influences, having formidable trainers taught her how to fight, develop a character, cultivate her brand and build business acumen. 

After training extensively in martial arts, she knew that Japanese culture and wrestling were the areas for which she wanted to hone her skills. Kai's powerful kick strikes earned her the nickname 'The Kick Demon' during her time at Combat Fights Unlimited (CFU). As Kai established herself as an emerging competitor, more opportunities opened up. Wrestling for indie promotions including RISE, Game Changer Wrestling (GCW) and SHIMMER have featured some of her career highlights. Kai has faced La Rosa Negra, formed the dominant tag team 'YoKai' with Yoya, wrestled Savannah Evans and Miyu Yamashita in Battle Club Pro, and battled Trish Adora in Ring of Honor (ROH). Most recently, Kai wrestled All Elite Wrestling (AEW) juggernauts like Athena on an episode of Dark Elevation  and Jade Cargill on Rampage. Kai was also among the highlights at ProUnapologetic Presents: "Black Girl Magik," an annual showcase event celebrating talented Black women in pro wrestling. Held in Brooklyn, NY the show also featured talents such as Jordan Blade, Ariela Nyx, Jazz, Trish Adora, and the inaugural (and current) New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW) Strong Women's Champion, Willow Nightingale.

Though an impressive start, Kai has not been immune to life's pitfalls. Janai Kai's journey remains steady and constant despite challenges and disappointments. During a Women's Wrestling Army (WWA) event early in her career, Kai suffered a broken neck that could have ended her pro wrestling aspirations. Her positive outlook and perseverance allowed a full recovery and dominant return to the ring, something she is incredibly grateful for to this day. As a result of Kai's resilience, she was able to earn gold in 2022. Following a hard-hitting victory over La Rosa Negra at Title Match Wrestling’s (TMW): Ladies Night Out (LNO) 12, The Kick Demon returned the same night to challenge and defeat "La Sicaria'' Ivelisse for the LNO Championship, despite the Renegade Twins being a distraction in Ivelisse’s corner. 

Almost every wrestler dreams of competing in Japan, where one's career can be defined and catapulted to success. Aspirations are inherent to owning your craft and Kai continues to impress and represent the Black and Afro-Latina talents in the independent wrestling circuit. For that, she was invited to wrestle at Tokyo Joshi Pro-Wrestling (TJPW) earlier this year, a lifelong goal she worked hard to achieve. She remains top of mind after her thrilling battle with Miu Watanabe for the International Princess Championship this past February. 

As a young up-and-coming Afro-Latina wrestler shaking the pro    wrestling tables, Kai recalls her journey being inspired and her career being supported by other black female wrestlers as she visits various locker rooms. We caught up with "The Kick Demon" to discuss whether she has taken lessons learned from her peers, and how she has implemented them as part of her blueprint, “Although I have not adopted any advice, I have repeatedly encouraged myself to be who I am, do what I love, and reflect on the progress I have made to get where I am,” said Kai. As for the importance of her representation to other Black women looking to make it in pro wrestling, Janai Kai said, “There are a few Afro-Latinas in this business, but it is not very well known. Being different is already a strength, but what makes us special is that we unapologetically showcase it. The people who have asked where I am from or where my family is from have immediately told me that just that inspires them & they can sense through my "vibe" that they can relate culturally. Even though I am not exactly sure what that means, it makes me happy to hear that I have touched people that deeply with wrestling and with me as a person.”

It goes without saying that keeping up with Janai Kai is essential. Her incredible talent has caught the attention of heavy hitters who are taking note. With a renaissance in women's wrestling continuing to etch its mark on history, Janai Kai is a name to remember. Keep up with her on social media platforms by following @Janai_Kai, and be sure to check out her Patreon.

Be sure to check out this year’s full #BRP50 list, and also check out the Black Rasslin' Podcast Patreon for exclusive pro wrestling content.

Mimi aka #TheWrestlingChic co-hosts #TurnbuckleTalk, which is on hiatus until July 11, 2023, every Tuesday at 6:35pm ET and also contributes to the Black Rasslin' Podcast

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