Hikaru Shida was crowned the new AEW Women’s World Champion just three weeks shy of the biggest show in the company’s history, ALL IN, and is now walking into Wembley Stadium with gold around her waist. Her journey there wasn’t easy and also had multiple obstacles that she needed to overcome to get there. The Ace of the AEW Women’s Division.
It all started on April 9, 2019, when the newly founded promotion, AEW, officially announced the signing of the Japanese women’s wrestler, Hikaru Shida. Back then, OZ Academy’s Openweight Champion was unknown to most wrestling fans. Her signing at the beginning wasn’t a certainty since she revealed in an interview that she originally turned down the offer because of MAKAI, with their shows combining music, theatre, and wrestling. Little did she, AEW, nor the fans know how important she would be for the division and the company, especially during tough times.
Hikaru Shida’s run in All Elite Wrestling started with the promotion’s first show: Double Or Nothing 2019. The Shining Samurai teamed together with Riho and Ryo Mizunami to defeat Aja Kong, Emi Sakura, and Yuka Sakazaki in a match that many AEW fans still see as one of the best women’s matches in the entire division. Shida was a staple of the women’s division right for the jump and was featured in a major singles match at All Out 2019 against Riho, with the winner advancing to the AEW Women’s Championship Match on the first Dynamite episode, which the future Champion lost in, to this day, an underrated match. The AEW original traveled a lot back and forth between America and Japan in 2019 and missed a ton of Dynamite taping as a result of that, but whenever she was in the States, she delivered good matches against Shanna and the current TBS Champion Kris Statlander. 2019 was a great introduction for Hikaru Shida to the American audience, but this was just a set-up for the fantastic 2020 she would go on to have.
The new year was also a new start for Shida’s career, with her moving full-time to the United States to make her dream come true and be a star on a major stage. On January 1st, she instantly fought for the AEW Women’s World Champion in a great four-way match, including Britt Baker and Nyla Rose, but the Champion Riho was able to walk out with her reign intact. Shortly after the pandemic hit the United States, Shida had a tough decision to make – Would she stay in the US? Or would she go back to Japan to her family? She decided to continue working in the US for AEW, a decision that changed the landscape of the AEW Women’s Division forever.
She competed and won a four-way match on the first Dynamite episode without fans in attendance, but her winning ways didn’t stop there, including an often forgotten 20-minute bloody and hard-hitting match against Britt Baker on the April 8th, 2020 episode of Dynamite that put the Doctor on the map for many All Elite fans. Shortly after, she was officially announced to challenge the AEW Women’s World Champion Nyla Rose in a no disqualification & no count-out match at Double Or Nothing 2020 – just one year after her debut in the company.
Shida had been on the heels of the championship since the start of the AEW, and now she had the biggest opportunity to finally win gold, something she was used to from her time in Japan. Double Or Nothing 2020 was the first AEW PPV without any fans in attendance, but Shida went out there and gave everything, putting on a great match together with Nyla Rosa that still ranks high in a lot of lists of the “Best AEW Women’s Matches”. Both Wrestlers gave everything here, but it was Shida’s moment. She hit Rose with the Tamashi and crowned herself the new AEW Women’s Champion. A long time coming moment. This was the start of a new era. The era of the Ace of the Women’s Division. The era of Hikaru Shida.
The new Champion didn’t have it easy in her Championship run, with Britt Baker and Kris Statlander, two of the most featured Stars in the company, being sidelined with major injuries, while the pandemic was also still in full play, cutting the Joshi pipeline short. This didn’t help the already struggling division that never found its footing in the early months of the new promotion. The division needed a strong champion during the time, a champion that could carry the torch of the women and keep the division alive during a really tough time. Shida was that Champion.
One of Shida’s biggest strengths was on full display in this run, and that is that she’s able to give inexperienced talent their best matches on a regular basis. This started off with her first defence against Penelope Ford on the first night of Fyter Fest. They delivered a great 12-minute match with Shida coming out on top and retaining her Championship, but this was far more than a simple Women’s Title Match, it made fans see how great Ford can be as a talent, and many started to see a lot of potential in her. During the early stage of her Championship run, Thunder Rosa made her shock AEW debut while she still was signed to the NWA at that time, and challenged the Champion for a match at All Out 2020 – The AEW Women’s World Champion vs the NWA Women’s World Champion. Their match was one of the few highlights the “Worst PPV in AEW history” had, and not only established Shida’s dominance as Champion, but also cemented Rosa as a top contender, which led to her winning the title 18 months later. Big Swole, Abadon, and Anna Jay were three other young and inexperienced wrestlers that got a huge showcase by challenging the record-breaking AEW Women’s Champion during her first Championship run, with a major spotlight being shone on each thanks to Shida bringing out of the best in them.
The Shining Samurai also brought the Joshi style to the US audience by having a fantastic match against Ryo Mizunami at Revolution 2021, which was never seen before or after in the AEW Women’s division. A Joshi main event-style match on a PPV of a top American promotion, and it worked fantastically. A match that was considered the Match Of The Night by many, and the only time that a Women’s Match was even in close contention for the majority of the AEW fans. The most known case of Shida elevating another talent in AEW is Tay Melo. Together, they had one of the best-told women’s stories in the promotion, with both starting to team with each other, gaining mutual respect, and having a connection due to their martial arts background. Tay vs. Shida ended up being one of the stiffest matches in AEW history, with both going at it and putting on a great performance and match. Melo was a made woman after the match and established for any future Championship challenge. She was getting the fans behind her, and they were ready to call her the “Most Improved Wrestler of 2021” after this and other great performances.
Shida’s first Championship run ended at the hands of Britt Baker at Double Or Nothing 2021 at the first PPV in front of fans, which was the goal of the Champion, to hold the belt until the fans are back. Shida was awarded the second and bigger version of the AEW Women’s Championship just a week before the PPV and was allowed to cut her first live promo in the middle of the ring looking like a true champion, a historic moment for her since she had only been learning English for a few years now. Britt Baker and Shida have been connected throughout their AEW careers, with the pair facing each other a couple of times before, including the match that made Britt Baker the star she is. The story was set up for Baker to win the belt, and she did just that in a huge moment to end the 372-day-long title reign of Hikaru Shida after 11 defenses, which is still a record to this day and it won’t be broken anytime soon.
Against all odds, Shida made her first Championship run memorable, and fans love to look back on it fondly. It didn’t matter what obstacles she had in her way – the pandemic, questionable booking, a lack of meaninful stories, Hikaru Shida held her head high and managed to perform and present herself as a top player and champion, something that the division lacked until she was on top.
Being the Ace on screen wasn’t the only way she elevated the entire Women’s Division, as she was also involved behind the scenes. During her Championship run, AEW introduced the Women’s Eliminator Tournament at the start of 2021, where 16 wrestlers faced each other in a Single Elimination Tournament to get a chance for the AEW Women’s World Championship at Revolution. What was special about this tournament was that it featured both a US and a Japan bracket, with the latter being held in the Ice Ribbon Dojo in Saitama and featuring various Joshi Wrestlers like Ryo Mizunami, Yuka Sakazaki, Maki Itoh, Emi Sakura, Aja Kong and more. But what was Shida’s role in all of that?
She produced the entire Japanese side of the tournament, scouted the talents, and did Japanese commentary. She put a lot of work and effort into this tournament, and it paid off well, with the bracket she produced having some of the best women’s matches in the history of the company. Examples include the likes of Veny/ASUKA vs Emi Sakura and the six-woman tag team match that saw Shida team with Mei Suruga & Rin Kadokura to face Emi Sakura, Maki Itoh, & VENY. As an Ace, Shida tried to make the women’s division the best it could be, and she achieved that with this tournament. One of the best things AEW has ever done for the women’s division.
The following months after her title loss were rough for Shida, since she didn’t make it much on television, but she still had a really important role. She wrestled younger and inexperienced wrestlers like Julia Hart or Kiera Hogan on AEW and gave them such a good showing that they are now under contract with the promotion. Her matches continued to be highlights on AEW Dark & Dark: Elevation on YouTube, as she never failed to deliver regardless of the match length and the opponent.
Back in October 2021, Shida was on the verge of being the first female wrestler to achieve 50 wins in AEW, with Serena Deeb standing in her way as she looked set to do so. Despite a special trophy being ringside to mark Shida’s big moment, a twist occurred with Deeb defeating Shida. Not only that, but Deeb turned heel, striking Shida with the trophy, destroying it in the process. This was the start of one of the best feuds in the history of the women’s division. Over the next few months, the two battled each other in multiple matches, making it personal with backstage promos and brawls. The feud peaked in a Philadelphia Street Fight in April 2022, which wasn’t as violent as the stipulation promises, but the weapons were used at the right moments and built up a fantastic match story that ended the entire rivalry with Serena Deeb coming out as the winner, establishing her as the next challenger to Thunder Rosa at the next PPV. Once again, Shida put over a wrestler and made them look like a star while delivering on a high level. It’s only a matter of time until AEW decides to revisit the Shida vs. Deeb rivalry.
The rest of 2022 was a rough year for Hikaru Shida in All Elite Wrestling. She missed out on the Owen Hart Tournament due to visa problems, and the focus shifted towards other names. She still managed to feature in multiple AEW Women’s Championship matches, including losing at All Out and on Title Tuesday, but the match that stood out to everyone was her challenging Jamie Hayter at Holiday Bash at the end of the year. Two of the top women in the women’s division colliding for the top prize in the main event of Dynamite. They gave everything, beat the living crap out of each other, and delivered a match that got high praise from everyone. A match that goes down as the best match in the history of the women’s division that everyone still talks about to this day. While the year wasn’t perfect for Hikaru Shida, she still had one goal in her mind – holding the AEW Women’s Championship again, but this time in front of fans, and never gave up to get to that position again. 2023 would be the year that the perfect opportunity arose.
2023 started with a huge change in the AEW Women’s Division. Saraya, FKA Paige from WWE, joined the company in September 2022 and changed the landscape by forming the Outcasts together with former AEW Women’s Champion Toni Storm and Ruby Soho. Their goal was to take out the “homegrown” AEW Wrestlers, like Britt Baker and Hikaru Shida, that the fans have had an attachment to since the formation of the promotion. Shida was planned to have a major role in the storyline before she suffered a finger injury on the Jericho Cruise that put her involvement on hold. She returned at the beginning of May, after four months, to save Willow together with Britt and Jamie from the Outcast. From then on, her involvement grew, tagging with her rival Britt Baker to take down the Outcasts, and especially the first two-time AEW Women’s World Champion Toni Storm, who won the Championship by defeating an injured Jamie Hayter at Double Or Nothing. At the same time, Shida started to win singles matches again, including an important victory over another of her longtime rivals, Nyla Rosa, and was quickly in contention to challenge Toni Storm for the AEW Women’s World Championship. The match was subsequently set for AEW Dynamite’s 200th episode, and thus, Shida’s Championship dream was alive once again.
Not only was being a champion again in her sights, but also walking into the highest attended wrestling show of all time as the champion and only one wrestler was in her way – Toni Storm. They had locked up several times, with the first time being in REINA, a promotion in Japan, back in 2013, but also for the AEW Women’s World Championship, when Toni Storm defeated Shida in her first Championship run. In the build-up to the match, Shida talked about how much walking into Wembley would mean to her, and how deeply she wants to be champion in front of a live audience, and now she had the chance to fulfill her dream in the main event of the 200th Dynamite episode. Toni reacted by calling her a “Pandemic Champion” and said that she would never win the belt again. The match itself went as expected, Toni Storm controlled the opening part, but Shida always fought back, so Storm needed help from Saraya and Soho, who Shida was able to take out with a kendo stick. This led to a massive near fall when Storm used the spray paint and the Storm Zero for a close two count. But Shida never gave up. She showed heart and showed how much she wanted to be at the top of the division again. Toni instantly went for the Storm Zero again, but Shida countered it into a roll-up… One, Two, Three! Hikaru Shida defeated Toni Storm and is now a two-time AEW Women’s World Champion.
She instantly broke out in tears and let all her emotions out at that moment. Her frustrations, her devastating losses, and everything that was put in front of her, she overcame all of it and became the ninth AEW Women’s World Champion, standing in front of a cheering audience with confetti coming down on her. An incredible moment that ended the special episode of AEW Dynamite in what she described to be the greatest moment of her life.
Following her successful title defense a week later against Anna Jay, her dream is coming true, she will walk into Wembley Stadium as the AEW Women’s Champion in a four-way match against Saraya, Toni Storm, and Britt Baker. She will represent both the company and her home country of Japan on the biggest wrestling stage ever, a monumental moment for any top-level talent. On her road to the Championship, Shida proved that she is not only the Heart and Soul of the division, but the undisputed Ace. The Wrestler that everyone can count on backstage to deliver, in whatever role she is put in. No one deserves to be Champ during such an important moment more than she does.
A heartwarming story of a wrestler that tells everyone that they can fulfil their dreams if they work hard for it and never give up. Shida’s All In entrance will be a feel-good moment for the ages.