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    Friday, May 28, 2021

    To My Favorite Flower

    Editor's Note: On the anniversary of the tragic passing of Hana Kimura, guest contributor and the Philippines' biggest Hana Kimura superfan, Shane Vergara pens a heartfelt tribute to her favorite wrestler.

    It's been a whole painful year without you, Hana.

    My head still can't seem to wrap itself around the fact that you're gone. There's still a part of me hoping that when I do get the chance to fly back to Japan once this pandemic is over, I'll have the chance to hear you call my name again and give me one more big hug.

    I'm not gonna lie. It’s still hard for me to write this down, especially talking about you in the past tense. I think a part of me went with you when you left. It's been one year, and I'm still hurting. I think it's unfair that we could just continue on without you. My heart aches because you should still be here.

    But I don't want my memory of you just to be of the tragedy that happened. I want to remember you as the beautiful soul that you were. I want to celebrate the life you lived.

    To say Hana Kimura was an influence on me is an understatement. She was my gateway to getting into joshi wrestling, the reason why I discovered Stardom. In a time when the only wrestling I followed outside WWE was New Japan Pro-Wrestling and Ring of Honor, my first exposure to her was through Women of Honor. I thought her gear and makeup were beautiful, so I looked her up. I tried as much as I could to follow her career. I ended up finding more wrestling outside my comfort zone because of her. I wish I could've told her how big of an influence she was on me.

    I met Hana at a Stardom show in February 2020, back when the only reason I would wear a mask was because of how cold the weather was in Tokyo. I was a nervous wreck. I watched a wrestling show all by myself in a foreign country—all because I wanted to see her in person.

    I remember my hands shaking so much as I approached her when it was my turn to meet her. She greeted me with such a beautiful, warm smile that somehow eased my nerves. I was able to stammer out an introduction, all while trying to hand her a gift. I told her that I came from the Philippines and watched the show because she was my favorite. I will never forget the squeal of happiness she let out when I said this. She gave me a big hug, held my hand, and thanked me for supporting her—all while wearing the loveliest smile.

    Hana not only opened my eyes to more wrestling. Being a fan of hers allowed me to make friends from places I’ve never been to—all because we shared the same love for her. I met these new friends through Twitter, where we gushed over her matches or the promos she would cut, or simply over how adorable she looked whenever she would post photos online. 

    It was amazing how I was from the Philippines, yet I’ve made meaningful connections with people from places like the U.K. or the U.S. These are friends who have become a big part of my life. We all still constantly talk about wrestling and even keep each other updated on our personal lives. She was so charismatic that it was easy for her to get people to cheer for her. I know it was one of her goals to bring people together through wrestling, and I hope she knows that she brought so many people together through her wrestling.

    I want to remember her as the girl I saw that day—the same girl I watched in the ring laugh so loud that it echoed through Korakuen Hall during her match, the same one who looked around the venue to find where I was seated just to give me a wave when I cheered loudly from my seat.

    She was strong—a bright light in wrestling—and beautiful inside and out. Every story shared by everyone she encountered—friends, fans, peers—all shared the same sentiments over how kind she was. She always made everyone feel welcome and included.

    As a fan, Hana made me feel seen every time I watched her. "Everyone is different. Everyone is special." That was her catchphrase. But to me, it was more than that. She led Tokyo Cyber Squad (TCS), a group where everyone could feel welcome. That inclusivity resonated deeply for me because when TCS was formed, I was fighting my own battles mentally and struggling with my place in life as a fresh graduate out of college. Watching her made me feel accepted, especially when she cut her promos about people’s differences and individuality. In her unique way, she helped me feel better about myself, and that raised my self-confidence.

    "Everyone is different. Everyone is special." That's something I learned from her and what I would bring with me forever. I want to be kinder. I want to live my life in a way that I would make her proud because if there's anything I learned since this tragedy, it’s that I want to take care of who I can. I want to give more love before it's too late because life is short.

    Hana marched to the beat of her own drum. She stood out with her bright and captivating pink spirit and lit up any room she was in. There will never be another person like Hana Kimura. She was one-of-a-kind, and the legacy and light she brought to the world will live on forever in the hearts of many. And I want to continue telling the world how amazing and talented she was so she could live on—not just in me, but in everyone else.

    I only met her once, but the short interaction I had with her and the kindness she’d shown me, directly and indirectly, will live on with me forever. This isn't goodbye, Hana-chan. It's “see you later.” I love and miss you more than words. But I know I'll see you again someday.



    All images from Shane Vergara

    Shane Vergara (@blackhatrusso) is your resident emo girl on Twitter. Before the pandemic, you'd usually see her in a band or wrestling shirt. She streams video games sometimes when she's not busy watching DDT Pro-Wrestling.
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    Item Reviewed: To My Favorite Flower Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Stan Sy
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