On November 20, 2022, Kairi Sane – now known as just Kairi – made history, becoming the first woman in history to become the IWGP Women's Champion. That's right, after finally returning to Japan after an expansive run in WWE that saw the former Kabuki Warrior win the NXT Women's Championship and the Tag Team Championship alongside Asuka, Kairi took her renewed opportunity in Stardom by storm and unseated one of the best performers in the promotion, Mayu Iwatani, in a historic cross-promotional card with New Japan Pro Wrestling known as NJPW/Stardom Historic X-over.

When asked about what it was like to become the first-ever IWGP Women's Championship in an interview with NJPW, Kairi beamed about the bout.

“It’s a real honor,” Kairi said. “Timing is everything as well- I just have to thank the god of pro-wrestling for giving me that chance. I’ve never been first in anything in my wrestling career, so it’s huge.”

While fans in Japan clearly appreciated the match, as it marked a massive moment in both promotions' respective histories, some of the biggest reactions actually came from America, specifically from the WWE locker room, where Kairi is still held in very high regard.

“Not just from fans, but from the WWE locker room as well. ASUKA, Io, Shayna Baszler all sent congratulations, so it was great to have that reception even after I’d left that company. (Shinsuke Nakamura) liked my post after I won! I know he’ll be in Japan on January 1 wrestling the Great Muta so I’d like to be there and take that in.”

Now, for those out of the know, Kairi didn't want to leave WWE for Stardom, not completely, anyway. A native of Japan, Kairi wanted to return to her home country after getting married and even compete for her original promotion, Stardom, from time to time in addition to any part-time opportunities in WWE. Had Paul “Triple H” Levesque been in charge of WWE at the time, maybe that would have been at least considered, but alas, Mr. McMahon wasn't as progressive in terms of booking and was allowed to leave without restrictions when her contract came to an end in February of 2020, but not before she could say goodbye to her new friends and fans.

“My time in the NXT & WWE locker rooms was incredible,” Kairi wrote. “Everyone was kind, funny, & talented, so every day was full of happiness. Also, I was saved by the supportive staff behind the scenes. I will forever love & respect all these professionals I had the pleasure of working with. I was able to accomplish so much in the last three years, but it wasn’t because of my ability or my strength. It was because of all of the constant, warm support from the fans. I am so thankful I could meet you all. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Kairi Sane.”

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Kairi actually suffered a sprained foot before her biggest bout outside of WWE.

Elsewhere in her interview with NJPW, Kairi was asked about her match with Iwatani at the Historic X-Over, and the former NXT Champion let it slip that she worked the match, which earned a 4.5-star rating from Dave Meltzer, according to Cagematch, with a foot injury.

” I thought I was fully prepared for the two nights, mentally and physically. But then as I was training right before Osaka, I sprained my foot,” Kairi said. “My ankle was swollen up really badly, and the doctor told me not to wrestle. I got through the Osaka match which really helped me from a mental standpoint, but with Mayu the next day I was definitely worried.”

Still considering the duo's shared history in the promotion, Kairi never even thought about calling off the bout, instead giving it her all for over 25 minutes.

“Back in the day, Mayu, Io Shirai and myself were called the Three Daughters of STARDOM,” Kairi said. “Things were tough then, to the point that we had so few wrestlers, it was a given that you’d wrestle twice on the same card. We were absolutely at rock bottom. After I left in 2017, I think Mayu had it in her head that she wanted to stand by STARDOM. I get that, and that’s where those words come from, but it only helped to fire me up. This is a fight, and the more stubborn-minded we both were the better that fight would be. It was a long match (25 minutes, 28 seconds) but it felt in the moment like three, that was how invested I felt. We both had a lot of pressure on us, but I think that turned into a plus.”

With her first official title defense booked at Wrestle Kingdom 17 against Tam Nakano, Kairi has a chance to make an even bigger impact on the biggest show of the NJPW calendar, with a certain person – read: Sasha Banks/Mercedes Mone' – potentially in attendance to set up a marquee contest down the line.