Independent Wrestling Spotlight: Southside Queen Kanji

Wrestling (Photo by Masashi Hara/Getty Images)
Wrestling (Photo by Masashi Hara/Getty Images) /

Kanji is making waves on the British Independent wrestling scene.

Even with only a few years as a pro, Kanji has made her mark on the UK scene winning in promotions such as Pro-Wrestling: EVE, SWE and Pro Wrestling SOUL, just to name a few.

She has also been both the Defiant Women’s Champion and Queen of Southside Champion. Even though she is still very early in her career, Kanji is trying to make an impact on the industry she fell in love with.

Like many fans, Kanji love of wrestling started at a young age and was always on in the house because of her dad’s love for it as well. For her, although the wrestling was magnificent to a young Kanji, it was the storylines that stood out the most, such as the feud between Rey Mysterio and Eddie Guerrero.

With this long-running love of professional wrestling, she was like any other child and loved to make wrestling belts out of paper, design ring gear and pretend to wrestle with family members. However, it was never something that ever seemed like a viable career prospect because, in her opinion, “I honestly never thought you could do it. I almost saw wrestlers on the TV like superheroes.”

For Kanji, although wrestling seemed unrealistic, she always knew that the stage and performing was her calling. Through her love for acting, she studied it at university and also achieved a teaching degree to teach drama which seemed to be her future.

It wasn’t until watching an episode of Total Bellas where they were talking about Paige and her career that she thought that if Paige is from the UK and wrestles, she must’ve learned it from somewhere. This knowledge suddenly made the unachievable dream to wrestle full time more attainable and soon Kanji found House of Pain (HOP) Wrestling school in Birmingham.

As she started her journey, it was a bittersweet time for Kanji. Although her family were supportive of her choice in a career change, there was one vital person whose reaction she never got to see. Her dad was one of the core reasons she fell in love with wrestling and unfortunately he died before the decision was even made to train to become a wrestler.

However, Kanji always ensures that she keeps the memory of her dad alive in her everyday life and this extends to her wrestling career. He was very protective of their Makanji surname. Although being from an Indian family where the boys are the ones to carry on the family name, her dad always wanted both Kanji and her sister to keep the name in some form. Initially, they both thought about keeping it as a middle name.

She said, “In memory of my dad, I shortened my surname to Kanji and let his name run through anything I achieve in wrestling.”

It was the perfect way to honour her father’s legacy.

After finding HOP, this was where Kanji’s dream to become a wrestler seemed to become a reality. For anyone who wants to begin a career as a wrestler, your trainer is so important.

Kanji explains that the help she received from her trainer Stixx was monumental to her career and is the reason why he is her inspiration in the ring. He not only provided an amazing fundamental set of skills but also allowed her opponents to feel safe knowing she had been trained by one of the best.

She also explained how selfless he was as a person going from wrestling all over the country on some of the biggest to opening his own school and helping others live out their dream. In an industry where so many people see the business as a competition between each other, Kanji praised Stixx’s polar opposite approach where he ensures that everyone is given their moment to shine and fulfill their full potential.

“We should all be there pushing and helping each other up so we can all get to that point. We all share the same passion and that should be our attitude and mentality. Stixx is the perfect person to look at and say this is how you should be.”

Another one of Kanji’s inspirations is British wrestler Jinny who has been a major part of the UK Indy scene for nearly five years. Like many people, for Kanji, Jinny was one of the first Indian girls she saw wrestling and, in particular, she was someone who was winning matches. With her amazingly varied wrestling style and such a prominent and classy character, it is impossible not to take notice of her whenever she is in the ring.

For a while, Kanji explained how she was starting to have a dip in confidence because she believed that, as an Indian, there was only so far she could go. After all, there was only so far you would see Indian wrestlers going at the time. It felt like a sign to her that maybe the world didn’t want to see Indian people wrestling.

However, Jinny changed this.

On how much seeing Jinny impacted her, Kanji says, “I saw her wrestling and winning and it made me realise that all these boundaries I have in my head about race and skin colour, it was a limitation I created in my own head.”

As two of a very small number of Indian wrestlers within the wrestling business, it is clear to see how important religion and culture is to Kanji whenever she is in the ring. Whether it is the pride in her ring name or the Om tattoo she has, she wants to use wrestling to show the world that religion shouldn’t be divisive.

In particular, she wants to show how Hinduism is a religion based on faith and peace. “It’s not about division. It’s all about bringing people together and making people feel safe and true.”

With Jinny making waves in NXT UK, Kanji had a chance to live out one of her dreams in 2019 when she was allowed to take part in the WWE NXT UK tournament at Download Festival for a shot at the Women’s Championship. For someone who had grown up watching the promotion, it was a very special moment for Kanji to be able to wrestle in a WWE ring in front of an audience and also to everyone watching on the WWE Network.

Her excitement of being allowed to participate in the tournament echoes that of her reaction to the creation of NXT UK. It was special for me. It was almost like a milestone for me to hit.”

Like many wrestlers who grew up watching the promotion, it was always her dream to be on a WWE platform. “I know it was only a small part but that doesn’t mean anything because all that hard work I’ve put in, I’ve been recognised by the management and that was an achievement in itself.”

Over the years, many wrestlers and fans in the UK have voiced several opinions on the decision to open up the UK brand of NXT in 2018. This has stemmed from discussions on exclusive contracts and the argument that it is damaging the UK independent scene.

However, for Kanji, NXT UK has given a global platform for so many UK wrestlers who have worked so hard on the Indy scene. These range from 20-year veteran El Ligero, Pete Dunne, Viper and Mark Andrews. She sees it as a privilege.

Even with this huge milestone of competing in a WWE ring, Kanji still has so goals she wants to achieve when the world starts to return to normal and the injury she sustained is fully healed. NXT UK is still a firm goal but she has also set her sights global. She not only wants to go to Japan to learn their ways but also has a goal to wrestle in India; a place with a long history with wrestling but also a familial connection.

Next. An exclusive Q&A with WWE NXT's Rhea Ripley. dark

Whatever the future holds for Kanji, it is definitely going to be bright. She also has so much potential to grow and show the world exactly what she is made of.