On Wednesday night, AEW will host a jam-packed episode of Dynamite headlined by Jon Moxley vs. Kenny Omega for the company’s world title. Additionally, Dr. Britt Baker DMD will face a relative newcomer, “Legit” Leyla Hirsch. Although mainstream fans may not be familiar with her yet, the Russian-born wrestler has quickly made a name for herself in just under three years.
Hirsch debuted with CZW in 2017 and became one of the Newark-based promotion’s best-kept secrets. In 2019, she hit the ground running as she worked with indie companies like WXW, Beyond, Queens of Combat, Battle Club Pro, Women’s Wrestling Revolution, Booker T’s Reality of Wrestling and Pro Wrestling: E, to name a few.
This coming-out party led to a tour in Japan with STARDOM. During her foray into Joshi wrestling, Hirsch worked alongside the late Hana Kimura as a member of her recently defunct unit, Tokyo Cyber Squad. She described Kimura as “an amazing human being” and spoke highly of her time overseas.
“It was definitely a different experience just culture-wise and wrestling wise,” she explained “It was challenging with the language barrier. It was very hard. So, I had to adjust to that, but it was a great experience. It was one of my goals to go to Japan and then to get to wrestle for one of the top companies was pretty awesome. So, so very lucky and fortunate that I got to do that.”
Hirsch's last appearance for STARDOM was Mar. 8 for No People Gate, the promotion’s first event in an empty arena before COVID-19 forced it to go on hiatus. The global pandemic put a damper on everyone’s plans, but Hirsch hopes to return to Japan when it’s safe to travel again.
“I would love to, but I also have an interest in working with Sendai [Girls],” she said. “So, I don't know, like, you know, I would love to go back to STARDOM but I also would want to work with Sendai with Meiko Satomura. So, we'll see what happens but hopefully, I get to go back there.”
Leyla Hirsch stepped into the spotlight in 2020
Pro Wrestling Illustrated acknowledged Hirsch’s breakout year in its annual ranking of the top 100 women’s wrestlers in the world. The 24-year-old also landed at no. 70 on the Women’s 100 and debuted at 473 on the PWI 500, an impressive achievement this early in her career.
“It's so funny cause the times I didn’t and then I’d see others who did make it, I would kind of be like more like how am I not in it," Hirsch said. "But then I'm like I don't care about it. I don’t care about the list, but then like, of course, once I saw my name on it, it put a smile on my face because it’s a pretty big accomplishment. It was awesome. It's like my hard work is finally paying off, you know like I'm being noticed, you know”
2020 has been a dour year for independent wrestlers because many shows were canceled and their livelihoods took a massive hit. Some promotions have attempted to rebound since but it has been a grueling process as the threat of contracting the coronavirus is still prevalent. In October, Leyla Hirsch competed with Black Label Pro, SHIMMER, and Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport all in one day for GCW’s 12-show event, The Collective.
Then, the light at the end of the tunnel came when Hirsch made her television debut on the Oct. 22 episode of AEW Dynamite to challenge Serena Deeb for the NWA women’s title. Since, the New Jersey native has been a fixture on AEW Dark, showcasing her technical prowess. Her in-ring style has drawn comparisons to Dean Malenko and Kurt Angle because her amateur wrestling background makes her distinct.
Hirsch has five years of experience as an amateur wrestler and she even earned a scholarship to wrestle for Life University in Marietta, Georgia. However, she eventually passed on it to achieve her dream of becoming a pro wrestler. Around that time, Legit Leyla met David Starr, who helped her find a school, and she began training with DJ Hyde at the CZW Dojo.
It’s only a matter of time before Leyla Hirsch signs with a major company. She has a distinct style and she would be a great addition to AEW’s women’s division. There isn’t anyone on the company’s fledgling roster who wrestles like her and her experience working in Japan makes her an ideal opponent for names like Riho and Yuka Sakazaki. Maybe, she will even earn a rematch against The Fullmetal Champion, Hikaru Shida. At this rate, the sky’s the limit.
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