All That Joshi
August 15, 2005 by Neel T.

A question - when you hear the term "women's wrestling", what is your response" If you follow the current WWE product, it wouldn't be a surprise if did not know what to think or say, as there is no real women's division at the moment. In terms of the indies, fans of promotions like IWA Mid South would probably cite Daizee Haze, Lacey and Mickie Knuckles. Such names are synonymous with women's wrestling on the independent scene at least.

When focusing on the quality of wrestling, I for one have noticed that female workers in North America are more than capable of delivering consistently solid matches. Take WWE. When they still had a women's division, I felt that 2003 was a kind of banner year for the ladies. Each week, division frontrunners Trish Stratus, Molly Holly, Victoria and Jazz would provide very entertaining matches, showing the fans that there was an alternative to the constant output of T&A. But despite these ladies' efforts I cannot help but think that women wrestlers are seen as inferior to their male counterparts. This may have something to do with promoters and how they want to market their product.

This, however, is not always case. Enter: 'Joshi Puroresu' (joshi being the Japanese for girl and puroresu referring to professional wrestling). For many years the 'joshi girls' have been renowned for their athleticism, providing some of the greatest matches of the modern era. They have been treated as equals to male wrestlers.

The early days of Japanese women's wrestling began in the 1950's. Promoters like the Inokari brothers ran women's matches at numerous strip club venues. The scene was more solidified through a successful tour by American wrestling legend Mildred Burke. The 60's then saw a notable victory, when Yukiko Tomoe defeated current WWE Hall of Famer, The Fabulous Moolah for the NWA World Women's Title. Moolah soon after regained the title. But the major turning point occurred when the Mastunaga brothers, who were in the business for a while now, founded All Japan Women's Pro Wrestling (AJW for short) in 1968.

AJW is seen as the absolute pinnacle of joshi puroresu, the mother of all women's promotions. For years the company set the standard for females in the squared circle. The 1970's provided the highly anticipated Beauty Pair v Black Pair feud. Arenas were filled to the fullest. By the 80's legends like Jaguar Yokota and Dump Matsumoto firmly established their places as AJW mainstays. However, none could be as big as the hugely popular and successful Crush Girls. They were the tag-team of Chigusa Nagayo and Lioness Asuka. The girls were big draws for the promotion, just as Hogan was over in the States. So as you can imagine, AJW must have profited a lot between the 70's and 80's.

As the company entered the 1990's, shifts were evident in terms of the target audience. Traditionally young females made up the largest viewing group. Many of the babyfaces on the roster were very young, thereby making themselves more identifiable with school aged girls. The mandatory retirement age was 26 in order to make room for the fresh batch of youthful wrestlers. This rule was scrapped so AJW could attempt to draw an older audience.

1991-1995 is what you can call the last real boom period in AJW and joshi as a whole. Cards like the annual Marinepiad and the interpromotional Dream Slam provided high class matches that drew extremely well. The wrestling style was hard hitting and fast-paced, but it gradually took its toll on many wrestlers.

By 1996, business started to decline. The greats like Akira Hokuto and Bull Nakano were evidently slowing down. The girls were also more prone to injuries than before. Although many matches showcased a solid workrate, they fell short of the many **** to ***** classics in the first half of the decade. A combination of mounting debts, poor ticket sales, the lack of pushes of younger talent and numerous walkouts and retirements led the Matsunaga brothers to shut it down earlier this year.

Several AJW wrestlers during the 90's branched out and founded their own promotions. Chigusa Nagayo and Aja Kong opened GAEA and ARISON respectively.

Many puroresu fans currently view the joshi scene as practically dead. It certainly appears to be a lot less prominent and no legendary matches are expected this year. It is a sad thought, but then again we must remember that the wrestling world goes through different phases. Some years are more successful than others. Hopefully joshi puroresu will experience a renaissance sooner than later. As a follower, I believe that booking teams need to prioritize their younger talent. Names such as Meiko Satomura and Ayako Hamada would be their best picks. Furthermore they should try to strongly target an audience like young females again.

Throughout it all joshi puroresu, in my opinion, has already achieved what North American promotions should aim to do: made women's wrestling fully acceptable!

Recommended matches:

-Bull Nakano v Aja Kong, AJW Wrestle Marinepiad 1990.
-Kyoko Inoue v Manami Toyota, AJW Wrestle Marinepiad 1992.
-Akira Hokuto v Shinobu Kandori, AJW Dream Slam 1993.
-Toshiyo Yamada/Manami Toyota v Dynamite Kansai/Mayumi Ozaki, AJW Dream Slam 1993.
- Manami Toyota v Akira Hokuto, AJW Destiny 1995.

by Neel T. ..

Christian Deckardson wrote:
Neel T, I feel you are right about North America accepting women's wrestling. However, you are wrong when you proclaim that "joshi puroresu" is that good. It's not! There is a big difference in this "joshi puroresu'' than in women's wrestling. The most important thing is that the women in Japanese wrestling are butt ugly. Have you seen Aja Kong" She looks like a fat ape. No, she is a fat ape.
Aide Mac wrote:
No, she is a fat ape. Do women really need to be beautiful" I, personally, find joy in watching women who can fight, because American federations disappoint me. In recent years, I have not seen fueds worth remembering, while in Japan, Akira Hokuto, Aja Kong and Bull Nakano and others who may not be worth mentioning to prove my point, actually wrestle to a point where I actually anticipate another match. GAEA intrigues me and I couldn't take my eyes away from it when sat in front of a TV while it was on. Pretty women who manage a bulldog and can be KO'ed by... anything, really, aren't worth my time and other than being a seller for a male audience, it achieves nothing for wrestling. Armageddon '99, for example, was a disgusting show of how women in America can be treated in a wrestling ring because their beauty exceeds their right to be in a wrestling ring. The Kat won the Women's title in an evening gown match and Chyna lost to Y2J in one of the sloppiest matches I have ever seen. In GAEA, I see women who really look like they want to kill each other, and do a good job at making such feelings look true. That is what Women's wrestling should be about. I don't care if they're ugly. I want to see wrestling. These women give you wrestling and that is all should matter. But I don't think the pretty plastic should be taken away either. It sells. Yet it shouldn't take away from what it should be about in the future and what it has been the past.




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