Puroresu ( プロレス ) is the predominant style and gengre of professional wrestling in Japan. The name is a shortened version of the Japanese pronunciation of the English term professional wrestling.

Puroresu developed in Japan out of the traditional United States style of professional wrestling.

Most puroresu wrestlers in Japan are male, but female professional wrestlers also exist. Puroresu with female wrestlers is known as joshi puroresu ( 女子プロレス ). Joshi puroresu is typically handled by promoters specializing in joshi puroresu, rather than by the same promoters that handle male puroresu. One notable exception was Chō Sentō Puroresu FMW, which promoted both male and female wrestlers. Joshi puroresu promoters often work together with male puroresu promoters and can for instance share cards.

Style

Tetsuya Shimizu

Tetsuya Shimizu

Puroresu share many traits with United States professional wrestling, but there are also many differences. In the Japanese language, however, the word puroresu is used for all forms of wrestling, so United States professional wrestling is also called puroresu in Japan.

Generally speaking, Japanese puroresu have clean finishes and the promoters aren’t as reliant on angles or gimmicks as their U.S. counterparts. The stories told are often focused on the wrestler’s spirit and perseverance.

It is common for Japanese professional wrestlers to be at least somewhat proficiencient in several different Asian martial art techniques, and this has had an impact on the development of puroresu.

In strong style puroresu, full contact martial arts strikes and shoot submission holds are common.

Also, many puroresu promoters have strong working relationships with mixed martial arts promoters. Having wrestling matches and MMA fights on the same card is not unheard of.

NJPW & AJPW

The dominant styles of Japanese puroresu have been established by the two dominant promotions: New Japan Pro-Wrestling and All Japan Pro Wrestling.

Headed by Antonio Inoki, NJPW pushed Inoki’s “strong style” where puroresu was seen as a combat sport. This meant including plenty of kicks and strikes from matiral arts, and placing a storng focus on submission wrestling. Many of the wrestlers signed with NJPW have a solid martial arts background.

Under the direction os Shohei Baba, AJPW adopted the King’s Road style, which is more similar to U.S. style professional wrestling than NJPW’s style. King’s Road have an emphasis on holds and brawling, and storytelling is important.

Background

Seiya Sanada

Seiya Sanada

It wasn’t until after World War II that puroresu really began to develop in the country, but the 19th century wrestler Srakichi Matsuda (1859-1891) is sometimes mentioned as an early trailblazers for what would eventually become puroresu in Japan.

In 1951, the first major star of puroresu emerged: Rikidōzan. Rikidōzan was born in Korea, but established himself as japanese post-war hero by defeating wrestlers from the United States. The U.S. Wrestlers aided Rikidōzan by portraying themselves as cheating villians. Conversely, Rikidōzan would travel to North America to wrestle and always be booked as a villian there. Rikidōzan was instrumental for popularizing puroresu in Japan and he formed the Japanese Wrestling Association (JWA). Regretably, he was murdered by the Yakuza in 1963.

Joshi

From the 1970s to the 1990s, All Japan Women’s Pro-Wrestling was dominating force within the field of joshi puroresu in Japan. Their first major stars were Mach Fumiake, Jackie Sato and Maki Ueda. The 1980s brought a second wave of starts, such as Jaguar Yokota, Devil Masami, Chigusa Nagayo and Lioness Asuka.

With the tag team “Crush Gals”, Nagayo and Asuka achieved unprecedented mainstream success in Japan and helped bring joshi puroresu into the spotlight. In the 1980s, their televised matches resulted in some of the highest rated broadcasts in Japanese television history and they often performed in sold-out arenas.

In the 1990s, joshi puroresu began attracting critical acclaim outside Japan, with wrestlers such as Akira Hokuto, Cutie Suzuki, Bull Nakano, Manami Tyotoa, Takao Inoue and Dyanmite Kansai.

Examples of professional wrestling promotions in Japan

Major promotions (male)

English name Location Owners Years active Info
Japan Wrestling Association Tokyo Rikidōzan 1953–1973 Affiliated with the National Wrestling Alliance

 

In 1973, membership was transferred to AJPW.

International

Wrestling Enterprise

Tokyo Isao Yoshiwara 1967–1981 Associated with the American Wrestling Association from 1970, and the Japan Pro-Wrestling Commission with New Japan Pro Wrestling until 1981
New Japan Pro-Wrestling Tokyo Bushiroad 1971–
All Japan Pro Wrestling Yokohama Jun Akiyama 1972– Affiliated with the National Wrestling Alliance until 1990
Pro Wrestling Noah Tokyo Akira Taue 2000–
Dragon Gate

(Toryumon Japan 1997-2004)

Kobe Takashi Okamura 2004–
Inoki Genome Federation Tokyo Antonio Inoki 2007–

Major promotions (female)

Name Location Owners Years active
All Japan Women’s Pro-Wrestling Tokyo Kunimatsu Matsunaga
Takashi Matsunaga
1972–2005
Gaea Japan Tokyo Yuka Sugiyama 1995–2005

Independent promotions (male)

Name Location Owners Years active Info
Universal Wrestling Federation Matsumoto Hisashi Shinma 1984–1986 Revived as the Newborn UWF in 1988 and again in 1991 as Union of Wrestling Forces International (UWF International or UWFi).
Pioneer Senshi Tokyo Ryuma Go
Apollo Sugawara
Masahiko Takasugi
1988–1991 First-ever independent promotion in Japan.
Cho Sento Puroresu FMW Greater Tokyo Area Akihito Ichihara
Yukihide Ueno
1989–2002
2015-
Formerly named Frontier Martial Arts Wrestling.
Super World of Sports Tokyo Hachiro Tanaka 1990–1992 Associated with the World Wrestling Federation.
Federacion Universal de Lucha Libre Hisatsune Shinma 1990–1995 Known as Universal Pro Wrestling from 1990 to 1993, the promotion was affiliated with the Universal Wrestling Association.
Wrestling International New Generations Tokyo Kiyoshi Ibaragi
Victor Quiñonez
1991–1994 Associated with the World Wrestling Council.
Pro Wrestling Fujiwara Gumi Tokyo Yoshiaki Fujiwara
Masakatsu Funaki
Minoru Suzuki
1991–1995
UWF International Tokyo Nobuhiko Takada 1991–1996 Continuation of Universal Wrestling Federation.
Fighting Network Rings Tokyo Akira Maeda 1991–2002 Continuation of Newborn UWF.

Revived as the The Outsider series in 2008, a promotion for mixed martial arts.

Wrestle Association “R” Tokyo Gen’ichiro Tenryu
Masatomo Takei
1992–2006
Michinoku Pro Wrestling Morioka Great Sasuke 1993–
Union Pro Wrestling ShinjukuTokyo Naomi Susan
DDT Pro Wrestling
1993–1995
2004–2015
Tokyo Pro Wrestling Tokyo Takashi Ishikawa 1994–1996
Kokusai Promotion Chigasaki Goro Tsurumi 1994–2007 Formerly known as I.W.A. Named Kakutoushijuku from 1994 to 1998.

 

The original IWA World Heavyweight Championship was later revived by the promotion.

IWA Japan Tokyo Tatsukuni Asano 1994–2014 Continuation of W*ING.
Big Japan Pro Wrestling Yokohama Shinya Kojika 1995–
Battlarts Koshigaya Yuki Ishikawa 1996–2011
Pro Wrestling Kageki Fukuoka Azteca 1997–
DDT Pro-Wrestling Tokyo Sanshiro Takagi 1997–
Kingdom Tokyo 1997–1998 Continuation of UWF International
Osaka Pro Wrestling Osaka Yuji Sakagami 1998–
Pro Wrestling Zero1 Tokyo First On Stage Inc. 2001–
Kaientai Dojo Tokyo Taka Michinoku 2002–
World Entertainment Wrestling Tokyo Hiromichi Fuyuki 2002–2008
666 Tokyo Crazy SKB
Onryo
2003–
Wrestling Marvelous of the Future Tokyo Eiji Ezaki
Masashi Honda
2003–2005
Diamond Ring Yoshikawa Kensuke Sasaki
Akira Hokuto
2003–2013 Formerly named Kensuke Office
Guts World Pro Wrestling Tokyo Guts Ishijima 2004–
Big Mouth Loud Tokyo Fumihiko Uwai
Kazunari Murakami
2004–2006
Riki Pro Tokyo Riki Choshu
Katsuji Nagashima
2004–2010 Also known as World Japan Pro Wrestling (WJPW) or Fighting of World Japan
Hustle Greater Tokyo Area Nobuhiko Takada 2004–2011
STYLE-E Pro Wrestling Tokyo Kazuhiro Tamura
Masato Shibata
2004–2012
Apache Pro-Wrestling Army Tokyo Kintaro Kanemura 2004–2016
Real Japan Pro Wrestling Tokyo Satoru Sayama 2005–
Fu-Ten Fukuoka Daisuke Ikeda 2005–
El Dorado Wrestling Tokyo Noriaki Kawabata
Koji Fujinaga
2006–2008 Continuation of DragonDoor
VKF Puroresu Osaka Toshiyuki Kawamura 2007–
Dradition Tokyo Tatsumi Fujinami 2008–
Okinawa Pro Wrestling Naha, Okinawa Super Delfin 2008–2012
Secret Base Tokyo Mototsugu Shimizu
Jun Ogawauchi
2009– Continuation of El Dorado Wrestling
Pro Wrestling Freedoms Tokyo Takashi Sasaki 2009–
Tokyo Gurentai Tokyo Nosawa Rongai
Mazada
2010–
Smash Tokyo Yoshihiro Tajiri
Akira Shoji
2010–2012 Continuation of Hustle
Tenryu Project Tokyo Genichiro Tenryu 2010–2015
Legend The Pro Wrestling Tokyo Tatsumi Fujinami
Riki Choshu
Shodai Tiger Mask
2011–
Wrestling New Classic Tokyo Yoshihiro Tajiri 2012–2014 Continuation of Smash.

 

Sister promotion of Reina Joshi Puroresu

Wrestle-1 Tokyo Keiji Mutoh 2013–
Ryukyu Dragon Pro Wrestling Kadena Gurukun Mask 2013–
Pro Wrestling Heat Up Tokyo Kazuhiro Tamura 2013– Continuation of Style-E Pro Wrestling
Doutonbori Pro-Wrestling Osaka Doutonbori Entertaniment Systems 2013–
Ōdō Tokyo Akebono 2015-
Pro-Wrestling Basara ShinjukuTokyo Isami Kodaka 2015– Continuation of Union Pro Wrestling
Diamond Stars Wrestling Tokyo Hideo Shimada 2016–

Independent promotions (female)

Name Location Owners Years active Info
Japan Women’s Pro-Wrestling Tokyo Jackie Sato 1986–1992 Affiliated with Universal Wrestling Association

 

In 1992, the promotion split into two groups: the JWP Project and Ladies Legend Pro Wrestling.

Ladies Legend Pro-Wrestling Tokyo Rumie Kazama
Shinobu Kandori
1992–
JWP Joshi Puroresu Tokyo Kiyoshi Shinozaki
Masatoshi Yamamoto
1992–2017
Jd’ Tokyo Yoshimoto Kogyo Company
J Office Group
1995–2007
Arsion Tokyo Hiroshi Ogawa 1997–2003
Oz Academy Tokyo Mayumi Ozaki 1998–
NEO Kawasaki Tetsuya Koda 1998–2010
Major Girl’s Fighting AtoZ Tokyo Mariko Yoshida
Yumiko Hotta
2003–2006 Continuation of Arsion
Sendai Girls’ Pro Wrestling Sendai Meiko Satomura 2005–
Ibuki Tokyo Mariko Yoshida 2005–2010
Ice Ribbon Warabi Neoplus 2006–
Pro Wrestling Sun Tokyo First On Stage Inc. (FOS) 2006–2009 Sister promotion of Pro Wrestling Zero1
Pro Wrestling Wave Tokyo Zabun Co, Ltd. 2007– Sister promotion of Osaka Joshi Pro-Wrestling
Stardom Tokyo Rossy Ogawa 2010–
Osaka Joshi Pro Wrestling Osaka Zabun Co, Ltd. 2010–2017 Sister promotion of Pro Wrestling Wave
Diana Kawasaki Kyoko Inoue 2011–
Reina Joshi Puroresu Chiba Hideaki Hatakeyama 2012– Sister promotion of Wrestling New Classic
World

Pro-Wrestling Association

Tokyo Aki Kanbayashi 2013–
Marvelous Funabashi Chigusa Nagayo 2014–
Pure-J Command Bolshoi 2017–