Professional wrestling in Japan
Professional wrestlingin Japanis commonly referred to as nihongo|puroresu|プロレス in Japanese, short for "professional wrestling" ("purofesshonaru resuringu"). The word puroresu was made popular by Hisaharu Tanabe among the English speaking fans in the early 1990s through Usenet and online services [ [http://groups.google.com/group/rec.sport.pro-wrestling/browse_thread/thread/a336dac3032877e9/d75506e7b2e81f21 one of the first references to "puroresu" by Hisaharu Tanabe recorded in Google Groups] ] [ [http://www.puroresu.com/intro.html puroresu.com Introduction] ] [ [http://www.dmoz.org/Sports/Wrestling/Professional/Puroresu/desc.html Open Directoy category description] ] . Quite different from professional wrestlingin the United States, "Puroresu" is treated as a combat sportas it mixes full contact martial artsstrikes with complex and dangerous submission moves and other types of wrestlinglike amateur and submission wrestling.. While it uses very few storylines or gimmicks, match outcomes are predetermined.
The first Japanese to become a professional wrestler in the Western style was former
sumowrestler Sorakichi Matsuda, who went to the United States in the 1880s and was somewhat successful. Attempts by him to popularize the sport in his native land, however, fell short and he ended back in America, where he died young.
Subsequent attempts before and after
World War IIfailed to get off the ground initially, until Japan saw the advent of its first big star, Rikidozan, who made the sport popular beginning in 1951.
A match can be won by "fōru" (fall; equivalent to pin fall), "nokkauto" (knockout; failing to answer a ten count), "ringu auto" (ring out; equivalent to count out), or "gibappu" (give up; equivalent to submission). "Fōru" occurs when the wrestler holds both of his opponent's shoulders against the mat for a count of three. Unlike wrestling in North America, a 20 count is used in Japan when a wrestler leaves the ring instead of a 10 count. Additional rules govern how the outcome of the match is to take place, for example the Japanese UWF and its derived Submission Arts Wrestling promotions do not allow pinfalls, just submissions or knockouts.
Styles and gimmicks
Throughout the 1990s, three individual styles -- shoot style,
lucha libre, and "garbage" -- were the main divisions of independent promotions, but as a result of the "borderless" trend of the 2000s to have interpromotional matches, the line between rules among major-league promotions and independents has for the most part been blurred to standardization.
A match is fought in a square "ringu" (ring) surrounded by three ropes, very similar to a
boxing ring. Turnbuckles holding the ropes in the corners can be covered either individually (each turnbuckle has its own padding) or collectively (a single padding covering all turnbuckles). Wrestlers often run into the ropes by themselves or throw the opponents against them, employing the ropes' elasticity for his next attack. Additionally, there are attacks that utilize the squareness of the ring, including climbing onto a corner and jumping off onto the opponent, or pushing the opponent out of the ring from the corner.
Other kinds of rings may be specified by individual rules. A ring may have
barbed wires instead of ropes, have six sides of ropes instead of four, or may have explosives set on the boundaries, just to name a few. Some small, obscure independent promotions which rarely draw above 100 fans to its cards on average are so devoid of resources that they have to use amateur mats in place of an actual ring. Examples of these are Koki Kitahara's Capture International (shoot style) and Mr. Pogo's WWS.
Puroresu done by female wrestlers is called "joshi puroresu" (女子プロレス). Female wrestling in Japan is usually handled by promotions that specialize in "joshi puroresu", rather than divisions of otherwise male-dominated promotions as is the case in the United States (the only exception was
FMW, a men's promotion which had a small women's division, but even then depended on talent from women's federations to provide competition). However, "joshi puroresu" promotions usually have agreements with male puroresu promotions such that they recognize each others' titles as legitimate, and may share cards. All Japan Women's Pro-Wrestlingwas the dominant "joshi" organization from the 1970s to the 1990s. AJW's first major star was Mach Fumiake in 1974, followed in 1975 by Jackie Satoand Maki Ueda, known as the Beauty Pair. The early 1980s saw the fame of Jaguar Yokotaand Devil Masami. That decade would later see the rise of Chigusa Nagayoand Lioness Asuka, known as The Crush Gals, who as a tag team achieved a level of unprecedented mainstream success in Japan, unheard of by any female wrestler in the history of professional wrestling all over the world. Their long running feud with Dump Matsumoto and her Gokuaku Domei stable would become extremely popular in Japan during the 1980s, with their televised matches resulting in some of the highest rated in Japanese television as well as the promotion regularly selling out arenas. [ cite web |url=http://www.puroresu.com/zenjo/ |title=All Japan Women's Pro-Wrestling |accessdate=|date= |year=2001 |month=August |format= |work= |publisher=Puroresu Dojo ]
Notable "joshi" wrestlers of the 1990s include
Manami Toyota, Bull Nakano, Akira Hokuto, Aja Kong, Megumi Kudo, Kyoko Inoue, Shinobu Kandori, Mayumi Ozaki, and Takako Inoue. It is during the 1990s that "joshi puroresu" has attracted much critical acclaim internationally, and several classic matches during these era competed by select "joshi" wrestlers were awarded 5-stars by the American wrestling publication Wrestling Observer Newsletter.
Primary differences between "joshi" and American women's wrestling is the depiction of women in a non-sexualised way and that often the audience at women's promotions will have a large proportion of female fans. Female wrestlers with natural beauty, such as Takako Inoue or Cuty Suzuki may show off their beauty in non-wrestling related media, such as
photobooks, where they are treated no different from tarentoand gravure idols.
Puroresu on television
Since its beginning, Japanese professional wrestling depended on
televisionto reach a wide audience. Rikidozan's matches in the 1950s, televised by Nippon TV, often attracted huge crowds to Tokyo giant screens. Eventually TV Asahialso gained the right to broadcast JWA, but eventually the two major broadcasters agreed to split the talent, centering about Rikidozan's top two students: NTV for Giant Baba and his group, and Asahi for Antonio Inokiand his group. This arrangement continued after the JWA split into today's major promotions, New Japan and All Japan, led by Inoki and Baba respectively. In 2000, following the Pro Wrestling NOAH split, NTV decided to follow the new venture rather than staying with All Japan. Nowadays, however, mirroring the decline that professional wrestling in the U.S. had in the 1970s and early 1980s, NOAH's "Power Hour" and New Japan's "World Pro Wrestling" have been largely relegated to the midnight hours by their broadcasters.
The advent of
cable televisionand pay per viewalso enabled independents such as RINGS to rise. WOWOWhad a working agreement with Akira Maeda that paid millions to RINGS when he was featured, but eventually was scrapped with Maeda's retirement and the subsequent RINGS collapse.
Foreign wrestlers in Japan
Since its establishment professional wrestling in Japan has depended on foreigners, particularly North Americans, to get its own stars over. Rikidozan's JWA and its successor promotions
All Japan Pro Wrestlingand New Japan Pro Wrestlingwere members of the American-based National Wrestling Allianceat various points, and used these connections to bring North American stars. International Pro Wrestlingwas the first Japanese promotion to link in to European circuits. It was through IWE that Frenchman André the Giantgot his international reputation for the first time.
Several popular North American professional wrestlers in recent years, such as
Hulk Hogan, Big Van Vader, Mick Foley, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, Chris Jerichoand others have wrestled in Japan, whereas others such as Stan Hansenspent much of their careers in Japan and thus are better known there then in their homeland. Even in "joshi puroresu", a few notable foreigners have found success wrestling for "joshi" promotions, such as Monster Ripper, Reggie Bennett, and Amazing Kong. The now defunct World Championship Wrestlinghad a strong talent exchange deal with New Japan Pro Wrestling, Ken Shamrockwas among the first Americans to compete in shoot style competition in Japan, starting out in the UWF and later opened Pancrasewith some other Japanese shootfighters.
As a result of the introduction of
lucha libreinto Japan, major Mexican stars also compete in Japan. The most popular Mexican wrestler to compete in Japan is Mil Máscaras, who is credited with introducing the high-flying moves of lucha libre to Japanese audiences, [ [http://www.mikemooneyham.com/pages/viewfull.cfm?ObjectID=9D757C0F-3048-826A-C4A84E2793E5A01B The Wrestling Gospel According to Mike Mooneyham ] ] which then led to the style called lucha-resu.
Puroresu stars in foreign companies
AJPWand NJPWas well as others, have also sent wrestlers to compete in America. Usually, these talent exchanges are chances at puroresu stars to learn other style to add to their own strengths. Some of the more famous examples of Japaneses exchanges are Masahiro Chono, The Great Muta, Jushin Ligerin WCW. Notable "joshi" standouts from AJWsuch as Bull Nakanoand Aja Kongalso competed in the World Wrestling Federationduring the mid-1990's. Other stars like Satoshi Kojima, Kenta Kobashi, and DoFIXER with MLWfor the former, and Ring of Honorfor the latter two.
All Japan Pro Wrestling
*Big Japan Pro Wrestling (BJW)
Big Mouth Loud
Dramatic Dream Team(DDT)
El Dorado Wrestling
Fighting World of Japan Pro Wrestling
Frontier Martial Arts Wrestling(FMW)
Inoki Genome Federation
International Pro Wrestling
*Japan Pro-Wrestling (Japan Puroresu)
Japan Pro Wrestling(Nihon Puroresu, JWA)
Michinoku Pro Wrestling
New Japan Pro Wrestling
Osaka Pro Wrestling
*Pro Wrestling Crusaders
*Pro Wrestling Kageki
Pro Wrestling NOAH
Pro Wrestling U-STYLE
Pro Wrestling ZERO1
Tokyo Pro Wrestling
Tokyo Pro Wrestling (new)
Universal Lucha Libre
*Universal Wrestling Federation
*World Entertainment Wrestling WEW
*Wrestling Marvelous Future WMF
Global Professional Wrestling Alliance
* [http://www.puroresu.com/ Puroresu.com]
* [http://www.puroresupower.com/ PuroresuPower.com]
* [http://www.wrestling-titles.com/japan/ Wrestling-Titles.com: Japan]
* [http://www.angelfire.com/indie/independentwrestling Independent Wrestling]
* [http://www.bahufmw.com/ BAHU's FMW World]
* [http://www.paulos-puro.com/ Paulo's Puro]
* [http://www.puroresufan.com/ Strong Style Spirit (PuroresuFan.com)]
* [http://www.puroresucentral.com PuroresuCentral.com]
* [http://www.madsplash.com MadSplash.com]
* [http://www.purolove.com/ PuroLove.com]
* [http://kingofindy.tripod.com KingofIndy]
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