Joshi Spotlight- The ’90s Promotions

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JWP had its own video game! Check out terrifying Command Bolshoi!

With AJW’s history out of the way, I can fill in the blanks with some stuff about their rivals of the 1990s! The most important two to any of AJW’s storylines were JWP and LLPW, though you saw some FMW crossover. The late ’90s brought out GAEA Japan as a chief competitor, and more came from that. For the most part, JWP was “AJW Lite”, while LLPW had a different, more mat-based “feel”. FMW had a much smaller division made up of a handful of wrestlers, usually acting in a single women’s match on a card full of men. Joshi avoided “Wacky Japanese Splinter Promotion Madness” for the most part until disillusionment over AJW management would shatter the industry after 1995, with every former AJW Main Eventer you can think of (Chigusa, Aja, Kyoko, Jaguar, even Mayumi) forming their own company (with beer! And HOOKERS!). This splintering led to a huge reduction in the once-huge Joshi fandom, and they went from filling arenas with 15,000+ fans routinely, to getting 1,000+ if they’re lucky.

I stuck with the ’90s stuff because otherwise this would be MUCH too long, and because I know jack squat about Joshi in the 2000s, so the whole article would be a mess of guesswork and possibly-false conclusions. And I don’t think Scott could take the humiliation of a poorly-researched article about women’s wrestling appearing on his blog.

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Beauty Pair’s Jackie Sato- the founder of JWP.

THE HISTORY OF JWP (Japan Women’s Pro-Wrestling):

Existence: 1986-1992

-The original incarnation of JWP was sprung as a “Me, Too” thing, inspired by AJW’s crazy success in the mid-1980s with the Crush Gals phenomenon- it was pretty much a “well, DUH” moment that somebody would try to copycat AJW’s success, but the realities of forming a pro wrestling company in an industry dominated by one company made it pretty tricky. JWP did it the smart way, simply gobbling up wrestlers that had retired from AJW for various reasons- primarily, their “you must retire after 25” rule. Finding women who didn’t WANT to quit wrestling and start families, JWP started up a pretty solid group, dominated by Jackie Sato (part of the Beauty Pair of the 1970s- a predecessor to the Crush Gals, and a solo Ace of AJW in the late ’70s), Devil Masami (a big rival to the Gals; Heel Ace of the 1980s), and a few others. They also recruited bronze World Judo medalist Shinobu Kandori to give them credibility, and a few other individuals. Gran Hamada & Atsushi Onita were added as coaches.

To their credit, they added some PHENOMENAL rookies, easily matching a lot of AJW’s best- Dynamite Kansai, Mayumi Ozaki, Cutie Suzuki and others met with great success. A few girls were given “Idol” pushes (ie. selling books of sexy pictures and what-not), while others had the bad-ass cred to make JWP feel “legit” (the fact that Kandori in particular could probably wreck most of AJW’s talent in a shoot-fight is hard to overstate in terms of importance).

However, the promotion had a few problems that held it back- AJW was still the one with TV, so JWP was always in second. And Sato had issues with Kandori, who humiliated her in a famous match that turned into a shoot in 1987, with a “suspended” Kandori still appearing all over JWP’s stuff. Sato, humiliated (Kandori apparently beat the BEJEEZUS out of her), retired in 1988. The promotion officially closed in 1992 after two rival groups had started up- it became JWP Project and Ladies Legend Pro-Wrestling.

Unfortunately, I’ve never seen anything of this era of JWP, but many of the stars who debuted there were terrific.

TITLES:
UWA WOMEN’S TITLE: This belt hailed from the UWA in Mexico, though shifted to JWP at some point. It was initially dominated by Vickie Williams in the 1980s, winning it thrice. AJW’s Jaguar Yokota was the first Japanese champion, losing to Lola Gonzales, who loses to JWP’s Shinobu Kandori, who brings the title to be JWP’s top belt. Kandori vacates the title after her fight with Jackie Sato, and Lola wins it again, at which point it goes back to Mexico, where it was defended at least until 2005.

UWA INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S TITLE: This Mexican-originated belt turned into the main JWP belt once the Kandori incident happened, as JWP was in need of a new title. The inaugural champ was Devil Masami, 1980s icon, winning it in 1988 “in Mexico”, which I dearly hope is like winning in Rio de Janeiro in the WWF. Masami was champ before “Miss A” (Dynamite Kansai) defeated her, then Eagle Sawai became champ in 1990 for 200+ days. Mariko Tsurugi, Miss A and Harley Saito were the next three champions, with Tsurugi having a six month reign (retiring as champion), while Saito beat Miss A mere days after she became champion. The belt became inactive when JWP folded in 1992.

JWP PACIFIC COAST TAG TEAM TITLES: The first champions were Miss A (Kansai) & Xochitl Hamada, daughter of JWP’s trainer Gran Hamada. The same people dominating the UWA Int’l Title scene win multiple reigns- Eagle Sawai, Devil Masami, Maiko Tsurugi, Harley Saito, all in different combinations. Miss A & Saito were three-time champions, and the final ones when the promotion ended.

JWP & UWA WOMEN’S JUNIOR TITLE: This title for younger wrestlers was initially dominated by Rumi Kazam, the mom-haired spitfire who kicked a lot of people in some ’90s stuff I saw. Mayumi Ozaki trades it with her a couple of times in 1987, then Plum Mariko starts doing so. Yuu Yamazaki wins it and unifies the belt with UWA’s Women’s Junior Title in 1989. The final champions were Ozaki, The Scorpion, and Cutie Suzuki before JWP ended.

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JWP’s top four stars (from clockwise)- Dynamite Kansai, Cutie Suzuki, Devil Masami and Mayumi Ozaki.

THE HISTORY OF JWP PURORESU (aka JWP Project):
Existence: 1992-2017

-The second incarnation of JWP began when the “shooter/wrestler”-type wrestlers in JWP split off to form a splinter promotion, Ladies Legend Pro-Wrestling. JWP Project (later “Puroresu”) was where the “entertainers” stayed- they generally had the same style as AJW from what I’ve seen, as their wrestlers were able to slot in anywhere just fine in interpromotional shows, often matching AJW styles exactly (particularly Dynamite Kansai & Yumiko Hotta, or Hikari Fukuoka & Manami Toyota). Most of JWP’s big names went with the new version, with Kansai becoming the new Ace, Mayumi Ozaki (a high-flying, small-sized wrestler) taking up the #2 spot, Devil Masami being a wily veteran, and Cutie Suzuki being the “Idol”. Plum Mariko filled out the ranks, and Hikari Fukuoka was the “obvious future Main Eventer”, while Command Bolshoi (a terrifying, tiny Clown-gimmick wrestler) and others took up “promising rookie” positions.

JWP and their founder, Masatoshi Yamamoto, had a bit of success, securing an all-important TV spot in 1993, a video game in 1994, and more! JWP did very well in the interpromotional era, with their talent winning the WWWA Tag Titles from Manami Toyota & Toshiyo Yamada, though they lost their own tag belts to Las Cocharros Orientales. The mid-90s were as bad to JWP as they were to everyone else in Joshi, as they lost a ton of stars- Candy Okutsu retired, Kansai was injured, and most tragically and infamously, Plum Mariko was killed in an in-ring incident (a powerbomb from Ozaki). Jackie Sato herself died of stomach cancer in 1999, and the promotion thus lost its symbol. JWP would close its doors temporarily in 2000 after a co-promoted show turned out to be a failure, but Command Bolshoi led a resurgence only months later.

JWP, always in the shadow of its rival AJW, actually OUTLIVED them when AJW closed in 2005. It adopted AJW’s “Tag League The Best”, and lived out most of the dark days of Joshi, maintaining some form of existence. It was the oldest Joshi promotion in Japan when it finally gave up the ghost in 2017, announcing that it would fold, and all its stars would become freelancers.

Most JWP stuff I’ve seen seems lower budget than AJW’s events, but their wrestlers were in many ways just as good- it’s just that AJW’s top tier stars (Aja, Kyoko, Toyota, Hokuto) were a league beyond the best wrestlers almost anywhere.

TITLES:
JWP OPENWEIGHT TITLE: Their top title, this was dominated by Dynamite Kansai over almost two years when the company was formed. This isn’t unusual in Japan, where long reigns and credible Aces are paramount. She would be unseated by Devil Masami, but win it back shortly therafter for ANOTHER 500+ day reign, which would only end when she was about done with wrestling. Hikari Fukuoka was the new Ace, holding the Title for almost two years before she herself retired, at which point Azumi Hyuga would generally be the long-running champion, alongside Ran Yu-Yu and others. Curiously, Mayumi Ozaki wouldn’t win it until *2015*.

JWP TAG TEAM TITLES: Cutie Suzuki & Mayumi Ozaki were the first champions, being popular, high-flying attractive types and great symbols for the company while Kansai had all the physical credibility. They would dominate the title scene until Las Cachorras Orientales (Shimoda & Mita) would invade from AJW and take the titles holding them for almost a year until Hikari Fukuoka would team up with Ozaki to bring them back, after LCO spent months humiliating JWP’s President and treating the talent like garbage. Variations of Fukuoka, Kansai, Ozaki, Suzuki and Devil Masami would hold the titles for ages, with almost nobody else getting a turn until 1998 or so. Command Bolshoi would later do well, same as the heel “ZAP” team, and the future Aces like Azumi Hyuga.

DAILY SPORTS TAG TEAM TITLES: When AJW folded in 2005, JWP picked up their newspaper promotional tie-in, and in honor of that, debuted their own Tag Titles in 2008, which were immediately folded into the JWP Tag Titles, forming a “JWP Double Crown”. So it shares the same lineage as those belts until 2017, at which point these belts were split off and added to Command Bolshoi’s splinter promotion, Pure-J.

JWP JUNIOR TITLE: Three years after the founding of JWP, they created their own Junior belt, largely because (as I’ve found is typically the case in wrestling), they wanted to put focus on somebody who was undersized/inexperienced and build a division around them. This was Candy Okutsu, a spritely rookie. The belt was apparently only to be held by those with less than four years experience (later raised to five), meaning you see a lot of vacancies due to experience.

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LLPW’s Ace, Shinobu Kandori. Looks more bitchin’ in a suit that Ric Flair.

THE HISTORY OF LLPW (Ladies Legend Pro-Wrestling):
Existence: 1992-today (sort of)

-LLPW was formed as one of those wacky Japanese Splinter Promotions, in which Shinobu Kandori and a bunch of serious “wrestler”-types quit JWP and formed their own company. LLPW was supposed to have a more intense, grappling-based style, with former top wrestler Kandori as the Ace. Others in the company included Noriyo Tateno (of the Jumping Bomb Angels, forced to retire from AJW due to their “Retire at 25” policy), Eagle Sawai (a very large woman who acted as #2 Babyface), Harley Saito (a kicky, athletic type), Rumi Kazama (a “Pretty Girl” wrestler with good kicks), and more.

LLPW had some respect, and Kandori had an amazing feud with AJW’s Akira Hokuto from 1993-94, but the promotion was constantly hampered by a lack of TV time, which hurt their exposure in Japan and the West, where it’s largely very obscure. This makes it hard to tell who was “big” or important, as we just lack the card results or fan reactions to tell. In 2002, the company changed its name to LLPW-X, and by 2010, it had largely shut down to the point of “promotes one show per year”, so is not an active promotion any longer. Really just an “Indie Spot Show” kind of a thing. Though their Facebook page is super-active, and features a lot of stuff about meet & greets- apparently Kandori & Takako Inoue are best buds, because they’re all over that thing.

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Harley Saito, eventual LLPW Title holder. Used nunchucks against Bull Nakano and didn’t die.

LLPW TITLE: Shinobu Kandori was the promotion’s Ace for over a year, holding the title until Tateno took it from her. She would have a long reign as well, dropping it to Eagle Sawai, who lost it to Harley Saito (for about a year) before winning it back for another year. Kandori would return to the title in 1997, having a 600+ day reign. Later reigns would feature Harley Saito again, Sawai again, then runs by Carol Midori and Rumi Kazama until the title was declared inactive in 2003.

LLPW TAG TEAM TITLES: Oddly, these seem to have started in 2003. Amazing Kong & Eagle Sawai were the first champions, then Kandori & Takako Inoue won them. They were defunct as of 2009 some time.

LLPW SIX-MAN TAG TEAM TITLES: Yes, it’s called that everywhere I can find. And curiously, the “serious” promotion had the 6-Man gold. This one existed from 1996 to 2002, with many of LLPW’s stars holding one at some time or another. I see a bunch of reigns with Carol Midori, Eagle Sawai, Kazama, Saito, one by Lioness Asuka, etc.

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Pictured: Deathmatch competitor.

THE HISTORY OF FRONTIER MARTIAL-ARTS WRESTLING (…’s Women’s Division):
Existence: 1990-97

-Yes, FMW had a Women’s Division. It even appeared a bit on the interpromotional shows, but only rarely (I’ve seen it at the Dream Slams and St. Battle Final). It was largely centered around one Megumi Kudo, possibly the most unexpected Deathmatch competitor of all time. Kudo herself had debuted for AJW in the Class of 1986 (alongside Aja Kong, Bison Kimura and later enemy Combat Toyoda), but had retired at the end of her first year, with some suggesting she hadn’t developed as fast as was expected.

Atsushi Onita, the top star of FMW, would later recruit her, Toyoda, and some others to form a woman’s division in FMW, making it the first big Japanese promotion to include women alongside the men as stars. They started in 1990, largely with rookies, hoping to build them up alongside the vets. Kudo had started out as a heel, but was shifted into a babyface position, owing to her good looks and “Idol”-like nature, and she became the face of the entire division. She’s actually known for a lot of barbed-wire matches- I’ve seen a couple, and they’re among the best of the form (not usually my thing)- based more around AVOIDING the barbed wire than constant messy spots using it.

The Women’s Division largely centered around Kudo getting beaten on by Toyoda & Reibun Amada, then coming back for more- her toughness and resilience impressing people. Unfortunately, the division was so centered around them (typically, FMW would import other stars like Mayumi Ozaki & Shinobu Kandori as challengers) that it couldn’t survive first Toyoda, then Kudo, retiring from the sport. Eventually, they were left with only Shark Tsuchiya (who lost to Megumi in her Retirement Match in a… *quotes Wikipedia* No Rope Double Hell Barbed Wire Barricade Double Landmine Crushed Glass Electrical Barbed Wire Deathmatch) and Crusher Maedomari. The women’s division was finally disbanded in 1997 or 1998.

TITLES:
FMW INDEPENDENT WOMEN’S TITLE: It started out as the WWA World Women’s Championship in 1990, won by Combat Toyoda. She and Megumi Kudo traded it (Kudo winning it on her third try in 1991), then Miwa Sato, then Shark Tsuchiya held it. Later champions would include Kudo & Toyoda repeatedly, Crusher Maedomari, Yukie Nabeno, Bad Nurse Nakamura and… huh, that’s it. Just them all trading it around. Toyoda would win the title five times before she retired in 1995, and Kudo would win it six times. Typically, people were only champ for either about a month (anyone who wasn’t Combat, Shark or Megumi), or 100-300 days (Combat, Shark & Megumi). When Kudo retired as champion, winning it in her final match., the title was held up for one final night- Shark Tsuchiya defeated Aja Kong, and the title was rendered inactive in Sept. 1997.

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Chigusa Nagayo, who evidently turned into the kind of people she used to fight- the founder of GAEA Japan.

THE HISTORY OF GAEA JAPAN:
Existence: 1995-2005

-GAEA Japan was founded in 1995 by Chigusa Nagayo of “Crush Gals” fame, after “disputes” with AJW management. What those disputes were about I’m unaware, but let’s just say that Chigusa Nagayo was never WWWA Champion after the 1980s, and two of the first three reigns of the “AAAW” belt, GAEA Japan’s top title, were 260+ day reigns by… Chigusa Nagayo. And many old Joshi websites talked about “selfishness up top” regarding established stars who never jobbed. I mean, I have no PROOF that “I wasn’t getting pushed, so fuck y’all” was the reason, but… this looks pretty close.

The promotion was your classic “Me & My Buddies” splinter promotion, with Nagayo herself as owner and top star, along with KAORU, established in Mexico & AJW as a rising star. They also had Bomber Hikaru, and rookies like Meiko Satomura & Toshie Uematsu, whom I’ve at least heard of, if not seen. Chikayo Nagashima, another rookie, turned out to have a heck of a career, too. They were a “one a month” company, having monthly shows at Korakuen Hall, and they established themselves as the company grabbed some new talent following financial troubles at AJW- top star Akira Hokuto joined in 1996, and Toshiyo Yamada joined in 1997. Aja Kong joined after AJW went bankrupt in 1997, as well. Eventual AAAW Champions included many of Japan’s top joshi stars.

GAEA established working relationships with FMW and WCW in their first years as well, which is why WCW’s two Women’s Titles were won by Japanese women- Hokuto was the first WCW Women’s Champion, and Uematsu was the first Women’s Cruiserweight Champion. Neither belt was focused on for more than a month or so (Teen Jab didn’t even know they HAD a Cruiserweight one, and I was an obsessive fan back then!), but it was something.

A big story was the reunion of the Crush Gals in 2000, as Lioness Asuka joined the company. This received mainstream press like nuts, and the Gals also feuded at one point. 2004 saw a weekly TV show, and a documentary called “GAEA Girls” was released as well… but the company closed its doors suddenly in 2005, with the simplest of explanations- it was still profitable, but Nagayo wanted to retire, they had too much reliance on freelancers, and most of the original members had moved on. And so one of Japan’s most successful post-1995 Joshi promotions, one that actually seemed to be bigger and more successful than AJW at one point, died. I’ve personally never seen any GAEA stuff yet, but they were apparently quite good.

ALL ASIA ATHLETE WOMEN’S TITLE: The AAAW Title, reversing the letters of AJW’s top title, was dominated by Chigusa Nagayo herself for almost a year, acting as the promotion’s Ace. Old rival Devil Masami held it for 337 days, leading to a second Nagayo reign that was almost as long. After this, Aja Kong held it for an insane 607 days, then swapped it with Mayumi Ozaki. The first “person I don’t really know” to win it was Meiko Satomura, then it went through multiple hands, including a 400+ day reign by Manami Toyota in 2002, Dynamite Kansai for a bit, Ayako Hamada and finally Aja Kong’s seven-day run to end the promotion. GAEA was big enough to attract a murderer’s row of talent, really.

ALL ASIA ATHLETE WOMEN’S TAG TEAM TITLES: Meiko Satomura & Sonoka Kato were the first champions, but a lot of big names had a run, like Aja Kong, Ozaki, Hokuto, KAORU, Toyota, and even Devil Masami (in 2003!). Plus a five-day run by the Crush Gals in 2004. We even had a run by Double Kong (Amazing & Aja Kong). The final champions were Toshie Uematsu & Ran Yu-Yu.

WCW WOMEN’S CRUISERWEIGHT TITLE: Literally only defended in Japan after Uematsu won it, apparently, and was abandoned when WCW ended their relationship with GAEA.

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’80s star Jaguar Yokota ALSO got into the “Japanese Splinter Promotion” craziness. But she trained Manami Toyota, Aja Kong, Akira Hokuto, Kyoko Inoue and more, so believe me, she was plenty good.

THE HISTORY OF JD’:
Existence: 1996-2007

-Jd’ (called “JDSTAR” officially, I guess- that apostrophe shows up in a few Japanese titles and names I’ve seen before) was founded by Jaguar Yokota, the Ace of AJW in the early ’80s (and trainer of much of the best generation of Joshi- Manami Toyota, LCO, Kyoko & Takako Inoue, etc.). As she’d been retired for ages, it must have been kind of a surprise. She of course booked herself as the promotion’s Ace, drawing in a few former AJW acts like Aja Kong & Lioness Asuka as top stars.

Yokota oddly left her own promotion in 1998, “seeing that (it) was going nowhere” (per Wikipedia, which apparently isn’t entirely neutral here), and it was bought by some guy named Kiyu Uji, who eventually sold it to Hidenobu Ichimaru, who decided to revamp it into building “athtresses”- athlete/actresses known for their model-like good looks who were also skilled athletes and actresses. Suuuuuuuuuuuper weird. And as expected, this didn’t lure in the best talent, so the wrestling failed to impress, and their attempts at creating “Idols” went nowhere, and most established Joshi didn’t think the girls deserving. It “continued to flounder” until 2007, and it died.

I’ve never seen any Jd’ anything, so I couldn’t really judge how good they were.

TITLES:
TRANS WORLD FEDERATION WOMEN’S TITLE: Jd’s top belt, this one was dominated by a Mexican wrestler named Lola Gonzalez (a UWA Women’s Title holder back in the day) at first, then a year-long reign by Lioness Asuka before Jaguar Yokota held it. Asuka & Kyoko Inoue would trade it for a while, until a bunch of people I’ve never heard of dominated the later runs until 2005, when the title died.

TRANS WORLD FEDERATION WOMEN’S TAG TITLES: These debuted in 1997, and have had wayyyyyyyyyyyy more champions than the TWF Title did. GAMI held one of the belts a lot during the final days.

JD’ JUNIOR TITLE: Held by mostly small ladies, this was dominated by one of Lioness Asuka’s trainees, The Bloody, for a while. It lasted from 1997-2006.

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Mayumi Ozaki, formerly JWP’s #2 star, now a violent, brawling heel, promotion owner, and a woman who REALLY wants to speak to your manager.

THE HISTORY OF OZ ACADEMY:
Existence: 1998-Today (HOLY SHIT IT DIDN’T DIE!)

-Oz Academy is a bit different from the other Japanese Splinter Promotions, as it started off as a stable in GAEA Japan in the mid-1990s, with Mayumi Ozaki (a top star with JWP- arguably their #2 or #3) forming a group with a number of subordinates, as well as a training school under that name. Eventually, this “Oz Academy” started hosting a number of independent shows. The success of these, and the folding of GAEA in 2005, led to Ozaki making “Oz Academy” a full promotion, with a full schedule! And shockingly, it did well enough to live!

Oz Academy runs 1-2 shows a month, also using various veteran wrestlers (most Joshi became freelance, unsigned operatives after a point, jumping all over the place) like Aja Kong, Dynamite Kansai, and others. Running like this, they went without a champion for NINE YEARS, before introducing their Openweight Championship on March 2007.

Ozaki, like most Promotion Founders, booked herself as the focal point of the company, usually as an “Evil Owner” with a stable trying to dominate the promotion. The names have shifted over time (since the promotion is called “Oz Academy”, you can’t call the stable that without confusing people), and is currently known as Seikigun, with a 50-something Ozaki now a brawling, nasty heel. Unlike some owner/wrestlers, she doesn’t seem that selfish, typically only holding their title rarely (she’s fifth overall in longevity of reigns, but first had a long run in 2011- four years into the title’s existence).

TITLES:
OZ ACADEMY OPENWEIGHT TITLE: The champion is known as “The Wizard of Oz”, and the belt has existed since 2007, with Aja Kong becoming the inaugural champion. She held the title for nearly a year, dropping it to Carlos Amano (I checked; she’s a woman). Other longterm champions include legends like Dynamite Kansai, Manami Toyota, KAORU, and Ozaki herself, who had a short run in 2009, and a long run in 2011. Chiyako Nagashima held the title for over a year, and Mika Akino (as AKINO) defeated her and held it for 537 days, which is still a record. She and Chiyako dominated the promotion for a few years, then Sonoko Kato was a long-running champ. Ozaki has been the reigning champ since April 2019.

OZ ACADEMY OPENWEIGHT TAG TEAM TITLES: This title debuted in July 2008, with Carlos Amano & Dynamite Kansai being the inaugural champions. KAORU & Ozaki were next, and won it a couple of times, and then a new version of Jungle Jack formed with Aja Kong & Hiroyo Matsumoto. Many of the people in the Openweight Title ranks won it in various combinations (AKINO, Nagashima, Kato), as well as Kong & Kaoru Ito. Ozaki herself has won it six times, somewhat dominating these ranks over the top title, usually with different partners.

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Kyoko Inoue, here wearing all the colors, formed her own Splinter Promotion.

THE HISTORY OF NEO LADIES PRO-WRESTLING:
Existence: 1997-2010

-Part of the Japanese Splinter Promotion mayhem following the bankruptcy of AJW, NEO Ladies was founded by Kyoko Inoue, then a huge star for AJW. With only nine wrestlers at first, people would wrestle multiple times, and freelancers would be brought in- the big centerpiece feud at first was Kyoko versus former Crush Gal Lioness Asuka, while AJW rookie Yoshiko Tamura would get a big push, becoming their first Champion, while Etsuko Mita would get her biggest singles push here (her Retirement Ceremony would actually be under a NEO roof). The infamous Nicole Bass wrestled there in 1998, and a few interpromotional goings-on happened with JWP & AJW- while leading NEO, Kyoko actually won the WWWA Title a second time, dropping it back to Yumiko Hotta. The promotion closed in this form in 2000, renovating as NEO Women’s Wrestling.

NEO Women’s Wrestling did okay at first, and was considered the top Joshi promotion at one point, following the deaths of AJW and GAEA. Complications from a pregnancy in 2007 took Kyoko away from the promotion, which hurt it badly. Struggles with finding new talent, the retirements of acts like Etsuko Mita, and a roster with only three wrestlers left caused Kyoko to close its doors in 2010.

TITLES:
NEO CHAMPIONSHIP/NWA WOMEN’S PACIFIC TITLE: These two titles were combined at some point. The first NEO Champion was Yoshiko Tamura, who’d been part of the AJW training class of 1994. Tamura would go on to win it seven times, with smaller reigns for Mima Shimoda, Kyoko Inoue, Etsuko Mita, and others. Misae Genki wins it three times as well. Reigns rarely exceeded a few months at first, with Kyoko rarely holding her own title for too long, but a few reigns are in excess of 200+ days.

NEO TAG TEAM TITLES: These belts formed in 2005, with Amazing Kong & Haruka Matsuo as the inaugural champions. Misae Genki also pops up a lot here, and the NEO Machine Guns (Tanny Mouse & Yuki Miyazaki) win them twice, and were the final champions.

NEO KITAZAWA TAG TEAM TITLES: These tag belts are meant to be defended exclusively at Kitazawa Town Hall, which is a bizarre stipulation probably meant as part of the group’s hosting deal, but they pre-date the NEO Tag Titles (2001). The NEO Machine Guns with these belts four times, often for 300+ day reigns, but the belts were dropped in favor of the NEO Tag Titles in 2005.

NEO ITABASHI TAG TEAM TITLES: Similar to the above titles, these were building-exclusive, defended only at Itabashi Ward Industrial Cultural Hall in Tokyo. The NEO Machine Guns were also first title holders here, swapping them repeatedly, to teams with names as awesome as the Vampire Rat Witches.

HIGH SPEED TITLE: This title, meant for high-fliers, debuted in NEO in 2009, and quickly went over to Stardom, which is still active.

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Aja Kong, former AJW Ace and the founder of Arsion- she’d bail in a few years.

THE HISTORY OF ARSION (Hyper Visual Fighting Arsion):
Existence: 1998-2003

-Funnily enough, when I first got into Joshi, it was Arsion that was probably the most-talked-about one on the online sources I could find. GAEA seemed to be the biggest, but Arsion had a lot of up & comers, and got the lion’s share of attention. ARSION was founded in 1997 by Aja Kong (one of a number of AJW alumni who quit and formed their own promotions in the wake of AJW’s bankruptcy) and one of the AJW business guys (Hiroshi Ogawa). With a class of students trained by Mariko Yoshida (the wrestler, not Wolverine’s late girlfriend), its first show was in early 1998. Their style was much more ground and grapple-based than other joshi companies at the time, adding in training from Battlarts and stuff. This fit Yoshida’s evolving style greatly.

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A young Ayako Hamada, about whom Arsion’s backers unsurprisingly saw something marketable.

The articles I read way, way back indicated that Aja was “very unselfish”, being willing to job to a ton of her new girls in order to make them stars. This was in contrast to people like Chigusa Nagayo, who booked themselves to the top immediately, though I notice Aja was the second champion, holding the title for more than a year. Their biggest rookie stars were Ayako Hamada (the pretty, athletic daughter of Gran Hamada) and Mika AKINO- both were put in a four-girl group called “Cazai”, in an attempt to manufacture some of that “Crush Gals Phenomenon” stuff, but alas, it didn’t take. Hamada was instead pushed as the promotion’s top star, defeating Aja for the Queen of Arsion Championship in late 2000, and Michiko Omukai was also heavily pushed.

However, 2001 saw Aja quit Arsion after a disagreement with management, and even SUED Ogawa for falsely advertising her for upcoming events! That’s extraordinarily rare, even in the contentious world of puroresu. Lioness Asuka was hired as her replacement, and… of course immediately pushed herself as the top star, alongside Las Cachorras Orientales (themselves always promotion-hopping) and Gami. Hamada quit the next year, feeling she’d been blamed and de-pushed for the failures of the promotion to gain traction, and joined Aja in GAEA. Omukai actually quit WHILE CHAMPION. Arsion folded in the summer of 2003, at which point Yumiko Hotta (herself an up & comer in AJW during the ’90s) took it over and renamed it AtoZ- that form would die in 2006, after a two-year reign by Hotta on top (seriously? Reading between the lines, I’m thinking she’s one of the selfish “I’ma book myself as Champion non-stop!” types).

So overall, Arsion’s only real effect on the business was the creation of Hamada & AKINO as stars (both would hold top titles in other promotions), and to showcase apparently the one person who wasn’t always going to put themself on top (ironically, one of the longest-reigning champions in puro).

TITLES:
QUEEN OF ARSION TITLE: Because of Arsion’s short life span, there were only eight reigns in total. Mariko Yoshida, the head trainer, was used as the champ for the first 231 days, but she lost to Aja Kong, who held it for the longest reign, at 485 before putting over Ayako Hamada as the big new star. After about a year, she was defeated by Lioness Asuka, the new head booker, but Asuka lost after less than 200 days to Michiko Omukai, who was supposed to be a big star, too. When Omukai quit Arsion, Mariko Yoshida won the belt again, and then Mima Shimoda (!!!) became champ for a few months before the promotion folded- one final bout over the title, on an unrelated card, saw Yoshida defeat her to become champion for the third and final time.

SKY HIGH OF ARSION TITLE: This belt was meant for high-flying wrestlers, and was introduced in 1999 when, of course, Chaparita Asari joined the company. The title has six total reigns- Asari, Mari Apache, Ayako Hamada (who vacated when she became Queen of Arsion), Mika AKINO, Faby Apache, and AKINO once more.

TWIN STAR OF ARSION TITLES: Their tag titles had the most title switches, with thirteen reigns total. Rie Tamada won a couple of times, Ayako Hamad & Mika AKINO managed a long reign during their peak, Mariko Yoshida got two reigns, and Las Cachorras Orientales had a nearly hear-long run in 2000.

AtoZ WORLD TITLE: This title was only held by two people as the top AtoZ Women’s Wrestling belt- Momoe Nakanishi, and a two year (REALLY?) reign by Yumiko Hotta, the company’s booker.