The Rise of Female Wrestling

By Scott Reid

In modern day professional wrestling, no area is more over-looked than woman’s wrestling. To a lot of fans, the extent of female competition in the business today are the 3 minute modelling contests that WWE air on RAW each week. However there is, in fact, a wealth of quality women’s wrestling talent all around the world, and to find it, all one needs to do is look in the right places.

A country which truly understands the quality found in woman’s wrestling is Japan. Woman’s wrestling, or Joshi Puroresu as it is known, has always been highly respected and appreciated by fans, so much so that, until 2011, the longest running wrestling promotion in Japanese history was All Japan’s Woman’s Pro-Wrestling (AJW), which ran for 37 years before it unfortunately closed its doors. In that time however, AJW garnered massive success due to a roster of the best Joshi talent, and highly popular storylines including the feud between The Crush Gals (Chigusa Nagayo and Lioness Asuka) and Dump Matsumotos Atrocious Alliance, which is still one of the most popular angles in the history of Japanese wrestling. The feud was so popular that it helped AJW to sell out arenas around Japan, and gained the company some of the highest TV ratings in the country’s history. Many of AJWs roster, including Bull Nakano and Aja Kong, even went on to wrestle in American promotions such as WWF and WCW.

Outside of AJW, Women’s wrestling has spawned other Joshi Puroresu promotions, and has also been popular in predominantly male promotions, most notably Frontier Martial Arts Wrestling (FMW). In the 1990’s, names like Megumi Kudo, Combat Toyoda and Bad Nurse Nakamura became synonymous in FMW with extremely aggressive, deathmatch style matches that would normally only be seen involving men. These matches were very popular with fans, and some still stand with the best matches in the history of FMW, most notably Megumi Kudos 1997 retirement bout, which was a “No ropes, 200V double hell double barbed wire barricade, double landmine, glass crush death match” against Shark Tsuchiya. This was an extremely violent match, the likes of which were rarely seen in woman’s wrestling, not just in Japan, but anywhere in the world.

Nowadays in Japan, while not at the same height of popularity as it once was, the love and respect that has grown for woman’s wrestling over the years still remains, with at least 9 all-woman’s independent promotions operating in the country, such as JPW (Japanese Woman Pro-Wrestling Project) which is currently in its 20th year, and Pro Wrestling Wave, which only began in 2007, but is continuing to grow more and more due to their highly popular ‘Catch The Wave’ Tournament, and their impressive roster which showcases both seasoned veterans and the best of new talent, such as Ayumi Kurihara, Kana, and Miro Shirai.

Japan will always have a place in its heart for Joshi Puroresu, and this is, without a doubt, due to the Japanese Female wrestler’s abilities to break boundaries when it comes to matches, and to not be held back in any capacity simply because of their gender.

In recent years, woman’s wrestling in America has seen interest grow from fans, and as a result, all-woman’s promotions are becoming more common and female talent from the independent scene are becoming more popular and well known amongst the wrestling community. A prominent name in woman’s wrestling in America at the moment is Shimmer Woman’s Wrestling. Closely affiliated with Ring of Honor, Shimmer boasts a roster of the best talent that the American Independent scene has to offer, with names such as MsChif, Cheerleader Melissa, and Portia Perez gracing the ring at both Shimmer and ROH shows. Shimmer has also been home to wrestlers who have gone on to the bigger wrestling companies in America, such as Beth Phoenix and Natalya of WWE, and former TNA stars Daffney and Taylor Wilde. With a strong roster, and constantly impressive shows, Shimmer will hopefully continue to grow and be a standard bearer for woman’s wrestling, not just in America, but all over the world.

This boost in popularity has not gone un-noticed by the WWE however, as they have began to sign more experienced female performers, such as Britani Knight (now wrestling as Paige) and Natalie Osman (currently performing under the name Skyler Moon), and less models who need training after being signed. The company even signed independent star Sara Del Rey to a developmental deal in July 2012. Del Rey has been a stand-out performer in the independents, winning titles in America, Japan, and Canada, and has even gone on to become only the fourth woman in history to appear on the PWI 500 list, ranking at #430. WWE reportedly hopes to have Del Rey work with the female competitors on their in ring work, and have her appear on WWE TV to help re-build the once popular Divas division. Could this be a chance for woman’s wrestling to shine on global television? Only time will tell, but with more experienced talent being signed, and a star like Sara Del Rey on board, it may soon get the recognition it deserves.

In the British scene, ladies wrestling is definitely in a period of growth in popularity. Female wrestlers have been constantly working at a top match level to show fans how great Women’s wrestling can be, and how well they can stand up to the male wrestlers within the scene.

Pro Wrestling EVE, a UK based all-woman’s promotion which boasts a roster of both home-grown talent such as April Davids, and International stars such as Jenny Sjodin, is becoming more and more popular with fans every day, due to their first rate matches and their company attitude to find only the best in woman’s wrestling. The company’s next event, Wrestle-Fever: Alpha vs. Storm is headlined by a championship match involving two of the best Female wrestlers in the scene today, Scotland’s own Nikki Storm and Germanys Alpha Female. Both of these competitors are two of the best in Women’s wrestling at the moment, so this is sure to be a match that EVE fans, and any other fans who are lucky enough to see it, will be blown away by. The company has even attracted the attention of American stars, as former TNA Knockouts Angelina Love and Taylor Wilde are also expected to make appearances at Wrestle-Fever in November.
With one of the finest Women’s rosters around, and consistently brilliant matches, Pro Wrestling EVE is definitely a company to watch.

Right here in Scotland, woman’s wrestling is about to be given a brand new stage to present itself on, as Insane Championship Wrestling hosts it first all-women’s show, ICW: Fierce Females at The Arches in Glasgow on September 30th. Fans of ICW will be well aware of its top quality wrestling and wild atmosphere, and Fierce Females looks like it will be no exception. With much of the card still to be announced, there is already a buzz about the event being generated online amongst Scottish wrestling fans. Popular names such as Rhia O’Reilly, Lisa Fury, The Owens Twins and April Davids will be competing at the event, but at ICW: Hadouken, the massive main-event of Fierce Females was announced. Kaylee Ray and Carmel, two heated rivals who have previously competed against each other in Scotland’s first Woman’s Deathmatch, were placed in a Last Women Standing match by Mark Dallas after Kaylee turned against Carmel and her “master” Mikey Whiplash. Fans who have seen either Kaylee or Carmel compete will know how talented both of these women are, so placing them in a Last Women Standing match should be very interesting to watch, for fans and wrestlers alike.

So, it’s fair to say that quality woman’s wrestling is going as strong as ever, and hopefully, fan interest will continue to grow for the product, in order to give Female wrestlers a platform to make a name for themselves in the business, and reach the levels of popularity that many of them completely deserve.

Follow: @WrestleShark on Twitter