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AJPW’s Foray into Joshi Wrestling Explained by President Fukuda

By: Max Everett

AJPW started the year with several major changes to its product, ranging from several key departures to bringing in WWE NXT star Charlie Dempsey to challenge for the Triple Crown title. But All Japan also began working alongside promotion Actwres girl’Z, thus ending their prior arrangement with Evolution Girls – founded by former AJPW legend and executive Suwama – and beginning an alignment that has been divisive, to say the least.

The Actwres girl’Z partnership is a change in direction All Japan believes will help them to appeal to a wider audience, including more Westerners. Still, internal conflict arose with AJPW’s former booking committee since AWG is contentious within Japan for the promotion’s apparent disregard against puroresu traditions. Lending to that belief, Shuji Ishikawa was recently appointed the General Manager of Evolution Girls, the promotion which had served as AJPW’s partner Joshi promotion before AWG came into the fold at the start of the year. He was one of many high-profile departures from AJPW at the turn of the new year, with the AJPW-AWG relationship believed to have been central to the issue.

President Fukuda recently addressed the departures, explaining, “It’s not a fight [why they left]. They each had different reasons for leaving the company, but Ishikawa and Black Menso-re, who have been featured in the media, were not only wrestlers, but were also in charge of the office department and matchmakers… Sometimes we are forced to change our plans on an ad hoc basis.

In fact, this happened, and Ishikawa said that at the end of December  – he asked me to take the whole month of January off, and the executives understood that… One of the sponsors was working on and managing the [Evolution Joshi] women, and Suwama and Ishikawa were coaching them, so I felt at ease and asked them to compete each time.”

Actwres girl’Z was founded in 2015 and has always been an entertainment-based company with a roster comprised of stage actresses. Each show has a variety of hard-hitting action, colorful, larger-than-life characters, strong music productions, and choreographed dance routines, including their signature Love Riddle. AWG rebooted in 2022 with the ethos of the woken being entertainers and not pro-wrestlers, that the show is a production or stage show and not a sports competition. Some matches have a points system with fan input via merchandise and ticket sales that determines the winner.

They usually run Shinkiba 1st Ring but branch out to Osaka, with each show having 200–275 attendees; their quarterly Korakuen Hall shows garner 700–1000. It is a small group of veterans, such as Miku Aono, Mari, MARU and former Stardom talent Act Yasukawa and Natsumi Sumikawa, as well as cultivating a young, fast-learning roster of nearly 40 members. They are multi-talented, contributing their acting, singing, dancing, fashion design, sewing, and calligraphy skills to each show. They have a sister promotion, Action Ring Girl’Z, a fantasy-based music and stage production in a ring.

“The Evolution Girls wrestlers are also developing well, and are competing against a variety of opponents in the rings of other organizations. Of course, this does not mean that we will no longer have a good relationship with each other, but from now on. We chose to form a business partnership with Actwres girl’Z for the development of our company. The reason for this was to strengthen the content with the aim of increasing the number of members of the paid video distribution service All Japan Pro Wrestling TV, and to create an original and independent program with a different role from All Japan’s male wrestlers. Because it’s women’s entertainment,” Fukuda spoke of the new partnership.

He would continue to offer the reasoning behind AJPW’s switch from Evolution to Actwres girl’Z, “We thought that if the entire show could be made into a consistent entertainment event, the All Japan Pro Wrestling matches would stand out even more. For example, the opening and halftime shows would be set up as a basketball show. AWG could also be included as part of the overall All Japan event. We hope that this will reach a wider range of customers and allow them to enjoy it more easily.”

He also shed further insight as to why AJPW has seen such a mass exodus of late, “Currently, we are reorganizing the company internally. I have been advised that it is not going to be easy. Even if there is some opposition, from now on I am going to take center stage in the management of the company and rebuild it. After receiving detailed advice, I felt more positive. He told me, ‘If you compare All Japan Pro Wrestling with other forms of entertainment in the world, we are living in a time where we really need to change, so we should shake it off and start having fun.’ He advised me that professional wrestling should be brighter, more fun, and more intense.”