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What Happened to NOAH’s Women’s Division?

5 months ago Masahiro Kubota | MP | Great Muta Bye-Bye, 22.01.23

Masahiro Kubota | MP | Great Muta Bye-Bye, 22.01.23

What Happened to NOAH’s Women’s Division?

By: Max Everett

Women’s wrestling in Japan has historically been compartmentalized in contrast to Western promotions. The gender and promotional divides one and the same with off-shoot promotions launched specifically for the purpose of staging female competition. But one might argue the disparity shall continue so long as a rigid system remains in place, best exemplified in the fact that the leading Japanese women’s promotions – STARDOM and TJPW – have been positioned as sister companies to NJPW and Pro Wrestling NOAH under Bushiroad and CyberFight respectively.

NJPW has made positive movement in that regard, birthing its own IWGP and NJPW STRONG Women’s Divisions to bridge the gap between itself and STARDOM. And it appeared briefly that NOAH was stepping to the same beat. NOAH looked, for all intents and purposes, to have turned a corner after staging its tenth card to feature women’s wrestling at The New Year event on January 2nd, 2024, as The Great Sakuya – Muta’s kayfabe daughter – debuted to much awe. Even despite a bloody angle and finish leaving an open narrative path to explore, there has been seemingly no movement on Sakuya in NOAH. Furthermore, she and a plethora of available women’s talent have started to take a back seat to ageing, male veterans such as Satoshi Kojima, Jun Akiyama, and Yuji Nagata. It’s worth stating for the sake of argument that the contributions of these legends cannot be understated, and they represent great name value, but when their featuring comes at the detriment of young women’s talent it’s hardly indicative of a forward-thinking and progressive approach.

The Great Muta previously outlined women’s wrestling as a way for Japanese pro wrestling to step up to the global stage. So why does it seem there has been no movement on that front? As women’s wrestling continues to evolve in other promotions – AEW, WWE & TNA in the US for example – it surely seems like now would be the time for NOAH to throw its hat in the ring.

Through CyberFight, NOAH would have access to the best TJPW has to offer and then some, but the effort to do so is lacking if not bordering on non-existent. Another step that could be made to legitimize a women’s division in NOAH would be the genesis of a GHC Women’s title. As much was floated after NOAH’s first-ever Joshi match at Great Muta’s retirement event last year with Jungle Kyona asking the question. However, there has since been no active discussion for the belt to be introduced. Again, one might argue that without an endgame any women’s wrestling in NOAH will stand out as an exhibition rather than a competition. Specifically within Japanese professional wrestling and its sports representation.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. fought both Tenshin Nasukawa and Mikuru Asakura in exhibition boxing events in Japan, and he made a lot of money doing so, but neither Nasukawa or Asakura saw progress in their competitive fields specifically because of the bout. The argument can be made that if either fight was for the welterweight title that Mayweather held prior to his retirement, they would at least be considered among the prestigious challengers of that title. There is no such bounty for women’s wrestling in NOAH, so it feels like an exhibition, a, ‘Hey look, women’s wrestling is on the card,’ but that doesn’t quantify a division any more than it does a novelty. Pro Wrestling NOAH has credible talent to build around, The Great Sakuya just one of many examples, and the trigger just needs to be pulled. Rome wasn’t built in a day, sure, but building a women’s divisions requires more than just solitary matches at otherwise male-dominated events.

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