All Japan Pro-Wrestling

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Zen Nihon Puroresu
All Japan Pro-Wrestling
Acronym AJPW
Founded 1972
Headquarters Japan
Founder(s) Giant Baba
President Akiyama Jun

All Japan Pro Wrestling (全日本プロレス Zen Nihon Puroresu?) is a puroresu organization established by Giant Baba in 1972. All Japan Pro Wrestling still remains one of the most popular promotions still in operation.


The Giant Baba Era (1972-1984)

The promotion was founded by Giant Baba and the Momota brothers: Yoshihiro & Mitsuo, the sons of Rikidōzan, with the support from Nippon Television (NTV). In 1972/10, Baba left the Japan Pro-Wrestling Association and formed his own group, All Japan Pro-Wrestling. Their first card was on 1972/10/21 at Machida City Gym in Tōkyō. Baba established the Pacific Wrestling Federation as the governing body for all championships in All Japan. In the beginning the PWF recognized a World Heavyweight Championship, but after All Japan joined the National Wrestling Alliance, the PWF World title was downgraded to a regional championship. The first PWF Chairman, who presented the belts to the winners in title bouts, was Lord James Blears. As a loyal member of the NWA, All Japan enjoyed the ability to bring in foreigners, and the NWA World Heavyweight Championship was frequently defended. On 1974/12/2, Baba became the first Japanese wrestler to ever hold the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, defeating Jack Brisco in Kagoshima. He would hold the championship on two more occasions.

With the strong connections with the fellow NWA promoters and later with Verne Gagne of AWA, he imported the "typical" American-style pro-wrestling to All Japan, frequently with the non-clean finishes such as double countout, disqualification, and most notable the "referee bumps", which somewhat gave a bad reputation to the senior referee Joe Higuchi.

Transition to the New Generation (1984-1990)

In 1983, Jumbo Tsuruta defeated Bruiser Brody for the prestigeous NWA International Heavyweight Championship, a title which had signified the top guy of the promotion since the JWA days. By 1984, Baba began phasing himself out to give rise to the next generation of wrestlers, led by Tsuruta and Tenryū Gen'ichirō. He voluntarily became a mid-carder.

When the NWA collapsed in the late 1980s, Baba distanced himself from other promoters at home and abroad, and began a system of promoting talent (both Japanese and gaijin) who competed exclusively for his promotion. With the unification of the titles in All Japan into the Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship and the World Tag Team Championship, as well as the promotion of talent including Tsuruta, Tenryū, Yatsu Yoshiaki, and Tiger Mask, the promotion was able to carve a loyal fanbase.

The Shitennō Era (1990-1999)

In 1990, Tenryu, Yatsu, The Great Kabuki, and several others left the company to join the newly founded Super World Sports. This forced Baba to push the younger talent such as Tiger Mask, Kawada Toshiaki, Taue Akira, and Kobashi Kenta as main eventers. On 1990/5/14, Tiger Mask unmasked himself as Misawa Mitsuharu during a match, and on 1990/6/8, he pinned Tsuruta for the first time.

In 1992, Tsuruta suffered liver problems and became inactive for a long period of time. This naturally made Misawa the top star of the organization. His tag team partner Kawada split from him in 1993, and the famous feud between the four main eventers, known as the Shitennō Puroresu, began with Misawa, Kawada, Kobashi, and Taue.

The Pro Wrestling NOAH exodus (1999-2000)

With the death of Baba on 1999/1/31, top star Misawa immediately inherited the position of company president. On 2000/5/28, however, Misawa was removed from his position by a majority vote of the executive board. At a regular All Japan board meeting on 2000/6/13, Misawa, Momota Mitsuo (co-vice president, member of directory), Kobashi (member of directory), Taue (member of directory, chairman), Ōyagi Kenichi (member of directory) and Momota Yoshihiro (member of directory) resigned from their board positions. A day later, Baba Motoko, the widow of Giant Baba, released a two-page written statement, which claimed that Misawa "took no responsibility and abandoned his duty." In addition, she hinted that Kawada Toshiaki and Fuchi Masanobu would be the only two native wrestlers to stay with All Japan, as "Kawada and Fuchi have sworn to carry out Baba-san's last wish: to keep All Japan Pro-Wrestling alive"; this was confirmed a day later when Kawada and Fuchi both renewed their contracts with All Japan, along with referee Wada Kyohei.

On 2000/6/16, 24 out of the 26 contracted native wrestlers for All Japan were led by Misawa for a press conference, where it was announced that they would be leaving the promotion; more than 100 reporters and photographers attended, and Misawa expressed his wish for the promotion to debut in August, with the Differ Ariake being the site of the unnamed promotion's debut. When asked what his reason for leaving All Japan is, Misawa claimed that it was so he could do things in a "modern style." A day later, Misawa announced the promotion's name: Pro Wrestling NOAH, which was inspired by the Biblical story where Noah built an ark and put two of every kind of animal in the world in the ark before God destroyed the world.

On 2000/6/19, it was confirmed (at a press conference at All-Japan's dōjō held by Kawada and Fuchi) that NTV has decided to discontinue broadcasting All Japan after 27 years. However, NTV maintained their 15% stock in All Japan (as Motoko held the remaining 85%), and would prevent All Japan from being put on another network. On 6/20, twelve All Japan office employees resigned from their positions with the promotion, with intentions to follow Misawa to NOAH. NTV also announced that they will carry weekly tapings of NOAH, with the title of the program being called "Colosseo." NOAH took All Japan's 30-minute timeslot on Sundays at midnight. Misawa was interviewed in Tōkyō on 6/21, where he announced that he and the other wrestlers leaving to form NOAH would compete on four of the sixteen shows in All Japan's Summer Action Series 2000 tour, which began on 7/1. NTV also aired the final All Japan TV show on the network, which aired for 45 minutes and featured footage from Jumbo Tsuruta's funeral, the NOAH wrestlers' press conference from 6/16, Kawada's press conference from 6/19, highlights of the first ever Kawada vs. Misawa Triple Crown match from 1992/10/21 and Kawada & Taue vs. Takayama Yoshihiro and Ōmori Takao for the World Tag Team Championship (All Japan) from All Japan's Nippon Budokan show from 6/9.

On 2000/6/28, Misawa formally announced at a press conference that Pro Wrestling NOAH will debut with two consecutive shows (titled "Departure") in Differ Ariake on 8/5 and 8/6 in Tōkyō. On 7/2 in the Korakuen Hall, Motoko announced the unfathomable return (as Baba publicly swore that he would never be allowed back in All Japan, following a departure in 1990 to form SWS) of Tenryū, as he would team with Kawada to face Maunnakea Mossman & Stan Hansen on 7/23 (at the final tour show). Tenryū would bring in some of the WAR roster with him. On 2000/7/20, Misawa and several NOAH wrestlers competed in their last matches for All Japan at the sold-out Hakata Star Lane in Fukuoka. After the show, Steve Williams came out and shook Misawa's hand. Misawa returned to the bus immediately after his match, not staying for the last two matches of the show. Every one of All Japan's titles were vacated due to the departure of the aforementioned wrestlers and title holders. Soon later, Motoko appointed Hansen as the new PWF president, replacing Lord James Blears.

All Japan vs. New Japan (2000-2002)

On 2000/8/10, All Japan mainstay Fuchi Masanobu walked into the New Japan Pro-Wrestling ring and declared that his intention was to "break down the walls" between All Japan and New Japan. In response, New Japan foreman Chōshū Riki rushed into the ring and exchanged a firm handshake with Fuchi, signaling the beginning of the cross-promotional alliance. On 2000/9/16, Kawada followed Fuchi's path and vowed to crush New Japan ace Sasaki Kensuke, as he defeated Sasaki in the Tokyo Dome on 2000/10/9; the event sold out the building. In 2001, Mutō Keiji and Ōtani Shinjirō created the interpromotional stable BATT (Bad Ass Translate Trading), which included All Japan's Taiyō Kea, Michinoku Pro's Shinzaki Jinsei and Hase Hiroshi. During this time, Mutō challenged and defeated Tenryū for All Japan's Triple Crown Championship, as well as capturing the promotion's World Tag Team Title with Taiyō Kea. The alliance between the promotions lasted until 2002/1/11.

The Puroresu Love Era (2002-present)

On 2002/1/11, following the end of a year long cross-promotional feud with New Japan Pro-Wrestling, Mutō shocked the Japanese wrestling world by defecting to All-Japan as a full-time competitor, taking Kojima Satoshi and Kashin Kendō with him. On 2002/9/30, during an All Japan 30th Anniversary party at the famed Tokyo City Hotel, Motoko officially announced Mutō's appointment as the new president of All Japan, transferring all of the Baba family stock to him. Mutō has upheld some traditional aspects of the Baba-run All Japan, as the Champion Carnival and Real World Tag Team League are still held annually.

Some interpromotional activities that would not have happened under Giant Baba's watch have taken place, including the previously unfathomable IWGP Heavyweight Champion vs. Triple Crown Champion bout on a New Japan event on 2005/2/20; Kojima (who was the Triple Crown champion) defeated Tenzan Hiroyoshi for the IWGP title, which made Kojima the only wrestler to ever hold both titles simultaneously (Mutō would later accomplish the feat in 2008; however, he would held the IWGP Championship as Keiji Mutō, and the Triple Crown Championship as his alter-ego, The Great Muta) In addition, Mutō and Kojima are both New Japan Pro-Wrestling alumni, but have played a consistent role in the main event picture of All Japan since their arrival to the promotion. Furthermore, Mutō competed at a Pro Wrestling NOAH event on 2004/7/10, teaming with fellow All Japan wrestler Taiyō Kea to face Misawa & Ogawa Yoshinari. On 2004/7/18, Misawa returned to All Japan and defeated Kojima at Battle Banquet. Misawa returned to All Japan again on 2004/10/31 for the Keiji Mutō: Love and Bump pay-per-view event, where Misawa & Mutō defeated Hase Hiroshi and Sasaki Kensuke in what was billed as a "Special Dream Tag Match".

On 2007/7/10, Hase was appointed as the new PWF president, following Hansen's voluntary resignation. Hase is the third chairman in PWF's history.

On 2011/6/7, Mutō announced his resignation as President of AJPW and named Uchida Masayuki as his successor.

On 2012/8/28, AJPW and Gaora TV announced that AJPW is introducing a new championship called the AJPW Gaora TV Championship. The tournament lasted from 9/8 to 10/7.

The Shiraishi Nobuo era (2012-2014)

On 2012/11/1, Speed Partners bought all shares of AJPW from Mutō Keiji for ¥200,000,000. The purchase was not announced to the public until 2013/2. In 2013/1, former Pro Wrestling NOAH stars Akiyama Jun, Shiozaki Go, Aoki Atsushi, Suzuki Kotaro, and Kanemaru Yoshinobu joined AJPW as freelancers. On 2013/3/17, Hase Hiroshi announced that he was stepping down as chairman of the PWF.

The Wrestle-1 exodus

On 2013/5/1, Shiraishi and Uchida were in negotiations, which would see Mutō regain his presidency by the end of the month. On 27/5, Shiraishi announced that he's the new president of AJPW, beginning 6/1. Upon the news, Mutō resigned from the promotion. In the weeks that followed, wrestlers Funaki Masakatsu, Kaz Hayashi, Kondo Shuji, Kono Masayuki, Yamato Hiroshi, Kanemoto Koji, Tanaka Minoru, Nakanoue Yasufumi, KAI, Sanada Seiya, and Andy Wu, along with announcer Abe Makoto and referees Murayama Daichi and Kanbayashi Daisuke) also announced their resignations from the company out of loyalty to Mutō. After a show on 6/30, they all left AJPW to form Wrestle-1. Rene Dupree and Soya Manabu would eventually join the promotion by the end of the year.

Rebuilding again

The Wrestle-1 exodus reduced the promotion to less than half the active roster. On 2013/6/21, it was revealed that since 2009, that longtime AJPW star Fuchi Masanobu has not been on an exclusive contract due to his age, becoming a freelancer, but chose to stay loyal to AJPW on a pay-per-appearance basis. On 7/5, Akiyama, Shiozaki, Aoki, Suzuki, and Kanemaru have signed with the promotion, along with the returns of Taiyo Kea and referee Wada Kyohei. On 7/14, Fuchi resigned with the promotion and returned to the board of directors. On 8/1, Speed Partners moved all the shares of the company to Red Wall Japan. On 8/7, AJPW agreed to return the three championship belts that make up the Triple Crown back to Giant Baba's widow, Baba Makoto. On 8/25, the three belts were defended for the last time. On 9/1, Akebono signed with AJPW after spending much of his career as a freelancer. On 9/11, Inoue Hirota was announced as the new president of AJPW. On 10/27, the new championship belt representing the Triple Crown, was revealed, and Dory Funk, Jr. was announced as the new chairman of the PWF.

The Akiyama Jun era (2014-present)

On 2014/6/5, AJPW announced a corporate restructuring taking place on 7/1, with Akiyama Jun taking over as President. Baba Makoto joined the promotion as a consultant.


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