Puroresu (プロレス) is a shortened term of "purofesshonaru resuringu", the Japanese pronunciation of "professional wrestling". The term became popular among English-speaking fans by Hisaharu Tanabe, who has been active in the online community since early 1990s. With its origins in traditional American style of wrestling and still being under the same genre, it has become an entity in itself.
Women's puroresu is referred to as "joshi puroresu".
The first Japanese to become a professional wrestler was Matsuda Sorakichi, a former rikishi who left for the United States to start a new career in 1883. There were several attempts before World War II to popularize the sport in Japan, but these failed until the rise of its first big star, Rikidōzan, in 1951, who became known as the "father" of the sport. Rikidōzan brought the sport to tremendous popularity with his Japan Pro-Wrestling Association (JPWA) until his murder in 1963. Following his death, puroresu thrived, creating a variety of personalities, promotions and styles. It has also created a mass of other cultural icons in Japan including: Giant Baba, Antonio Inoki, the original Tiger Mask, and Ōnita Atsushi.
Throughout the years, a number of promotions have opened and closed, but a few have persisted to remain the most popular and thriving companies: New Japan Pro-Wrestling is currently considered by many as the top promotion with All Japan Pro-Wrestling and Pro Wrestling NOAH as other top promotions. Japan also has countless shows on what is considered the independent circuit, which still see great success despite their inability to compete with bigger promotions