Some years back, I was watching a lot of joshi puroresu–that is, the women-specific Japanese pro wrestling companies. What grabbed me about it is that it’s so much different than any of the men’s companies in Japan or the not-gender-specific promotions in the west. After a couple decades of watching pro wrestling off and on, joshi became the niche that I most gravitated toward. I think the particulars of why joshi grabbed me include:
- There’s a bit of an underground feel. It wasn’t always that way. Go watch some stuff from All Japan Women’s in the 80s, and you’ll see packed houses and deafening fanbases. But when I was first diving in, no company really had a big stranglehold on the market. OZ Academy was pulling a few thousand in for their top show of the year, and Stardom was probably the most consistent (currently, Stardom is the biggest and nobody’s really in a position to catch them). But the small shows, often filmed with a single camera and no commentary were my kind of jam.
- The visuals. Some of the women present themselves as tough badasses, some try to come off as harmlessly adorable. Either way, if you want some of the best gear in pro wrestling, joshi is where to look.
- The emotion. If you want crazy flippy stuff, bloody brawls, and intense storylines, you can get that in joshi, but there’s also a lot of storytelling through non-verbal methods, even things like body language and facial expressions.
A while back, I even jumped into weekly podcasting for…about half a year or so? I was primarily talking joshi–truth be told, I still think there’s a lack of consistent voice in that niche of a niche of a niche–outside of a few little areas on social media. Admittedly, part of me misses doing audio, but not enough where I have any desire to go set up a solo venture again.
Plus, my interests have changed a bit. While I’ve still been watching pro wrestling over the past few years, I’m not going in deep on all the joshi. I’m not watching every dojo show I can get my hands on. Instead, I’m just sticking with the stuff that grabs me. And not just joshi–though that’s basically the extent of my Japanese viewing. Instead, my interest is mostly vested in three companies, along with some occasional supplementation.
- Actwres girl’Z. There are two reasons for this.
- First–and this really is the bigger one–it’s super accessible. One streaming service, no having to dig around for more pay-per-view streams, and they tend to upload shows pretty quickly. It’s not subtitled, but if I’ve learned anything from the years I subbed to Stardom World, pro wrestling (outside of the “sports entertainment” template) is super easy to understand even if you don’t know the language. If two teammates are yelling at each other, I’m not particularly worried about the specific wording. It ain’t that deep.
- Second, the current state of AWG reminds me a lot of the state of Stardom when I started getting into it. Not much overlap with other companies, a lot of young wrestlers who are still getting experience (with a few veterans thrown in). Most of the shows are smaller with dedicated crowds. This is likely due to the influence of former wrestler Fuka, who was one of the co-founders of Stardom and now works with AWG.
- WWE. Okay, I’m not watching weekly TV all too much. I’ll usually watch the uploads on their YouTube channels after the fact, and see if anything interests me. But I will watch most of the pay-per-view events, or whatever they call them now. WWE has too much weekly TV for my tastes, but their big shows have been mostly solid for the past couple years. But let’s be real, I’m nostalgic and I’d probably watch them even if they completely sucked.
- TNA. This is kind of the opposite. I’ll watch most of the weekly TV (I’m paying a whole $1 per month to watch on YouTube, after all), but I don’t usually go out of my way to watch anything bigger unless it’s particularly interesting. I did watch Hard to Kill, and if they keep that as a baseline for their big events, they’ll rope me in. My only gripe is that I wish Impact was only an hour long. I still argue that that’s the sweet spot for weekly wrestling TV.
And even though those three get most of my attention, that’s not to say I don’t watch other stuff. I’ll pop a sub and catch up on SEAdLINNNG every few months. I pay attention to what happens in TJPW and New Japan, and maybe jump in if something appeals to me. I also watch some of the stuff promotions drop for free on YouTube. And if PURE-J made it easier for me to watch their occasional Korakuen Hall shows, I’d watch the crap out of them.
Part of me years for the time where I was watching every Stardom, Marvelous, SEAdLINNNG, TJPW, and OZ Academy show. In fact if OZ Academy was easier to watch, I’d probably still be watching all of it. that said, I’m in a good groove right now, watching the stuff that grabs me most, keeping an eye on the things that appeal to me a bit, and ignoring the rest. Since I’m working full-time in a managerial role and I’m a full-time student getting a second bachelor’s degree, I’ll take what I can get.