It’s pretty safe to assume that the WWE is behind the times on most things. It took them years to catch up with extreme wrestling, years to realize the talent thriving in the indie scene, and years to finally recognize women as a force in professional wrestling. Somehow, in 2018, the WWE isn’t last to this particular party. NJPW is a wonderful alternative to what the WWE offers. Where the WWE focuses on inane stories that prattle on and take months to lead to matches worth watching. New Japan has a must see match nearly every show, and keep storytelling mostly inside the the ring. There is one glaring exception. When it comes to women’s wrestling NJPW is severely lacking.
There is no women’s division in NJPW. In fact it’s highly likely that any given New Japan show won’t feature any women at all, unless you count the crowd. Even with the influx of wrestlers from ROH and elsewhere, NJPW has staunchly remained a men’s only promotion. Even as the WWE promotes their homegrown women’s “revolution,” New Japan is sitting silently. Occasionally when women do show up in the promotion it’s in the worst ways.
Yujiro Takahashi is known at the “Tokyo Pimp” and he’s a ladies man out of 90’s wrestling. He walks to the ring with a scantily dressed lady on his arm who typically dances and entices while he watches on. It gets worse when you spot the dozen or so cameraman constantly taking pictures and the camera zooms in, up, and down Yujiro’s valet. It’s tantalizing and disgusting, a stark reminder that NJPW isn’t the perfect respite from the WWE. It’s not a Japanese thing either, plenty of other promotions promote and celebrate their own roster of women wrestlers.
DDT Pro-Wrestling might be Japan’s second best known promotion. It’s where Kenny Omega and Kota Ibushi began to cement their legacies. And it’s where a generation of Japanese women are beginning their own revolution of impressive matches. Beginning in 2015, DDT opened a wrestling school for women and the effort is clearing yielding results. The division is a colorful mix of anime, idol worship, and badass women’s wrestling.
It’s hard to wrestle my love for NJPW and everything that isn’t WWE’s horrendous version of modern day wrestling. However it’s been women’s wrestling, over and over, that’s typically pulled me back into the WWE. Even as the women’s division has floundered and staled over time, I’m still curious to see where it goes. Maybe as women continue to steal the show NJPW will wake up to the opportunity they’re missing. Until then I’ll have to divide my attention and skip past the Tokyo Pimp entrances.