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puroresu.com: History of Puroresu: Pre-JWA Period

Pre-1940s


Sorakichi Matsuda
Sorakichi Matsuda


Mythological/Ancient Period

668 B.C.In the 23rd (ancient) Olympic Games, both boxing and (greco-roman) wrestling start as official contests.
628 B.C.In the 33rd (ancient) Olympic Games, pancratium starts as an official contest.
ca. 500 B.C.According to the Kojiki (Record of Ancient Matters, a book of legends from the year 712, which is the oldest extant example of Japanese writing), Takemikazuchi defeats Takeminakata in a grappling match on the shores of Izumo (today's Shimane Prefecture) for the control over the Izumo territory. Takemikazuchi, the leader of Japanese people, is said to have established the imperial family from which the present emperor traces his ancestry. This is the first recorded grappling in Japan.
23 B.C.According to the Nihon Shoki (Chronicles of Japan, a book from the year 720), Emperor Suinin (r. 29BC - AD70) is said to have made a special request to Nomi-no Sukune, a potter from Izumo, to fight Taima-no Kehaya, a bully and braggart from what is now Nara Prefecture. The two grapple for quite a while until Sukune finally renders some devastating kicks to Kehaya's stomach and solar plexus. Kehaya is mortally wounded, and Sukune, the winner, has been immortalized ever since as the "father of sumo." (Note: "Sumo" also means wrestling/grappling in general. The greco-roman/catch-as-catch-can style wrestling used to be known as "western sumo" in Japan) This is believed to be the first recorded no-holds-barred match in Japan.
642/02/22To entertain the officials from Kudara(a nation in the southern part of the Korean Peninsula), the soldiers who are drafted from all over Japan are assigned to have sumo matches. This is neither mythological nor legendary but is the oldest written record of an actual grappling match.
734/07 Imperical sumo ceremony Emperor Shomu organizes a sumo event with rikishi (sumo wrestlers) drafted from all over Japan. This becomes an annual Imperial sumo ceremony (sechie) between July,734 and 1174. Today's sumo style is said to be originated during this period.

The 13th Century

A military dictatorship begins in 1192. Sumo starts being regarded chiefly for its military usefulness and as a means of increasing the efficiency of the fighting men. Later in the hands of the samurai (soldiers), juujitsu is developed as an offshoot of sumofighting technique and training method for soldiers.

The 15th Century

Many sumo cards are organized by the feudal lords for entertaiment. Some rikishi start organizing the full-time rikishi groups during this time.

The 19th Century

1882 Kodokan (judo institute) is founded by Jigoro Kanoh, who himself has established judo by deriving from juujitsu.
1883 Sorakichi Matsuda, a rikishi, goes to the United States and becomes the first Japanese pro-wrestler. Shokichi Hamada, known as Sangokuyama in sumo, also leaves for the U.S. to become a pro-wrestler.
1884/01/14 At Irving Hall in New York, Matsuda has his first match as a catch-as-catch-can style wrestler, losing two out of three falls to Edwin Bibby only in 32 seconds in the first fall and 2'19" in the second fall.
1887/05/05Hamada brings 20 American wreslers for the cards in Kobiki-cho in the Tsukiji district of Tokyo. It is sold out only on the first day just because it is something people have never seen but not after the second day. The first attempt of pro-wrestling in Japan fails.
1887/06/01 Gankichi Saito requests the Metropolitan Police Department for the permission to promote a card with more than ten "western rikishis" in Tsukiji.
1887/06/18 A sumo card is held with the rikishis Tsurugiyama, Ichinoya, Nishi-no-umi, and the gaijins including "Webster" and "Johnson".

 

The Early 20th Century

1905/05/04 George Hackenschmidt, who has been claiming the World Heavyweight Title since winning the tournaments in 1901, defeats the American Heavyweight champion Tom Cannon in New York, NY to become the Undisputed World Heavyweight champion.
1908/04/03 Gotch vs. Hackenschmidt American Heavyweight Champion Frank Gotch defeats George Hackenschmidt to win the Undisputed World Heavyweight Title in Chicago, IL.
1914 or 1915 The World Light Heavyweight Champion Ad Santel defeats judoka Tokugoro Itoh, a 5-dan (5th degree black belt), for a judo match in San Francisco. Santel wins when Ito cracks his head and is unable to continue. Santel claims to be the "World Judo Champion."
1917/10/20 Ad Santel meets Taro Miyake in Seattle. Santel slams Miyake so hard that Miyake has "dizzy spells for half an hour after the fall."
1917/11/02 Ad Santel defeats Daisuke Sakai, a Kodokan 4-dan in the Seattle Dojo, in San Francisco.
21/03/05 Ad Santel goes to Japan and challenges the Kodokan. Although Kodokan orders its judokas not to accept the challenge, Reijiro Nagata (5-dan) and Hikoo Shoji (4-dan) take the challenge. They hold the wrestling vs. judo cards for two days at the Yasukuni Shrine Sumo Hall. Santel defeats Nagata by TKO in the first day.
21/03/06Ad Santel draws with Hikoo Shoji after fighting for three 20 minute falls.
24/11/14Rikidozan is born Kim Sin-Nak in today's North Korea.
28 Taro Miyake, who has become a wrestler in the U.S., comes back to Japan and tours with three other wrestlers. However, pro-wrestling fails to sell tickets in Japan.
29 Hikoo Shoji, who has been to the U.S. with Ad Santel, comes back to Japan and announces the entrance of the Japanese judo into the US. In exchange, the amateur wrestling starts in Japan with a help of Ichiro Yada and co..
32 Hikoo Shoji wrestles for the Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
38/01/23Shohei Baba is born in Sanjo, Niigata.
39 Hikoo Shoji, Kiyoshi Kato, and other judokas found the Japan Pro-Wrestling Alliance. They promote in the places such as the reclaimed lands. The promotion is unsuccessful, however.


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