The first joshi puroresu (women's pro-wrestling in Japan) organization was "All Japan Women's Wrestling Club", founded in 1948 by the Ikari Brothers, vaudevillians who mainly promoted the comical "garter stripping" matches. However, their shows eventually became more sexual and lost popularity.
After Rikidozan, father of puroresu, debuted in 1951, joshi puroresu also started gaining attentions. The first WWWA World champion Mildred Burke and five other wrestlers, along with four Japanese natives, toured Japan in November, 1954. Around this time, a number of joshi puroresu organizations were founded throughout Japan in addition to the existing group by the Ikari Brothers.
One of five other organizations during this time was All Japan Women's Pro-Wrestling Federation, whose stars included Reiko Yoshiba, an older sister of Takashi Matsunaga.
In August 1955, All Japan Women's Pro-Wrestling Association was formed to oversee these organizations. The following month had tournaments All Japan championships in nine weight divisions. It was two months before male pro-wrestling organizations had similar championships. This alliance did not last long as promotional war among the member organizations killed the popularity of the sport. In 1967, a similar attempt was made when Japan Women's Pro-Wrestling Association was formed, and one of the members was Takashi Matsunaga, who took over All Japan Women's Pro-Wrestling Federation. The Association reached a deal with Faboulas Moolah, who came to Japan and traded her world title with Yukiko Tomoe in 1968. However, the Association also split after the tour due to conflicts between the members.
Takashi Matsunaga and his brothers left the Association and founded All Japan Women's Pro-Wrestling Corporation in 1968. The quasi-monopoly of the Matsunaga Brothers started. In the same year, Fuji Television airead joshi puroresu for the first time. Finally in 1970, the second WWWA World champion Marie Vagnone loses the title to Aiko Kyo, who became the first Japanese to win the title. The title stayed in Japan thereafter.
In March 1974, "Mach" Fumiake Watanabe, who went to the final of an teen idol singer audition "Star Tanjoh", joined AJWPW. Mach Fumiake became the first female pro-wrestler in the country to have to release a song record. She also defeated Jumbo Miyamoto in March 1975 to become the youngest to be the world champion at the age of sixteen.
Fumiake's pro-wrestling career lasted less than three years as she went to show business full time in January 1976. In the following month, 16-years old Maki Ueda and 18-years old Jackie Sato win WWWA World Tag Team Title, recently vacated by Fumiake. The new team, Beauty Pair, also became a national celebrity as their song from 1976 "Kakemeguru Seishun" sold 400,000 copies. In 1977, they won the "new singer of the year" in various music awards.
The era of Beauty Pair ended when Ueda lost a loser-must-retire match against Jackie in February 1979. AJWPW suffers the popularity until new era was started in 1981 by three stars: Jaguar Yokota, Mimi Hagiwara, and Devil Masami.
In 1983, Lioness Asuka and Chigusa Nagayo formed Crush Gals, which would become a national phenom. In 1985, over 680 girls gathered at the audition of AJWPW due to the popularity of Crush Gals. Their feud against Gokuaku Domei (Dump Matsumoto, Crane Yu, Bull Nakano, etc.) sold out almost every card.
The monopoly of AJWPW ended in 1986 when Japan Women's Pro-Wrestling was formed with Jackie Sato, Nancy Kumi, and Shinobu Kandori as the top stars. The promotion later splits into JWP Project and Ladies' Legend Pro-Wrestling in 1992. Also, Atsushi Onita started Frontier Martial-arts Wrestilng in 1989 with several female pro-wrestlers in its roster.
The early 1990s saw co-promoting between joshi puroresu organizations as they promoted all-star cards in 1993 and the first ever joshi puroresu card at Tokyo Dome in 1995. Still, AJWPW stayed as the dominant force of joshi puroresu throughout this period.
However, the promotion would suffer higher competitions as more new promotions were started in the mid 1990s, noticeably GAEA Japan by Chigusa Nagayo in 1994 and Arsion by former AJWPW business manager Hiroshi Ogawa in 1997. Also with existing financial problem, the wrestlers continued to leave the dying promotion.
Finally in 2005, AJWPW closed its door after 37 years of the great history. The last card was promoted by a third party while the Chairman Takashi Matsunaga was in hospital due to diabetes, and soon after, President Kunimatsu Matsunaga committed suicide.
Although its ending was rather miserable, the legacy of All Japan Women's Pro-Wrestling is and will be unforgettable.
* Sources: various Japanese magazines.