Better known in the native language as "Zenjo", All Japan Women's Pro Wrestling (AJW) was a Japanese Women's Professional Wrestling (joshi puroresu, often shortened to just joshi) promotion that was founded in 1968 by the Matsunaga brothers and folded in 2005. AJW was the largest promotion during the glory days of joshi in the 1980s and 1990s.
It was also the last surviving of the joshi federations that had sprung up in response to Mildred Burke's World Women's Wrestling Association tour of Japan. It stayed afloat by securing continued bookings of WWWA and American Girls' Wrestling Association wrestlers.
The first major stars of AJW were the "Beauty Pair" of Jackie Sato and Maki Ueda in the 1970s. These paved the way for the stars of the 1980s, including Jaguar Yokota, the Crush Gals (Lioness Asuka and Chigusa Nagayo), and the Jumping Bomb Angels (Noriyo Tateno and Itsuki Yamazaki, who also appeared in the WWF in the 1980s). The Crush Gals in particular gained massive popularity, and their feud with mega-heel Dump Matsumoto and her gang generated nuclear levels of heat, packing arenas with screaming schoolgirls (some of whom would go on to become the next generation of joshi wrestlers) and drawing a bigger television audience than WWF and WCW combined at their peak of popularity.
During this time, AJW had a policy that all of their wrestlers had to retire once they reached the age of 25 (they were also the only joshi promotion in Japan until JWP was formed in 1986). This meant the Crush Gals retired in 1989, which was a huge blow to AJW's popularity. However, it also cleared the way for a new generation of stars, including Manami Toyota (now a practically-certified joshi legend), Aja Kong, Akira Hokuto, Kyoko Inoue, Takako Inoue, and LCO (Las Cacchoras Orientales), Mima Shimoda and Etsuko Mita.
By the mid-1990s, there were several joshi promotions, and the "retire at 25" policy was abandoned, allowing the Crush Gals (among others) to return (ironically, given their famous feud with Dump Matsumoto, as monster heels that beat up the new generation of cute, young faces). However, this meant AJW had the same problem as many other wrestling promotions: the veterans wanted to hold onto their spots at the top of the card, and they weren't willing to give them up to newer wrestlers. This, combined with financial mismanagement by the owners and the general decline in the popularity of pro wrestling in the early 2000s, led to AJW losing its TV deal in 2002, and eventually folding in 2005. However, its legacy of housing arguably the greatest women's wrestlers - and some of the best women's wrestling matches - in the history of the industry remains.
All Japan Pro Wrestling is a wholly separate organisation.
AJW Wrestlers with pages on TV Tropes
Tropes associated With All Japan Womens Pro Wresting:
- Action Girl or Dark Action Girl: The entire roster, excepting some special guests in the 1990s.
- Amazon Chaser: The singer in Takako Inoue's theme, "She is a Knockout", sings about how he's fallen for her because she can kick his ass.
- And Now For Something Completely Different
- In the early 1990s they started putting men with silly gimmicks like Mr. Buddhaman and The Great Little Muta in the opening match. This may have been the result of deciding to use the midgets titles that were held over from the WWWA but at the AJW Wrestlemarinepiad II in 1990, Xóchitl Hamada's father teamed up with Kendo and Último Dragón to take on Los Brazos for the UWA trios titles, which was especially different since Zenjo had no division for tercia matches.
- Zenjo's hosted shoot fights, boxing matches, kick boxing, amateur wrestling matches and mixed style fights in addition to it's primary bread maker of traditional joshi wrestling alongside each other on the same cards, most famously at Super Woman Great Big War which had JWP, Shoot Boxing and Michinoku Pro Wrestling athletes all booked.
- Card-Carrying Villain: The Atrocious Alliance
- Challenging the Bully: The feud between the Crush Gals (Lioness Asuka and Chigusa Nagayo) and Dump Matsumoto's Atrocious Alliance in the mid-80s is a famous example. The Atrocious Alliance ran rampant through AJW, and the Crush Gals were the underdog Faces standing up to them. The heat generated from the audience was comparable to what Hulk Hogan was getting at the same time in the US.
- Christmas Cake: The "retire at 25" policy.
- Character Overlap: Makai Majo Gundan was a part of that New Japan's Makai club and featured in younger Joshi fed M's Style
- Commuting on a Bus: Bull Nakano especially while wrestling in North America, as she would bring CMLL World Women's title belt back with her. Las Cachorras Orientales with UWA's Women's Tag Team belts.
- Costume Porn: During the 1980s and 90s Joshi promotions were infamous for overspending on ring gear, making sure it was not only sturdy enough to last for years but also really eye catching, and Zenjo in the wake of the Beauty Pair was the driving force behind that. In the event someone like The Crush Gals opted to wear unremarkable leotards or singlets Zenjo would still buy they really entrance gear to wear over before the bell rang.
- Determinator: Enshrined in their motto, "Victory Through Guts".
- Early Installment Weirdness
- Bull Nakano's run as junior heavyweight champion, where she stopped being Bull Nakano for a year.
- Mariko Yoshida's early time as an energetic high flier. She'd become much more famous introducing non Lucha Libre fans to the various intricate submission holds used in the style and combining them with old school catch techniques to keep as much of the match on the mat as possible.
- '80s Hair: Surprisingly tame, but there were enough noticeable cases during the 1980s, such as Dump Matsumoto(11,000 fans came to see if Chigusa would be successful in getting it shaved), as well as Mexicans Irma González and Irma Águilar.
- Evil vs. Evil: Downplayed with Gokumon-to vs Jungle Jack, as the latter were faces by default when they faced off, played a little straighter when Gokumon-to fought Las Cachorras Orientales, as it was brute force cheats vs underhanded cheats.
- Face Palm Of Doom: Face two palms of doom. Devil Masami liked to get her hands over the faces of rookies and smother them.
- Foreign Wrestling Heel: Relied pretty heavily on using WWWA and AGWA women in this role for the early years of its existence, though use of them started to decline as their own stars, such as the Beauty Pair, became established.
- Evil Counterpart: The original Black Pair were this to The Beauty Pair...even though Beauty Pair themselves frequently wore black... while the second Black Pair were this to Golden Pair. Distressingly both Black Pairs proved to be superior tag teams to their good counterparts, although Jakie Sato and Nancy Kumi were able to defeat the original Black Pair for the belts by teaming with each other instead of their regular partners. Kumi used the trick again with her Queen Angels rival Lucy Kayama to win the belts from the second Black Pair.
- Garbage Wrestler The Dump Matsumoto gang and the FMW migrants
- Gimmick Matches
- Thunder Queen, a series of Ironman matches between two teams of four, was one of their signatures. Rather than a single hour long match, each member would have a five minute Ironman match before both teams had a forty minute one.
- The kickboxing proved popular enough for a "martial arts" title belt in which all matches for it were contested under kickboxing rules to last for half of the 1990s. There were only two title reigns, however, and only Bat Yoshinaga really got any mileage out of it.
- Glass Cannon: Chaparrita ASARI, the face of the WWWA Super Lightweight division, was only a super lightweight by men's standards, being much more muscular(and thus heavier) than most women. She was short however, and thus easily knocked over and thrown about, but still able to compete in the "higher" junior heavyweight class fairly easily.
- Improbable Weapon User: Dump Matsumoto's scissors, Infernal Kaoru's wooden board
- Japanese Delinquents: Dump Matsumoto and the Atrocious Alliance.
- Licensed Game: Body Slam A Sega Arcade game starring Dump Matsumoto with captain ersatzes of her rivals on the Zenjo roster.
- Lovely Angels
- Many in the tag team division.
- The Beauty Pair served as the inspiration for the Dirty Pair. Mixing up tag partners with Golden Pair to dethrone Black Pair and Golden Pair mixing with Queen Angels against their successors were even more obvious examples.
- Martial Arts Uniform: Chigusa Nagayo used a gi as her warm up gear and entrance attire.
- One Steve Limit
- Ignored when Kaoru Ito was paired with Kaoru Maeda. Two was enough though, as Dump Matsumoto's first name is also Kaoru.
- Acknowledged but not used with Kyoko Inoue and Takako Inoue, who had no relation beyond teaming as Double Inoue(or W Inoue).
- Portmanteau Series Nickname: Zen Nihon Joshi Puroresu: Zenjo
- Revival: New AJW in 2006, which lasted about five years.
- Serial Escalation: From about 1991 to 1996 the whole promotion managed to continually not only top itself but the rest of the industry in ways not even previously conceived.
- Screaming Warrior: Also known as "AJW screeching", it was a pretty common trait.
- Spiritual Successor: Most obviously to the All Japan Women's Pro Wrestling Federation, which it is only one word removed from but also to the All Japan Women's Wrestling Club, the very first women's pro wrestling organization in Japan and the first company to treat women's pro wrestling as serious competition. Zenjo's most obvious successor is World Wonder Ring ST★RDOM, which went as far as to use the same red\white motif the WWWA title belts had.
- The Dreaded: When FMW established a women's division, the wrestlers it employed became feared by all but the bravest of Zenjo.
- The 'Verse: The WWWA and AGWA titles from the United States and the IWA Women's title from Canada were regularly defended in AJW. The former two were revived as AJW's title belts after the promotions went under, a WWWA belt being considered the top prize for Zenjo wrestlers in any division and by extension, the top titles in women's pro wrestlers in general.
- Tournament Arc: The Japan Grand Prix for starters. The premier tournament was Tag League The Best, which ended up being continued by JWP after Zenjo's closing.
- Training from Hell: Their dojo was infamous for its toughness. American wrestler Leilani Kai, who trained there, said:"We got up at 5 a.m. Running and skipping rope were a big part of our conditioning program. We would take the same bumps over and over. Each day we gave and took a hundred body slams. Our trainers also taught us kick boxing and the use of martial arts weapons. Before going to Japan I thought I had good wrestling skills. The skills that were learned in Japan were extreme to me. Moolah's school was the best school in the U.S. The skills learned in Japan started where Moolah's school left off."
- Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny: Versus "shoot style" Ladies Legend Pro Wrestling in the 1990s.
- World of Action Girls: Not just an all women's promotion but from the 1980s to mid 2000s, also considered the world's greatest women's promotion. Any rookie that came out of their dojo and wasn't immediately lost in the sea of talent by a year's time would already be considered among the best in the world.