Joshimania is running wild in the United States.
Since the beginning of 2023, there’s been an unprecedented interest in Joshi wrestling stateside, an interest that hasn’t been seen since the time of the Crush Gals and Jumping Bomb Angels in the 80s. When Mercedes Moné opened the forbidden door on January 4th at Wrestle Kingdom to announce her intentions to take over New Japan Pro Wrestling & Stardom, new opportunities opened up for North American women’s wrestlers to compete with Japan’s most prestigious wrestling promotions. However, in recent months, we’ve seen more examples of Japanese women (Joshi) wrestlers seeking to make their mark overseas.
During Wrestlemania weekend in Los Angeles, the women of Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling (TJPW) performed in front of a sold-out crowd at the Globe Theater. TJPW’s show was widely regarded as one of the weekend’s highlights and fans were left with an appetite for more Joshi wrestling in the U.S. Two of TJPW’s biggest stars, Maki Itoh & Miyu Yamashita, have been working rigorous international schedules ranging from AEW/ROH appearances to wrestling for popular independent promotions like GCW & Prestige. Long-time TJPW star Yuka Sakazaki announced in May that she plans to graduate from TJPW in December and become U.S based in 2024. Sakazaki is also signed to AEW and notably had a violent rivalry with Athena for the ROH Women’s World Championship earlier this year.
On the other side of Joshi wrestling, Stardom’s All-Star Grand Queendom event on April 23 was the largest women’s wrestling event in recent memory, with a huge increase in international viewership due to Moné’s participation. Wrestling fans have been clamoring for Stardom wrestlers to perform in the U.S. but the company’s rigorous schedule and booking discretion has made international expansion difficult. However, two of Stardom’s biggest stars expressed their desire to wrestle overseas in recent weeks. On June 25 at the Stardom Sunshine event, ⅓ of the Artist of Stardom champions, Giulia challenged then-NJPW Strong Women’s Champion Willow Nightingale for the title. The two squared off on July 5 at the NJPW Strong Independence Day event in Korakuen Hall where Giulia won the championship and pledged to defend the title all over the world.
Courtesy of NJPW
On July 2 after picking up the win with her Queen’s Quest comrades, in a post-match promo Utami Hayashishita cryptically said that she’d be taking time to figure out her future before Stardom’s 5 Star Grand Prix tournament kicks off in late July. The next day, she was announced for a short tour in the U.S. with 3 shows in GCW, unprecedented for a Stardom-contracted talent. The first two matches took place this past weekend versus Billie Starkz and Janai Kai respectively and the third is on July 14th versus Lufisto. Hayashishita was met with a huge reception amongst fans and those in attendance remarked that her meet & greet line was packed with fans eager to meet the Red Queen in person.
Beyond the happenings in Japan, Joshi wrestling has been popular amongst American TV promotions as well. The most acclaimed women’s matches in AEW history have been based on the Joshi style with talents like Hikaru Shida, Riho, Emi Sakura, and former Stardom champions Toni Storm & Jamie Hayter. In WWE, Asuka is in her third reign as Women’s Champion, and Iyo Sky, one of the original three Daughters of Stardom, won this year’s Money In The Bank briefcase.
Courtesy of WWE
It’s beyond impressive how many of these women have already built an audience and fanbase in the West with language barriers and limited promotion. The growth of global Joshi wrestling is proof that complex characters and quality matches are what continue to make pro wrestling its own language, not bound by words and letters but by passion and technique. Recent reports of a new (and currently unnamed) U.S based Joshi promotion launching in September have made headlines with the legendary Bull Nakano being named as one of the leaders involved in the project.
With all of this being said, it’s clear that the demand for Joshi wrestling around the world is at an all-time high. Japanese wrestling has long been regarded as the best wrestling in the world and when Joshi wrestlers get in the ring with opponents from different styles and backgrounds, everyone wins. In the coming days and months, it’s hard to tell which way the forbidden door will swing. One thing’s for sure, this door is determined to open and the wrestling world will be better for it when it does.