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|Founder(s)||the Matsunaga brothers|
|Founder(s)||the Matsunaga brothers|
All Japan Women's Pro-Wrestling (全日本女子プロレス Zennihon Joshi Puroresu?), nicknamed Zenjo (全女: 全 meaning "All", 女 meaning "Woman") was a joshi puroresu (women's professional wrestling) promotion established in 1968 by Takashi Matsunaga and his brothers. The group held their first card on June 4 of that year. For many years it had a TV program on Fuji TV.
The All Japan Women's Pro-Wrestling Corporation, established in 1968, was the successor to the All Japan Women's Pro-Wrestling Association, which had been formed in August 1955, to oversee the plethora of women's wrestling promotions that had sprung up in Japan following a tour in November, 1954, by Mildred Burke and her World Women's Wrestling Association (WWWA). These promotions included the All Japan Women's Pro-Wrestling Federation, and the All Japan Women's Wrestling Club, started in 1948, which was the first women's wrestling promotion in Japan. For a time the Club pushed female wrestling as a legitimate sport, booking sporting arenas.
By the mid-60s, the Association had fallen apart, due to infighting between the member promotions, and female wrestling was relegated back to being a sideshow act in strip-tease theaters. In 1967, another attempt to organize the sport of women's professional wrestling was made with a new All Japan Women's Pro-Wrestling Association. This time the Fabulous Moolah, the NWA Women's Champion, came across from the United States and traded her title with Yukiko Tomoe, to lend legitimacy to the promotion. Unfortunately, the new Association broke up later that year. Finally, Takashi Matsunaga, who had been the promoter for All Japan Women's Pro-Wrestling Federation, formed the All Japan Women's Pro-Wrestling Corporation (AJW) with his brothers. The promotion held its first card on June 4, 1968 and got a television deal with Fuji TV in the same year.
In the fall of 1970, AJW, which had been contesting the American Girls' Wrestling Association Championship since the previous year, hosted Marie Vagnone, new holder of Mildred Burke's WWWA World Heavyweight Championship which had been revived in a WWWA tournament earlier that year in Los Angeles. On October 15, 1970, in Tokyo, Vagnone lost the WWWA title to Aiko Kyo, and AJW had a new world championship singles belt. The next year, AJW acquired the WWWA World Tag Team Championship as well, when Jumbo Miyamoto and Aiko Kyo were made the first champions on June 30, 1971.
During the early 1970s, AJW's championship booking was dominated by the traditional trading between a Japanese face and a foreign (usually North American) heel. The tag belt, for example, was traded fifty-six times between 1971 and 1975, each time between a Japanese team and an American team. This pattern began to change in 1975 with the new stardom of Mach Fumiake and the Beauty Pair (Jackie Sato and Maki Ueda). On March 19, 1975, Mach Fumiake won the WWWA Championship from Jumbo Miyamoto, breaking the pattern in the singles division. After that, only three non-Japanese women ever won the belt, the Canadian Monster Ripper, on July 31, 1979 and March 15, 1980, the Mexican La Galactica, on May 7, 1983, and the American Amazing Kong, on June 4, 2004.
During the 1980s, AJW continued to feature extraordinarily talented and popular female wrestlers, including Wrestling Observer Newsletter (WON) Hall of Famers Jaguar Yokota, Devil Masami, Dump Matsumoto, and the Crush Gals (Chigusa Nagayo and Lioness Asuka), and Bull Nakano. The feud between the pop culture sensations, the Crush Gals, and the heel stable, Gokuaku Domei, led by Matsumoto, was possibly the most popular angle in all of Japanese wrestling during the 1980s, bringing very high ratings to AJW's weekly television program.
Up until 1986, AJW had been the only major women's wrestling (joshi puroresu or simply joshi) promotion in Japan. Then, on August 17, 1986, Japan Women's Pro-Wrestling (JWP) was started, by former AJW stars Jackie Sato and Nancy Kumi, as well as boxer Rumi Kazama and others. In the 1990s the number of joshi puroresu promotions kept increasing, until, by the end of the decade, there were no fewer than seven operating in Japan.
Though AJW remained the strongest joshi promotion during this period, featuring stars such as WON Hall of Famers Akira Hokuto, Aja Kong and Manami Toyota, plus unheralded stars Kyoko Inoue, Toshiyo Yamada, Takako Inoue, Mariko Yoshida, Mima Shimoda and others, eventually matters caught up with them. Financial trouble, defections of talent, and increased competition all combined to weaken the once-dominant promotion.
In 2002 AJW lost its television spot, and the promotion closed its doors in April 2005 after 37 years, making it the longest-running promotion in Japan up to that time (New Japan Pro Wrestling and All Japan Pro Wrestling for men have since reached 42 years as of 2014).
The most notable annual events in AJW were the Japan Grand Prix and Tag League the Best. The Japan Grand Prix was held each summer, from 1985 to 2004, and was a tournament to determine the number one contender for the WWWA World Heavyweight Championship, similar to the G1 Climax or Champion Carnival in the men's major promotions. Tag League the Best was held each fall, also from 1985 to 2004, and was a tag team tournament.
AJW also held several regular annual events during the 1990s. The first was Wrestlemarinpiad, which was held in the fall or spring from 1989 to 1997, and for the last time in 2000. Also prominent was Wrestling Queendom, held from 1993 to 1997, the first held in November and the rest in the end of March.
The AJW Hall of Fame had its first inducted class enshrined on November 29, 1998 at the Yokohama Arena in Yokohama, Japan. This was at AJW's 30th anniversary event. All but two members of the Hall of Fame (indicated with a †)were inducted at the initial ceremony.