Japanese Wrestling Association Co., Ltd.
Nihon Puroresu Kyōkai Kabushiki-kaisha
Acronym JWA
Type Private
Industry Professional wrestling
Founded July 30, 1953
Founder(s) Rikidozan
Defunct April 14, 1973
Style Puroresu
Area served Japan
Key people Rikidozan (owner)
Toyonobori (President)
Yoshinosato (Owner)
Parent National Wrestling Alliance

Japanese Wrestling Association (日本プロレス協会, Nihon Puroresu Kyōkai) and sometimes referred to as JWA by English-speaking fans, was the first professional wrestling and major wrestling promotion to be based in Japan. It operated from 1953 to 1973. It was founded by Rikidōzan in 1953. Although several other promotions opened between 1954 and 1957, JWA either closed or merged them all by 1958.

After Rikidōzan’s death in 1963, the company continued to operate as the nation’s premier wrestling circuit until challenged in the late 1960s by International Wrestling Enterprise , which featured the first major World heavyweight championship based in Japan, the IWA title. The JWA's top stars, Giant Baba and Antonio Inoki left to form their own promotions (All Japan Pro Wrestling and New Japan Pro Wrestling, respectively) in 1972. This led JWA out of business the following year.


JWA under Rikidōzan (1953–1963)Edit

Rikidozan, a former rikishi (sumo wrestling practitioner) who had debuted as a Western-style professional wrestler in 1951, decided in 1953 to establish a territory that would represent the National Wrestling Alliance in Japan.

In those early days, Japanese professional wrestlers came from out of the sumo or judo ranks; former sumotori usually used their shikona (Rikidōzan, Azumafuj, Toyonobori, etc.) while former judokas usually used their real names or modifications of them (Masahiko Kimura,Michiaki Yoshimura , etc.) Rikidōzan pushed himself as the top star of the promotion, first battling other Japanese wrestlers such as Kimura and Toshio Yamaguchi, but found a strong niche in feuds with American wrestlers such as Lou Thesz, The Destroyer and Bobo Brazil. In 1958 Rikidozan defeated Lou Thesz to win the title that would be the JWA's top title thereafter, the NWA International Heavyweight Championship. In another match, Thesz willingly agreed to put over Rikidozan at the expense of his own reputation. As a newly found hero to the war-weary Japanese masses, Rikidōzan expanded into several business ventures. Sadly it would result in his murder at the hands of a gangster in 1963, at the peak of his fame.

JWA after Rikidōzan (1963–1973)Edit

After Rikidōzan’s death in 1963, the company continued by a board of four executives: Toyonobori, Yoshinosato, Michiaki Yoshimura and Kokichi Endo with Tonobori as the main star. However, other three eventually decided to push Giant Baba as the next top draw. Toyonobori would later be expelled from the organization, and Yoshinosato would take over as the company president.

Toyonobori convinced the young Antonio Inoki, who was jealous with Baba's push, to join him to start a new promotion Tokyo Pro Wrestling. Tokyo Pro would not last long and continued to operate as the nation’s premier (and only male) wrestling circuit until challenged in the late 1960s by International Wrestling Enterprise, which featured the first major World heavyweight championship based in Japan, the IWA title. Inoki returned to JWA in 1967, and the era of the B-I Cannon (BI砲, Baba & Inoki) started. JWA joined the National Wrestling Alliance in 1969 after two years as an associate member.

In addition to Nippon Television, which had been broadcasting the JWA cards since the beginning, NET (today's TV Asahi) also started airing a weekly program for JWA in 1969. The three parties reached to an agreement that any match involving Baba would be aired on NTV while the NET show would feature Inoki as the star of the program. In 1971, Inoki planned a coup with Baba and some other wrestlers to take over the company management. However, Baba and others decided not to join Inoki, who found himself expelled from the company.

The JWA's top stars, Giant Baba and Antonio Inoki left to form their own promotions (All Japan Pro Wrestling and New Japan Pro Wrestling, respectively) in 1972. Although Seiji Sakaguchi once announced the merge of JWA and New Japan, Kintaro Ohki decided to keep JWA "alive" and the plan of the merge was dropped. Sakaguchi and his followers left JWA and joined NJPW. This lead NET (today's TV Asahi), which was also airing JWA's weekly show, to start airing New Japan cards instead.

With not-so-popular guys such as Ohki, Akihisa Takachiho, Umanosuke Ueda and The Great Kojika as the main eventers but no television station airing the matches, JWA closed in 1973. Most of the wrestlers joined All Japan but some of them, including Ohki, Ueda, and Gentetsu Matsuoka, would eventually leave the company since Baba did not treat former JWA guys equally.


Championship Last champion(s) Date won
Japanese Heavyweight Championship Rikidozan December 22, 1954
Japanese Junior Heavyweight Championship Yoshinosato August 19, 1960
Japanese Light Heavyweight Championship Isao Yoshihara October 19, 1960
All Japan Tag Team Championship Rikidozan and Toyonobori January 1960
All Asia Heavyweight Championship Kintaro Ohki Febuary 2, 1971
All Asia Tag Team Championship The Great Kojika and Gentetsu Matsuoka March 3, 1973
NWA International Heavyweight Championship Kintaro Ohki December 4, 1972
NWA International Tag Team Championship Giant Baba and Seiji Sakaguchi May 19, 1972
NWA United National Championship Antonio Inoki March 26, 1971

Annual tournamentsEdit

Tournament Last winner(s) Last held Created Ended Notes
World Big League Giant Baba May 12, 1972 1959 1972 JWA's biggest annual tournament round-robin tournament.
World Tag League Seiji Sakaguchi and Akihisa Takachiho October 31, 1972 1970 1972 JWA's annual tag team round-robin tournament.


This is not an exhaustive list, as the JWA was the only Japanese promotion until 1966 and many wrestlers, both Japanese who competed for a brief time and then retired, or foreigners who came for a single tour, were booked.

  • Lou Thesz
  • King Kong Czaya
  • Tiger Joginder Singh
  • Dara Singh
  • Freddie Blassie
  • The Destroyer
  • Bobo Brazil
  • The Sheik
  • Bill Dromo
  • Fritz Von Erich
  • Gene Kiniski
  • Syed Saif Shah
  • Bruno Sammartino
  • Dory Funk, Jr.
  • Terry Funk
  • Abdullah the Butcher
  • Mil Máscaras
  • Crusher Lisowski
  • Dick the Bruiser
  • Wilbur Snyder
  • Danny Hodge
  • Karl Gotch
  • Johnny Valentine
  • Harley Race
  • Mike Sharpe Sr.
  • Ben Sharpe
  • Bobby Bruns
  • Harold Sakata

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