A Brief History Behind Japan’s ‘Pro Wrestling NOAH’

I figured that now was as good a time as any to talk about one of my favorite pro wrestling promotions NOT located in the United States, and show some love to Pro Wrestling NOAH, straight outta Japan! Pro Wrestling Noah (spelled in Japanese as “プロレスリングノア” pronounced “Puroresuringu Noa”, often referred to as “PW Noah” or just “Noah“) is a major Japanese professional wrestling promotion, founded in 2000 by former All Japan Pro Wrestling superstar Mitsuharu Misawa. The promotion’s name is inspired by the Biblical story of Noah, in which the people and animals in the ark survive the flood and make a new beginning in the world, a story which somewhat parallels to the story of many of the wrestlers’ departure from All Japan to the new promotion. Noah’s promotional symbol is an ark with a dove holding an olive branch, which directly refers to the story of Noah.

Mitsuharu Misawa and Go Shiozaki on May 6, 2009

In January 1999, All Japan Pro Wrestling founder and promoter Giant Baba passed away, effectively leaving the company in the hands of his widow Motoko Baba as owner and Mitsuharu Misawa as president. However, disheartened with Motoko Baba’s proposed direction for the promotion, Misawa left the promotion on May 28, 2000 and formed a brand new promotion called Pro Wrestling Noah. A mass exodus of wrestlers followed Misawa to PW Noah, except for two native All Japan stars (Masanobu Fuchi and Toshiaki Kawada) and two gaijin/”non-Japanese wrestlers” (Stan Hansen and Maunakea Mossman). In a sense, Pro Wrestling Noah is a continuation of All Japan’s promotional system in the 1990s, however the new promotion allowed some slight leeway in allowing wrestlers from other promotions to compete, which is something that All Japan founder Giant Baba forbade. The PW Noah roster also features a strong junior heavyweight division (also lacking from All Japan), which former All japan young talent who never got pushed there (such as Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Kenta and Naomichi Marufuji) quickly became top stars in PW Noah.  A spinoff league also exists, called Pro Wrestling Sem, and similar to New Japan Pro Wrestling’s “Young Lions” system, PW Sem operates as a training facility for rookies (a’la WWE’s “NXT” promotion/brand) with Naomichi Marufuji and Kenta acting as trainers. In similar naming fashion, Pro Wrestling Sem is TOO a reference to the Biblical story of Noah, as Sem was Noah’s eldest son.

 

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