Wrestle-1is a Japanese professional wrestling promotion, founded in July 2013 by Keiji Mutoh following his resignation from All Japan Pro Wrestling. The core of the promotion's roster was formed by wrestlers loyal to Mutoh, who left All Japan in a mass exodus during June 2013. Mutoh serves as the president of the promotion and runs it through a kabushiki gaisha named GEN Sports Entertainment.The promotion held its first event on September 8, 2013, at Tokyo Dome City Hall.
The promotion shares its name with a series of professional wrestling events run by All Japan, K-1 and Pride Fighting Championships in the first half of the 2000s, but it is not considered a direct continuation of that project.
On November 1, 2012, IT company Speed Partners bought 100% of All Japan Pro Wrestling shares from main shareholder Keiji Mutoh and his business partners for ¥200 million. In late May 2013, Speed Partners president Nobuo Shiraishi fired All Japan president, Mutoh's longtime right-hand man Masayuki Uchida, and took over as the promotion's new president himself effective June 1, which led to Mutoh resigning as the chairman of the board and leaving the promotion. For the next weeks, Mutoh attempted to buy back his shares of the promotion from Speed Partners, but eventually gave up the attempt before the end of the month. During the rest of June, Masakatsu Funaki, Kaz Hayashi, Shuji Kondo, Ryota Hama,Hiroshi Yamato, Masayuki Kono, Koji Kanemoto, Minoru Tanaka, Yasufumi Nakanoueno, Kai, Seiya Sanada, and Andy Wu all announced their resignation from All Japan out of loyalty to Mutoh and left the promotion following a June 30 event in Ryōgoku Kokugikan, which marked the official end of the eleven-year-long "Mutoh All Japan".
On July 10, Mutoh held a press conference to announce the foundation of his new promotion, named "Wrestle-1". Mutoh got the name from a series of professional wrestling events that were produced by his All Japan, K-1 and Pride Fighting Championships between 2002 and 2005. Wrestle-1 continues Mutoh's brand of "Pro Wrestling Love", which he had launched after taking over All Japan in 2002. Mutoh dubbed Wrestle-1's style of puroresu "Fighting Entertainment". The press conference was also attended by Funaki, Hama, Hayashi, Kai, Kondo, Kono, Nakanoueno, Tanaka and Yamato. Andy Wu would also join the promotion, once he returned from an excursion to Mexico, along with trainees Brian Ishizaka, Daiki Inaba and Seiki Yoshioka, ring announcer Makoto Abe and referees Daichi Murayama and Daisuke Kanbayashi. The promotion announced its inaugural event for September 8, 2013, at Tokyo Dome City Hall. At the press conference, Mutoh stated that Wrestle-1 was open to working with other promotions and that he was looking to use Taiwan as a stepping stone towards an Asian and eventually global expansion. Mutoh also stated that he was open to the idea of having a women's division in Wrestle-1. On July 26, the Gaora television station announced that it would broadcast the inaugural event, as well as a 30-minute preview show, live on its channels. On July 30, Mutoh met with Jeff Jarrett in Nashville, Tennessee, United States to discuss a possible working relationship between Wrestle-1 and Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA). Jarrett was later announced as a participant in Wrestle-1's October 6 event. Mutoh later also revealed that he wanted to form partnerships with promotions in Europe and Mexico, specifically mentioning Asistencia Asesoría y Administración (AAA), and create a "true" world championship that would be recognized on three continents. On August 9, Mutoh revealed the promotion's official logo and a partial card for the inaugural event. Also announced was a sponsorship deal with the Ezaki Glico confectionery company, with its sales department and product manager Hiroki Kuwabara signed to Wrestle-1 as a conditioning coach.
was Wrestle-1's inaugural event, which took place on September 8, 2013, at Tokyo Dome City Hall. On August 9, Wrestle-1 released the first partial card for the event, which revealed only the Wrestle-1 signed workers taking part in the event, but none of their partners or opponents. The event featured a women's match and the Japanese in-ring debut of Daiki Inaba. None of the other workers were revealed before the event, though Mutoh stated that TNA wrestlers would not be taking part in the event. The event aired in Japan on Gaora and internationally on internet pay-per-view (iPPV) through Niconico and Ustream. Tickets to the 2,500 seat arena were sold out the day they went on sale. Sports journalist Dave Meltzer wrote that this, coupled with All Japan's recent decline in attendance numbers, showed that "fans are taking group as the real future of All Japan rather than All Japan". The event featured outside participation from several freelancers as well as wrestlers from Big Japan Pro Wrestling, Dragon Gate, Michinoku Pro Wrestling, New Japan Pro Wrestling, Pro Wrestling Zero1 and World Wonder Ring Stardom. Koji Kanemoto, René Duprée, Seiya Sanada and Zodiac, who were with All Japan prior to Mutoh's departure, but had not announced their affiliation with Wrestle-1, made surprise appearances during the event. In fact, Duprée, who took part in the main event, was still officially All Japan's reigning Gaora TV Champion at the time of the event. Duprée returned the title belt to All Japan three days after the event. Kenta Kobashi, who had the previous March announced that he would be joining All Japan following his retirement in May, worked the event as a color commentator.
Wrestle-1 began running regular tours right after Hataage Sen; the first tour ran until September 22 and the second from October 6 to 14. Many of the outsiders taking part in the inaugural event became regular members of the Wrestle-1 roster with the exception of Bob Sapp, Fujita Hayato, Katsuyori Shibata, Kazushi Sakuraba and Masaaki Mochizuki. Though Wrestle-1 also did not have regular female wrestlers on its roster, each event included a women's match, featuring wrestlers such as Ryo Mizunami and Shuu Shibutani from Pro Wrestling Wave, Koharu Hinata, Makoto and Syuri from Wrestling New Classic, Hikaru Shida, Maki Narumiya, Risa Sera and Tsukasa Fujimoto from Ice Ribbon, and freelancers Akino and Hiroyo Matsumoto. Wrestle-1 sought to introduce an "openweight division", where its wrestlers would not be typecast as heavyweights or junior heavyweights, like in most Japanese promotions, but would be able to interact with each other across weight limits. On September 24, Wrestle-1 announced that Seiya Sanada had signed a contract to officially become part of the promotion's roster effective October 1. On October 6, Wrestle-1 held its first event in Korakuen Hall in front of a sold out crowd of 1,750. On October 18, Mutoh announced his semi-retirement from in-ring action, saying that in the future he would be concentrating on running Wrestle-1.
The following month saw the continuation of a working relationship between Wrestle-1 and TNA, with A.J. Styles coming in to defend the TNA World Heavyweight Championship against Seiya Sanada on November 16 and Jay Bradley and Rob Terry working the entire tour from November 16 to December 1. Meanwhile, Andy Wu also made his return from his seven-month Mexican excursion, making his debut for his new home promotion on November 16. During the event, Wrestle-1 announced its first ever event at Ryōgoku Kokugikan, set to take place on March 2, 2014. Mutoh later announced that this would mark only the first of four events Wrestle-1 intended to run at Ryōgoku Kokugikan in 2014. On January 12, 2014, Manabu Soya, who had resigned from All Japan the previous month, joined Wrestle-1 as a freelancer, taking the role of an on-screen matchmaker, while recovering from a recent shoulder surgery. On January 26, Wrestle-1 held its first tryout, which resulted in three men being accepted to begin training at the promotion's dojo the following April.
On January 30 it was announced that the March 2 Ryōgoku Kokugikan event would feature a "Wrestle-1 vs. TNA" theme with thirteen wrestlers coming in to represent the American promotion in addition to Rob Terry, who had remained with Wrestle-1 since the past November. Jeff Jarrett, the original man behind the Wrestle-1-TNA relationship, had since parted ways with TNA and now the relationship was handled by Bob Ryder and John Gaburick on the Americans' side. On March 2 at Kaisen: Outbreak, three TNA titles were defended as part of Wrestle-1's first Ryōgoku Kokugikan event. While Kaz Hayashi and Shuji Kondo failed to capture the TNA World Tag Team Championship and Kai the TNA World Heavyweight Championship, Seiya Sanada defeated Austin Aries to become the new TNA X Division Champion. The event also saw the debut of another former All Japan worker, Taiyō Kea. The following day, it was announced that Sanada would be leaving Wrestle-1 to work for TNA indefinitely.
|Keiji Mutoh • Ryota Hama • Seiya Sanada • Kaz Hayashi • Tajiri|