Sendai Girls: More Than “Another” Joshi Promotion

Japanese wrestling is at an all-time high in popularity with the Western world, thanks in large part to streaming services making the Japanese puroresu more accessible than ever before. In the 1980s and 1990s, fans in North America and Europe had to trade VHS tapes to catch glimpses of the likes of New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW), All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW) or All-Japan Women’s Wrestling (AJW). But with New Japan World, NJPW has become the world’s second most popular promotion behind the WWE, and Japanese companies like AJPW, Pro Wrestling NOAH, and DDT Pro are finding more fans and eyes outside of Japan than ever before. But men’s wrestling isn’t the only wrestling that Japan has staked a huge claim in. Joshi puroresu, or women’s wrestling, has always been decades ahead of their North American and European counterparts – AJW’s influence is felt today in many men’s indie style matches, with moves that the women were doing in the early 90s now being replicated by the high flying men. While AJW is no longer active, joshi remains a large part of Japanese wrestling culture, lead by the most recognizable promotion, World Wonder Ring Stardom (or simply, Stardom). There are countless others still in operation, but one that doesn’t receive half the praise as it should, is Sendai Girls’ Pro Wrestling, which has been raising the bar for well over a decade.

Photo: Sendai Girls

Sendai Girls was formed in 2005 in the city of Sendai, a lush and beautiful city known as “The City of Trees” and the capital city of the Miyagi Prefecture, with a population just over a million people (falling just outside Japan’s top 10 largest cities). It was founded in 2005 following the collapse of the promotion GAEA, founded by AJW veteran Chigusa Nagayo and promoter Yuka Sugiyama. GAEA ran from 1995 until 2005, when it finally shut down, but one of Nagayo’s prize pupils was determined to keep joshi going in Japan the way she was trained. That pupil was joshi legend Meiko Satomura. Many now recognize her name as one of the entrants in this year’s 2018 Mae Young Classic in the WWE, but the 38-year old icon of joshi wrestling has accomplished much in her illustrious career. During her 10 year career with GAEA, she as a 2x AAAW (All Asia Athlete Women) Champion, AAAW Tag Team Champion (with Mexican/Japanese great Ayako Hamada) and AAAW Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion with former AJW star Sonoko Kato. During her time with GAEA, the promotion forged alliances with WCW in the US, leading to many GAEA wrestlers – including Satomura – being included in the tournament to crown a new WCW Women’s Champion (which was ultimately won by former AJW and GAEA wrestler Akira Hokuto). In late 2005, Satomura started Sendai Girls’ Pro Wrestling alongside Michinoku Pro President Jinsei Shinzaki, a Michinoku Pro legend (and co-founder with The Great Sasuke in 1993), who is a 4x MPW Tag Team Champion and in some circles best remembered from his WWF run as Hakushi (he’s also competing this Friday at Joey Janela’s Lost In New York, facing Joey Janela).

Current World of Stardom Champion Kagetsu is a former student/star with Sendai Girls.

Since 2005, Sendai Girls has been a training ground for future joshi stars, working with a small roster and encouraging their trainees to work with other established joshi promotions, including Stardom, Joshi Women’s Wrestling Project (JWP), OZ Academy, DIANA, Pro Wrestling WAVE and many more. Sendai Girls didn’t create their own championships until October of 2015, with the Sendai Girls World Championship and the Sendai Girls Tag Team Championships. Meiko Satomura set the standard with capturing the inaugural World Championship (holding it for 371 days), but current champion Chihiro Hashimoto has set the bar, on her fourth reign as Sendai Girls World Champion, since her debut in 2015.

4x Sendai World Champion Chihiro Hashimoto (Photo: Sendai Girls)

Meiko Satomura made her US return when she debuted with CHIKARA in 2012 and by that fall, she had entered a Sendai Girls team into that year’s King of Trios tournament. Her team of herself with Sendai Girls stars DASH Chisako and Sendai Sachiko did well, making it to the semi-finals that year, but ultimately bowed out to Team ROH (Mike Bennett and The Young Bucks). But the Western world was now aware of the stuff Sendai Girls was doing. Meiko would return in 2016, slightly tweaking her team by replacing Sachiko with Cassandra Miyagi, and it proved to be a successful move. The Sendai Girls trio won that year’s King of Trios tournament, defeating another joshi trio lead by JWP legend Command Bolshoi. The same Sendai Girls trio returned last year to defend their title, making it to the finals, before bowing out to British Strong Style (Pete Dunne, Trent Seven and Tyler Bate).

Photo: Robyn Goding / Beyond Gorilla Photography

Sendai Girls continues to present top quality shows in Japan, and continue to make their presence felt around the world – Meiko Satomura has embarked on trips to the UK in the past year, debuting with Pro Wrestling EVE and Fight Club: PRO (where she’s the reigning FCP Champion), and other Sendai Girls are starting to follow. Sendai Girls World Champion Chihiro Hashimoto will be making her own Pro Wrestling EVE debut on Saturday, September 29, 2018 as part of the Strong Women Style: Road to SHE-1 event, where she takes on indie superstar Jordynne Grace.

Photo: Pro Wrestling EVE

Sendai Girls continues to roll with exciting new Japanese stars, and spreading the gospel of the philosophy of legendary Meiko Satomura, and you can catch their latest events through Powerslam TV as part of their streaming network (including the recent July 27, 2018 event Sendai PIT). While other joshi promotions like Stardom may gain most of the headlines, Sendai Girls is one of Japan’s most respected women’s promotions, and with Meiko Satomura as it’s founding mother, it’s much more than just another joshi company. You can download Powerslam TV for Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Prime and Google Play.

 


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