#OneYearDON is a look back at All Elite Wrestling’s debut event with match by match retrospectives on how talent has fared in the year since the event as well as other profiles looking at how some performers have progressed from one DON to the next. This piece looks to analyze Joshi wrestling in AEW after their eye-opening debut at Double Or Nothing.
Joshi wrestling in All Elite Wrestling (AEW), it begun with the very match we’ll be looking back on; a Six Women Tag Match between some of the most relevant names of the modern and past eras. Hikaru Shida, Riho, and Ryo Mizunami defeating Aja Kong, Emi Sakura, and Yuka Sakazaki. The build to this was quiet, more focused on introducing the names of the people involved, but Aja Kong’s name was a big draw.
Aja Kong and Ryo Mizunami wouldn’t be seen again from the promotion (outside of a Kong appearance to confront Awesome Kong that was never followed up), but what was shaken off as a one-time thing would be a harbinger to come. Throughout events leading up to All Out, there were other Joshi talents being brought in like Bea Priestley and Shoko Nakajima. Come All Out, the majority of the talent trained in the Joshi style would be absent with only Bea, Riho, and Hikaru Shida being the representatives for that style. At the end of All Out the two contenders for the women’s title would be Nyla Rose and Riho.
Dynamite would start, and Riho would win the title. Which gave some optimism towards them leaning towards the Joshi style of things. The company would even go on to bring in people known for their matches in Stardom like Shanna and Jamie Hayter. Emi Sakura would even go on to be Riho’s challenger at the first Pay Per View since the weekly show started in Full Gear. So if things seemed to be tilting towards full Joshi style what was the issue?
Well to explain that you’d need to look at a show that only took place six days prior that Riho had a match on. DDT’s Ultimate Party 2019, on that show Kenny Omega and then AEW women’s champion Riho defeated Antonio Honda and Miyu Yamishida, but earlier on in the card Shoko Nakajima and Yuka Sakazaki fought for the Princess of Princess title. Looking at other cards told a similar story, the wrestlers who were wrestling the Joshi style worked for places like STARDOM, Tokyo Joshi Pro, and the like so they couldn’t be used for stories every week. Riho included.
Full Gear passed and Emi Sakura has barely been seen since. Which left the company with a barebones women’s roster that kept coming and going, not an option they had to rebuild from scratch. Thus an influx of women from the American independent scene came in, not too long after the passing of the new year Riho lost the women’s championship. Riho has faded to the background since.
At Revolution, the Women’s Title match was contested between Kris Statlander and Nyla Rose, the first time a women’s title match did not contain anyone trained in the Joshi style. The two big signings of AEW in Yuka Sakazaki and Riho would be relegated to a dark match in a losing effort to Dr. Britt Baker and Penelope Ford. In a true shifting of the tides.
The current day it’s a little hard to make a judgment as to where things are going. the Pandemic has put a thing on standstill and all of the wrestlers who live in Japan, are stuck there. But as Double or Nothing comes up and people look at the past matches, there is a bit of a missed opportunity to it. Many talented people showed up, but in the end, of that original six-woman match only three wrestled for AEW in 2020. With only Hikaru Shida wrestling more than 10 matches this year.
So what can be taken from this? It’s tough to say really, it was something that was bound to happen. The talents were balancing these promotions on different continents, and to assume it would work out for a show occurring weekly may have been short-sighted for AEW. So could Joshi wrestling come back to AEW? Maybe, but they’d have to be much more careful about it than before.
Stay tuned to Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world, as well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world. You can catch AEW Wednesday nights at 8 PM ET on TNT and AEW Dark weekly on YouTube.