Within the past 5 years, Japanese pro wrestling has drastically shifted its position in the consciousness of the average Western wrestling fan. Before the proliferation of streaming wrestling media in 2014— spurred by the creation of the WWE network, New Japan Pro Wrestling’s NJPW World service became the first Japanese service available internationally several months later— Japanese pro wrestling was largely confined to bootlegged shows and physical media, often of dubious or truncated quality. After New Japan, a number of prominent Japanese promotions followed suit (Stardom, All Japan, Dragon Gate, Big Japan, DDT and others) making Japanese wrestling easier to access today than ever before. And yet, due to the diversity and variety of wrestling promotions currently in Japan, many Japanese promotions are still only available outside of Japan through internet bootlegs and imported DVDs.
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Nico Pro, the wrestling streaming offshoot of the Japanese streaming platform Nico Nico, has existed for some time in Japan as a source for shows from a large and rotating number of Japanese wrestling promotions. but was only available with a Japanese credit card. They recently opened the service to international business, meaning that shows from wrestling promotions exclusive to Nico Pro are available to international users legally for the first time.
One of Nico Pro’s most important functions is as a source for joshi pro wrestling. Stardom, Tokyo Joshi Pro, Sendai Girls and Marvelous are rare joshi promotions with an international streaming presence. This means the vast majority of joshi promotions in Japan lack an international viewership beyond those watching bootlegged shows and matches. A large part of Nico Pro’s rotating show lineup is joshi pro wrestling. Promotions featured on Nico Pro include Ice Ribbon, SEAdLINNNG, Pure-J, Oz Academy, Actwres girl’Z and the aforementioned Stardom and Tokyo Joshi Pro. Non-joshi promotions on Nico Pro include: Wrestle-1, Freedoms, Big Japan Pro Wrestling and TAKA Michinoku’s JUST TAP OUT promotion.
It is important to note that not every show from any of these promotions is available on the service. Also, none of these shows are streamed live; they’re taped and then aired individually, and available for a week after their air date. There is no library of shows on the service. New shows air frequently (sometimes once a day, sometimes with a few days between shows) and there should be multiple shows (something like 5-8) to watch at any given time.
Because of the difficulty of accessing these promotions, many of them may be unfamiliar to the average international viewer. Here is a brief breakdown of some of Nico Pro’s more notable featured promotions.
Joshi promotion founded (but not currently run) by Emi Sakura. Ice Ribbon is known for its deep roster of talent, which includes the current holder of their main title Maya Yukihi, Risa Sera, Tsukasa Fujimoto and Tequila Saya.
Owned by 23-year vet Nanae Takahashi, SEAdLINNNG fills out its homegrown roster with freelancers like ASUKA and Hiroyo Matsumoto and members of the rosters of other joshi promotions. What SEAdLINNNG lacks in roster diversity it makes up for in match quality, as the recent dual main title/hair vs. hair match between Arisa Nakajima and Nanae Takahashi has gotten buzz as being one of the best joshi matches of the year within the joshi fan community.
Deathmatch promotion led by deathmatch legend Jun Kasai. It features Kasai and a roster of Japanese talent, as well as occasional guests like Ciclope & Miedo Extremo and some GCW talent.
Company co-owned by Keiji Mutoh (aka the Great Muta). Wrestle-1 features its own homegrown talent, as well as CIMA and his Stronghearts faction (T-Hawk, El Lindaman, Shigehiro Irie and others) through an ongoing invasion storyline.
As its name obliquely implies, Actwres is a joshi promotion with a focus on wrestlers as idols as well as combatants, similar to Stardom or Tokyo Joshi Pro. It features choreographed dances to open the shows. The roster is made up of largely of young homegrown talent, like Miyuki Takase, Himeki Arita and Saori Anou.
Joshi promotion founded in 2017 and owned by 27-year veteran Command Bolshoi. While a newer promotion, main title champion Hanako Nakamori and the rest of the roster, bolstered by the occasional freelancer, put on engaging shows with an intimate (typically around 100-person) crowd size.
Joshi promotion led by 33-year wrestling veteran Mayumi Ozaki, who plays a heel authority figure. It mixes freelancers like Hiroyo Matsumoto, Aja Kong and Yuu with the promotion’s talent, and features an ongoing storyline about Ozaki’s heel faction Ozaki-gun which results in occasional gimmick death matches.
You can subscribe to Nico Pro for ¥599 a month (about $5.50/€4.90/£4.20), which can be paid through PayPal. Use a browser with built-in translation like Google Chrome for best results.