Puroresu (プロレス) is the predominant style of professional wrestling that has developed in Japan. The term comes from the Japanese pronunciation of "professional wrestling" (プロフェッショナル・レスリング), which is shortened to puroresu. The term became popular among English-speaking fans due to Hisaharu Tanabe's activities in the online Usenet community. Growing out of origins in the traditional US style of wrestling, it has become an entity in itself. Japanese pro wrestling is distinct in its psychology and presentation of the sport. It is treated as a legitimate fight, with fewer theatrics; the stories told in Japanese matches are about a fighter's spirit and perseverance. In strong style, the style most typically associated with puroresu, full contact martial arts strikes and shoot submission holds are implemented.
|Country of origin||Japan|
|Parenthood||Western wrestling, Tegumi|
Despite some similarities to the much more popular style of professional wrestling in the United States, Japanese wrestling is known for many differences from the Western style. Puroresu is known for its "fighting spirit" and the wrestlers are known for their full contact strikes. Many Japanese wrestlers have some degree of knowledge in many different martial arts and wrestling styles; because of this, there are usually doctors and trainers at ringside for assisting the wrestlers after a match. Most matches have clean finishes and many of the promotions don't use any angles or gimmicks. Japanese wrestling is also known for its relationship with fellow mixed martial arts promotions. Wrestling and martial arts icon Antonio Inoki usually organizes wrestling matches and MMA fights on the same card. Puroresu still remains popular and it draws huge crowds from the major promotions. With this and its relationship with other martial arts disciplines, the audiences and wrestlers treat puroresu as a combat sport.
It should be also noted that the term "Puroresu" in Japan refers to all professional wrestling, regardless of country of origin. For example, American promotions WWE and Ring of Honor are referred to as "Puroresu" in Japan.
Puroresu has a variety of different rules, which can differ completely from wrestling in other countries. While there is no governing authority for puroresu, there is a general standard which has developed. Each promotion has their own variation, but all are similar enough to avoid confusion. Any convention described here is simply a standard, and may or may not correspond exactly with any given promotion's codified rules.
Matches are held between two or more sides ("corners"). Each corner may consist of one wrestler, or a team of two or more. Most team matches are governed by tag team rules (see below).
The match is won by scoring a "fall", which is generally consistent with standard professional wrestling:
- Pinning an opponent's shoulders to the mat for the referee's count of three.
- Submission victory, which sees the wrestler either tap out or verbally submit to their opponent.
- Knockout, the failure to regain composure at the referee's command
- Countout, the failure of a party to return to the ring at the referee's command, which is determined by a count of twenty (some federations use ten, but in Japanese wrestling they use twenty).
- Disqualification, the act of one wrestler breaking the rules.
Additional rules govern how the outcome of the match is to take place. One such example would be the Japanese Universal Wrestling Federation, as it does not allow pinfall victories in favor of submissions and knockouts; this is seen as an early influence of mixed martial arts, as some wrestlers broke away from traditional wrestling endings to matches in favor of legitimate outcomes. Another example is that most promotions disallow punches so a lot of wrestlers utilize open handed strikes and stiff forearms; this rule was also applied in the early stages of Pancrase.
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The dominant styles of Japanese professional wrestling were set in place by the two dominant promotions in Japan. New Japan Pro-Wrestling, headed by Antonio Inoki, used Inoki's "strong style" approach of wrestling as a combat sport. Wrestlers incorporated kicks and strikes from martial arts disciplines, and a strong emphasis was placed on submission wrestling. Many of New Japan's wrestlers including top stars such as Shinya Hashimoto, Riki Choshu, Shinsuke Nakamura and Keiji Mutoh came from a legitimate martial arts background. All Japan Pro Wrestling, under the direction of Shohei Baba, used a style referred to as "King's Road." The "King's Road" or sometimes called "Royal Road" style was in large part derived from American wrestling, particularly the style of top wrestlers in the National Wrestling Alliance, such as Dory Funk Jr., Terry Funk, and Harley Race, all of whom wrestled for Baba in Japan. As such, "King's Road" placed a heavy emphasis on working of holds, brawling, and the storytelling elements of professional wrestling. Due to the rise of the "shoot wrestling" promotions in the early 1980s, promising a decisive winner and loser at a time when the two mainstream promotions protected their top stars with screwjob or double count-out finishes, the major promotions have usually maintained a format of only clean finishes since then.
Throughout the 1990s, three individual styles -- shoot style, lucha libre, and hardcore—were the main divisions of independent promotions, but as a result of interpromoting, it is not unusual to see all three styles on the same card.
Puroresu done by female wrestlers is called joshi puroresu (女子プロレス) or joshi puro for short. Women's professional wrestling in Japan is usually handled by promotions that specialize in joshi puroresu, rather than divisions of otherwise male-dominated promotions as is the case in the United States (the only exception was FMW, a men's promotion which had a small women's division, but even then depended on talent from women's federations to provide competition). However, joshi puroresu promotions usually have agreements with male puroresu promotions such that they recognize each other's titles as legitimate, and may share cards.
All Japan Women's Pro-Wrestling was the dominant joshi organization from the 1970s to the 1990s. AJW's first major star was Mach Fumiake in 1974, followed in 1975 by Jackie Sato and Maki Ueda, known as the "Beauty Pair". The early 1980s saw the fame of Jaguar Yokota and Devil Masami, major stars of the second wave of excellent workers who took the place of the glamour-based "Beauty Pair" generation. That decade would later see the rise of Chigusa Nagayo and Lioness Asuka, known as the "Crush Gals", who as a tag team achieved a level of unprecedented mainstream success in Japan, unheard of by any female wrestler in the history of professional wrestling all over the world. Their long running feud with Dump Matsumoto and her "Gokuaku Domei" ("Atrocious Alliance") stable would become extremely popular in Japan during the 1980s, with their televised matches resulting in some of the highest rated broadcasts in Japanese television as well as the promotion regularly selling out arenas..
In 1985, Japan's second women's wrestling promotion formed in Japan Women's Pro-Wrestling. The promotion ran their first show on August 17, 1986. It featured Jackie Sato who returned from retirement and future stars such as Shinobu Kandori, Mayumi Ozaki, Cutie Suzuki and Dynamite Kansai, who would go on to be top stars in LLPW and JWP.  
In 1992, Japan Women's Pro-Wrestling dissolved, splitting into LLPW and JWP.  These promotions worked together with FMW and All Japan Women's Pro-Wrestling to create a critically acclaimed era with several classic matches authorized by the American wrestling publication Wrestling Observer Newsletter featuring wrestlers such as Manami Toyota, Aja Kong, Kyoko Inoue, Bull Nakano, Mayumi Ozaki, Megumi Kudo, Dynamite Kansai amongsts others. This era was also notable for multiple wrestlers returning from retirement such as Chigusa Nagayo, Lioness Asuka, Jaguar Yokota, Devil Masami and Bison Kimura, which increased interest.
- Tanabe, Hisaharu (1992-11-12). "Chono vs. Takada (one of the earliest reference to "puroresu" by Hisaharu Tanabe)". Google Groups. Retrieved 2009-07-15.
- "Puroresu Dojo Introduction". Puroresu.com. 1995. Retrieved 2009-07-08.
- "Puroresu - Pro Wrestling Japanese Style". BBC - h2g2. 2003-08-05.
- Allen, Ethan. "Travel, Teach, Live in Japan - Professional Wrestling In Japan: A Brief History of Puroresu". ESL Teachers Board.
- See Keiko Aiba, Transformed Bodies and Gender: Experiences of Women Pro Wrestlers in Japan (Osaka, 2017) (ISBN 978-4946428814) for a full study.
- "All Japan Women's Pro-Wrestling". Puroresu Dojo. August 2001.
- "【無料公開】僕たちはハーレー斉藤を忘れない…". Lady's Ring Online (in Japanese). Lady's Ring Online. March 31, 2017. Retrieved March 16, 2019.
- "VICTORYアスリート名鑑". Victory Sports News (in Japanese). Victory Sports News. n.d. Retrieved March 16, 2019.
- "Japan Woman Pro Wrestling". wrestling-titles.com. Retrieved 2019-03-16.