WRESTLE-1 announced that the almost seven-year-old promotion would be going on an indefinite hiatus following their April 1st event at Korakuen Hall. Chairman Keiji Mutoh and President Kaz Hayashi held a press conference at the GSP Media Center in Okubo, Tokyo to announce that WRESTLE-1 is going on “infinite hiatus”, with the promotion closing up shop after the 1st of April Korakuen Hall show, and all roster contracts being terminated the day before.
Chairman Mutoh at the press conference waxed sorrowful, citing the promotion’s inability to “get out the red” since its beginning in 2013. He said “I just feel a lot of regrets. Perhaps I was out of my depth [running a company]” As Mutoh is already scheduled to be in America next month, the 15th of March show at Ota Ward Gymnasium will be his last match as a WRESTLE-1 member.
President Hayashi meanwhile emphasised the effort both wrestlers and staff had gone to in order to keep the promotion afloat. Wearing a sombre look on his face, he said: “When I think of the mental state of the wrestlers, I can’t help feeling like I’m doing something terrible.” The Pro Wrestling Academy ran by WRESTLE-1, which produced the majority of the promotion’s talent in recent years, as well as some trainees who went elsewhere such as ZERO1’s Shoki Kitamura as well as noted Twitter personality Moretti Debiddo, is coming to an end as well.
Hayashi noted that there were plans for the future of such an academy, saying “In Japan, it’s the done thing to go to a dojo and immerse yourself in pro wrestling on a 24-hour basis. “The truth is though this is only the way it’s done in Japan. Overseas, in the United States or Mexico, they have the school system. [In Japan, this was a novel concept] I regret that I wasn’t able to keep it going.”
WRESTLE-1 was born in July 2013 following political dissidence that led to Keiji Mutoh’s resignation from All Japan after eleven years. In response, many AJPW wrestlers left with Mutoh out of loyalty to form a new promotion, with the first show coming in September. In the early times, WRESTLE-1 came to be known for their habit of not announcing match cards in advance, as well as for their up-and-coming prospects like Seiya Sanada and KAI.
Despite such promise, WRESTLE-1 was to fall into hard times as one after another, wrestlers left the company. From the former AJPW wrestlers like Masakatsu Funaki, Minoru Tanaka and Ryota Hama, to losing the aforementioned Sanada and KAI, the promotion changed as homegrown rookies formerly in the undercard became main eventers. Shotaro Ashino, one of the most acclaimed of the roster, celebrated five years of wrestling just a few weeks ago.
He and others such as Daiki Inaba, Kuma Arashi, Koji Doi and Seigo Tachibana were tasked with taking forward a promotion that struggled to grow. Ashino publically stated that he wanted to take WRESTLE-1 to bigger places, even namedropping the Tokyo Dome as a venue they could one day fill up.
WRESTLE-1 also served as the place where Jiro “Ikemen” Kuroshio, previously of WNC, made a name for himself. In recent years, he came to be known as the face of the promotion, yet his popularity ended up bearing fruit for his own career rather than for the company. Both Hayashi and Mutoh kept open the possibility of resuming WRESTLE-1 at some point. For the foreseeable future, the promotion comes to an end, just three months shy of its seven-year anniversary
Pic and video courtesy of Wrestle-1, translation of press conference courtesy of @isalrightnow