“Do it!” “Hang in there!” Cries from spectators echoed in the dimly lit venue as the packed audience watched muscular men pull fast and furious wrestling moves on each other in the ring under a spotlight.
It was at a pro-wrestling exhibition recently held by DDT Pro-wrestling, a pro-wrestling organization in Tokyo, on March 3 in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo. The event, which was limited to a women-only audience, attracted about 600 spectators mainly in their 20s to 40s.
Pro-wrestling is not watched exclusively by men anymore. Today, an increasing number of women are attracted to its extraordinary atmosphere, wanting to feel energized through watching the matches. Various programs have also been created to entertain female fans, such as holding exhibitions exclusively for female spectators and selling cute goods themed on pro-wrestling.
A venue of DDT Pro-wrestling matches is packed with female spectators in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo. The Yomiuri ShimbunA venue of DDT Pro-wrestling matches is packed with female spectators in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo. (The Yomiuri Shimbun)
DDT Pro-wrestling has held such women-only exhibitions since about 2 1/2 years ago, with the latest one being its sixth. After participating in matches, pro-wrestlers hold a stage show. For the latest show, wrestlers ― with their hair impressively arranged ― looked like fashion models as they were loudly applauded by the audience.
“I felt invigorated by their performance,” said a 34-year-old company employee from Kanagawa Prefecture, who began coming to these events about a year ago. “I feel like I can face tomorrow better.”
A 42-year-old company employee in Tokyo, who has watched pro-wrestling matches for the last five years, said, “Each time, I cry a lot to get rid of my stress.”
According to DDT, the number of female spectators began increasing about three years ago. Currently, about half of the audience for ordinary exhibitions is women. Thanks to the increasing numbers of female fans, the total number of spectators increased 20 per cent from the previous year in 2013 and 10 per cent in 2014.
New Japan Pro-Wrestling, a large pro-wrestling organization in Tokyo, also said the ratio of female fans, which was about 10 per cent of the audience about four to five years ago, has increased to about 30 per cent recently.
Takahiro Yamamoto, in charge of publicity for the organization, said: “We owe it to an increase of good-looking wrestlers. Also, we put more emphasis on selling goods using the images of popular characters such as Mickey Mouse and Hello Kitty to attract female fans.”
Yamamoto added: “Before matches begin, we run a video showing highlights from each wrestler’s matches. It’s part of our efforts to help first-time spectators understand the matches.”
Many wrestlers have killer lines and trademark poses. Spectators therefore can better enjoy matches by shouting these lines together with the wrestlers.
Some women practice “pro-wrestling training” for fun. A 24-year-old company employee in Chiba Prefecture now goes to such a class at Central Sports, a sports club. She began going to the class to train her trunk muscles. She also began going to watch pro-wrestling matches.
“I’m jealous of the flexible bodies the wrestlers have,” she said.
The class has been given at nine locations across the nation since October. The program includes the basic exercises of pro-wrestlers, such as squats and push-ups. To help increase dramatic effects, a masked instructor enters a classroom to music played when a specific pro-wrestler enters the ring.
Central Sports said it first expected the program would attract young men, but it turned out to be popular almost equally among men and women.
By Etsuko Sagawa
(The Yomiuri Shimbun)