written by Kevin Wilson
Perhaps one of the strangest promotions in puroresu history, Wrestle-1 wasn't a regular running promotion but rather a special promotion that only had four events over a three year period. Their events were full of superstar matchups that fans would never see anywhere else, as wrestlers from around the world faced off in an unorthodox fashion. Originally under the All Japan banner and later funded privately, unlike most money-backed promotions Wrestle-1 used high caliber wrestlers from a variety of promotions and not just Freelancers. Superstars such as Mutoh, Misawa, Akebono, Bill Goldberg, Shinya Hashimoto, Jun Akiyama, Bob Sapp, Satoshi Kojima, Terry Funk, Genichiro Tenryu and others participated in Wrestle-1. Unfortunately the promotion lost tons of money as they used expensive wrestlers and the promotion didn't draw enough to cover the cost, and their Grand Prix Tournament in 2005 sadly never finished as the promotion went bankrupt.
The first two events in Wrestle-1 were put on by All Japan Pro Wrestling and their new president Keiji Mutoh. The events weren't connected to the All Japan shows though and used a lot of the most popular Freelancers from around the world. Here was their first card:
Date: November 17th, 2002
- Abdullah the Butcher defeated Masaaki Satake
After the first event, which was average at best, they would hold another event on 1/19/03, with Hoost defeating Sapp in the main event in what would be Sapp's first loss in professional wrestling. The match was designed to promote K-1, but was so questionable in execution that there is no indication it helped. With All Japan losing money not only with Wrestle-1 but with its own promotion, the idea was scrapped and it would be two years before Wrestle-1 would pop up again.
In the summer of 2005, it was announced that there would be a tournament in Japan that would take place over four events under the Wrestle-1 banner. Many of the top wrestlers in Japan took part in the tournament, including Great Muta, Bob Sapp, Jun Akiyama, Genichiro Tenryu, Kensuke Sasaki, Riki Choshu, and others. On August 4th, 2005 in the main event the Great Muta defeated Akebono, giving Akebono his first loss in professional wrestling. On the same card Akiyama defeated Shibata and Sasaki defeated Choshu. The second round of the tournament would take place on October 2nd, 2005. Here was the full card:
Date: October 2nd, 2005
- Abdullah the Butcher and Giant Kimala defeated Dory Funk, Jr. and Katsuhiko Nakajima
As you can see, Mitsuharu Misawa also appeared on the card. Unfortunately, the attendances for the events were disappointing as while 8,012 was claimed for the October event far less were actually there. Due to the money losses, Fumihiko Uei (who was promoting the events) decided to postpone the rest of the tournament until the following year. Unfortunately that never happened, and the tournament was abandoned with a rematch of Bob Sapp vs. Great Muta looming in the next round. Wrestle-1 was a classic example of a promotion that had all the wrestlers one could hope for, but they generally put on lackluster matches and they were unable to capture the attention of wrestling fans in Japan.