Soon I will be embarking on a glorious adventure to watch every GAEA event that ever made air, which will likely take a long time since the promotion ran for ten years. For such a major promotion (during a stretch it was the most-attended and talked about Joshi promotion in Japan), there is not a lot of information about it on the Internet as it went out of business right about the same time that matches became easier to share online. Back in the 90s and into the early 2000s, fans of Japanese wrestling were still ordering $20 tapes or later $10 DVDs, there was no Youtube or Google Drive to share. Further making things more difficult, most of the major puroresu/joshi websites from the early 2000s no longer exist, so the best we can hope for is to find old pages in the Wayback Machine to piece together whatever information we can.
While I do the reviews, two major websites I will be using are Mike Lorefice’s awesome quebrada.net, which has listings and some thoughts on most GAEA events, as well as the most complete database for GAEA events – wrestlingdata.com. I will also be using Wrestling Scout occasionally and cagematch.net if I need details that I can’t find on another website.
Before diving into the events, I first wanted to understand the climate that led to GAEA being created. In 1995, the wrestling business in Japan was still booming. AJW was the undisputed top Joshi promotion, but JWP and LLPW had success as well and all three promotions at times worked together to put on huge events that rivaled the popularity of WrestleMania today. But there are always wrestlers and promoters with their own ideas of what wrestling should be, and sometimes they branch off to try to take a slice of the pie as well. Around this time period, this lead to several new promotions forming, and the two most successful new Joshi promotions that opened in the mid-90s were GAEA Japan and Jd’ Star.
In 1994, Chigusa Nagayo was one of the most recognizable and popular Joshi wrestlers, but she had no home. Nagayo had retired from AJW in 1989, and spent the next few years as an actress as she had other interests beyond wrestling. Like many wrestlers, she couldn’t stay away for long and returned to wrestling in 1993. Over the next year she had “special attraction” type matches, mostly in JWP, but she never signed with a promotion as she explored her options. Finally, she decided to start her own promotion to give the world her own vision of wrestling, instead of joining a current promotion and having to conform to theirs. Chigusa Nagayo soon showed her vision not only involved an attempt to go more Global, but also involved a level of violence and danger that had not been seen in a Joshi promotion previously.
When GAEA Japan (named after the Goddess of Earth) was founded, they only had three established wrestlers on their roster – Chigusa Nagayo, KAORU, and Bomber Hikaru. But since they planned in advance, they had started training new wrestlers to debut for the promotion ahead of time and hopefully lead GAEA Japan in the future. The rookies included Chikayo Nagashima, Toshie Uematsu, Meiko Satomura, Sonoko Kato, Sugar Sato, and Mariko Narita. Along with that, early on GAEA Japan also used some of the top wrestlers from JWP, including Devil Masami and Mayumi Ozaki, as Nagayo had developed a relationship with the promotion during her matches there the year prior. With a crop of bright young stars and the availability of some JWP wrestlers, GAEA Japan had a large enough roster to carry them through their first year.
Due to Chigusa Nagayo’s popularity (and popularity of wrestling as a whole), GAEA Japan was able to immediately obtain a TV deal (with GAORA TV) and also was well covered in the press. Their first event drew a sold out crowd to Korakuen, and by having less events they were able to focus on “attraction” matches on each show. For 1995 and 1996, GAEA Japan did not have tours, as they focused on building up their rookies and acquiring outside talent. Their biggest steal perhaps was hiring Akira Hokuto in 1996, who was extremely popular from her days at AJW. GAEA Japan also started a short-lived partnership with WCW and at one point, GAEA Japan wrestlers held two WCW Championships (which were quickly forgotten).
By 1997, the promotion began to travel more, as they ran 35 events that year. GAEA Japan was a major production so they typically did not have a lot of small untelevised events, and throughout their history they never averaged more than one event a week as they focused on bigger shows. GAEA Japan reached their peak in 1999, when Lioness Asuka made a surprise return and sided against her old friend and teammate Chigusa Nagayo. This led to a major match between the two that had a high amount of interest in Japan, with 6,500 people watching their first match and also their rematch a few months later. This eventually of course led to them teaming back up, and the Crush Gals reunion was very popular as well. While Nagayo/Asuka were dominating the top of the card, GAEA Japan also had Aja Kong (from ARSION) and later Manami Toyota (from AJW) to mix things up and truly create the “epic” feel that Chigusa Nagayo was going for.
Around the time of Akira Hokuto’s Retirement in 2002 (which saw another attendance of over 6,000 people), things behind the scenes were beginning to unravel. Even though the promotion’s attendances were high, there were other issues not in front of the camera that led to the company being restructured. That had little impact on the popularity of the promotion, but it was a sign that things may be coming to an end. In October 2004 it was announced the promotion would be closing the following year, and the promotion closed in March of 2005 after sold out events at Yokohama Bunka Gymnasium (for the last ever Crush Gals match) and Korakuen Hall (Chigusa Nagayo’s retirement match).
Up until the end, GAEA Japan was getting attendance numbers that any Joshi promotion today would kill for and was still profitable, but there were too many other factors and the promotion simply wasn’t able to continue for various reasons. Chigusa Nagayo’s retirement lasted awhile, but she eventually started another promotion called Marvelous, which still exists today and is much smaller in scope. Lioness Asuka really did stay retired, as she had health issues, and Meiko Satomura started Sendai Girls’ which still runs to this day. GAEA Japan may not be frequently discussed in today’s wrestling circles, but of all the promotions that tried, it was the only one that surpassed All Japan Women while the promotion was open to become the top Joshi promotion in the world. My quest to watch all of their events will no doubt be a long one, but if any promotion deserves more attention it is GAEA Japan, and I look forward to exposing more fans to a largely forgotten time period in Joshi History.