Wrestling in Universities: How Japanese Students are Breaking into the Pro Wrestling World

We at the PWSA strive to bridge professional wrestling and academia. In Japan, university students have been doing just that for decades. Since the late 1970s, several Japanese universities have been home to student-run professional wrestling promotions. The students, whose gimmicks sometimes parody actual wrestlers, train at the campus and perform regularly at individual shows or festivals. In fact, some current pro wrestling stars got their first bumps in such events.

The Keio Wrestling Association (KWA), which works out of Keio University, is part of that universe. KWA got more media exposure after they collaborated on an event with STARDOM, the biggest women’s wrestling organization in Japan.

I talked to the former representative of KWA, Hiroshi Marahashi, and learned more about the promotion’s inception, goals, and highlights.

What is the Keio Wrestling Association?

Ιt is a wrestling promotion made up by students of the Keio University. In Japan there are various university promotions, but what makes us different is that other promotions comprise of students from three to four universities, while we only feature people from Keio. We do shows a few times per year, especially in November, during our school festival.

How did the idea behind it come?

Our organization started around the nineties, when wrestling was very popular in Japan. At first, there were few people, but later expanded. The idea was to imitate the well-known wrestlers and have fun.

Image Credit: @KWA_pro_wres, Twitter

Do you collaborate with other promotions for this?

University wrestling promotions in Japan collaborate with each other. But we also collaborated with STARDOM. Our [wrestler] Kasumi Nashimura is popular on Twitter, so, I think that is why STARDOM wanted to work with us for our festival. It is usually rare for the student promotions to work with the professionals. Sometimes people think we make fun of professional wrestling.

How can someone become a member? Is it open only to students?

Any student at the university is welcome. Other associations, such as the University Pro-Wrestling Federation (UWF) accept students from multiple universities, but we focus on Keio. But we also accept faculty sometimes. And everyone will be assigned a role, whether in the ring or as crew, regardless of background or shape.

How often do you train, and who is in charge of it?

We train once per week. We have a coach who is a former club member. At times, some pro wrestlers drop by and teach us as well.

Image Credit: @KWA_pro_wres, Twitter

What do the wrestlers do after they graduate? Do they go to other promotions?

Some of them attempt to go to the bigger promotions and get try-outs: DDT, Noah, NJPW, etc. Wrestlers such as Togi Makabe and Hiroshi Tanahashi of NJPW were in similar [university] teams. They didn’t want to say it at first though, because of how people would perceive these teams back then. HARASHIMA of DDT has also been in a university pro wrestling group.

Can you name a few highlights of the promotion?

Certainly, our school festival. Thousands of people come to our campus during those four days, and some of these watch our fights. Newspapers and websites also pick up our shows and promote us.

What are the future plans of KWA?

We don’t have that many members right now. Therefore, we want to focus on making our association attractive to more people, so we can keep wrestling.

You can follow KWA on Twitter: https://twitter.com/KWA_pro_wres?s=20

You can also watch their matches here: https://www.youtube.com/@kwa7534

Image Credit: @KWA_pro_wres, Twitter

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