In late 2012 the small regional wrestling promotion Tokyo Pure Wrestling was purchased by Hanako Yamamoto and transformed into Pro-Wrestling FRONTLINE.
Yamamoto had a history with Tokyo Pure, her father Masaru Yamamoto was the man who founded the company in the late 1980’s with his good friend Dragon Takeshi, having previously been wrestlers themselves with All Pro Japan Wrestling (APJW). But their business partners had effectively wrestled the company away from Yamamoto in the early 2000’s and it had been a sore point for the Yamamoto family ever since.
After Masaru passed away in 2010, Hanako began looking at ways to honour her father’s memory and continue his legacy. Yamamoto decided that she would complete his goal, in making TPW a global success rather than just at a local level.
Yamamoto was behind the hiring of fresh faces from around Japan, and abroad, while also working to increase the profile of the great talent she had inherited from Tokyo Pure. She was also instrumental in setting up the Global Frontier Crown (GFC), a championship committee that oversaw all titles in FRONTLINE and their sister company Pro-Wrestling FRONTIER in the UK.
Other than the name change and the introduction of the GFC, Yamamoto kept to Tokyo Pure’s traditions and just allowed the spotlight to be shone brightly on what was already a great wrestling promotion. But not everyone saw it that way.
Some of the former stars of Tokyo Pure, veterans like Daiki Kubo and Nobuyori Shigi, decided the new regime was not for them and decided to leave their positions in the office. Some then current in-ring talent also followed them, most notably ace stars Genki Itō & Mitsuharu Miyagi. It was never confirmed, but it’s believed these were the men responsible for the ousting of Masaru Yamamoto years earlier.
Dragon Takeshi, who had remained with TPW after his friend was ousted, also retired when Hanako took control of the company. Hanako publicly thanked him for being involved with setting up the company, a sign that there was no ill will from the Yamamoto family, but Takeshi felt embarrassed about not fighting harder to keep his friend in his company and decided to step away from the limelight. Takeshi’s son, Amazing Dragon, would however remain in the new FRONTLINE.
2013 was a big year for the new FRONTLINE, they signed a new national TV deal in Japan that got an hours’ worth of FRONTLINE action onto the screens of the nation every week, plus monthly specials. This helped catapult them to the top of the Japanese wrestling scene.
Soon FRONTLINE was inundated with stars from the US and UK who wanted to come and appear on FRONTLINE shows. Several were allowed to do so, with the overseas fans being drawn in by such appearances.
Shortly after this highest point there was a decline in ratings in Japan, and a high profile legal case involving one of Hanako’s management team that had dented FRONTLINE’s reputation. The TV networks took a dim view, but ruled out cancelling the contract. Instead they moved FRONTLINE’s weekly show into a graveyard slot and removed all FRONTIER advertising from its promotional material. Live show attendances began to struggle and the overseas stars stopped making their appearances.
But now, in 2017, things are starting to pick up once again. There’s a fresh appetite for FRONTLINE from the fans, who are clamouring to see the stars of old in their final hurrah’s and some new talent that has helped put the spotlight on the company once again. The TV network has softened on its stance of FRONTLINE and has begun including their trails in promotional output once more. While the TV show itself is still on in a very late slot, the viewing figures are up, thanks to on demand services, and live audiences have recovered.