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Former AJPW owner Motoko Baba passes away at 78


Motoko Baba, the wife of Shohei "Giant" Baba and arguably the most important and influential woman in the history of pro wrestling, passed away on April 14th.

She was 78.

The news of her death was kept quiet until today and other details are not available. Her funeral was on Friday.

Motoko Baba and Shohei Baba were together at a young age but for a number of reasons, their relationship was kept secret from the public, as Shohei Baba was one of the most famous sports celebrities in the country and even in recent years was listed as one of the ten most famous athletes in Japanese sports history. The two ran All Japan Pro Wrestling together from its inception in 1972 until Giant Baba's death in 1999. It wasn't until 1982 when their relationship and marriage went public and she was publicly acknowledged as the number two person in the company. It was probably the most successful "mom and pop" pro wrestling company in history.

They had a "good cop" "bad cop" role in the company. Shohei Baba had a tremendously favorable image because all of the bad news fell on her to deliver, to keep his reputation with everyone clean. Because of that, she was often not well liked.

But she, every bit as much as he, ran the business and company in every aspect. The couple had no children, so wrestlers like Mitsuharu Misawa, Kenta Kobashi, and others became like their kids. The company was very successful on television in the 70s and 80s, and then had their best box office period in the 90s, peaking in he early part of the decade when they sold out more than 200 consecutive events in Tokyo.

After his death from cancer, she became the majority owner of the company, and Misawa became company president and booker. Misawa wanted to change and expand the business but she was much more conservative about it, and it led to a falling out where Misawa and almost all of the top wrestlers with the exception of Toshiaki Kawada, Maunukea Mossman (Taiyo Kea), and Masa Fuchi left the promotion and formed Pro Wrestling NOAH.

The company did remain profitable, working with New Japan, until she sold it to a group backed by Keiji Muto in 2002. The company faded from popularity over the last 16 years, and most considered NOAH as the surviving branch of All Japan. Her name at times was attached to an attempt at reviving the company in recent years.