It was revealed in the press that Motoko Baba, the widow of Shohei “Giant” Baba, and former owner of All Japan Pro Wrestling died earlier this month.
Motoko Baba was instrumental in the success of All Japan Pro Wrestling, working alongside her husband and acquiring a reputation for a hardline position she would take to offset the mild-natured approach of her husband.
When Baba died in January 1999, Motoko assumed control of the company while Mitsuharu Misawa was installed as company president and booker. The two clashed on many issues with Misawa wanting to take the company into the 2000’s with an updated approach and Motoko would revert to the traditional way the company had conducted business since its launch in 1972. Despite all the success that All Japan had enjoyed through that period, their revenue was largely derived from ticket sales and had not exploited other avenues such as licensing and merchandise.
All Japan’s television partner, NTV, agreed to work with Misawa but wanted time to pass from Baba’s death and Misawa remained with All Japan through May 2000. In June, a year-and-a-half after Baba’s passing, Misawa uprooted the majority of the All Japan roster and formed Pro Wrestling NOAH with the backing of NTV.
The fate of All Japan was bleak after the loss of so much talent, while the company opened doors to work with New Japan Pro Wrestling and brought Keiji Muto, Satoshi Kojima, and Kendo Kashin into the company in January 2002. The addition of Muto was significant as he would lead a group that bought Motoko’s shares in the company later that year with Muto becoming company president.
Motoko had been suffering from liver disease since last summer and died on April 14th at the age of 78.