Sunday night as part of their Pro Wrestling Dontaku show, New Japan Pro Wrestling did something they have not done in over a decade. They let women into their ring.
It was a three on three tag team match as the current IWGP Tag Team Champions Matt Taven and Mike Bennett joined with Bennett's fiance Maria Kanellis to battle it out with the Bullet Club trio of Karl Anderson, Doc Gallows and Amber Gallows. The feud between the Kingdom and the Bullet Club has been burning for several weeks now, but this is the first time the significant others at ringside have come into play. And it is a shocking change for a company that has never been very female oriented.
To be fair to New Japan, few Japanese promotions integrate women's wrestling with men's wrestling. Tajiri's organizations SMASH and Wrestling New Classic are the only bodies to regular do so on their cards and both are now defunct. And while other promotions occasionally will add a women's match as a special attraction or throw a women on the card as an oddity, it is rare for them to be built into a storyline in the way Maria and Amber have been in New Japan.
Whether or not this is a softening of NJPW's segregated booking stance is still up in the air. I am not going to hold my breath to see Manami Toyota join CHAOS (though I can only imagine how awesome her and Shinsuke Nakamura would be as a team), but this is a great first step in the evolution of a brand crying out to go worldwide.