When it comes to niche anime genres yaoi, josei and cars all come to mind. Obviously, there are many others out there, but we’re going in the direction of this one particular sub-genre that most people probably don’t think about. For the minority that has, they’re undoubtedly upset by the sheer lack of content out there. By now you should know that we’re talking about wrestling anime.
The grapplers of the “squared-circle” haven’t got much love in the form of anime. This is true in terms of both recent and all-time releases. More so, you could use your fingers and toes to count the entire catalog. With that being said, Honey’s Anime wants to bring you, fine readers, a top 5 list of the best wrestling anime. Without further ado, let’s “put-over” some essentials shall we?
5. Rowdy Sumo Wrestler Matsutaro!! (Abarenbou Rikishi!! Matsutarou)
- Episodes: 23
- Aired: Apr. 2014 – Sep. 2014
Our first choice is going to be an anime that’s far younger than most on this list, at only two years old. Of course, we’re talking about Rowdy Sumo Wrestler Matsutarou!! The story follows an abnormally strong man by the name of Matsutarou Sakaguchi. As the title of this anime suggests, he becomes a sumo wrestler. Matsutarou is not your typical protagonist who generally preaches hard work and determination. That can partially be attributed to his God-given ability to excel in the sport of sumo wrestling. As his journey unfolds we find out that his biggest weakness is his nonchalant attitude.
This series follows the main protagonist Matsutarou’s adventures into becoming a full-fledged sumo wrestler. What’s interesting about this anime is that Matsutarou is not your prototypical Shounen protagonist. Right out of the gate he should strike most people as a quick-tempered jerk. He has the impressive size and ability to enter the ring and take on all-comers; however, his attitude is less than desirable to his peers. He’s rowdy and disrespectful. However, his unintelligent nature can oftentimes be highly entertaining. This anime is an adaptation of a 1970’s manga, and it feels like it. The animation itself does look a bit retro for this day and age. If a snarky protagonist is something you seek, this sumo wrestling anime could bring you some much-needed satisfaction.
4. Wanna Be the Strongest in the World (Sekai de Ichiban Tsuyoku Naritai!)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Oct. 2013 – Dec. 2013
If you love ecchi and wrestling this will be your go-to anime. There’s simply nothing like this on this countdown. The story revolves around two desirable females who lead their respected idol group, Sweet Diva. One day during a TV recording, Elena Miyazawa gets injured from an attack by pro-wrestler Rio Kazama. The arrogant Rio not only took pleasure in hurting Elena but also relished in defeating Sakura Hagiwara, in a non-title match. The mocking and disrespect shown by Rio fueled Sakura’s desire to become a pro-wrestler. She decided to take a break from her idol group in order to redeem the Sweet Diva’s honor.
If you can look past the overall ecchi-tone, Wanna Be the Strongest in the World offers true to form (sometimes exaggerated) wrestling. Yes, there is plenty of fanservice to be had, but the determination and goals set out by the main protagonist and former idol, Sakura Hagiwara is inspiring. She wants to be the best at everything she does. I’m sure most of us can relate to that. Her journey from being a vocalist in her idol group to becoming the best wrestler is a tale full of intrigue, redemption and yes, ecchi goodness. This all-female anime brings out the best in wrestling while showing off some provocative positions by these sexy females.
3. Plastic Model Wrestling Sanshiro (Plawres Sanshirou)
- Episodes: 37
- Aired: Jun. 1983 – Feb. 1984
The next selection is another solid anime from the eighties. Plawres Sanshirou offers a substantially different take on the wrestling aspect of the show than the previous choice. Plawres is about a wrestling game that allows players to create, mold and finalize robots that are 30 cm tall in order to fight each other in the ring. The brash protagonist of the series, Sugata Sanshiro crafts a superior plawrestler named Juohmaru and he takes it to battle in a tournament that blends pro-wrestling and hi-tech robot wars effectively.
This show is probably the most unique of the entire list due its content. As mentioned above, Plawres Sanshirou combines the drama of pro-wrestling with the combustible elements of robot wars. It all makes for a distinctive, yet enjoyable anime. Rather than having the person do all the physical activity, they create and have the plawrestler’s duke it out instead. It’s not all just about the plawrestler’s, there’s another layer to this anime. As it progresses along there is another potential use for this kind of technology and Sugata is there to unravel the mystery. Plawres Sanshirou was looked over by many during its initial run. Don’t feel uneasy about this anime. Check it out and see what you might have missed.
- Episodes: 137
- Aired: Apr. 1983 – Oct. 1986
These last few anime are considered classics to a lot of people, simply due to their age and unique content. The titular character Kinnikuman, is a clumsy superhero who was born from Mayumi and Sayuri Kinniku, the king and queen of the planet Kinniku. Kinniku is home to some of the strongest fighters in the galaxy. Alexandria Meat was tasked with going to Earth to retrieve Kinnikuman in order to fight in a tournament against evil chiyojins. It’s then that he must prove himself to everyone, most notably his parents, that he is worthy of eventually taking the throne and earning a great deal of respect from his peers.
Kinnikuman is a quirky comedy and it’s meant to be silly. It’s like a cross between goofy aspects from pro-wrestling and a superhero parody. The anime is not subtle with their jokes and they usually, come as hard-hitting as some of the matches throughout Kinnikuman’s journey to the top. The characters in this series bring their own charm which makes this stand out amongst other wrestling anime out there. Kinnikuman has inspired several different manga artists such as Hiromu Arakawa of Fullmetal Alchemist fame, and Fairy Tail creator Hiro Mashima. In fact, this series has even inspired a real life wrestling event in Japan. Over the years this anime has built up a lasting legacy and even if you’re not a wrestling fan, you should be able to enjoy this nutty series at face value.
1. Tiger Mask
- Episodes: 105
- Aired: Oct. 1969 – Sep. 1971
Our number one honor goes to the first-rate wrestling anime, Tiger Mask. The titular character Tiger Mask, whose real name is Naoto Date was a devious and underhanded heel wrestler in the United States. He generated a reputation of being a tremendous bad guy, so much so, that a boy in the same orphanage as Naoto Date grew up in, wanted to be just like him. Naoto, not pleased with what he heard, decided to move back to Japan and become a fan-favorite to appease his mind. Tiger Mask’s former organization, Tiger’s Cave is a group known for grooming villainous wrestlers. Naoto finds himself in a heated rivalry with his former affiliation who wants to punish him for their perceived treachery.
This series affected people so greatly in Japan that some citizens all over the country donated to orphanages using the name of the main character Naoto Date. Donations started with backpacks and then it evolved into a phenomenon with toys and food being donated as well. With all the nostalgia flowing through some of our reader's minds, it’s a good time to mention that there will be a new anime based on a new person donning the infamous tiger mask. It’s titled Tiger Mask W and its due out in October of this year. We’re excited to see what direction they take after being introduced to a classic in 1969. It’s a shame that there’s not many anime like this series. One thing’s for sure, it deserves our number one spot.
That concludes our list of the top 5 wrestling anime. If you’re a fan of wrestling and want a somewhat similar experience in anime form, we feel these are the paramount choices to squash all others of its kind.
Do you wish there was more wrestling anime? Perhaps nostalgia put you in a headlock after seeing this list. Feedback is always welcome around here, whether you agree with this list or not. We’d love to hear what you have to say in the comments section below!