Tomohiro Ishii

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Tomohiro Ishii
Tomohiro Ishii NJPW.jpg
Ishii in November 2011.
Birth name Tomohiro Ishii
Ring name(s) Ishii[1]
Tomohiro Ishii
Billed height 1.70 m (5 ft 7 in)[2]
Billed weight 100 kg (220 lb)[2][3]
Born (1975-12-10) December 10, 1975 (age 38)[2][3]
Kawasaki, Kanagawa[2][3]
Trained by Genichiro Tenryu[4]
Riki Chōshū[2][3]
Debut November 2, 1996[2][3]

Tomohiro Ishii (石井 智宏 Ishii Tomohiro?, born December 10, 1975)[2][3] is a Japanese professional wrestler, currently signed to the New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) promotion. He is also known for his work with the independent Fighting World of Japan Pro Wrestling (Riki Pro) promotion, where he also worked backstage as the chairman.[3] Though pushed most of his career as an undercarder without any major championship wins, Ishii gathered a cult following,[5][6][7] and has been called "probably [one of the] most underrated guys in the business" by Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter.[8] Ishii's status finally began rising in NJPW in early 2013, culminating in him winning his first title in the promotion, the NEVER Openweight Championship, in February 2014.

Professional wrestling career[edit]

Early career (1996–2004)[edit]

Ishii made his professional wrestling debut at the age of twenty on November 2, 1996, facing Choden Senshi Battle Ranger Z at an event held by Genichiro Tenryu's Wrestle Association "R" (WAR) promotion in Kushiro, Hokkaido.[2][3] For the next years, Ishii remained affiliated with WAR, winning his first title on October 12, 1997, when he and Yuji Yasuraoka defeated Gokuaku Umibouzu and Masashi Aoyagi for the WAR International Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship.[9] Ishii and Yasuraoka won the title once more on March 1, 1999, eventually becoming the final champions in the title's initial history due to Yasuraoka's retirement in June 1999 and WAR going out of business in 2000.[9] Being forced to become a freelancer, Ishii went on to work for several promotions during the following years, including Toruymon Japan,[10][11][12] World Entertainment Wrestling (WEW),[13] and Fighting World of Japan Pro Wrestling (Riki Pro), which he entered as the promotion's founder Riki Chōshū's apprentice, later being appointed the chairman of the promotion.[2][3] In August 2003, Ishii won Riki Pro's Young Magma Tournament.[2] In 2004, Ishii also made appearances for Pro Wrestling Zero1-Max, where he and Tatsuhito Takaiwa won the NWA International Lightweight Tag Team Championship.[2][3]

New Japan Pro Wrestling (2004–present)[edit]

Ishii made sporadic appearances for New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) in 2004 and 2005, but only began working regularly for the promotion in 2006.[2][14] In June of that year, Ishii formed the "Heisei no Gokudo Combi" tag team with Toru Yano and together the two took part in the 2006 G1 Tag League.[2][14] On October 16, Ishii and Yano joined Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Togi Makabe and Shiro Koshinaka as the newest members of the villainous Great Bash Heel (GBH) stable.[15] From 2006 onwards, several GBH members, including Ishii, Makabe and Yano, also made sporadic appearances for the Apache Pro-Wrestling Army promotion, where Ishii won the WEW Heavyweight Championship on July 12, 2008.[14][16] Back in NJPW, Ishii worked as one of the lowest-ranked members of GHB until April 2009, when he, along with Yano, Gedo, Giant Bernard, Jado, Karl Anderson and Takashi Iizuka turned on then-GBH leader Togi Makabe and Tomoaki Honma and went on to form the new Chaos stable under the leadership of Shinsuke Nakamura.[2][17][18] While Chaos as a unit was involved in a storyline rivalry with Makabe, Honma and Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Ishii mainly remained outside of the top matches in the rivalry, continuing to work undercard matches,[19][20][21] starting his own rivalry with Wataru Inoue.[22] In October 2009, Ishii received some exposure in North America, when he was featured in Total Nonstop Action Wrestling's (TNA) Global Impact 2 program on Spike TV, working in an eight-man tag team main event, where he, Giant Bernard, Karl Anderson and Takashi Iizuka were defeated by Kevin Nash, Kurt Angle, Masahiro Chono and Riki Chōshū.[23][24] The match had been taped during NJPW's Wrestle Kingdom III in Tokyo Dome show the previous January.[25][26] On January 4, 2010, Ishii was involved in another big eight-man tag team match at Wrestle Kingdom IV in Tokyo Dome, where he, Takashi Iizuka, Toru Yano and Abdullah the Butcher were defeated by Manabu Nakanishi, Masahiro Chono, Riki Chōshū and Terry Funk.[27][28]

In late 2010, Ishii started a storyline rivalry with masked wrestler Tiger Mask, going after his mask on several occasions.[29][30][31] This built to a match during the first Fantasticamania weekend on January 23, 2011, where Tiger Mask defeated Ishii in a Lucha de Apuestas Mask vs. Hair match; as a result, Ishii was forced to have his head shaved. After the shaving, Ishii once again attacked his rival and unmasked him.[32] During the next NJPW event three days later, Ishii continued his rivalry with Tiger Mask, but was now wearing the mask of Black Tiger, a longtime nemesis of the various Tiger Masks that have appeared in NJPW throughout the years.[33][34] The rivalry culminated on February 20 at The New Beginning, where Tiger Mask defeated Ishii in a Mask vs. Mask match, taking away his mask and ending the rivalry.[35] Though Ishii worked the entire rivalry under his real name, he was officially recognized by NJPW as the sixth generation Black Tiger, when Kazushige Nosawa debuted in 2012, billed as the seventh generation Black Tiger.[36] In June 2011, Ishii took part in the J Sports Crown Openweight 6 Man Tag Tournament, where he and Chaos stablemates Takashi Iizuka and Toru Yano made it to the semifinals, before losing to Giant Bernard, Jushin Liger and Karl Anderson.[37]

After having worked for NJPW for eight years, Ishii received his first title shot in the promotion on May 20, 2012, when he unsuccessfully challenged Hirooki Goto for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship in the main event of a show in Osaka.[38] The following November, Ishii took part in a tournament to determine the inaugural NEVER Openweight Champion. After wins over Daisuke Sasaki and Yoshi-Hashi, Ishii was defeated in the semifinals of the tournament by Chaos stablemate Masato Tanaka, who went on to win the entire tournament.[39][40] The following month, Ishii teamed with Chaos leader Shinsuke Nakamura in the 2012 World Tag League, where they picked up three wins out of their six matches, failing to advance from their round-robin block.[41] In January 2013, Ishii took part in the third Fantasticamania weekend, winning a twelve-man torneo cibernetico on January 20.[42] Following the win, Ishii challenged Masato Tanaka to a rematch for the NEVER Openweight Championship.[42] The rematch between the two stablemates took place on February 3 in a main event at Korakuen Hall. Despite having the audience noticeably behind him,[5][6] Ishii was again defeated by Tanaka, who, as a result, retained his title.[43] The match was later praised by sports journalist Dave Meltzer, though he also expressed concern for the healths of both Ishii and Tanaka following the hard-hitting match.[44] For his fan following, Ishii earned himself the nickname "New Mr. Korakuen".[45] On March 11, Ishii picked up his biggest singles win in his NJPW career, when he defeated multi-time IWGP Heavyweight and IWGP Tag Team Champion Satoshi Kojima in the first round of the 2013 New Japan Cup.[46][47] Six days later, Ishii was defeated in his second round match in the tournament by Hirooki Goto.[48] In early 2013, Ishii also became involved in Chaos' rivalry with Suzukigun, NJPW's other major villainous stable, leading to Chaos and Ishii being positioned in a more sympathetic role than usual.[49][50][51] On March 23, Ishii teamed with Jado and Shinsuke Nakamura to defeat Suzukigun representatives Minoru Suzuki, Lance Archer and Taka Michinoku in a six-man tag team match by pinning Michinoku for the win. After the match, Nakamura challenged Archer and his tag team partner Davey Boy Smith, Jr. to a match for the IWGP Tag Team Championship, nominating Ishii as his partner for the match.[52][53][54] Ishii and Nakamura received their title shot on April 5, but were defeated by Archer and Smith.[55][56][57] Ishii then got involved in a heated rivalry with Suzukigun leader Minoru Suzuki,[58][59] which built to a singles match between the two on July 20 at the Kizuna Road 2013 pay-per-view, where Suzuki was victorious.[60][61][62] As a sign of his rising status in NJPW, on August 1, Ishii entered the 2013 G1 Climax, his first ever entry into the promotion's premier tournament.[63] Ishii main evented the second night of the tournament in Korakuen Hall, where he picked up a major win over six-time IWGP Heavyweight Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi.[64][65][66][67] On the fourth night of the tournament, Ishii defeated Katsuyori Shibata in a match that received widespread acclaim, including a five-star rating from Dave Meltzer.[68][69] Ishii's only other win in the tournament came via forfeit over the injured Hirooki Goto, a result that left him at the bottom of block A.[70][71] Following the tournament, NJPW announced that Ishii would embark on his first tour with Mexican promotion Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (CMLL) starting September 8.[72][73][74] Ishii made his CMLL debut on September 13 at the 80th Anniversary Show in Mexico City, teaming with compatriots Namajague and Okumura to defeat Fuego, Rey Cometa and Stuka, Jr. in a six-man tag team match.[1][75][76] Ishii remained in CMLL until October 1, working undercard six-man tag team matches.[77][78][79] Ishii wrestled his NJPW return match on October 14 at King of Pro-Wrestling, when he was defeated by Katsuyori Shibata in a rematch of their highly acclaimed G1 Climax match.[80] From November 23 to December 7, Ishii and Shinsuke Nakamura took part in the 2013 World Tag League, where they finished with a record of three wins and three losses, with a loss against Togi Makabe and Tomoaki Honma on the final day costing them a spot in the semifinals.[81][82]

On January 5, 2014, Ishii started a new storyline rivalry with Tetsuya Naito, announcing his intention of becoming the next NEVER Openweight Champion.[83] The title match between the two took place on February 11 at The New Beginning in Osaka and saw Ishii become the third NEVER Openweight Champion, winning his first title in NJPW.[84][85][86] After Naito eliminated Ishii from the 2014 New Japan Cup in their first round match,[87] a rematch for the NEVER Openweight Championship between the two was set for the April 6 Invasion Attack 2014 event, where Ishii made his first successful title defense.[88][89][90] Ishii's second successful title defense took place just six days later during NJPW's trip to Taiwan, when he defeated Kushida.[91] On May 3 at Wrestling Dontaku 2014, Ishii made his third successful title defense against Tomoaki Honma and was afterwards challenged by IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion Kota Ibushi,[92][93] with whom he had had sporadic heated encounters since the past year's G1 Climax.[94][95] The match between the two took place on May 25 at Back to the Yokohama Arena and saw Ishii make his fourth successful title defense. After the match, Ishii was pulled into the rivalry between Chaos and Bullet Club, when he was attacked by former stablemate Yujiro Takahashi, who appointed himself as his next challenger.[96][97][98] On June 29, Ishii lost the NEVER Openweight Championship to Takahashi in his fifth defense, following outside interference from Bullet Club.[99][100][101]

In wrestling[edit]

Championships and accomplishments[edit]

Lucha de Apuestas record[edit]

Wager Winner Loser Location Date Notes
Hair Tiger Mask Tomohiro Ishii Tokyo January 23, 2011 Mask vs. Hair match.[32]
Mask Tiger Mask Tomohiro Ishii Sendai February 20, 2011 [35]

References[edit]

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