Black Tiger (professional wrestling)
Black Tiger has been the persona used by seven different professional wrestlers in New Japan Pro Wrestling as opponents of the four incarnations of Tiger Mask. The character is drawn from the original Japanese Tiger Mask anime. The trademark of the character is to always wear a mask and tights in an almost identical design to that of his perennial rival only with entirely black and silver coloring.
According to the storyline set forth by the original anime, Black Tiger is a wrestler trained and sent by a Yakuza-like organisation called the Tiger's Cave. The Tiger's Cave desire veangence upon the wrestler Tiger Mask, a former trainee of theirs, for publicly turning his back on them and no longer paying them monetary tributes. With the anime's protagonist translated by Antonio Inoki to actual NJPW wrestling events (in the form of Satoru Sayama) it was perhaps inevitable that his arch-enemy would also appear in the promotion.
The wrestlers portraying Black Tiger have always been gaijin, somewhat of a throwback to the days in which non-Japanese were portrayed as heels to fight against national heroes such as Rikidōzan to promote national pride after World War II, paralleling the way American promotions would often portray wrestlers depicted as, or indeed actually being from, foreign countries as villains pitted against American-born heroes. In other countries this has varied. Black Tiger IV was a member of Team Japan during the TNA 2006 World X-Cup Tournament and during his CMLL career Black Tiger III was overtly portrayed as being Japanese.
Incarnations of Black Tiger
Black Tiger I
Mark "Rollerball" Rocco, an established British wrestler, was the first to assume the persona in 1982 to oppose the original Tiger Mask, Satoru Sayama. His pinnacle of success was defeating Gran Hamada in a tournament final for the vacant WWF Junior Heavyweight Championship on May 6, 1982, and was defeated twenty days later by Tiger Mask for the belt. Sayama left NJPW in 1983 and the rights to Tiger Mask were purchased by All Japan Pro Wrestling the following year for the use of Mitsuharu Misawa. AJPW were not to create a Black Tiger counterpart. Rocco continued to portray Black Tiger in NJPW until 1990, and has the distinction of being the first man to wrestle as Black Tiger outside Japan, having faced The Cobra at Madison Square Garden in a World Wrestling Federation match on December 28, 1984.
Black Tiger II
In August 1993 Black Tiger made a return, this time portrayed by Eddie Guerrero. His Tiger Mask rival at this time was Koji Kanemoto. Kanemoto unmasked in January 1994, while Guerrero was a finalist in the 1994 Super Grade Junior Heavyweight Tag League with The Great Sasuke, came third in the 1994 and 1995 Best of the Super Juniors tournaments and was victorious in 1996.
Black Tiger III
Following the fall of WCW, alumnus César Cuauhtémoc González, better known as Mexican star Silver King began wrestling for NJPW through their working relationship with his home promotion Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre. Tiger Mask IV would not sign with NJPW until early 2003 and the highlight of Black Tiger III's Japanese run would be a failed attempt at the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship alongside his real-life brother Dr. Wagner, Jr. before he devoted himself full-time to his CMLL career. González continued to use the Black Tiger name in Mexican independent companies even after CMLL repackaged him as "El Bronco" following NJPW unveiling Black Tiger IV in 2005. His final match under the persona came when he lost a Mask versus Mask match to L.A. Park on February 4, 2006. He briefly wrestled under the persona again in 2017, teaming with Black Tiger VII to take on Dr Wagner Jr. and El Hijo de Dr. Wagner Jr..
Black Tiger IV
In 2005 Rocky Romero debuted as Black Tiger IV by NJPW and immediately thrust into a feud with Tiger Mask IV, facing him for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship on May 14. He made his debut for Ring of Honor in America, making him the first Black Tiger to wrestle as Black Tiger in America since Mark Rocco. After winning the NWA World Junior Heavyweight Championship on August 25 he defeated Tiger Mask for the his IWGP title on October 8, defending them until losing both to Tiger Mask on February 19, 2006. Black Tiger would join Jushin Thunder Liger's CTU faction and represent NJPW as a member of Team Japan in TNA Wrestling's World X-Cup. Black Tiger IV returned to New Japan in February 2009, joining GBH and restarting his feud with Tiger Mask IV. On April 5, 2009, at Resolution '09 Tiger Mask IV defeated Black Tiger IV in a title vs. mask match. After the match Romero removed his mask and then raised the arm of Tiger Mask thus ending his run as Black Tiger.
Black Tiger V
Black Tiger's fifth Generation (V) arrived in NJPW at Tokyo Dome February 15, 2009, attacking Tiger Mask IV. For the next couple of months, the new Black Tiger disappeared and was replaced at shows by Black Tiger IV. On April 5, 2009, at Resolution '09 after Tiger Mask had defeated Black Tiger IV for the last time, he was once again attacked by the fifth Black Tiger, who gave him a Death Valley Driver and then unmasked him. On June 20, 2009, at Dominion 6.20, Tiger Mask defeated Black Tiger V in a mask vs. mask match. After the match Black Tiger removed his mask revealing himself as Tatsuhito Takaiwa, breaking the Black Tiger tradition of foreigners under the mask. Takaiwa reprised his role as Black Tiger V in 2011 in Toryumon Mexico, where he lost the mask for the second time on May 14, 2011, to Último Dragón. Despite losing his mask twice, Takaiwa continues to make appearances as Black Tiger V.
Black Tiger VI
Black Tiger's sixth generation (VI), Tomohiro Ishii, had the shortest run under the mask. In early 2011, Ishii began feuding with Tiger Mask IV and, after losing his hair on January 23, began wearing a Black Tiger mask, despite still going by his real name, which he then lost to Tiger Mask IV on February 20 at The New Beginning.
Black Tiger VII
Black Tiger's seventh Generation (VII), referred to simply as "Black Tiger", debuted during New Japan's Road to the Super Jr. 2Days Tournament, which took place on April 14 and 15, 2012, and which he went on to win. Following Kazushige Nosawa's May 23 arrest for smuggling cannabis, it was confirmed that he had been portraying Black Tiger. Two days later, New Japan officially pulled Tiger from the Best of the Super Juniors tournament.
Signature moves associated with the character
- Pope, Kristian (2005). Tuff Stuff Professional Wrestling Field Guide: Legend and Lore. Iola, WI: KP Books. p. 373. ISBN 0-89689-267-0.
- Guerrero, Eddie. Cheating Death, Stealing Life: The Eddie Guerrero Story, p. 92.
- "Enciclopedia de las Mascaras". BLack Tiger III (in Spanish). Mexico. July 2007. p. 34. Tomo I.
- Lizárraga, Alfonso (2011-05-15). "Ultimo Dragon gana la mascara Black Tiger V". The Gladiatores (in Spanish). Retrieved 2011-05-16.
- 吉江と黒虎が「ももクロ軍」結成. Tokyo Sports (in Japanese). 2013-02-13. Retrieved 2013-02-13.
- "NJPW Presents CMLL Fantastica Mania 2011". New Japan Pro Wrestling (in Japanese). 2011-01-23. Retrieved 2011-01-23.
- "The New Beginning". New Japan Pro Wrestling (in Japanese). 2012-07-18. Retrieved 2012-07-18.
- "『Super Jr.』参戦選手決定! 全日本から "レンタル移籍"のBushi、ロウ・キー、そしてドラゲーの"超・鳥人"Pacが初参戦!!". New Japan Pro Wrestling (in Japanese). 2012-05-04. Retrieved 2012-07-18.
- "NEVER．9 ～Road to the Super Jr．2Days Tournament 1st．～". New Japan Pro Wrestling (in Japanese). Retrieved 2012-04-15.
- "NEVER．9 ～Road to the Super Jr．2Days Tournament Final～". New Japan Pro Wrestling (in Japanese). Retrieved 2012-04-15.
- "Nosawa論外と紫雷イオ、大麻取締法違反で逮捕". Sports Navi (in Japanese). Yahoo!. 2012-05-25. Retrieved 2012-05-25.
- "Nosawa論外と紫雷イオ、大麻取締法違反で逮捕". Sports Navi (in Japanese). Yahoo!. May 25, 2012. Archived from the original on May 28, 2012. Retrieved May 25, 2012.
- Guerrero, Eddie (2005). Cheating Death, Stealing Life: The Eddie Guerrero Story. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0-7434-9353-2.