Tanaka in October 2011.
|Birth name||Masato Tanaka|
February 28, 1973 |
|Professional wrestling career|
|Ring name(s)||Masa Tanaka
|Billed height||1.81 m (5 ft 11 in)|
|Billed weight||95 kg (209 lb)|
|Trained by||Atsushi Onita|
|Debut||July 23, 1993|
Masato Tanaka (田中 将斗 Tanaka Masato?, born February 28, 1973) is a Japanese professional wrestler, best known for his appearances with Frontier Martial Arts Wrestling in Japan and in Extreme Championship Wrestling in the United States where he was a one-time ECW World Heavyweight Champion. He is currently splitting his time working for Pro Wrestling Noah and Pro Wrestling Zero1.
Frontier Martial Arts Wrestling (1993–1999)
Originally a trainee for George and Shunji Takano's Pro Wrestling Crusaders, Tanaka transferred to Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling and trained under Atsushi Onita, and debuted on July 23, 1993 in Saga City, facing Ricky Fuji. He quickly began moving up the card in FMW, widely regarded as the most hardcore professional wrestling promotion in Japan. Wrestling in matches featuring explosions and barbed wire, Tanaka earned a variety of scars, and the nickname "Dangan", which he would often shout during his matches. By 1996 he was one of the promotion's major stars, and had feuded with such luminaries as Mr. Pogo, Mr. Gannosuke, Terry Funk and Mike Awesome. His feud with Awesome would eventually span ten years and two continents. In December 1999, he left FMW for ECW, after he and Tetsuhiro Kuroda lost to H and Mr. Gannosuke.
Extreme Championship Wrestling (1998–2000)
ECW owner Paul Heyman became interested in Tanaka, and eventually hired him. Tanaka debuted in ECW on March 1, 1998 at Living Dangerously, defeating Doug Furnas in a match that, compared to Tanaka's extremely well-received future matches, was very much hated by the fans in attendance, who greeted the unusually sloppy wrestlers with a chorus of boos throughout their fumbled offense. In July 1998 he reprised his feud with Awesome, who he defeated at Heat Wave 1998.
Tanaka formed a short-lived tag team with Balls Mahoney, and at November to Remember on November 1, 1998 they defeated The Dudley Boyz to win the ECW World Tag Team Championships. In doing so, he became the first person to ever kick out of the Dudleys' 3D finisher. The Dudley Boyz would regain the titles five days later, and Tanaka returned to Japan to attend the wedding of his friend Sabu in December and eventually returning to FMW in January 1999.
Tanaka returned to ECW in the summer of 1999, this time vying for the ECW World Heavyweight Championship. On September 19 at Anarchy Rulz, Taz, about to leave ECW for the WWF, defended the ECW World Heavyweight Championship against the returning Mike Awesome and Tanaka in a three way dance. After just two minutes Taz was eliminated by a combined assault at the hands of his opponents. After a further eleven minutes of brawling, Awesome pinned Tanaka with a Kamikaze Awesome Bomb to become the new ECW World Heavyweight Champion.
Tanaka faced Awesome for the title at November to Remember on November 7, but was defeated once more. He finally overcame Awesome on December 17, 1999 at an ECW on TNN TV Taping in Nashville, Tennessee, becoming the first ECW World Heavyweight Champion not to be an American citizen. After the match, Awesome shook Tanaka's hand and fastened the belt around his waist in a show of respect, then attacked him as he left the ring and powerbombed him through a table. Awesome would regain the title at the next weeks TV Taping in White Plains, New York on December 23.
Continuing his rivalry with Awesome, Tanaka joined forces with Tommy Dreamer to face Raven and Awesome. Dreamer and Tanaka defeated the Impact Players for the ECW World Tag Team Championship on February 26, 2000 in Cincinnati, but lost them to Mike Awesome and Raven on March 4, 2000 at The ECW Arena. This led to a tag team three way dance at Living Dangerously on March 12, with Tanaka and Dreamer facing ECW World Tag Team Champions Mike Awesome and Raven and the Impact Players. Tanaka pinned Awesome, who had already defended his ECW World Heavyweight Title earlier that night beating Kid Kash, costing Awesome and Raven the tag team titles, but lost the match after Dreamer was pinned by the Impact Players.
Tanaka's feud with Awesome was brought to an abrupt end when Awesome left ECW for WCW in April 2000. He faced Balls Mahoney in at ECW on TNN and at Hardcore Heaven 2000. He remained with ECW until mid-2000 before returning to Japan.
Return to Japan (2000–present)
Tanaka returned to FMW in the spring of 2000, briefly feuding with H, before joining forces with H (by now back under the Hayabusa persona) to feud with Team No Respect, until leaving in February 2001, allegedly as a result of animosity between him and the owner of FMW, Shoichi Arai, mostly over Kodo Fuyuki's role as booker. Before departing FMW, Tanaka formed the "Complete Players" stable with former Fuyuki protégés Gedo and Jado, as well as real-life sweetheart Kaori Nakayama. They would work on the Japanese independent circuit, making appearances for Pro Wrestling ZERO-ONE and All Japan Pro Wrestling. Tanaka wrestled Shinya Hashimoto on the March 2 ZERO-ONE anniversary show, impressing ZERO-ONE officials and earning himself a job.
In January 2002 Tanaka formed a tag team named "Emblem" with Shinjiro Otani, with whom he twice won the NWA Intercontinental Tag Team Championships. In February 2004, he turned heel and sided with the "Apache Army". In September 2004 he formed his own stable, "Team Erotics", continuing his feud with Otani. In late 2007, he was chosen to lead a new stable named "Sword Army", the name was chosen by fans in a contest. Takao Ōmori was also given a stable named "Axe Army" to compete against Tanaka.
In mid-2009 Tanaka returned to New Japan Pro Wrestling as an outsider. He reformed the Complete Players with Jado and Gedo, and he participated in the 2009 G1 Climax tournament, although he failed to advance past the block stages. In New Japan, he's an ally of the stable, CHAOS, especially Jado, Gedo and Yujiro Takahashi. On October 10, 2011, at Destruction '11, Tanaka defeated MVP to win the IWGP Intercontinental Championship, becoming only the second champion in the title's history. He would make his first successful title defense on November 12 at Power Struggle against Hirooki Goto. On December 4, Tanaka defeated MVP in a rematch, with help from Yujiro Takahashi, to retain the IWGP Intercontinental Championship. On January 4, 2012, at Wrestle Kingdom VI in Tokyo Dome, where Tanaka and Takahashi were defeated by MVP and Shelton Benjamin in a tag team match. On February 12 at The New Beginning, Tanaka lost the IWGP Intercontinental Championship to Hirooki Goto in his fourth defense.
On November 15, 2012, Tanaka entered a tournament to determine the inaugural NEVER Openweight Champion. After wins over Kushida, Taishi Takizawa and Tomohiro Ishii, Tanaka defeated Karl Anderson in the finals of the tournament on November 19 to become the inaugural NEVER Openweight Champion. Tanaka made his first successful title defense on January 4, 2013, at Wrestle Kingdom 7 in Tokyo Dome, where he defeated Shelton Benjamin. Tanaka's second successful title defense took place on February 3, when he defeated Chaos stablemate Tomohiro Ishii. On May 3 at Wrestling Dontaku 2013, Tanaka made his third successful title defense against Tomoaki Honma. On July 20, Tanaka made his fourth successful title defense against Tetsuya Naito. On September 29 at Destruction, Tanaka lost the NEVER Openweight Championship in a rematch with Naito, ending his reign at 314 days.
After forming the Dangan Yankies stable in Zero1, Tanaka began working for Pro Wrestling Noah in early 2014, teaming with stablemate Takashi Sugiura. On April 27, the two defeated Katsuhiko Nakajima and Naomichi Marufuji to win the 2014 Global Tag League. On May 6, Tanaka and Sugiura won the NWA Intercontinental Tag Team Championship. On May 31, Tanaka and Sugiura became double champions, when they defeated Maybach Taniguchi and Takeshi Morishima for Noah's GHC Tag Team Championship. They lost the GHC Tag Team Championship to TMDK (Mikey Nicholls and Shane Haste) on January 10, 2015. On May 4, Tanaka and Sugiura won their second Global Tag League in a row.
Return to the United States (2002–present)
On June 12. 2005 Tanaka revived his feud with Mike Awesome at the WWE produced ECW One Night Stand 2005 reunion PPV. He was defeated after Awesome delivered a running Awesome Bomb through a table outside the ring and followed up with an Awesome Splash. He returned to WWE one year later at ECW One Night Stand 2006, losing to Balls Mahoney. On October 26, 2007, Tanaka beat Takao Ōmori for the AWA Superstars of Wrestling World Heavyweight Championship.
- Finishing moves
- Signature moves
- Big boot
- Chair shot
- Dangan Elbow (Running elbow smash)
- Diamond Tornado (Fireman's carry spun out into a side slam) – rarely used
- Diving splash onto opponent lying on the table
- La Tapatia (Modified surfboard)
- Multiple suplex variations
- Niagara Driver (Sitout crucifix one shoulder powerbomb)
- Roaring Elbow (ECW) / Rolling Elbow (Discus elbow smash)
- Running Death Valley driver
- Running jumping chair shot
- Shotgun Stunner – Innovated
- Super Fly (Frog splash)
- Tanaka Blaster (Sitout powerbomb)
- "The Enforcer"
- "The King of E-Style Wrestling"
- "True Man of Summer"
- Entrance Themes
- "Dangan" by FMW Productions (FMW, ECW, ZERO1, NJPW; 1996–present)
- "T.N.T" by AC/DC (ECW; 1998)
- "Holy Man" by One Minute Silence (ECW; 2000)
- "The Lumberjack" by Jackyl (ECW; 1997)
- "Oriental Moods" by Jim Johnston (WWE; 2005–2006)
- "Dirty Harry" (Schtung Chinese New Year remix) by Gorillaz (Various Indie-Promotions 2007–2008)
Championships and accomplishments
- Extreme Championship Wrestling
- Frontier Martial Arts Wrestling
- FMW Brass Knuckles Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- FMW Brass Knuckles Tag Team Championship (2 times) – with Hayabusa (1) and Tetsuhiro Kuroda (1)
- FMW/WEW Hardcore Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Gedō
- FMW Independent Heavyweight Championship (2 times)
- FMW/WEW 6-Man Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Gedō and Jadō
- FMW Street Fight Six-Man Tag Team Championship (3 times) – with Hayabusa & Hisakatsu Ōya (1), Hayabusa & Kōji Nakagawa (1), and Tetsuhiro Kuroda & Kōji Nakagawa (1)
- FMW/WEW World Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- Hustle Hardcore Hero Championship (1 time)
- Hustle King Hashimoto Memorial Six-Man Tag Tournament (2006) – with Tadao Yasuda & Shinjiro Otani
- New Japan Pro Wrestling
- Pro Wrestling Noah
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- Pro Wrestling World-1
- World-1 Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- Pro Wrestling Zero1
- AWA Superstars of Wrestling World Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- NWA Intercontinental Tag Team Championship (5 times) – with Shinjiro Otani (2), Wataru Sakata (1), Zeus (1) and Takashi Sugiura (1)
- NWA United National Heavyweight Championship (1 time)1
- World Heavyweight Championship (2 times)
- Fire Festival (2006–2008, 2012)
- Furinkazan (2011) – with Fujita Hayato
- Furinkazan (2014) – with Takashi Sugiura
- Tenkaichi Jr. (2007)
- Best Bout (2011) vs. Daisuke Sekimoto on August 7
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