Akira Tozawa (July 22, 1985) is a Japanese professional wrestler currently signed to World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) where he is a one-time WWE Cruiserweight Champion. He is also known for his previous work in Dragon Gate during 2005-2010 and again during 2011-2016. In July 2010, Tozawa left on a year-long excursion to United States, during which he performed for promotions such as Chikara, Dragon Gate USA and Pro Wrestling Guerrilla.
Professional wrestling career
Dragon Gate (2005–2010)
Akira Tozawa was the third graduate of the Dragon Gate dojo to debut. He was being groomed to enter the stable M2K, but he did not progress very well. After debuting, he underwent a 10 match trial series, but lost all 10 matches and was banished back to the DG dojo.
Tozawa returned in October 2005, teaming with fellow rookie Yuki Ono/Katsuo. However, he ended up teaming with Vangelis, a wrestler with a Nazi stripper gimmick. Kenichiro Arai intervened, much to Tozawa's resentment. When Tozawa scored the biggest win of his career so far by beating Naruki Doi during the Brave Gate League, the impressed Arai offered him a spot in M2K. Tozawa, however, refused, and stated his intention to run a stable of his own, and created a cram school based stable called Tozawa-juku.
Even though Tozawa-juku bore his name, he was not necessarily the leader. Because of his backstage reputation as a troublemaker at the time, he was regularly held off of shows, progressed little, and was far beneath his stablemates Taku Iwasa, Kenichiro Arai, and even fellow troublemaker Yuki Ono in rank.
When Ono experienced newfound popularity and rank courtesy of a massive amount of weight gain (40+KG), Tozawa began to bulk up as well, and he and Ono formed the Metabolic Brothers tag team within Tozawa-juku. They discarded the gakuran pants worn by the unit and wore silver tights and boots. However, they hardly got anywhere, due to injuries to Ono and the general awfulness of the whole concept.
On July 11, 2008, after having done this for a little over half a year, he appeared on a show with his gakuran pants on and announced that, in light of the recent success that new stablemates Shinobu and El Generico have brought to the unit (as well as constant pestering from Iwasa and Arai), he was going on a diet. After a diet trial series, where he actually had success, he brashly challenged Open the Triangle Gate Champions Masaaki Mochizuki, Don Fujii, and Magnitude Kishiwada to a title match against him, Iwasa & Arai on November 16. The trio agreed, but on the condition that Tozawa-juku would have to disband if his team lost. His team would lose the match, bringing about the end of the unit, and he and his stablemates were given a graduation ceremony. He promised everyone that he would ascend to the next stage.
He and Iwasa began to team with Shingo Takagi in the weeks that followed, and then on December 19, he appealed to Shingo to form a new unit with him and Iwasa. Shingo agreed to it. On January 11, 2009, Dragon Kid joined up with him and the others, and Shingo gave the unit the name of Kamikaze. Tozawa participated in the Battle of Tokyo Tournament two weeks later, and made it to the finals before losing to Kagetora. In his times with Kamikaze, he was the lowest ranked member; as such he was lower on the card and took the losing fall often in his matches. Highlights of this time period were an Open the Brave Gate Championship challenge in 2009 against Cima and a "Loser is Banished to Dark Matches" match on May 5, 2010 against Kamikaze stablemate Cyber Kong. After this loss against Kong, Tozawa left Japan for an extended tour of the United States beginning in May 2010.
American exploits (2010–2016)
On May 7, 2010, Tozawa made his debut for Dragon Gate's international expansion Dragon Gate USA, as a member of the heel group Kamikaze USA, teaming with Gran Akuma in a match, where they were defeated by Mike Quackenbush and Jigsaw.
Also in May 2010, Tozawa began working regularly for SoCal promotion Pro Wrestling Guerrilla. He made his Pro Wrestling Guerrilla debut on May 9, during the Dynamite Duumvirate Tag Team Title Tournament, teaming with fellow Kamikaze partner Yamato in a first-round losing effort against The Briscoe Brothers (Jay and Mark Briscoe). At the following show on June 11, he defeated Scott Lost and on July 30 Chris Sabin.
Tozawa also competed in Chikara's Young Lions Cup VIII in August 2010. He defeated Green Ant on August 27 in the first round, but was the last man eliminated from the six-way elimination semifinal match later that same night. On August 29, the final day of the tournament, Tozawa was defeated by Hallowicked in a singles match.
On September 5 Tozawa entered PWG's 2010 Battle of Los Angeles, defeating El Generico in his first round match. The following night, Tozawa was eliminated from the tournament by Chris Hero. The match, called by some a match of the year contender, is considered Tozawa's breakout performance, which got him noticed even by the Dragon Gate office. Tozawa returned to PWG on December 11, 2010, in a match, where he was defeated by Kevin Steen. Afterwards Steen recruited Tozawa as his partner for the March 4 DDT4 tournament.
Tozawa earned victories over Sami Callihan, Austin Aries, and BxB Hulk for Dragon Gate USA in January 2011, but run-ins with stablemates Jon Moxley and Yamato led to him being kicked out of Kamikaze USA, turning him face in the process. At the following Dragon Gate USA tapings on April 3, Tozawa defeated Moxley to earn an immediate shot at Yamato's Open the Freedom Gate Championship. He was, however, unsuccessful in his attempt to become the new champion. Tozawa was also unsuccessful in beating Pac for his Open the Brave Gate Championship on April 2, at Mercury Rising 2011.
On March 4, 2011, Tozawa and Kevin Steen, the team known collectively as the Nightmare Violence Connection, entered PWG's DDT4 tournament, upsetting the Briscoe Brothers in their first round match. After another upset victory over the ROH World Tag Team Champions, The Kings of Wrestling (Chris Hero and Claudio Castagnoli), during which Tozawa pinned Hero, avenging his Battle of Los Angeles loss, he and Steen made it to the finals of the tournament, where they were, however, defeated by The Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson). On April 9, Tozawa was defeated by Low Ki in a singles match in PWG.
On April 15, Tozawa returned to Chikara, captaining Team Dragon Gate, consisting of himself, Kagetora and Super Shisa, in the 2011 King of Trios tournament. In the first round of the tournament, Team Dragon Gate defeated the Spectral Envoy (UltraMantis Black, Hallowicked and Frightmare). The following day, Team Dragon Gate was eliminated from the tournament in the quarterfinal stage by The Osirian Portal (Amasis, Hieracon and Ophidian). On April 17, the final day of the tournament, Tozawa faced Eddie Kingston in a losing effort.
On May 15, 2011, in Austin, Texas, Tozawa captured the Anarchy Championship Wrestling (ACW) U–30 Young Gun Championship, the first title of his career, by defeating previous champion ACH, Arik Cannon and Gary Jay in a four-way match. He would lose the title to Gerald James six days later.
On May 27, Tozawa returned to PWG for his final weekend with the promotion before his return to Japan. During the first night of All Star Weekend 8, Tozawa and Kevin Steen defeated El Generico and Ricochet in a tag team match. The following night, Tozawa wrestled two matches, first teaming with Steen to defeat the RockNES Monsters (Johnny Goodtime and Johnny Yuma) in a tag team match, before defeating Chris Hero in his PWG farewell match. This ended Towaza's extended USA tour, although Tozawa remained a part of Dragon Gate USA.
On June 3, Tozawa and Yamato failed to capture the Open the United Gate Championship when they lost to reigning champions Masato Yoshino and Pac at Fearless 2011. On June 28, 2012, Tozawa unsuccessfully challenged Johnny Gargano for the Open the Freedom Gate Championship. Tozawa received another shot at the title on July 28, 2013, at Dragon Gate USA's fourth anniversary event, but was again defeated by Gargano.
On July 24, 2015, Tozawa returned to PWG, losing to Ricochet, and on the first show of 2016, returned once again, losing to Zack Sabre Jr.
Return to Dragon Gate (2011–2016)
On June 8, 2011, Tozawa made his return to Dragon Gate, joining the promotion's dominant heel stable, Blood Warriors. Upon his return, Tozawa was treated as a serious competitor and given a major push, which included defeating Shingo Takagi on July 17 at Kobe Pro Wrestling Festival 2011. In August, Tozawa and fellow Blood Warriors member BxB Hulk took part in the 2011 Summer Adventure Tag League, where they ultimately defeated Masaaki Mochizuki and Yamato of rival group Junction Three to win the tournament. On the September 16, Tozawa defeated rival Yamato in a no ropes, no disqualification match. This led to Tozawa challenging Masaaki Mochizuki for the Open the Dream Gate Championship on October 13, but Tozawa was defeated. On December 1, Tozawa and BxB Hulk defeated Kagetora and Susumu Yokosuka to win the vacant Open the Twin Gate Championship, Tozawa's first title in Dragon Gate. On January 19, 2012, Tozawa and Hulk turned on Blood Warriors leader Cima, causing him to lose a ten-man "Loser Leaves Unit" tag team match; as a result, Cima was kicked out of Blood Warriors. After this match, Tozawa assumed the leader role inside Blood Warriors. On January 29, Tozawa made a one night return to PWG, when he teamed with Kevin Steen and Super Dragon in a six-man tag team main event, where they were defeated by El Generico, Masato Yoshino and Pac. On February 9, the Tozawa-led Blood Warriors won their feud with Junction Three by defeating them in a fourteen-man elimination tag team match, forcing their rival group to disband. On March 1, Tozawa renamed the Blood Warriors as Mad Blankey. Three days later, he and BxB Hulk lost the Open the Twin Gate Championship to Jimmy Kagetora and Jimmy Susumu.
On July 22, Tozawa received another shot at the Open the Dream Gate Championship, but was this time defeated by Cima. On August 19, Tozawa, BxB Hulk and Naoki Tanisaki defeated Cima, Gamma and Magnitude Kishiwada to win the 2012 Summer Adventure Tag League and the vacant Open the Triangle Gate Championship. They lost the title to Kaettekita Veteran-gun (Gamma, Hub and Magnitude Kishiwada) on October 21. On May 5, 2013, Tozawa received another shot at the Open the Dream Gate Championship in the main event of Dead or Alive 2013, but was again defeated by Cima. On June 15, Tozawa and BxB Hulk regained the Open the Twin Gate Championship from Shingo Takagi and Yamato, when Yamato turned on Takagi and joined Mad Blankey. Tozawa and Hulk went on to lose the title to Naruki Doi and Ricochet on July 21. On August 1, after Tozawa had led Mad Blankey to victory against -akatsuki- in a match, where the losing stable would have to disband, the rest of Mad Blankey turned on him, kicking him out of the group and assuming Yamato their new leader. On August 30, Tozawa formed a new stable with former Mad Blankey stablemate Uhaa Nation and Shingo Takagi. On September 12, the three were joined by Masato Yoshino, Ricochet and Shachihoko Boy, forming a stable named Monster Express. On December 22, Tozawa and Takagi defeated Naruki Doi and Yamato to win the Open the Twin Gate Championship. They lost the title to Eita and T-Hawk on July 20, 2014. On February 28, 2015, Tozawa won his first singles title in Dragon Gate, when he defeated Kzy for the Open the Brave Gate Championship. On March 29, Tozawa also won the Open the Owarai Gate Championship by defeating Yosuke♥Santa Maria. On November 1, Tozawa lost the Open the Brave Gate Championship to Kotoka in a three-way match, which also involved Naoki Tanizaki. On November 14, 2015, Tozawa lost the Open the Owarai Gate Championship to referee Mr. Nakagawa via fan support.
On September 22, 2016, Tozawa unsuccessfully challenged YAMATO for the Dream Gate Championship. On September 25, he announced that he will be wrestling his final Dragon Gate match on November 3, before moving to the United States to work for WWE. In his send-off match, he teamed with Masato Yoshino and Naruki Doi in a losing effort against the team of Shingo Takagi, YAMATO, and BxB Hulk.
World Wrestling Entertainment
Cruiserweight division (2016–2019)
On March 31, 2016, Tozawa was announced as a participant in WWE's Global Cruiserweight Series tournament, which was later renamed the "Cruiserweight Classic". The tournament began on June 23 with Tozawa defeating Kenneth Johnson in his first round match. On July 14, Tozawa defeated Jack Gallagher in his second round match. On August 26, Tozawa was eliminated from the tournament in the quarterfinals by Gran Metalik.
On the September 5, 2016, episode of Raw, Tozawa was announced as part of WWE's upcoming cruiserweight division. On November 2, Tozawa was announced as a roster member for the upcoming cruiserweight-centric 205 Live show. On December 3, at an NXT live event at Osaka, Japan, Tozawa teamed with Tajiri in a losing effort to NXT Tag Team Champions #DIY (Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano). On February 6, 2017, Tozawa made his debut on Raw, defeating Drew Gulak in singles action.
- Finishing moves
- Signature moves
- Aburaburoshiki Taigatame (Modified straddle pin)
- Apron Kara Tozawa / Tozawa From the Apron (Runs on ring apron, leaps onto the top rope and then springboards into a diving headbutt)
- Ganki (Diving double knee drop to a standing opponent's shoulders into a pin)
- High knee to a seated opponent
- Hurray! Hurray! Tozawa! (Diving headbutt, with theatrics) – 2005–2008
- Iwaki (Hip attack, as a counter to an oncoming opponent)
- Multiple kick variations
- Multiple suplex variations
- Multiple suicide dives
- Rapid knife-edged chops to a cornered opponent
- Sankaigan Zanjyu (Senton, sometimes with a chair placed across the opponent's midsection)
- Senton bomb from the ring apron to the outside of the ring
- "Big Over"
- "Mr. High Tension"
- "Sun of the Ring"
- "The Stamina Monster"
Championships and accomplishments
- Anarchy Championship Wrestling
- ACW U–30 Young Gun Championship (1 time)
- Dragon Gate
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- PWI ranked him #124 of the top 500 singles wrestlers in the PWI 500 in 2012
- World Wrestling Entertainment
Lucha de Apuesta record
|Mask||Akira Tozawa||Super Shenlong III||Tokyo, Japan||August 1, 2013||This was an eight-man tag team Mask vs. Hair match, where Tozawa, BxB Hulk, Kzy, Mondai Ryu and Yamato faced Shenlong, Chihiro Tominaga, Cyber Kong and Shingo Takagi.|