Minoru Suzuki (June 17, 1968) is a Japanese professional wrestler and mixed martial artist. Suzuki was the co-founder of Pancrase, one of the first mixed martial arts organizations in the world. During the 1990s he was known as one of the best fighters in the Pancrase promotion and was the second King of Pancrase world champion. Suzuki returned to regular puroresu in 2003, where he has become a perennial top contender for all major Japanese heavyweight championships. He is currently performing mainly for New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW), and he is a former two-time AJPW Triple Crown Heavyweight Champion.
Suzuki is well noted for his excellence in freestyle wrestling and catch wrestling. He was an Olympic alternate freestyle wrestler for Japan and former Japanese freestyle wrestling national champion. As good as his wrestling credentials are, Suzuki is even more respected for his excellence in the art of catch wrestling and submissions. Suzuki has been praised many times by elite fighters such as Josh Barnett, Bas Rutten and Ken Shamrock for his outstanding grappling and submission skills.
Suzuki trained at the New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) dojo and made his pro wrestling debut in 1988, but soon after left with catch wrestling mentor Yoshiaki Fujiwara for the newborn UWF. He joined Fujiwara's Pro Wrestling Fujiwara Gumi but then left the organization to form Pancrase, one of the first mixed martial arts organizations in the world, in 1993 with Masakatsu Funaki.
Despite his significant size disadvantage against most competitors, Suzuki became one of the most successful fighters in Pancrase with his amazing submission skills and top wrestling ability. Suzuki began his MMA career going 7-0, including a huge upset win over Pancrase's #1 fighter Ken Shamrock in early 1994. He did not lose a match until he lost to Bas Rutten via Liver shot KO due to a knee to the body. In 1995, he won the King of Pancrase (now KOP Open-Weight) title to become the second ever King of Pancrase. Suzuki twice defeated Ken Shamrock and is the only man to hold two wins over Shamrock in the Pancrase era.
Over time, Suzuki's body became damaged and worn down from various injuries and resulted in his skills diminishing. He then decided to focus on the business and training side of Pancrase. He collaborated with the Tekken series of fighting video games as a motion actor. His last non-worked fight for Pancrase was against a professional wrestler, Jushin Liger, whom Suzuki had known as Keiichi Yamada in his first NJPW stint. At the time he competed in grappling matches almost exclusively. Suzuki witnessed the transition Pancrase made from the so-called "hybrid wrestling" style to that of regular MMA and was instrumental in paving the way for mixed martial arts in Japan.
Suzuki is also erroneously credited on his mixed martial arts record by various MMA websites with a loss to Maurice Smith on the event Pancrase- Yes, We are Hybrid Wrestlers 3. Suzuki did lose the bout with Smith, but the bout was a kickboxing match with kickboxing rules and kickboxing gloves and was not a mixed martial arts match.
Return to professional wrestling
In 2003, Suzuki and Yusuke Fuke announced their plan to return to puroresu and invade promotions under the stable name Pancrase MISSION. Suzuki began competing for New Japan Pro Wrestling as a freelancer, where he aligned himself with Yoshihiro Takayama and won the IWGP Tag Team Titles from Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Osamu Nishimura on February 1, 2004. They were stripped of the titles later in the year, following Takayama's mounting injuries. In 2005, Suzuki began competing in Pro Wrestling Noah, and would receive a GHC Heavyweight Championship shot against then Champion Kenta Kobashi, but he was defeated. After this, he found an unlikely ally in Naomichi Marufuji, whose style was Lucha Libre (rather than shoot-style). Nonetheless, Suzuki taught Marufuji some of what he knew and they clicked, winning the GHC Tag Team Titles from 2 Cold Scorpio and Doug Williams on June 18, 2005. After losing the belts to Muhammad Yone and Takeshi Morishima in October, Suzuki challenged for the GHC Heavyweight Championship shot against champion Jun Akiyama on March 5, 2006, but he was once again unsuccessful.
All Japan Pro Wrestling
On March 10, 2006, Suzuki made a surprise appearance in All Japan Pro Wrestling, attacking then Triple Crown Heavyweight Champion Satoshi Kojima after he had just defended his title against The Great Muta. Pundits at once considered Suzuki to have issued a challenge for the Triple Crown. Suzuki participated in the 2006 Champion's Carnival, and made it to the semifinals before being defeated by Taiyō Kea. On September 3, Suzuki challenged Kea, who had won the Triple Crown from Kojima in July. He was successful in his bid to become the new Triple Crown Champion, and will end up having successful defenses against RO'Z, Yuji Nagata, Kojima, Tajiri and Keiji Mutoh. Suzuki has formed a grouping called "Minoru Gundan" consisting of himself, Nosawa Rongai, and MAZADA. In May 2007 he went on a tour of Mexico's CMLL with Takayama and experienced Lucha Libre battles. He lost the Triple Crown Championship to Kensuke Sasaki on August 26, 2007 at AJPW's PRO WRESTLING LOVE in RYOGOKU pay-per-view event.
At the All Japan FAN APPRECIATION DAY event on December 16, 2007, the Mexico Amigos teamed with "Ray Suzuki" and defeated Ryuji Hijikata, Kikutaro, T28 & Ryuji Yamaguchi. After the match, Ray Suzuki reveled himself as Minoru Suzuki and vowed that El NOSAWA Mendoza would throw his Amigos tights away and return as NOSAWA Rongai, and then kidnapped him to start early training.
On March 1, 2008, Minoru Suzuki made an appearance at the Dory Funk, Jr. retirement show, providing commentary for the Triple Crown Championship main event (between Kensuke Sasaki and Satoshi Kojima), as well as pledging to participate in the upcoming Champion's Carnival. From April 5 to 9, Suzuki competed in Block B of All Japan's annual Champion's Carnival, finishing the league with 2 wins (over Kensuke Sasaki and Suwama) and 2 losses (to Osamu Nishimura and Joe Doering), as well as teaming with TAKEMURA to defeat Toshiaki Kawada and Nobutaka Araya on Day 2 (April 6) of the Carnival. During the Hold Out tour, Suzuki confronted a losing-streak Taiyō Kea about joining the stable GURENTAI (alongside NOSAWA, MAZADA and TAKEMURA), which resulted in Kea joining and focusing on winning the tag titles with Suzuki. On June 28, 2008, Suzuki and Kea won the AJPW Unified World Tag Team Championship from Joe Doering and Keiji Mutoh. On September 28, 2008 he attacked The Great Muta after Muta had successfully defeated Suwama for the Triple Crown Championship, setting up a match between the two in which he lost on November 3, 2008.
On January 3, 2009, Suzuki and stable mate NOSAWA Rongai won the restored AJPW All Asia Tag Team Championship, over the course of a 2-day tournament. Later in the year, Suzuki won the 2009 Champion's Carnival beating Kaz Hayashi in the Finals. He would end up challenging the then Triple Crown Champion, Yoshihiro Takayama, on May 30, 2009, albeit in a losing effort. On September 23, 2009, Suzuki and NOSAWA lost the All Asia Tag Team Championship at the hands of Akebono and Ryota Hama. On January 3, 2010, Suzuki and Kea lost the Unified World Tag Team Championship at the hands of Masakatsu Funaki and Keiji Mutoh.
On March 21, 2010, Suzuki lost to long-time rival Masakatsu Funaki in All Japan's First Cage Match. Suzuki then entered the Champion Carnival and won it for the second straight year, being the third man to do so by beating Funaki in the Final - weeks removed from their Cage Match. After the final, Suzuki buried the hatchet with Funaki by shaking his hand, thus ending the decade-long rivalry. Suzuki then declared his GURENTAI stable on hiatus. As a result of his Champion Carnival victory, Suzuki earned a Triple Crown championship match versus Ryota Hama on May 2. In the match, Suzuki defeated Hama to claim his second Triple Crown championship. He would go on to lose the title to Suwama on August 29, 2010.
Return to NJPW (2010–2015)
On December 12, 2010, Suzuki returned to NJPW, attacking old rival Yuji Nagata. On January 4, 2011, at Wrestle Kingdom V in Tokyo Dome, Suzuki faced Nagata in a losing effort. Suzuki made another return to New Japan on May 3, 2011, when he took over the Kojima-gun, after its members Taichi and Taka Michinoku had turned on their leader Satoshi Kojima. Later that same month, during New Japan's tour of the United States, the newly renamed Suzuki-gun was joined by Lance Archer. On July 18, Suzuki defeated Kojima in a singles match. The two had a rematch on August 1 during the first day of the 2011 G1 Climax, where Kojima managed to pick up the win. Suzuki then went on a six match win streak, but losses to Strong Man and Shinsuke Nakamura on the last two days of the tournament, caused him to narrowly miss advancing to the finals. On October 10 at Destruction '11, Suzuki defeated Kojima's number one ally, Togi Makabe, in a grudge match. In the 2011 G1 Tag League, Suzuki teamed with Lance Archer and, after four wins and one loss, the team finished second in their block, advancing to the semifinals of the tournament. On November 6, Suzuki and Archer first defeated the Chaos Top Team (Shinsuke Nakamura and Toru Yano) in the semifinals and then IWGP Tag Team Champions Bad Intentions (Giant Bernard and Karl Anderson) in the finals to win the 2011 G1 Tag League. On November 12 at Power Struggle, Suzuki and Archer failed in their attempt to capture the IWGP Tag Team Championship from Bad Intentions. After defeating Giant Bernard in a singles match on December 4, Suzuki challenged IWGP Heavyweight Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi to a title match at Wrestle Kingdom VI in Tokyo Dome. At the event on January 4, 2012, Suzuki was unsuccessful in his title challenge.
On February 12 at The New Beginning, Suzuki led Lance Archer, Taichi, Taka Michinoku and Yoshihiro Takayama of the Suzuki-gun to a dominant 5–1 win over Kushida, Tiger Mask, Togi Makabe, Wataru Inoue and Yuji Nagata in a ten-man elimination tag team match. On May 3 at Wrestling Dontaku 2012, Suzuki pinned Makabe in a tag team match, where he and Takayama faced Makabe and Yuji Nagata. The feud between Suzuki and Makabe ended on June 16 at Dominion 6.16, where Suzuki was defeated in a singles match. In August, Suzuki took part in the 2012 G1 Climax tournament, where he picked up big wins over IWGP Heavyweight Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi and former tag team partner Naomichi Marufuji, but was eliminated after losing to Yuji Nagata in his final round-robin match on August 12. On October 8 at King of Pro-Wrestling, Suzuki received a shot at the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, but was defeated by Tanahashi. The match received rave reviews, including a five-star rating from Wrestling Observer Newsletter's Dave Meltzer. From November 20 to December 1, Suzuki took part in the round-robin portion of the 2012 World Tag League, alongside Suzuki-gun's newest member Kengo Mashimo. The team finished with a record of three wins and three losses, failing to advance from their block. On January 4, 2013, at Wrestle Kingdom 7 in Tokyo Dome, Suzuki and Yuji Nagata once again reignited their old rivalry in a singles match, where Nagata was victorious. Afterwards, Suzuki led Suzuki-gun to a war with New Japan's other villainous stable, Chaos, which built to a singles match on February 10 at The New Beginning, where he defeated Kazuchika Okada. On March 11, Suzuki entered the 2013 New Japan Cup, defeating Yuji Nagata in yet another match between the old rivals. Six days later, Suzuki was eliminated from the tournament in the second round by Chaos member Toru Yano. Suzuki avenged his loss to Yano by defeating him in a rematch on April 7 at Invasion Attack and, later that same event, confronted new IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada, accepting a title shot offered to him by Okada's mouthpiece, Gedo. On May 3 at Wrestling Dontaku 2013, Suzuki unsuccessfully challenged Okada for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. Suzuki then got involved in a heated rivalry with Chaos member Tomohiro Ishii, which built to a singles match between the two on July 20 at the Kizuna Road 2013 pay-per-view, where Suzuki was victorious.
From August 1 to 11, Suzuki took part in the 2013 G1 Climax. After five wins and three losses, Suzuki went into the final day leading his block, but a loss to Toru Yano cost him a spot in the finals of the tournament. This led to a feud between Suzuki and Yano, however, Suzuki's attempt to avenge the loss led to another defeat on September 29, when he was counted out after being handcuffed to a ringside guard rail by Yano. Suzuki finally gained his revenge on Yano by defeating him on October 14 at King of Pro-Wrestling. Afterwards, Suzuki set his sights on the IWGP Intercontinental Championship, while also trying to convince champion Shinsuke Nakamura to leave Chaos and join Suzuki-gun. The match between Suzuki and Nakamura took place on November 9 at Power Struggle and saw Nakamura retain his title. From November 24 to December 7, Suzuki teamed with Suzuki-gun's newest member, Shelton X Benjamin, in the 2013 World Tag League, where they finished with a record of three wins and three losses, with a loss against Takashi Iizuka and Toru Yano on the final day costing them a spot in the semifinals. The rivalry between Suzuki and Yano led to a match on January 4, 2014, at Wrestle Kingdom 8 in Tokyo Dome, where Suzuki and Benjamin were defeated by Yano and The Great Muta, with Yano pinning Suzuki, after he was blinded by a green mist from Muta. Suzuki finally got his win over Yano on March 15 in the first round of the 2014 New Japan Cup. Suzuki eventually made it to the semifinals of the tournament, before losing to Shinsuke Nakamura. On May 25 at Back to the Yokohama Arena, Suzuki got another win over Yano, when Takashi Iizuka turned on him during a tag team match and joined Suzuki-gun. From July 21 to August 8, Suzuki took part in the 2014 G1 Climax, where he finished fourth in his block with a record of five wins and five losses. Following the tournament, Suzuki transitioned into a new rivalry with Kazushi Sakuraba, who had come to Yano's aid after Iizuka had turned on him. The rivalry culminated in a match on January 4, 2015, at Wrestle Kingdom 9 in Tokyo Dome, where Suzuki defeated Sakuraba.
Return to Noah (2015–2016)
On January 10, 2015, Suzuki made a surprise return to Noah, leading his Suzuki-gun stable to attack GHC Heavyweight Champion Naomichi Marufuji and GHC Tag Team Champions TMDK (Mikey Nicholls and Shane Haste). On March 15, Suzuki defeated Marufuji to become the new GHC Heavyweight Champion. Over the next months, Suzuki successfully defended the title against Marufuji, Maybach Taniguchi, Yoshihiro Takayama, and Takashi Sugiura. On December 23, Suzuki lost the title back to Marufuji. On November 23, 2016, Suzuki defeated Masa Kitamiya in the finals to win the 2016 Global League. On December 2, Suzuki unsuccessfully challenged Katsuhiko Nakajima for the GHC Heavyweight Championship. Three days later, it was announced that Suzuki-gun was out of Noah, concluding the invasion storyline.
Second return to NJPW (2017–present)
The entire Suzuki-gun returned to NJPW on January 5, 2017, attacking the Chaos stable with Suzuki laying out IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada. In his return match on January 27, Suzuki, Michinoku and Taichi defeated Okada, Rocky Romero and Beretta. On February 5 at The New Beginning in Sapporo, Suzuki unsuccessfully challenged Okada for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. On April 27, Suzuki defeated Hirooki Goto to win the NEVER Openweight Championship for the first time, winning his first ever singles title in NJPW. During the following summer, Suzuki took part in the 2017 G1 Climax, where he finished with a record of four wins, four losses and one draw, wrestled against IWGP Heavyweight Champion Okada. On January 4, 2018 at Wrestle Kingdom 12, Suzuki lost the NEVER Openweight Championship to Hirooki Goto in a Hair vs. Hair match and had to have his head shaved bald as a result, choosing to shave his own hair in front of the live audience. Suzuki would quickly rebound from the loss, defeating Hiroshi Tanahashi at the New Beginning in Sapporo on January 27 to win the IWGP Intercontinental Championship. On April 29, at Wrestling Hi no Kuni in Kumamoto, Suzuki would lose the Intercontinental Championship to Tetsuya Naito
Ring of Honor (2017)
Through a partnership between NJPW and the American Ring of Honor (ROH) promotion, Suzuki made his first appearance in the United States for 25 years on September 22, 2017, when he unsuccessfully challenged Cody for the ROH World Championship at Death Before Dishonor XV. At the following day's Ring of Honor Wrestling tapings, Suzuki teamed with the Beer City Bruiser and Silas Young to unsuccessfully challenge The Hung Bucks (Hangman Page, Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson) for the ROH World Six-Man Tag Team Championship.
- Signature moves
- Juji-Gatame (Cross armbreaker)
- Hard slaps to the opponent's face
- Heel hook — sometimes used as a finisher
- Manji-gatame (Octopus hold), sometimes to a seated opponent
- Penalty kick, usually preceded by snapmare
- Running low-angle dropkick to an opponent seated in the corner
- Saka Otoshi (Inverted headlock takeover, often transitioned into a sleeper hold)
- Original Suplex (in UWFi)
- "Sekaiichi Seikaku no Warui Otoko"/"The Man with the Worst Personality in the World"
- Entrance Themes
- "Kaze ni Nare" by Ayumi Nakamura
- "Kaze ni Nare ~ The King of the World" by Ayumi Nakamura
Championships and accomplishments
- All Japan Pro Wrestling
- New Japan Pro Wrestling
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- PWI ranked him #14 of the top 500 singles wrestlers in the PWI 500 in 2007
- Pro Wrestling Noah
- Revolution Pro Wrestling
- Tokyo Sports Grand Prix
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter
Mixed martial arts
- King of Pancrase Openweight Championship (1 time)