John R. Rivera (October 28, 1982) is a Cuban professional wrestler better known by his ring name Rocky Romero and as the fourth incarnation of Black Tiger. As Romero he was one half of the tag team The Havana Pitbulls (formerly Los Cubanitos), along with Ricky Reyes. He also was a member of the No Remorse Corps in Ring of Honor with Roderick Strong and Davey Richards. Romero and Richards are former ROH World Tag Team Champions in the stable. Romero's wrestling style based around stiff shoot-style kicks and multiple armlock variations.
Professional wrestling career
Early career (1997–2009)
Rivera made his wrestling debut in 1997, using the ring name Rocky Romero. He was trained by Antonio Inoki at the NJPW Dojo in Los Angeles. His career has taken him through promotions in the Southern California region to Mexico, where he competed successfully for Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (CMLL), the world's oldest wrestling promotion, and in Japan where he has worked most notably in New Japan Pro Wrestling, (NJPW) where he was chosen to become the fourth incarnation of Black Tiger, the villainous gaijin opponent of Tiger Mask (in this case Tiger Mask IV). On October 8, 2005, Romero, as Black Tiger, defeated Tiger Mask for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship. After a four-month reign, Tiger Mask regained the title from his nemesis. Romero made his debut in Pro Wrestling Noah on March 4, 2007, versus Mushiking Terry, casting into doubt the future of the Black Tiger persona. Romero, however, did compete as Black Tiger in August 2007 in Chikara to compete for the NWA World Junior Heavyweight Championship against champion Mike Quackenbush. At NJPW's Resolution '09 on April 5, Romero lost in a mask vs. title match against Tiger Mask, thus ending his role as Black Tiger.
Mexico (2003–2004, 2008–2010)
In late 2003, Romero began working for Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (CMLL), using the name "Havana Brother I, he would team up with Havana Brother II and Havana Brother III to form a three-man team known as Los Havana Brothers. A few months later Los Havana Brothers began working as Rocky Romero, Pinoy Boy and Bobby Quance respectively. On September 12, Romero became CMLL's first-ever CMLL World Super Lightweight Champion after defeating Volador Jr. in a tournament final. On November 14, Virus defeated Romero to win the championship, signaling the exit of Los Havana Brothers for the time being. In late 2004 Romero made a surprise return to CMLL and defeated Virus to regain the championship. After the title win he left CMLL again, occasionally defending the championship in Southern California. In 2005, local wrestler Tommy Williams won the Super Lightweight Championship but Romero regained it in January 2006. At that point the championship became inactive, with no mention of it.
In early 2008, Romero returned to CMLL and began working under the name "Grey Shadow", a masked gimmick, without CMLL opening acknowledging that it was Romero under the mask. No official references were given to his past with CMLL, nor any mention of the fact that Romero was a CMLL World Super Lightweight Champion. On October 5, 2008, Romero jumped from CMLL to rival promotion Asistencia Asesoría y Administración (AAA). He made his surprise debut at the promotion's television taping in Puebla, Puebla and was announced as a member of Sean Waltman's D-Generation MEX stable at the show. On July 4, 2010, Romero turned rudo and joined La Legión Extranjera. However, just four days later it was reported that Romero had left AAA, after the company had asked him to take a pay cut.
Ring of Honor (2004–2005, 2007–2010)
Romero's main exposure in the United States came while he was one-half of The Havana Pitbulls tag team, with partner Ricky Reyes, in Ring of Honor where he and Reyes set a record for the longest reign as ROH Tag Team Champions at 196 days, a record they held until 2005 when it was eclipsed by the team of Austin Aries and Roderick Strong. While in ROH, he and Reyes were also members of Homicide's stable, The Rottweilers. He left the company at the end of 2005 to focus on working in Japan.
He returned on January 26, 2007 by defeating Davey Richards. The following evening, Romero walked out on his longtime partner Reyes in the midst of a match against the Briscoe Brothers. On March 31, Romero was introduced as the newest member of the No Remorse Corps. Romero and new stablemate Davey Richards lost to Jack Evans and Naruki Doi. Rocky Romero toured with Pro Wrestling NOAH and teamed with Atsushi Aoki in the NTV Jr Heavyweight Cup. He also made his debut for Antonio Inoki's new promotion the Inoki Genome Federation defeating El Blazer. On January 26, 2008, Romero teamed with Davey Richards and defeated the teams of the Age of the Fall (Tyler Black and Jimmy Jacobs), Austin Aries and Bryan Danielson, and Brent Albright and B.J. Whitmer in an Ultimate Endurance match to capture the World Tag Team Championship. Romero and Richards later lost the titles to the Briscoe Brothers, and Romero later left ROH in mid-2008 to once again compete in Mexico. He returned at Final Battle 2009, where he won a match against rival Alex Koslov. They had a rematch on March 26, 2010, in Arizona during WrestleMania weekend, which Koslov won.
Return to NJPW and ROH (2010–present)
On October 12, 2010, New Japan Pro-Wrestling announced that Romero would return to the promotion in November, teaming with Davey Richards in the Super J Tag League, as a member of the promotion's top heel stable, Shinsuke Nakamura's CHAOS. The five-day-long tournament ended on November 13, with Romero and Richards winning their block and advancing to the finals, where they were defeated by their Chaos teammates Jado and Gedo. On May 3, 2011, Romero and Richards unsuccessfully challenged Prince Devitt and Ryusuke Taguchi for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship.
On October 10, 2011, at Destruction '11, Romero and Richards defeated Devitt and Taguchi in a rematch to win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship for the first time. Romero and Richards made their first successful title defense on November 12 at Power Struggle, defeating the team of Kushida and Tiger Mask. On December 23, Romero unsuccessfully challenged Prince Devitt for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship. On January 4, 2012, at Wrestle Kingdom VI in Tokyo Dome, Romero and Richards lost the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship back to Devitt and Taguchi. No Remorse Corps regained the title from Apollo 55 on February 12 at The New Beginning. On May 2, Romero and Richards were stripped of the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship, after travel issues forced Richards to miss the following day's Wrestling Dontaku 2012 event, where the two were scheduled to defend the title against Jushin Thunder Liger and Tiger Mask.
Romero soon reunited with his former AAA partner Alex Koslov. On July 22, the team, dubbed The Forever Hooligans, defeated Liger and Tiger Mask to win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship. Romero and Koslov made their first successful title defense on August 26 at a Sacramento Wrestling Federation (SWF) event in Gridley, California, defeating the team of A.J. Kirsch and Alex Shelley. Forever Hooligans made their second successful title defense on October 8 at King of Pro-Wrestling, defeating the Time Splitters (Alex Shelley and KUSHIDA). On October 21, Forever Hooligans entered the 2012 Super Jr. Tag Tournament, defeating Jyushin Thunder Liger and Tiger Mask in their first round match. On November 2, Romero and Koslov were eliminated from the tournament in the semifinals by Apollo 55. On November 11 at Power Struggle, Forever Hooligans lost the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship to the winners of the Super Jr. Tag Tournament, the Time Splitters, ending their reign at 112 days. On May 3, 2013, at Wrestling Dontaku 2013, Romero and Koslov regained the titles from the Time Splitters. They lost the titles to Suzuki-gun (Taichi Ishikari and Taka Michinoku) on October 14 at King of Pro-Wrestling.
On July 27, 2013, Romero and Koslov, returned to ROH, through NJPW's close working relationship, and defeated reDRagon (Bobby Fish and Kyle O'Reilly) to become the new ROH World Tag Team Champions. They lost the title to The American Wolves (Davey Richards and Eddie Edwards) in their first defense on August 3. On September 20 at Death Before Dishonor XI, the Forever Hooligans defeated the American Wolves in a rematch to retain the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship.
For the first half of 2014, Forever Hooligans received several new shots at the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship, held by The Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson), but were defeated each time, including in a three-way match, also involving the Time Splitters, on May 10 at Global Wars, a special event co-produced by NJPW and ROH in Toronto. Forever Hooligans broke up in January 2015, when Koslov announced he was taking an indefinite break from professional wrestling. On March 1, Romero revealed he and Trent Baretta were forming a new tag team named Roppongi Vice. On April 5 at Invasion Attack 2015, the team captured the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship from The Young Bucks. They lost the title back to The Young Bucks on May 3 at Wrestling Dontaku 2015.
In early 2016, it was reported that WWE was interested in signing Romero as both a trainer and a wrestler. However, on January 9, Romero announced he had instead signed a new two-year deal with NJPW. On March 14, 2016 at an ROH television taping, Roppongi Vice won a seven tag team gauntlet match to determine the #1 contenders for the ROH World Tag Team Championship by defeating The Young Bucks after entering the match as the seventh team. On April 10 at Invasion Attack 2016, Roppongi Vice defeated Matt Sydal and Ricochet to win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship for the second time. They lost the title back to Sydal and Ricochet on May 3 at Wrestling Dontaku 2016. On November 5 at Power Struggle, Roppongi Vice defeated ACH and Taiji Ishimori in the finals to win the 2016 Super Jr. Tag Tournament. On January 4, 2017, at Wrestle Kingdom XI in Tokyo Dome, Roppongi Vice defeated The Young Bucks to win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship for their third time together. Individually, Romero set a new record by winning the title for the seventh time. They lost the title to Suzuki-gun (Taichi and Yoshinobu Kanemaru) at NJPW's 45th anniversary show on March 6, before regaining it on April 27. They lost the title to The Young Bucks on June 11 at Dominion 6.11 in Osaka-jo Hall. On July 2 at NJPW G1 Special In USA - Night 2, Roppongi Vice unsuccessfully challenged The Young Bucks for the title in a rematch. Afterwards, Romero brought up a five-year plan he and Beretta had made three years earlier, which included them winning the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship and the Super Jr. Tag Tournament, both of which they had already done, as well as Beretta's eventual transition into the heavyweight division. Having failed to regain the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship, Romero gave Beretta his blessing to move to the heavyweight division, effectively disbanding Roppongi Vice. Roppongi Vice's farewell match took place on September 16 at Destruction in Hiroshima, where they defeated Bullet Club's Chase Owens and Yujiro Takahashi.
Later that same day, Romero announced he was transitioning into the role of a manager and bringing in a new tag team named Roppongi 3K to take on the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions Ricochet and Ryusuke Taguchi. On October 9 at King of Pro-Wrestling, Romero revealed his new team as SHO and YOH, who defeated Ricochet and Taguchi to become the new IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions.
- Finishing moves
- As Rocky Romero
- Ankle lock
- Diablo Armbar (Leaping twisting crucifix armbar, sometimes off the top rope)
- High speed roundhouse kick to the head of a seated or kneeling opponent
- Nomisugi Knee (Running knee strike)
- As Black Tiger IV
- As Rocky Romero
- Signature moves
- Bow and arrow stretch
- Cradle suplex
- Double underhook DDT
- Exploder suplex
- Forever Clotheslines (Repeated running Lariat to a cornered opponent)
- Fujiwara armbar
- Guillotine choke
- Johnny Saint special
- Jumping knee smash, sometimes from the top rope
- Octopus stretch
- Springboard tornado DDT
- Tilt–a–whirl headscissors takedown
- With Ricky Reyes
- Cuban Missile Crisis (Backbreaker (Reyes) / Diving knee drop (Romero) combination)
- Entrance themes
- ”Darkness Trickster”
- ”(Self-proclaimed) King of Sneaky Style”
Championships and accomplishments
- International Wrestling Council
- IWC Tag Team Championship (1 time)
- Millennium Pro Wrestling
- MPW Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Ricky Reyes
- New Japan Pro Wrestling
- Ring of Honor
- Young Dragons Cup Tournament (2004)