Yoshihiro Tajiri (September 29 1970), is a Japanese professional wrestler, best known for his time with WWE, where he is a former 3-time WWE Cruiserweight Champion. He is also known for his appearances with the American professional wrestling promotion Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW). He is currently wrestling on the independent circuit in Japan.
Tajiri, trained in traditional Japanese style and lucha libre, debuted in the late 1980s wrestling primarily in IWA Japan and later for the [apanese division of Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (CMLL). In 1997, he left CMLL and joined the hardcore wrestling promotion Big Japan Pro Wrestling in Tokyo. Tajiri also made a brief appearance in the WWF in 1997 (wrestling under the name Tijari) as the designated opponent for Taka Michinoku, whom the WWF was pushing as its Light Heavyweight Champion at the time.
Extreme Championship Wrestling
While wrestling in Mexico in late 1998, Tajiri was observed by Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) owner Paul Heyman, who invited Tajiri to wrestle for ECW in the United States. He debuted in December 1998 by picking up a victory against Antifaz Del Norte. The match was well received by the fans in attendance at the ECW Arena, who gave many standing ovations during the match. In early 1999, Tajiri would soon begin to emulate The Great Muta, who was one of Tajiri's wrestling heroes growing up. While in ECW, Tajiri had long feuds with Super Crazy, Little Guido, and Jerry Lynn. He formed an alliance with Steve Corino and Jack Victory, as well. Tajiri later formed a tag team with Mikey Whipwreck known as The Unholy Alliance, and they were managed by The Sinister Minister. Tajiri remained loyal to ECW until the company folded in January 2001. Tajiri participated in the final two shows on January 12, where he picked up a victory over Super Crazy, and January 13, 2001, where he lost to Super Crazy in their final ECW match.
During his tenure with the company, Tajiri held the ECW World Television Championship and ECW World Tag Team Championship. He defeated his rival Super Crazy for the TV title and won a one-night tournament with Mikey Whipwreck for the vacant tag titles.
World Wrestling Federation / World Wrestling Entertainment
Soon after the closure of ECW, Tajiri was hired by the World Wrestling Federation (WWF). Tajiri debuted on the May 24, 2001 episode of SmackDown! as a face and was given the gimmick of WWF Commissioner William Regal's assistant. After Regal turned heel by joining The Alliance, Tajiri feuded with him throughout late-2001. In the same time period, he began an on-screen relationship with Torrie Wilson and defeated Chris Kanyon for the WCW United States Heavyweight Championship. He lost the belt to Rhyno soon afterwards at Unforgiven in September.
World Wrestling Entertainment, and the roster was divided into two "brands": RAW and SmackDown!. Tajiri, along with Torrie Wilson, were drafted to SmackDown!. He turned heel by forcing Wilson to dress like a geisha against her will, with Wilson eventually abandoning him and joining forces with Tajiri's babyface rival, Maven. Later on Tajiri, as a special guest referee, would make his second face run by getting betrayed by Jamie Noble after Noble caught Tajiri touching his then girlfriend, then-heel, Nidia. Later, Tajiri turned heel again by turning on then-Cruiserweight Champion Rey Mysterio after a Cruiserweight championship match. Tajiri spat green mist in Rey's face after Rey defeated him. He would continue this heel run by spitting black mist in Nidia's eyes. (Nidia and Noble were both faces during this time.) Noble and Tajiri started a new brief feud after Noble made his second heel run by secretly turning on Nidia, because she was kayfabe blind. Tajiri won the WWE Cruiserweight Championship on two occasions in 2002 and 2003, and he formed a short-lived stable with Akio and Sakoda known as Kyo Dai'. Kyo Dai was originally supposed to have been played off as Japanese gangsters, but Tajiri refused this offer in fear that he might be hunted down by the real Japanese Yakuza if the gimmick was seen as an insult.
In 2004 he had two chances to earn a WWE Title Shot. The first Chance was in the 2004 Royal Rumble, where the Winner would get a Championship Match at WrestleMania XX. His second Chance was a SmackDown! style Royal Rumble, where the Winner would get a Match for the WWE Championship against then Champion Brock Lesnar at No Way Out. But he lost once again after he was eliminated by the The Big Show.
Following WrestleMania, Tajiri was drafted to RAW, where he turned face once again and feuded with Eric Bischoff and Jonathan Coachman. Coachman also often dispatched Garrison Cade to face Tajiri on his behalf in the ring. He would also feud against the entire stable of Evolution for a good portion of 2004. During this time, he formed a tag team with Rhyno. This team dissolved quietly after a failed attempt at winning the Tag Team Championship from La Résistance at Unforgiven 2004.
On February 4, 2005, Tajiri teamed with William Regal to defeat La Résistance for the World Tag Team Championship on an episode of RAW emanating from Japan. After successfully defending the titles against La Résistance on a number of occasions, Tajiri and Regal issued an open challenge to "any tag team in the world." On the following episode of RAW, they retained their titles in a match with the debuting Heart Throbs. Their reign ended on May 1 at Backlash 2005, when they were eliminated from a tag team turmoil match by La Résistance.
Tajiri lost a three-way dance (that also featured Little Guido) to Super Crazy at ECW One Night Stand 2005 on June 12. In late 2005, Tajiri formed a short-lived tag team with Eugene. In December 2005, Tajiri left WWE. With his contract expiring on December 12, he decided he wanted to try to become a journalist and spend more time with his wife and family in Japan. His final televised WWE match was a loss to Gregory Helms on HEAT, at the conclusion of which he received a standing ovation. Tajiri left WWE on very good terms and competed at WWE's ECW One Night Stand 2006, teaming with Super Crazy to take on the Full Blooded Italians (F.B.I.) in a losing effort.
On February 12, 2008, Tajiri made an appearance at a WWE tour stop in Tokyo, where he accompanied William Regal to the ring for a match against Ric Flair, which Regal lost. He had recently held talks with the WWE about returning as part of the ECW Brand.
It is rumoured that Tajiri has been asked to return to WWE at least twice now but has turned down the offers on both occasions.
All Japan Pro Wrestling (2006–2007, 2011)
Since parting ways with WWE, Tajiri resurfaced full-scale in his homeland, competing primarily for HUSTLE and All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW) as TAJIRI. In the HUSTLE promotion, he was originally aligned with the babyface HUSTLE Army, a group who defends the sport of professional wrestling against the Monster Army (led by Monster General and Monster K, who aim to destroy the sport). However, he was hypnotised by Yinling into joining the Monster Army.
TAJIRI was a notable contender in All Japan Pro Wrestling throughout 2007, as he began a feud with AJPW Triple Crown Champion Minoru Suzuki. The feud started on March 30, 2007 at the final Champion Carnival 2007 event, following TAJIRI's defeat over Suzuki via countout; TAJIRI tied Suzuki's foot to the guard rail, and stole the Triple Crown championship belts following the match. Because of TAJIRI's refusal to return the titles, Suzuki created paper belts to temporarily represent his championship. TAJIRI opposed Suzuki again on April 22, 2007 in a tag team match, which had TAJIRI taunt Suzuki throughout the match. At the conclusion of the match, Suzuki (after losing the match because of the Tarantula) chased TAJIRI around the Korakuen Hall, only for TAJIRI to jump the guard rail and steal the paper belts. Days later, TAJIRI returned the titles in exchange for a title match on April 30, 2007, where he was unsuccessful.
Tajiri recently teamed with The Great Muta to defeat Kohei Suwama & Scott Steiner. While teaming with The Great Muta he and Tajiri both used poison mist on another wrestler (Muta used Green while Tajiri used Red), and won the match by pinning his partner.
Tajiri returned to All Japan Pro Wrestling in 2011 to team up with Great Muta and KENSO losing to Partisan Forces (Masakatsu Funaki & Minoru Suzuki) & KAI. Tajiri would then bring SMASH's biggest stars for a one night and along with AKIRA and StarBuck beat BUSHI, Keiji Muto & Shuji Kondo.
New Japan Pro Wrestling (2009–2011)
During the summer of 2009, TAJIRI invaded New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW), where he started a feud with the IWGP Heavyweight Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi, by attacking and green misting him after his title defense against Takashi Sugiura. TAJIRI participated in G1 Climax 2009 and won his first match of the tournament and his first match of his return. On August 13 TAJIRI pinned the IWGP Heavyweight Champion in a non-title match during the G1 Climax tournament, after using the green mist. TAJIRI ended the tournament with only four points, finishing bottom of block A. Hustle folded in October 2009, after which TAJIRI began wrestling for NJPW full-time. He would score two more pinfall victories over the now former IWGP Heavyweight Champion in multiple man tag team matches, but in the end lost the feud, when Tanahashi pinned him cleanly in a singles match on December 5. Afterwards, TAJIRI set his sights on Seigigun, led by Yuji Nagata. On January 4, 2010, at Wrestle Kingdom IV in Tokyo Dome TAJIRI teamed up with fellow ECW alumnus Masato Tanaka and together they defeated Seigigun of Nagata and Akebono, when TAJIRI pinned Nagata after the green mist and a Buzzsaw kick. On February 14 Nagata defeated TAJIRI in a singles match in under five minutes to seemingly end the feud and TAJIRI's run with the company.
On June 19 at NJPW Dominion 6.19, TAJIRI returned to New Japan, turning face and saving former rival Hiroshi Tanahashi from Toru Yano and Takashi Iizuka and helping Tanahashi shave Yano's head following their Hair vs. Hair match. On June 28 TAJIRI, Tanahashi and KUSHIDA entered the J Sports Crown Openweight 6 Man Tag Tournament, where they made it all the way to the finals on June 30, before being defeated by Prince Devitt, Ryusuke Taguchi and Hirooki Goto. In October and November 2010, TAJIRI teamed with Tanahashi in New Japan's 2010 G1 Tag League. After a strong start in the tournament, TAJIRI and Tanahashi were defeated by the IWGP Tag Team Champions Bad Intentions (Giant Bernard and Karl Anderson) on November 6, the last day of group stages, and slipped to third place in their block, narrowly missing the semifinals of the tournament.
Tajiri was then placed in charge of SMASH, a new promotion taking the place of Hustle. The promotion held its first show on March 26, 2010, Tajiri wrestled two matches on the first night, the first of which was a hardcore match with recently released from WWE Tommy Dreamer which he lost and then he beat Mentallo. Later on in the same night Tajiri and Dreamer saved Kushida from Leatherface. Also to end the show Dreamer was honoring Tajiri and Tajiri broke into tears.
On February 25, 2011 TAJIRI gave KUSHIDA his blessing to leave SMASH and become a full-time member of the New Japan roster at the beginning on April 1.
During 2010, TAJIRI, along with other SMASHtalent made crossover appearances in Finnish promotion Fight Club Finland (FCF). At SMASH.3 on May 29, 2010, TAJIRI defeated Valentine to win the FCF Finnish Heavyweight Championship for the first time. He would drop the title to StarBuck on July 24 at SMASH.6, before regaining it from him on November 22, 2010, at SMASH.10. At SMASH.12 Tajiri would successfully defend his title against Super Crazy but would lose the title later on in the night to Michael Kovac at SMASH.13, at SMASH.13. On September 8 at SMASH.21, TAJIRI beat AKIRA in the semifinals of the SMASH Championship tournament. On October 28, TAJIRI was defeated in the finals of the tournament by StarBuck. On February 10, 2012, Smash announced that the promotion would be folding after its March 14 event, following a disagreement between Tajiri and financial backer Masakazu Sakai. On February 19 at SMASH.25, Tajiri unsuccessfully challenged Dave Finlay for the SMASH Championship. On March 14, Tajiri wrestled in Smash's final match, where he and AKIRA defeated Hajime Ohara and StarBuck. Following the match, Tajiri announced his intention of starting a new promotion.
Wrestling New Classic (2012–2014)
On April 5, 2012, Tajiri announced the follow-up promotion to Smash, Wrestling New Classic (WNC), which would hold its first event on April 26. On April 26, Tajiri was defeated by Akira in the main event of WNC's first event. For WNC's second event on May 24, Tajiri reunited with former ECW tag team partner, Mikey Whipwreck, to defeat Gedo and Jado in a hardcore tag team match. Two days later, Tajiri and Whipwreck defeated Yo-Hey and Yusuke Kodama in another hardcore tag team match. On June 22, Tajiri's longtime partner Akira turned on him and, the following month, formed a new alliance with StarBuck and Syuri. Tajiri, Hajime Ohara and Kana, the former partners of the three, formed an alliance of their own to battle the three, but were on August 2 defeated in the first match between the two groups. Following the match, Ohara also turned on Tajiri and WNC, forming a new partnership with debuting female wrestler Nagisa Nozaki. On August 30, Tajiri teamed with Kana and the returning Mikey Whipwreck in a Barbed Wire Board Deathmatch, where they were defeated by Akira, StarBuck and Syuri. Tajiri, Kana and Whipwreck were also defeated in a rematch the following day in Osaka. In the second rematch on September 1, Whipwreck pinned StarBuck for the win, ending the villainous trio's win streak in the process. On September 20, Tajiri defeated Syuri in an intergender match at Korakuen Hall. On October 26, Tajiri entered the WNC Championship tournament, defeating Carlito in his first round match. On November 28, Tajiri defeated Hajime Ohara to advance to the finals of the tournament. On December 27, Tajiri was defeated in the finals of the tournament by Akira. On August 8, 2013, Tajiri defeated Osamu Nishimura in his home prefecture of Kumamoto to become the third WNC Champion. After five successful title defenses, Tajiri lost the title to StarBuck on February 27, 2014.
On June 18, 2014, Tajiri announced that WNC would be going inactive following June 26. Effective July 1, six former WNC wrestlers, Tajiri included, transferred over to the Wrestle-1 promotion.
Tajiri wrestled his first match under a Wrestle-1 contract on July 6, 2014, teaming with Yusuke Kodama in a tag team match, where they defeated the Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA) team of Ethan Carter III and Rockstar Spud. On September 22, Tajiri entered the Wrestle-1 Championship tournament, but was defeated in his first round match by Masakatsu Funaki. Tajiri then entered a storyline, where he began helping Funaki train for his semifinal match in the tournament. However, on October 8, Tajiri turned on Funaki, costing him his semifinal match against Masayuki Kono. Post-match, Tajiri was announced as the newest member of Kono's villainous Desperado stable. In November, Tajiri and Masayuki Kono took part in the First Tag League Greatest tournament, set to determine the inaugural Wrestle-1 Tag Team Champions, where they won their block with a clean record of four wins and zero losses, advancing to the semifinals. On November 30, Tajiri and Kono were eliminated from the tournament in the semifinals by Akira and Manabu Soya. On May 16, 2015, Tajiri defeated Minoru Tanaka at a Wrestle-1 event to capture the European Wrestling Promotion (EWP) Intercontinental Championship. A week later, Tajiri unsuccessfully challenged Tanaka for the Wrestle-1 Cruiserweight Championship. On May 30, Tajiri lost the EWP Intercontinental Championship back to Tanaka in a Title vs. Title match also contested for the Wrestle-1 Cruiser Division Championship. Following the match, Desperado turned on Tajiri and kicked him out of the stable. On June 19, Wrestle-1 announced a new contractual status for Tajiri, which would see him work only sporadic Wrestle-1 events from July onwards due to looking for a new career as an acupuncturist abroad. On January 31, 2016, Tajiri, Kaz Hayashi and Minoru Tanaka won the vacant UWA World Trios Championship.
On June 28, 2016, Tajiri announced he was leaving Wrestle-1 due to his contract with the company expiring. On July 29, Tajiri, Hayashi and Tanaka lost the UWA World Trios Championship to Andy Wu, Daiki Inaba and Seiki Yoshioka in their fifth defense.
Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (2014)
Tajiri debuted at the August Impact Wrestling tapings in New York City, defeating Robbie E on August 5 (aired September 24), and working matches on the August tapings; Tajiri and Austin Aries lost to James Storm and Sanada and then on the September 24 episode of Impact Wrestling, he competed in the NYC Gold Rush Final fatal five-way match which also included Abyss, Mr. Anderson and MVP and Austin Aries with Anderson winning the match. His final appearance for the promotion was at the October 12, Bound for Glory pay-per-view event in Tokyo, teaming with The Great Muta in a tag team main event, where they defeated James Storm and The Great Sanada.
Return to WWE
Cruiserweight Classic and 205 Live (2016-2017)
On June 13, 2016, Tajiri was announced as a participant in WWE's Cruiserweight Classic tournament. The tournament kicked off on June 23 with Tajiri defeating Damian Slater in his first round match. On July 14, Tajiri was eliminated from the tournament by Gran Metalik.
On December 3, at the NXT special at Osaka, Japan, Tajiri teamed with Akira Tozawa, in a losing effort to NXT Tag Team Champions DIY (Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano). On December 4, 2016, Tajiri announced he signed a full-time contract with WWE, and that he would make his return in early 2017. On the December 13 episode of 205 Live, vignettes for Tajiri's return began airing. On January 3, 2017, Tajiri debuted on 205 Live defeating Sean Maluta. Following the match, The Brian Kendrick tried to welcome him back to the WWE, only for Tajiri to spit green mist onto his face. In January, Tajiri suffered a knee injury at an NXT taping.
- Finishing moves
- Buzzsaw Kick (High speed roundhouse kick to a seated, kneeling or rising opponent)
- Buzzsaw Brainbuster (Brainbuster) - ECW
- Poison Mist (Asian mist)
- Signature moves
- Baseball slide to an opponent who is trapped in the tree of woe, sometimes with theatrics
- Tarantula (Rope hung Boston crab)
- Handspring back elbow, sometimes with both elbows on two opponents, or springboarding his legs against the ropes where the opponent is standing on the apron.
- Bridging German suplex
- Bridging dragon suplex
- Asai moonsault
- The Octopus (Octopus stretch)
- Shining Wizard, sometimes while rebounding against the ring ropes
- Flip-over DDT, as a powerbomb counter
- Diving double foot stomp, sometimes onto an opponent who is laying on a table.
- Diamond dust
- Multiple kick variations:
- Roaring Elbow (Front roll into an elbow to the face)
- Multiple punches and shoot kicks to the opponent's legs ended with either a Spinning heel kick or a Roundhouse kick to the back of the leg.
- Ricola Bomb (Flapjack into a Sitout Powerbomb)
- 450° Splash
- Powerbomb, flowed into a Boston Crab - 2007; used rarely thereafter
- Rolling Cutter - ECW
- Osaka Stunner
- Two high-speed kick followed by a low front dropkick to the bent-over opponents head
- Windmill Sunset Flip
- Rolling Jujigatame
- Seesaw armdrag
- Spinning Modified Argentine Backbreaker Rack
- Rolling Eagle (Double Armbar/Inverted Neckscissors Combination)
- Tajiri regularly uses the illegal tactic of spitting Asian mist at opponent's eyes in order to blind them:
- The Japanese Buzzsaw
- Theme Songs
- “Smack My Bitch Up" by The Prodigy in ECW
Championships and accomplishments
- CZW World Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- IWA Hardcore Championship (1 time)
- WCW Cruiserweight Championship (3 times)1 (Last)
- WCW United States Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- WWE Tag Team Championship (1 time) - with Eddie Guerrero
- WWF/E Cruiserweight Championship (2 times)
- WWF Light Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- World Tag Team Championship (1 time) - with William Regal
- WNC Championship (1 time)
- PWI ranked him # 242 of the 500 best singles wrestlers of the PWI Years in 2003.
1Won during the Invasion storyline.
- The Great Muta was Tajiri's childhood hero, whom was where Tajiri got his Tajiri Mist from.
- Tajiri's entrance motion appears in WWE 2K18 under the name “Martial Artist”.