Wrestling has always been a sport of international culture. There are many wrestlers from different countries that have made significant impacts on the industry. One country, in particular, is Japan.
They have had some of the best wrestlers ever to grace the ring and their contributions to wrestling are often overlooked or forgotten about.
Whether it’s because they don’t speak English well enough for television purposes, they wrestle under masks so their faces can’t be seen clearly, or just because they’re not as popular as American wrestlers who get more media coverage – there are plenty of reasons why Japanese wrestlers might not be as famous as other nationalities around the world.
That being said, these 15 greatest Japanese grapplers deserve recognition for everything that they’ve done for our beloved sport.
Kenta is one of the most popular members of NJPW’s Bullet Club stable. He has been with them since before his WWE tenure when he first arrived at a rather great fanfare but failed to attain levels that many people expected during 5 years time period on NXT and 205 Live showings. After leaving for good from WWE last year Kenta eventually made it back into And It Shows this past January!
Kenta’s weight class of Heavyweight, three-time GHC, and tag team champion saw him meet Buddy Murphy (twice), Mustafa Ali as well The Miz. With the WWE he had to use another moniker; Hideo Itami which loosely translates to Hero Of Pain because it was more intimidating than his real name Kenta Takahashi who is also a submission grappler like Ric flair de Nys!
Now in Cruiserweights division -which we know how much these guys love some good old fashioned violence-, Team up with “The Demon” Finn Balor turning face finally makes you forgot all those painful feelings while watching one match between them
14. Kenzo Suzuki
Kenzo Suzuki is remembered as one of the worst tag teams to ever held gold, but he was a pretty decent wrestler on his own. His tenure with Rene Dupree attracted mixed reactions and many argued that it would be better if Dupree had stayed in La Resistance as a champion rather than having Kenzyslki go up against him all throughout their time together. Regardless though there were some holes where you could see through which made them an average pairing at best for such high profile matches like SummerSlam 82′.
The subject has been covered before by others so little can really still be added or changed here without going too far off-topic
Kenzo Suzuki is one of the most lethal wrestlers of his time, but he still seems to be similar in many ways with Shinsuke Nakamura. Kenzo received support from WWE and it helped him become so successful until now; however, they left soon after taking care of how good this guy can become by himself without any help or hand-holding which led them both down a dark path as seen through history’s example: Antonio Inoki.
The Japanese wrestler had some great success during two decades but then things changed when challenged against foreign competition such as Andre The Giant who proved too strong for anyone outside their own country could beat back then even though there were those like Hulk Hogan who tries hard enough before walking away empty-handed
13. Jushin Liger
Jushin Liger is a world-renowned wrestler and innovator, who’s contributions have still been felt in the industry decades after his retirement. He developed one of wrestling’s most popular moves today: The Shooting Star Press!
Liger is one of the most decorated wrestlers in history, with an incredible resume that includes 11 IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championships and multiple title reigns at other promotions. He also won WCW’s Lightheavyweight Championship during this time period before signing with WWE where he became known as “Lagforce.”
12. Kairi Sane
Kairi Sane has been one of the most successful professional wrestlers in Japan, and she’s taken her success stateside. After inception with Ring Stardom promotions where they managed to become a 4-time Goddess of Stardom champion as well 1-time Worldstar Champion at just 18 years old Kairi later 2017 signed on with WWE’s developmental program NXT becoming its first openly LGBTQ+ woman competitor ever!
In the year 2018, Kairi Sane managed to become a two-time NXT women’s champion. Her success with this promotion would see her earn an opportunity for bigger things and in 2019 she left WWE where she is now back home after having some injuries that eventually led up being unable to stay there any longer since they needed more time recovering from these ailments before trying again.
11. Yoshi Tatsu
Tatsu is an energetic and captivating Japanese wrestler. He joined the WWE with ECW, but he was unable to receive a push because of their unwillingness in giving him one due to his lack of on-screen performance until joining NXT where producers took off-screen time from everyone including Tyson Kidd – this lead them more energized than ever!
Tatsu had been away for the past year, and he wasn’t coming back to just be another guy. When Tatsuhiko “Tak” Nishio stepped foot in America with WWE’s ECW brand it was clear his success would come from this period of time spent honing skills on independent wrestling circuits before joining forces with Vince McMahon Jr.’s company full-time later down the road when they were ready for him!
10. Io Shirai
Io Shirai is a Japanese-Scottish Superstar who was born in Ghana and raised by Japanese parents. She became the High-Speed champion of Stardom, which got her to start managing for them before signing on to be part of their first World Champion at age 24! In 2018 she made history when she joined WWE’s developmental program – NXT
In 2019 it all came crashing down after an accident during training left her with serious neck injuries that put Ios life at risk should they not heal correctly; thankfully though doctors found out what caused these ailments: two broken necks from previous martial arts practices while bouncing around between promotions
WWE has a strict policy against injuries and this meant that only wrestlers who were 100% fit could compete. This is why Io Shirai’s debut was delayed for months following her return from an injury sustained in Japan, but once cleared by doctors at home she joined NXT where it didn’t take long before they teamed up with another Japanese wrestler named Kairi Sane to create The Sky Pirates! With both titles under their belt – including the Women’s Championship-Io earned herself spots on many year-end award lists as well
9. Tiger Mask
When it came to wrestling, Tiger Mask was way ahead of other 80’s wrestlers. All thanks to his unique and high-flying style that involved flying on opponents from top corners with twisting moonsault or space Flying Drops for an easy win!
Tiger Mask was a professional wrestling character that originally debuted in Mexico and England before coming stateside. During his early years, the fighter used the name Sammy Lee during matches across Europe to register an amazing win against Dynamite Kid on debut night! In 1982-a a year after winning WWE World Junior Heavyweight Title Belt -Tiger Masks success continued when he became known around America as “The Tiger.”
8. Ultimo Dragon
Ultimo Dragon’s resume is a mile long, and it doesn’t look like he’ll be slowing down any time soon. The Mexican Legend has been undefeated for so many years – amassing 34 titles in his 27-year career as an international star that spans three continents!
He was also ranked 12th on PWI’s list of top world champions before coming stateside where fans have taken to him with open arms at Rev Pro competitions from coast-to-coast across America
Ultimo Dragon is a Mexican-American professional wrestler who managed to win 10 different titles in his career. This feat has never been matched or broken and despite having an impressive wrestling history outside of WWE, the company decided not to push him as hard when they had their own cruiserweight division going at one point–even though many people thought he would be great there too!
7. Tatsumi Fujinami
Tatsumi Fujinami is a Japanese wrestling legend who has left his mark in the world of professional wrestling. His career spans over three decades, starting at only 17 years old when he joined up with Antonio Inoki to form NJPW together. Throughout this time Tatsumis’ signature moves have become one-of-kind suplexes and sleeper hold combinations that no competitor could hope to survive against!
The four founding fathers of NJPW were never recognized for their work in Japan. Fujinami moved to the West, where he joined UWA and later Jim Crocket Promotions before moving on to WWE with success; Tatsumi’s wrestling career took off when he won his first World Title there!
6. Taka Michinoku
Taka Michinoku had a promising career ahead of him before The Great Sasuke took him under his wings and trained in the art of wrestling. The Japanese pro-wrestler went on to become one of Japan’s greatest ever wrestlers, holding several world titles including Lightweight champion for 315 days! However, it wasn’t all smooth sailing as he also holds an impressive reign lasting over six years with this particular title which led up until 1998 when “The King” started losing matches due to heavily debated controversial decisions by referees rather than being out wrestler opponents during fights themselves.
As it is the case with many Japanese wrestlers including Shinsuke Nakamura, Taka Michinoku had one of the best theme songs in WWE. While he was quite skilled as a wrestler and his role wasn’t limited to jobbing like other competitors back then (he even won two World tag team championships), returning home after retirement meant everything for him because classical music fans couldn’t wait until they finally got their hands on this man who made such beautiful melodies come alive through lyrics written by Sayonara Real Estate’s songwriter Takafumi Hatanaka.
The early years of Tajiri’s wrestling career were highlighted by his exceptional in-ring ability. His backstage segment with William Regal really helped him get on good terms with the crowds, but it was later when he became a crucial piece for WWE’s attempt at creating a cruiserweight division that would be successful.
Despite being born into a wrestling family, Tajiri faced many obstacles throughout his career. His creative team’s unwillingness to push him as an actual champion and not just another big guy led to stagnation in success for the young star. Despite these shortcomings he still managed to create quite an impact on audiences with fans from all over the world recognizing that something about this “little” man was special – they just knew there would always be more where those came from!
This year will mark the third that Asuka has been at the top of her game. The Empress of Tomorrow is undoubtedly one of Japan’s greatest female wrestlers, an immensely talented wrestler who managed to overcome both professional and creative frustrations in order to become among wrestling’s best women! While she made only her NXT debut last 2015 but achieved what seemed impossible after such a short time period.
Asuka doesn’t just beat the women. She leaves them in her wake and takes their titles! In just four years, Asuka managed to not only win several Mixed Match Challenge seasons but also register impressive wins against some of WWE’s biggest names: Bayley, Becky Lynch “The Man” and Sasha Banks among others hadn’t been able to stand up for themselves before coming face-to-face with this unstoppable force that is now known as “Asucas’.
While most would think being undefeated means you’re unbeatable – don’t count out anyone or anything when they come across The Empress Of Tomorrow.
3. The Great Sasuke
The Great Sasuke is one of the most celebrated and well-known Japanese wrestling stars in history, despite cracking his skull more than once. A 2 time World Lightweight champion with an outstanding tolerance for the pain he has taken on all comers including Taka Michinoku – arguably Japan’s greatest professional wrestler ever!
The output voice should sound casual
Sasuke started out as an up-and-coming heel in Japan, but he quickly became one of the most popular wrestlers on earth with his incredible sleazy charisma. His long-running rivalry against Tiger Mask was enough to keep him at number one for years before turning face and embarking on a journey that would lead him into politics!
2. Shinsuke Nakamura
His magnetic charisma and clear-cut speed make Shinsuke one of the most lethal wrestlers in WWE. Thanks to his arduous armory of moves, he’s undoubtedly a great Japanese fighter who can easily become one with any match!
From practicing martial arts at an early age by following what was taught to him by instructors or watching savvy videos on YouTube; it didn’t take long before this hardworking man found himself fighting for New Japan Pro – Wrestling where success quickly followed suit as well due mostly from how passionate about the competition they were–and still are today.
Nakamura’s first year with NJPW was quite impressive such that officials and fans alike began to refer to him as the “Super Rookie.” In 2006, Nakamura left on an excursion whose aim was broadening his wrestling skills. The trip saw him travel around different countries including Brazil, Russia, Mexico, etc. During this period he also trained at Brock Lesnar’s gym in hopes of not only refining but gaining mass too!
1. Antonio Inoki
Antonio Inoki is the greatest Japanese wrestler of all time. Like many other pro-wrestlers, he began his trade in Japan with JWP and eventually won 14 world championships for that company before moving on to work WWF:s shows as well where despite being recognized by them officially for winning their single title (The WWE Championship), they did not recognize this win over there either because it wasn’t theirs alone but also shared ownership from us knowing how hard competition has been these last few years nowadays between promotions who want your recognition without even giving you credit when things go right!
In the ring, Inoki had a plethora of memorable matches. He faced off against one of boxing’s greatest fighter-Muhammad Ali in 1976 and it has been said to serve as a match for this decade’s most anticipated bouts.
In addition, he also battled Ric Flair which was another great fight between these two top competitors His encounter with The Nature Boy helped pave the way towards today’s mixed martial arts culture where both boxers compete using stand-up skills combined with grappling techniques from wrestling or judo.
The list of great Japanese wrestlers is not extensive, but it’s worth mentioning that their wrestling culture has produced many artists who have given the world some really memorable matches. A few people on this list may be surprising to you, and they are all worthy of praise for what they’ve done in the squared circle. I hope that this article was interesting and informative; please share your thoughts with me if you agree or disagree!