September 5, 2005
REAL NAME: Yoshihiro Tajiri
Trained by Kendo Nagasaki, the native of Tokyo, Japan made his September 19, 1994 debut in his native country, battling Takashi Okano for IWA Japan. A year after his debut, having wrestled in Japan and Mexico, Tajiri traveled to Williamsport, New Jersey, where, on June 24, 1995, he wrestled Dan Severn for the NWA World Championship.
It was while competing in the EMLL promotion in Mexico that Tajiri faced the top junior heavyweights in the world. Tajiri quickly became adept with the high-flying Lucha Libre style and began to incorporate parts of it into his own ring style which relies heavily and Japanese shoot wrestling. Donning a mask, Tajiri went by the name Aquarius.
Tajiri would take the Aquarius gimmick back to Japan in 1996 where on July 19, he would defeat Dr. Wagner, Jr. for the EMLL/CMLL Light Heavyweight Championship. A subsequent loss in Japan forced Aquarius to unmask to reveal Tajiri.
Tajiri would remain in Japan for the prestigious three-week Super Junior Tournament, held in the spring of 1997 by New Japan Pro Wrestling. Tajiri competed in the tournament along with Jushin Liger, Chris Jericho, and Chavo Guerrero Jr.
Teaming with Ryuji Yamakawa, Tajiri would win the Big Japan Tag Team titles on two occassions, defeating Takashi Ishikawa and Kishin Kawabata on July 23, 1997 and then Gedo and Jado on January 2, 1998.
In the interim, Tajiri would return to North America to work several Raw TV tapings in the summer and fall of 1997, against Taka Michinoku and Brian Christopher. But Tajiri would return to Japan before the year's end, to regain the Big Japan Tag Team titles, and also to defeat Gedo in Tokyo on February 3rd, to win a tournament held to crown the first Big Japan Junior Heavyweight Champion.
Before the end of 1998, Tajiri was back in North America, signing on with Extreme Championship Wrestling. His debut came on December 11, 1998 when he defeated Antifaz Del Norte. Soon after, he began an incredible feud with Mexican luchador Super Crazy. The two stole the show at ECW's January Guilty As Charged PPV and have put on what many consider the best series of matches in the North America that year. After a loss at Guilty as Charged, Super Crazy got the victory in their subsequent meetings, but both men earned the respect of the crowd.
In addition to his program with Super Crazy, Tajiri battled the likes of Little Guido (Nunzio) and Jerry Lynn before finding himself facing ECW World Champion Taz in the summer of 1999, losing all three times that Tajiri battled for the ECW title.
When it came to championships, however, Tajiri was successful during a three-way dance against Super Crazy and Little Guido on April 8, 2000, in Buffalo, New York to claim the ECW Television Championship. Three weeks later, however, Rhyno defeated Tajiri to end his reign as TV Champion.
After several more months of battling Lynn, Crazy and Guido, (not to mention the occasional bout against Steve Corino and Psicosis, Tajiri teamed with Mikey Whipwreck and made their way through the tournament to crown new ECW Tag Team Champions on August 25th. In the finals, Tajiri and Whipwreck fought off the teams of Tommy Dreamer/Jerry Lynn and Simon Diamond/Johnny Swinger. However, the next night, the Full Blooded Italians (Little Guido and Tony Mamaluke) won the titles.
Whipwreck and Tajiri would continue to battle (unfortunately unsuccessfully) the FBI in an attempt to regain the titles and were aided in that cause by the Sinister Minister (Jim Mitchell). Unfortunately, Whipwreck and Tajiri would never regain the tag titles and ECW would close its doors in early 2001.
After a brief stint in Combat Zone Wrestling (where he crossed paths with Super Crazy again and claimed, for a few hours, the CZW Heavyweight title), Tajiri signed on with WWE.
He made his first TV appearance in May, 2001 and soon became a sort of "aide" to WWE Commissioner William Regal. On August 6, 2001, Tajiri defeated X-Pac (Sean Waltman) for the WWE Light Heavyweight Championship, only to have X-Pac regain the title at SummerSlam.
In September, as the Alliance began to assert its power, Tajiri formed an Alliance of his own, with Diva Torrie Wilson. Wilson helped Tajiri defeat Chris Kanyon for the U.S. title, a championship he lost to Rhino at Unforgiven.
Tajiri would rebound to defeat Billy Kidman on October 22, 2001 to win the WWE Cruiserweight Championship. However, after doing so, he turned heel and began to mistreat Wilson. On April 4, 2002, Tajiri lost the title back to Kidman, and dumped Torrie Wilson in the process. Tajiri wasn't without the Cruiserweight Championship for long, defeating Kidman to regain the title at Backlash three weeks later.
Tajiri would lose the title to The Hurricane in May but would remain in the title hunt for months to come, receiving several shots against eventual champion Jamie Noble. He also made a rather strange teammate of Brock Lesnar in the Smackdown Tag Team title tournament, but the unlikely pair lost in the first round to eventual finalists Rey Mysterio and Edge.
In the spring of 2003, Tajiri would get another run at those WWE Tag Team titles. As the surprise partner of Eddie Guerrero at Judgment Day, Tajiri would help upset Team Angle for the belts. Guerrero and Tajiri would retain the tag team titles until July 3rd when Team Angle regained the championships. Eddie would turn on Tajiri after the match.
In September 2003, Tajiri would turn heel himself, spewing mist in the face of Rey Mysterio in Tajiri's quest for the Cruiserweight Championship, a title he would regain on September 25, 2003. Tajiri would enlist the help of Akio and Sakoda. in retaining the championship over the next few months, only to lose the belt back to Mysterio on January 1, 2004.
Drafted to Raw in March, 2004, Tajiri earned the ire of Johnathan Coachman, leading to a bout at Backlash where Tajiri was defeated, thanks to interference from Garrison Cade.
In the summer of 2004, Tajiri began teaming with the man who had defeated him for the ECW TV title, Rhyno, and the team made a run at La Resistance's WWE Tag Team titles. While the Tajiri/Rhyno team never managed to overcome La Resistance, Tajiri had more success teaming with William Regal. On February 7, 2005, with Raw eminating from Japan, Regal and Tajiri finally ended La Resistance's title reign.
Tajiri and Regal would overcome La Resistance and the Heartthrobs before finally losing the Tag Team titles to Rosey and the Hurricane as part of a Tag Team Turmoil match at Backlash 2005. Regal would eventually turn his back on Tajiri due to the latter's involvement in ECW's One Night Stand pay-per-view. Tajiri would lose an International three-way dance to winner Super Crazy. (Little Guido was the third participant.)
Remaining on the Raw roster, Tajiri spent more time on Heat than on the live show itself, although he did have a brief program with Chris Masters, spewing green mist in Master's face during the Master Lock Challenge.
In late 2005, Tajiri signed a new three-year contract with WWE, only to ask for his release and leaving the WWE in December. He returned to Japan and began working for the HUSTLE promotion.
--- compiled by John M. Milner with files from John Molinaro