From comics to the ring: who was Tiger Mask?

From comics to the ring: who was Tiger Mask?

From comics to the ring

On Sunday 26 June wrestling fans from all over the world will have the opportunity to experience a more unique than rare event: AEW x NJPW - Forbidden Door. It is a collaboration between the most important American company of the moment or the AEW and the historic Japanese company NJPW who will bring together their talents in the ring for a show that promises to be unmissable and truly unique. The occasion is propitious to remind us how wrestling has offered us one of the most concrete examples of transmedia and cross-media when, directly from the pages of a comic, Tiger Mask, better known in Italy as the Man, arrived in the ring in the flesh. Tiger.

Tiger Mask Until the 70s it was not uncommon to see wrestlers traveling far and wide around the globe, in modern wrestling this practice has been reduced to a minimum and has remained mainly linked to so called independent federations that periodically host talents from other federations and / or from other countries of the world. The last official collaboration of this magnitude between two federations dates back to 1995 when the NJPW always brought the wrestling show together with the WCW to Korea for an event called Collision in Korea. An event that was anything but memorable and which, among other things, risked triggering an international diplomatic incident.

From comics to the ring: who was Tiger Mask?

Origins: Ikki Kajiwara & Naoki Tsuji manga The debut of Tiger Mask The gimmick over the years Tiger Mask W

The Origins: the manga by Ikki Kajiwara & Naoki Tsuji

A series of brutal challenges in the ring begin for him against the emissaries of Tana delle Tigri who intend to eliminate him. The series ended, after 14 tankobons, in 1971 but at the same time, in 1969 Toei Animation, produced an animated series that only dramatically increased the success of the series.

Tiger Mask if ( jQuery ("# ​​crm_srl-th_culturapop_d_mh3_1").

L Tiger Mask debut

In 1981, NJPW acquired the rights to exploit the Tiger Mask image. The company then decided to make a new masked wrestler debut in the ring and the talented Satoru Sayama was chosen to play the character. His debut was lightning-fast: in a match valid for the then vacant WWF Junior Heavyweight Championship, Tiger Mask defeated Dynamite Kid starting one of the most spectacular rivalries of all time.

Tiger Mask was a great innovator in the ring: his style was fluid and spectacular because he combined the classic submission holds and projections with some moves from the Mexican lucha libre (Rey Mysterio's famous 619 is a variation of Tiger Mask's Tiger Faint Kick that transformed a move defense in attack) and the use of martial arts, especially kicks which became lethal weapons in his arsenal.

From the original animated series, a other character: Black Tiger. The heel (that is, a bad wrestler) was played by various gaijin (foreign wrestlers) including Mark Rocco, who managed to defeat Tiger Mask on May 6, 1982, winning the WWF Junior Heavyweight Championship. The second Black Tiger was the legendary Eddie Guerrero who played the character from 1993 to 1995. César Cuauhtémoc González Barrón, Rocky Romero and then surprisingly three Japanese Tatsuhito Takaiwa, Tomohiro Ishii and Nosawa Rongai followed.

The debut. in the Tiger Mask ring was accompanied by another animated series launched in 1981 but not as successful as the original. The series was a sort of sequel to the first but with a new protagonist.


Tiger Mask Also in this second series some real wrestlers appear like Antonio Inoki, Seiji Sakaguchi, André the Giant, Abdullah the Butcher, Stan Hansen, Shigeo Nagashima and Tatsumi Fujinami.

The gimmick over the years

In 1984, NJPW sold the gimmick (ie the character to be played in the ring) to AJPW. The mask then passed first to Mitsuharu Misawa who, after a feud with Dynamite Kid, tried to move into the heavyweight category with poor results. Misawa as Tiger Mask II became famous for his very aggressive style but also for the choice, in 1990, to unmask himself during a match. Misawa then continued his career successfully under his real name only to tragically die in 2009 following a cervical trauma immediately after an unsuccessful screening in the ring.

In 1992 Tiger Mask III made his debut , under whose mask was hiding the promising Koji Kanemoto. With this third incarnation we returned to the origins of the character however the rise of Jushin Thunder Liger (another masked fighter whose gimmick was based on another animated series) led the two to an epochal clash in 1994: a mask vs mask match that it ended with the defeat of Kanemoto who was then forced to unmask himself. Like his predecessor, Koji Kanemoto also successfully pursued his career under his real name. In addition to being still in business and, among other accolades, he was the first fighter to defend the NJPW IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship in the United States (against Alex Wright at WCW Starrcade 95: World Cup of Wrestling).

In 1995 Tiger Mask IV made his debut. This is the first Tiger Mask trained directly by Satoru Sayama. Tiger Mask IV has a very similar style to his master and is currently one of the veterans in force at NJPW, he recently held the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship with Robbie Eagles.

Tiger Mask IV in action:

Tiger Mask Sayama then also trained Ikuhisa Minowa, a promising MMA fighter, who played some matches as Tiger Mask V in the IGF (minor federation created a few years ago by the legendary Antonio Inoki).

Tiger Mask W

In 2016, to celebrate the first 60 years of Toei Animation, the new animated series Tiger Mask W debuted, the first developed in collaboration with NJPW. The series is set 40 years after the events of the first historical animated series and does not take into account those of the second of the 80s.

Tiger Mask Naoto Azuma and Takuma Fujii are two young people united by passion for wrestling who fight for the little Zipangu Pro-Wrestling of Daisuke Fujii, the father of the latter. When, during a match organized by GWM (Global Wrestling Monopoly), a powerful American federation, the evil Yellow Devil mercilessly defeats Daisuke, seriously injuring him, Zipangu is doomed to ruin. The two young men then split up: Naoto discovers that behind the GWM there is the reborn Tana delle Tigre and finds a new coach in Kentaro Takaoka who directs him to NJPW. Takuma instead manages to enter the GWM where he assumes the identity of Tiger The Dark.

The series is characterized by the most modern and realistic tones, the series consisting of 38 episodes is available on Crunchyroll. In addition, many real wrestlers appear in the series including Kazuchika Okada, Hiroshi Tanahashi (current challenger of Jon Moxley for the interim AEW World Heavyweight Championship), Yuji Nagata, Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma, Tomohiro Ishii, Yoshi-Hashi, Tetsuya Naito, Kenny Omega, Bad Luck Fale and Tama Tonga.

Kenny Omega in anime version:

Tiger Mask Tiger Mask W also had a real counterpart played by Kota Ibushi. The young and very talented wrestler has played the character in just three matches, two of which against two other characters from the anime or Red Death Mask and obviously Tiger the Dark respectively at King of Pro Wrestling 2016 and Wrestle Kingdom 11.

Juice Robinson and ACH took on the role of Red Death Mask and Tiger the Dark respectively in the two matches.

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