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Wrestling: Satoru Sayama
Satoru Sayama (b. 1957) is a Japanese Professional Wrestler, promoter and Mixed Martial Arts trainer, best known for his work as Tiger Mask. He debuted in 1976 for New Japan Pro Wrestling, but he was sent abroad to Mexico, where he gained fame. Later he moved to Britain, where he learned martial arts and wrestled as "Sammy Lee", with his gimmick being a cousin of Bruce Lee. After his return to Japan, he was chosen to play the Tiger Mask character, based in a manga. He redebuted under the masked and became the founder of the junior heavyweight wrestling, introducing the lucha libre style in Japan along his own abilities. After some years of stardom, in which he had legendary feuds with Dynamite Kid and Kuniaki Kobayashi, he left New Japan in protest for Antonio Inoki's irregular monetary management. He founded the Tiger Gym, a martial arts dojo, and shortly after was convinced by NJPW defectors to return to wrestling and join them in Universal Wrestling Federation. There Sayama adopted the "Super Tiger" moniker and helped to create the shoot-style wrestling along names like Akira Maeda and Yoshiaki Fujiwara. However, he had a falling out with Maeda and some others wrestlers and left to form Shooto, the first Mixed Martial Arts company in history. He acted as promoter and trained many future MMA stars, also doing a second return to pro wrestling by request of Inoki. After leaving Shooto, he freelanced in pro wrestling indies like Michinoku Pro Wrestling and UWF International, and collaborated with Inoki in his Universal Fighting-Arts Organization. He ended founding a martial art, Seikendo, which derived into his own promotion, Real Japan Pro Wrestling.

As usual, you can find the basics at The Other Wiki.

"Tropes Mask":

  • Acrofatic: Gained a lot of weight after his retire in 1985, but he moves almost exactly like his former self.
  • Animal Motifs: Tigers.
  • Arch-Enemy: Dynamite Kid, Kuniaki Kobayashi and Black Tiger. More recently, Minoru Suzuki and Atsushi Onita.
    • In real life, Akira Maeda. Their hosility started in 1985, when Maeda shot on Sayama during a match and caused the fall of the original UWF. They continued badmouthing each other during years until 2006, when they were reunited in an interview by Hisao Maki and acknowledged (rather grudgingly) each other's accomplishments. Currently, they seem to have regained a degree of respect between them.
  • As Himself: Subverted. He did appear in his biographic film Shinsetsu Tiger Mask, but not as himself, but as his personal trainer. His own role was played by Masakatsu Funaki.
  • Badass
  • Bad Boss: Supposedly the reason his colleagues ousted him from UWF was that he was egotistically using his position to book himself over the rest of the roster, which made him impopular among them.
    • To be fair, it was probably the best decision for the promotion, as he always got the biggest cheers regardless the opponent he was facing. Even Maeda and Fujiwara, who were solid draws at the moment, were in second place when Super Tiger was on the ring.
  • Big Brother Mentor: Was one to Akira Maeda.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Purple as Super Tiger and black under his real name.
  • Cool Mask: Not any mask, but the Tiger Mask.
  • Dancing Is Serious Business: During the Seikendo shows, Sayama used to wear his mask and introduce Russian female dancers into the ring to work a dance.
  • Distaff Counterpart: The character Tiger Dream, granted by Sayama to joshi wrestler Candy Okutsu.
  • Dramatic Unmask: Subverted for a Masked Luchador. He nonchalantly unmasked himself in a TV show and proceeded to vilify pro wrestling, as he was tired of "fake" fighting and its politics. Unsurprisingly, he was not very popular among wrestling promoters after that.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Being lifted from the apron by Dynamite Kid for a vertical suplex, then floating over him and reversing the move into a bridging German suplex for the pin, all in his Tiger Mask debut.
  • Evil Counterpart: Black Tiger.
  • Face: One of the greatest ever. During his Tiger Mask tenure, the New Japan TV show had the rating higher than 25% when Sayama was on, and every card with him sold out the arenas.
  • Finishing Move: Bridging German Suplex, Tiger Suplex and Tiger Driver (a predecessor to the DDT). As Super Tiger, he used the Crossface Chickenwing and other shoot-style submissions.
    • During his beginnings as Tiger Mask, before he debuted the Tiger Suplex, he used the Tilt-a-Whirl Backbreaker and the Octopus Hold as finishers.
  • Freudian Trio: The Superego to Nobuhiko Takada's Ego to Akira Maeda's Id.
  • From Clones to Genre: His aerial moves started being used only by Tiger Masks, but then extended to all the cruiserweight wrestling. Until then, junior heavyweights in Japan had been esentially miniature heavyweights with almost the same style.
  • Golden Super Mode: His Tiger King gimmick.
  • Hardboiled Detective: He played this kind of character in the 1995 film Roppongi Soldier.
  • Hurricane Kick: Uses it mainly as a feint.
  • Invincible Hero: Aside than DQ or count out losses, Tiger Mask was never pinned, singles or tag team match, during his New Japan days.
  • Japanese Spirit: Has a preference for traditional Japanese imagery and ideals, as evidenced for his seikendo style and the ceremonials used in RJPW.
  • Jerkass: According to some.
  • Kid-Appeal Character: Started as one, as the junior heavyweight star was Tatsumi Fujinami. Then Fujinami ascended to heavyweight and Tiger Mask got the spotlight.
  • Legacy Character: One of the best known ones in pro wrestling.
  • Masked Luchador: The first Japanese one along with Mach Hayato.
  • Mother Russia Makes You Strong: Sayama believes there might be great fighters waiting to be discovered in Russia, and it's said he held several kumites and tryouts there during his seikendo starting.
  • Multidisciplinary Scientist: Is trained in judo, amateur wrestling, sambo, kickboxing, muay thai and several styles of catch wrestling. He is not simply nicknamed "Genius" for nothing.
  • Noodle Incident: The reason he left Shooto in 1996 remains unknown. According to some, it was because his pro wrestling ties clashed with the rest of the Shooto members's martial mentality, and according to others, he left because he was bored and wanted to keep innovating.
  • Odd Friendship: Sayama was friends with sumo legend Taiho Koki, whose son Yukio is currently training in RJPW.
  • The Other Darrin: When Sayama left NJPW, the gimmick was swiftly bought by All Japan Pro Wrestling and passed to Mitsuharu Misawa. Then it was passed to Koji Kanemoto, and finally to Yoshihiro Yamazaki. MMA fighter Ikuhisa Minowa got a variation of it as well.
  • Old Master: Founded the Super Tiger Gym, where has taught countless fighters and wrestlers.
    • While he has directly trained few of the most known (i.e. modern) Shooto fighters, he was the one who taught the instructors who trained them, which makes him an old master to old masters. Yuki Nakai, Noboru Asahi and Yorinaga Nakamura are his best known Shooto era apprentices. Also, combat wrestling founder Noriaki Kiguchi worked in his gym, and shootboxing pioneer Caesar Takeshi learned grappling from Sayama as well.
    • Sayama is currently the only red belt in seikendo, the martial art he founded.
  • Overshadowed by Awesome: After the UWF split, the greatest shoot-style exponents to Japanese eyes were Nobuhiko Takada from UWF International, Akira Maeda from RINGS and Masakatsu Funaki from Pancrase. Sayama was never counted as another one, due to Shooto being far less known and to him not having an active career.
  • Panthera Awesome: Yeah.
  • Passing the Torch: Currently, there are three wrestlers who carry Sayama's torch: Tiger Mask IV (Yoshihiro Yamazaki), Tiger Mask V (Ikuhisa Minowa) and Super Tiger II (Yuji Sakuragi). The latter's Evil Counterpart, Tiger Shark (Kozo Urita) can be considered another torchbearer, as well as the recently debuted Great Tiger (Takatoriki Tadashige).
  • Pet the Dog: During the infamous 1.4 Incident, Sayama was the only UFO member who tended the referee Tiger Hattori (who got legitimately low blowed by Naoya Ogawa) and virtually the only man in the arena who tried to calm down the consecuent brawl.
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: At least in his beginnings. He is not pint-sized anymore.
  • Red Baron: "Yon Jigen Yaho" ("The Four-Dimensional Assassin"), "Densetsu no Tora" ("The Legend Tiger") and "Tensai" ("Genius").
  • Roundhouse Kick: One of his trademark moves.
  • Sadist Teacher: Is considered a cruel and harsh trainer even to Japanese standards, to the extent that there are clips of him beating students with a shinai cane. In fact, it's said that Sayama trainees literally get hit harder in training than in the ring. Karl Gotch, who used to spoke of Sayama as his greatest student ever, supposedly remarked that Satoru was a glorified gym bully.
    • Sayama publicitly supports corporal punishment.
  • Self-Referential Humor: Sayama likes to joke about his weigh gain. For a time, the RJPW announcers used to introduce him as a superheavyweight to make the crowd laugh.
  • Shout-Out/Homage: His Sammy Lee gimmick to Bruce Lee. He was his storyline cousin.
  • Start My Own: Shooto, Seiken Shinkage-Ryu and Real Japan Pro Wrestling.
  • The Rival: Dynamite Kid, Kuniaki Kobayashi.
  • Tag Team: With fellow U-spirit shooter Yoji Anjo. This was his only team, as Sayama has went predominantly solo.
  • Training from Hell: He passed one under Karl Gotch, Toshio Fujiwara and Victor Koga, and himself dispensed some to his many students.
  • Unnecessary Combat Roll: Sometimes done to make effect.
  • The Worf Effect: He was thrashed by one of his Real Japan students, The Great Tiger, to show how dangerous he is.
  • Wrestling Psychology: His has been praised for decades.
  • Writing Around Trademarks: The Tiger Mask character was bought by All Japan Pro Wrestling after his retire, so he renamed himself as "The Tiger", "Super Tiger", "Tiger King" and the like. He retained his name variations after adquiring the Tiger Mask trademark, as he passed it to his apprentice Yoshihiro Yamazaki.
Buzz SawyerThe EightiesKen Shamrock
Buzz SawyerProfessional WrestlingKen Shamrock

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