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Wrestling / Tatsumi Fujinami

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The Dragon of New Japan

"I always wanted to be the great wrestler that Tatsumi Fujinami was."

Tatsumi Fujinami (b. 1953) is a Japanese professional wrestler known for his work in New Japan Pro-Wrestling. He debuted for Rikidozan's Japan Wrestling Association and became Antonio Inoki's protegee, eventually following him to form NJPW. Fujinami was then sent abroad to hone his skills, which included a travel through Mexico and a championship tenure in World Wrestling Federation, and upon his return he became to the junior heavyweight scene of NJPW just what Inoki was to the heavyweight one. In 1981, after a successful cruiser career, he was moved to heavyweight in order to left space to his sucessor Satoru Sayama, and by doing so he started some important feuds with Big Van Vader and Riki Choshu. After many years of consistent wrestling, he was turned into NJPW president, but this only lasted five years due to the then convoluted politics of the company. In 2006, when his feud with Riki Choshu reached its highest real life overtones, Fujinami left NJPW to form his own company, Muga/Dradition Pro Wrestling. He has been a presence in indy wrestling since.

"Dragon Tropes":

  • The Ace: A 6-time IWGP heavyweight champion and was the junior heavyweight ace before Satoru Sayama showed up.
  • The Apprentice: To Karl Gotch and Antonio Inoki.
  • Bruce Lee Clone: Had the looks when younger. In fact, while wrestling in United States, regional promotors used to ask him seriously if he was a relative to Bruce Lee.
  • Canon Discontinuity: Won the WCW/NWA world heavyweight title from Ric Flair at a WCW Japan Supershow back in the early 90s, and would have been recognized as the first man to hold the NWA world and IWGP championships simultaneously. The reign that was never recognized by World Championship Wrestling as during a press conference with Fujinami after the match, Flair barged in, grabbed the Big Gold Belt and stormed out with it. That was WCW’s way of keeping the belt with Flair as he returned to the states. The rematch at WCW Superbrawl I between Flair and Fujinami had Fujinami come in practically unannounced with no build up. WCW fans who were not familiar with the events at the Tokyo Dome were left with “just this Japanese wrestler” challenging Flair for the WCW belt.
  • Cool Teacher: Has his own wrestling school and trained guys like Brazo de Plata, Brian Adams, Katsushi Takemura, Luvsandorj Nyamjav, Manabu Soya, MAZADA, Nobuyuki Kurashima, Osamu Nishimura, Último Dragón, and Yoshiaki Fujiwara.
  • Dented Iron: Suffered a hernia in his lower back in 1989. While Fujinami continued to wrestle at a main-event level for a decade upon his return, he was never quite the same.
  • Face: Like a national hero to Japan.
  • I Know Catch Wrestling: Aside from his training under Karl Gotch, he also went Wigan, England to train at the famous Snake Pit.
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Was New Japan's top junior in the early days of that division before he moved up to the heavyweights and Satoru Sayama became Tiger Mask.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Was NJPW's general manager until Masakazu Kusama replaced him by his enemy Chono's instance.
  • Red Baron: "Honoo no Hiryu" ("Dragon of the Flame"), in English "The Dragon".
  • Ring Oldies: A founding father of NJPW and still wrestles.
  • Signature Move: Dragon Sleeper and Dragon Suplex
  • Spell My Name With An S: In September 1990, he changed his kanji from "辰巳" to "辰爾" as his ring name.
  • Start My Own: Founded Muga World, and later changed the name to Dradition.
  • Suplex Finisher: Dragon Suplex
  • Ur-Example: Innovated the Dragon Sleeper and the Dragon Suplex, won the first Karl Gotch Cup (predecessor of the Young Lions Cup) in 1974 he also was the first IWGP Tag Team Champion with Kengo Kimura. He is also the first New Japan wrestler to win titles in the junior heavyweight and heavyweight divisions.
  • Wrestling Family: His son Leona competes for the Dradition promotion in Japan.