Tomohiro Ishii (born December 10, 1975 in Kawasaki, Kanagawa, Japan) is a professional wrestler currently and best known for working in New Japan Pro-Wrestling, though he has also wrestled in other promotions in the past.
He started his career in 1996 with Genichiro Tenryu's Wrestle Association "R", staying with them for four years and winning the International Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship twice with Yuji Yasuraoka, before WAR went out of business. He then became a freelancer for several years, eventually finding himself as the apprentice of Riki Choshu in Riki's Fighting World of Japan promotion, eventually becoming the company's chairman, as well as making appearances for Pro Wrestling ZERO1-MAX.
In 2004 he started making sporadic appearances for New Japan, but would only become a regular there in 2006 when he formed the "Heisei no Gokudo Combi" tag team with Toru Yano. Ishii and Yano later became part of the faction Great Bash Heel, who occasionally appeared with Apache Pro-Wrestling Army in addition to New Japan. Ishii remained a lower-ranking member of the G.B.H. faction until April 2009, when Yano led the entire group save Tomoaki Honma into turning on leader Togi Makabe to join Shinsuke Nakamura in newly formed CHAOS following the imposion of Nakamura's previous faction RISE.
Continuing on in CHAOS with much the same role as he had in G.B.H., Ishii found himself involved in eight-man tag team matches at two consecutive Wrestle Kingdom events before entering a rivalry with the fourth generation real-life Tiger Mask, even becoming the sixth generation Black Tiger in the process. He began to climb the ranks in the company over the next few years, becoming a challenger for various championships and even gaining a cult following in the wake of highly acclaimed matches against the likes of CHAOS ally Masato Tanaka and Katsuyori Shibata. Throughout this time he also aided CHAOS in its later wars against other Power Stables in New Japan such as Minoru Suzuki's Suzuki-gun and Prince Devitt's Bullet Club, with he and his stablemates becoming tweeners and eventually full-fledged faces as a result.
His first taste of championship success with the company came when he became the third ever NEVER Openweight Champion, winning the championship from Tetsuya Naito on February 11, 2014 at The New Beginning in Osaka. He went on to hold this championship four times over the next two years, with two of said reigns ending in defeat at Wrestle Kingdom. However, this was not the end of his championship success: in fact, he became a beneficiary of New Japan's working relationships with other promotions such as Ring of Honor and Revolution Pro Wrestling, boasting reigns with the ROH World Television and RPW British Heavyweight titles.
"Stone Pitbull Tropes":
- Acrofatic/Stout Strength: He has that fat look that you know is strong, and he can move pretty well too.
- Animal Motif: He's called the Stone Pitbull, it's a pretty easy guess.
- The Apprentice: To Genichiro Tenryu, Koki Kitahara, and Riki Choshu.
- Arch-Enemy: Fellow stiff, no-nonsense hard-hitter Katsuyori Shibata has been this ever since their match at the 2013 G1 Climax earned them a five-star rating from Dave Meltzer.
- Minoru Suzuki also falls into this role, given his similar but more psychotic take on that hard-hitting style. Put Ishii and Suzuki on opposite sides of a tag match, and they'll inevitably go right after each other and start trading blows.
- Bald of Evil: After he shaved his head. Later subverted as he joined the rest of CHAOS in turning face.
- Beat Them at Their Own Game: Roderick Strong tried to do this to Ishii at the urging of Bobby Fish and ended up paying him a world television championship for it. Kenny Omega notes that Ishii has a natural ability to draw people into attempting to do this to him, and usually falling to his might for their troubles.
- Boring, but Practical: While it takes a lot of repeated viewings for it to become boring, per se, Ishii's wrestling style and psychology is relatively simple: he comes at you with strength and quickness to force you to fight him head on so he can batter you until you're weak enough to taste an Ishii Driller. While the top wrestlers in NJPW are able to keep him away from the IWGP Heavyweight Championship due to knowing how to prepare for this, even they tend to fall prey to Ishii's relentless assault in grueling tournament settings where every other match they have is as important as his.
- The Brute: Wrestle a smash-mouth strong style that has been said to shave potential years off his career or even his lifespan despite the only weapons at play usually being his bare hands. Is NOT The Big Guy as a face, though he sure wrestles like it in spite of himself. Furthermore, Ishii won the The Wrestling Observer Newsletter "Bruiser Brody Memorial Award" for Best Brawler for 6 straight years from 2014 to 2019 (the second-longest streak in the award's history, behind only Mick Foley during the 90s) and won Best Brawler of the 2010s.
- Cool Teacher: Was once a trainer at Koki Kitahara's Capture International Dojo.
- Determinator: His matches exude this, especially since leveling up in badass. Look no further than anytime he and Shibata get in a fight, at which point you can expect the two to tank each other's hardest palm strikes, headbutts, and other assorted attacks for as long as they can in at least two or three sequences, all the while screaming at each other for more.
- In another famous instance, when Kenny Omega attempted to suplex Ishii during their tournament-final battle to crown the inaugural IWGP United States Champion, Ishii bit down on the ropes so that Omega couldn't do it.
- Early-Installment Weirdness: It's hard to imagine it, but at the time of his wrestling debut he was known as "a newcomer similar to Nobuhiko Takada".
- Face of a Thug: His near-permanent scowl in competition wouldn't look out of place on a gangster hitman.
- Finishing Move: Ishii Driller—a vertical suplex transitioned into a piledrivernote or brainbuster. Has also been mistakenly called the Ishii Driver.
- Ironic Echo: When he beat Naito for the NEVER Openweight Championship it was his first ever championship win in NJPW. The fourth time he lost the NEVER Openweight title was to Shibata at Wrestle Kingdom 10…for Shibata's first ever championship win in NJPW.
- Level Grinding: His entire career in NJPW.
- Lightning Bruiser: Agile enough to do an enzuigiri, flying knee, or running dropkick. Strong enough to pull a Cesaro-esque superplex and dish out killer stiff palm strikes, headbutts, and lariats. Durable enough to absorb the same from a super tough enemy and keep on moving.
- No-Sell: Ishii loves tanking through other people's strikes, encouraging them to hit him again or yelling like a mnaiac as they hammer away. But if you pay close attention, you'll notice he does eventually sell once he's taken enough damage—but only when he thinks his opponent isn't looking, so as to ensure they don't find and exploit a weak spot.
- Number Two: For years, Ishii has served as the right-hand man to CHAOS's leader, first with Nakamura, then with Okada. Leaders of other factions like Kenny Omega and Tetsuya Naito often have to avenge tournament losses to Ishii in order to prove they have what it takes to challenge Okada for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. Conversely, when Okada is on the chase, Ishii often gets a title shot before Okada's eventual challenge, as part of a wider war between CHAOS and the champion's faction.
- Pint-Sized Powerhouse: At a majestic 5'7" and 220 pounds, he manages to be the rare technically-cruiserweight example of Stout Strength, even to the point of being able to hit the Ishii Driller on Bullet Club's comparatively-gigantic bouncer, Bad Luck Fale.note
- Power Stable: G.B.H. and Chaos.
- Red Baron: “Stone Pitbull”, “Hitman of Chaos”, “New Mr. Korauken”.
- Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Can often come across as the manly man to some of his CHAOS brethren, such as perpetually goofy Toru Yano, brash and youthful Kazuchika Okada, and outright eccentric Shinsuke Nakamura.
- Signature Move: Delayed vertical superplex, headbutt, lariat.
- Took a Level in Badass: Was mostly a jobber to the stars/stable filler type up until his performances in the 2013 G1 Climax tournament, in particular a match with Katsuyori Shibata, earned him widespread critical acclaim including a Dave Meltzer five-star rating. Following his return from a CMLL excursion after the tournament, he began to win more matches and even got pushed as the face of the NEVER Openweight Championship in the same way that Chaos stablemate Shinsuke Nakamura was the face of the IWGP Intercontinental title.
- Tournament Arc:
- Frequently participated in the G1 Tag League tournament with various teammates, including Toru Yano and Masato Tanaka, before eventually settling into his camaraderie with Shinsuke Nakamura.
- Though he finished last in Block A in his first G1 Climax tournament in 2013, taking part in it helped his career more than most participants, as it included the infamous five-star match with Shibata which cemented his already-growing push and following. As an indication, he would finish in the middle of his block in the next two years' G1 Climax tourneys.
- Trope Maker: Much like Shinsuke Nakamura with the IWGP Intercontinental Championship, once Ishii got a hold of the NEVER Openweight Championship in early 2014 and started putting on fierce brawls with everyone he faced, the title shed its prior status as a somewhat aimless midcard belt from a governing body that disappeared as soon as the first champion was crowned and became the "strong-style belt" we know today.
- True Companions: Has this with his CHAOS stablemates, especially Nakamura, Okada, and Toru Yano. In fact, as evidenced by four straight years of G1 Tag League tourneys from 2012 to 2015, Ishii's the only person Nakamura would trust as a regular tag team partner due to the similarity in their wrestling philosophies.