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Wrestling / Toshiaki Kawada

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The dangerous man.

Toshiaki Kawada (born December 8, 1963) is a Japanese Professional Wrestler, famous for his work in All Japan Pro Wrestling and other many enterprises. He started his career as a highschool amateur wrestler, sport whose success allowed him free pass in AJPW. After a foreign excursion in United States, he returned as a member of his mentor Genichiro Tenryu's Revolution faction, but it was for a short time, as Tenryu left AJPW with other wrestlers to form SWS. The promotion capitalized on this to build new stars, and Kawada and his three greatest rivals, Mitsuharu Misawa, Kenta Kobashi and Akira Taue, ended up becoming the Four Heavenly Kings of AJPW in the next years. Kawada stood out as possibly the four's nastiest member, a stoic, almost aristocratic wrestler with no front teeth, always clad in black and yellow, who loved to kick people in the skull and drop them on their heads. His push wavered because his opposition to the promotion's isolationist policy, but when the other three Kings and almost the entire roster left to form Pro Wrestling NOAH, Kawada was left as the promotion's only hope. After years rebuilding AJPW along with a returning Tenryu, Kawada became a freelancer and had participations on Fighting Opera HUSTLE, New Japan Pro-Wrestling and even NOAH for the rest of his career. Unlike most major Japanese wrestlers, Kawada chose not to host any retirement ceremony, and left quietly the sport for other business.

"Dangerous Tropes":

  • The Ace: One of the aces of AJPW in the 1990s.
  • All Asians Know Martial Arts:
    • He and Hiromichi Fuyuki were named Footloose in United States, because at the time you could not be a Japanese wrestler in the States without being showered with references to kicks, martial arts, samurai and similar stuff. Mostly played straight, though, as Kawada was really a trained karateka, and although Fuyuki wasn't, he had a couple spinning kicks in his moveset too.
    • For the rest of his career, Kawada was never a fan of portraying explicitly a martial artist gimmick; he used kicks and submissions, but that was all. It was only subverted in HUSTLE, where he played a Bruce Lee Clone.
  • Alternate Company Equivalent: Uncannily to Shinya Hashimoto. Wrestler with a combat sports background including karate? Check. Wrestling style composed of stiff kicks and a vertical drop brainbuster? Check. Unusual appearance but angry personality? Check. Trouble with their respective promotion's management due to their opposition to impopular/improductive policies? Check. Passed the last part of their careers mostly away from his home promotion, also doing HUSTLE? Check.
  • The Apprentice: To Giant Baba and Genichiro Tenryu.
  • Arch-Enemy / Foil: To Mitsuharu Misawa, though in truth they were more Vitriolic Best Buds.
  • Author Appeal: High-impact, King's Road wrestling, with lots of kicks and drivers. On the other hand, Kawada seemingly hates hardcore wrestling, which is why Generalissimo Takada put him to face Mick Foley to spite him in storyline.
  • Boring, but Practical: One of his finishers is a simple hard kick to the head.
  • Bruce Lee Clone: Parodied in HUSTLE, where he would wear a black and yellow tracksuit in reference to Bruce Lee's iconic attire from Game of Death. Actually, given that Kawada has dressed in black and yellow for most of his career (although in the reverse color pattern), it might have been a subtle reference to Lee all along.
  • Brutal Honesty: When Takada forced him to team up with Kawada's long suffering apprentice Ishikari.
    "I don't want to say it aloud in front of Ishikari's father, but I don't want such a pathetic guy in my team."
  • Cool Teacher: Trained wrestlers like Kazushi Miyamoto, Taichi Ishikari and Yuto Aijima.
  • Cool Versus Awesome: Has the distinction of having competed in 17 matches that were given a 5-Star Rating and one match which received a 6-Star rating by Dave Meltzer of The Wrestling Observer Newsletter. He had a few of dream matches in his later career like his match with Shinsuke Nakamura at the 2007 Wrestle Kingdom and a tag team match with old friend Akira Taue against old rival Jun Akiyama and fellow kicking Extremity Extremist Kenta.
  • Dangerous Forbidden Technique: Announcers have called it "Shuichioku no Rakka (Vertical Drop) Power Bomb," "Dangerous Powerbomb," and "Dangerous Sankan Powerbomb", but it is better known as the Kawada Driver or the Ganso Bomb. One of the most legitimately dangerous moves in pro wrestling, which he used only three times in his career, the first time he did it was after breaking his arm and botching a powerbomb on Mitsuharu Misawa. Incredibly enough and perhaps horrifyingly, it was not a Finishing Move.
  • Death by a Thousand Cuts: His step kick move, where he pulls an opponent forward towards the ground and hits a barrage of very short punt kicks to his face.
  • Determinator: A requirement in being an AJPW ace.
  • Disappeared Dad: His father died when he was a child.
  • The Dragon: For Generalissimo Takada after his Face–Heel Turn.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: He took the New Japan Pro-Wrestling entrance exam after he finished middle school and actually passed it, but he decided to step back and finish high school instead due to his mother's urging. He ultimately went to All Japan instead due to Misawa convincing him to do so.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: He was more of a high flyer style wrestler in his early career.
  • Elite Four: Along with Mitsuharu Misawa, Kenta Kobashi, and Akira Taue, they made up the Four Pillars of AJPW due to them all being hardworking, self sacrificing, honorable babyfaces standing against an ever constant tide of evil foreigners.
  • Everyone Has Standards: He gave back Psycho the Death his beloved doll after accidentally sending it flying while kicking him.
  • Extremity Extremist: While Misawa had his elbows, Kobashi had his chops, and Taue had his chokeslams, Kawada had his kicks. Subverted because he didn't use solely kicks; it's just they were his most characteristic move.
  • Fake Nationality: As Kio Kawada in Canada, he was billed as being a Korean from Seoul.
  • Finishing Move: Dangerous Powerbomb (folding powerbomb, adopted from his mentor Tenryu), Dangerous Backdrop (high-angle belly to back suplex), Dangerous DDT (vertical drop brainbuster), Dangerous Kick/Monster PK/K of Anger (running soccer kick to a seated opponent's face), and stretch plum. He also used his jumping gamengiri as an occasional finisher, and sometimes used a cross armbar adopted from Gary Albright.
  • Get A Hold Of Yourself Man:
    • Defeated Wataru Sakata in his Monster Assessment Match, rendering him unable to join the Takada Monster Army, and told him he could return to the HUSTLE Army whenever he wanted. However, it didn't work, at least quickly.
    • After Ogawa was pinned by Yinling, Kawada demanded to face him in a match to decide who would be the captain of the HUSTLE Army. Ogawa won, but Kawada took the fans' decision when they were asked about it... but Kawada revealed he didn't want the captain's place, just the chance to motivate Ogawa.
  • Headbutting Heroes: With Ogawa as leaders of the HUSTLE Army.
  • Heroic BSoD: Ogawa and him were in one after being ambushed and humiliated by the Monster Army in HUSTLE-9.
  • Hidden Depths: After retiring from wrestling, he opened up a ramen shop called "Men-gerous K", a play on his Dangerous K nickname and the word 'men' which means noodles in Japanese.
  • Identical Stranger: Stylistically speaking, his stiff wrestling style was quite similar to the UWF shoot style wrestling, and possibly even more to Shinya Hashimoto's.
  • I Know Karate: He is a Shidokan Karate practitioner, trained nothing less than under the founder of the art, Yoshiji Soeno, which explains his proficiency in kicking. However, his particular case is actually subversion of this trope: as martial arts credentials weren't usually very appreciated in AJPW (compared to NJPW, where they often led to entire characters and storylines), Kawada's karate experience wasn't an overt part of his gimmick and thus it was rarely mentioned. Instead, Kawada's better known as an accomplished amateur wrestler: he was very active at it during his high school years, and even became a national wrestling champion in his senior year after defeating Keiichi Yamada (the future Jushin Thunder Liger) in the finals. He also did Sumo Wrestling in middle school.
  • Meaningful Name: The name of his tag team with Hiromichi Fuyuki, Footloose, was a pun referencing their kicking ability (mostly Kawada's, although Fuyuki also did some spinning heel kicks).
  • Red Baron: "Dangerous K", "HUSTLE K", "Monster K".
  • The Rival: To Naoya Ogawa in HUSTLE.
  • Sadist Teacher: His character in HUSTLE, where he would kick his apprentice Taichi Ishikari around for petty reasons, as well as Hirotaka Yokoi and other hustlers. Rumoredly to be his real life self in the old AJPW dojo, although that's hardly a rare thing in Japanese pro wrestling.
  • Screwed by the Network: Early in 1996, Kawada criticised AJPW booker Giant Baba publicly for his isolationist policies towards. At the time, AJPW’s rival promotion New Japan was making record business doing cross-promotional feuds and exposing their wrestlers to a wider audience. By criticising Baba in this way, Kawada was punished by being relegated to lower card matches. Thankfully it didn't last long.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Averted. When Mitsuharu Misawa and 95% of AJPW’s roster and non-wrestling employees staged a mass exodus from the company to form Pro Wrestling Noah, only Kawada and Masanobu Fuchi stayed behind.
  • Tag Team: A prolific tag team wrestler in addition to his singles career. Some of his teammates include Vitriolic Best Bud Mitsuharu Misawa, Hiromichi Fuyuki as Footloose, Akira Taue as the Holy Demon Army, etc.
  • Ur-Example: Innovated the stretch plum, whose name was given by Tatsuya Umemura from comedy group Shochikubai.
  • Worthy Opponent: Kenta Kobashi.
  • Wrestling Psychology: He knew how to make every move he made important. Every strike served a purpose in a larger, over-arching story, and he knew exactly how to make his strikes look devastating. Part of this was through the selling and the psychology used by his opponents when they took his moves, but the biggest part was that Kawada was stiff.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Did this to Ogawa when the latter couldn't accept the leadership of the HUSTLE Army back from Kawada, as fans had voted Kawada over him.
    "Cannot you hear their voices? Don’t you recognize your name being chanted? You are the only one who can do this. You have to carry HUSTLE on your back."