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Wrestling / Yoshiaki Fujiwara

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The boss.
"Fujiwara was a fun guy to be around. And I wasn't around, but just the stories in his younger days... There was nobody that could touch him when it came to ankle locks. He was a master at that. But, I got there later on when he was a little bit older. He was a machine- he could train all day long."
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Yoshiaki Fujiwara (b. 1949) is a Japanese Professional Wrestler who later took up acting and promoting. He debuted in 1972 for New Japan Pro-Wrestling as its first dojo graduate ever, learning Catch Wrestling under the legendary Karl Gotch. Thanks to his training and toughness, he was appointed NJPW founder Antonio Inoki's bodyguard, but his lack of charisma kept him tied to the low card. This ended when he attacked native heel Riki Choshu before a match, gaining the crowd's cheers and becoming a famous face of the company. In 1984, he followed his students Akira Maeda and Nobuhiko Takada to found the Universal Wrestling Federation, a promotion which featured a realistic wrestling style called shoot-style. After the UWF's demise, he returned along his pals to NJPW, where he competed for four more years, until Maeda left again to form the second UWF, and after negociating with Inoki, Fujiwara and his two new students Masakatsu Funaki and Minoru Suzuki were allowed to join it. They enjoyed an immense popularity, but the company fell apart again when its members took separate directions. Fujiwara and his trainees founded Pro Wrestling Fujiwara Gumi, where he put himself over as the company's ace, but again it was short-lived, as half of the roster left to form MMA promotion Pancrase and the other half (this time in good terms with him) to form Battlarts. Now going solo, Fujiwara became a freelancer and worked for feds like All Japan Pro Wrestling and Pro Wrestling ZERO-ONE, and got a great victory against gastric cancer in 2007. He remains as a free agent, is associated with the Scientific Wrestling organization, and occasionally works as a trainer for Inoki Genome Federation.

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

"Showa no Tropes":

  • The Ace: Mainly in Pro Wrestling Fujiwara Gumi.
  • Achilles' Heel: Fujiwara definitely knew how to strike, but according to people in the business, he did not like to be hit, that being the reason he never indulged in MMA. Most of his matches played with it, with him assuming the role of matwork technician while his opponent worked as a striker.
  • A Father to His Men: Unlike the first PWFG schism which created Pancrase, Fujiwara remained in good terms with the founders of Battlarts, and he appeared in their first show to give a speech which ended with a heartfelt "Thank you, my sons".
  • The Alcoholic: Has the reputation to be a pretty strong drinker, capable to remain standing after enough sake cups to take down completely a man of his size. After he had stomach cancer, he eased up a bit, but is still known as a drinking animal.
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  • Almighty Janitor: He left NJPW for not getting pushed enough despite being very popular and a great worker.
  • Anti-Hero: In a time headlined by godlike heroes like Antonio Inoki and rugged heels like Riki Choshu, Fujiwara was just an ugly madman who enjoyed headbutting people out and who happened to be in the side of good (most of the time, that is).
  • Attack! Attack! Attack!: His grappling philosophy, very in the line of catch wrestling, is composed of avoid thinking in the possibility of losing and never, never stop trying to wrench some limb off.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Is defined as the strongest shooter in the UWF, and according to many, has a hefty record in closed doors fights. Whenever martial artists came to the NJPW or the UWF dojo with a challenge, Yoshiaki was the one in charge of welcoming them and wiping the floor with them until they cried uncle.
  • Ax-Crazy: Had his moments, especially whenever he attacked somebody without a clear reason to do it other than his own, twisted amusement.
  • Badass Teacher: Trained guys like Masakatsu Funaki, Minoru Suzuki, Ken Shamrock, Bart Vale and all the PWFG native wrestlers.
  • Big Damn Heroes: He intruded in IGF before the match between Naoya Ogawa and Montanha Silva in order to save the former from a similar intrussion by Tadao Yasuda.
  • Bodyguarding a Badass: Aside from wrestling, Yoshiaki worked for a long time as a real life bodyguard for Antonio Inoki's thanks to his martial arts skills. (Contrary the popular belief, Fujiwara was not in Inoki's corner during his famous match with Muhammad Ali, but it's easy to guess he was in backstage waiting for any signal to run to the ring and turn somebody into a knot).
  • Boring, but Practical: Almost all of his moves are relatively basic submissions, but you have the assurance he could pull them off in a real fight. His trademark move is just a waki-gatame, which if you are knowledgeable in Judo you will known that it is both very simple and cringe-inducing devastating (see Dangerous Forbidden Technique).
  • Bullying a Dragon:
    • Back when Fujiwara worked as a gym enforcer for NJPW, Bob Orton Jr. (Randy Orton's daddy) did something that upset Fujiwara during a match between the two. What happened exactly is not known, but it is known that Fujiwara came to him after the bout and used Orton to wipe the floor.
    • In PWFG, during the everlasting feud between kickboxers and wrestlers, a kickboxer named Don Nakaya Nielsen shot on Fujiwara in a worked match and forced the ring doctors to stop the bout. Fujiwara was angry and eager to get him, but as he was too old for a MMA match, he sent Ken Shamrock to get revenge for the shooters. The results are history.
  • Captain Ersatz: He appeared in the videogame Saikyou: Takada Nobuhiko under the name of "Fujikawa".
  • Cassandra Truth: When it was announced that Masakatsu Funaki would face Rickson Gracie in 2000, many people in Japan thought that the great Funaki would win, but Fujiwara shocked them by telling Masa in a conference that he couldn't win if he wasn't cunning. Then the fight came, and Funaki lost by a failed gameplan and a blowed knee received during a Leeroy Jenkins spot. Fujiwara's savviness was never disputed again.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: His interviews tend to be pretty tongue-in-cheek, to say the least.
  • Combat Pragmatist: He once said that the objective of a shoot match is "damaging the opponent so he can never fight again".
  • Combat Referee: A notable time he was a special guest referee was at the Rikidozan Memorial Show in 2000, in an exhibition match between Antonio Inoki and Hideaki Takizawa, a Japanese actor and member of the J-pop idol duo Tackey & Tsubasa. He was mostly there to prevent Inoki from going overboard in kicking the kid's ass and even helped Hideaki "win" the match.
  • Cool vs. Awesome: He featured an elite grappling match with sambo master Volk Han in Fighting Network RINGS.
    • Before that, he used to work grappling vs. striking matches with Sayama.
    • More recently was his exhibition match with Shinya Aoki at the Next Exciting Wrestling debut show.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: He may look like a lanky old man who sells like a cripple every time he receives a leg kick, but Fujiwara can hang up with the best and give them a bad day if he manages to grab an arm.
  • Cryptic Background Reference: Back when he was in the first UWF, he used to tell the press that his biggest dream was becoming the "PWF Champion". They never caught it until he founded Fujiwara-Gumi, when they realized he was referring to a future Pro Wrestling Fujiwara promotion.
  • Dangerous Forbidden Technique: Averted in pro wrestling, where few things are forbidden, but Fujiwara's favourite armbar technique is a grave foul in its original context of Judo (at least the way Yoshiaki does it, that is, transitioning from standing to prone; it is entirely legal in judo if locked already on the ground). The reason is that it can break the opponent's arm with terrifying ease if he doesn't comply immediately, leaving pretty much zero time to try to tap out.
  • Determinator: A true testament to his toughness is that he had gastric cancer and beat it in 2007.
  • The Dreaded: His shooting skills were so feared that Killer Khan once abandoned a match with him after feeling him out, fearing Fujiwara might get angry on him.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Attacking heel kingpin Riki Choshu from behind in 1984 and leaving him bloodied, which Japanese people call "Tero Jiken" ("The Terrorist Incident").
  • Evil Is Petty: Antiheroic example. One of his customs before the matches is disrespectfully throwing his commemorative bouquet to the crowd.
  • Expy: Sort of zig-zagged with Osamu Kido, another shoot-style wrestler who trained under Gotch and used a waki-gatame as a finisher too. Kido debuted well before Fujiwara, but Fujiwara became popular much earlier than Kido (who never turned out a hot prospect anyways) and he popularized the wrestling style Kido would go to showcase.
  • Finishing Move: Fujiwara Armbar (a waki-gatame) and ankle lock.
  • Genius Bruiser: Aside from wrestling, he is also a prolific artist and writer.
  • Giver of Lame Names: His suggestion to Bart Vale to promote his fighting system was called the "Kick, Suplex & Submission Style" because he thought "Shootfighting" was a stupid name. Understandably Vale stuck with his own option.
  • Good Is Not Soft: He became a valuable member of the NJPW native army after brutalizing Choshu, and remained as a face wrestler despite having no qualms about dispensing stiff beatdowns and tearing out joints.
  • Hardboiled Detective: In the film Roppongi Soldier, Yoshiaki plays a rather eccentric fighter turned detective called Sabu (no, not that Sabu) who helps Satoru Sayama's character to solve a Film Noir affair.
  • The Heavy: He was in charge of welcoming challenging martial artists in the NJPW Dojo, and he was nicknamed "Inoki no Kagemusha" ("Inoki's Body Double") because they always came looking for Antonio Inoki. Reportedly, none of them ever managed to get through him.
  • Hidden Depths: Before he became the Terrorist of Showa, few people would have said Inoki's ugly-looking assistant could come to be that charismatic. He is also a prolific artisan potter.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: Yoshiaki was Antonio Inoki's cornerman and bodyguard. According to Karl Gotch, he was about ten times better fighter than him, and Inoki was supposedly no slouch neither.
  • I Know Judo: Was a very succesful judoka in high school. He also trained in Kendo, and later became Karl Gotch's top Catch Wrestling student. Some sources have him training Muay Thai as well as all this, but it is dubious.
  • Informed Loner: Subverted. According to himself, he is a bit of a loner in real life, and his wrestling persona has been tellingly an unaligned freelancer for most of his career. However, he has been a member of some stables, was a part of a famously factionalistic era of Japanese wrestling, and has gone to say he got along very well with many NJPW names one would guess he would clash with.
  • Jerkass: His gimmick is that of a crazy old shooter who attacks people randomly and without a reason. He is pretty suave in real life, however.
  • Outdoor Bath Peeping: According to himself, back when they were doing tours for NJPW, Fujiwara, Satoru Sayama and Don Arakawa used to peep in the women's bath of the hotels they were hosted in. According to Don Arakawa, Akira Maeda would sometimes join in.
  • Old Master: A renowned one in Catch Wrestling. His grappling video instructionals are considered the best documentation about catch-as-catch-can we have today.
  • 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. Like Satoru Sayama, Fujiwara was never counted despite being the head of his own shoot style promotion and was probably considered too old. He does however have the distinction of having trained all three men above.
  • Passing the Torch: Masakatsu Funaki and Minoru Suzuki are his top trainees and the closest to him in wrestling ability, although it's up to debate how he would have fared in mixed martial arts had he started when young like them.
  • Perky Female Minion: The German wrestler Thundercrakk, who started out as his apprentice and then became his manager when not involved in her own matches and shoot fights.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: He is an awesome artist, especially at drawing (which is not typically considered a manly art in Japan), and even used to draw illustrations for pro wrestling magazines.
  • Red Baron: "Showa no Terrorist" ("The Terrorist of the Showa era"), "Fujiwara Kumicho" ("Don Fujiwara"), "Kansetsu-Waza no Oni" ("The Demon of Joint Locking") and "Mondo Muyo no Shigotoshi" ("The Practitioner of Torture First, Ask Questions Later").
  • Ring Oldies: 66 years old, tons of ring wear, and still wrestling.
  • Sadist Teacher: A legendary one. Most of his trainees recall ending completely broken down after a single training session with him.
  • Start My Own: Pro Wrestling Fujiwara Gumi and the short-lived Japan Pro Wrestling Association.
  • The Call Put Me on Hold: He became popular very late in his career, at 35 years old (which are 12 whole years after he joined NJPW), after having been just a low carder and dojo master until then.
  • Took a Level in Badass: The reason from his uprising from an anodyne low-carder to a NJPW army member was his beatdown on Riki Choshu, who was nearly untouchable until that point.
  • Ur-Example: The first graduate of the New Japan Dojo.
  • Use Your Head: Uses continiously headbutts during his matches, even in a pragmatic and realistic style like the shoot wrestling, and it's well known he has a freaking Hard Head. He once feuded with Buffalo Allen (aka Allen Coage) around the issue of who had the strongest head, and Fujiwara often repeatedly banged his own head against the ringpost to scare him.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: He has confessed to have Claustrophobia, to the point that he once had to get himself some whiskey shots to hide in a box for a Japanese TV game show in which he was participating in.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Usually in mixed tag team matches where both men and women have surprisingly no problem facing other. He was also one of the few guys from New Japan and the U-System to be comfort with training females, that combined with his Sadist Teacher tendencies leaves little to the imagination.
  • Yakuza: His company was called "Fujiwara Gumi" (where "Gumi" a word used to yakuza groups) and he put himself the title of "kumicho" (a word for yakuza boss or gang leader, pretty much like The Don). In general, Yoshiaki enjoys making himself look like a yakuza, and given it's Japan we are talking about, who knows whether it is just a character or something more.
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