One of New Japan’s top wrestlers of the 90s & 2000s, Hiroyoshi Tenzan is a 19-year veteran who has competed almost exclusively for New Japan his entire career. He is one of only 2 wrestlers to win each of the annual tag league tournaments in New Japan and All-Japan.
Tenzan debuted as his real name, Hiroyoshi Yamamoto, in 1991. He won the then-annual Young Lions Cup in 1993 before being sent on a Europe excursion. While there he would compete in Austria and trade the CWA Heavyweight Title a couple times with Lance Storm before returning to Japan in 1995. Upon his return, he changed his name to Hiroyoshi Tenzan. He got his first IWGP Heavyweight Title shot just one month later but lost. Tenzan then began teaming with Masa Chono as Team Wolf. In June 1995, Tenzan and Chono won the IWGP Tag Team Championship in a tournament, which they held for a month until the title was vacated due to Chono missing a match when his father passed away. Afterwards Tenzan made a brief excursion to WCW in the US.
In July 1996, Tenzan and Chono won the IWGP Tag Team Title again, this time beating Kazuo Yamazaki and Takashi Iizuka. They held the titles for over 5 months before losing to Tatsumi Fujinami and Kengo Kimura in January 1997. A few weeks later, Tenzan became a founding member of nWo Japan, as Chono joined the nWo in December 1996. For the rest of 1997, Tenzan and the rest of nWo Japan continued the nWo tradition of attacking their various enemies.
Tenzan got his third chance for the IWGP Tag Team Titles in July 1998, after Chono’s former tag team partner Keiji Muto was injured. Tenzan and Chono went on to win the tournament and the belts. A month later, they were defeated by Genichiro Tenryu and Shiro Koshinaka. Tenzan continued to feud with Tenryu and Koshinaka, eventually getting a new partner in Satoshi Kojima, thanks to Muto’s leadership in nWo Japan. The two teams fought at the Tokyo Dome in January 1999, with Tenzan & Kojima coming through, defeating Koshinaka & Tenryu to get the IWGP Tag-Team belts. A few months later, Koshinaka retook the titles from Tenzan and Kojima, with his partner Kensuke Sasaki. For the next year, Tenzan continued to wrestle in NJPW, feuding with Koshinaka, Masahiro Chono, Manabu Nakanishi, and others. He defeated Wild Pegasus at the Tokyo Dome in January 2000. In July 2000, Tenzan, still teaming with Kojima, got the IWGP Tag Team Titles for the 5th time, winning over Manabu Nakanishi and Yuji Nagata. Tenzan and Kojima feuded with Nakanishi and Nagata for the next few months, with Tenzan and Kojima coming out on top.
On February 24, 2002 Tenzan made a brief appearance at WWA The Revolution pay-per-view from Las Vegas, Nevada where he choked Disco Inferno. Scott Steiner then attacked Disco in the ring. Tenzan could be seen sitting right behind the announcer’s table when Disco joined commentary. He can be seen leaving the arena following Steiner’s attack on Disco. Tenzan also won the IWGP Tag Team Titles in March 2002 with Masa Chono (their title reign lasting over one year, it also tied the team record for most championships won with Fujinami & Kimura), and again in December 2003 with Osamu Nishimura.In November 2003, Tenzan finally won the IWGP Heavyweight Title from Yoshihiro Takayama. He proceeded to win it three other times (in February 2004 from Genichiro Tenryu, December 2004 from Kensuke Sasaki and May 2005 from Satoshi Kojima). He lost the championship to Kojima in a cross-promotional champion vs. champion match (Kojima held the All-Japan Triple Crown). The match ended when Tenzan was unable to get up, Kojima thus winning by a knock out. Tenzan got heat with the management of New Japan due to this, because he gave New Japan’s most prestigious championship’s control to the rival company, All-Japan. This supports the speculation that the match didn’t end the way it was booked to, and that Tenzan was really unable to get up and finish the match. Tenzan defeated Kojima in a rematch three months later, bringing the championship back to New Japan. He lost the championship to Kazuyuki Fujita on July 18, 2005.
Tenzan competed in the 2005 G1 Tournament, and almost made it to the semi-finals. In October 2005, Tenzan and Chono reunited to win the IWGP Tag Team Title for a fifth time from Hiroshi Tanahashi and Shinsuke Nakamura. On August 13, 2006 Tenzan defeated long time rival Satoshi Kojima in the final of the 2006 G1 Climax, becoming only the second wrestler to go undefeated in a round robin style G1. This would be his third G1 title. After severing ties with his old mentor Masahiro Chono, Tenzan founded the heel unit GBH (“Great Bash Heel”, affectionatley referred to by fans as “Great Big Head”); it was composed of Tenzan, Makabe, Shiro Koshinaka, Toru Yano, Tomohiro Ishii and Tomoaki Honma. Recently, though, he has severed ties with GBH (caused by Makabe first cutting ties with him, and the remaining members following him) and was feuding with GBH until October. Since returning to New Japan in May 2009, he has split his time between reforming TenKoji and teaming with old GBH teammates Makabe and Honma against CHAOS.
After missing 15 months of action due to neck surgery in August 2009 & other injuries, Tenzan finally returned to action on November 18, 2010. He beat Antonio Honda with the Anaconda Vice in his return match.
Stats & Info:
Real name: Hiroyoshi Yamamoto
Weight: 253 pounds/115 kg
Experience: 19 years
Finishing move: TTD, Anaconda Vice, Buffalo Sleeper
Current affiliation: New Japan
Ring entrance theme: “Tenzan” by unknown
4-time IWGP Heavyweight Champion
8-time IWGP Tag Team Champion
2-time CWA Jr. Heavyweight Champion
1993 Young Lions Cup
1995 Super Grade Tag League
1998, 2002 IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Title Tournament
2001, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2008 G1 Tag League
2006, 2008 Real World Tag League
2002 Naeba Cup Tag Tournament
2003, 2004, 2006 G1 Climax
2004 IWGP Heavyweight Title Tournament
2004 President Hoshino 10,000,000 Yen Offer Tag Team Tournament
2005 IWGP Heavyweight Title Contender Tournament
2003, 2008 G1 Tag League
2008 Yuke’s Cup PREMIUM 1 Night Tag Tournament
Ranked #10 In 2005 PWI 500
2001 Wrestling Observer Newsletter Tag Team Of The Year (with Satoshi Kojima)
2004 Tokyo Sports Grand Prix Fighting Spirit Award
2000 Tokyo Sports Grand Prix Best Tag Team Award (with Satoshi Kojima)
1996 Tokyo Sports Grand Prix Best Tag Team Award (with Masa Chono & Hiro Saito)
1995 Tokyo Sports Grand Prix Best Tag Team Award (with Masa Chono & Hiro Saito)