Another of the greatest stars of this generation, Masa (Masahiro) Chono is a 26-year veteran who spent almost his entire career in New Japan. He could be considered Japanese-American as he was born in Seattle, Washington although he has lived almost all his life in Japan. He was part of the famed “3 Musketeers” class that, along with Keiji Muto and the late Shinya Hashimoto, is considered the greatest class to ever come out of the New Japan Dojo.
Chono debuted in 1984 against Muto and would win the Young Lions Cup in 1987 before beginning an excursion to North America. He started out in the US, competing in the NWA, then moved to Puerto Rico, where he formed the 3 Musketeers with Muto & Hashimoto. In late 1988 Chono returned to New Japan.
1990 was the beginning of Chono’s rise to superstardom. On February 10, 1990, he wrestled in the main-event of NJPW’s second Tokyo Dome show, teaming with Shinya Hashimoto against Antonio Inoki and Seiji Sakaguchi, then on April 27 he won the IWGP Tag Team Championship with Muto, and on December 26 he defeated his mentor, wrestling legend Lou Thesz, when Thesz came out of retirement for one last match. The next year, Chono solidified his main-event status with an amazing performance in the first G1 Climax tournament, winning the tournament in a thirty-minute final over Muto. He won the tournament again in 1992, winning the NWA World Heavyweight Championship in the process. Since then, he has won the tournament on three more occasions. On September 23, 1992, Chono would suffer a serious neck injury while defending the NWA World Heavyweight Championship against Steve Austin. On January 4, 1993, he lost the NWA World title to IWGP Heavyweight champion The Great Muta in a title vs. title match. Around 1993, he would participate in his third G1 Climax tournament, but he would not win the tournament, like he did the last two years, and he would team with Hulk Hogan in matches against The Hell Raisers.
In January 1994, he received at shot at the IWGP Heavyweight Championship against Shinya Hashimoto; he would ultimately lose the match. In August 1994, he won his third G1 Climax tournament, defeating Power Warrior in the finals. A short time after winning his third G1 Climax, Chono was undergoing a change in attitude. Originally a clean cut fan favorite during his NWA World title reign, he turned heel. His team with Hiroyoshi Tenzan was called “Team Wolf” and it was the core for the formation of the “nWo Japan” faction due to Chono joining the nWo in December 1996, when the nWo was huge in WCW, and its successor stable, Team 2000, which eventually was restructured again. In a match against WCW’s Bill Goldberg, Chono supposedly “shot the match” (actually hurting the opponent) and dislocated his shoulder. Upon returning to Japan, Chono rejoined NJPW, where he achieved much success. He won the IWGP Tag Team Titles on six occasions and also won his first, and maybe surprsingly, his only IWGP Heavyweight Title to date in 1998. In 2002, he won his fourth G1 Climax tournament. He also became a booker for NJPW around this time. In 2003, Chono briefly joined Pro Wrestling NOAH for a handful of matches. In one bout, Chono was defeated by Kenta Kobashi on May 2, 2003. On October 13, 2003, he lost to Hulk Hogan. In early 2004, Chono became the leader of the Black New Japan stable, which was the most dominating heel stable in NJPW until it was disbanded by Riki Chōshū. As a reaction to this, Chono lead an “Anti-Chōshū Army” with Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Black Strong Machine. Chono won the 2005 G1 Climax tournament, thus having achieved a record-setting five G-1 victories. His success in the G1 has given him the nickname Mr. August. On October 30, 2005, Masahiro Chono and Tenzan defeated the team of Shinsuke Nakamura and Hiroshi Tanahashi to win their fifth IWGP Tag Team Championship. The team went on to rename themselves ChoTen, a portmanteau of the members’ names. They were stripped of the titles in late 2006 after they split up, and refused to defend them together. Masahiro Chono formed a stable with Shinsuke Nakamura in 2006 called Chono and Nakamura-gun, which began feuding with Tenzan’s new group, GBH.
Chono continued to wrestle full-time in 2007, but also began working as a promoter, with New Japan permitting him to set up cards in different areas of Japan. Following the 2007 G-1 Tournament, it appears that Chono may be breaking away from his BLACK faction and forming a legends stable, having asked in wrestlers such as Riki Chōshū, Jushin “Thunder” Liger, Shiro Koshinaka, and AKIRA. Chono spends much of his time as a tag team wrestler nowadays. Outside of wrestling, he has appeared on Gaki no Tsukai No Lauging Batsu Games as one of the attackers, usually giving Hosei Yamazaki a trademark slap to the face. In October 2009 Chono celebrated his 25th anniversary in puroresu by promoting his own show with New Japan. He is also the founder and owner of ArisTrisT, his own clothing line in Japan featuring clothing and jewerly designed by his wife. Hogan wore ArisTrisT clothing on his now-cancelled show “Hogan Knows Best”.
Chono left New Japan in January 2010 and took an extended break to rest nagging injuries and improve his physical condition, but reportedly remains on good terms with his former home. He returned to the ring in November 2010, making 2 special appearances for All-Japan during their annual trip to Taiwan. At the end of November he joined IGF as their executive producer. It’s not known what his wrestling role will be now but one thing is known-he’s got at least one match left in him as he will appear in ZERO1 on March 6 as the opponent for the debuting Daichi Hashimoto, the son of the late Shinya Hashimoto. He also remains active with running ArisTrisT.
Stats & Info:
Weight: 237 pounds/108 kg
Exprience: 25 years
Finishing move: Shining Yakuza Kick
Current affiliation: Independent/Freelancer, IGF as executive producer (as of November 2010)
Ring entrance theme: “Team 2000 Crash”
1-time IWGP Heavyweight Champion
7-time IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champion
1-time HCW Kamehemeha Heritage Champion
1-time NWA Heavyweight Champion
1-time NWA Central States TV Champion
1-time AGPW North American Tag Team Champion
1-time WWA World Heavyweight Champion
1-time CWF Tag Team Champion
1987 Young Lions Cup
1990 Japan/China Friendship Tournament
1991, 1992, 1994, 2002, 2005 G1 Climax
1995, 1997 Super Grade Tag League
1998, 2002 IWGP Tag Team Title Tournament
2002 Teisen Hall 6 Man Tag Team Tournament
2006 G1 Tag League
Ranked #70 In PWI 500 Best Singles Wrestlers Of “PWI Years” In 2003
1992 Wrestling Observer Newsletter Worst Worked Match Of The Year Award
1995 Wrestling Observer Newsletter Best Heel Award
Inducted Into Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall Of Fame In 2004
1990 Tokyo Sports Grand Prix Best Tag Team Award (with Keiji Muto)
1991 Tokyo Sports Grand Prix Fighting Spirit Award
1992 Tokyo Sports Grand Prix Outstanding Performance Award
1995 Tokyo Sports Grand Prix Best Tag Team Award (with Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Hiro Saito)
1996 Tokyo Sports Grand Prix Best Tag Team Award (with Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Hiro Saito)
1997 Tokyo Sports Grand Prix Most Valuable Player Award
2002 Tokyo Sports Grand Prix Fighting Spirit Award