Tiger Mask 4
The 4th wrestler to wear the legendary Tiger Mask, Tiger Mask 4 is a 14-year veteran of puroresu and also has been the wrestler to wear the Tiger Mask the longest-he has worn it since his debut in 1995. Trained by the first Tiger Mask, Satoru Sayama, among others and endorsed by Sayama, he follows in the footsteps of the prior Tiger Masks-Sayama, the late Mitsuharu Misawa (TM 2) and Koji Kanemoto (TM 3) in carrying on the legacy of one of wrestling’s most endearing personas. Although he has sometimes shown more heel tendencies than his predecesors, he remains a popular figure in New Japan and is the most popular wrestler in the promotion among kids.
TM 4 made his debut in Michinoku Pro in 1995. Early on he won the “APEX OF TRIANGLE” Six Man Tag Team Championship with The Great Sasuke and Gran Hamada. Just over a year into his wrestling career he won the UWA World Middleweight Championship and held it for 3 months before being forced to vacate the title due to an injury. After returning from his injury he spent a couple of years working mid card and lower main event matches until he was finally given another run with a singles title when he won a tournament to crown a new British Commonwealth Jr. Heavyweight Champion in London, England. Despite it being called “British Commonwealth”, the title was mainly promoted in Japan. TM 4 would later vacate the title due to an injury but was given a second reign with the title in 2000 that would last exactly one year shortly before he left Michinoku Pro.
In January 2002 TM 4 officially joined New Japan, but at first he was a Michinoku Pro star and not a full-time member of the roster. In December 2002, he officially joined NJPW, and quickly rose in the contenders ranks in the Junior Heavyweight division. His first IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship came in April 2003 as he beat Kanemoto-the previous Tiger Mask-to win the title. He reigned as champion until vacating the belt in December due to injury. He returned in 2004 and won the annual Best Of The Super Junior Tournament, beating then-champion Heat in the finals, but would not take Heat’s title until 2005. TM 4 backed that win up with a second straight BOSJ tournament win, making him the only wrestler to win it in consecutive years. Soon after this TM 4 would begin a feud with the 4th incarnation of Black Tiger, a heel version of Tiger Mask that is considered the greatest rivals of the Tiger Masks. Black Tiger 4 won the IWGP Jr. Title from TM 4 in October 2005 but TM 4 won it back in February 2006, and also won Black Tiger’s NWA World Jr. Title. TM 4 would lost the IWGP Title to Kanemoto in May 2006 but would not drop the NWA Title until 2007.
TM 4 also began making occasional US appearances in 2007, largely thorugh New Japan’s working agreement with TNA Wrestling. He appeared on TNA Sacrifice 2007 in a four way bout featuring Alex Shelley, Jerry Lynn, and Senshi. He also made a couple of appearances onTNA Impact, TNA’s weekly show, where he was booked as making “Special Appearances”. In 2008 TM 4 won a tournament final for his 4th IWGP Jr. Title, then would win his 5th title in January 2009 at the annual Tokyo Dome blowout show. The subsequent presentation of a new belt was interrupted by the return of Black Tiger 4, restarting the Tiger Mask-Black Tiger feud once again. TM 4 would defeat and unmask Black Tiger 4, revealing him to be indy wrestler Rocky Romero, but then a 5th Black Tiger appeared to attack and unmask TM 4. But TM 4 would have his revenge at New Japan’s Dominion 2009 event, defeating and unmasking Black Tiger 5, who was revealed to be ZERO1 wrestler Tatsuhito Takaiwa. TM 4’s IWGP Title reign continued until August, when he lost the belt to Mexican luchador Mistico. Despite this loss, TM 4 continues to proudly carry on the legacy of the Tiger Mask and remains one of the world’s top Jr. Heavyweights and always a threat to the title, which he reclaimed from Mistico in November 2009 for his 6th reign. He now ranks 2nd all-time in most IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title reigns, trailing only Jushin Liger (11).
Outside of wrestling, TM 4 once appeared on the Japanese game show Sasuke (which airs in the USA as “Ninja Warrior”) in 1998, and was billed as Tiger Mask and wore his signature mask. He didn’t fare well though, getting eliminated on the first obstacle of the course’s first stage.
Stats & info:
Real name: Yoshihiro Yamazaki
Weight: 190 pounds/86 kg
Experience: 14 years
Finishing move: Chickenwing, Cross Armbreaker, Tiger Suplex Hold, Destroy Suplex Hold
Current affiliation: New Japan
6-time IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion
1-time GHC Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champion
1-time NWA Jr. Heavyweight Champion
1-time UWA Middleweight Champion
2-time British Commonwealth Jr. Heavyweight Champion
1-time Apex Of Triangle 6 Man Tag Team Champion
1996 UWA Middleweight Title Tournament
1999, 2007 Fukumen World League
2000 Michinoku Tag League
2004, 2005 Best Of The Super Junior
2008 IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title Tournament
Ring entrance video and music: