Yuji Nagata is a puroresu veteran with 18 years’ experience. He was known for his perennial tweener status and his stiff, shoot style wrestling technique. Nagata joined New Japan in 1992 and debuted after about 5 months’ training at the New Japan Dojo. Nagata increased in stature during the 1995 inter-promotional angle pitting NJPW loyalists against UWF International wrestlers. Taught the shoot-style by Kazuo Yamazaki, who had returned to NJPW after leaving UWFI, Nagata learned the style that has been his trademark ever since. In 1997 Nagata left New Japan and headed to the US and joined WCW, managed by his “translator” Sonny Ono. He began feuding with Último Dragón, with Nagata repeatedly injuring Dragon’s shoulder. The two rivals faced one another at Halloween Havoc on October 26, with Nagata forcing his smaller opponent to submit with an arm submission hold. They faced one another in a rematch at WCW World War 3 on November 23, with the added stipulation that, should Dragon win, he would receive five minutes alone in the ring with the interfering Onoo. Nagata was able to pin Dragon following a distraction by Onoo, thus ending their feud.In 1998, Nagata teamed with Kensuke Sasaki and entered a tournament for the number one contendership for the WCW World Tag Team Championship. The partners won the tournament, but were unable to win the titles in their subsequent title match. Nagata left WCW in August 1998 and returned to Japan. Upon his return he made his first challenge for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, but lost a match for the vacant title to Scott Norton. About a year later he won the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship with Manabu Nakanishi and reigned for nearly 11 months. After a failed attempt at his own stable, summer 2001 brought the breakthrough moments for Nagata, as he would win the G1 Climax tournament that year and, after 2 more failed attempts, he finally won the IWGP Heavyweight Championship in April 2002, defending the title a record 10 times over about 13 months before losing the belt to Yoshihiro Takayama. He then hit a long rough stretch with up-and-down moments, coming up short in challenges for the IWGP 3rd Belt, All-Japan Triple Crown and despite winning a 2nd IWGP Heavyweight Championship, had a shorter reign than the first with only 2 successful defenses. He would miss time with injuries but returned in 2008 to lead New Japan against a faction of ZERO1 wrestlers. In October 2008 he would beat ZERO1 ace Masato Tanaka to win the ZERO1 World Heavyweight Championship, successfully defending the belt 3 times over a 4 month reign. He now has his sights set on winning the IWGP Heavyweight Title for a 3rd time. He is also currently the leader of the Blue Justice faction.
Nagata has been experiencing a major renaissance year in 2011, first winning the New Japan Cup for the 2nd time and although he came up short in his subsequent title shot, he followed it up with a successful return to All-Japan, winning the 2011 Champions Carnival and will get a chance to win the Triple Crown for the first time in June.
Nagata also briefly dabbled in MMA in the early 2000s, he has an 0-2 record with quick losses to Mirko Cro Cop and Fedor Emelianenko, who would become two of the world’s top MMA Heavyweights.
Stats & Info:
Experience: 18 years
Finishing Move: Backdrop suplex or one of 4 Nagata Lock submission holds
Current affiliation: New Japan
2-time IWGP Heavyweight Champion
2-time IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champion
1-time All-Japan World Tag Team Champion
1-time GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Champion
1-time ZERO1 World Heavyweight Champion
2001 G1 Climax
2007 New Japan Cup
2000 G1 Climax Tag League
2010 G1 Tag League
2011 New Japan Cup
2011 All-Japan Champions Carnival
Ranked #8 in 2002 PWI 500
Ring entrance video & music: