There is an old saying, “always the bridesmaid, never the bride”. As odd a comparison as that might be, Jun Akiyama is one such a wrestler-although he has had a very successful career on paper, it seems that for whatever reason he’s never been able to live up to the hype and expectations fans and media had for him.
Akiyama debuted in All-Japan in 1992 after a successful amateur run, losing his debut match against Kenta Kobashi. He gradually rose in rank, getting a trial series in January 1993. Afterwards, Akiyama started competition in tag teams. The tag team division soon became his specialty, teaming with Takao Ōmori against Kenta Kobashi and Mitsuaharu Misawa. On more than one occasion, Dave Meltzer rated the matches they had together five stars. Akiyama began teaming with Misawa in 1995, a pairing that led to the first of 3 All-Japan World Tag Team Title reigns for Akiyama. Afterwards, Akiyama began teaming with Kobashi and climbing the singles ranks. He got a Triple Crown shot in 1997 but failed to win the title. Akiyama would leave in 2000 as part of Mitsuharu Misawa’s mass talent exodus to form NOAH.In NOAH he quickly got a star push, including becoming the 2nd GHC Heavyweight Champion and defeating Kobashi on the second NOAH show. He had stellar title defenses in New Japan Pro Wrestling against Yuji Nagata and Hiroshi Tanahashi. But a lack of worthy contenders eventually forced NOAH to abandon his push, using Yoshinari Ogawa to transition the title back to Misawa. He continued work in NOAH as a tag team competitor again to critical acclaim, winning the GHC Tag Team Championship with Akitoshi Saito. In 2004 he tried to get back into singles by creating the GHC Hardcore Championship, and he would win the GHC Heavyweight Title again in 2006. His reign lasted less than 8 months before he dropped the title to Junior Heavyweight Naomichi Marufuji. He then returned to tag team ranks and won the GHC Tag Team Titles with Takeshi Rikioh, but their reign was cut short by a Rikioh injury. While Akiyama would win the GHC Heavyweight Title again in early 2009, another injury cut his reign short. It’s been the story of his career-solid but not yet quite spectactular leaving many fans to wonder what might and should have been given he was in the past groomed to be NOAH’s torchbearer and a future legend.
After missing the end of 2010 due to more injuries, Akiyama returned in January 2011 and teamed with Akitoshi Saito to win the annual Global Tag League in April 2011.
Stats & info:
Weight: 243 pounds/110 kg
Experience: 17 years
Finishing move: Wrist-clutch Exploder, Blue Thunder
Current affiliation: NOAH
Ring entrance theme: “STERNNESS”
3-time GHC Heavyweight Champion
1-time GHC Hardcore Champion
2-time GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Champion
1-time All-Asia Tag Team Champion
3-time All-Japan World Tag Team Champion
1998, 1999 World’s Strongest Tag League
2011 Global Tag League
7 Wrestling Observer Newsletter 5 Star Matches
1996, 2004 Wrestling Observer Newsletter Match Of The Year
1993 Wrestling Observer Newsletter Rookie Of The Year
1996, 1997, 1999 Wrestling Observer Newsletter Tag Team Of The Year