Masato Tanaka is a 16-year veteran who today is one of the top stars in ZERO1. He also has a cult following thanks to his many hardcore matches in FMW as well as time spent in the old ECW promotion in the US and the many scars he sports on his body and forehead from those matches.
Tanaka was trained by hardcore legend Atsushi Onita and made his FMW debut in 1993. He quickly began working for FMW, widely regarded as the most hardcore professional wrestling promotion in Japan. Wrestling in matches featuring explosions and barbed wire, Tanaka earned a variety of scars, and the nickname “Dangan”, which he would often shout during his matches. By 1996 he was one of the promotion’s major stars, and had feuded with such luminaries as Mr. Pogo, Mr. Gannosuke, Terry Funk and Mike Awesome. His feud with Awesome would eventually span ten years and two continents. Tanaka made his first US appearances in Paul Heyman’s ECW in March 1998, and reprised his long-running feud with Awesome a few months later. Tanaka formed a short-lived tag team with Balls Mahoney, and at November to Remember on November 1, 1998 they defeated the Dudley Boyz to win the ECW World Tag Team Championships. The Dudley Boyz would regain the titles five days later, and Tanaka returned to Japan to attend the wedding of his friend Sabu in December.
Tanaka returned to ECW in 1999, this time vying for the ECW World Heavyweight Championship. On September 19 at Anarchy Rulz, Taz, about to leave ECW for the WWF, defended the ECW World Heavyweight Championship against Awesome and Tanaka in a three way dance. After just two minutes Taz was eliminated by a combined assault at the hands of his opponents. After a further eleven minutes of brawling, Awesome pinned Tanaka with a top-rope powerbomb to become the new ECW World Heavyweight Champion. Tanaka faced Awesome for the title at November to Remember on November 7, but was defeated once more. He finally overcame Awesome on December 17, 1999 at a ECW on TNN TV Taping in Nashville, Tennessee, becoming the first ECW World Heavyweight Champion not to be an American citizen. After the match, Awesome shook Tanaka’s hand and fastened the belt around his waist in a show of respect, then attacked him as he left the ring and powerbombed him through a table. Awesome would regain the title at the next weeks TV Taping in White Plains, New York on December 23. Continuing his rivalry with Awesome, Tanaka joined forces with Tommy Dreamer to face Raven and Awesome. Dreamer and Tanaka defeated the Impact Players for the ECW World Tag Team Championship on February 26, 2000, but lost them to Awesome and Raven on March 4, 2000. This led to a tag team three way dance at Living Dangerously on March 12, with Tanaka and Dreamer facing ECW World Tag Team Champions Mike Awesome and Raven and the Impact Players. Tanaka pinned Awesome, costing him the tag titles, but lost the match after Dreamer was pinned by the Impact Players. Tanaka’s feud with Awesome was brought to an abrupt end when Awesome left ECW in April 2000. He remained with ECW until mid-2000 before returning to Japan.
When he returned to Japan, Tanaka re-joined FMW and feuded with Hayabusa (who at the time was competing as “H”) before teaming with him. The pairing was short-lived though, as Tanaka left FMW in ’01 due to apparent animosity between himself and FMW owner Shoichi Arai. Before departing FMW, Tanaka formed the “Complete Players” stable with former Fuyuki proteges Gedo and Jado (both now in New Japan), as well as real-life sweetheart Kaori Nakayama. They would work on the Japanese independent circuit, making appearances for Pro Wrestling ZERO-ONE and All Japan Pro Wrestling. Tanaka wrestled Shinya Hashimoto on the March 2 ZERO-ONE anniversary show, impressing Z-1 officials and earning himself a job.
In January 2002 Tanaka formed a tag team named “Emblem” with Shinjiro Otani, with whom he twice won the NWA Intercontinental Tag Team Championships. In February 2004, he turned heel and sided with the “Apache Army”. In September 2004 he formed his own stable, “Team Erotics”, continuing his feud with Otani. In late 2007, he was chosen to lead a new stable named “Sword Army”, the name was chosen by fans in a contest. Takao Ōmori was also given a stable named “Axe Army” to compete against Tanaka. During this time Tanaka also made a couple of brief returns to the USA, working a November ’02 Ring Of Honor show with Otani as well as WWE appearances in ’05 & ’06, when he faced Awesome one more time at ECW One Night Stand in ’05 and again appeared at ONS the next year. Today Tanaka remains one of the aces of ZERO1 but makes semi-regular appearances in other promotions carrying the ZERO1 banner, most notably he occasionally competes in New Japan. In 2009 he returned to compete in the G1 Climax Tournament as an outsider and briefly reform the Complete Players with Jado & Gedo. He also held the ZERO1 World Heavyweight Championship until losing it to Toshiaki Kawada in October ’09.
Stats & Info:
Weight: 220 pounds/100 kg
Experience: 16 years
Finishing move: Sliding D
Current affiliation: ZERO1
2-time ZERO1 World Heavyweight Champion
1-time AWA World Heavyweight Champion
1-time ECW Heavyweight Champion
2-time ECW Tag Team Champion
1-time FMW Brass Knuckles Heavyweight Champion
2-time FMW Independent Heavyweight Champion
3-time FMW 6 Man Street Fight Tag Team Champion
1-time Hustle Hardcore Hero Champion
1-time NWA Intercontinental Tag Team Champion
1-time PWF Tag Team Champion
1-time WEW Singles Champion
1-time WEW Tag Team Champion
2-time WEW 6 Man Tag Team Champion
1-time WORLD-1 Heavyweight Champion
1995 FMW Young Spirit Tournament
1999 FMW Brass Knuckles Tag Team Title League
2006 Hustle King Memorial Tag Tournament
2006, 2007, 2008 Fire Festival
2007 Tenka-Ichi Jr.
Official website (Japanese):