Shinya Hashimoto was the founder of ZERO1 and a 20-year veteran of the sport. He was part of the famed “3 Musketeers” class of the New Japan dojo with Keiji Muto and Masa Chono that is considered the greatest class ever out of the dojo. He is one of two wrestlers that have held the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, the All-Japan Triple Crown and the IWGP Heavyweight Championship (Muto is the other). He is often compared to Toshiaki Kawada as both are widely known for their stiff kicks and violent matches. As of 2009, he has the longest IWGP title reign in history, lasting 489 days.
Hashimoto joined the New Japan dojo in April 1984 at age 19 and made his NJPW debut in September. During an excursion in the United States, he visited the Elvis Presley museum in Memphis. Instantly, Hashimoto became a huge fan and because of this, his dressing up in Elvis costumes, and his sideburns, many of his peers commonly referred to him as “Fat Japanese Elvis.” Over time, Hashimoto began to grow respected in the eyes of the Japanese fans, leading to his climb up the NJPW ladder. In September 1989, Hashimoto teamed with Masa Saito to win his first gold, the IWGP Tag Team Championship, beating Riki Chōshū and Takayuki Iizuka. The two would hold the belts until the next year, losing in April 1990 to two other up-and-comers: Masa Chono and Keiji Muto.
For the next few years, Hashimoto built his reputation in NJPW, taking on all comers, including kickboxers and other professional fighters. In August 1991, Hashimoto, Chono, and Mutoh cemented their status as the aces of NJPW during the G-1 Climax, surpassing longtime aces Antonio Inoki, Tatsumi Fujinami, and Riki Chōshū. In July 1992, he replaced an injured Akira Nogami to team with Hiroshi Hase to participate in the NWA World Tag Team Championship tournament held by WCW; they defeated the Fabulous Freebirds in the quarterfinals, before losing to Dustin Rhodes and Barry Windham in the semi-finals. Hashimoto finally hit the big time in 1993, as he won the IWGP Heavyweight Championship from the Great Muta in September. Hashimoto would hold the biggest belt in NJPW for the next 7 months before being taken down by the legendary Tatsumi Fujinami. However, Hashimoto didn’t sit back after the defeat, as he regained the gold only a month later, in May 1994. For the next year, Hashimoto stayed a dominating force in New Japan, defeating challenger after challenger. In fact, Hashimoto reigned as the IWGP champion for over a year, losing the belt to Mutoh only two days after celebrating the milestone.
A few months after losing the gold, Hashimoto teamed up with Junji Hirata in July 1995 to face and defeat Scott Norton and Mike Enos to win the vacated IWGP Tag Team Championship, making Hashimoto a two-time champion in both divisions. Soon, Hashimoto enjoyed another lengthy championship run, as he and Hirata remained the champions for almost another year. Hashimoto also became a double champion, as he defeated Nobuhiko Takada to regain the IWGP Heavyweight Title on April 29, 1996. Hashimoto & Hirata would lose the tag titles in June 1996, when they fell to Takashi Iizuka and Kazuo Yamazaki. Hashimoto soldiered on to focus solely on the singles gold, as he worked on another lengthy run. In 1997, he was presented with a new championship belt (the second-generation IWGP Heavyweight Championship). On August 31, 1997, Hashimoto lost the title to Kensuke Sasaki, after reigning as champion for a record-breaking 489 days. Hashimoto continued to work for NJPW for the next few years, earning another great honor by winning the G-1 Climax in 1998.
Hashimoto launched into a brutal rivalry against Judo champion Naoya Ogawa in 1997, leading to Hashimoto vowing to retire if he lost again, which happened in April 2000. Despite the vow, he returned to New Japan for the New Japan/All Japan “Do Judge!” card on October 9, where he defeated Tatsumi Fujinami by submission. He appeared at the Great Voyage 2000 event for Pro Wrestling Noah on December 23, where he successfully defeated Takao Ōmori.
Hashimoto created Pro Wrestling ZERO-ONE in November 2000 and they ran their first show in March 2001. Hashimoto challenged for and held the NWA World Heavyweight Title over the next several months before losing it under suspicious circumstances. Hashimoto also won the Triple Crown from The Great Muta in early 2003, holding it until August, when he had to vacate the titles due to injury. He continued to compete off and on despite several injuries until leaving the promotion in 2005, when he left citing financial problems and placed Shinjiro Otani in charge, but word was he planned to return that summer to New Japan and appear in All-Japan.
Sadly, those plans didn’t happen. The Japanese wrestling world was shocked when Hashimoto suddenly died of a brain aneurysm in Tokyo, Japan, on July 11, 2005, 8 days after celebrating his 40th birthday. Hashimoto’s sister Masanari claimed that Hashimoto had been complaining about chest pains and thought that his heart was beating too fast a week prior to his death, but refused to contact his doctor about the conditions. ZERO-ONE continued on without Hashimoto, changing it’s name a couple of times and, earlier in 2009, holding a series of shows to commemorate what would’ve been Hashimoto’s 25th anniversary as a wrestler. Additionally, the next generation of his family may continue to carry on his namesake and legacy in wrestling as there are rumors his son Daichi, 18, is considering pursuing a wrestling career like his father. Tokyo Sports honored him posthumously with it’s Tokyo Sports Grand Prix Memorial Award in 2005 and he is a member of the Wrestling Observer Hall Of Fame. And he was also a trailblazer. Hashimoto’s effects on professional wrestling in Japan cannot be understated, as he took several companies, from NJPW to Zero-One, to great heights, becoming a true legend in the sport.
Stats & Info:
Died: July 11, 2005
Age: 40 (at time of death)
Weight: 286 pounds/130 kg
Experience: 20 years
Finishing move: Jumping Brainbuster, Jumping DDT
Current affiliation: N/A (Deceased)
1-time All-Japan Triple Crown Champion
3-time IWGP Heavyweight Champion
2-time IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champion
1-time NWA World Heavyweight Champion
3-time NWA Intercontinental Tag Team Champion
1992, 1996 Super Grade tag League
1998 G1 Climax
Ranked #45 In PWI 500 Best Wrestlers Of The “PWI Years” In 2003
2005 Tokyo Sports Grand Prix Memorial Award
Inducted Into Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall Of Fame In 2000