Kiyoshi Tamura (田村潔司 Tamura Kiyoshi, born December 17, 1969 in Okayama) is a Japanese middleweight professional wrestler and mixed martial artist. Once a student of legendary pro wrestlers Billy Robinson, Nobuhiko Takada and Akira Maeda, Tamura is known for his skill in catch wrestling as well as his ability to deliver exciting professional wrestling bouts. He has competed in some form or another for the following organizations: Universal Wrestling Federation, UWF International, Fighting Network RINGS, K-1, PRIDE, and U-STYLE, his own promotion, often fighting much larger opponents. In mixed martial arts, he holds notable victories over Renzo Gracie, Jeremy Horn, Ikuhisa Minowa, Masakatsu Funaki and Kazushi Sakuraba.
Professional wrestling career
UWF Newborn (1989-1990)
A former sumo wrestler for the Okayama University of Science High School, Tamura debuted in 1989 in the UWF Newborn in a losing effort against Minoru Suzuki. He soon revealed himself as a promising rookie, but he was forced to put his career in a long hiatus after a match with Akira Maeda on October 25, in which Maeda hit him with a full force knee strike and fractured his orbital bone. Tamura took an entire year to return, and he only had time to work in one event before UWF closed.
UWF International (1991-1996)
After UWF's demise, Tamura followed to its main successor group, UWF International, where he was put under the tutelage of Nobuhiko Takada. Debuting with a victory against Masahito Kakihara, Tamura was spunky and could even demand respect from older veterans, as demonstrated during a bout against Yoji Anjo where Tamura broke a hold, delivered several kicks to Anjo's head and kicked him out of the ring.
In 1992, after making his shootfighting debut before boxer Matthew Saad Muhammad, Tamura was sent to United States to learn catch wrestling under Lou Thesz. He returned with a new, polished grappling style, defeating Kazuo Yamazaki in a match without shin protectors on October 23. Only some months after, on February 14, 1993, Tamura had a high level match with Nobuhiko Takada, after which many pundits (such as Pro Wrestling Illustrated) compared him to Takada himself and considered him as a candidate for the future ace of the company. The next year, Tamura took part in the Best Of The World 1994 Tournament, advancing through the rounds by beating Bad News Allen and Naoki Sano, but being eliminated himself by eventual winner Super Vader at the semi-finals. He also went to lose the match for the second place to main eventer Gary Albright, and never challenged Vader for the title.
Insatisfied with the symbolic return of UWF to gimmicky puroresu with the victory of Vader, and also inspired by the recent success of mixed martial arts promotion Pancrase, Tamura proposed to take a direction towards realistic fighting again. He would fight a shoot fight with Masahito Kakihara on February 18, 1995, winning by rear naked choke in 2:06. Later, he was granted a victorious rematch against Gary Albright, but the match became infamous for Albright's unwillingness to cooperate, which ruined Tamura's win to the point of having him in tears. The same night, Nobuhiko Takada announced his decision to retire from pro wrestling to pursue a politic career, which was met with harsh critics by Tamura. After a new rematch with Albright on August, Tamura addressed the returning Takada and challenged him to a mixed martial arts fight, to no avail.
The same year, UWF International celebrated an interpromotional feud against New Japan Pro Wrestling, but Tamura refused to participate. In December 1995, Kiyoshi offered himself instead to represent UWF-i at the mixed martial arts event K-1 Hercules, and claimed he would retire if he lost his match to Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran Patrick Smith in said event. However, he won the fight. Tamura returned to UWF-i to feud with Kazushi Sakuraba, but he concluded in his intention to leave the company, and asked to be released. He had his final match on May 27, where he defeated Sakuraba and, after the bout, took off one of his own shin protectors and threw it to the audience before leaving the arena.
Fighting Network RINGS (1996-2001)
After negotiations with Pancrase, Tamura jumped to Fighting Network RINGS, founded by old mentor Maeda. He was briefly pushed as the top star, being given the first (worked) RINGS heavyweight title, but as RINGS transitioned to real MMA bouts, his star began to flicker, as he struggled to keep pace despite winning bouts.
In 2003 he opened his own promotion, U-STYLE. On November 23, 2005 he had his last match for this promotion, defeating Josh Barnett. He briefly came out of retirement for Antonio Inoki's Inoki Genome Federation, the last time being on November 8, 2007, beating Montanha Silva in the latter's IGF debut.
On July 7, 2007, Tamura married tarento and pro wrestling host Yumiko Sakurai.
- Finishing moves
- Signature moves
Championships and accomplishments
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- PWI ranked him #98 of the top 500 singles wrestlers of the "PWI Years" in 2003
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter awards
- Best Technical Wrestler (1998)
- Kiyoshi Tamura .
- Tatsuhito Kaneko, Nakimushi, Gentosha 2002
- Profile at Puroresu Central . Puroresu Central. Retrieved on 2013-12-14.
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated's Top 500 Wrestlers of the PWI Years . Wrestling Information Archive. Retrieved on 2010-09-15.