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  Minoru Tanaka (田中稔, Tanaka Minoru, born November 29, 1972 in Komaki, Aichi)[1][2] is a Japanese professional wrestler and shootboxer. Tanaka first gained prominence in Fujiwara Gumi and Battlarts before moving on to New Japan Pro Wrestling, where he became a four time IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion, a five time IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion and the winner of the 2006 Best of the Super Juniors tournament. After leaving NJPW, he joined All Japan Pro Wrestling, where he found continued success in the junior heavyweight and tag team ranks upon winning the World Junior Hevyweight Championship once and the All Asia Tag Team Championship twice. From 2013 to 2016, Tanaka worked for Wrestle-1, where he was the inaugural Wrestle-1 Cruiser Division Champion and a former one-time UWA World Trios Champion. He currently works as a freelancer. He would return to All Japan Pro Wrestling in 2017 four years after he left.

Professional wrestling career[]

Early years[]

Minoru Tanaka was originally a shootboxer. He started his career as a wrestler in Fujiwara Gumi, trained by its owner, Yoshiaki Fujiwara. In late 1995, Tanaka and everyone else in the promotion abandoned Fujiwara and formed their own promotion, Battlarts, led by Yuki Ishikawa. Despite being a simulated shoot style professional wrestling promotion, Battlarts, like its predecessor, often cooperated with other federations and styles, such as Fighting Network Rings, Kingdom, Michinoku Pro and Big Japan Pro Wrestling. Tanaka's first championship, the UWA World Middleweight Championship (originally based in Mexico and introduced in Japan through Universal Lucha Libre and Michinoku), came in 1996. He later won Frontier Martial Arts Wrestling's Independent World Junior Heavyweight Championship (which was outsourced to Battlarts after Hiromichi Fuyuki abolished all previous FMW titles and replaced them with WEW titles).

New Japan Pro Wrestling[]

Early success (1999–2002)[]

Tanaka made his New Japan Pro Wrestling debut on April 10, 1999 and would proceed to take part in Best of the Super Juniors in block B.[3] Tanaka would reappear for New Japan in late 1999 to early 2000 before he joined the New Japan roster as a full-time competitor. His natural talent enabled him to immediately rise in the junior heavyweight ranks and win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship in July with Koji Kanemoto, who used a similar but more ground-oriented style.[4] The Kanemoto-Tanaka combination was reminiscent of the old Akira Maeda-Nobuhiko Takada combination in 1987. In October, Tanaka won the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship - thus becoming the first man to hold both junior titles at the same time.[5] In March 2001, Tanaka and Kanemoto lost their titles to El Samurai and Jushin Thunder Liger,[4] in June he lost in the finals of 2001's Best of the Super Juniors to Liger and in July he lost his singles title.[5] Even with all these losses, Tanaka finished 2001 strong, winning the G1 Jr. Six Man Tag Team Tournament Masahito Kakihara and Masayuki Naruse. For a second time in his career, Tanaka held both junior titles, defeating Masahito Kakihara for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion[5] and defeating Gedo and Jado with Jushin Thunder Liger for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship.[4] After Koji Kanemoto defeated Tanaka in 2002's Best of the Super Juniors, Kanemoto defeated Tanaka once again for his IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship, and a month later lost his tag team championship to Tsuyoshi Kikuchi and Yoshinobu Kanemaru.[5]

Control Terrorism Unit (2002–2007)[]

In late 2002 Tanaka began wearing a mask and calling himself "HEAT" (ヒート) in reference to the Game Boy Advance video game Toukon Heat. In only his second match under the persona, Tanaka faced on Kanemoto in an attempt to regain the title but failed.[6] Like the game, the HEAT character often floundered in his early years with the only positive being his victory of the Naeba Cup Tag Tournament alongside Manabu Nakanishi. Heat's true success came after turning heel and joining Jushin Thunder Liger's new faction, Control Terrorism Unit (CTU). Having only been in CTU for only a few months, Heat defeated Jado in December 2003 to become a three-time IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion.[5] After losing to Tiger Mask in the semi final of the 2004 Best of the Super Juniors, he found his new rival and defeated Tiger Mask. Their rivalry continued over the year and culminated at Toukon Festival: Wrestling World where Heat lost his IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship to Tiger Mask.[5] After this loss, he dropped the mask and began wrestling as Minoru Tanaka until dropping his surname, calling himself simply Minoru (稔). He also competed as Masked CTU-J sporadically from this point forward.[7] On May 14, Minoru teamed up with new CTU recruit Hirooki Goto and defeated Koji Kanemoto and Wataru Inoue to become a three-time IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion and would lose them to El Samurai and Ryusuke Taguchi in early 2006.[4]

In 2006, Minoru joined the American Total Nonstop Action Wrestling promotion as a member of Team Japan (consisting of Hirooki Goto, Jushin Thunder Liger, Black Tiger and Minoru), one of the four teams competing in the TNA 2006 World X-Cup Tournament. He debuted in TNA on April 23, 2006 at Lockdown, where he teamed with Hirooki Goto against Team USA members Sonjay Dutt, Jay Lethal and Alex Shelley. Team Japan defeated USA when Black Tiger pinned Lethal. On the April 27 episode of Impact!, Goto and Minoru lost to Dutt and Shelley, giving a first round victory and two points to Team USA.

Following his stint in TNA, Minoru managed to find success upon returning to Japan, as he won the 2006 Best of the Super Juniors after defeating Tiger Mask in the finals. Minoru lost his chance at the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship in October, but would be granted another one at "Battle Xmas! Catch the Victory", where he defeated Koji Kanemoto for the title, making him a four-time IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion.[5] He would hold the title until he was defeated by Ryusuke Taguchi.[5] After this loss, CTU would take a turn for the worse and eventually disbanded on August 8 where all members would wrestle under their Masked CTU personas.[7]

RISE (2007–2009)[]

In late 2007, after the break up of CTU, some of the former members, which included Prince Devitt, Hirooki Goto and Minoru along with Shinsuke Nakamura, formed the stable RISE.[8] In early 2008, Minoru and Devitt would win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship.[4] However, they would lose the title not even a month later to members of the Legend stable, AKIRA and Jushin Thunder Liger. Minoru and Devitt defeated AKIRA and Liger in their return match for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship, making the pair two time champions together and Minoru's fifth overall.[4] They lost the titles in October to No Limit (Tetsuya Naito and Yujiro Takahashi). Minoru stayed out of the lime light during late 2008 and early 2009 making him unhappy with his status in the company. Along with Minoru becoming unable to come to terms on a new contract, he left New Japan after nearly a decade with the company January 31, 2009.

All Japan Pro Wrestling[]

VooDoo Murders (2009–2011)[]

After leaving New Japan on January 31, 2009, in a shocking move, Tanaka quickly signed with rival promotion All Japan Pro Wrestling in late February and made his presence felt by joining the hated "VooDoo Murders" stable, replacing the recently retired brother YASSHI in the group. In his first All Japan pay-per-view, he took on Kaz Hayashi for the World Junior Heavyweight Championship and lost. Moving on from this loss, he teamed up with Toshizo to take part in 2009's AJPW Junior Tag League, where they defeated Kaz Hayashi and Shuji Kondo. After finishing top in Junior League 2009 he was defeated by Super Crazy in the semi finals. In 2010, he participated in that years junior tournaments failing to win any of them but did come close in the Junior League where he lost to James Yun. In late 2010, he won an All Asia Tag Team Championship contendership tournament with KONO but failed to win the titles on the next night.

On January 2, 2011, Minoru won the World Junior Heavyweight Championship from Kaz Hayashi.[9] On June 3, 2011, in the aftermath of a backstage fight between Yoshikazu Taru and Nobukazu Hirai, which resulted in Hirai suffering a stroke, All Japan Pro Wrestling disbanded Voodoo Murders, suspended all of its Japanese members, including Minoru, and vacated the World Junior Heavyweight Championship. Minoru was suspended specifically for not attempting to stop Taru's assault on Hirai.[10] Minoru's suspension was lifted on June 30.[11] In October 2011, Minoru began once again wrestling under his full name. In an interview on All Japan's official website, Tanaka explained that by using his full name he wanted to pay tribute to his original home promotion BattlARTS, which closed its doors on November 5, 2011, and where he originally made his breakthrough under his full name.[12]

Stack of Arms (2011–2013)[]

On December 21, Tanaka along with Masakatsu Funaki and Masayuki Kono formed the stable Stack of Arms. The stable tried to start of strong by winning the AJPW Junior Tag League 2012, but failed in their attempt, not even getting through the starting stages. From this point, Stack of Arms have feud against Team Destruction (Kaz Hayashi, Shuji Kondo and Suwama). When Koji Kanemoto joined Stack of Arms in October 2012, their fortunes turned around, Kanemoto and Tanaka defeated Kazushi Miyamoto and Tomoaki Honma to win the vacant All Asia Tag Team Championship. On January 26, 2013, Kanemoto and Tanaka, calling themselves Junior Stars but still part of Stack of Arms, lost the titles to Hikaru Sato and Hiroshi Yamato but would regain the title less than a month later. Their second reign ended on April 25, 2013, when they were defeated by Atsushi Aoki and Kotaro Suzuki. In June 2013, Tanaka, along with the rest of Stack of Arms, announced his resignation from All Japan in the aftermath of Nobuo Shiraishi taking over as the promotion's new president.[13] On June 30, Tanaka unsuccessfully challenged Yoshinobu Kanemaru for the World Junior Heavyweight Championship in his final All Japan match.[14]

Wrestle-1 (2013–2016)[]

On July 10, 2013, Tanaka was announced as part of Keiji Mutoh's new Wrestle-1 promotion.[15][16][17] During the promotion's inaugural event on September 8, Tanaka reunited the Junior Stars with Koji Kanemoto in a tag team match, where they defeated Fujita Hayato and Masaaki Mochizuki.[18] On January 31, 2014, Tanaka celebrated his 20th anniversary in professional wrestling, teaming with Kanemoto and the debuting Jushin Thunder Liger and Yoshiaki Fujiwara in an eight-man tag team main event, where they defeated Desperado (Kazma Sakamoto, Masayuki Kono, René Duprée and Ryoji Sai).[19] In September, Tanaka took part in the Wrestle-1 Championship tournament, where he made it to the second round, before losing to KAI.[20] Through Wrestle-1's working relationship with American promotion Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA), Tanaka worked TNA's Bound for Glory event in Tokyo on October 12, defeating Manik.[21] On December 7, Tanaka defeated Hiroshi Yamato to win the European Wrestling Promotion (EWP) Intercontinental Championship.[22] Later that month, Tanaka traveled to Hannover, Germany to successfully defend the title against Michael Kovac.[23] Through Wrestle-1's relationship with Pro Wrestling Zero1, Tanaka won two more titles on March 1, 2015, when he defeated Jason Lee for the International Junior Heavyweight and NWA World Junior Heavyweight Championships.[24] On May 5, Tanaka won yet another title, when he defeated Kaz Hayashi in the finals of a tournament to become the inaugural Wrestle-1 Cruiser Division Champion.[25] Tanaka lost the first of his four titles on May 16, when Tajiri defeated him for the EWP Intercontinental Championship.[26] He regained the title on May 30 in a match also contested for the Wrestle-1 Cruiser Division Championship.[27] On September 12, Tanaka lost the EWP Intercontinental Championship to Robbie Dynamite in Hannover, Germany.[28] On September 23, Tanaka lost the Wrestle-1 Cruiser Division Championship to Andy Wu in his sixth defense.[29] On October 11, Tanaka lost his final two titles, the Zero1 junior heavyweight championships, to Shinjiro Otani.[30] On January 31, 2016, Tanaka, Kaz Hayashi and Tajiri won the vacant UWA World Trios Championship.[31] On June 28, Tanaka announced he was leaving Wrestle-1 due to his contract with the company expiring.[32] On July 29, Tanaka, Hayashi and Tajiri lost the UWA World Trios Championship to Andy Wu, Daiki Inaba and Seiki Yoshioka in their fifth defense.[33]

Freelancer (2017–present)[]

Since his departure for Wrestle-1 he started to compete in promotions such as Guts World, FMW, FREEDOMS and several others. He returned to ZERO1 where he and Koji Kanemoto participated in the 2016 Furinkazan defeating Kazuki Hashimoto and Shinjiro Otani in the second round, but losing in the semifinals to KAI and Yusaku Obata. On January 1, 2017 he and Kanemoto unsuccessfully challenged Isami Kodaka and Takumi Tsukamoto for the NWA International Lightweight Tag Team Championship. One day later he returned to AJPW after six years where he competed where he and Ryoji Sai and Rikiya Fudo defeated SUSHI, Yohei Nakajima and Zeus later that night it was announced that he was going to compete in th 2017 Jr. Battle of Glory which he lost with 2 points. On March 2 he and Kanemoto defeated Isami Kodaka and Takumi Tsukamoto for the NWA International Lightweight Tag Championship. They lost the titles to Shinjiro Otani and Tatsuhito Takaiwa on May 15.

Since October 2017 Tanaka started making appearances for Pro Wrestling NOAH. He would make his intentions on challenging Daisuke Harada for the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship. However, he was interrupted by Hitoshi Kumano, leading on October 1 Tanaka defeating Kumano in his NOAH debut match. He would then make his intentions of challenging Harada for the title. This led on December 22 Tanaka unsuccessfully challenging Harada for the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship. In January 2018, Tanaka formed a team with Yoshinari Ogawa, leading the two defeating Hi69 and Taiji Ishimori on March 11 to win the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship. Two days later, Tanaka and Ogawa voluntarily vacated the titles, after Ogawa felt that they didn't deserve to be champions, after Ishimori announced his departure from NOAH. Shortly after, Tanaka and Hi69 formed a team, taking part in a tournament to crown the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions, which lead them defeating HAYATA and YO-HEY in the finals to become the new champions. From July 7 to July 31, 2018, Tanaka and Hi69 took part of the Global Junior Heavyweight Tag League, finishing the tournament with a record of three wins and three losses, failing to advance to the finals of the tournament. From September 8 to September 29, Tanaka took part in the Global Junior League, finishing with a record of three wins and two losses. Tanaka and Hi69 lost the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship to Back Breakers (Hajime Ohara and Hitoshi Kumano) on December 16 at Great Voyage in Yokohama vol.2. On March 10, Tanaka defeated Daisuke Harada to win the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship. From June until July, Tanaka took part in the 2019 Global Junior League, finishing the tournament with a record of two wins, two losses and one draw, failling to advance to the finals of the tournament. On August 4 at Departure, Tanaka lost the title to HAYATA.

Personal life[]

In 2002, Tanaka married former professional wrestler Yumi Fukawa soon after her retirement.[34]

In wrestling[]

  • Finishing moves
    • FIREBALL Splash (450° splash)[2][35]
    • HEAT Clutch (Leg-feed flying cross armbreaker transitioned into a cradle)[1][35][36]
    • High speed roundhouse kick to the head of a seated, kneeling or rising opponent[37]
    • Minoru Special (Flying cross armbreaker)[1][2][35][38][39]
    • Minoru Special II (Northern Lights suplex floated over into a mount transitioned over into a cross armbreaker)[1][40]
    • Santa Monica Pier (Leg hook Death Valley driver)[1][35][41] – 2006–present
    • Tornado Kaki Cutter (STO, sometimes while applying a wrist-clutch)[42] – 2015–present; adopted from Masahito Kakihara
    • Wrist-clutch fisherman buster,[35][41] sometimes from the top rope
  • Multiple suplex variations
    • California Maki (Swinging fisherman)[1][41]
    • Dragon[35][41]
    • Northern Lights[35]
    • Teramae 485 (Inside leg hook belly-to-back)[1]
    • Three-quarter nelson[35]
    • Tiger[35]
  • Twister (Twisting brainbuster)[44] – 2006; adopted from Masaaki Mochizuki
  • Nicknames
    • "Black Prince"[45]
    • "Special One"

Championships and accomplishments[]

  • European Wrestling Promotion
    • EWP Intercontinental Championship (2 times)[22][27]
  • Pro Wrestling Illustrated
    • PWI ranked him #12 of the top 500 singles wrestlers in the PWI 500 in 2002[57]
  • Pro Wrestling Zero1
    • International Junior Heavyweight Championship (1 time)[24]
    • NWA World Junior Heavyweight Championship (1 time)[24]
    • NWA International Lightweight Tag Championship (1 time) – with Koji Kanemoto
  • Wrestling Observer Newsletter awards
    • Best Technical Wrestler (2001)


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