Yoshiaki Fujiwara (藤原 喜明 Fujiwara Yoshiaki, April 27, 1949) is a Japanese actor, and professional wrestler. He is famous for his long career in wrestling, having worked in New Japan Pro Wrestling, Pro Wrestling ZERO-ONE, and the two incarnations of Universal Wrestling Federations. Fujiwara is known for his catch wrestling expertise, having been praised by fighters like Josh Barnett and Ken Shamrock.
Professional wrestling career[edit | edit source]
New Japan Pro Wrestling and Universal Wrestling Federation (1972–1989)[edit | edit source]
Fujiwara was the first graduate of the New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) dojo (Mr. Pogo was the first debutante in the promotion, but he and Gran Hamada had trained with Tatsumi Fujinami before he and Antonio Inoki left the Japanese Wrestling Association). A former Muay Thai kickboxer, Fujiwara was easily able to absorb and apply the "Strong Style" of professional wrestling taught by Inoki and Karl Gotch. In 1975, this led Fujiwara to win the Karl Gotch Cup (a tournament for rookies named after Karl Gotch and forerunner to the later Young Lion Cup). In the late 1970s, Fujiwara became embroiled in a feud with Allen Coage (a former Olympic judo bronze medal winner who had debuted as a pro wrestler in NJPW, and one of the first gaijins to be trained at the NJPW dojo) over the petty issue of who had the strongest head. Fujiwara would bang his head repeatedly against the ring's corner post's metal face to provoke Coage, and behind the scenes, Coage would advise him not to do so repeatedly, in fear of suffering permanent real-life damage.
All the while, Fujiwara remained a strong member of the undercard, but rarely would he get opportunities for big singles matches or tag teams with better-known stars. In 1984, however, all that would change when Fujiwara was among the defectors who created the Japanese UWF. When he and most of them returned in 1986, they formed their own stable, indicating they would battle major New Japan wrestlers and receive recognition on their own terms. As a member of the UWF stable, Fujiwara, along with Akira Maeda, focused on Inoki's IWGP Heavyweight Championship, pushing him to the limit in the annual IWGP tournaments. But at heart, Maeda and Fujiwara were also rivals - when unable to get the IWGP title, Maeda and Nobuhiko Takada went for and won the IWGP tag team title, Fujiwara and Kazuo Yamazaki split from the main UWF stable, and feuded with them over the title, eventually winning it. This split, also in the wake of Riki Choshu's return to NJPW after leaving in circumstances similar to Maeda and the rest of the UWF roster, eventually weakened the UWF stable.
When Maeda was fired from New Japan for a shoot attack on Choshu during a match in late 1987, all the other UWF stable members except for Fujiwara and Osamu Kido left NJPW to reform the UWF. Kido and Fujiwara attempted to get back into the good graces of the rest of the NJPW roster - and for a time, Fujiwara seemed to go back into the NJPW undercard, although with more respect from his peers. Inoki had already gained respect for him enough to be his tag team partner in 1986 for the annual tag team tournament (despite being affiliated with the UWF stable). In the meantime, Fujiwara trained rookies Masakatsu Funaki and Minoru Suzuki. In 1989, however, Fujiwara felt the need to continue shoot-style wrestling, also due to the rise of Choshu in backstage politics, so he moved to the UWF with Funaki and Suzuki.
Newborn UWF, Pro Wrestling Fujiwara Gumi, and Freelance (1989–present)[edit | edit source]
In Newborn UWF, Fujiwara was clearly seen as the senior peer to Maeda, but eventually jobbed to him. After Newborn UWF collapsed in December 1990, Fujiwara, Funaki, Suzuki and rookie Yusuke Fuke formed Pro Wrestling Fujiwara Gumi (Gumi [組] in Japanese means "group", but it is used in the underworld lingo to mean organized crime family. Fujiwara styled himself kumichō [組長], literally, the gang leader). Although it was a shoot style promotion, Fujiwara had agreements with SWS, W*ING and Universal Lucha Libre, whereupon he would send talent to compete in them (but not vice versa, in order to keep the shoot-style feel to his promotion). Fujiwara Gumi had a big supercard at the Tokyo Dome in 1992, involving all the great talents in the promotion: Fujiwara, Funaki, Suzuki, Fuke, Yoshiki Takahashi, Yuki Ishikawa, and others.
Problems involving the collapsing Japanese economy and the essence of Fujiwara Gumi's wrestling, however, forced its roster to assess their individual futures. Funaki, Suzuki, Fuke and Takahashi, apparently unsettled by the "performing" direction Fujiwara was taking, abandoned him in late 1993 to form Pancrase. Fujiwara already had back-up talent - Ishikawa, Daisuke Ikeda, Katsumi Usuda, Minoru Tanaka, Mamoru Okamoto, Muhammad Yone, and Shoichi Funaki. In need of funds, however, Fujiwara proposed to cooperate with their root promotion, New Japan. Fujiwara and the rest of the roster began having a small feud with NJPW, Fujiwara challenging the heavyweights (he challenged future partner Shinya Hashimoto for the IWGP title, but failed again), and the rest the junior heavyweight division. The NJPW-PWFG feud, however, did not have the star-studded impression on fans that the NJPW-UWFI feud later had.
In late 1995, Ishikawa and the rest of the Fujiwara Gumi roster abandoned Fujiwara and formed their own promotion, BattlARTS, citing problems with Fujiwara's management team. Since 1996, Fujiwara, the only remaining member of Fujiwara Gumi and thus a free agent (as the promotion no longer operates), has competed in several promotions, mostly in legends matches. He has wrestled for NJPW, All Japan Pro Wrestling, Pro Wrestling ZERO-ONE, WAR, and several independents into 2016.
Personal life[edit | edit source]
Fujiwara is also an actor who has had a few parts in Japanese movies and dramas. In 1995, he had a major role in the Toshihiro Sato movie Roppongi Soldier along with Satoru Sayama and Itsumi Osawa, playing an eccentric kickboxer named Sabu.
He is also a prolific artisan potter.
In wrestling[edit | edit source]
- Finishing moves
- Fujiwara armbar – Innovated
- Heel hook
- Signature moves
- Ankle lock
- Arm triangle choke
- Cross armbreaker
- Cross kneelock
- Dragon screw
- Gory special
- Headbutt, sometimes from the top rope
- Jumping piledriver
- Over the shoulder back to belly piledriver
- Sunset flip powerbomb
- Swinging neckbreaker
- Triangle choke
- Entrance themes
- "Ritt der Walküren" by Richard Wagner
- "Kansetsuwaza no Oni"
Wrestlers trained[edit | edit source]
- Akira Maeda
- Alexander Otsuka
- Commander An Jo
- Daisuke Ikeda
- Jushin Thunder Liger
- Katsumi Usuda
- Ken Shamrock
- Masahito Kakihara
- Masakatsu Funaki
- Minoru Suzuki
- Minoru Tanaka
- Mohammed Yone
- Nobuhiko Takada
- Rionne Fujiwara
- Ryushi Yanagisawa
- Shinobu Kandori
- Takaku Fuke
- Tiger Mask
- Tsubo Genjin
- Yuki Ishikawa
Championships and accomplishments[edit | edit source]
- Fujiwara Gumi Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- Tokyo Sports
- Effort Award (1975, 1982)
- Fighting Spirit Award (1987)
- Technique Award (1989)
- Kakuto Prospect Tournament (1985)