At Wrestling Dontaku Night Two, for most of us, while we were sleeping, New Japan Pro Wrestling offered up some huge bombshells, seemingly one right after the after. Chris Jericho returned to set up a dream match with Tetsuya Naito, Kazuchika Okada challenged Kenny Omega to a proverbial rubber match (only this is their fourth encounter due to the second ending in a draw) to break the tie, and finally, Tama Tonga revealed the new Bone Soldier as none other than Taiji Ishimori.
— njpwworld (@njpwworld) May 4, 2018
Taiji Ishimori, who announced his resignation from Pro Wrestling NOAH in March, had been working as a freelancer, most notably in Impact Wrestling where he is a former X-Division Champion. Despite leaving NOAH, Ishimori continued to work Impact tapings in April, though it is unknown if with his new role in NJPW if that will continue.
The 35-year-old Taiji Ishimori began his career in Toryumon Mexico, which is where he was trained. Debuting in May 2002, Ishimori competed in the promotion’s Young Dragons Cup and won. Ishimori went on to have his Japanese debut in All Japan Pro Wrestling before returning to Mexico to win the UWA World Welterweight Championship. Following his loss of that title, Ishimori made his NJPW debut as a Young Lion and very early on, teamed up with Hiroshi Tanahashi for a one night U-30 tag team tournament. The pair won, last defeating the team of Ryusuke Taguchi and Shinsuke Nakamura in the finals. Despite having some successes in NJPW, Ishimori left the company after just one year to return to AJPW. His run there didn’t last long either and in March 2006, Ishimori debuted at the promotion he would soon call home for 12 years, Pro Wrestling NOAH.
— 新日本プロレスリング株式会社 (@njpw1972) May 4, 2018
Working for NOAH at first as a freelance wrestler, Ishimori became full-time with the promotion in 2007. Shortly after, alongside Kenta, he won the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship, the first title of his career. Ishimori would go on to win the title two more times with Ricky Marvin (2010) and Hi69 (2017). In between those two reigns, in 2013, Ishimori won his first GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship, setting a record 405-day reign with the belt, which has yet to be broken.
Having been such a long-tenured and valued member of the NOAH roster, it came as a surprise to many when Ishimori announced he’d be leaving the promotion after 12 years. Ishimori told Tokyo Sports that it was because he wanted to be internationally active and someone who appeared both at home in Japan and abroad. Of course, many took his leaving to suggest that perhaps he was headed to WWE or that he would be appearing more frequently on Impact Wrestling. It is unlikely anyone saw it coming, that he’d be returning to rival NJPW, which to many fans is being seen as the ultimate betrayal.
You see, to Noah fans, what Ishimori has done is a betrayal. It doesn't matter he is a freelancer and can go anywhere he wants.
He went to New Japan. The company who almost destroyed us. He was there during that dark period. That is why we are shocked.
— Hisame (冰雨Pro-Wrestling Noah in English) (@Hi5ame) May 4, 2018
For Ishimori, some believe they were fed a bill of goods regarding his intentions. Did Ishimori really want to go to NJPW all along? Some think so, even going so far as to suggest that his time with Impact was merely meant to get WWE’s attention as a way to leave NOAH for NJPW without making it so obvious. Because trying to make it in WWE would have been an acceptable reason for Ishimori to leave NOAH, as opposed to him just making a clean jump to NJPW, which can be likened to some as people jumping from WCW to WWE and vice versa.
But Taiji Ishimori has also said that like former tag team partner Kenta, now Hideo Itami, that he wants to go to WWE. A run in NJPW, especially with the way WWE has been taking even more notice lately due in part to the company running multiple shows on U.S. soil, could very well be the gateway Ishimori is looking for. It’s not quite as simple to say he betrayed NOAH for NJPW without having all of the facts, however, that won’t stop some fans from believing exactly that.
So who is buying the "Taiji Ishimori really wants to go to NJPW but used the idea of using Impact as a gateway to getting WWE's attention as his excuse to bolt NOAH without overtly looking like he wanted to jump from NOAH to NJPW" theory?
— Voices of Wrestling (@voiceswrestling) April 25, 2018
As Bone Soldier, Ishimori is stepping into the character first made famous by Captain New Japan in 2016. After turning on Hunter Club stablemate Yoshi Tatsu, CNJ was welcomed into Bullet Club under the gimmick of Bone Soldier. He entered the World Tag League with partner Bad Luck Fale but the two finished with a whopping zero points and an 0-8 record. Kenny Omega declared Bone Soldier’s addition an “intergalactic disaster” and a year later, CNJ was released from his contract.
Captain New Japan was more of a comedic gimmick compared to what Ishimori brings to the table. It’s already been alluded to that his Bullet Club debut will see him challenge IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion Will Ospreay for the belt as he attacked the champion following a successful defense over KUSHIDA.
Whether he is billed as Bone Soldier going forward or not, Taiji Ishimori’s addition to the Bullet Club comes at a time when things are very much uncertain. Following a match at Wrestling Dontaku Night One, where Bullet Club members, the Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson) and Marty Scurll, defeated Bullet Club members, Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa) and Bad Luck Fale for the NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship, night two saw the group split in half with those seemingly aligning with Omega on one side and Cody‘s contingent on the other. At the end of the match, it seemed all but two men, the ones whose own rivalry started it all, were on the same page.
You see…nothing to worry about whatsoever…The Bullet Club is fine@NickJacksonYB @MartyScurll @theAdamPage @TangaloaNJPW @Tama_Tonga @TOKSFALE @realchaseowens #njdontaku #NJPW pic.twitter.com/CCRHE4vuLg
— Adam (@Adam_Lewis10) May 4, 2018
Bullet Club is fine. pic.twitter.com/Rta9L7zEZQ
— The Young Bucks (@NickJacksonYB) May 4, 2018
Bullet Club is fine. It might even be more than fine now that Taiji Ishimori is it’s newest member.