GCW and HOG Bringing In More Japanese Legends for WrestleMania Week

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This year has seen a resurgence in legends from Japan coming back over to the United States – in some cases for the first time ever. At this spring’s EVOLVE shows over WrestleMania weekend, Big Japan‘s Daisuke Sekimoto and ZERO1/DDT Pro‘s Munenori Sawa made long awaited US returns, while Game Changer Wrestling (GCW) has brought over Michinoku Pro icons The Great Sasuke and Jinsei Shinzaki for Joey Janela special events, plus Big Japan’s Takayuki Ueki for Nick Gage’s Tournament of Survival 3.

Heading into 2019, it appears that the trend of Japanese legends appearing in the US will not only continue but get amped up. GCW has already announced that former ECW World Heavyweight Champion and ZERO1/NOAH star Masato Tanaka is appearing on December 29th’s event The Dynasty (slated to face PCO) and in January, Pro Wrestling FREEDOM‘s Daisuke Masaoka is making his return for January 12’s 400 Degreez (Masaoka last appeared in the TOS2 in 2017).

But this coming WrestleMania weekend, GCW – along with Amazing Red‘s House of Glory promotion – are bringing three more absolute icons of Japanese puroresu to America.

ATSUSHI ONITA

A student of Giant Baba and debuting with All Japan in 1974, Onita actually retired last October, and only recently made his return to the ring. During his time with All Japan, he was a 3x NWA International Junior Heavyweight Champion. He left All Japan in 1984 to work freelance and in 1989, founded Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling (FMW), one of the first hardcore promotions in the world. Over the next few decades, Onita pioneered what would become deathmatch wrestling, with exploding barbed wire matches and other nastiness that has become commonplace in places like GCW, IWA Mid South and Combat Zone Wrestling (CZW). He’s worked primarily with ZERO1 the past decade and was recently announced as part of Joey Janela’s Spring Break 3 on WrestleMania weekend.

THE GREAT MUTA

Keiji Muto began as a student of Antonio Inoki in New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) in 1984, where he spent nearly the first 20 years of his career. A 4x IWGP Heavyweight Champion and 6x IWGP Tag Team Champion, as both Keiji Muto – and his masked alter ego The Great Muta – he became a gold standard for Japanese wrestlers. During the Monday Night Wars, he was also a regular with World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and was a part of the nWo‘s Japan group. In 2001, he headed to All Japan and over the next decade became a 3x All Japan Triple Crown Champion, as his legacy continued to grow. In 2013, he went into business for himself and founded WRESTLE-1, which he continues to operate to this day. An absolute legend of the business, The Great Muta makes his US return at House of Glory‘s Culture Clash 19 event over WrestleMania weekend.

SHINJIRO OTANI

Shinjiro Otani also began his career with NJPW, starting in 1992. Over the next decade, he established himself as one of the premier Junior Heavyweights in the world, capturing the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship, Universal Wrestling Association (UWA) Welterweight and Junior Heavyweight Championships, NWA World Welterweight Championship, and twice winning the illustrious J-Crown. In 1996, he even won the WCW Cruiserweight Championship during a WCW/NJPW co-promoted event in Tokyo. By the end of his NJPW tenure, he was moved to the Junior Heavyweight Tag Team division, and won the IWGP Junior Heavyweight tag titles twice with Tatsuhito Takaiwa. In 2001, he jumped to join former NJPW star Shinya Hashimoto‘s new promotion, Pro Wrestling ZERO1, and in 2004 took over ownership of the promotion, which he still runs to this day. This will actually mark his first US appearance since he lost the WCW Cruiserweight title to Dean Malenko in 1996.

HIDEKI SUZUKI

The youngest of the stars coming over, 38-year old year Hideki Suzuki is making his US debut on WrestleMania week at GCW’s heavy-hitting Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport event. One of the most underrated mat technicians in the sport, he is a student of British and Japanese wrestling legend Billy Robinson, debuting in 2008 with Antonio Inoki’s post-NJPW promotion, Inoki Genome Federation (IGF). In 2014, he began to work more of the puroresu majors, such as All Japan, WRESTLE-1, ZERO1, and Pro Wrestling NOAH, winning the ZERO1 and WRESTLE-1 World titles. He now calls Big Japan Wrestling (BJW) is home, where he’s a 2x BJW Strong World Heavyweight Champion.

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