Japanese Veteran Takashi Iizuka Retires From The Ring

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Photo: NJPW

Suzuki-gun‘s wildman, complete with dog collar and metal glove, Takashi Iizuka retired from pro wrestling on Thursday night, following a special retirement show produced by New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) at the legendary Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, Japan, as part of the NJPW New Japan Road tour. In the main event, Iizuka teamed with fellow Suzuki-gun members Minoru Suzuki and Taichi in a 6-man tag team but ultimately lost to a trio featuring CHAOSKazuchika Okada and Toru Yano, alongside another New Japan legend in Hiroyoshi Tenzan. The 52-year old wrestler retires following a 33-year in-ring career that began in 1986.

Iizuka graduated from the New Japan Dojo in 1986, where he worked his way through the company as a Young Lion. In 1989, he went to Russia to learn Sambo and upon his return, formed a tag team with NJPW legend Riki Choshu, winning the IWGP Tag Team titles that summer. In 1991, he was sent on an excursion to Austria, where he competed for the prestigious shoot promotion Catch Wrestling Association (CWA). That same year, he made a rare appearance in the US, wrestling against former IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion Owen Hart for the Tri-State Wrestling Alliance (TWA) in Philadelphia. During the early 90s, he was a member of the faction Dragon Bombers, lead by 6x IWGP Heavyweight Champion Tatsumi Fujinami and that also featured another rising New Japan star, Jushin Thunder Liger.

In 1992, he formed a new tag team, J-J-Jacks, alongside his fellow dojo schoolmate Akira Nogami. Over the next three years, the duo would face teams like Dean Malenko & Chris Benoit, The Hellraisers (Road Warrior Hawk & Power Warrior), and Osamu Kido & Riki Choshu, but failed to enter the top tier and challenge for tag team gold. Following their demise in 1995, Iizuka returned to New Japan’s mid-card scene, but in 1996, he was paired with another rising star in Kazuo Yamazaki, and that June, he would win his second IWGP Tag Team Championship. They lost their first title defense, and once again, he was soon relegated back to the mid-card.

In 2000, he began to get a singles push, and in July got his first shot at the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, then held by Kensuke Sasaki. He lost the match, but later that year, teaming with Yuji Nagata, won the NJPW Tag League tournament. Sadly, his push took a bad turn, when a serious concussion in 2001 nearly ended his career. He returned in 2002 with a hot feud against Mitsuya Nagai (the man who had injured him), but following its conclusion, Iizuka was once again lost in the shuffle.

A freelancer during the gang warfares of the mid-2000s, he formed an unlikely alliance with New Japan tag team specialist Hiroyoshi Tenzan in 2008, when he saved him from a beat down following Tenzan’s firing from the faction Great Bash Heel (GBH). But despite the new team’s early success – they were dubbed Friendship Tag – it would end as quickly as it started. While facing GBH’s Togi Makabe & Toru Yano for the IWGP Tag Team titles, Iizuka turned on his partner, joining GBH instead. His next big feud would be against Tenzan himself.

In 2009, he joined most of his GBH stablemates in the great mutiny, joining Shinsuke Nakamura’s new faction CHAOS instead. In CHAOS, he became the regular tag team partner of Toru Yano (who also joined CHAOS from GBH) and in 2012, the duo would win the IWGP Tag Team Championships, for his third time (and first titles in 16 years). The following year, the CHAOS duo would begin invading Pro Wrestling NOAH, and in March of 2013, they would capture NOAH’s GHC Tag Team titles. They would be the final championship gold that Iizuka would hold in his career.

In the spring of 2014, Iizuka turned on his longtime partner Yano and joined Suzuki-gun as Minoru Suzuki’s new attack dog, joining Suzuki-gun on their year long invasion in Pro Wrestling NOAH. He remained alongside Suzuki-gun faithfully for the past five years, until his retirement on Thursday night.

Photo: NJPW

 

 

 

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