It would seem every hero has an arch-rival. So it is with the subject of the last RANKED, Tiger Mask. Created by Ikki Kajiwara and Naoki Tsuji for the Tiger Mask manga series, Black Tiger made his in-ring debut in 1982. Like Tiger Mask, the wrestlers that have assumed the identity of Black Tiger have contributed positively to the progression of Professional Wrestling. This is a very subjective and non-scientific list, nonetheless let’s get in the ring!
Rocky Romero (2005-2009)
The fourth incarnation of Black Tiger tops this list despite losing his mask to nemesis Tiger Mask because he accomplished something none of the other generations of Black Tiger could. In 2005, Black Tiger beat Tiger Mask for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship. Additionally he held the NWA Junior Heavyweight Championship at the same time as the IWGP version of the belt.
Romero continued the the tradition of excellent, forward thinking wrestling associated with the mantle of Black Tiger. Since his time under the mask, Romero has gone on to win numerous titles and accolades, most recently winning the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Titles with Trent Beretta as Roppongi Vice.
Eddie Guerrero (1993-1996)
Eddie Guerrero became Black Tiger in 1993 and cultivated a revolutionary Cruiserweight style that would explode in popularity and influence when Guerrero came to WCW. Following back-to-back 3rd place finishes in 1994 and 1995, Black Tiger won the 1996 Best of the Super Juniors tournament. He fought The Great Sasuke for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight title, but was unsuccessful in the attempt.
Despite falling short of seizing a championship belt, Guerrero never lost the Black Tiger mask in a match. In 2004, Guerrero defeated Brock Lesnar for the WWE World Championship. Sadly Eddie Guerrero passed away in 2005 but he remains an influential figure among both wrestlers and fans.
Mark “Rollerball” Rocco (1982-1990)
The first and the longest reigning Black Tiger, Mark “Rollerball” Rocco was already a well seasoned wrestler in Britain and even had a stint in the World Wide Wrestling Federation. Following the debut of former rival Satoru Sayama as Tiger Mask, Rocco debuted as Black Tiger in 1982. After capturing the WWF Junior Heavyweight Championship from Grand Hamada, Black Tiger was defeated for the championship by Tiger Mask.
Later on, Black Tiger feuded with the nascent Jushin Thunder Liger, performing on NJPW’s only event to take place in Russia. Rocco’s career came to an end in 1991 due to increasingly serious medical issues. Like Guerrero, Rocco never lost his mask in a match. His work with Tiger Mask, Dynamite Kid and Tiger Mask II changed the DNA of Professional Wrestling and he continues to influence the business.
César Cuauhtémoc González (2003-2006)
The 3rd generation of Black Tiger wrestled predominantly for Mexico’s CMLL where, along with (González’s real life brother) Dr. Wagner Jr. and Universo 2000 captured the CMLL World Trios Championship. Prior to this, Black Tiger and Dr. Wagner Jr. unsuccessfully fought for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship.
Oddly, Black Tiger III competed at the same time as Romero’s Black Tiger. In 2006, González was unmasked following a loss to La Parka (aka L.A. Park). González continues to wrestle as Silver King (who was CMLL World Heavyweight Champion in 1994) and appeared in the film Nacho Libre as Ramses.
Tatsuhito Takaiwa (2009-2011, current)
Tatsuhito Takaiwa became the first Japanese wrestler (and 5th incarnation) to don the Black Tiger persona. He is also the first Black Tiger to lose his mask twice, first to Tiger Mask and then again to Último Dragón. Like Black Tiger III, Takaiwa competed at the same time time as Rocky Romero’s version of the character albeit a few years later.
Takaiwa continues to wrestle as Black Tiger in Mexico for various promotions although it is unclear if this is an authorized version of the character. Outside Black Tiger, Takaiwa and partner Shinjiro Otani captured the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team titles in 2000.
Tomohiro Ishii (2011)
Officially recognized as the 6th Black Tiger, Tomohiro Ishii has a unique, if brief, relationship to the character. Following a humiliating loss to Tiger Mask in which his head was shaved, Ishii donned the Black Tiger mask. His hatred Tiger Mask was such that he was compelled to assume the identity of Tiger Mask’s biggest rival. Normally the decision to put a gimmick on a wrestler is hidden, but Ishii continued to use his own name while under the mask and was still a steward for the driving principle of Black Tiger which is to destroy Tiger Mask. Their short feud concluded when Tiger Mask defeated Ishii in a mask-for-title match.
Kazushige Nosawa (2012)
Kazushige Nosawa’s tenure as the 7th Black Tiger began with promise. In 2012 he won the NEVER.9 Road to the Super Juniors Tournament, securing a spot in that year’s Best of the Super Juniors, the tournament his predecessors competed in and even won. Two weeks later, Nosawa became involved in a very messy criminal/legal event leading to his immediate dismissal from NJPW.
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