|Yoshitatsu in November 2017|
Naofumi Yamamoto (山本 尚史 Yamamoto Naofumi, born August 1, 1977) is a Japanese professional wrestler and former boxer.
Yamamoto started his professional wrestling career under his real name in October 2002 with New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW), where he remained until 2007, when he signed with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). In 2009, Yamamoto left WWE's developmental territory to join the promotion's main roster under the ring name Yoshi Tatsu. After his June 2014 release from WWE, Yamamoto returned to NJPW the following October, performing under the tweaked ring name Yoshitatsu (ヨシタツ Yoshitatsu). Following his departure from NJPW in late 2017, he became a freelancer and started working most notably for All Japan Pro Wrestling.
Professional wrestling career Edit
New Japan Pro Wrestling (2002–2007) Edit
With a sports background in boxing and jujutsu, Yamamoto passed an audition held by New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) in September 2001 and began training professional wrestling at the promotion's dojo the following March. During his training, Yamamoto also travelled to Los Angeles to train at the local NJPW dojo. Yamamoto made his in-ring debut on October 12, 2002, facing Wataru Inoue in Korakuen Hall.
Initially Yamamoto worked low card matches for NJPW, normally on the losing side to gain ring experience. On December 27, 2003, Yamamoto lost to Ryusuke Taguchi in a chance at a match on NJPW's most prestigious show, the January 4 Dome Show Wrestling World. Yamamoto participated in the 2004 Young Lion Cup where he defeated Hirooki Goto, Akiya Anzawa, and Hiroshi Nagao to earn a total of six points, not enough to qualify for the finals. Yamamoto also participated in the 2005 Young Lion Cup where he only won one match, defeating Yujiro. In 2006, Yamamoto participated in his first G1 Climax tournament, losing all four matches. Yamamoto teamed up with Manabu Nakanishi to compete in the 2006 G1 Tag League, defeating Giant Bernard and Travis Tomko to earn their sole victory in the tournament. On January 8, 2006, Yamamoto and Osamu Nishimura defeated Toru Yano and a returning Togi Makabe. Over the summer of 2007 Yamamoto began teaming regularly with Hiroshi Tanahashi forming a team called "New Japan Dragons", earning a match for the IWGP Tag Team Championship against the then champions, Bernard and Tomko, albeit in a losing effort. For the 2007 G1 Tag League Yamamoto teamed up with Takashi Ilzuka, while they defeated three teams (Hirooki Goto and Milano Collection A.T., Togi Makabe and Toru Yano, and Giant Bernard and Travis Tomko); the team ended up in last place. On November 2, 2007 Yamamoto wrestled his last match for NJPW, teaming with his mentor Yuji Nagata in a losing effort against Tomohiro Ishii and Toru Yano.
World Wrestling Entertainment/WWE Edit
Florida Championship Wrestling (2007–2009) Edit
In late 2007, Yamamoto was signed by World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) to a full-time contract, which meant that he had to relocate to the United States. He immediately was assigned to WWE's developmental territory Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW), to undergo assessment and training in the "WWE Style" of wrestling. Initially he wrestled as Mr. Yamamoto, then simply as Yamamoto. He briefly teamed with Sheamus O'Shaunessy under the team name "The Movers and the Shakers". Later on he changed his ring name to Yoshitatsu, before tweaking the spelling to Yoshi Tatsu. Yoshitatsu is Yamamoto's father's given name.
Brand switches (2009–2011) Edit
On June 30, 2009, Yamamoto joined the ECW brand under the ring name Yoshi Tatsu. He had his first match that night, defeating Shelton Benjamin, although he lost a rematch to Benjamin on the July 9 episode of ECW. On the October 20 episode of ECW, Tatsu defeated Zack Ryder to become number one contender for the ECW Championship, although he failed to win the championship the following week against Christian. On the December 22 episode of ECW, Yoshi Tatsu defeated Jack Swagger to earn a spot in the ECW Homecoming battle royal, the winner of which would challenge Christian for the ECW title at the Royal Rumble. On the January 12 episode of ECW, however, Tatsu was not able to win the battle royal when he was eliminated by Kane. At the Royal Rumble, Tatsu competed in his first Royal Rumble match, but was eliminated by John Cena. Tatsu then formed a tag team with Goldust and the duo became the number one contenders for the Unified WWE Tag Team Championship but failed in capturing the titles on the final episode of ECW.
After the ECW brand was discontinued, Tatsu made his debut on the Raw brand on the February 22, 2010 episode of Raw, where he teamed up with Evan Bourne and Kofi Kingston to defeat The Legacy (Randy Orton, Ted DiBiase, and Cody Rhodes), after Orton turned on his partners. Tatsu won a 26-man battle royal in the dark match to open WrestleMania XXVI by last eliminating Zack Ryder. In July 2010, Tatsu had a few backstage brawls with The Nexus, trying to help John Cena get rid of them, which he did not.
After months off WWE television, Tatsu returned on the November 11 episode of Superstars, defeating Zack Ryder. On the November 29 episode of Raw, Tatsu teamed with Mark Henry to defeat WWE Tag Team Champions Justin Gabriel and Heath Slater, after a distraction by John Cena. The following week on Raw, Tatsu and Henry received a shot at the titles in a fatal four-way elimination tag team match, which also included The Usos and Santino Marella and Vladimir Kozlov. They were the first team eliminated. On the February 14 episode of Raw, Maryse and DiBiase were about to kiss, but Maryse instead kissed Tatsu. On the February 24 episode of Superstars, during the match between Daniel Bryan and Ted DiBiase, Tatsu came out and gave Maryse flowers, which Maryse hit DiBiase with, allowing Bryan to defeat DiBiase. Tatsu failed at a chance to earn a World Heavyweight Championship shot in a 20-man number one contenders battle royal.
On April 26, Tatsu was drafted to the SmackDown brand as part of the 2011 supplemental draft. He only had two matches on SmackDown in 2011; a number one contenders battle royal for the World Heavyweight Championship and an "All I Want for Christmas" battle royal, the winner of which would receive one wish.
Last feuds (2011–2014) Edit
Tatsu was a WWE Pro for the fifth season of NXT, also known as NXT Redemption, and his Rookie was Byron Saxton. On the April 26 episode of NXT, Tatsu was attacked by Saxton after Tatsu cost his match against Lucky Cannon. This caused tension between the two until the May 17 episode of NXT, when Tatsu defeated Saxton. On the May 31 episode of NXT, Saxton was the second rookie eliminated.
Tatsu then began a feud with fellow NXT Pro Tyson Kidd, whose rookie was also eliminated, when Kidd broke Tatsu's toy figurine of himself and stole one of its legs. They traded wins during their feud, and Tatsu reclaimed the leg by winning a Necklace on a Pole match on the July 26 episode of NXT. After the match, Kidd assaulted Tatsu's right leg, taking him off NXT for over a month. However, over the next few weeks, the Kanji word for "pride" appeared on the TitanTron to distract Kidd during his matches – a message from Tatsu. He returned on the September 6 episode of NXT, where he debuted black tights emblazoned with Kanji characters and the Japanese flag, his small lock of blond hair dyed red and half his face painted. He defeated Kidd on that episode to end the feud. Tatsu later explained that his new look and wrestling style were because he wanted to better portray Japanese culture, Japanese pride and the aggressive style of Japanese wrestling. He said his face paint was a tribute to The Great Muta. Tatsu stopped wearing his face paint to the ring by October 2011. From December 2011, Tatsu formed an alliance with Trent Barreta to feud with Curt Hawkins and Tyler Reks. Both teams played pranks on each other; Tatsu was locked in a closet and Reks' hands were superglued to an Xbox controller. The feud ended when Hawkins and Reks defeated Barreta and Tatsu on the January 18 episode of NXT.
On the February 9, 2012 episode of Superstars, Tatsu defeated Johnny Curtis. This would be his last televised victory in WWE, as he lost the rest of his televised matches in 2012 and 2013, even on NXT, which in August 2012 had become WWE's re-branded developmental territory. On the January 23, 2013 episode of NXT, Tatsu and Percy Watson entered the NXT Tag Team Championship Tournament to crown the inaugural champions, but were defeated by The Wyatt Family (Luke Harper and Erick Rowan) in the first round. Tatsu continued sporadically wrestling on NXT throughout the rest of 2013 and 2014, but lost all his matches. In his final WWE pay-per-view appearance, Tatsu unsuccessfully competed in the Andre the Giant Memorial battle royal at WrestleMania XXX in April 2014. On June 12, 2014, Yamamoto was released from his WWE contract, along with 10 other talents.
Independent circuit (2014) Edit
On July 29, 2014, Yamamoto made his first post-WWE match at BELIEVE 77. At BELIEVE 79, Yamamoto defeated Aaron Epic to win the SCW Florida Heavyweight Championship, his first professional wrestling title (which he vacated on March 28, 2015 due to his neck injury). On September 20, 2014, Yamamoto made his debut for Chikara, losing to Ashley Remington via disqualification, following outside interference from Juan Francisco de Coronado.
Return to NJPW (2014–2017) Edit
On October 13, 2014, at King of Pro-Wrestling, Yamamoto, billed as Yoshitatsu, returned to New Japan, attacking Jeff Jarrett when he interfered in the main event match and, in doing so, helped Hiroshi Tanahashi defeat A.J. Styles for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. Yamamoto did not return to working under his real name due to being known better under the name Yoshi Tatsu, but he also could not continue working under his WWE name because of trademark issues, which led to the name's tweaked spelling. He was given the new gimmick of a "Bullet Club hunter", which saw him state that he had grown sick of seeing WWE and NXT employees wearing Bullet Club shirts and was now looking to eliminate the villainous stable from professional wrestling, starting with A.J. Styles. Yoshitatsu wrestled his return match on November 8 at Power Struggle, where he was defeated by Styles, following outside interference from Jarrett. Styles won after performing with his signature finisher, the Styles Clash. While performing the move, Yoshitatsu moved his head down before the point of impact with the mat. Instead of having his face slammed into the mat he took his weight, Styles' weight, and all of the force onto his neck. After the match, Jarrett hit Yoshitatsu with a guitar. On November 14, Yoshitatsu and Hiroshi Tanahashi announced they were forming a new tag team named "The World". The World was scheduled to take part in the 2014 World Tag League, but after their opening match on November 22, Yoshitatsu was forced to pull out of the tournament with a neck injury. On November 25, Yamamoto announced he had two broken bones in his neck, suffered presumably in his match with Styles when he botched the Styles Clash. Yamamoto had a halo installed in his skull, which he wore for the next three months. In May 2015, Yamamoto started training for a comeback at the Team Vision Gym in Orlando, Florida.
On January 4, 2016, Yoshitatsu returned as part of the English announcing team at Wrestle Kingdom 10 in Tokyo Dome. On March 22, NJPW announced that Yoshitatsu would wrestle his NJPW return match on April 10 at Invasion Attack 2016, where he, Hiroshi Tanahashi and Michael Elgin defeated Bullet Club's Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks (Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson) to win the NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship. Afterwards, Yoshitatsu announced he was forming a new stable named "Hunter Club" to oppose Bullet Club. However, neither Elgin nor Tanahashi accepted Yoshitatsu's invitation to join the stable, which led to Captain New Japan stepping up as the first member of the new group. Yoshitatsu then debuted a new gimmick, where he began mimicking Triple H, which included him adopting the Pedigree as his finishing move. Yoshitatsu, Elgin and Tanahashi made their first successful title defense on April 23 against the Bullet Club trio of Bad Luck Fale, Kenny Omega and Yujiro Takahashi. On May 3 at Wrestling Dontaku 2016, they lost the title back to Omega and The Young Bucks. On September 12, Yoshitatsu, upset with Captain New Japan's poor performances, announced a twitter poll that would decide whether he would get to stay in Hunter Club. However, on September 25 at Destruction in Kobe, Captain New Japan turned on Yoshitatsu and jumped to Bullet Club. After starting a feud with Captain New Japan, now renamed "Bone Soldier", Yoshitatsu announced on November 5 that he had recruited Billy Gunn as his new Hunter Club partner for the 2016 World Tag League. Yoshitatsu and Gunn finished the tournament on December 8 with a record of three wins and four losses, failing to advance from their block, though Yoshitatsu managed to pin Bone Soldier in their final round-robin match. In April 2017, Yoshitatsu joined the Taguchi Japan stable. Yoshitatsu left Taguchi Japan in May 2017. This followed up, his profile being quietly removed from NJPW's roster page, signaling his departure from the promotion, which he later confirmed on Twitter.
Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (2017) Edit
In February 2017, NJPW sent Yoshitatsu to their Mexican partner promotion Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (CMLL) for a tour. He debuted for the promotion on February 17.
All Japan Pro Wrestling (2017–present) Edit
On September 12, 2017, Yoshitatsu made his debut for All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW), entering the annual Ōdō Tournament tournament and defeating Tajiri in his first round match. Six days later, he was eliminated from the tournament in the second round by Triple Crown Heavyweight Champion Kento Miyahara. Following his departure from NJPW, Yoshitatsu returned to his old gimmick and also he changed his style. He then challenged Joe Doering for a match for his Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship. Afterwards, Yoshitatsu debuted a new finishing move the Yoshitatsu Lock I and returned to use the Backdrop and before the title match, he defeated former Triple Crown Heavyweight Champion Jun Akiyama. On November 9, Yoshitatsu unsuccessfully challenged Joe Doering for the Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship. In December Yoshitatsu took part of the 2017 World's Strongest Tag Determination League alongside Kento Miyahara finishing the tournament with a record of five wins and four losses, failling to advance to the finals after losing to Suwama and Shuji Ishikawa in their head-to-head match. Afterwards the two formed a team named YoshiKen which led to defeat Suwama and Ishikawa to win the World Tag Team Champions on Febuary 3, 2018.
Other media Edit
As Tatsu, Yamamoto is featured as a playable superstar for the WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2011, WWE '12 and WWE '13 (as DLC) video games. He was previously featured in King of Colosseum II and Wrestle Kingdom 2 under his real name.
Personal life Edit
Yamamoto is a graduate from Kokushikan University with a degree in political science. Yamamoto is also married and has a child.
- Finishing moves
- As Naofumi Yamamoto
- Satsujin Backdrop (High-angle belly-to-back suplex)
- As Yoshitatsu/Yoshi Tatsu
- Backdrop Hold (High-angle belly-to-back suplex) – 2017–Present
- Diving spinning heel kick
- Land of Rising Knee (Hip toss dropped into a knee lift)
- Pedigree (Double underhook facebuster) – 2016–2017; parodied from Triple H
- Yoshitatsu Lock I (Triangle Choke) – 2017–Present
- Roundhouse kick
- As Naofumi Yamamoto
- Signature moves
- Belly-to-back suplex
- Cross armbreaker
- Discus elbow smash
- Diving crossbody
- Diving overhead chop
- Double knee strike
- Japanese arm drag
- Knife-edge chop
- Multiple kick variations
- Big boot
- Shining Wizard
- Shoot to the opponent's chest, sometimes preceded by a rolling snapmare
- Spinning wheel
- Northern Lights suplex
- Octopus stretch
- Twisting elbow drop
- "The Cardiac Kid"
- "World Famous"
- "Bullet Club Hunter"
- Entrance themes
Championships and accomplishments Edit
- All Japan Pro Wrestling
- I Believe in Wrestling
- SCW Florida Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- New Japan Pro Wrestling
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- PWI ranked him #78 of the top 500 singles wrestlers in the PWI 500 in 2010
- PWI ranked him #270 of the top 500 singles wrestlers in the PWI 500 in 2016
- PWI ranked him #225 of the top 500 singles wrestlers in the PWI 500 in 2017
- Pro Wrestling Riot
- PWR Championship (1 time)