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Minoru Suzuki (June 17, 1968) is a Japanese professional wrestler and mixed martial artist. Suzuki was the co-founder of Pancrase, one of the first mixed martial arts organizations in the world. During the 1990s he was known as one of the best fighters in the Pancrase promotion and was the second King of Pancrase world champion. Suzuki returned to regular puroresu in 2003, where he has become a perennial top contender for all major Japanese heavyweight championships. He is currently performing mainly for New Japan Pro Wrestling, and he is a former two-time AJPW Triple Crown Heavyweight Champion.
Suzuki is well noted for his excellence in freestyle wrestling and catch wrestling. He was an Olympic alternate freestyle wrestler for Japan and former Japanese freestyle wrestling national champion. As good as his wrestling credentials are, Suzuki is even more respected for his excellence in the art of catch wrestling and submissions. Suzuki has been praised many times by elite fighters such as Josh Barnett, Bas Rutten and Ken Shamrock for his outstanding grappling and submission skills.
Suzuki trained at the New Japan Pro Wrestling dojo and made his pro wrestling debut in 1988, but soon after left with catch wrestling mentor Yoshiaki Fujiwara for the newborn UWF. He joined Fujiwara's Pro Wrestling Fujiwara Gumi but then left the organization to form Pancrase, one of the first mixed martial arts organizations in the world, in 1993 with Masakatsu Funaki.
Despite his significant size disadvantage against most competitors, Suzuki became one of the most successful fighters in Pancrase with his amazing submission skills and top wrestling ability. Suzuki began his MMA career going 7-0, including a huge upset win over Pancrase's #1 fighter Ken Shamrock in early 1994. He did not lose a match until he lost to Bas Rutten via Liver shot KO due to a knee to the body. In 1995, he won the King of Pancrase (now KOP Open-Weight) title to become the second ever King of Pancrase. Suzuki twice defeated Ken Shamrock and is the only man to hold two wins over Shamrock in the Pancrase era.
Over time, Suzuki's body became damaged and worn down from various injuries and resulted in his skills diminishing. He then decided to focus on the business and training side of Pancrase. He collaborated with the Tekken series of fighting video games as a motion actor. His last non-worked fight for Pancrase was against a professional wrestler, Jushin Liger, whom Suzuki had known as Keiichi Yamada in his first NJPW stint. At the time he competed in grappling matches almost exclusively. Suzuki witnessed the transition Pancrase made from the so-called "hybrid wrestling" style to that of regular MMA and was instrumental in paving the way for mixed martial arts in Japan.
Suzuki is also erroneously credited on his mixed martial arts record by various MMA websites with a loss to Maurice Smith on the event Pancrase- Yes, We are Hybrid Wrestlers 3. Suzuki did lose the bout with Smith, but the bout was a kickboxing match with kickboxing rules and kickboxing gloves and was not a mixed martial arts match.
Return to professional wrestling
In 2003, Suzuki and Yusuke Fuke announced their plan to return to puroresu and invade promotions under the stable name Pancrase MISSION. Suzuki began competing for New Japan Pro Wrestling as a freelancer, where he aligned himself with Yoshihiro Takayama and won the IWGP Tag Team Titles from Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Osamu Nishimura on February 1, 2004. They were stripped of the titles later in the year, following Takayama's mounting injuries. In 2005, Suzuki began competing in Pro Wrestling Noah, and would receive a GHC Heavyweight Championship shot against then Champion Kenta Kobashi, but he was defeated. After this, he found an unlikely ally in Naomichi Marufuji, whose style was Lucha Libre (rather than shoot-style). Nonetheless, Suzuki taught Marufuji some of what he knew and they clicked, winning the GHC Tag Team Titles from 2 Cold Scorpio and Doug Williams on June 18, 2005. After losing the belts to Muhammad Yone and Takeshi Morishima in October, Suzuki challenged for the GHC Heavyweight Championship shot against champion Jun Akiyama on March 5, 2006, but he was once again unsuccessful.
All Japan Pro Wrestling
On March 10, 2006, Suzuki made a surprise appearance in All Japan Pro Wrestling, attacking then Triple Crown Heavyweight Champion Satoshi Kojima after he had just defended his title against The Great Muta. Pundits at once considered Suzuki to have issued a challenge for the Triple Crown. Suzuki participated in the 2006 Champion's Carnival, and made it to the semifinals before being defeated by Taiyō Kea. On September 3, Suzuki challenged Kea, who had won the Triple Crown from Kojima in July. He was successful in his bid to become the new Triple Crown Champion, and will end up having successful defenses against RO'Z, Yuji Nagata, Kojima, Tajiri and Keiji Mutoh. Suzuki has formed a grouping called "Minoru Gundan" consisting of himself, Nosawa Rongai, and MAZADA. In May 2007 he went on a tour of Mexico's CMLL with Takayama and experienced Lucha Libre battles. He lost the Triple Crown Championship to Kensuke Sasaki on August 26, 2007 at AJPW's PRO WRESTLING LOVE in RYOGOKU pay-per-view event.
At the All Japan FAN APPRECIATION DAY event on December 16, 2007, the Mexico Amigos teamed with "Ray Suzuki" and defeated Ryuji Hijikata, Kikutaro, T28 & Ryuji Yamaguchi. After the match, Ray Suzuki reveled himself as Minoru Suzuki and vowed that El NOSAWA Mendoza would throw his Amigos tights away and return as NOSAWA Rongai, and then kidnapped him to start early training.
On March 1, 2008, Minoru Suzuki made an appearance at the Dory Funk, Jr. retirement show, providing commentary for the Triple Crown Championship main event (between Kensuke Sasaki and Satoshi Kojima), as well as pledging to participate in the upcoming Champion's Carnival. From April 5 to 9, Suzuki competed in Block B of All Japan's annual Champion's Carnival, finishing the league with 2 wins (over Kensuke Sasaki and Suwama) and 2 losses (to Osamu Nishimura and Joe Doering), as well as teaming with TAKEMURA to defeat Toshiaki Kawada and Nobutaka Araya on Day 2 (April 6) of the Carnival. During the Hold Out tour, Suzuki confronted a losing-streak Taiyō Kea about joining the stable GURENTAI (alongside NOSAWA, MAZADA and TAKEMURA), which resulted in Kea joining and focusing on winning the tag titles with Suzuki. On June 28, 2008, Suzuki and Kea won the AJPW Unified World Tag Team Championship from Joe Doering and Keiji Mutoh. On September 28, 2008 he attacked The Great Muta after Muta had successfully defeated Suwama for the Triple Crown Championship, setting up a match between the two in which he lost on November 3, 2008.
On January 3, 2009, Suzuki and stable mate NOSAWA Rongai won the restored AJPW All Asia Tag Team Championship, over the course of a 2-day tournament. Later in the year, Suzuki won the 2009 Champion's Carnival beating Kaz Hayashi in the Finals. He would end up challenging the then Triple Crown Champion, Yoshihiro Takayama, on May 30, 2009, albeit in a losing effort. On September 23, 2009, Suzuki and NOSAWA lost the All Asia Tag Team Championship at the hands of Akebono and Ryota Hama. On January 3, 2010, Suzuki and Kea lost the Unified World Tag Team Championship at the hands of Masakatsu Funaki and Keiji Mutoh.
On March 21, 2010, Suzuki lost to long-time rival Masakatsu Funaki in All Japan's First Cage Match. Suzuki then entered the Champion Carnival and won it for the second straight year, being the third man to do so by beating Funaki in the Final - weeks removed from their Cage Match. After the final, Suzuki buried the hatchet with Funaki by shaking his hand, thus ending the decade-long rivalry. Suzuki then declared his GURENTAI stable on hiatus. As a result of his Champion Carnival victory, Suzuki earned a Triple Crown championship match versus Ryota Hama on May 2. In the match, Suzuki defeated Hama to claim his second Triple Crown championship. He would go on to lose the title to Suwama on August 29, 2010.
- Finishing moves
- Signature moves
Championships and accomplishments
- All Japan Pro Wrestling
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- PWI ranked him #14 of the top 500 singles wrestlers in the PWI 500 in 2007
- Tokyo Sports Grand Prix
Mixed martial arts
- King of Pancrase Openweight Championship (1 time)