Naofumi Yamamoto (August 1, 1977) is a Japanese professional wrestler and boxer. He previously worked for WWE, where he wrestled under the ring name Yoshi Tatsu on its SmackDown brand. He was trained in the New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) Dojo and worked for NJPW from 2002 until 2008 when he signed with WWE. After his release in 2014, Yamamoto re-signed with New Japan Pro Wrestling and is now in his second run in the promotion.
Professional wrestling career
New Japan Pro Wrestling (2002–2008)
Yamamoto trained for his professional wrestling career in the New Japan Pro Wrestling Dojo before making his professional wrestling debut on October 12, 2002.
Yamamoto lost to Wataru Inoue in his debut match in the first match of a show in the 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 match where the winner would get a match on NJPW's most prestigious show, their January 4 Dome Show Wrestling World. Yamamoto participated in the 2004 Young Lion Cup where he defeated Hirooki Goto, Aikya 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 Climax Tag League, defeating Giant Bernard and Travis Tomko to earn their sole victory in the tournament. On January 8, 2006, Yamamoto and Osamu Nishimura defated 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 Climax 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 (2008–2014)
Developmental territory (2007–2009)
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, the name he currently works under. Moved to Smackdown in WWE 2011 Supplemental Draft
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 edition of ECW Yoshi Tatsu defeated Jack Swagger to earn a spot in the ECW Homecoming battle royal where the winner would challenge Christian for the ECW title at the Royal Rumble. On the January 12 edition 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 on Syfy.
After the ECW brand was discontinued, Tatsu made his debut on the Raw brand on the February 22, 2010 edition 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. Since then, Tatsu has mainly appeared on WWE Superstars. In July 2010, Tatsu would be involved in a few backstage brawls with The Nexus to try and help John Cena get rid of them, which he failed to do. Yoshi then went to Japan to promote the new WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2011 video game. After months of not appearing on WWE television, Tatsu returned on the November 11 episode of WWE 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. A week later, Tatsu and Henry received a shot at the titles in a Fatal-4-Way Elimination Tag Team match, which also included The Usos and Santino Marella and Vladimir Kozlov. Tatsu and Henry were the first team eliminated in the match. He has since made a team with former Nexus member Darren Young losing twice on Superstars to The Usos. Recently Tatsu has been teaming with David Hart Smith on Superstars beating the team of Primo and Zack Ryder. Yoshi Tatsu is a pro for season 5 of NXT Redemption training Byron Saxton. On the April 26th episode of WWE NXT, Tatsu was attacked by his own NXT rookie, Byron Saxton after Tatsu interfered and cost Saxton his match against Lucky Cannon.
SmackDown and NXT (2011–2014)
On April 26, Tatsu was drafted to the SmackDown brand as part of the 2011 Supplemental Draft. His only appearances on SmackDown for 2011 were in the form of number one contenders battle royals for the World Heavyweight Championship and participation in the All I Want for Christmas battle royal where the winner would receive one wish.
Tatsu was a WWE Pro for the fifth season of WWE NXT, also known as NXT Redemption, with his rookie being Byron Saxton. On the April 26 episode of WWE NXT, Tatsu was attacked by Saxton after Tatsu cost his match against Lucky Cannon. This would cause tension between the two until the May 17 episode of WWE NXT, where Tatsu would defeat Saxton. On the May 31 episode of WWE NXT, Saxton was the second rookie eliminated.
After Saxton's elimination, Tatsu began a feud with fellow NXT pro Tyson Kidd, whose rookie was also eliminated. Their feud stemmed from Kidd breaking Tatsu's toy figurine of himself and stealing one of the toy figurine's legs. Both wrestlers would trade wins during their series of matches, and Tatsu claimed back the stolen figurine leg by winning a Necklace on a Pole match on the July 26 episode of NXT. After the match, Kidd brutally assaulted the right leg of Tatsu, causing Tatsu to be absent from NXT for more than a month. However, in the next few weeks, a mysterious Japanese symbol would appear on the TitanTron to distract Kidd during his matches. The symbol turned out to be the Kanji lettering for “pride” – a message from Tatsu. Tatsu returned on the September 6th episode of NXT, where he debuted black tights emblazoned with Kanji characters and the Japanese flag, had his small lock of blond hair dyed red and had half his face painted. Tatsu would go on to defeat Kidd on that episode to end the feud. Tatsu later explained that his new look and wrestling style was due to him wanting to better portray Japanese culture, Japanese pride and the aggressive style of Japanese wrestling; he also explained that his face paint was a tribute to the Great Muta. Tatsu stopped wearing his face paint to the ring by October 2011.
Tatsu formed an alliance with Trent Barreta; from December 2011, they feuded with Curt Hawkins and Tyler Reks. Both teams would play pranks on each other, with Tatsu being locked in a closet and Reks' hands being superglued onto an Xbox controller. On January 18 Hawkins and Reks beat Barreta and Tatsu, culminating the feud.
Tatsu would then go on a losing streak against the likes of Jinder Mahal, Hunico, Damien Sandow, and Wade Barrett. On the January 23, 2013 episode of NXT, Tatsu and Percy Watson entered a tournament to crown the first NXT Tag Team Champions, but were defeated by the Wyatt Family (Luke Harper and Erick Rowan) in the first round. Tatsu then made sporadic sppearences on NXT throughout the rest of 2013. He returned to action in March 2014 on NXT, where he was defeated by Corey Graves.
He was released from the WWE on June 12, 2014.
Independent circuit (2014)
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–present)
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, Yoshi Tatsu 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. 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. On September 25 at Destruction In Kobe, Yoshitatsu revealed the result of the poll and agreed to remove Captain New Japan from Hunter Club. This led to Captain attacking Yoshitatsu and aligning himself with 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.
Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (2017)
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.
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.Yoshi Tatsu took part in Santino Foreign Exchange with Santino Marella in WWE Universe.
Yamamoto is a graduate from Kokushikan University with a degree in political studies.
- Yoshi Tatsu means "Best Dragon".
- Finishing moves
- Signature moves
- Belly-to-back suplex
- Cross armbreaker
- Discus elbow smash
- Diving crossbody
- Diving overhead chop
- Double knee strike to the chest of a cornered opponent
- Japanese arm drag
- Knife-edge chop
- Multiple kick variations
- Northern Lights suplex
- Octopus stretch
- Twisting elbow drop
- "The Cardiac Kid"
- "World Famous"
- "Bullet Club Hunter"
- Entrance themes
- "Naofumi Yamamoto Theme Song" by New Japan Pro Wrestling(NJPW)
- "J-Pop Drop" by Tom Haines and Christopher Branch (WWE; June 30, 2009 – June 12, 2014)
- "World Famous" by Yonosuke Kitamura (NJPW)
Championships and accomplishments
- New Japan Pro Wrestling
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated