It might not be a stretch to say that no wrestler has ever endeared themselves to a nation as swiftly and as convincingly as Akira Tozawa. An export of Japan’s Dragon Gate promotion, Tozawa recently wrapped up a one year tour of the United States, and in the short 12 months that he spent in America, he gained fans from coast to coast as one of the fastest rising stars on the independent scene.
Tozawa’s success in his native land was moderate at best. The third graduate of the Dragon Gate dojo, Tozawa debuted in 2005 to very little fanfare, opening his career with ten consecutive losses. During his first few years as a professional, he accomplished little, progressing very modestly and finding it troublesome to even get booked on shows. He spent some time as part of tag team with Yuki Ono, collectively known as the Metabolic Brothers, but regardless of what capacity or style Tozawa wrestled in, he couldn’t seem to get his career off of the ground while wrestling in Japan. And then, in May 2010, Tozawa departed the Land of the Rising Sun for an extended tour in the American melting pot.
Stateside, Akira Tozawa has been a raging success. Blending intense in-ring ferocity with his own brand of quirky humor, he’s earned the support of fans in the country’s top independent promotions. I was lucky enough to catch him performing live at this year’s King of Trios, and I knew the moment he flashed that he flashed the crowd a colorful, mouth-guard-brimming smile that he was going to be a joy to watch.
Much of Tozawa’s American experience has been had in Dragon Gate USA, an extension of Japan’s Dragon Gate. In his debut match with the company, Akira teamed with Akuma in a losing effort to Mike Quackenbush & Jigsaw. His luck improved, though, especially after he left the promotion’s Kamikaze stable, forcibly given the boot by the team’s leader, Jon Moxley. Although being kicked out of the stable may have seemed unfortunately for Tozawa on the surface, his removal effectively turned him into a babyface, and it was as a good guy that he was truly able to shine. In January 2011, Tozawa experienced a weekend of unrivaled success, picking up victories over the likes of Sami Callihan, Austin Aries, and BxB Hulk. Before he wrapped up his US tour, he had his revenge on Moxley as well, defeating him to earn a shot at the Open the Freedom Gate Championship, which he was ultimately unable to capture.
Along with DG:USA, Tozawa spent a lot of time in Southern California as part of Pro Wrestling Guerrilla while he was in the states. As part of the PWG roster, Akira participated in the 2010 Battle of Las Angeles, defeating El Generico in the first round before being eliminated by Chris Hero in what was a match of the year candidate. In December 2010, Tozawa grappled with Kevin Steen at PWG’s Cyanide: A Lovely Tribute to Poison. After their show stealing performance, Tozawa & Steen formed an alliance, calling themselves the Nightmare Violence Connection. The duo entered the annual DDT4 tag team tournament as the clear fan favorites to win the whole thing. Despite impressive victories over The Briscoe Brothers and The Kings of Wrestling, The Nightmare Violence Connection fell just short of achieving their goal, losing in the finals of the tournament to The Young Bucks.
Other notable matches had by Akira Tozawa during his tour of the states include those with Eddie Kingston, Low Ki, and a bout with Chuck Taylor at the very first Evolve iPPV. On June 8, 2011, Tozawa returned to Japan. Upon his arrival, he rejoined the main roster of Dragon Gate, playing a heel as a member of CIMA‘s Blood Warriors. One would think that his wildly successful tour of the United States would go far to raise his stock overseas, but that remains to be seen. Should things not work out for Tozawa during his second run in Japan, he’d certainly be welcomed back with open arms by American fans, who universally embraced the whimsical wrestler during the 52 weeks he spent with them.