When I first heard "next week, we'll have the debut of Tiger Mask!" on New Japan television show, I didn't believe my ears. I laughed while I was watching television when Tiger Mask first entered to the ring of Kuramae Kokugikan (old Sumo Hall) on April 23rd, 1981. I always loved the Tiger Mask cartoon, but having the character as a legit wrestler was another story. Dynamite Kid was already a strong rival of Tatsumi Fujinami, who was the top junior heavyweight wrestler in Japan back then, and I didn't think this guy from cartoon character could beat Kid. However, this freak who came out of a cartoon show easily beat Dynamite Kid with a German suplex hold. Since then, he was not only a big draw for New Japan Pro-Wrestling but also a social phenomenon in Japan.
The legend of junior heavyweight division in Japan was started by Fujinami in late '70s when Fujinami won the WWWF Junior Heavyweight Title at Madison Square Garden. Tiger Mask followed Fujinami and made the division even more popular. Today, the division is one of the hottest thing in the wrestling world, and the stars such as Jushin Thunder Liger, Ultimo Dragon, and Great Sasuke were all inspired by the original Tiger Mask.
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