Yuji Nagata : biography
is a Japanese professional wrestler. He was known for his perennial tweener status, currently a solid fan favorite, and his stiff, shoot style wrestling technique.
A two time IWGP Heavyweight Champion and Zero1 World Heavyweight Champion, Nagata is the fourth longest-reigning IWGP Heavyweight Champion with a reign of 392 days. He held the record for most successful title defenses with 10, until Hiroshi Tanahashi broke the record at Wrestle Kingdom VI.
Mixed martial arts career
Nagata has also participated in two mixed martial arts bouts, losing in 21 seconds to Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipović at Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye 2001 (which was Filipović's third mixed martial arts fight), and in 1 minute, 2 seconds to Fedor Emelianenko at ''Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye 2003.
Professional wrestling career
New Japan Pro Wrestling (1992–1997)
Nagata joined New Japan Pro Wrestling in April 1992 and trained in the New Japan Dojo. He debuted on September 14 of that year, facing Hiroyoshi Yamamoto. Nagata increased in stature during the 1995 inter-promotional angle pitting NJPW loyalists against UWF International wrestlers. Taught the shoot-style by Kazuo Yamazaki, who had returned to NJPW after leaving UWFI, Nagata learned the style that has been his trademark ever since.
World Championship Wrestling (1997–1998)
Nagata joined the American World Championship Wrestling promotion in February 1997 as an arrogant villain. He was managed by Sonny Onoo, who also acted as his translator. He began feuding with Último Dragón, with Nagata repeatedly injuring Dragon's shoulder. The two rivals faced one another at Halloween Havoc on October 26, with Nagata forcing his smaller opponent to submit with an arm submission hold. They faced one another in a rematch at WCW World War 3 on November 23, with the added stipulation that, should Dragon win, he would receive five minutes alone in the ring with the interfering Onoo. Nagata was able to pin Dragon following a distraction by Onoo, thus ending their feud.
In 1998, Nagata teamed with Kensuke Sasaki and entered a tournament for the number one contendership for the WCW World Tag Team Championship. Nagata and Sasaki won the tournament, but were unable to win the titles in their subsequent title match. Nagata left WCW in August 1998 and returned to New Japan.
New Japan Pro Wrestling (1998–present)
Upon his return, Nagata began challenging for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. On September 23, 1998, Nagata fought Scott Norton for the vacant title (the previous champion, Masahiro Chono, had suffered a neck injury) in Yokohama, but was defeated.
On August 28, 1999 in Tokyo, Nagata and Manabu Nakanishi defeated Shiro Koshinaka and Kensuke Sasaki for the IWGP Tag Team Championship. They held the title until July 20, 2000, when they lost to Satoshi Kojima and Hiroyoshi Tenzan in Sapporo, Hokkaido. Nagata and Nakanishi feuded with Kojima and Tenzan for several months, but were unable to regain the title. On January 4, 2000, his mentor Kazuo Yamazaki retired and Nagata served as his final opponent, winning the match.
In March 2000, Nagata formed an ill-fated stable known as Fighting Club G-EGGS, with all the stable member having legitimate sporting backgrounds. The stable included Manabu Nakanishi, Nagata's tag team partner and co-IWGP Tag Team Champion at the time, Masakazu Fukuda, Yutaka Yoshie and Brian Johnston. Fukuda died in April 2000 from a brain hemorrhage suffered during a match with rookie Katsuyori Shibata, and was honored with a ten-bell salute and a tribute show in September of that year. Johnston's participation in the group was largely limited after he suffered a stroke, and Nagata eventually disbanded G-EGGS on June 16, 2001.
In August 2001, Nagata won the eleventh annual G1 Climax tournament, defeating Keiji Mutoh in the finals by submission. Nagata had entered the tournament twice before, but was eliminated in semi-final matches on both instances. Nagata challenged for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship once again after it was vacated by the injured Kazuyuki Fujita on January 4, 2002, but lost to Tadao Yasuda on February 16, 2002, in a tournament final. Nagata defeated Yasuda for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship on April 5, 2002 in the Nippon Budokan. Immediately following his victory, Nagata was attacked by Pro Wrestling Noah mainstay Yoshihiro Takayama. He held the title for thirteen months (setting a record for most successful title defenses in the process) before losing to Takayama on May 2, 2003 in the Tokyo Dome.
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