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WRESTLING COLUMNS

Ultimo Dragon: A True Legend
January 27, 2007 by Danny Carson


Editor's Note: The author of this column can be contacted via the OWW Forums, where this submission was first posted. Feedback can be posted automatically by clicking here - but remember you must sign up for the forums to post feedback on a column. Thanks you!


When people talk about wrestling legends some names are always brought up. Of course you always get names of the great "entertainers" like Hulk Hogan and Andre The Giant. Or greats from the golden era such as Lou Thesz and Buddy Rogers. Even the great in ring technicians such as Bret Hart and Kurt Angle are always mentioned. However when I'm talking about legends of professional wrestling, there is one name I'll always bring up that I never hear anyone else say. That name is Ultimo Dragon.

Dragon, born Yoshihiro Asai in Nagoya Japan, started his training in Mexico. He was trained by the man who is credited for adapting Lucha Libre into Japan, Gran Hamada. His pro wrestling career began when he wrestled for New Japan Pro Wrestling in 1987 under his real name. After a short stint there he left NJPW and moved to Mexico to compete in UWA. After gaining experience, improving his skills, and finally winning some titles, he went back to Japan to compete in Universal Pro Wrestling Federation. For the next couple of years he would continue to travel between Japan and Mexico. While working in UWA he would develop the character he's most famous for, Ultimo Dragon.

In 1992, Ultimo Dragon would win his biggest title at the time, the IWPG Junior Heavyweight Championship; a title that was previous held by greats such as Jushin "Thunder" Liger, Hiroshi Hase, Owen Hart, Chris Benoit (as Pegasus Kid), and the man he beat to win the title, El Samurai, to name a few. Winning this title made him a well known name in the wrestling scene around the world. He was receiving offers from a lot of companies. However, he would stay in Japan over the next 5 years and work for the now defunct, but very famous, WAR promotion. He would eventually beat Chris Jericho (known as Lionheart) for the International Junior Heavyweight championship, a belt would go on to win 3 times in his career.

Dragon would go onto other promotions and keep winning titles. He defeated El Samurai for the WWF Light Heavyweight title (the reigns with WWE don't count) and Shinjiro Otani for the NWA Welterweight championship and the UWA Light Heavyweight Championship. He would cap of this amazing string of victories by defeating Great Sasuke to win the Super J Tournament. The name "Ultimo Dragon" was becoming very well known across the world

In 1996, Dragon traveled over to America to compete in the highly touted cruiserweight division. He would go onto to defeat another great wrestler in Dean Malenko to win the WCW Cruiserweight title. What made this feat even more amazing was the fact he also was holding 8 other titles when he won WCW Cruiserweight title. That's right, he was holding 9 different titles at one time. A feat that if it has been done before, it hasn't happened much. I would say he probably is the only man ever to do that. He would be very successful in WCW. He would defeat Eddie Guerrero to capture his second CW championship and he would defeat Prince Iaukea and "Lord" Steven Regal (William Regal) for his two reigns as WCW Television Champion.

Fan's quickly adapted to this man. And why wouldn't they? He can wrestle any style you want. In the cruiserweight division he would have outstanding technical match-up's with Dean Malenko. Then the next night he would have a fast paced, high flying match with Rey Mysterio. He could satisfy almost every style you would like to see (the exception being the Hogan style which none of you want to see anyways). However wrestling in WCW, Dragon would suffer a very unfortunate feat. He would injure his arm in a match and it would require surgery. The surgery ended up being terrible. The doctor severely botched it and caused severe nerve damage in Dragon's arm. Shortly after Dragon announced his retirement from pro wrestling

Dragon would continue training wrestlers until 2002 when he decided to undergo surgery once again. This time it was a success and Ultmo Dragon began talks with WWE. He wanted to do two things; 1) Wrestle at MSG, and 2)wrestle at Wrestlemania. Dragon would wrestle a few matches before heading over to WWE. He would then wrestle a few more dark matches before making his Smackdown! television debut at MSG (one goal down). He defeated Shannon Moore. I do believe his debut should have been hyped more, but it wasn't a big deal. It was awesome just seeing him again. But it quickly became clear Ultimo Dragon fans weren't going to be happy. He recieved a couple chances at the Cruiserweight title but came up short and he was quickly a Velocity regular. He would get to make his Wrestlemania appearance in the over-hyped Cruiserweight Open. He would start the match off, quickly eliminate Shannon Moore but then be quickly eliminated by Jamie Noble. Despite his short time in the ring he looked the best. After that he wrestled two Velocity matches and wasn't seen again.

I'm sure I'm not the only Ultimo Dragon fan upset with his WWE run. He clearly was the best Cruiserweight at the time. He was extremely popular in WCW, so if given the chance I'm sure he would have gotten the same type of reception Rey Mysterio was getting. I personally feel Dragon is far superior than Rey in the ring. So although I do like Rey winning the World Title (show's Vince actually will put skill over size/charisma on the rare occasion), it's not really the fair that Dragon was a Velocity regular and Rey got that. It also isn't fair that even though he was the best Crusierweight he never got his shot with the belt when eventually Spike Dudley and Funaki would. In this business there are a lot of things that aren't fair, but the lack of push Dragon got is near the top of that list. He is far more amazing than his WWE tenure shows. That's why I'm really hoping he makes a run in TNA so he can leave a good impression on a lot North American fans that may not be familiar with his non WWE stuff. He deserves it. Although a lot of people might not agree with me, but I strongly believe Ultimo Dragon is fully deserving of the term "Wrestling Legend".

by Danny Carson (Submit your feedback here)..




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