YOSHI-HASHI’s journey from lovable underdog to a champion in NJPW

NJPW, YOSHI-HASHI (Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images)
NJPW, YOSHI-HASHI (Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images) /

YOSHI-HASHI is a member of the New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) roster who has never really reached the top of the company. Despite his hard work and determination, he always seemed to fail to reach his potential.

However, this all changed during the most recent NJPW Summer Struggle Tour. YOSHI-HASHI finally won his first-ever title in the form of the NEVER 6-Man Openweight titles along with fellow CHAOS members Tomohiro Ishii and Hirooki Goto. However, it’s been a tough ride to get to this point.

Here’s a look at YOSHI-HASHI’s journey from loveable Underdog to Champion.

After unsuccessfully applying for a spot at New Japan Dojo in 2005, Nobuo Yoshihashi eventually got accepted on his third attempt and started the long and gruelling process to become a New Japan wrestler.

Yoshihashi made his professional wrestling debut on July 6th, 2008, where he picked up a loss against the rising star Tetsuya Naito. Although he did not compete in the following 2008 G1 Climax, which isn’t uncommon for rookies, he still took part in many tag matches throughout the tour. Unsurprisingly, he did not pick up any wins during 2018 but picked up a lot of experience wrestling.

It wasn’t until 2009 when Yoshihashi picked up his first win teaming with main roster veterans Hiroshi Tanahashi and Yuji Nagata over the team of his rival Young Lion Kazuchika Okada, Hirooki Goto and Shinsuke Nakamura. He also had the opportunity to participate in both the Super Jr Tag League with Jushin Thunder Liger and then the Best of Super Juniors XII in 2010. It was during that tournament that Yoshihashi managed to get his first singles win over junior legend Akira. However, this seemed to be an anomaly as the rest of 2009 was full of losses.

YOSHI-HASHI undergoes a change

After these losses, Yoshihashi was sent off on an excursion in 2010 to Mexico to wrestle for Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (CMLL). For many Young Lions in New Japan, this is a pivotal moment and sets the stage for their future career in the company. The highlight of his time in Mexico was the feud with CMLL’s Rush which culminated up in a hair v hair match in August. Even though Rush was the victor, it was all necessary experience that all New Japan Young Lions have to go through.

In the coming months, New Japan announced that Yoshihashi now dubbed YOSHI-HASHI would be returning to Japan for Wrestle Kingdom VI2011. Whilst in CMLL, HASHI had become accustomed to portraying a rudo (a villain) and decided that the best place for him in New Japan would be the heel faction CHAOS led by Shinsuke Nakamura. His first match at Wrestle Kingdom would be against his rookie nemesis and future CHAOS leader Kazuchika Okada.

Unfortunately, the match ended in less than five minutes with Okada pinning HASHI in record time.

For many, this seemed to set the precedent for much of YOSHI HASHI’s career with a series of undercard matches and no real stand out moments, unlike his counterparts.

Yet, after years of what many fans called a floundering career with only the occasional big win in tag matches or against wrestlers like SANADA, YOSHI-HASHI finally got his big break during the 2016 G1 Climax. In his first match of the tournament, HASHI was against the Cleaner Kenny Omega. Many saw the result of this match being inevitable with Omega being on a hot streak as leader of the Bullet Club. However, fans were shocked when YOSHI-HASHI debuted his new finisher Karma and pinned Kenny Omega.

YOSHI-HASHI shows his incredible heart

Unfortunately, despite this win, YOSHI HASHI’s momentum seemed to stagnate. After failing to challenge Omega for the Tokyo Dome contract, he also failed to capitalise on opportunities for the NEVER Openweight 6-Man titles, NEVER Openweight title, Ring of Honor title, and IWGP US Championship.

This didn’t stop YOSHI-HASHI from putting his heart and soul into every single match trying to catch a break. During various NJPW World Tag League tournaments, he always performed consistently well no matter who his CHAOS partner was and continued to pull his weight in multi-man tag matches.

He also showed how good he was as a friend and faction mate after he leaped to the defence of Okada when Jay White betrayed CHAOS and joined Bullet Club. Many fans have joked at the moment when he injured himself before even entering the ring, but it just proved how loyal he was. It was an injury that put him out of action for almost 5 months.

YOSHI-HASHI returned from injury at New Year Dash 2019 and ensured that he took every opportunity including the New Japan Cup where he made it through to the semi-finals after pinning Bushi and veteran Hiroyoshi Tenzan. Even after missing out on a place in the G1 Climax 29, YOSHI HASHI ensured that he entertained fans and made a statement in every match he was.

However, after a few shining moments in the 2019 and 2020 New Japan Cup, it seemed as if 2020 was going to follow a similar pattern to the rest of YOSHI-HASHI’s career. That was until New Japan announced a tournament for the vacant NEVER 6-Man Openweight titles. YOSHI HASHI entered with fellow CHAOS members Ishii and Goto, two men who he’d had success with during tag matches and various World Tag Leagues.

The team breezed through their first and second-round opponents and ended up in the final against fellow CHAOS members SHO, Toru Yano, and best friend Kazuchika Okada. After an amazing match, Ishii pinned SHO to not only bring the NEVER titles to CHAOS but get YOSHI HASHI his first title win. Many newer fans may not have understood why the members of CHAOS and even Milano Collection A.T. on commentary got so emotional. With a New Japan career spanning 12 years, it was been a tough journey and this moment felt like it would never come.

It was a fairy tale ending and could be the turning point in YOSHI-HASHI’s NJPW career.

Despite many fans indifference or lack of investment in YOSHI-HASHI, I have always had a soft spot for him. Although he may not be the most athletic or the most charismatic, there is something relatable about him. For me, he is just like us. Things haven’t come easily to him, and he’s had to work so hard to get to where he is and finally, he received a well-deserved break and reward. Hopefully, this moment has caught the attention of fans and wrestlers and people start to give him the respect he deserves.

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After a long and hard journey to get to his first title, this might just be the break YOSHI HASHI needed. As he said in his post-match promo, NEVER gold always leads to IWGP gold. So, Is YOSHI HASHI a future IWGP Heavyweight Champion?