Ultimo Dragon

At one point he was the most heavily decorated performer in professional wrestling but his career was sadly cut short.

Ultimo Dragon
Real Name: Yoshihiro Asai
Stats: 5′ 8″ 180 lbs
Born: 1966

Yoshihiro Asai began his pro wrestling career under the tutelage of Japanese stars Antonio Inoki and Yoshiaki Fujimara. Working with the New Japan promotion, Asai struggled to battle his way up towards mid-card status. After toiling for months against Japanese greats (including Saturo “Tiger Mask” Sayama) he left the New Japan promotion and wrestled in Mexico in the UWA promotion. After refining his skills and winning several titles he returned to Japan to help establish Universal Pro-Wrestling Federation, a lucha libre based promotion with ties to the World Wrestling Federation. From 1990 through 1991, Asai traveled back and forth from Japan and Mexico, enjoying moderate success. In 1991, however, he sought to change his look, his style and his fortune.

While wrestling in the UWA, Asai began wrestling as Ultimo Dragon. After capturing the UWA Middleweight title, he captured the IWGP Junior Heavyweight title. Winning this prestigious belt caused his stock to rise dramatically, creating a bidding war for his services, both in Japan and in North America. He decided to spend the next five years with the WAR promotion where he won the International Junior Heavyweight title. Soon he was called upon to challenge champions in other promotions. He entered the J-Crown tournament, defeating El Samurai for the WWF Junior Heavyweight belt, then defeated Shinjiro Otani for the UWA Junior Light Heavyweight and NWA Welterweight titles and then topped the Great Sasuke to win the J-Crown tournament. Finally he arrived in WCW and challenged Dean Malenko for the WCW World Cruiserweight championship. By defeating Malenko, the Dragon now held nine title belts at the same time. This was arguably the most incredible feat in modern wrestling history.

Asai would go on to further establish himself in WCW by using his martial arts skills and finishing hold, the “Dragon Sleeper” to defeat Lord Steven Regal and capture the WCW Television title. Unfortunately, as his ability and popularity grew, he suffered and injury to his arm. In what should have been a routine surgical procedure to remove bone chips from his elbow, Asai suffered severe nerve damage which caused him to partially lose strength in his arm, effectively ending his wrestling career. Though he never reached the prime of his career, Asai set a standard by which future wrestlers can try to measure themselves.

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