The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary Japanese Wrestlers of all time. This list of famous Japanese Wrestlers is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of Japanese Wrestlers.
With an HPI of 69.70, Masahiko Kimura is the most famous Japanese Wrestler. His biography has been translated into 34 different languages on wikipedia.
Masahiko Kimura (木村 政彦, Kimura Masahiko, September 10, 1917 – April 18, 1993) was a Japanese judoka and professional wrestler who is widely considered one of the greatest judoka of all time. He won the All-Japan Judo Championships three times in a row for the first time in history and had never lost a judo match from 1936 to 1950. A author said," In the history of judo, no one is the strongest before Kimura and no one is the strongest after Kimura." He has often been described as the strongest judoist in history. He is in submission grappling, the reverse ude-garami arm lock is often called the "Kimura", due to his famous victory over Brazilian jiu-jitsu founder Hélio Gracie. In the Japanese professional wrestling world, he is known for the controversial match he had with Rikidōzan.
With an HPI of 69.08, Antonio Inoki is the 2nd most famous Japanese Wrestler. His biography has been translated into 23 different languages.
Muhammad Hussain Inoki; born Kanji Inoki (Japanese: 猪木寛至, Hepburn: Inoki Kanji) on February 20, 1943) is a Japanese retired professional wrestler, martial artist, politician, and promoter of professional wrestling and mixed martial arts. He is best known by the ring name Antonio Inoki (アントニオ猪木, Antonio Inoki), a homage to fellow professional wrestler Antonino Rocca. Inoki is a twelve-time professional wrestling world champion IWGP Heavyweight Champion and the first Asian WWF Heavyweight Champion – a reign not officially recognized by WWE. Inoki began his professional wrestling career in the 1960s for the Japanese Wrestling Association (JWA) under the tutelage of Rikidōzan. Inoki quickly became one of the most popular stars in the history of Japanese professional wrestling. He parlayed his wrestling career into becoming one of Japan's most recognizable athletes, a reputation bolstered by his 1976 fight against world champion boxer Muhammad Ali – a fight that served as a predecessor to modern day mixed martial arts. In 1995, with Ric Flair, Inoki headlined two shows in North Korea that drew 150,000 and 190,000 spectators, the highest attendances in professional wrestling history. Inoki wrestled his final match on April 4, 1998 against Don Frye and was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2010.Inoki began his promoting career in 1972, when he founded New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW). He remained the owner of NJPW until 2005 when he sold his controlling share in the promotion to the Yuke's video game company. In 2007, he founded the Inoki Genome Federation (IGF). In 2017, Inoki founded ISM and the following year left IGF. He is also the co-founder of the karate style Kansui-ryū (寛水流) along with Matsubayashi-ryū master Yukio Mizutani.In 1989, while still an active wrestler, Inoki entered politics as he was elected to the Japanese House of Councillors. During his first term with the House of Councillors, Inoki successfully negotiated with Saddam Hussein for the release of Japanese hostages before the outbreak of the Gulf War. His first tenure in the House of Councillors ended in 1995, but he was reelected in 2013. In 2019, Inoki retired from politics.
With an HPI of 66.72, Isao Inokuma is the 3rd most famous Japanese Wrestler. His biography has been translated into 17 different languages.
Isao Inokuma (猪熊 功, Inokuma Isao, February 4, 1938 – September 28, 2001) was a judoka. He won a gold medal in the heavyweight division (above 80 kg) at the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo and a world title in 1965.
With an HPI of 65.01, Giant Baba is the 4th most famous Japanese Wrestler. His biography has been translated into 15 different languages.
Shohei Baba (馬場 正平, Baba Shōhei, January 23, 1938 – January 31, 1999), best known by his ring name Giant Baba (ジャイアント馬場, Jaianto Baba), was a Japanese professional wrestler and promoter. Baba is best known as a co-founder of All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW), a promotion he founded in 1972 along with Mitsuo Momota and Yoshihiro Momota, the sons of Rikidōzan. Along with being the top star of All Japan its first ten years of existence, Baba served as the booker, promoter, head trainer and president of the promotion from its inception in 1972 to his death in 1999. Baba was also responsible for recruiting much of the talent for All Japan, and was the public face of the promotion for much of his lifetime. Considered one of the most beloved Japanese wrestlers ever, Baba was a national hero with a popularity in Japan comparable to Hulk Hogan in the United States. The 2006 Top 100 Historical Persons in Japan survey ranked Baba the 92nd greatest person in the history of Japan, as voted for by the general public. Among his many accomplishments, Baba was a record seven-time winner of the Champion Carnival, a four-time PWF World Heavyweight Champion, three time NWA International Heavyweight Champion and a three-time NWA World Heavyweight Champion. He is overall a three-time world champion by winning the NWA World Heavyweight Championship on three occasions which is considered a legitimate world champion as counterpart to the WWE Championship.
With an HPI of 61.90, Yasuhiro Yamashita is the 5th most famous Japanese Wrestler. His biography has been translated into 33 different languages.
Yasuhiro Yamashita (山下 泰裕, Yamashita Yasuhiro, born June 1, 1957) is a Japanese judoka. He currently works as an instructor or advisor for numerous organizations, including Tokai University, the International Judo Federation, and the All Japan Judo Federation. He retired from competitive judo on June 17, 1985 after a remarkable career where he won five gold medals in international competitions and marked 203 consecutive victories (with 7 draws in-between) until his retirement. He received the Japanese National Prize of Honor on October 9, 1984.
With an HPI of 60.75, Chiyonofuji Mitsugu is the 6th most famous Japanese Wrestler. His biography has been translated into 26 different languages.
Chiyonofuji Mitsugu (Japanese: 千代の富士 貢, June 1, 1955 – July 31, 2016), born Mitsugu Akimoto (秋元 貢, Akimoto Mitsugu), was a Japanese professional sumo wrestler and the 58th yokozuna of the sport. Following his retirement as a wrestler, he was the stable master of Kokonoe stable until the time of his death. Chiyonofuji was considered one of the greatest yokozuna of recent times, winning 31 yūshō or tournament championships, second at the time only to Taihō. He was particularly remarkable for his longevity in sumo's top rank, which he held for a period of ten years from 1981 to 1991. Promoted at the age of twenty-six after winning his second championship, his performance improved with age, winning more tournaments in his thirties than any other wrestler and dominating the sport in the second half of the 1980s. He finally retired in May 1991, just short of his thirty-sixth birthday. This is in contrast to more recent yokozuna who have tended to retire around 30. During his 21-year professional career, Chiyonofuji set records for most career victories (1045) and most wins in the top makuuchi division (807), earning an entry in the Guinness World Records. Both of these records were later broken by Kaiō.He won the Kyushu tournament, one of the six annual honbasho, a record eight consecutive years from 1981 until 1988, and also set the record for the longest postwar run of consecutive wins (53 bouts in 1988). That record stood for 22 years until Hakuhō broke it with his 54th straight win in September 2010.In a sport where weight is often regarded as vital, Chiyonofuji was quite light at around 120 kg (260 lb). He relied on superior technique and muscle to defeat opponents. He was the lightest yokozuna since Tochinoumi in the 1960s. Upon his retirement he became an elder of the Japan Sumo Association and became the Kokonoe-oyakata the following year.
With an HPI of 57.10, Shinobu Sekine is the 7th most famous Japanese Wrestler. Her biography has been translated into 20 different languages.
Shinobu Sekine (関根 忍, Sekine Shinobu, September 20, 1943 – December 18, 2018) was a Japanese middleweight judoka. He won a gold medal at his only Olympics in 1972.
With an HPI of 57.00, Asuka is the 8th most famous Japanese Wrestler. Her biography has been translated into 18 different languages.
Kanako Urai (浦井 佳奈子, Urai Kanako, born September 26, 1981) is a Japanese professional wrestler currently signed to WWE, performing on the Raw brand under the ring name Asuka (アスカ, ), where she is currently a double champion – in her second reign as Raw Women's Champion, and one half of the current WWE Women's Tag Team Champions with Charlotte Flair in their first reign as a team and Asuka's record-tying second reign overall. Previously known as Kana (華名), she started her professional wrestling career in the AtoZ promotion in June 2004, where she remained until retiring in March 2006. She returned to the ring a year and a half later, starting to work as a freelancer for promotions such as JWP Joshi Puroresu, NEO Japan Ladies Pro-Wrestling, Pro Wrestling Wave, Reina Joshi Puroresu, Smash and Wrestling New Classic (WNC). Her achievements include winning the JWP Openweight Championship, NEO Tag Team Championship, Reina World Women's Championship, Smash Diva Championship and Wave Tag Team Championship. In August 2015, Urai signed a developmental deal with WWE, making her the first Japanese female wrestler signed with the company in over 20 years. After spending two years in WWE's developmental branch NXT, where she is a former NXT Women's Champion (with her reign of 510 days being the longest in that title's history) as well as the Female Competitor of the Year (2016, 2017) and Overall Competitor of the Year (2017) NXT Year-End Award winner, Asuka was moved to the promotion's main roster in September 2017. In addition, the company has billed her as having the "longest undefeated streak in WWE history" at 914 days, though other wrestlers in the male division have had similar or longer win streaks. In January 2018, she was the inaugural winner of the women's Royal Rumble match. She is also a former SmackDown Women's Champion, Women's Tag Team Champion (with Kairi Sane) and the 2020 Women's Money in the Bank ladder match winner, making her the first to win both the women's Royal Rumble and Money in the Bank matches. Following her first Raw Women's Championship win, Asuka became the third Women's Triple Crown Champion and the second Women's Grand Slam Champion. In December 2015, Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter stated that Urai "may be the best worker in WWE, man or woman". In 2017, Asuka became the first Japanese wrestler to top Pro Wrestling Illustrated's (PWI) annual PWI Female 100 list. Her techniques include various kicks and submission holds, leading to a reputation for a stiff wrestling style. Urai has also worked as a freelance graphic designer and video game journalist and through her work with Microsoft she has been sponsored by the company, wearing an Xbox 360 logo on her gear. Since 2019, she has her own YouTube channel, KanaChan TV, focused on gaming and lifestyle content; she currently has over 400 thousand subscribers.
With an HPI of 56.18, Shinsuke Nakamura is the 9th most famous Japanese Wrestler. Her biography has been translated into 26 different languages.
Shinsuke Nakamura (中邑 真輔, Nakamura Shinsuke, born February 24, 1980) is a Japanese professional wrestler and former mixed martial artist. He is currently signed to WWE, where he performs on the SmackDown brand. Prior to his main roster debut, Nakamura competed in WWE's NXT brand, where he is one of only three wrestlers (along with Samoa Joe and Finn Bálor) to have held the NXT Championship on more than one occasion. In January 2018, Nakamura won the 2018 Men's Royal Rumble match, and later won the WWE United States Championship twice. He won the Intercontinental Championship for the first time in 2019 at Extreme Rules, making him the second wrestler (behind Chris Jericho) to hold both WWE and IWGP Intercontinental Championships. Nakamura is known for his work in New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW), where he is a former three-time IWGP Heavyweight Champion, with his first reign coming at the age of 23 years and 9 months thus making him a three-time world champion; his other accomplishments within the company include winning the 2011 G1 Climax and the 2014 New Japan Cup, the longest reigning IWGP Intercontinental Champion (he formerly held the record for most reigns at five), and being the final IWGP Third Belt Champion and NWF Heavyweight Champion. He is also a founding member and the original leader of the stable Chaos.
With an HPI of 55.67, Takehide Nakatani is the 10th most famous Japanese Wrestler. His biography has been translated into 17 different languages.
Takehide Nakatani (中谷 雄英, Nakatani Takehide, born July 9, 1941) is a retired judoka who won the first gold medal ever awarded in judo at the Summer Olympics as the Japanese competitor in the lightweight (-68 kg) division.
Pantheon has 61 people classified as wrestlers born between 1917 and 1997. Of these 61, 53 (86.89%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living wrestlers include Antonio Inoki, Yasuhiro Yamashita, and Asuka. The most famous deceased wrestlers include Masahiko Kimura, Isao Inokuma, and Giant Baba. As of October 2020, 13 new wrestlers have been added to Pantheon including Isao Inokuma, Giant Baba, and Takehide Nakatani.
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Which Wrestlers were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 7 most globally memorable Wrestlers since 1700.