Tomoaki Honma is not a winner. Tomoaki Honma is a loser.

Okay, sometimes he’s a winner.

According to, Honma has won 233 of his matches in New Japan Pro Wrestling. Not bad, until you realize that he’s lost 430 NJPW matches and drawn 3, which gives him a win percentage of 34.98%. Chances are good that when Honma enters a match, he’s gonna leave it with his back on the mat and the lights in his eyes.

But he’s also a loveable loser. The New Japan crowds can’t get enough of him. International diehards can’t get enough of him. I can’t get enough of him. And when you take one look at Honma, with his unbreakable smile, bright yellow hair, Hulk Hogan-inspired attire, never-say-die attitude, and ability to put on an incredible wrestling match, you fall in love with the guy. You know he’s not gonna win. It’s a foregone conclusion that he’s not gonna win. Yet Honmania still runs wild, loss after loss, stronger than ever. With each defeat, Honma’s charismatic power doubles like the mythological Hydra.

But he’s also a loyal loser. He stands by his friends, as any upstanding babyface would. When Honma returned to New Japan in March 2013, he came to the rescue of Togi Makabe, his Great Bash Heel stablemate. Honma has stuck by Makabe’s side ever since as his faithful brother-in-arms, always at the ready to back him up. Remember those two cartoon dogs, Chester and Spike? Spike was the huge bulldog with the perpetual scowl and Chester was the small yellow dog constantly jumping around Spike with endless energy? That’s Makabe and Honma. They fight together, win together, and lose together, no matter what. And guess who is there to eat the pinfall every single time they lose? Honma is there.

But he’s also a persistent loser. Nothing breaks his spirit. That unbreakable smile I told you about is truly unbreakable. He could lose thirty matches in a row and he wouldn’t feel down about it. Case in point: the 2014 G1 Climax. Like Dante in Clerks, Honma wasn’t even supposed to be there. It was only after Kota Ibushi got a concussion and was forced to give up his spot that New Japan officials threw Honma a bone and put him in. They had no need for Tomoaki Honma to be in that tournament until they actually needed him. But there he was: smiling, charismatic, and ready to headbutt the world in sheer defiance. Then Honma promptly lost his first match. Then his second. And third. And fourth. Honma lost all his G1 tournament matches. 0 points at the end of everything. But did Honma whine? Did he mope? Did he turn heel out of frustration? No. Honma kept smiling. And he kept trying to headbutt people. Sometimes he succeeded. Most times he didn’t. That still didn’t stop him from trying.

But he’s also our loser. We put our hopes and dreams in Honma. The same way we do with the underdogs that inhabit the big screen—the Rebel Alliance, the Mighty Ducks, John McClane—we live vicariously through Honma, placing our own struggles to achieve right alongside his. We want him to win because we want ourselves to win. And when Honma does win—when he hits the top rope Kokeshi on Yujiro Takahashi at Wrestle Kingdom 9 to score the victory for his team—it’s like we’re standing right there in the Tokyo Dome ourselves. We know what this is: Beautiful. Unique. Fragile. Honma is going to go right back to losing on a regular basis. But that’s okay because for that one brief moment when Honma’s hand was raised in victory, it was as if the warmth of heaven itself touched our faces.

Tomoaki Honma is not a winner. Tomoaki Honma is a loser. And that’s just the way we like him.

Thanks to norihon for the photo in our header!