“I recognize in thieves, traitors and murderers, in the ruthless and the cunning, a deep beauty — a sunken beauty.” –Jean Genet
You wouldn’t find Toru Yano in the Elysian Fields, indulging in the athletic pastimes of the righteous and the heroic. Nor would you encounter the man amongst the throngs of mighty warriors in Valhalla, drinking to the glory of battle alongside the likes of the Einherjar. And you can forget about finding him in Shangri-La. The idyllic mountain temple is too noble a place for the Sublime Master Thief.
No, Toru Yano is most comfortable with the rest of the vagrants: the cheaters, the liars, the braggarts, and the pests. It’s natural for him to avoid the warmth of the good and live dangerously with the wicked.
And who are the wicked? CHAOS. A stable of men who exist at the upper echelon of the pro wrestling strata: Kazuchika Okada, the undisputed future of New Japan who has accomplished more at 27 years of age than 90% of the wrestling world; Shinsuke Nakamura, the coolest man on the planet who also happens to be exceptional at beating people up; and Tomohiro Ishii, who has the demeanor and wrestling style of Bullet Bill from Super Mario Bros.
Does Yano rank equal to those men in terms of wrestling ability? No. But it helps to have a man on your team who isn’t afraid to fight dirty, who isn’t afraid to get down in the muck and mire of it all and do whatever is necessary to win. Yano is that man.
He spits water in your face, handcuffs you to the barricade, throws you into the exposed turnbuckle, hits you with a chair, low blows you, and rolls you up with a pull of your hair. No tactic is too dirty when victory and DVD sales are on the line. As Omar Little would say, “It’s all in the game, yo. All in the game.”
Yano’s vile ways have earned him his fair share of prizes too. He is a two-time IWGP Tag Team Champion and a former GHC Tag Team Champion as well. He’s beaten the likes of Hirooki Goto, Karl Anderson, Togi Makabe, and Tetsuya Naito, all incredible wrestlers in their own right.
But in my mind his greatest victory occurred mere weeks ago. In the first round of the 2015 New Japan Cup, Yano faced Hiroshi Tanahashi, the undisputed babyface king of the company, a seven-time IWGP Heavyweight Champion who reigns as, quite possibly, the greatest wrestler of his generation. Toru Yano, with a handful of Tanahashi’s hair and a roll up, scored the victory. Good did not triumph over evil on that day. Toru Yano was the one getting his arm raised. Three days later, when Yano walked to the ring for his quarterfinals match against Kota Ibushi, he encountered Tanahashi sitting at ringside on commentary. Tanahashi could only stew in silence as Yano pointed at him and laughed, a humiliating reminder that being a goody little two shoes can only get you so far. Cheaters never prosper? Get real.
— Brandon Dolan (@kenshirosfists) March 9, 2015
Of course, as it is with most things in life, perspective is key. There’s another man around these parts by the name of Minoru Suzuki.
Suzuki is a fighter, no doubt about it. He viciously and remorselessly punches and kicks and armbars his way to the winner’s circle. He’s got his own goon squad, Suzuki-gun, to help him along the way. It isn’t just that he cheats; Minoru Suzuki is pure evil. If I’ve learned anything from watching The Chronicles of Riddick over a dozen times, it’s that sometimes evil must be fought with another kind of evil.
Enter Toru Yano, a perennial thorn in the side of Minoru Suzuki. For two years, Yano cheated and stole his way into the psyche of Minoru Suzuki. He plagued the man’s soul, frustrating him to the point of near insanity. Suzuki couldn’t get rid of Yano; likewise, Yano couldn’t get rid of Suzuki. Back and forth they clashed, both men refusing to relent until the other was soundly defeated. The foul stench of their war permeated its way to the audience, as Voices of Wrestling’s own Rich Kraetsch and Joe Lanza lamented the endless cycle of violence that was the Yano-Suzuki feud. Tensions finally calmed down when Suzuki-gun invaded Pro Wrestling NOAH. But the threat of another match between the two fiends is always on the horizon.
So Toru Yano remains New Japan Pro Wrestling’s resident trickster god, a thief for the ages who plays to the crowd’s adoration even as he low blows their heroes. Save your honor and your righteousness and your sportsmanship. Toru Yano is here to win.