Damn, AEW has been put through the wringer around these parts lately, haven’t they? I mean, I’m all for criticism and support it… and I could very easily dip my toes into shredding Tony Khan a bit myself.

Alas, I have decided to walk a different path. I have decided to walk a different path because something is solely lacking this week that needs to be rectified and changed. I think we have a problem here at Voices of Wrestling, and I the magical writing girl must solve it.

The problem?

We don’t have enough current joyous content about Tomohiro Ishii, who once again has defied the odds and made it into the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame! To say I was absolutely elated to see this happen was an understatement. You got to understand, during my peak of NJPW watching, and I think this is true for a lot of us, when it was Ishii time we got hyped, and we stayed hyped. Tomohirio Ishii’s career was a long, painful road. A road that was treacherous and dangerous, and honestly, I don’t think he’d have it any other way. 

I’m a huge fan of Tomohiro Ishii.

I’ve been able to watch him wrestle Eddie Kingston (twice) and Minoru Suzuki once in person. It was absolutely thrilling for me to see one of my favorite wrestlers perform at a continuously high caliber. A high caliber that may not have been the biggest draw, or the most significant impact business-wise, but was consistent, hard-working, never relenting, never giving up, straight up smash mouth in your face strong style, and I fucking loved it. The Okadas and the Tanahashis and the Naitos of the world might of stuck the hook in me when it came into NJPW, but it was the efforts of a Tomohiro Ishii that reeled me in and kept me in the boat.

Tomohiro Ishii vs Kazuchika Okada G1 Climax 26 Highlights
byu/Agreeable_Surround13 innjpw

For someone who is claiming to be a big Ishii fan, the reality is, that I don’t know much about his career before 2011-2012. He debuted in 1996, for crying out loud. He has had such longevity in pro wrestling. There’s a huge chunk of his career I have barely scrapped the surface on. However, 2011-2012 is where I think the legend of Ishii truly begins. That is where Ishii made his presence in my fandom and never left. Some wrestler fixations come and go. Popular for a time, only to fade and burn out from there. Forged in fire, scarred by time, toughened by his experiences and his setbacks. Tomohiro Ishii isn’t a phoenix bursting from the ashes, he is a sword that was forged through fire and hard work. Sweat and patience. Ishii is not a teacher, but he taught us a lesson we all need to learn. Greatness can come at any age. Greatness is not limited to a certain time period or moment. A 37-year-old Ishii began to take his steps, his unwavering, never-ending steps, toward greatness.

It wasn’t easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is. 

Ishii is a great pro wrestler. This in my mind cannot be disputed. Hell, it might even be too much of an understatement. He may not be the smoothest or the prettiest, but you felt what he was doing. You could sink your teeth into what he wanted to accomplish, and when he failed to accomplish it you could feel the heart shatter, but the confidence never waver. On to the next battle, and on to the next one. He lost many, but he won few, and through it all, he gained respect over and over again. And if we ever had those fleeting moments of forgetting who Tomohirio Ishii truly was, he’d smash his opponent in the face with a nasty forearm and REMIND us of who the hell Tomohirio Ishii truly is.

All that is to say, Tomohiro Ishii is an example of defiance, determination, and stone-cold commitment.

I can’t speak for what Ishii’s core values are, but I’m sure intensity and relentlessness were two of them. Tomohiro Ishii through hard work, determination, and the ever-present desire to be better than how he was perceived, made himself a legend. He didn’t BECOME a legend, he willed himself into one. Against all odds and obstacles, he marched right through them. When Tomohirio’s Ishii music hit and he marched out you knew violence was his business, and business was good. 

With that said, you can’t realistically think about Tomohiro Ishii without thinking about the G1 Climax Tournament. This is where Ishii truly made his name. He was never going to win, he was never going to be near the top of the leader board, but there was one thing for certain, when the G1 was over you WOULD remember him, you would talk about him, and you would root and cheer for him. Name the opponent, and he would have an awesome match with them. Okada, Tanahashi, Omega, Naito, Goto, Moxley. Some wins, many losses, all greatness. And when he did win those big matches. Holy shit, when he did win those big matches. Whether you were in the crowd, or you were home alone in your dwellings, you’d erupt. You’d feel joyous celebration rising up above you. That is the magic of Tomohiro Ishii. He brought out the most primal of emotions in us wrestling fans, and he did it through good old-fashioned violence. The G1 Climax was Ishii’s time to shine. He was constantly in MVP talks, he was constantly applauded, lauded, and touted. G1 Clmax was not his permanent residence, but it might as well have been his home. 

August 4, 2013. A match that will always be etched in my mind. Shibata versus Ishii. It was under thirteen minutes, and it might be one of the greatest G1 matches of all time. There are 30-40 minute epics that may be superior in storytelling, but nothing to me will ever top Shibata and Ishii going balls to the walls for thirteen minutes. Their anger bubbling, their sweat flying, their flesh bruising. It was wrestling at its rawest, finest, absolute best. If matches could be put into a Hall of Fame, this would get my fucking vote. 13 minutes of pure perfection. I want to hang it on a wall. I’ll gladly take down and smash many an hour-long match that people love to tout to make room for this beautiful display of raw violence. 

Like everything in Ishii’s career, getting into the Hall of Fame was a struggle, a struggle that could’ve ended in another defeat. Ishii didn’t gently go into the Hall of Fame. He got in by the skin of his teeth, and just as his pro-wrestling victories, he felt celebration force out of our beings and we cheered, we applauded, we experienced. Tomohiro Ishii may not be the strongest Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame case of all time, but when it comes to the basis of never giving up, always working hard, always kicking ass, and in general putting out consistent top-notch work that we still talk about, he definitely deserves to not only be amongst the greats but considered one as well.

Congratulations to Tomohiro Ishii for being a Wrestling Observer Hall of Famer. He probably doesn’t care, he’s too busy kicking ass and not taking shit, but we fans do care, we fans do celebrate, and we fans take satisfaction in knowing, The Stone Pitbull is where he belongs, where he deserves, and where he will forever remain. The Stone Pitbull through the odds and tribulations, is victorious once more. 

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