Tensai and 7 WWE Stars Who Had a Better Career in Japan
The success of Tensai's career in Japan is poles apart from that of his WWE career.
In one country, he was a major success; in the other, he occupies the lowest rungs of the company. The same career disparity has been true for a number of WWE stars.
These men found success in Japan that evaded them with WWE. Known as "gaijins" (foreigners) they wrestled for All Japan Pro Wrestling, New Japan Pro Wrestling and Pro Wrestling Noah.
For some, a change in the culture of their audience meant the difference between being a champion and a chump.
The man known as Tensai, Sweet T, Albert and A-Train, among other monikers, hasn't risen above midcard status with WWE.
He battled Undertaker at WrestleMania XIX, beat John Cena on an episode of Raw and was Intercontinental Champion for all of 27 days. That's essentially the extent of his career highlights with the company.
He's now being asked to dress up in lingerie and to dance as funky as he can manage.
In Japan, he was billed as a beast.
Giant Bernard, as he is known over there, won several championships. He won the IWGP tag belt twice (h/t Wrestling-Titles.com), the GHC tag title once, as well as placing first in the G1 Climax Tag League in 2007 and 2009 (h/t PuroLove.com)
Tensai appears to be having fun with the Tons of Funk gimmick, but at least a part of him has to long to be in Japan, to be the dominant giant once again.
Stan Hansen's WWE career can be summed up in one sentence: His run with AJPW and NJPW made him a legend.
The master of the lariat briefly wrestled for WWE in the late '70s, where he broke Bruno Sammartino's neck in a match. While his WWE accomplishments end with that infamous moment, his Japanese resume is mighty impressive.
Hansen was a world champ (h/t ProFightDB.com) several times over for NJPW. His tag team title reigns are in the double digits. Four times he and a fellow gaijin won the World's Strongest Tag Team League.
Some consider Hansen to be the greatest foreign wrestler in Japanese history, while his WWE career remains a blip.
It's debatable whether his run in WCW or Japan was better, but his WWE run can't be the favorite part of his career.
A world champ elsewhere, Vader managed to go his entire WWE tenure without winning a title.
While working for NJPW, he was a three-time world champ (ProFightDB.com), defeating Riki Choshu, Tatsumi Fujinami and Antonio Inoki in the process.
After he left WWE in 1998, Vader went back to Japan. He must have thought it better to be the lion than the gazelle.
With WWE, Tyson Tomko was Christian's tattooed bodyguard. In Japan, he was partners with Giant Bernard (Sweet T) on his way to tag team gold.
Tomko was given little chance to thrive in WWE. After splitting with Christian, a loss to John Cena stopped his momentum.
Days into his NJPW run, Tomko was a champion (h/t Wrestling-Titles.com). Although he lost in the first round, the fact that Tomko was ever in a tournament for the IWGP Heavyweight Title (h/t CageMatch.net) proves how different his Japanese career was from his WWE run.
Tomko was never anywhere near the WWE title picture.
"Dr. Death" Steve Williams lasted less time in WWE than CM Punk was WWE champ.
He participated in the Brawl for All tournament, where he defeated Quebecer Pierre and lost to Bart Gunn. The rest of his WWE resume is essentially blank.
In stark contrast, his career in Japan teemed with championship gold. Williams won the AJPW Unified tag title eight times and the AJPW Triple Crown Heavyweight Title once (h/t PuroesuSpirit.com).
He wrestled in critically acclaimed-matches, headlined shows and earned a Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame nod in large part because of his successes in Japan.
In one world, he was a nobody, and in the other, an icon.
Former NWA World Champion Terry Funk's Japanese career doesn’t exceed his work in the United States as a whole, but it crushes what he did with WWE.
Gather up all of Funk's WWE highlights and you get a brief championship run as Cactus Jack's teammate, a match with Hulk Hogan and carrying around a branding iron.
Contrast that to winning the Tokyo Sports (h/t PuroLove.) Popularity Prize in 1979 and the Best Bout Award for a tag match with his brother.
Being willing to wrestle in a violent, hardcore style made Funk a beloved figure in Japan. His exploding-ring, barbed-wire match with Cactus Jack remains one of the most famous matches in Japan or elsewhere.
Listen to the reaction of the crowd in the above video of his retirement match in 1983. That is love he never got from WWE fans.
WWE fans may only know John Laurinaitis for his horrendous match with John Cena in 2012 and his onscreen role as Senior Vice President of Talent Relations. Japanese fans will know him as a man involved in several classic matches and as a frequent tag team champ.
As Johnny Ace, Laurinaitis used his Ace Cutter en route to 12 total tag team championships (h/t OnlineWorldofWrestling.com).
Imagining Laurinaitis as a champion may be difficult for some, but he was a solid worker who played his part in five-star tag matches as well as singles bouts against Kenta Kobashi and Mitsuharu Misawa.
Special Mention: Bruiser Brody and Abdullah the Butcher
Neither sadistic madman was really a WWE star. Both Bruiser Brody and Abdullah the Butcher were wrestling vagabonds, going from promotion to promotion.
Abdullah is a member of the WWE Hall of Fame, but based on the strength of his accumulative resume, not his WWE one.
His and Brody's stature in Japan was vastly higher than it was in WWE or even NWA, AWA or WCCW.
WWE titles among the two barbarians: zero. In Japan, they won a combined 10 championships, not counting tournament wins.
It's no wonder Brody and Abdullah worked in Japan so often.