Take one look around the independent professional wrestling scene in the United States these days and chances are you will see the name Akira Tozawa pop up numerous times.
It has been nearly one year since Tozawa came to America, where he has spent much of his time traveling between several popular independent promotions.
He has gained immeasurable experience and has quickly become one of the brightest young stars in the world of professional wrestling.
Tozawa graduated from the Dragon Gate dojo in 2005 and spent the early years of his career competing in Dragon Gate, achieving little to moderate success.
The highlight of his early years in Japan was probably when he put on a considerable amount of weight and formed a team called the Metabolic Brothers with Yuki Ono.
He eventually went on to become one of the original members of Shingo Takagi’s Kamikaze stable in Japan, which eventually would lead to his debut in Dragon Gate USA as a member of their version of the stable, Kamikaze USA.
In May 2010, Tozawa officially embarked on his journey overseas and joined up with DGUSA in Windsor, Ontario, Canada.
His debut with DGUSA was a tag team match, where he teamed with fellow Kamikaze USA member Gran Akuma as they took on CHIKARA’s Mike Quackenbush and Jigsaw.
The next night in Mississauga, Ontario, Tozawa stepped into the ring against one of the top stars in Japan’s Dragon Gate, Masaaki Mochizuki.
Their match opened the show and nearly stole it; both men turned in excellent performances, and fans in the U.S. and Canada truly got their first taste of the potential that Tozawa possessed.
Since then, Tozawa has been a regular in DGUSA. He spent most of 2010 with Kamikaze USA but was unceremoniously given the boot from the faction by Jon Moxley after the United weekend in January.
That triple-shot in January would become arguably the most important weekend of Tozawa’s career. He picked up wins over Sami Callihan, Austin Aries and BxB Hulk, cementing his status as a major player within the promotion.
It could be said that Tozawa has become the top face in the company since being kicked out of Kamikaze USA.
His match against PAC for the Open the Brave Gate Championship at Mercury Rising 2011 was one of the best matches of the entire Wrestlemania weekend.
The next night at the Open the Ultimate Gate 2011 PPV taping, Tozawa challenged YAMATO for the top prize in DGUSA, the Open the Freedom Gate Championship.
Despite being unsuccessful, the match was reportedly awesome and has placed Tozawa firmly into the main-event level of DGUSA.
While Tozawa may feel more at home in DGUSA, he has spent a good portion of the past year wrestling out in Southern California for Pro Wrestling Guerrilla.
The PWG fans have embraced the hell out of Tozawa, allowing him to truly shine as one of the most entertaining in-ring performers in the world these days.
His intensity in the ring is always top-notch but Tozawa shines when he brings his comedic side into the match. His yelling and screaming has become legendary between the walls of the American Legion Hall in Reseda.
The most talked about match of Tozawa’s career to date has been the epic he had with Chris Hero during last year’s Battle of Los Angeles tournament. If one night has defined the run that Tozawa has had in the States, it may very well be that one.
Tozawa also had a great match in December with Kevin Steen at PWG’s Cyanide: A Loving Tribute to Poison.
He again shined with his comedic skills and displayed his trademark ferocity, at one point nailing one of the most impressive German suplexes of all time on the much-bigger Steen.
From that match, a mutual respect between Steen and Tozawa created what has been dubbed the Nightmare Violence Connection, a tag team that has become incredibly popular with the PWG fan base over the past few months.
They were the fan favorites to win DDT4 back in March but were ultimately defeated by the Young Bucks in the finals.
Steen and Tozawa will team up for one last time in PWG, for now at least, to take on the RockNES Monsters on May 28 during Night 2 of All Star Weekend 8.
This year’s ASW will mark Tozawa’s final two matches in PWG, as he is set to return to Dragon Gate in Japan shortly afterwards.
On night one of ASW8, Tozawa will go to battle against the current ROH World Heavyweight Champion, Eddie Edwards, in what could easily be a contender for Match of the Year when all is said and done.
As well as competing in DGUSA and PWG, “Mr. High Tension” has also spent time competing for CHIKARA and he recently made his debut in EVOLVE during their first-ever iPPV, losing a hotly contested match against Chuck Taylor.
Tozawa impressed at this year’s CHIKARA King of Trios tournament, leading his Team Dragon Gate into second round action before being bounced by the Osirian Portal.
On Night 3, Tozawa answered Eddie Kingston’s open challenge but fell victim to “The War King.”
His return to Japan is imminent and his presence in nearly every major independent promotion in the United States over the past year will surely be missed.
Chances are his affiliation with Dragon Gate will keep him a regular part of the DGUSA, and perhaps even EVOLVE, roster.
Over the course of the past 50-some weeks, Tozawa has gone from a relatively unknown export from Japan into one of the hottest, most in-demand competitors on the independent scene.
He has grown as both a wrestler and a performer during that time, meaning that his stock in his homeland will surely be on the rise.
It has been a real treat to watch the evolution of Akira Tozawa in 2010, his ascent has been swift and he continues to entertain and impress with nearly every performance.
As he wraps up his year-long learning excursion, it can only be deemed a success.
Tozawa is a better wrestler after spending the past 365 days in the Western hemisphere and the independent wrestling scene over here is a better place for having him there. Talk about a win-win.