“The WWE Performance Center has added one of Japan’s most decorated Junior Heavyweight wrestlers to its coaching ranks. Tokimitsu Ishizawa, who made his name in the squared circle as masked grappler Kendo Kashin, is the newest coach to join WWE’s training facility in Orlando, FL,” WWE confirmed yesterday.

Ishizawa was invited to be a guest coach at the WWE Performance Center last February. At the time, Finn Bálor posted a photo of himself alongside Ishizawa and noted that the Japanese legend was his first trainer upon arriving in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Tokimitsu Ishizawa, more commonly known as Kendo Kashin, was an incredible wrestler who grew up in a New Japan Pro Wrestling system that was very different from today’s dojo environment. Still under the control of Antonio Inoki, the company had become tied into the MMA movement and was trying to present wrestling in a more straightforward MMA style.

An outstanding amateur at Waseda University, he took a place at the New Japan Dojo in the early nineties before making his debut against Jushin Liger. During the groundbreaking feud between New Japan and the UWF-i, he would befriend Kazuo Yamazaki who would, in turn, teach him a much more shoot-based style. He would take his learning excursion under Otto Wanz in Austria’s CWA who was drawing big houses in the summer tournaments throughout Austria and Germany. Ishizawa would take the name Kendo Kashin and become a masked wrestler. Upon his return to Japan, he would start the steady climb to the top taking the Best of the Super Juniors title in 1999 and an IWGP Junior Heavyweight title in the same year, defeating Koji Kanemoto in both years.

Tokimitsu Ishizawa at DREAM 12 MMA event (courtesy of MMA Core)

He was reportedly pushed into MMA by Antonio Inoki, losing to Ryan Gracie in his debut at Pride 10. Insanely, Ishizawa, fighting under his own name, tried to keep a regular wrestling schedule as Kendo Kashin and took fights on the fly, not a particular recipe for success. Eventually, he would take a break from wrestling to concentrate on MMA and beat Gracie at Pride 15 in under five minutes to prove his point. He would return to Kendo Kashin, NJPW and the IWGP Junior Heavyweight title in 2000 taking his second from Masayuki Naruse. Being aligned with Keiji Mutoh, he made the jump to All Japan Pro Wrestling when Mutoh was given the book to the company in 2002 by Motoka Baba. One again, he thrived and swiftly became the ace of the Junior Division before eventually moving back to New Japan in 2005. He would then spend the next decade working as a freelancer and taking less and less regular bookings as a wrestler.

As a ground and pound Junior, his style was the foundation for straight-up smaller submission experts like Drew Gulak, Jack Gallagher, KUSHIDA and Zack Sabre Jr. Highly influential, he is an interesting choice for the Performance Centre. Triple H took to Twitter and welcomed Kashin to the company.

Co-written with Steph Franchomme. All pics courtesy of WWE

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