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Luchadors have always been popular in Japan since Mil Mascaras appeared in the 1970s. The Mexican lucha libre style is exciting and dynamic and has undoubtedly influenced many aspects of the Japanese style.  Many Japanese young boys have been sent there to learn the style. While many had returned to superstardom; Tatsumi Fujinami, Riki Choshu and Tiger Mask being the premier early examples.  Many did not have much success. 

Gran Hamada was considered too small and could not catch a break in Japan for most of his career.  The Japanese were always presented an impure lucha libre product because luchadors were not working with each other and thus they reached their full potential. The time seemed right to try something new in Japan. The UWF used realism, FMW used violence, so why not lucha libre? There had not been a main focus on junior heavyweights since Tiger Mask's peak and his fans were now older and were a potential paying audience. With the help of former New Japan booker Hisashi Shinma, magazine writer Wally Yamaguchi and his student Yoshihiro Asai, Hamada helped get Universal Pro off the ground with a mixture of young Japanese who were "too small" and capable Mexican luchadors. 

They transformed into FULL (Federación Universal de Lucha Libre), which eventually folded. While Universal Pro was a good group, it did not have the native star power to achieve much success. It did expose some young new talent that would change the sport dramatically in the 1990s. In 1993, Michinoku Pro largely took over the goal of Universal on a regional level and were very successful with former Universal wrestlers making up most of the roster. They had a solid talent pool and quickly established a following that made junior heavyweight wrestling a force in puroresu.  Larger promotions like New Japan, SWS and WAR embraced the style's development.  FMW, Big Japan and BattlARTS added it to their diverse undercards.  Michinoku Pro stars started were crucial in promoting other lucharesu groups with their own flavors.  Super Delfin had Osaka Pro, MEN's Teioh became a booker in Big Japan and TAKA Michinoku eventually returned from the WWF and formed Kaientai Dojo.

Perhaps the most significant changes of the new millenium came from the Ultimo Dragon Gym based in Mexico and the subsequent Toryumon promotion. The initial class was full of gifted performers whose cool moves, unique personas and distinct style shook up the puroresu world.  The successive classes created more and more amazing talent who redefined the lucharesu genre.  They rebranded and restructured themselves as Dragon Gate and the Kobe-based promotion has been one of the most consistant and successful small promotions in the world.  As Japanese pro-wrestling has fragmented, there has been a number of small independent promotions pop up that utilize established and rising talent alike.

Native Stars

Yoshihiro Asai 
Shoichi Funaki
Gran Hamada
Great Sasuke
Koji Kanemoto
Jushin "Thunder" Liger
TAKA Michinoku
MEN's Teioh
Milano Collection A.T.
El Samurai
Jinsei Shinzaki
Yoshihiro Tajiri
Minoru Tanaka
Terry Boy
Tiger Mask IV
Magnum TOKYO
Dick Togo
Ultimo Dragon

Mexican Regulars
Tony Arce
Bestia Salvaje 
Black Power 
Black Terry 
Blue Panther 
El Bucanero 
Canelo Casas 
Ciclon Ramirez 
Dos Caras 
El Espanto IV 
El Espanto V 
Jose Luis Feliciano 
El Felino 
Fuerza Guerrera 
El Hijo del Santo 
Kato Kung Lee 
Negro Casas 
Negro Navarro 
La Pantera II 
Perro Aguayo 
Scorpio Jr. 

Shu El Guerrero 
El Signo 
Silver King 
Solar I 
Super Astro 
El Texano 
Dr. Wagner Jr. 
Villano IV 
Villano V