|Born||February 10, 1983|
Tagajo, Miyagi, Japan
|Professional wrestling career|
|Ring name(s)||Army Santa|
|Billed height||1.63 m (5 ft 4 in)|
|Billed weight||75 kg (165 lb)|
|Trained by||Tamon Honda|
|Debut||May 11, 2002|
Taiji Ishimori (石森 太二, Ishimori Taiji, born February 10, 1983) is a Japanese professional wrestler currently signed to New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW), where he wrestles as part of the Bullet Club. He is the current IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion in his third reign, and is also a former NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Champion alongside Bullet Club teammates Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa.
Ishimori is best known for his 12-year stint with Pro Wrestling Noah, where he became one of the most decorated junior heavyweights in the promotion's history, holding the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship three times, while also setting the record for the longest reign with the championship at 405 days during his first reign. Ishimori also held the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship a record six times, and won the promotion's Nippon TV Cup Jr. Heavyweight Tag League a record four times. He is also known for his work in Impact Wrestling, where he is a one-time Impact X Division Champion.
When an amateur wrestler, Taiji Ishimori was trained in Toryumon Mexico and debuted against Fumiyuki Hashimoto in 2002. He went to compete in the Young Dragons Cup and won after beating Jun Ogawauchi, Henry III Sugawara and lastly Condotti Shuji. Shortly after, he was given a pop idol gimmick and formed a boy band-like faction with Kei and Shu Sato, calling themselves the Sailor Boys. Ishimori was intended to become the "ace" (the top student) of his graduating class, even going so far as to release an album, "Keep on Journey", to support their gimmick. However, the fan interest never matched his hype, and Ishimori became one of Toryumon's bigger failures. Sailor Boys' rival faction, Los Salseros Japoneses (Takeshi Minamino, Pineapple Hanai and Mango Fukuda) was in turn more successful with the fans. While in the Toryumon X brand, Sailor Boys also feuded with Mini Crazy Max (Mini Cima, Suwacito and Small Dandy Fujii), defeating them in X's debut show.
Unlike the rest of his class, Taiji did his Japanese debut for All Japan Pro Wrestling's Wrestle-1 project. Returning to Mexico, he won the UWA World Welterweight Championship on May 11, 2003, defeating Super Crazy to win the belt. Ishimori defended the UWA World Welterweight Championship 2 times, against Fuerza Guerrera on August 31, 2003 and against Yossino on December 7, 2003. He dropped the UWA championship to Takeshi Minamino on August 29, 2004. He tried to regain the title in the Dragon Fire The Final Challenge event, but it was unsuccessful. Also, at the last Toryumon X show, Sailor Boys challenged Gedo, Jado and Katsushi Takemura for the UWA World Trios Championship, but they were defeated.
Following the title loss, Ishimori began working for New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW) as one of their "Young Lions" prospects. Very early in his NJPW run he was teamed up with Hiroshi Tanahashi for a one night U-30 (Under 30) tag team tournament. In the first round the team defeated Blue Wolf and Katsuhiko Nakajima and in the finals they defeated Ryusuke Taguchi and Shinsuke Nakamura to win the tournament. At one point he teamed up with his mentor Último Dragón for an unsuccessful shot at the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship, held by Jado & Gedo at the time. By mid-2005, Ishimori had left NJPW and begun working for All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW).
In August 2005, Ishimori debuted in AJPW teaming with Keiji Muto. They, along with Kaz Hayashi, Satoshi Kojima and other face wrestlers, feuded with the villainous Voodoo Murders group. Ishimori also started teaming with another former NJPW rookie, Katsuhiko Nakajima, eventually taking part in the AJPW 2006 Junior Tag League. Together they defeated Kikujiro (Nobutaka Araya) & Kikutaro and Akira & Ryuji Hijikata, but they passed without achieving much success. Ended the league, Ishimori left All Japan.
During his time in AJPW, Ishimori also worked for the short lived promotion dragondoor as the top face (good guy), and once again failed to be accepted in that role by fans. He formed a high-flying faction with Kota Ibushi, Little Dragon and Milanito Collection a.t., but they were beaten by the stable Aagan Iisou led by Shuji Kondo. Ishimori also was in the El Dorado Wrestling debut show, leaving the promotion right after.
Ishimori began working as a freelance wrestler for Pro Wrestling Noah in March, 2006 and often worked as part of the SEM promotion that was considered the developmental territory for Noah. He began teaming up with Kenta, wrestling on many shows together, trying to earn a match for the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship. The team failed to win the title on their initial chance. Due to being trained in Mexico Ishimori often wrestled against Mexican Luchadores who toured with Noah, facing such opponents as Charly Manson or Abismo Negro. He also wrestled on the Noah / AAA co-promoted show TripleSEM on September 3, 2007 teaming with El Elegido and Kenta to lose to the Mexican Powers (Crazy Boy, Joe Líder and Juventud Guerrera). In 2007 Ishimori became a full-time Noah wrestler and shortly after Ishimori and Kenta won the Tag Champions. The team went to Dragon Gate and defeated the team of BxB Hulk and Shingo Takagi on March 20, 2008. to bring the Noah Junior Heavyweight Tag Title back to Noah. Ishimori and Kenta successfully defended the title against Ricky Marvin and Kotaro Suzuki and also the team of Bryan Danielson and Eddie Edwards from Ring of Honor. On July 13, 2008 Ishimori and Kenta were defeated by Yoshinobu Kanemaru and Kotaro Suzuki and lost the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship. In September, 2008 the team won the 2008 Nippon TV Cup Junior Heavyweight Tag League, with 12 points for 6 victories including defeating the reigning GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag team champions in the last match. In 2009 Ishimori began teaming regularly with Ricky Marvin, chasing after the Junior tag team titles. In early 2010 the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag title became vacant when Kotaro Suzuki suffered a knee injury. Ishimori and Marvin teamed up for a tournament to determine the next champions. They defeated Bobby Fish and Eddie Edwards in the first round and Genba Hirayanagi and Yoshinbou Kanemaru in the finals to win the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship. On August 22 Ishimori and Marvin lost the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship to New Japan Pro-Wrestling representatives Koji Kanemoto and Tiger Mask. On January 27, 2013, Ishimori defeated Shuji Kondo to win the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship for the first time. Through Noah's working relationship with Ring of Honor, Ishimori made his debut for the promotion on May 4, 2013, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, facing Eddie Edwards in a losing effort. During the following day's tapings of Ring of Honor Wrestling Ishimori defeated Roderick Strong in a singles match. After a 405-day reign, the longest in the title's history, Ishimori lost the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship to Daisuke Harada on March 8, 2014. He won the title for the second time on December 23, 2015, by defeating Taichi.
On July 5, 2016, Ishimori defeated Yoshinari Ogawa in a four-man tournament final to win one of Noah's three spots in NJPW's 2016 Super J-Cup. In this same month, Ishimori took part in the 2016 NTV G+ Cup Junior Heavyweight Tag League with his partner being American wrestler ACH. The pair won the tag league defeating Hajime Ohara and Kenoh for a spot in the final match then defeating Momo no Seishun (Atsushi Kotoge and Daisuke Harada), at the time the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship holders, in the final match. Their title match against Momo no Seishun was held on the final of the 2016 Super J-Cup and they were defeated.
Upon Atsushi Kotoge's vacation of the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship, Ishimori faced Hajime Ohara for the vacant title on January 7, 2017, Noah's first show of the year. Ishimori lost the match to Ohara. Following a victory over Hi69 on January 9, the two agreed to form a tag team and made their interest in the newly vacant GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship known. The team squared off with the team of Hayata and Yo-Hey on February 18 for the vacated title and defeated them to become the thirtieth champions. They went on to lose the title to Hayata and Yo-Hey in a rematch on August 26. On March 12, 2018, Ishimori officially announced his departure from Pro Wrestling Noah. Ending his 12-year tenure with the company.
Through Noah's working relationship with AAA in Mexico Ishimori sometimes travels to Mexico, wrestling for AAA. This began in 2006 when he travelled to Mexico to team up with El Oriental and Naomichi Marufuji to defeat The Mexican Powers (Crazy Boy, Joe Líder and Juventud Guerrera). Subsequently, he appeared on AAA's 2007 Rey de Reyes event, teaming with El Alebrije, El Zorro and Brazo de Plata to defeat Los Vipers Revolution (Antifaz, Histeria, Mr. Niebla and Kaoma, Jr.). On March 19, 2010 Ishimori teamed up with Takeshi Morishima to defeat La Hermandad 187 ("The Brotherhood of 187"; Nicho el Millonario and Joe Líder) to win the AAA World Tag Team Championship, representing the AAA heel ("bad guy") faction La Legión Extranjera ("The Foreign Legion"). On May 23, 2010 Morishima and Ishimori lost the AAA World Tag Team Championship to the team of Atsushi Aoki and Go Shiozaki during Pro Wrestling Noah's Navigation with Breeze show in Niigata, Niigata, Japan.
Ishimori returned to AAA on May 24, 2015, when he, Atsushi Kotoge and Yoshihiro Takayama represented Pro Wrestling Noah in the Lucha Libre World Cup. They were, however, defeated in the first round of the tournament by the Dream Team (Myzteziz, El Patrón Alberto and Rey Mysterio Jr.).
In early June 2016, Ishimori again represented Noah in the 2016 Lucha Libre World Cup. Team Noah, made up of Ishimori, Maybach Taniguchi and Naomichi Marufuji, finished fourth in the tournament.
On July 20, 2016, Ishimori returned to NJPW to take part in the 2016 Super J-Cup events. On night one, he was eliminated from the Super J-Cup tournament in the first round by Kushida. At night two on August 21, he and ACH utilized their championship opportunity granted by winning the 2016 NTV G+ Cup Junior Heavyweight Tag League to unsuccessfully challenge the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions Atsushi Kotoge and Daisuke Harada.
On October 21 at Road to Power Struggle, Ishimori and ACH entered the 2016 Super Junior Tag Tournament. They advanced to the next round after defeating the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions, The Young Bucks in the first round. After defeating David Finlay and Ricochet in the semifinals on October 30, Ishimori and ACH were defeated in the finals of the tournament by Roppongi Vice (Beretta and Rocky Romero) on November 5.
Through a working relationship between Noah and Global Force Wrestling (GFW), Ishimori made his debut for the American promotion on July 2, 2017, at Slammiversary XV. Teaming with fellow Noah wrestler Naomichi Marufuji, he took part in a four-way tag team match, contested for both the GFW Tag Team Championship and the Impact Wrestling World Tag Team Championship, which was won by The Latin American Xchange (Santana and Ortiz). Ishimori also took part in the following week's GFW Impact! tapings, where he entered the 2017 Super X Cup, making it all the way to the finals, before losing to Dezmond Xavier on August 17.
Ishimori returned to GFW, now known as Impact Wrestling, on November 5, 2017, at Bound for Glory, where he defeated Tyson Dux to earn a future shot at the Impact X Division Championship. Four days later, Ishimori defeated Trevor Lee to win the Impact X Division Championship for the first time. He dropped the title to Matt Sydal on January 12, 2018, in a match where the Impact Grand Championship of his opponent was also on the line. In March, Ishimori signed his release from Pro Wrestling Noah, declaring himself a free agent, but with questions surrounding if he will ever be back on Impact Wrestling.
On June 4, the official Impact Wrestling Twitter announced that Ishimori would make his return to the company, under his NJPW Bone Soldier gimmick for Slammiversary XVI. At the event Ishimori lost a fatal four-way match which was won by Johnny Impact. On the July 26 episode of Impact Wrestling, Ishimori defeated Petey Williams. On the August 9 episode of Impact Wrestling, Ishimori and Williams defeated Desi Hit Squad which turned out to be his final match in Impact. After November 24, 2018, his profile was removed from Impact website.
On April 13, 2018, NJPW began promoting the return of Bone Soldier, a wrestler last seen in the promotion in January 2017. On May 4 at Wrestling Dontaku 2018, Ishimori returned to NJPW revealing himself as the new Bone Soldier and in the process joined Bullet Club by attacking IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion, Will Ospreay. On May 7, NJPW announced Ishimori as a participant in the 2018 Best of the Super Juniors tournament. He would complete the tournament with 5 wins and 2 losses, advancing to the finals. On June 4, Ishimori was defeated in the finals by Hiromu Takahashi.
At G1 Special in San Francisco, Bullet Club's Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa along with King Haku attacked other members of the group and declared themselves "Bullet Club OG". Bad Luck Fale and Hikuleo aligned with this new Tongan subgroup, while the rest of the group has since been referred to as "Bullet Club Elite". Ishimori was confirmed by Tama Tonga as being part of BCOG. Ishimori, Tonga and Loa defeated the Young Bucks and Marty Scurll during the finals of the G1 Climax 28 to become the new NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Champions.
During the Road to Power Struggle, Ishimori entered the Super Jr. Tag Tournament, choosing Robbie Eagles as his tag team partner. Both Ishimori and Eagles finished the tournament with 6 points, failing to advance to the finals. On January 4 at Wrestle Kingdom 13, Ishimori defeated Kushida to win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship. On January 30, 2019, they lost the 6-Man Championship against Taguchi, Makabe and Yano, while on April 6, he would lose the Jr. Heavyweight title into Dragon Lee as part of a triple threat match as part of G1 Supercard.
On June 16, 2019 during NJPW's Kizuna Road event, Ishimori and Bullet Club teammate El Phantasmo defeated Roppongi 3K to win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship for the first time. Ishimori entered the 2019 Super J Cup but was eliminated by SHO in the first round. On September 16, 2019 at Destruction Ishimori and Phantasmo made their first defense of the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships against Will Ospreay and former teammate Robbie Eagles. The duo then entered Super Junior Tag League 2019 where they finished with 10 points and a record of 5 wins and 2 losses, tied for first with Suzuki-gun and Roppongi 3K. Despite this Ishimori and Phantasmo were excluded from the finals at Power Struggle (2019) due to losing to both teams in the tournament and instead wrestled on the undercard of the show defeating the Chaos team of Robbie Eagles and Rocky Romero before attacking tournament winners Roppongi 3K after the finals. On January 5, 2020 at Wrestle Kingdom 14 Ishimori and Phantasmo dropped the Junior Heavyweight Championships to Roppongi, ending their reign at 203 days, 1 successful defense.
In June 2020, Ishimori entered the 2020 New Japan Cup defeating young lion Gabriel Kidd in the first round. In the second round Ishimori faced his longtime rival Kanemaru, finally defeating him after 13 attempts. Ishimori would be eliminated in the quarterfinals by tournament runner up Kazuchika Okada. At Dominion in Osaka-jo Hall (2020) Ishimori teamed with Bullet Club teammate Yujiro Takahashi to defeat Okada and Hirooki Goto. At Sengoku Lord in Nagoya Ishimori defeated Yuya Uemura then after the main event attacked junior heavyweight champion Hiromu Takahashi, challenging him for the belt. On August 29, 2020 at Summer Struggle in Jingu Ishimori won the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship for a second time by tapping out Hiromu Takahashi. After Roppongi 3K had to vacate the IWGP Junior Tag Team Championships, a four team round robin tournament was announced to crown new champions which Ishimori entered teaming with Gedo. The two finished the league with one win and two losses, failing to advance to the finals. Ishimori would then enter the 2020 Best of the Super Juniors, where he would finish with 14 Points (7 Wins & 2 Losses), however losses to Hiromu Takahashi & El Desperado caused Ishimori to finish in 3rd Place and barely miss the finals. Ishimori would lose his championship to the winner of the tournament, Hiromu Takahashi, at Wrestle Kingdom 15.
Ishimori and Phantasmo defeated Yoshinobu Kanemaru and El Desperado for the titles on January 23, 2021, only to lose them back to the two one month later on February 25. Later that year, they won the titles for a third time at Kizuna Road on June 23 by defeating Roppongi 3K.
U-30 One Night Tag Tournament Final: Hiroshi Tanahashi & Taiji Ishimori besiegen Ryusuke Taguchi & Shinsuke Nakamura (14:49)