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Tiger Mask is a Japanese manga series written by Ikki Kajiwara and illustrated by Naoki Tsuji. It was later adapted into an anime series by Toei Animation.
In the manga and anime, Tiger Mask was a feared heel wrestler in America who was extremely vicious in the ring. After returning to Japan Tiger Mask joined the Japanese League headed by Giant Baba and Antonio Inoki (also Real Life wrestlers) who were then on the verge of kicking him out for his use of villanous techniques. Tiger Mask (whose real name was Naoto Date) was raised in an orphanage and later joined Tiger's Cave (a criminal cartel whose main activity was to train young people to became Heel wrestlers) to became "Strong as a Tiger".
To save the orphanage where he was born and raised he decided to go against the main rule of Tiger's Cave (all wrestlers must give 50% of their income to the organisation) and as such he was marked a "traitor" and other wrestlers from the Cave tried to kill him on the ring (while hired assassins tried to do the same outside of the ring).
When an orphan living in the same orphanage as Naoto started to take his heel persona as a life model Tiger Mask decided to fight honestly on the ring starting a series of confrontations that eventually brought him against the Big Bad , the master of Tiger's Cave.
Most people outside Japan, though, only know Tiger Mask as a real professional wrestler from a fad in The Eighties. While it only began as a homage and promotion to the fictional character, it grew into a popularity of its own, especially in the West, due to the memorable Dynamite Kid fights. Since then five wrestlers have adopted Tiger's identity: Satoru Sayama, Mitsuharu Misawa, Koji Kanemoto, Yoshihiro Yamazaki and Ikuhisa Minowa, in that order.
There's also a 2016 sequel named Tiger Mask W, set 40 years later. The protagonist is Naoto Azuma aka the new Tiger Mask, who seeks revenge against the the brutal Global Wrestling Monopoly (GWM) for destroying the Zipangu Pro-Wrestling team that he was a meber of, and has trained for such a purpose under the eye of Kentaro Takaoka (the original Tiger Mask's companion) and his niece Haruna. At the same time Naoto's fellow wrestler and best friend Takuma Fuji, son of the Zipangu Pro-Wrestling team's manager Daisuke Fuji, has become Tiger the Den... for the stil existing Tiger's Cave, in hopes to avenge his beloved father and his friends...
- Awesomeness By Analysis: Mr. Chi/The Great Zuma is this, having the ability to understand how to use or defeat any move by seeing it once. He shows the copying ability by using the Cobra Twist after seeing it in use once, and then defeated Tiger Mask's first finisher with embarrassing ease after seeing it once.
- Badass Normal: The ability to receive punishment of the wrestlers is above real life normal human levels. Pretty every wrestler is a Badass Normal since he can receive full force wrestling techniques (including falls from above) and survive. In the first episodes a wrestler (Black Python) kills a tiger bare handed breaking its neck.
- The Cape: Face wrestlers tend to this, but El Sicodelico is this trope incarnated. According to El Sicodelico, his brother Mil Mascaras is even more The Cape than him.
- Combat Pragmatist: Some of the greatest wrestlers are this, because, as explained by El Sicodelico, illegal manouvers interrupted before the referee ends counting to five are allowed. Tiger Mask becomes one after defeating El Sicodelico in a no-holds battle (that Sicodelico was actually winning when they weren't using illegal moves. Then Sicodelico started committing fouls and Tiger Mask replied in kind with his superior knowledge of those moves) and receiving this lecture.
- According to El Sicodelico, being unable to do them right is the only reason he and his stronger brother Mil Mascaras are unable to defeat Dory Funk Jr. (then reigning NWA world champion), Verne Gagne (AWA champion) and Pedro Morales (WWWF champion). Dory Funk Jr.'s apparition seems to confirm this in-universe, as when Tiger Mask fought him for the championship and was on the verge of defeating him he punched the referee, losing by disqualification but keeping the belt.
- Composite Character: The anime-only supreme head of Tiger's Cave is a mix of the admins (his role as the head), Miracle 3 (his initial stage name as a wrestler, and has his namesake abilities of superior strength, technique and fouls while the manga version is actually three wrestlers specialized in strong wrestling, technical wrestling and fouls) and the fake Tiger Mask (his outfit as Tiger the Great).
- Defictionalization: Tiger Mask became a real wrestler, and quite a famous and well-rounded one at that.
- Didn't See That Coming: Once in a while, a wrestler does something completely unexpected, but the trainees of Tiger's Cave setting gorillas and leopards on the admins and the way Tiger Mask defeated Mr. Chi takes the cake, the latter having Tiger Mask himself unable to believe it (he was following an apparently useless suggestion from Kintaro Oki out of respect, not really expecting it to work).
- Didn't Think This Through: Bobo Brazil studied the Fujiyama Tiger Breaker to counteract it, and realized that he could turn in mid-air to land on his head instead than back-first, hitting Tiger Mask's much less durable head with the most powerful headbutt in history. When he actually tried it he barely had time to cry "No! NO!" before Tiger Mask used the momentum that was making Bobo Brazil's headbutt the most powerful in history to execute on him the most powerful piledriver in history.
- The Dog Bites Back: In the anime, a few wrestlers from Tiger's Cave pull their own Heel Face Turns in rebellion to Tiger's Cave methods. In the manga the trainees of Tiger's Cave pull a spectacular one, getting the headquarter invaded by gorillas and leopards, when Tiger Mask and the JWA direct assault on the headquarter forces the admins on the defensive.
- The Dreaded: Two of them. The first to appear is Mister Chi, who, while almost unknown, is terror incarnated for anyone who has seen him fight. The second one is Red Death Mask, Tiger's Cave Hero-Killer and their foulest fighter at the time (when Tiger Mask realizes who has come for his head, he considers himself doomed).
- Finishing Move: What did you expect from a wrestling manga? Tiger Mask had to develop his own Finisher after some episodes, rather than starting with his own, after he realised that he is in a handicap against other wrestlers that got them. Then, after Mr. Chi made it utterly useless, he created another, taking care of creating variations in case he found someone that could counteract the basic version (as Bobo Brazil and Black V learned at their expense). And he created a third after Miracle 3 counteracted that too.
- Fountain of Expies: He inspired King from Tekken, and real wrestlers have adopted the Tiger Mask name and fame.
- Heel Face Turn: The protagonist, who also manages to convert some of the wrestlers from the Tiger's Cave.
- Hero-Killer: In order of appearance we have: Gorillaman (the physically strongest fighter of the series), Lionman (Tiger's Cave head coach), Star Apollon (one of the best technical wrestler of the story), Mr. Chi (in-universe, the best wrestler in history, that even with the handicap of being over sixty years old curbstomped Tiger Mask for most of the fight and lost only due a Deus Ex Machina. In his prime he was practically invincible), Red Death Mask (Tiger's Cave designated Hero-Killer), Mr. Kamikaze (the strongest fighter of Tiger's Cave illegal fighting rings), Black V (a wrestler apparently immune to submission holds), The Convict (a giant wrestler with enormous strength), Miracle 3 (Tiger's Cave greatest miracle, a wrestler with superb technique, immense physical strength and incredible ability with fouls he's actually three different persons: Tiger's Cave finest technical fighter, greatest strongman and foulest wrestler) and the fake Tiger Mask.
- Heroic Second Wind: Happens when Tiger Mask thinks about the orphans that he is trying to protect and his friends.
- Kung Fu-Proof Mook: Played straight and subverted by Black V, who was trained by Bobo Brazil to aquire circus contorsionism-level of flexibility to be immune to submission holds like the infamous Cobra Twist or Tiger Mask's Fujiyama Tiger Breaker. He actually demonstrated the ability to reduce the Fujiyama Tiger Breaker to just a powerful but tolerable headbutt on his back, but then Tiger experimented on him a variant of the move and defeated him.
- Let X Be the Unknown: the Big Bad, Mr X.
- The Paragon Always Rebels: Villainous version, as Tiger Mask was the best of Tiger's Cave apprentices and already on his way to become Tiger's Cave strongest wrestler when he pulled his Heel Face Turn (hence Tiger's Cave giving him the mask of the tiger as a sign of this superiority).
- Pro Wrestling Is Real: Oh yeah. All heels are totally evil, all Tweeners are Blood Knights and all faces are The Cape. The only exception ever is the protagonist who was actually playing the heel to substain the orphanage (though he was also putting all his frustration against his harsh life in his fights).
- Saving the Orphanage: The reason Naoto Date/Tiger Mask betrays the Tiger's Cave and starts to get hunted by them is to save the orphanage where he was raised and to make the life of the orphans (who he sees as his family) better.
- Sorting Algorithm of Evil: The wrestlers sent by Tiger's Cave to kill Tiger Mask are progressively stronger and more lethal. It started with the less talented but more experienced Black Python (who could kill a tiger bare-handed) and progressed all the way to the top of Tiger's Cave 'legal' rooster (meaning they fought on legal promotions), then their Hero-Killer, then the champion of their underground fighting circuit, and then ad-hoc solutions like the admins (anime only: in the manga they're weaklings), Miracle 3, who in the manga is actually three different masked wrestlers with similar builds, one being a skilled technical fighter capable to find out how to counter the Fujiyama Tiger Breaker, one being the third physically strongest fighter in the series (the second is a presumed yeti, and first is the gigantic Gorilla Man) and the third a master of fouls, exchanging roles according to needs, and a fake Tiger Mask who was actually a match for him, culminating in suckering him into taking part to a tournament with no rules and filled with the worst heels of the world and El Sicodelico.
- Training From Hell: Apart from a normal fighting training taken to the extreme, some of the methods of Tiger's Cave include wrestling with big cats, spending a night tied to a rope under a bridge, whipslashes and the pool of tan and oil. No wonder you get to be a Badass if you survive.
- True Companions: The fighter of the Japan Pro-Wrestling Alliance are this. Best shown in the manga when Tiger Mask was forced to go at Tiger's Cave headquarter and they rescue him while wearing tiger masks as a declaration of war against Tiger's Cave.
- Up to Eleven: Miracle 3 does it three times. The first two happens at the same time, as he not only defeats the Fujiyama Tiger Breaker (that had previously proved itself a Finishing Move impossible to defeat) but does it in a way that requires the greatest display of strenght in the series (in fact he nearly fails in that), while the third is him actually being three different wrestlers with similar build and the same mask, one being an extremely capable technical fighter (and the one who actually came up with the counter to the Tiger Breaker), one being the third physically strong fighter in the series (topped only by what seems to be a yeti and Gorilla Man, an absurdly huge man raised by gorillas), and the third a master of cheats, exchanging themselves with each other according to the needs of the fight. When exposed, this was actually called the greatest scam in the history of pro-wrestling. Dick the Bruiser tries to pull this in terms of fighting dirty by setting Tiger Mask on fire and trying and strangling him with the ring rope, but Tiger Mask replies by hitting him with his cape in flames (it helped that dousing his clothes with fuel and setting them on fire was part of Tiger's Cave standard training, so he already knew the counter) and not only escaping from the ring rope but perfecting the attack on him.
- Weak but Skilled: Mr. Chi/The Great Zuma is this, being over seventy years old and, according to Tiger Mask, clearly physically weaker than the other competitors in the pan-Asian tournament, but at the same time can use perfectly almost all pro-wrestling move in existence, and his Awesomeness By Analysis allows him to copy the ones he doesn't know and counteract them after seeing them once, as best shown when he counteracted Tiger Mask's first finishing move with embarrassing ease.