In 1999 Masa Abe was an up-and-coming star, member of The Pride and with the world at his feet. After coming to blows with Pride leader Naoki Yoshida, Abe left Tokyo and headed to the US. There, after several years of setbacks and disappointments, he finally found his place and made a name for himself globally. While Abe was off making a name for himself Yoshida changed his name, joining the War Tigers under the name Blood Tiger II.
The Pride of Tokyo Pure also included Ren Itou and Kenta Yamashita, who both grew into solid stars for FRONTLINE. Itou was a model professional, a journeyman wrestler, while Yamashita oozed star quality and became one of FRONTLINE’s aces.
But Yamashita actually left Japan to join Pro-Wrestling FRONTIER, a move that was an unmitigated disaster. He was underused, overlooked and without a win for over two years before returning to Japan. But back in Japan he quickly rose back to the World Title scene and won the championship for a third time.
FRONTLINE fell into a slump between 2014 and 2017, with the company lacking the ability to draw big US stars and falling short of their attempts to sign as many up-and-coming young Japanese wrestlers as they could. They needed some star power to inject new life into the company, and they found it in one of their former young stars.
Masa Abe had been persuaded to return from the US, now a global megastar and instantly becoming one of FRONTLINE’s aces. He finds himself at the top of the company alongside Itou, whose journeyman status finally resulted in a championship win in 2015. In the chasing pack for the top spots in FRONTLINE are Naoki Yoshida, again using his real name, and Kenta Yamashita, whose career is starting to wane.
Yamashita is without a championship reign for three years and there is talk that a return to the UK could be on the cards again, especially now that Abe has returned and taken the spot that Yamashita sees as being rightfully his. Yoshida, who has never won the biggest title in FRONTLINE, also sees his old friend as a threat, while Itou has welcomed Abe back with open arms. It appears that the group once known as The Pride are now ready to battle one another.
The Pride inspired a whole generation of wrestling fans, some of whom went on to sign for FRONTLINE themselves. Maya Ohno and Daisuke Suzuki, the son of Kazuki Suzuki, are two such men; the duo now known as The New Pride.