After this embarrassment he returned to Mexico to train in Ultimo Dragon’s class of high-flying called the “Hall Of The Dragon”. It was here that Ezaki met up with former rival Chris Jericho, who was looking to add more moves to his arsenal. Jericho asked him about the Shooting Star Press, and told him he’d broke his arm attempting it. So it was decided they’d work on something else for Jericho .. the Asai Moonsault, which we all know and love as “The Lionsault” he made famous as “Lionheart” in ECW.
Ezaki wanted something new for himself though, so he created the “Phoenix Splash”. It’s a 450 splash starting from a backwards posture like you’re readying for a moonsault. This was vital for his career moving forward. He took his new move and practiced it in matches for EMLL. He also had the honour of teaming with Ultimo Dragon in a tag team tournament; although they were not successful. At this time he was asked to return to FMW soon, so he worked his last remaining dates. On November 29th 1994, he celebrated his 26th birthday with Chris Jericho, who found it funny to cram his face in to the cake.
He also had the pleasure of working some matches with Dos Caras (Alberto Del Rio’s Father). Unluckily for him, a botched asai moonsault gave him an injury, but he was able to recover as he only picked up a severe headache. In early 1995, he went to America to train and put on more weight before taking over as the Ace of FMW. Going on the road with The Gladiator (aka Mike Awesome) helped, as they discussed how they would keep FMW going after Onita’s retirement. He worked some Florida events, but he didn’t get over right away as some of the American fans laughed at him for looking like a Power Ranger. They soon changed their tune when they saw him perform the Falcon Arrow (which he also innovated) and the Phoenix Splash. Hayabusa was so impressive he won the PCWF Heavyweight Championship.
Pictured above, you can see Mike Awesome choking Hayabusa to advertise their upcoming match. At the 6th Anniversary show he was meant to challenge The Gladiator, but plans changed considerably in the main event scene. Atsushi Onita was scheduled to face Tarzan Goto in a brutal match which would’ve passed the torch. But Goto had other plans and left the company (he felt Onita was setting him up to fail), leaving them with no one to take over.
The new owner Shoichi Arai decided it would be Hayabusa who would take over as the Ace of FMW. With friends leaving the promotion, he declined to follow them and pledged his loyalty to Arai and Mike Awesome. To make the retirement match extra exciting, the company announced Ishikawa would challenge Onita instead. And when it came to the press conference .. Hayabusa came in and knelt with respect, before challenging Onita. While Onita berated Hayabusa for bursting in, Ishikawa respected him enough to step aside.
In one of the biggest matches of his life, Hayabusa challenged Onita in a “Exploding Ring, No Ropes, Exploding Barbed Wire Cage Death Match” in front of 58,250 fans. It was the biggest deathmatch of the time, and the biggest main event in FMW history. Below is the best video you’re going to find .. but it’s very long! Nevertheless, this is as extreme as wrestling got in the 90’s. You can see where ECW got its inspiration from.
The result was Hayabusa needing 67 stitches, and he cried afterwards due to the pain and emotion. Onita had passed the torch to him, so the pressure was on his shoulders to keep FMW alive. To give them a fresh start, Aria closed Onita’s FMW and started his own promotion under the same name. To coincide with this, Hayabusa had pictures taken of him so they could promote the new FMW with the new ace on all the posters.
Despite Onita doing his best to put Hayabusa over in the match, many hardcore FMW fans had not yet gotten onboard. Attendances plummeted, but it was to be expected after years of shaping FMW around Onita. He joined up with Mr Pogo, Gladiator, Hisaskatsu Pogo and Horace to takeover Goto’s old stable to fight back against Ricky Fuji, who claimed Hayabusa was not the man to take over as the Ace of FMW. After some poor shows, Ezaki prayed the show at the Korakuen Hall would sell out. And it did, as the fans were willing to give this new FMW a shot. He promised the fans they would work with the same passion as they did for Onita. He performed the Phoenix Splash for the first time in Japan, but the fans didn’t notice right away. It wasn’t til Ezaki got a full two pages highlighting the move in the Pro-Wrestling Weekly magazine did they begin to notice.
In mid-1995, fans showed up to FMW chanting for him. They’d seen his innovative moves (in the mag) they won’t be able to see anywhere else. Purely through word of mouth, the audience grew by 30% in a couple of months. He got over to the point a news channel showed footage of him performing the Phoenix Splash; he was slowly becoming a phenomenon.
He won the FMW Brass Knuckles title, but returned it shortly after as he felt he needed to defeat The Gladiator and everyone from the W*ING stable first. This led to a series of matches between him and The Gladiator. He was injured in their first match after a botched shooting star press, brought on by him finding it difficult to breath with the mask in the hot climate. Regardless, he kept going and finished the match. Despite being told to take a couple of months off after a trip to the hospital, Ezaki hid his pain so he could compete in the Grand Slam tournament. He felt he needed to prove he was tough enough to be the ace of FMW.
Despite working hurt, Hayabusa fought his way through every match in the Grand Slam tournament. Managing to scrape through on points, he was placed against his rival Gladiator in the finals. His injuries worsened though, so he was forced to see his doctor and get painkillers. After giving Gladiator everything his body had left, Ezaki lost the match. Mike whispered “Thank you Ezaki”. This win helped Mike Awesome’s career considerably. It may have encouraged Paul Heyman to sign him to ECW a few years later.
Still needing to be the ace of FMW, he kept working .. but mainly in tag matches. For the rest of the year he kept working .. but his injuries piled up. He turned to alcohol to help him get to sleep at night as the pain was so bad. He wasn’t coping with the pressure of being the ace of FMW very well. Living off the high of being in the ring, he picked up another injury .. this time to his eye. Refusing to get checked out, he worked with the injury despite not being able to judge distance well. In the last week of the year, Hayabusa got on the mic after a main event and promised the fans he would keep working hard next year. Arai noticed his injuries, and instead told Ezaki he was to be taken off the January tour so he could rest up. Ezaki managed to convince Arai to let him do the January tour so they could set up an injury angle.