Tiger Chung Lee

Tiger Chung Lee

OK, so I’m sitting around the house the other day watching the original Karate Kid, starring the one and only Ralph Macchio, and I start thinking to myself, wouldn’t life be great if things happened like they did in the movies. Always a happy ending around the corner, and the underdog is almost always certain to triumph. Wouldn’t that be great, a world where Rocky always knocks out Apollo Creed, a world where the Nerd always gets the cheerleader, and young and scrawny Daniel-San can learn karate well enough in a week from his neighbor Mr.Miyagi, that he can ultimately shut down the entire Cobra Kai organization and dry hump Elizabeth Shue, all in one fell swoop. Well that’s just swell…for the movies. Stuff like that just doesn’t occur in the world as we know it. If the Karate Kid existed in real life, odds are Daniel-San would move in next door to this week’s Jobber Of The Week, one of the worst martial artists ever, and the fat, lethargic Japanese JOTW would instruct Daniel-San on the finer arts of…getting his ass kicked. Yes, it’s now time to check in on the hardtimes and harsh reality of one of the most infamous enhancement talents ever. His name…one of legend….

First name – TIGER (although Frosted Flakes’s Tony the Tiger was arguably more dangerous).

Middle name – CHUNG (even horrid 80’s one hit wonder pop band Wang Chung had more hits).

Last name – LEE (he could only dream to be Bruce). This is his story.

Before he became the worst Kung-Fool…uhhh..Kung-Fu wrestler the US has seen this side of Riki Ataki, Tiger Chung Lee had what appeared to be a promising career ahead of him. Born Masanori “Tiger” Toguchi in Japan, he would be trained by Karl Gotch and make his wrestling debut in Tokyo in 1968. He would make his way to the US by the 70’s, and what followed would be successful runs in pretty much every major territory at the time. The AWA, Mid-Atlantic, Portland, and Mid South areas would all come under attack from the vicious Kendo stick wielding Tiger Toguchi. To correspond with his attack on the US, he felt a name change was in order. Wanting to spread fear into his future opponents heart, he changed his name to…..well, quite frankly…something that sounds like he was Daffy Duck’s live-in girlfriend – Kim Duk. Despite his new “Loony” name, Duk went on to claim a few NWA regional tag belts. Then in 1983, his ultimate destiny came a calling. The promised land – the World Wrestling Federation.

Succeeding in every territory he had wrestled in, one would think that glory in the WWF would be just around the corner. For his grand entrance in McMahonland, he even made a couple of improvements to ensure positive results. Step one, he lost the lame Duk name, and was now known as Tiger Chung Lee, supposedly hailing from Korea. Step two, heck, he was even paired up with the WWFs top manager at the time, Classy Freddy Blassie, upon his arrival. However, it didn’t take long for signs of Lee’s eventual plunge into jobberdom to start showing up. It all began with a demonstration of his deadly martial arts for Vince McMahon. Attempting to break bricks to show the wrestling world his deadly fists, he repeatedly failed to smash them, and in the process killed most of his heat as a legit martial arts threat. Rumor has it that even to this day, due to that infamous incident, Lee is even unable to watch Shaquille O’Neal play basketbal l, in fear of Shaq’s free throws causing him some painful brick flashbacks.

Blassie was quick to ditch him after the tragic brick ordeal, but on his own Lee was able to achieve moderate success. By the summer of 1983, things were still going well when he hooked up in a tag-team with Mr.Fuji. They went on to challenge Rocky Johnson and Tony Atlas for the belts, and found themselves firmly planted in the midcard. But alas, the good times didn’t last. In the summer of ’84, Fuji would turn on his partner, leading to a feud between the two. It was the beginning of the end for poor Tiger Chung Lee. Fuji would get the best of his ex-partner in a series of matches, and then soon the whole WWF would begin their assault on the Chungster. Long gone were the days of a push. For the next four years, he would go on a losing streak of Steve Lombardi-like proportions. Hell, the poor guy even was forced to job to Jose LUUUUUUUUUUIISSS Rivera on a routine basis. That folks, is how you define Wrestlecrap’s Jobber Of The Week. Despite all the hundred s of losses, he became a household name, even getting a crack at Hulk Hogan on national tv (his moment of infamy is even preserved for all-time on the Hulk Still Rules DVD). But the years of ass-whippings by everyone from SD Jones to the Hulkster began to wear on him. He longed to get beat up by a different Hulk. This one:

Forget about Ventura, Hogan, and Piper. For my money, the best wrestler turned actor of the 80’s was Tiger Chung Lee. No longer content with jobbing to wrestlers, he turned to Hollywood and soon was seen doing the j-o-b and getting his neck broken by Lou Ferrigno in the movie Cage, as well as getting smoked by Arnold Scwartenegger in Raw Deal. A cameo in Eddie Murphy’s Golden Child was another feather he put in his cap, before he returned back to his true love – wrestling.

He left the WWF, ditched the Tiger Chung Lee name, went back to being known as Kim Duk, and his career quickly went back on track. He went on to have success in Puerto Rico’s WWC, as well as Japan’s AJPW and NJPW. He even tried his hand in the Japanese hardcore style promotion known as WING. No word if he was able to defeat Paul McCartney for the Hooters 3 Mile Island Championship, however. His career would continue overseas into the 2000’s, but neither an appearance at WCW’s Japan Supershow ’92, or a decade of winning after that could ever erase his time as one of the most famous jobbers ever.

In closing, I was gonna bring around the point I brought up in my opening. About how in real life, the underdog never wins. How the Rockys and Mr.Miyagis of the big screen simply do not exist in real life. That’s when I witnessed something. It was a battle royal from the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, NJ. All the way back on March 11, 1984. Amongst Hulk Hogan, Andre The Giant, Big John Studd, and other titans of the mid-80’s WWF, stood Tiger Chung Lee. For one shining moment, one all too brief moment, he rose to the occasion. The underdog had hung in there for a while, brawling away with the best of them.

Then it happened.

He faced off against the Immortal One. Mr.Hollywood. Mr. Hogan Knows Best. And he did it. With the help of Big John Studd and Adrian Adonis, Tiger Chung Lee made Hulk Hogan his personal jobber of the evening, by throwing him over the ropes and eliminating him.

Now while he didn’t go on to win the whole thing, the shock of seeing Tiger Chung Lee get the best of Hulk Hogan is a sight I will never, ever forget. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe underdogs do win one once in a while. Maybe there really are real life Rockys and old, fat karate instructors out there ready to rise to the occasion. Tiger Chung Lee has made me a believer in the human spirit once again. To paraphrase Al Michaels from the 1980 Winter Olympics: “Do you believe in Miyagis?


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