Tiger Mask (タイガーマスク) began as a manga in 1968 and was later adapted into a successful anime series in 1969. It was written by Kajiwara Ikki.
In real life, the name has been used by a succession of puroresu characters as a gimmick. The Tiger Mask persona is instantly recognizable by its trademark mask, designed to look like a tiger's head, as well as the combination of high flying attacks and martial arts in the ring.
Samson Kutsuwada was the first wrestler to use the gimmick. In 1971, Japan Pro-Wrestling Association toured South Korea. Kutsuwada, as a heel, wrestled the opponents including Ueda Umanosuke and Eddie Sullivan and lost to Ōki Kintarō in the final card of the tour. This is not widely known as he never used the persona in Japan. Therefore, Sayama Satoru always receives the "original" billing.
original: Sayama Satoru (1981-1983)
Main article: Sayama Satoru
TV Asahi, which has been airing New Japan Pro-Wrestling's weekly television program since early 1970s, premiered a new series "Tiger Mask II" on 1981/4/20. Around the same time, New Japan created a real-life Tiger Mask, originally portrayed by Sayama Satoru. Sayama played the role until 1983, when he left New Japan and temporarily retired from puroresu. As Tiger Mask, Sayama feuded with Kobayashi Kuniaki, Canada's Bret Hart, and Englishmen Dynamite Kid and the original Black Tiger.
2nd: Misawa Mitsuharu (1984-1990)
Main article: Misawa Mitsuharu
In 1984, the Tiger Mask gimmick was continued by All Japan Pro-Wrestling and given to Misawa Mitsuharu. Misawa also feuded with Dynamite Kid and Kobayashi Kuniaki as well as Chavo Guerrero; he then moved up to the heavyweight division (the only Tiger Mask to do so while using the persona) to feud, albeit unsuccessfully, with Jumbo Tsuruta and Tenryū Gen'ichirō. In 1990/5, after Tenryū left All Japan, Misawa gave up the mask in the middle of a match to wrestle as himself.
3rd: Misawa Mitsuharu (1992-1994)
Main article: Kanemoto Kōji
New Japan's Kanemoto Kōji became the third Tiger Mask in 1992/3, but he had a dilemma between the style he wanted and the gimmick the company wanted him to. With the frustration, he unmasked himself after losing to Liger on 1994/1/4 (not a mask-vs-mask match). Protesting the promotion's idea to bring Sayama back as the original, he announced that he would go back to wrestle unmasked in 1994/7.
Main article: Tiger Mask (4th)
Since 1995, the name Tiger Mask has been held by a former trainee of Sayama. The fourth Tiger Mask, originally a free lancer, had his first match on 1995/7/15 at Kōrakuen Hall against The Great Sasuke. Eventually, he joined Michinoku Pro-Wrestling. Around 2002, he started wrestling for New Japan and officially join the promotion on 2002/12/16. Since then, he has been one of the top candidates to replace the now-aging Liger as one of the top stars of New Japan's junior heavyweight division. Compared to other reincarnations of the gimmick, his style is the most notable, as it is very similar to Sayama's Tiger Mask days.
The evil twin character Black Tiger was created by New Japan to oppose the man who portrayed Tiger Mask at the time, although he did not have to have the existing Tiger Mask as his exclusive antagonist. Black Tiger had always been portrayed by foreign wrestlers: Mark Rocco (British), Eddie Guerrero (American), Silver King (Mexican) and Rocky Romero (American). As Black Tiger, Rocco also feuded with The Cobra, and Guerrero also feuded with Jushin Thunder Liger and Wild Pegasus. A fifth Black Tiger also surfaced and, breaking away from the Black Tiger tradition, recently revealed to be Takaiwa Tatsuhito.
Recently Último Dragón, as a temporary break between his runs in the WWE, adopted the name and character Nidaime (2nd generation) The Tiger, modeled after the original, Satoru Sayama, who was his childhood idol. Último also made a character called Tiger Dragon which saw his attire a blend of the Último Dragón and Tiger Mask garb.
Sayama also gave brief authorization for a female version of the character, called Tiger Dream, to be played by female wrestler Candy Okutsu in the mid-1990s. He and Tiger Mask (4th) also provided her with training. Since Okutsu was injury-prone and had to take several sabbaticals from the ring, however, the character was easily forgotten by the fans and eventually abandoned.