Despite his losing record, Shoji was a constant favourite of the audience, and was nicknamed "Mr. Pride" for his popularity and adherence to the mixed martial arts promotion. He was known for his mic performance, die hard spirit, stellar submission escapes, razor sharp armbar and a fighting spirit demonstrated by his willingness to take on all comers. According to fight commentator Stephen Quadros and John Hyams, director of the documentary "The Smashing Machine", Shoji cleaned his house and prepared his will before every competition in case he is killed during the fight.
He also worked as a judge for the Dream organization.
A national-ranked judoka since highschool, Shoji firstly dreamed with being a professional wrestler, but he developed an interest in mixed martial arts due to his schoolmate Kazunari Murakami, who convinced him to try on the Wajyutsu Keishukai gym. After graduating from Chukyo University, Shoji joined the dojo full-time and became a professional fighter. He represented WK at the Lumax Cup tournament, but he was eliminated at the first round.
Shoji had his worldwide debut taking on Renzo Gracie from the Gracie family at the first event of Pride in 1997. Though clearly outcLassed, Shoji held his own and escaped from numerous submission attempts through the match, including an armbar and an omoplata which were almost fully locked, while regularly landing low kicks and some knees to the head. After thirty minutes, the match was ruled a draw due to the absence of judges. Nonetheless, Shoji got acclaimed by the crowd for his performance, which included grabbing the mic after the match and yelling "What do you say now, Gracies? Who said the Japanese were the weakest?" (Nani ga Gracie jā! Nani ga Nippon sai jaku jā?)
He returned at the next two events of Pride, submitting Juan Mott via rear naked choke and drawing with Takada Dojo understudy and fellow underdog Daijiro Matsui. However, his biggest victory came at Pride 4, where Shoji faced another unbeaten Brazilian jiu-jitsu exponent, Wallid Ismail. The Brazilian was aggressive and held Akira mounted for the first round, with Shoji reversing him every time. At the second round, however, the Japanese got the upper hand over a tired Ismail and landed multiple answered punches, which prompted the referee to stop the match for a win for Shoji.
Akira next faced Ukrainian Igor Vovchanchyn, who would become one of Pride's top strikers. Knowing the strengths of his adversary, Shoji played conservatively and avoided the KO for a decision loss. Shortly after, Shoji bounced back with another shocking victory in a match against Ultimate Fighting Championship champion and former King of Pancrase Guy Mezger. The fight was slow and strategic, with long battles on the clinch, with Mezger landing several strikes, but Shoji eventually found opportunities to take Mezger down and perform ground and pound. The judges gave the split decision to the Japanese, which was met with controversy in the United States.
At the Pride Grand Prix 2000 tournament, Shoji was first pitted against luta livre practitioner Ebenezer Fontes Braga, getting a unanimous decision victory. He advanced round, but he was then eliminated by the eventual winner Mark Coleman.
Shoji's last match in Pride would be in its very last event in 2007, fighting Gilbert Yvel and losing by TKO after a brief grappling exchange.
While working as a fighting referee in Dream, Shoji considered a final retirement match. He got his will at DEEP 53 in a match against Kazuo Misaki, which he lost by TKO in the second round. Both Misaki and Shoji broke out in tears after the fight, overwhelmed by emotions, knowing it was Shoji`s final match.
In 2008, Shoji began working in professional wrestling company Hustle, hosted by Dream Stage Entertainment along with Pride, and became a regular roster of the promotion. He debuted as a participant the Hustle Grand Prix tournament, being invited by famous idol Yuko Ogura and granted the ring name of "Ko♥Ri♥Ta♥N", but he was defeated by Osaka Pro Wrestling representative Zeus after getting hit with a frying pan.
Shoji then joined Generalissimo Takada's villainous faction Takada Monster Army, invited by Yuji Shimada, and he changed his name to "Private Shimada". In 2009, after losing a match to Wataru Sakata and Kurodaman, he was put on a trial by Shimada and threatened with expulsion if he lost a next singles match against Sakata, which eventually became a 3-way match with fellow Monster Army member Commander An Jo. Shoji have his best, but Shimada and An Jo crashed the match and made him lose. Kicked out of Takada's faction, Akira joined Sakata and got his revenge over Anjo, defeating him and Rey Ohara in a tag team match. remained as his ally until the end of the promotion.
Later HUSTLE was closed, Shoji joined Smash, a new promotion where Yoshihiro Tajiri works as wrestler and producer, and had the feuds with Kim Nam-Hoon, Yoshiaki Yago and Minoru Suzuki. On January 2011, Shoji announced that he had quit professional wrestling.Finishing moves
Cross Gold (Cross armbar)
Shoji Payment (Bridging capture suplex)
Kurobe no Taiyo (Harai goshi)