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Found 32 results

  1. KinchStalker

    Kosuke Takeuchi

    Kosuke Takeuchi (竹内宏介) Profession: Journalist, Editor, Commentator (Color) Real name: Kosuke Takeuchi Professional name: not applicable Life: 1/6/1947-5/3/2012 Born: Atami, Shizuoka, Japan Career: 1965-2006 Promotions: International Wrestling Enterprise, All Japan Pro Wrestling (as commentator) Summary: Kosuke Takeuchi might have never worked between the ropes, but no chronicle of the history of puroresu is complete without him. The face of Gong magazine and a guru for generations of hardcore fans, Takeuchi was a pillar of puro culture throughout his forty-year career. [For a more detailed overview of the story of Takeuchi and Gong, see my blog post “Kosuke Takeuchi, Gong Magazine, and Various Maniax”, published on the tenth anniversary of his death.] While born in Atami, Shizuoka, Kosuke Takeuchi grew up in Tokyo's Taito ward. At the age of 8, he was hooked for life by JWA broadcasts on street televisions, and found his way to a job at Professional Wrestling & Boxing magazine in his senior year of high school. Takeuchi was frustrated by the magazine’s dry presentation—which was essentially an extension of the Daily Sports evening paper—and attempted to quit in 1966. He was promoted to the editorial department instead, and when the man who had gotten him that job and promotion, Yukio Koyonagi, left their parent company, Takeuchi was scouted for a new magazine. Left: Takeuchi goes on the mat with the man he made a star in Japan. Gong and Monthly Gong published content analogous to the Stanley Weston magazines of the West (that is, the “Apter mags”). It first hit shelves in 1968, and over the next decade, it would help make Takeuchi one of the most influential men in puroresu. Gong’s extensive coverage of Mil Mascaras, which began three years before he ever worked in Japan (and likely led to that even happening), was the most famous example of this. In the mid-to-late 1970s, a generation of superfans began to rally around Takeuchi, competing amongst themselves through their myriad fan clubs to win his favor. Simply put, his impact was massive. Through his fan club connections, Takeuchi could be relied on to help make the magic happen for an important match. For just one example, AJPW’s famous “Idol Showdown” of 1977, in which Jumbo Tsuruta defended his NWA United National title against Mil Mascaras, was supported by cheer squads which Takeuchi himself arranged on opposite ends of the arena (you can see them in cutaways during the match). While this was long unacknowledged in the West, Takeuchi is probably the primary source of unofficial footage of 1970s puroresu, whether that was through 8mm clips he had acquired (and had encouraged his biggest fans to shoot themselves) or the many home video recordings he had made of television broadcasts. These are just a couple of his many contributions to puroresu, though. Later on, he would be credited with giving Giant Baba the idea to license Tiger Mask for AJPW, as well as conceiving the name of FMW. Takeuchi began work as a commentator for AJPW and the IWE in the late 1970s, originally serving as a special guest for Mascaras’ matches in 1978. Over time, as Takeuchi scaled his Gong role back to an editorial advisor, he became more prominent in this role. However, Takeuchi’s regular commentary duties ended in 1992. He would continue to be a prominent figure in the wrestling journalism sphere for over a decade afterwards, and even returned to the magazine he had built during its darkest hour in the 2000s. Takeuchi suffered a massive stroke during a morning commute in 2006 and was left incapacitated until his death in 2012.
  2. KinchStalker

    Tadaharu Tanaka

    Tadaharu Tanaka (田中忠治) Profession: Wrestler, Trainer Real name: Masakatsu Tanaka (田中政克) Professional names: Masakatsu Tanaka, Tadaharu Tanaka Life: 1/26/1942- (presumed alive) Born: Hofu, Yamaguchi, Japan Career: 1958-1977 Height/Weight: 176cm/105kg (5’9”/231 lbs.) Signature moves: Sunset flip Promotions: Japan Pro Wrestling/JWA, Tokyo Pro Wrestling, International Wrestling Enterprise Titles: IWA World Mid-Heavyweight [IWE] (1x) Summary: Tadaharu Tanaka was one of the JWA’s first proper trainees, most notable for his close association with Toyonobori and for establishing the IWE’s “middleweight” division at the end of the sixties. Masakatsu Tanaka joined the JWA after graduating from junior high in 1957. As the promotion had been staffed in its early years by experienced athletes in sumo and judo (or amateur wrestling, in one case) who transferred to pro wrestling, Tanaka was among its earliest trainees in the proper sense, alongside high school baseball star Yasuhiro Kojima (the future Hiro Matsuda). He would become Toyonobori’s valet and his closest confidant. At one point in the early 60s, Tanaka had been ordered to switch to boxing, as Rikidozan was intent on training a champion in the sport through his gym. The ring name Tadaharu Tanaka, which seems to have originated in 1964, was one of Toyonobori’s many inventions. An uncited passage on Tanaka’s Japanese Wikipedia page claims that Tadaharu was taken from Chuji Kunisada, a 19th century gambler who has long been romanticized as a chivalric figure. 忠治 can indeed be read as both Tadaharu and Chuji, and the reference would be in line with Toyonobori’s love for nicking names from the stock characters of Edo-period historical dramas. Tanaka was the leader of Toyonobori’s posse, the Hayabusa-tai (“Falcon Corps”). Presumably named after the 64th Squadron of the Imperial Japanese Army, which had been led by the well-propagandized aviator Tateo Kato, the Hayabusa-tai’s best-known incident revolved around a Ventures concert that they were intended to promote (for those unaware, the Ventures were *huge* in Japan)…until Kokichi Endo swiped the rights and got all the money, albeit with a beating. I bring it up because the Hayabusa-tai made up a good portion of the dream team that Toyonobori had in mind when he began to put Tokyo Pro Wrestling together. Sure enough, Tanaka was among those who jumped ship to join his senior. According to the Japanese zine Showa Puroresu, Tanaka did not temper Toyonobori’s penchant for spending money he wasn’t supposed to spend, but in fact inherited it. During Antonio Inoki’s legal disputes with Toyonobori and Hisashi Shinma in 1967, it was reportedly disclosed that Tanaka had personally misappropriated funds which had been allocated for Tokyo Pro’s training camps. (As trainee Haruka Eigen later recalled, the company had been unable to afford rice to feed them.) In December 1966, when Inoki created the Tokyo Pro Wrestling Ltd. company to split the rest of the roster from Toyonobori, Tanaka was the only other wrestler who was excluded. Due to this, Tanaka did not participate in the Tokyo Pro-IWE joint tour of January 1967, but he joined the IWE alongside Toyonobori in time for their second tour that summer. It was in his early years with Kokusai that Tanaka’s career peaked. In early 1969, he worked a program with British wrestler Mike Marino, winning Marino’s newly minted IWA World Mid-Heavyweight title that February. It is a pervasive belief among IWE fans that Toyonobori had lobbied for Tanaka’s push, although Tanaka’s then-valet Mighty Inoue stated that he didn’t think that was the case in a 2016 interview with Showa Puroresu. Whatever the case, this made Tanaka puroresu’s first junior heavyweight champion since IWE president Isao Yoshihara himself in the early 60s, and while footage of Tanaka does not survive, it is apparent that he presaged the IWE’s later talent in this vein, such as Inoue and Isamu Teranishi. He would remain with the company even as Toyonobori retired in 1970, only losing his title when he vacated it in March 1971 to embark on his excursion. Like other Kokusai wrestlers of the period, Tanaka’s overseas training saw him compete in France, Spain, Germany, and even South Africa, before his return the following June. For whatever fanfare his homecoming might have received, Tanaka did not break through upon return, but recede. It appears that he was overshadowed by wrestlers like the aforementioned Teranishi and Inoue, and he began to work more as a trainer. He reportedly began to experience liver problems in the mid-70s, and announced his departure in September 1977, without working a retirement match. In a 2009 blog post, Great Kojika claimed that he had met Tanaka during an All Japan show in Tanaka’s hometown. While it has been presumed that he is still alive, Tanaka did not come forth when the Rikidozan OB Kai alumni association was formed in 1996, and Kojika’s alleged encounter is the last anyone has heard from him.
  3. KinchStalker

    Takeshi Oiso

    Takeshi Ōiso (大磯武) Profession: Wrestler, Promoter, Trainer Real name: Takeji Suruzaki (摺崎武二) Professional names: Takeshi Ōiso, Takashi Surazaki Life: 4/8/1944- Born: Shinimato, Toyama, Japan Career: 1966-1974 (in Japan; range of years during Filipino phase unknown) Height/Weight: 181cm/117kg (5’11”/257 lbs.) Signature moves: Headbutt Promotions: Tokyo Pro Wrestling, International Wrestling Enterprise Titles: none Summary: Takeshi Ōiso was a sumo-to-puroresu transplant who wrestled for eight years, joining Tokyo Pro Wrestling and then being subsumed into the IWE. However, he is most notable for his second life as a pioneering promoter of Filipino pro wrestling. Takeji Suruzaki joined the Tachinami sumo stable in 1963, debuting in the July tournament under his real name. He would receive the shikona Ōisonami upon entering the makushita division in March 1965 but decided to retire after the May 1966 tournament. Suruzaki had submitted an application to the JWA after Rikidozan’s death, but the promotion had not been seeking new recruits and turned him down. This time, it would be Toyonobori who came to him, as the deposed president and ace was building a roster for his new enterprise, Tokyo Pro Wrestling. Suruzaki was one of five ex-sumo talent recruited for the promotion, alongside Tetsunosuke Daigo, Haruka Eigen, Katsuhisa Shibata, and Isamu Teranishi. He would immediately take a ring name which blended his real name (albeit tweaked) and shikona, Takeshi Ōiso. After Tokyo Pro’s disastrous first shows in 1966, and their one joint tour with the International Wrestling Enterprise in January 1967, Ōiso was subsumed into the latter organization like most of the Tokyo Pro roster. Ōiso's IWE career was generally unremarkable, and he reportedly considered retirement until Jose Arroyo booked him for a Spanish tour in 1972. Ōiso spent the next year touring Europe and Africa before returning home for the 5th IWA World Series tournament in autumn 1973. Despite his expedition, Ōiso decided to leave the business shortly after his return, wrestling a retirement match on January 29, 1974. Left: An NJPW-APW joint show in February 1984. [Source: Weekly Pro Wrestling #31 (March 6, 1984) - picture included in free preview pages of digital copy] None of this, though, is what is most interesting about Ōiso. As the story goes, one of Toyonobori’s obsessions was the Yamashita treasure, a mythical stash of Imperial war loot from their Southeast Asian campaigns named after general Tomoyuki Yamashita. While this treasure is now mostly considered to have been an urban legend (notwithstanding the absolutely buckwild legal drama between Filipino treasure hunter Rogelio Roxas and Ferdinand Marcos - yes, *that* Ferdinand Marcos - which began in the late 80s), Toyonobori was a believer who had approached several wrestlers about hunting for it. At some point, Ōiso took him up on that offer, and though it was clearly unsuccessful, the experience must have stuck with Ōiso. After his retirement, he decided to move to the Philippines to work as a trader, but he would bring professional wrestling along with him. At some point, Ōiso formed a promotion called Asian Pro Wrestling, for which he served as promoter and trainer. In February 1984, he returned to the ring for APW’s most notable shows: a pair of joint dates with New Japan Pro-Wrestling in Quezon City. These saw him team with disciples Harris Montero and Mario Matulac in matches against, respectively, Killer Khan & Animal Hamaguchi, and Yoshiaki Fujiwara & Osamu Kido, and APW won in both cases. APW folded sometime after this, but Ōiso protege Conrad Encinas eventually formed Reverse Pro Wrestling, which stated itself as APW’s successor. RPW has since moved its operations to France and become World Underground Wrestling, but continues to have a division in the Philippines.
  4. KinchStalker

    Mr. Chin

    Mr. Chin (ミスター珍) Real name: Yuichi Deguchi Professional names: Yuichi Deguchi, Mr. Chin, Mr. Yoto, Mr. Kamikaze Life: 10/12/1932-6/25/1995 Born: Takarazuka, Hyogo, Japan Career: 1954-1995 Height/Weight: 168cm/83kg (5’6”/183 lbs.) Signature moves: weapon attack Promotions: AJPW Association, Japan Pro Wrestling/JWA, International Wrestling Enterprise, Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling Titles: NWA World Tag Team [CWF] (1x, w/Tojo Yamamoto) Summary: Mr. Chin had one of the most interesting careers in puroresu, a forty-year trajectory from puroresu’s first regional promotion to FMW. Yuichi Deguchi was a judoka working for the Hyogo prefecture’s riot police unit when he joined the International Judo Association in 1950. Often called “Pro Judo” for short, this was an entertainment organization formed by judoka Tatsukuma Ushijima [Wikipedia]. Ushijima had objected to Kodokan’s recent shift in strategy—promoting judo as an amateur sport, in an effort to have it approved for reintegration into the school curriculum—and wanted to build a new path for impoverished judoka to make a living as sports-entertainers. The Association was short-lived, but its provincial tours and promotional strategies have been cited as an influence on the puroresu industry that it preceded. A few years after the Association folded, Deguchi joined the All Japan Pro Wrestling Association. Headed by fellow Pro Judo alum Toshio Yamaguchi, the AJPWA was an Osaka-based regional promotion that had capitalized on the publicity surrounding the nascent Japan Pro Wrestling/JWA, running shows before the latter officially began tours and even beating it to the punch with puroresu’s first television broadcast. The Association could only afford to hire local American servicemen as foreign wrestlers, with the exception of P.Y. Chang. Deguchi teamed up with the future Tojo Yamamoto. The AJPWA officially folded when local Yakuza boss Shotaru Matsuyama withdrew from his duties as president and chief sponsor for health reasons. Deguchi was among those who remained with Yamaguchi, holding events in poverty as Yamaguchi Dojo in Toshio’s hometown of Mishima. Deguchi participated in the JWA’s interpromotional Japan Championship Series in October 1956; the following year, Deguchi was one of four Dojo wrestlers hired by the JWA, alongside Michiaki Yoshimura, Kanji Higuchi, and Hideyuki Nagasawa. In keeping with his character when working with Chang, Deguchi worked the gimmick of a heel named Mr. Chin, donning Chinese clothes while sporting a headband with the Japanese flag, on which kamikaze (神風) was written. Chin wore geta which he used as a weapon, and also weaponized mouthwash in an early antecedent of the poison mist tradition. In 1961, Chin was seriously injured by an errant big boot from Giant Baba. He retired for two months, but was encouraged to return to wrestling by a nurse whom he would marry. Upon his return, Chin bit Baba’s chest in a revenge match, leaving a scar that remained for the rest of his life. He would leave the JWA in 1964 after a stomach ulcer, and found work as an actor and television personality, but he returned to the business when he joined the IWE in 1970. Chin would go on an expedition to North America, working in Texas, Tennessee, Louisiana, and even Calgary. It was here that, as Mr. Kamikaze, he reunited with Tojo Yamamoto, and the two won tag gold in a couple territories. However, it was during this period that he developed diabetes. Returning to the IWE in 1976, Deguchi was booked as a foreign heel named Mr. Yoto, which I suspect was done to cut costs. He was inactive for a time, but when Goro Tsurumi and Katzuso Ooiyama formed the Independent Gurentai heel faction in 1980, Deguchi revived the Mr. Chin character to serve as their manager. He would also wrestle for the promotion in its last days. On the IWE’s final show, which took place in a school playground on August 9, 1981, Chin lost to Hiromichi Fuyuki by disqualification. After this, Chin worked abroad in the US, southeast Asia, and even the Middle East until the late 80s. However, this would not be the end of his story. In 1993, the 60-year old Chin debuted for FMW. Despite requiring frequent dialysis at this point, Chin would consistently wrestle in (frequently comedic) undercard matches for about a year. In his final match on July 31, 1994, Chin worked as the spoof gimmick Jinsei Chinzaki against frequent opponent Gosaku Goshogawara, working as Undertaker Gosaku. Chin died of chronic renal failure almost a year later, on June 26, 1995.
  5. KinchStalker

    Munenori Higo

    Munenori Higo (肥後宗典) Real name: Atsushi Hongo (本郷篤) Professional names: Seikichi Hongo, Atsushi Hongo, Munenori Higo Life: 5/15/1945-7/23/2002 Born: Kumamoto, Kumamoto, Japan Career: 1969-1980 Height/Weight: 184cm/102kg Signature moves: Knee drop Promotions: International Wrestling Enterprise, All Japan Pro Wrestling Titles: none Summary: Munenori Higo was an IWE product most notable for his 1972 transfer to the newly formed AJPW. A "baseball ace" at Kusari Nishi High School, Atsushi Hongo decided to join the International Wrestling Enterprise instead of going professional. He was reportedly inspired to do so by IWE star and Kumamoto native Great Kusatsu, and would serve as Kusatsu’s valet. Hongo was permanently transferred to All Japan Pro-Wrestling at its formation, alongside Thunder Sugiyama. It was at this point that he adopted the new ring name Munenori Higo. Giant Baba was by all accounts very fond of him, reportedly serving as his matchmaker. In 1974, Baba sent Higo on a three-month expedition to Australia. Despite this, Higo never managed to break out, and remained an undercarder for the rest of his career. In April 1980, Higo retired after a woman filed an assault charge. His former IWE coworker Mighty Inoue has claimed that it was a false accusation, but there have been no other comments on it to my knowledge. Higo worked as a promoter afterward, supporting AJPW shows in his hometown..
  6. KinchStalker

    Mammoth Suzuki

    Mammoth Suzuki (マンモス鈴木) Profession: Wrestler, Referee Real name: Yukio Suzuki (鈴木幸雄) Professional names: Mammoth Suzuki, Gorilla Suzuki Life: 2/10/1941-5/24/1991 Born: Sendai, Miyagi, Japan Career: 1959-1981 Height/Weight: 193cm/120kg (6’4”/260lbs.) Signature moves: Chop Promotions: Japan Pro Wrestling/JWA, Tokyo Pro Wrestling, International Wrestling Enterprise Titles: none Summary: Mammoth Suzuki was one of early puroresu’s biggest busts, starkly disappointing high expectations from Rikidozan. Yukio Suzuki joined the JWA in 1959. Alongside Shohei Baba, Kanji Inoki, and Kintaro Oki, Suzuki was part of the first quartet in puroresu to be nicknamed the shitenno (Four Pillars). As Yoshinosato later recalled, Rikidozan thought that Suzuki was the likeliest among them to succeed. In July 1961, Suzuki embarked on an excursion alongside Baba and Yoshinosato. He would find work in both Los Angeles and New York, but returned home early without Rikidozan’s permission. (Profiles of Suzuki in various issues of the Showa Puroresu zine allude to “problems with women” during his time in New York.) In his first match back, he wrestled Inoki. Inoki’s autobiography as cited by Japanese Wikipedia claims that he “ruined” this match in some way, to Rikidozan’s anger. Due to his dislike of practice, Suzuki was apparently beaten by Rikidozan on several occasions, and his boss once broke a wooden sword on him. He continued to disappoint until, in a remarkably petty display, Rikidozan renamed him Gorilla Suzuki in the middle of the 1963 World League tour. Suzuki retired that year. Left: Suzuki during his time as an IWE referee. [Source: Deluxe Pro Wrestling, January 1980] Suzuki returned to wrestling at the invitation of Toyonobori when Tokyo Pro Wrestling started up. He stayed on board as it merged with the IWE, wrestling on the undercards (sometimes in a mask) until retiring in 1969. After that, Suzuki remained with the company as a referee until its closure, officiating its final match on August 9, 1981. He also found work as an actor from the late sixties onward. Suzuki died of internal disease in 1991.
  7. KinchStalker

    Tenshin Yonemura

    Tenshin Yonemura (米村天心) Real name: Tsutomu Yonemura (米村勉) Professional names: Tsutomu Yonemura, Tenshin Yonemura Life: 12/16/1946-6/20/2016 Born: Kasumi District, Akita, Japan Career: 1972-1996 Height/Weight: 179cm/110kg (5'10";242 lbs.) Signature moves: Bear hug Promotions: International Wrestling Enterprise Titles: none Summary: Tenshin Yonemura was a lifelong undercarder for the IWE who remained in the business afterward through shows in his city. Tsutomu Yonemura wrestled for the Takeshima sumo stable, debuting in September 1962. He eventually reached makushita under the shikona of Takanobori, but he struggled to perform well and retired after the first tournament of 1969. After this, Yonemura found work as a trainer in the bodybuilding gym of former lightweight weightlifting champion and onetime JWA wrestler Takao Kaneko. At Kaneko’s recommendation, though, Yonemura would join the IWE in June 1972. He was a quick study, debuting in September. Stylistically, Yonemura was a “rough” fighter who admired Dick the Bruiser. Profiles in the Showa Puroresu fanzine recall that Yonemura could be seen accompanying gaikokujin to the ring as a second while wearing their shirt. While seen as a promising candidate for an overseas expedition, Yonemura never got the chance. In spring 1980, he was rechristened Tenshin Yonemura. After the IWE folded, Yonemura opened a chanko restaurant in Aizu-Wakamatsu. He would never wrestle fulltime again, but he aligned himself with the All Japan wing of his former promotion, making one or two special appearances a year when the promotion stopped by. This lasted until 1987, but even this wasn’t quite the end of Yonemura’s career, as he made appearances at local shows in the early 1990s. Cagematch records two of these: an SWS show in February 1992 and an Oriental Pro show in February 1993. However, Japanese sources state that he appeared for other promotions such as Goro Tsurumi's New International Pro Wrestling, and that his final match was in 1996, two years after his retirement date as claimed by Cagematch. Yonemura was also responsible for introducing future AJPW wrestler Kazushi Miyamoto to Giant Baba, as Miyamoto was a member of his son's sumo club. Yonemura died on June 2, 2016. AJPW visits Yonemura's Yagura Taiko restaurant (circa late 1980s).
  8. KinchStalker

    Snake Amami

    Snake Amami (スネーク奄美) Real name: Isamu Sakae (栄勇) Professional names: Isamu Sakae, Snake Amami Life: 5/25/1951-4/30/1981 Born: Hioki District (present-day Minamisatsuma), Kagoshima, Japan Career: 1972-1981 Height/Weight: 174cm/92kg (5’8”/202 lbs.) Signature moves: Diving crossbody Promotions: International Wrestling Enterprise Titles: none Summary: Snake Amami wrestled for the International Wrestling Enterprise for seven years as an undercarder. After graduating from junior high, Isamu Sakae entered the Isutzu sumo stable, debuting in January 1967 at the age of 15. He reached sandanme (third rank) before retiring after the first tournament of 1970. Sakae decided to go back to school after this, enrolling in the Kagoshima High School of Commerce and Industry (now Shonan High School). Here, he devoted his athletic pursuits to amateur wrestling, and in 1970, he won both interhigh and nationals in the freestyle 75kg division. He would travel to the United States in a Japan-US competition, where he notched eleven wins and one draw. Upon his graduation, Sakae joined the IWE sales department in 1972. However, he would train to wrestle with the company, debuting in the new year. Sakae served as Rusher Kimura’s valet, and the two became very close. (There is a story that, at Sakae’s wake, Kimura slept with his body.) Rechristened Snake Amami in 1974, he was an undercarder whose combination of wrestling technique and aerial attacks was an appealing combination. At the 1979 Tokyo Sports show, Amami put over NJPW's Makoto Arakawa in the second match. Shortly into the new decade, though, Amami was forced to leave when a brain tumor was discovered. Despite a brief attempt to return that September, he never wrestled again, and died the following spring. After the IWE’s final show in August, the roster stopped by Amami’s home on their way back to Tokyo to light incense.
  9. KinchStalker

    Devil Murasaki

    Devil Murasaki (デビル紫) Real name: Akio Murasaki (村崎昭男) Professional names: Akio Murasaki, Onizo Murasaki, Great Saki, Kosuke Murasaki, Devil Murasaki Life: 4/30/1942-10/23/2017 Born: Osaka, Osaka, Japan Career: 1968-1980 Height/Weight: 178cm/100kg (5’10”/220lbs.) Signature moves: Elbow drop Promotions: International Wrestling Enterprise, All Japan Pro Wrestling Titles: International Tag Team [Stampede] (1x, w/Tokyo Joe) Summary: Devil Murasaki is most notable for adopting one of puroresu’s first long-term masked gimmicks. Akio Murasaki enlisted in the JSDF after high school, but dreamt of becoming a pro wrestler. After three years of service, he was discharged, and he would be referred to the young IWE through his gym, whose owner was a friend of Isao Yoshihara. Murasaki would be trained by Tadaharu Tanaka, and assigned as the valet of Thunder Sugiyama. He debuted on January 5, 1968, wrestling future tag partner Tetsunosuke Daigo. In his early years, he wrestled under various stage names conceived by Toyonobori; this was encouraged by Yoshihara, who promised a raise if he changed his character. Finally, he would settle on Devil Murasaki, which he came up with himself. Although finding his voice through a “rough” style (essentially, this is a catchall term for native Japanese wrestlers who wrestle in a heellike manner but aren’t booked as heels), Murasaki was passed over for a training excursion. In the autumn of 1972, though, Murasaki was temporarily loaned to All Japan Pro Wrestling alongside Goro Tsurumi. It has been claimed that the Babas were fond enough of Murasaki to offer to hire him outright, but that Murasaki declined. Around this time, Dick the Bruiser worked the last IWE tour of the year, and Murasaki was assigned as his valet. Dick invited Murasaki to come back with him to Indianapolis. Murasaki booked a flight there in December. Some of the money was borrowed from IWE front manager Shigeo Nukui, while some came in the form of a parting gift from Motoko Baba. Murasaki found immediate work in the WWA, which needed a Japanese wrestler after Animal Hamaguchi’s return home. Often in a team with Mitsu Arakawa, he wrestled the likes of Wilbur Snyder, Crusher Lisowski, Moose Cholak, and even Giant Baba. In 1974, Murasaki traveled to Calgary to work for Stampede Wrestling, where he reunited with Daigo. While the two had not been friends during their time in the IWE, they were glad to see each other, and they teamed up as Great Saki and Tokyo Joe. The two worked a program with the Kiwis, the future Sheepherders/Bushwhackers, which saw both men win the only title of their life. That program would change the course of Daigo’s life forever, as he lost his leg in a car accident. Murasaki stayed for a time to look after his partner, but he was shaken by the experience, and he left for EMLL that summer. There, he reunited with Tsurumi, and the two bunked together with Mitsuo Momota, then working as Rikidozan II. Murasaki became fascinated by the masks of lucha libre, and when he and Tsurumi left to find work in Europe, he would don a mask in Germany. It was while working in Europe that Murasaki won roughly ¥700,000, which emboldened him to return home in October 1976. Yoshihara wasn’t enthused to have him back, as the IWE was already well into the financial turbulence of its Tokyo 12 Channel years. With the mediation of his old friend Nukui, though, Murasaki was brought back into the fold, donning his mask. Booker Great Kusatsu had no intent of pushing Murasaki, so he would spend the rest of his career in the under and midcard, but Murasaki was grateful to have a job back home. His greatest opportunity was likely his shot at Isamu Teranishi’s IWA World Mid-Heavyweight title in 1980. That year would be Murasaki’s last in the ring, as he retired in May after a match against Mighty Inoue. He transferred into the sales department at Yoshihara’s recommendation, but by this point, the promotion had entered its death spiral, and most of the tickets that Kokusai was selling were being bought by gangsters. In the promotion’s last days, Murasaki hustled on the side by selling handmade masks and pamphlets. He temporarily returned to the ring as a referee after the IWE’s star ref, bodybuilder Mitsuo Endo, was let go to cut costs. However, when Kokusai went under he left the business for good. Murasaki used his experience in the military and pro wrestling to get a security job after he married. He would not appear in public again until a G Spirits interview, which led to a 2015 television appearance in his mask. Two years later, Murasaki died of esophageal cancer at 75. In 2021, another wrestler appeared under the Devil Murasaki name, in All Japan Pro Wrestling. [This profile was adapted from a 2021 Igapro article.]
  10. KinchStalker

    Toyonobori

    Toyonobori (豊登) Real name: Michiharu Sadano (定野道春) Professional names: Toyonobori Life: 3/21/1931-7/1/1998 Born: Kanada (now Fukuchi), Fukuoka, Japan Career: 1954-1973 Height/Weight: 174cm/114kg (5’9”/251 lbs.) Signature moves: Bearhug, boston crab, Argentine and Canadian backbreakers Promotions: Japan Pro Wrestling/JWA, Tokyo Pro Wrestling, International Wrestling Enterprise, New Japan Pro-Wrestling Titles: All Asia Tag Team [JWA] (7x; 4x w/Rikidozan, 1x w/Michiaki Yoshimura, 2x w/Giant Baba), WWA World Heavyweight [WWA (Los Angeles)] (1x), IWA World Tag Team [IWE] (2x, 1x w/Thunder Sugiyama, 1x w/Strong Kobayashi) Tournament victories: World League [JWA] (2x: 1964, 1965) Summary: Toyonobori was one of the most prominent members of the first generation of puroresu. For a time after Rikidozan’s death, he was even the top wrestler in the country. However, Toyonobori’s considerable legacy is haunted by the specter of his irrepressible vices. Michiharu Sadano was recruited by a patron of the Tatsunami sumo stable during a provincial tour; supposedly, it was a decision made by his stomach. Debuting in June 1947, Sadano adopted the name Kanedayama in January 1949, before switching to Toyonobori that autumn. He won his first tournament in autumn 1953 and was promoted to the makuuchi division in 1954. Near the end of that same year, he would leave sumo to transfer to pro wrestling. Toyonobori got his first big break in 1956, reaching the semifinals of an interpromotional heavyweight tournament meant to delegitimize the JWA’s regional competitors and build up Azumafuji for a title match that never happened. It wasn’t until 1960, though, that he really got pushed. After Azumafuji’s retirement made Toyonobori the most prominent ex-sumo besides Rikidozan, Rikidozan began to groom Toyonobori as his successor. The two won the All Asia Tag Team titles from Dan Miller & Frank Valois in June. It would be the first of four reigns with Rikidozan, and seven total. Toyonobori was one of a few wrestlers besides Rikidozan to eke out some status in the company, alongside earlier Rikidozan tag partner Kokichi Endo, and the light and junior heavyweights Junzo Yoshinosato and Michiaki Yoshimura. Toyonobori’s gambling addiction and debt kept Rikidozan from ever fully pushing the gas pedal, but Toyonobori remained loyal to him. Many of Toyonobori’s juniors were fond of him due to his gentle nature. His mentorship of the young Kanji Inoki is well-known, and will be relevant later. Less immediately obvious, at least to Western fans, are the many ring names which Toyonobori bestowed upon his underlings. Some stuck, like Antonio Inoki, Kotetsu Yamamoto, Kantaro Hoshino, and Umanosuke Ueda. (The latter three were inspired by late Edo period samurai Aizu no Kotetsu, the 1943 film Ina no Kotetsu, and Edo period samurai Umanosuke Ueda, respectively.) Others did not, like Genji Okuma (Motoshi Okuma), Sarukichi Takasakiyama (Motoyuki Kitazawa), and Akihisa Takachiho…although in fairness, it was a long time before the latter became the Great Kabuki. After Rikidozan’s death, Toyonobori was selected by the JWA’s shareholders and sponsors to take his spot as the ace, as well as help run the promotion in an executive council. In April 1964, he challenged the Destroyer for the WWA Heavyweight title in a match which drew a 51.4 television rating. While this did not match the 64.0 of the previous year’s Rikidozan-Destroyer match (5/19/63), it still made it one of the most widely-viewed wrestling matches of all time. (Like that match, it does not survive.) Eight months later, Toyonobori won the title, but this reign would begin to undo him. Toyonobori’s resistance to defending the belt in its native territory made for tense relations with the JWA’s only Stateside ally. Meanwhile, Toyonobori became company president in early 1965, as Rikidozan widow Keiko Momota stepped down from her post and the troika of underworld bigwigs atop their shareholders’ association acquiesced to pressure to do the same. Toyonobori was incompetent, passing his duties onto Yoshinosato as he used the company vault as his own betting fund. While he was hardly the only corrupt official in the company, his antics made him an easy target for his peers to rally against. After Toyonobori finally dropped the WWA title to Luke Graham, the other executives chose to build Giant Baba into the JWA’s new ace, and had him win the newly minted International Heavyweight title from Dick the Bruiser in November 1965. That winter, Toyonobori resigned under the cover story of ureteral stones, and quickly set about forming his own promotion. With the assistance of Hisashi Shinma, an old workout buddy and experienced salesman, Toyonobori formed Tokyo Pro Wrestling, the first competitor to the JWA since the earliest years of puroresu. While he could not secure his entire dream roster, he did lure a crop of sympathetic talent to jump ship and follow him, and in the Plunder on the Pacific Ocean, he even swiped Antonio Inoki just before his scheduled return for the 1966 World League. In a supposedly magnanimous gesture, Toyonobori made Inoki the president of the promotion, and transferred his own 50 million yen debt onto Inoki’s shoulders in the process. Despite Inoki’s best efforts to get the promotion off the ground, Toyonobori’s unfettered embezzlement devastated Tokyo Pro. In December 1966, the talent rallied behind Inoki as he formed a new company of the same name, which would fold into the nascent Kokusai Puroresu (International Wrestling Enterprise). Toyonobori found his way back into wrestling through the IWE. He was never pushed as the promotion’s ace, but he was used effectively, putting over foreign ace Billy Robinson and then building up Thunder Sugiyama and Strong Kobayashi through tag title reigns. He retired in early 1970. This would not be the end, though, as he returned to the business to help his old junior. Through the intermediary of Hisashi Shinma, Toyonobori reconciled with Inoki and worked for New Japan Pro-Wrestling in its first year. Without himself and Shinma, NJPW might not have survived its first year. He quietly retired as New Japan received network support in 1973, although he made a ringside appearance for Inoki and Kobayashi’s first match in March 1974, and refereed Inoki and Kintaro Oki’s match that October. Fifteen years later, he appeared again for Yusef Turk's retirement ceremony. Toyonobori died of heart failure in 1998.
  11. KinchStalker

    Apollo Sugawara

    Apollo Sugawara (アポロ菅原) Real Name: Nobuyoshi Sugawara (菅原伸義) Professional Names: Nobuyoshi Sugawara, Kim Korea, Apollo Sugawara Life: 2/10/1954- Born: Oga, Akita, Japan Career: 1979-2002 Promotions: International Wrestling Enterprise, All Japan Pro Wrestling, SWS, NOW, Tokyo Pro Wrestling (Ishikawa) Height/Weight: 182cm/111kg (6’/244 lbs.) Signature Moves: Back flip (Samoan Drop variant) Titles: none Summary: Apollo Sugawara was the least accomplished of the final batch of IWE trainees, but he has an interesting legacy as a journeyman wrestler and coach. Nobuyoshi Sugawara was an amateur wrestler in high school, winning a prefectural competition and placing fourth in nationals. Upon his graduation, Sugawara began work at a Chiba shipyard. In 1979, he was recommended to the International Wrestling Enterprise by the owner of his gym, Japan Bodybuilding Association president and IWE referee Mitsuo Endo. Joining in May 1979, Sugawara debuted in September. Alongside Hiromichi Fuyuki and Masahiko Takasugi, Sugawara was one of the last wrestlers the IWE produced before their dojo was burned down in 1980. He claims that he received no salary. Upon the IWE’s closure, Sugawara and Fuyuki were taken in by All Japan Pro Wrestling under the wing of Mighty Inoue. (Takasugi would join them later after a Mexican excursion.) This influx helped make the AJPW undercard talent pool the deepest it had ever been, alongside homegrown prospects such as Shiro Koshinaka, Tarzan Goto, and Mitsuharu Misawa. In retrospect, Sugawara has admitted that he never had a chance of getting to the top. In April 1983, Sugawara entered the undercard Lou Thesz Cup tournament. The following September, he traveled to Germany to work for Otto Wanz, alongside fellow IWE alum Goro Tsurumi. As CWA already had billed Tsurumi as the Japanese Goro Tanaka, Sugawara was instead billed as Kim Korea. Upon his return to All Japan, Sugawara joined the reconfigured Kokusai Ketsumeigun, a heel faction of ex-IWE wrestlers headed by Rusher Kimura. It was at this point that he took the Apollo ringname. Sugawara was cut in April 1986 alongside Ryuma Go and Masahiko Takasugi (and referee Mr. Hayashi). Ostensibly, this was likely done to cut costs after the acquisition of the Calgary Hurricanes: however, Goro Tsurumi claimed in a G Spirits interview that, during dinner one night, Sugawara had denigrated Baba in response to criticism. (Sugawara denies this, claiming he never would have talked back to Baba and that they never even ate together.) Unlike Go and Takasugi, who were hired on a per-tour basis in mid-1987, Sugawara never returned to AJPW. Sugawara’s next involvement in the business was as a coach for Takeshi Puroresu Gundan, a side project of comedian Beat Takeshi (Kitano) which tied into the infamous NJPW angle that introduced Big Van Vader to the latter. Under Sugawara’s guidance, the future Gedo, Jado, and Super Delfin all received their first training, in a ring which Wally Yamaguchi had set up in the basement of his Maniax wrestling merch store. In 1988, Sugawara reunited with Go and Takasugi to form Pioneer Senshi, the first shot in the indie boom. Sugawara and Takasugi wanted to name it Shin Kokusai Puroresu - that is, the new IWE - but Go vetoed this, due to his shame over having taken NJPW's offer in 1978. ("Pioneer" was itself a reference to their former home, which had used the word as tour branding.) Sugawara would only work on Pioneer’s first show in April 1989. Mitsuo Endo would hook Sugawara up with a gig as a wrestler and as Koji Kitao’s personal coach, but he would follow Kitao to SWS. Sugawara’s tenure is best known for a debacle of a match with Minoru Suzuki. (That same night, Kitao would have his infamous incident with John Tenta.) Sugawara remained with SWS until its closure, then bounced along from NOW to Shinsei NOW to Tokyo Pro Wrestling. While he has never officially retired, Sugawara’s last match was for IWA Japan in 2002, in which he tagged with Takasugi to defeat Steve Williams and Gypsy Joe.
  12. FEAR THE MAD DOG!!! This was a bloody, bloody match. Kimura bled. Vachon bled. THE REFEREE BLED!! All you vampires can mark this match as a rare TRIPLE JUICE BRAWL. This starts out with Vachon laying some nice stiff shots on Kimura before Kimura does some boring wrestling and Vachon just chucks him to the outside, piledrives him on the floor and carves him up with a chain. Vachon raking that chain across Kimura's face is some of the grizzlier imagery I've seen in a pro wrestling match. Then he also goes out of his way to piledrive the ref on the floor and do the exact same thing to him. I imagine this kind of stuff would have got fans storming the ring in other territories but here all the folks were amused by the carnage. Vachon was a force unleashed. I especially enjoyed the scene where he and Kimura traded blows in the crowd, Vachon landing these stone hard knocks in his face and Kimura throwing sumo-ish slaps. For some reason there is No DQ here and we get a proper finish. The ending could've been a little more exciting, but this was an amusing spectacle.
  13. This isn't outstanding, but a really fun match and interesting because it's natives vs. natives with clear face/heel roles. Okuma and Kojika are fun stooging bruiser heels who work over the faces with nice punches and headbutts, cutting off the ring and doing extended beatdowns, while Hamaguchi and Inoue are really fun when they get fired up. I also dug their fast amateur wrestler movements. There is blood, brawling and they keep up the pace throughout, altough admittedly this match probably went 15 minutes too long. Still, I enjoyed this.
  14. This is one of my favourite 70s tags. Hell, it may be my very favourite. A long match that just flies by, because every section has some neat aspect to it. These stumpy legged IWE guys really knew how to hit the mat and get aggressive in entertaining fashion in between cool looking proto junior offense that doesn't look fruity. Takachio is the Great Kabuki, and he already had his great looking uppercut which is all I need. Kutsuwda is a big trollish looking dude and it was really cool to see Mighty and Hamaguchi use their skill on this brute. Another thing that I like is that these guys weren't afraid to lay it in, so you also get some stiff kicks to the chest etc. Every hold was really wrenched in too and my favourite thing is that the selling was really spot on, so the hold work doesn't feel like time killing. In the 2nd fall we get more cool matwork where Hamaguchi and Mighty really twist the hell out of Takachio's leg. He does this really cool selling where is punching his own knee as if to stop it from popping out. Eventually he makes a comeback by throwing punches on one leg which was awesome. The nifty little touches kept coming and from now on it feels like all guys are trying to finish this all the time. The 3rd fall is short but cool as hell too where they all really go at eachother, throwing wild punches and slaps, totally laying it in. I also like that all three falls ended in a flash. I would've really liked a bigger Inoue/Takachio showdown as these are two guys with the greatest punches but you can't have everything. Great match.
  15. Long junior tag from 1979! Hard not to love a match that has these stocky juniors doing all their awesome offense. Awesome takedowns, knee drops, punches, sumo slaps and flying headbutts a plenty. Match also had a really smart layout and clever use of double teams. Starts in a rush and then turns into a long uphill battle. The 2nd fall of this match alone as better than a lot of 1 fall singles matches. I guess the match peaked early when Inoue and Hoshino get into serious fight in the middle of the match, but that was an amazing moment and the rest of the match was still impossibly cool.
  16. Pretty entertaining match and a cool chance to see young Andre working a lengthy epic. The early going isn't exactly what you expect from an Andre match as he works pretty even with Kobayashi, Andre would do a headlock takeover and Kobayashi would easily counter to a headscissor. On the other hand things such as Andre reversing an armbar by stepping on Kobayashi or pushing his knee in his face become extra compelling because he is so huge. Andre wins the first fall pretty easily and the other two is pretty much Kobayashi beating him down by stomping on his hand, working his stomach over with punches etc. There is a cool spot in the 3rd fall where Andre does a double leg Fuchi stretch and gets thrown on his face. Really liked all the Andre facial selling and bumping including the gutsy finish. This got pretty chinlocky here and there and was a little meandering overall but is worth a watch.
  17. Two big lumpy bastards get technical! Don Leo Jonathan is such a trip to watch executing all these kip ups and flips and flying headscissors and whatnot. I really liked how he would lock in a bodyscissor after doing a sunset flip, always making the other guy work. The Boston Crab is a dangerous hold! Don Leos initial escape by tripping the referee was like something Negro Casas would do. Kobayashi adds very little flash to the match but I love how he would sell a basic Don elbow to the stomach like a big deal. Don Leo pretty much beats him down with big stomps and knee drops and then some cool palm strike-ish punches. I'm not sure what happened at the finish. It seems one fall is missing but I didn't notice any clipping.
  18. A trios from 1972! Easily one of the funnest matches ever. Whoever booked the near-midget Ali Bey on the same team as Andre had some serious saviness. We start off with some swank technical work between Van Buyten and Teranishi, but soon shenanigans from the apron involving Andre ensue. The interactions between Van Buyten and Andre are solid gold. The wrestling isn't much worse - Andre bumps big! Ali Bey has some hilarious selling, including constantly hitting his head against things! Sugiyama is another hilarious character, and only tagged in for about 3 minutes. Teranishi does the bulk of the work for his team (probably for the better) and gets to look really slick. But the dedication Andre and Franz have to miscommunication spots is something else here. Andre is just incomparable. At one point, Franz keeps getting flung over the top rope to the outside, onto Andre and then back inside. It leads to Franz taking a huge bump to the outside. I like how the foreign heels still remain dangerous despite being total knobheads, as Andre finishes opponents off in a matter of minutes. So yeah, great match that will have you in stitches if you have an ounce of humor in you. One of my favourites from Andre, good showcase for Teranishi, and so cool to see what Franz could do when he wasn't playing babyface. A must watch.
  19. This was their 2nd match that year as Zrno tries to get back the WWU Jr. title. This was much less heated and intense than the first encounter but may have had even better grappling before the somewhat disappointing finish. Hara continues to look really good grappling with Zrno, being right there with the bridge spots and tricky wrist takedowns and what not. Something funny is how Zrno works the exact same as if it were a european match always waiting for his opponent to get up even though there's no 10 count. Match didn't have much direction and the ending wasn't super exciting as it looked like Hara was gonna defend his title anyways. Still, I get a kick out of watching these two grapple for 15 minutes.
  20. JIP 20 minutes into a 30 minute time limit draw. There was still plenty of action with flying headscissors and snappy armdrags and stiff european uppercuts and dropkicks and what not. Verhulst doesn't do a ton here but I still enjoyed seeing him come in and do stuff as his technique is ridiculously good. Zrno was pretty „stiff“ here e.g. blocking opponents moves by stiffening up. It may not result in picture perfect execution of certain spots but I still thought it was cool and they did the usual time limit draw spiel where both guys were working for pinfalls equally before the end.
  21. Years after putting over Inoki in a historic match, Johnny Powers returns to japan to face another japanese top gaijin in a much less historic match. Powers is looking somewhat older and sadder, like a Bob Ross gone off the rails here. Powers still has really nice basic offense, mean looking elbows and knees and stomps and what not. He spends what feels like 20 minutes beating on Kimura and this would've been good had Kimura sold any of that and ens gaged powers in some significant form before the poor finish. There's also about 4 or 5 nut shots in this match. Thesz was the ref and him punching Powers in the face for doing the exact same stuff Thesz was doing 20 years earlier was the funniest moment of the match. But yeah, don't watch this.
  22. This was a fun defensive, cagey bout where neither guy was willing to get thrown easily. This builds really nice into the second half where both guys have enough and start throwing stiff slaps and headbutts. Go was chasing Hara here, hitting a mean dropkick and dropping him on a table for a spot that was pretty crazy by 1980 standards. Match had good heat and tension and the uncooperativeness made this a cool encounter.
  23. Pretty much a 1980s MOVEZ~! match as this was basically all 4 guys running in to hit their stuff, tag out, and repeat. I liked the stiff dropkicks, nasty piledriver and graceful arm whips so I'll take it over today's thigh slap happy MOVEZ~! Matches. There was a cool moment where Mighty and Kimura slapped the shit out of eachother and then Kimura annihilates Hamaguchi with a ruthless dive. Animal is down and out and I was thinking this match actually had some drama going now but seconds later a lousy DQ happens. Well, this had awesome heat and I now wanna see more Haruka Eigen matches lurking amidst the the sea of IWE, so a rematch may be somewhere down there.
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