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Found 3 results

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
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