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PURORESU OBITUARIES: MACH HAYATO (1951-2021)

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PURORESU OBITUARIES 

MACH HAYATO (1951-2021) 

[Adapted from an Igapro obituary]

Shigehisa Hido was a Toyota employee who was inspired to become a wrestler after watching the Yamaha Brothers, but was rejected for his 5’9” frame. Hido’s dream did not die, as he sparred in his spare time with Hiroaki Hamada. When Hido heard that Hamada was traveling to Mexico on excursion, Hido borrowed money from a friend to buy a one-way ticket to Mexico. Hido enrolled at Rafael Salamanca’s wrestling school, held in Arena Mexico, and debuted as Karate Hayato in 1976. He would work across Latin America in the following years, wrestling in Mexico, Puerto Rico, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, and Guatemala. Eventually, this brought him to Los Angeles, where he met NJPW wrestlers Kengo Kimura and Ryuma Go. Hayato didn’t get along with them, who considered his attitude “overbearing”, but when he worked San Francisco soon afterward, Hayato hit it off with Genichiro Tenryu.

Ryuma Go had done one good thing for Hayato, though; he’d introduced him to Goro Tsurumi of the International Wrestling Enterprise. Since Go had left the IWE for NJPW in 1978, it was not a good idea for him to act as an official intermediary, but it appears that he got the ball rolling. That led Hayato to not take it all that seriously, but when the IWE sent him a round-trip business class ticket, valid for one year, he decided to return home for a spell.

Hayato would work the IWE’s Devilish Fight Series, their final tour of 1979. Debuting on November 1, he put over Tsurumi. Yoshihara was the one who rechristened him Mach, but I am inclined to debunk Luchawiki’s claim that Yoshihara also told Hayato to change his mask design from a simple, Sangre Chicana-inspired design to a more modern one; this is contradicted by the IWE footage in circulation, which shows Mach wearing masks in the former style.

Hayato began fulltime work for the promotion the following March. By this point the promotion had begun its death spiral, but Hayato tried not to dwell on the management crisis, saying that “que será, será.” On the IWE’s final show in August 1981, Hayato was defeated by Isamu Teranishi. President Isao Yoshihara had asked Hayato to take Masahiko Takasugi back to Mexico with him, but he was unable to do so, and Takasugi went by himself. Plans were made to incorporate Hayato into the IWE-NJPW invasion angle that autumn, with a Tiger Mask singles match at the October 8 show, but TM’s decision to work overseas that tour got in the way. Hayato would return to Mexico long enough to headline Arena Mexico in a tag match on November 13, 1981. It appears that his work in Central America ended with this stint, though.

Hayato would work Stampede Wrestling for a spell in 1982, where he met Mr. Hito. Hito had contact with AJPW booker Akio Sato, and put a word in for him, but Sato and Hito did not have a good relationship. More encouraging was when Giant Baba came to meet Hayato in LA the following February, while Baba was touring the States to get his PWF Heavyweight title back from Harley Race. Baba told him to come, but since this had been a face-to-face arrangement, it wasn’t until 1984 that Hayato returned to Japan.

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Hayato with Noboyoshi Sugawara, during his brief AJPW stint.

Hayato would work the first two tours of 1984. While he did get some television time (I’ve linked one of these matches at the bottom), his style was at odds with Sato’s sensibilities. Now, Akio Sato deserves a lot more regard and respect for his contributions to All Japan than he gets over here, as he Americanized the company in positive ways. I completely believe that Baba would have kept Jumbo as the #2 for as long as possible had NTV and Sato not intervened and put a plan in motion, and that to frame Jumbo’s United National title years as a deliberate accruement of credibility before he became the ace (as Western commenters love to do in their chessmaster booker Baba narratives), rather than a parallel track between the kōhai Jumbo and the senpai Baba (that is, Jumbo would have gotten to the top eventually, but Baba wouldn’t have wound down his career of his own volition), borders on teleological fallacy. But if Sato had a blind spot, it was the merits of lucha libre, and if Mil Mascaras was getting marginalized in this era, then Hayato had no hope of endearing himself to Sato. Sato criticized Hayato for his performances, and the dislike was mutual, as Hayato did not pursue a further deal after working these two tours freelance.

Hayato was about to return to Los Angeles when he was contacted by Hisashi Shinma. Shinma had Gran Hamada locked down for his Universal Wrestling Federation, and he wanted a second fulltime luchador. Hayato would get Baba’s permission for this, and later surmised that Baba had been responsible for this, when he saw that Gong editor and Baba confidant Kosuke Takeuchi attended his meeting with Shinma. (Note that Baba also connected Shinma with Terry Funk to book foreign talent for the UWF.) Hayato got to reunite with old coworkers Rusher Kimura, Ryuma Go, and Hamada, but he was most impressed by Akira Maeda and Nobuhiko Takada, and Yoshiaki Fujiwara took a liking to him.

The UWF’s inaugural five-date tour in April booked Hayato in his element, against UWA luchadors such as Negro Navarro and Perro Aguayo. Afterwards, though, Shinma left amidst internal turmoil, as did Hamada. So it was that the UWF reconfigured into the first shoot-style organization as it returned to venues that summer. Hayato was not well-suited to this new style, and he and his co-workers knew it. They had expected him to leave like Hamada had. But when Hayato showed up to work the Infinity Anniversary tour, they welcomed him with open arms. Hayato would not last until the end of the UWF’s original run, with damage to his left elbow apparently convincing him to hang it up, but by all accounts his colleagues greatly respected him for having tried. It was apparently his UWF coworkers that he would keep in touch with through Christmas cards in the decades to come.

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Hayato receives a respectful sendoff.

Hayato’s retirement match was a tag on April 26, 1985, alongside Super Tiger against Caswell Martin and Dalibar Singh. Hayato got the victory by submission with a triangle choke on Singh. At his ceremony, Hayato began to take off his mask, before Sayama stopped him to tell him he didn’t have to. The fans agreed.

Hido would move to San Francisco to work as a landscaper. While his cause of death has not been disclosed, kidney problems had forced him to retire in recent years, receiving dialysis treatment.

Hayato was a pioneer with a humble but respectable impact, from the influence of one of his mask designs on the Great Sasuke to the homage of MMA fighter "Mach" Hayato Sakurai, a childhood fan of his. My condolences to those who knew and loved him.

Some Hayato matches:

w/Animal Hamaguchi & Mighty Inoue vs. Mike George, Leo Lopez & Bob Sweetan, 1/29/81

w/Masahiko Takasugi vs. El Cobarde & Herodes, 2/27/81

w/Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Masanobu Fuchi & Magic Dragon, 1/18/84

vs. Super Tiger, 2/18/85

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