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[Vintage Article, 1976] Kintaro Oki and Kim Duk challenge Baba and Tsuruta

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The following is sourced from "大木キムの殴りこみで"プロレス日韓戦争"開始", an article written by Seibu Kikuya and published in the November 1976 issue of Monthly Pro Wrestling, pg. 78-81. It has been rewritten and rearranged for clarity and flow.

OKI AND KIM'S ASSAULT STARTS "JAPANESE-KOREAN PRO WRESTLING WAR"

Kim Il (Kintaro Oki) and Kim Duk (Masanori Toguchi), the Korean master-disciple duo, are set to face Giant Baba and Jumbo Tsuruta in the final match of the AJPW Giant Series at the Kuramae Kokugikan on October 28. The catalyst for this was a written challenge from Oki, sent from Korea, for the International Tag Team titles held by Baba and Tsuruta.

In summary, the letter read:

“On May 13, at the Kawasaki City Gymnasium, Oki and Nankaizan [Kang Sung-Yung] had the opportunity to face Baba and Tsuruta, albeit in a non-title match, but they were unsuccessful. Fortunately, Oki now has Kim Duk as his partner and will challenge Baba and Tsuruta again for the tag titles. Masanori Toguchi, aka Kim Duk, has grown into a young warrior after three years of training in the US, and has gained the ability and popularity to surpass Oki. We are confident that he will be able to show his Japanese fans how well he has matured, and that he will be able to capture the title. We hope that Baba and Tsuruta will graciously accept this challenge.”

Baba was surprised. After hearing from Samson Kutsuwada and others that Oki was not in a condition to perform, Baba had decided to postpone the first show of the Giant Series at Omiya, where Oki was scheduled to wrestle. The reason was that Oki had been scheduled to defend his Asian Heavyweight title against Waldo von Erich.

Baba said, "Anyway, I am worried about Mr. Oki's injury and his injury, and I don't have enough information about Toguchi.” He immediately inquired at the PWF headquarters about Toguchi's eligibility to challenge, but the reply was withheld, saying that a decision would be made after Mr. Oki's arrival in Japan. This seemed to have irritated Oki again. On September 20, Oki arrived in Japan with Toguchi. The flight from Seoul to Tokyo usually takes less than two hours, but this was quite unusual for him, as he usually arrived at the airport just before the opening of the show.

Oki flies in with bandages, saying the challenge comes before the cure

Baba was understandably concerned about Oki's injury. Oki had just been seriously injured in a car accident.

103crop.thumb.jpg.c135f0c5a3d3ce55f67083f102af19e6.jpgIt was after 11:00 p.m. on August 31 when Oki was involved in a traffic accident. Oki was on his way home from a dinner with friends outside of Seoul when he collided head-on with a cab as he was approaching Han River Road on Route 3. Oki, who was riding in the front passenger seat, was rushed to Soonchunhyang Hospital in Namsan, Seoul, after he crashed through the front windshield and became a bloody mess. He suffered lacerations on the forehead, face, right elbow, and right palm, as well as bruises all over his body. He was seriously injured, with a projected recovery time of one month. The most severe injury was the forehead laceration, for which a combined plastic and reconstructive surgery was performed by cutting and grafting about nine square centimeters [approx. 3.5”] of skin from the right thigh. If Oki hadn't had the world's hardest head, trained by head-butting, he might have been killed. On the night of his hospitalization, Oki had a high fever of 39 degrees Celsius and could not sleep at all.

However, on September 5, the sixth day of his hospitalization, Oki ignored the doctor's protests and forcibly discharged himself from the hospital, before his stitches had been removed. This was because a four-show domestic tour was set to begin on September 8. The tour featured freelance wrestler Thunder Sugiyama and All Japan wrestlers Samson Kutsuwada, Kazuo Sakurada, Mitsuo Momota, and Atsushi Onita. On September 8, they had scheduled an afternoon show in Incheon and an evening show in Seoul. Shows in Daegu and Pyeongtaek would follow on the 9th and 11th. Oki participated on all shows with his head heavily bandaged, as if he were wearing a white mask.

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On September 8, Oki returned to the ring to wrestle Thunder Sugiyama.

“Not only could I not use my head butt, but my right hand and right leg didn’t work as well as they should. However, I was prepared to die in the ring," said Oki. In Korea, a wrestling show without the "hero" Kim Il would not be possible. Fans come to the event to see Oki. For his fans, Oki risked death in the ring. But this was not a good thing for his wounds. He had broken all the doctor's injunctions, “not to move and not to sweat”. It is only natural that Baba, who heard the report of Kutsuwada and others after their return to Japan, was concerned about the extent to which Oki had recovered. Oki countered. "I challenged because I was confident that I could win. I did not issue the challenge before I was injured. I don't need Baba's concern about my injury."


024crop.thumb.jpg.fab5781a9c20acd84acae66fbd98a94d.jpgHe was so irritated by the lack of response that he stormed into Japan four days before the tour was set to begin. Oki and Toguchi held a press conference at the Rio coffee shop in Shibuya on the 20th, at 6 p.m. His head was still bandaged and the lacerations on his nose and the corners of his eyes had not fully healed, but he spoke in a passionate tone. Oki expressed regret for the worry he had caused to his Japanese fans in the car accident, and after explaining why he had challenged Toguchi to be his partner in the inter-tug, he vented his anger: “It's been more than a week and I still haven't received a reply. I have also written to PWF President Lord [James] Blears, but he has not responded either. I've been trying to negotiate with these slow-moving men by letter and phone from Seoul, but I just can't seem to get anywhere, so here I am. As the last Inter Tag Team Champion when I was with Japan Pro Wrestling [alongside Umanosuke Ueda], of course I have the right to challenge for the title, and I can't adjust Kim Duk's schedule if I don't hear back from him soon. If I don't get a decision by the end of the day, I will not participate in the Giant Series. I'll send Toguchi back to the U.S. tomorrow, and I'll go back to Seoul.”

All Japan external relations head [Ryozo] Yonezawa, who was attending the press conference at Oki's request, panicked.

"We have been in touch with Blears again and again," Yonezawa said. "Blears said that he had no problem with Mr. Oki's qualifications for the challenge. However, we are still gathering information on Mr. Oki's nominee, Kim Duk, who is a part-timer. I think we should have reached a conclusion by now, but the truth is that we are aware of Masanori Toguchi of Nippon Pro-Wrestling, but we do not have enough information on Kim Duk.”

When Yonezawa explained the reason for the delay, Toguchi snapped at Yonezawa: "That's ridiculous. I have experience in the United States. If you call the American promoter, you can find out right away." The bearded Toguchi, who had grown two sizes since before he came to the U.S., had an impressive body and face. After a heated exchange of opinions, Oki escalated the conditions to "either Tokyo, Osaka, or Nagoya," and the day ended with a promise from All Japan to give a definite answer by 3:00 p.m. tomorrow, the 21st.

Kim Duk, who grew up in Tokyo and devoted himself to Oki

Some of you may be wondering why Oki's letter of challenge refers to Toguchi as "[his] successor," so I will explain the relationship between Oki and Toguchi.

Born in Kanamachi, Katsushika-ku, Tokyo in 1948, Toguchi was a promising young judoka when he was a student at Shutoku High School. However, Toguchi had been fascinated with Oki, a "hero" born in his parent’s homeland of Korea, since his boyhood. He tried to drop out of high school and enter professional wrestling, but Oki gave him counsel, and since then he had come to look up to Oki as an older brother and a mentor, consulting him on everything. When Toguchi was scouted by Masahiko Kimura, the director of the Takudo University judo club, Toguchi visited Oki at the Taito Gymnasium with Mr. Kimura, asking to see Oki. At that time, Oki asked Kimura, "Please help Toguchi to become a judo champion in Japan," and recommended that Toguchi also be under Kimura's care.

However, upon his graduation in March 1967, Toguchi "made up his mind" to join Japan Pro Wrestling. He flew to Korea to become a trainee at the Kim Il Dojo, which at the time was located in a secret garden in Seoul. After six months of training under Oki, Toguchi made his debut as a young Japanese wrestler in August 1968. Toguchi therefore said, "At Japan Pro, Mr. Oki and I would have been considered senior and junior, but I consider Mr. Oki my mentor. I would do anything for my respected teacher.”

Toguchi's expression is not an exaggeration. In October of last year, Toguchi appeared in Korea for a week. When he received a call from Oki asking him to participate in a mock teardown of the newly built Bunka Gymnasium and Kim Il Dojo in Seoul, he left Minneapolis for Japan to take a flight to Seoul, not even stopping long enough to visit his parents.

Toguchi had arrived in the U.S. in December 1972, near the end of the Japan Pro era. At that time, the promotion could not afford to send out young talented wrestlers for hakutsuke, so Toguchi's trip to the U.S. was entirely due to Oki's consideration. Toguchi received a red gown with gold tiger embroidery that Oki had worn, and he went to the States by himself. He says that he had a hard time without food and drink in America. However, Toguchi rose quickly last year after he entered the AWA and was recognized by its king, Verne Gagne. He had been scheduled to challenge for the AWA World Championship for the first time in November, having beaten the best of the best.

Kim Duk's schedule was tight as he had become so popular. However, when Toguchi received a call from Oki, he said, "It's thanks to Oki-san that I became a star in America. For Oki-san's sake, I am willing to give up my chance to challenge the AWA title." He forcefully canceled his AWA dates schedule, the most important period for a wrestler before his first challenge, and flew to Korea.

Toguchi's trip to Japan this time was also "for the sake of the general”. Toguchi, who had played an active role in the Korean series from September 8 in helping a seriously injured Oki, was scheduled to fly to the North Carolina territory instead of stopping in Japan. However, Toguchi was worried about Oki's condition in the Giant Series even though he was still recovering from a serious injury. When he was told of Oki's regret over his defeat by Baba and Tsuruta in May in a team with Nankaizan, Toguchi decided to go with him, and cancelled his bookings.

025crop.thumb.jpg.bc5667c9c79f4605ff38738a0f860e62.jpg

Oki and Kim crash the opening ceremony of All Japan's new dojo.

A fight that was sold, and a showdown in Kuramae.

September 21, when the master-disciple duo of Oki and Toguchi were forced to make a definite decision, was also the opening day of All Japan’s newly built training camp and dojo in Setagaya, Tokyo. It was just after 3:00 p.m. The priest officiated the dojo opening without incident, but just as the attendees were relaxing, Oki and Toguchi arrived. For a moment, there was an atmosphere of ill will. Oki's face stiffened up as he read the schedule of the Giant Series Championships handed to him by Yonezawa.

Oki pressed Baba. “Abdullah [the] Butcher and Waldo von Erich’s challenge is already on the schedule," he said. “What will happen if the foreign team wins, if we are going to challenge the winners of the Neyagawa title match on October 24? You've got to beat us first!”

Baba responded. “Are you challenging for the titles, or are you challenging us? We can't change our previous agreement with the Butcher's group.”

Oki decided. "Okay! There’s no point in challenging the foreigners. Even if you lose, I'll still challenge you. Nagoya or Tokyo!”

Oki's challenge continued. The Nagoya show on the 22nd, held at the Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium, had already booked its main event: the sixth in Jumbo Tsuruta’s ten-match Trial Series, against the Butcher. Meanwhile, the October 28th show at Tokyo’s Kuramae Kokugikan had scheduled a PWF Heavyweight championship match between Baba and Butcher. After consulting with NTV officials, Baba had agreed to face Butcher at the Kuramae Kokugikan, as if he had been sold a fight.

343638990_okiitocrop.jpg.94e7164cb148922654a366d4ca38dfc8.jpgOki's face lit up, and he turned his focus toward Tsuruta, who had been following Baba closely. Pointing at Toguchi, he said “Can't you even greet your senpai?” Toguchi was more than four years Tsuruta's senior. Tsuruta, however, who had been watching Oki's fighting and snapping at his mentor, glared silently at Oki and Toguchi. Meanwhile, Toguchi was dressed in trunks.

“Show him how strong you are.” At the sound of Oki’s voice, Toguchi stepped into the ring, from which the altar had just been cleared. “Ito, let him have it!” Baba shouted angrily, but [Masao] Ito was no match for Kim Duk. Atsushi Onita followed him, and was also lightly beaten. Kim then performed a blockbuster drop [I presume brainbuster drop was intended], shoulderbuster, dropkick, human windmill [re:butterfly suplex], and various other moves. Tsuruta was so shocked that he ran to the ring in his shirt. The Great Kojika, Kazuo Sakurada, and others rushed to restrain him. As Oki reminded Kim that today was the dojo’s opening, he stopped, and the situation deescalated.

Tsuruta and Kim grab each other at the doorway to start the series of fights.

The confrontation at the dojo opening was only a minor one, but the "fight" between the Japanese and Korean master-disciple duo got into full swing in the opening show of the tour.

It was September 24, in Omiya. Oki had been challenged by Erich for his Asian Heavyweight title in the main event, but was not yet in full fighting condition. With the Butcher’s intrusion, the match was declared null and void. Kim, trying to protect Oki, got into a showy brawl with the Butcher, but when Baba entered the ring to stop it, Kim said, “Why are you coming in here?” A furious Baba was responded in kind. “Because you’re all sloppy,” he said. “If you’re going to be such a lousy face, then leave!” This time, Oki got angry. “What? If that’s so, then I’ll settle things with you right now.” He challenged Baba, but Japan Pro’s representative, [former JWA president Junzo] Yoshinosato, intervened, and the matter was settled.

However, this was not the end of the story. Kim, who was on his way back to the special waiting room after helping Oki, bumped into Tsuruta in the hallway. Eye to eye, they grabbed each other at the same time. It was a loud exchange of karate and punches. All the young men came to the scene and finally separated the two fighters, but this was the decisive moment between Tsuruta and Kim.

The next day, the Japanese and Korean master-disciple duos fought each other at every turn. They were always separate in the waiting room and in their behavior, and whenever they looked at each other, they were fighting each other. The cool-headed Baba always kept his composure, but the bloodthirsty Oki, and the young Toguchi and Tsuruta kept their heads in the sand. The young players had no time to relax, lest Tsuruta and Toguchi get together. If they met, they would run amok.

With the Butcher and The Destroyer joining the fray, the Giant Series, filled with a deadly atmosphere, is running toward the final show, which will be an explosive battleground.

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Tsuruta meets Kim Duk, his first 'native' rival.

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1352904252_okitigermask.jpg.88c356c8067cfc8acc54d496604c26e4.jpgAlso thought I'd share a photo from the September 11 Pyeongtaek show (click for full size). Samson Kutsuwada worked this tour as "Tiger Mask", half a decade before NJPW made that tie-in a reality. According to an article on the Showa Puroresu fanzine's website, Kutsuwada had previously worked this gimmick in a June tour of Korea. By this time, the original Tiger Mask anime had been syndicated to the region, with great success.

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17 minutes ago, KinchStalker said:

If Oki hadn't had the world's hardest head, trained by head-butting, he might have been killed.

Lastly, if the story about Rikidozan "training" Kim by smacking his forehead with his iron is true, then it is twisted to think that those callouses may have saved his life here, *even* if there's some kayfabe going on here.

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