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Apollo Sugawara


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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 a cut to make room for 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.

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