KinchStalker Posted May 24, 2022 Report Share Posted May 24, 2022 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, experienced salesman, and the son of a wealthy priest, 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 work a tour with the nascent Kokusai Puroresu (International Wrestling Enterprise) before crumbling. 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; according to journalist Kagehiro Osano, Toyonobori was one of several employees who left as a condition of the promotion getting on television, due to suspected connections with "antisocial forces" (the yakuza). 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. Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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