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Devil Murasaki


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Devil Murasaki (デビル紫)

Real name: Akio Murasaki (村崎昭男)
Professional names: Akio Murasaki, Onizo Murasaki, Great Saki, Kosuke Murasaki, Devil Murasaki
Life: 4/30/1942-10/23/2017
Born: Osaka, Osaka, Japan
Career: 1968-1980
Height/Weight: 178cm/100kg (5’10”/220lbs.)
Signature moves: Elbow drop
Promotions: International Wrestling Enterprise, All Japan Pro Wrestling
Titles: International Tag Team [Stampede] (1x, w/Tokyo Joe)

Summary: Devil Murasaki is most notable for adopting one of puroresu’s first long-term masked gimmicks.

Akio Murasaki enlisted in the JSDF after high school but dreamt of becoming a pro wrestler. After three years of service, he was discharged, and he would be referred to the young IWE through his gym, whose owner Takao Kaneko was a former wrestler and friend of Isao Yoshihara. Murasaki would be trained by Tadaharu Tanaka, and assigned as the valet of Thunder Sugiyama. He debuted on January 5, 1968, wrestling Tetsunosuke Daigo. In his early years, he wrestled under various stage names conceived by Toyonobori; this was encouraged by Yoshihara, who promised a raise if he changed his character. Finally, he would settle on Devil Murasaki, which he came up with himself.

Although finding his voice through a “rough” style (essentially, this is a catchall term for native Japanese wrestlers who wrestle in a heellike manner but aren’t booked as heels), Murasaki was passed over for a training excursion. In the autumn of 1972, though, Murasaki was temporarily loaned to All Japan Pro Wrestling alongside Goro Tsurumi. It has been claimed that the Babas were fond enough of Murasaki to offer to hire him outright, but that Murasaki declined. Around this time, Dick the Bruiser worked the last IWE tour of the year, and Murasaki was assigned as his valet. Dick invited Murasaki to come back with him to Indianapolis. Murasaki booked a flight there in December. Some of the money was borrowed from IWE front manager Shigeo Nukui, while some came in the form of a parting gift from Motoko Baba.

Murasaki found immediate work in the WWA, which needed a Japanese wrestler after Animal Hamaguchi’s return home. Often in a team with Mitsu Arakawa, he wrestled the likes of Wilbur Snyder, Crusher Lisowski, Moose Cholak, and even Giant Baba. In 1974, Murasaki traveled to Calgary to work for Stampede Wrestling, where he reunited with Daigo. While the two had not been friends during their time in the IWE, they were glad to see each other, and they teamed up as Great Saki and Tokyo Joe. The two worked a program with the Kiwis, the future Sheepherders/Bushwhackers, which saw both men win the only title of their life. That program would change the course of Daigo’s life forever, as he lost his leg in a car accident. Murasaki stayed for a time to look after his partner, but he was shaken by the experience, and he left for EMLL that summer. There, he reunited with Tsurumi, and the two bunked together with Mitsuo Momota, then working as Rikidozan II. Murasaki became fascinated by the masks of lucha libre, and when he and Tsurumi left to find work in Europe, he would don a mask in Germany. It was while working in Europe that Murasaki won roughly ¥700,000 in a lottery, which emboldened him to return home in October 1976.

Yoshihara wasn’t enthused to have him back, as the IWE was already well into the financial turbulence of its Tokyo 12 Channel years. With the mediation of his old friend Nukui, though, Murasaki was brought back into the fold, donning his mask. Booker Great Kusatsu had no intent of pushing Murasaki, so he would spend the rest of his career in the under and midcard, but Murasaki was grateful to have a job back home. His greatest opportunity was likely his shot at Isamu Teranishi’s IWA World Mid-Heavyweight title in 1977, which was the last defense of that title before the company essentially forgot its existence. That year would be Murasaki’s last in the ring, as he retired in May after a match against Mighty Inoue. He transferred into the sales department at Yoshihara’s recommendation, but by this point, the promotion had entered its death spiral, and most of the tickets that Kokusai was selling were being bought by gangsters. In the promotion’s last days, Murasaki hustled on the side by selling handmade masks and pamphlets. He temporarily returned to the ring as a referee after the IWE’s star ref, bodybuilder Mitsuo Endo, was let go to cut costs. When Kokusai went under, he left the business for good. Murasaki used his experience in the military and pro wrestling to get a security job after he married. He would not appear in public again until a G Spirits interview, which led to a 2015 television appearance in his mask. Two years later, Murasaki died of esophageal cancer at 75.

In 2021, another wrestler appeared under the Devil Murasaki name, in All Japan Pro Wrestling.

[This profile was adapted from a 2021 Igapro article.]

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