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Isamu Teranishi (寺西勇)
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Real name: Hitoshi Teranishi (寺西等)
Professional names: Isamu Teranishi
Life: 1/30/1946-
Born: Irumizu, Toyama, Japan
Career: 1966-1997
Height/Weight: 175cm/100kg (5'9"/220 lbs.)
Signature moves: bridging German suplex
Promotions: Tokyo Pro Wrestling (Toyonobori), International Wrestling Enterprise, New Japan Pro-Wrestling, Japan Pro Wrestling, All Japan Pro Wrestling
Titles: IWA World Mid-Heavyweight [IWE] (2x), All Asia Tag Team [AJPW] (2x, 1x w/Animal Hamaguchi, 1x w/Norio Honaga)

Summary: The IWE's “Japanese mat magician”. the agile, technical Isamu Teranishi was one of pre-Fujinami puroresu's most influential junior heavyweights.

Hitoshi Teranishi entered the Tatsunami sumo stable and debuted in May 1963. He spent three years with them before retiring in 1966. He was one of six ex-sumo wrestlers to join Toyonobori’s Tokyo Pro Wrestling in time for its first training camp, alongside: fellow Tatsunami alumni Takeji Suruzaki and Haruka Eigen; former Nishonoseki wrestler Tsuyoshi Sendai; and former Asahiyama wrestlers Katsuhisa Shibata and Hiroshi Nakagawa. Even considering the profession, Teranishi’s early path was assuredly filled with hardship. His trainer, Tadaharu Tanaka, had misappropriated the funds allocated for their training camp. These men were broken in on a beach, as there was no money to build a ring, and according to Eigen, they made less money than civil servants and were not even fed rice. While Nakagawa would leave the company after its shambling tour of late 1966, the other five joined Antonio Inoki that December when he created a parallel Tokyo Pro Wrestling company and transferred the whole roster except Toyonobori and Tanaka to it. Teranishi worked on the Tokyo Pro-IWE joint tour of January 1967 and would join the latter after Tokyo Pro’s collapse.

Teranishi defied his sumo background through an agile, dropkick-throwing style. He was the first Japanese wrestler to perform a spot which has now become commonplace among junior heavyweights, in which one lands on their feet after a back body drop to turn around and counterattack; Teranishi borrowed it from Tony Charles. While he would receive some training from Billy Robinson, he was never chosen for an overseas excursion, and never worked outside Japan save for in Southeast Asia. Teranishi’s early years are most remembered now for his rivalry with Mighty Inoue, who was highly influenced by him. His earliest surviving match, though, is a six-man tag alongside Rusher Kimura & Thunder Sugiyama in 1972, against a foreign team led by Andre the Giant.

teranishi.thumb.jpg.f04744d40ed349eeb0d42ed6a7adbdd1.jpgLeft: Teranishi in the late 1970s.

In October 1973, during the 5th IWA World Series tournament, Teranishi scored a massive upset against company ace Strong Kobayashi and kept him from advancing to the finals, which would be won by Kimura. This was one of multiple factors that led Kobayashi to quit the company in early 1974. In 1975, the IWA World Mid-Heavyweight title was revived after four years, and Teranishi defeated Jiro Inazuma (Gerry Morrow) to become puroresu’s last junior heavyweight champion before the start of the junior boom in the late seventies. He would vacate the title a month later, but it was revived again in 1976 and he beat Inazuma for it again. While the Showa Puroresu fanzine states that all of his defenses were taped and broadcast at the time, no footage was found when the Tokyo 12 Channel archives were searched for IWE’s DVD box sets in the 2000s. Teranishi won a Tokyo Sports award for the skill he displayed during his second reign, but after a December 1977 defense against Devil Murasaki, the title was quietly phased out, and replaced with the WWU World Junior Heavyweight title for Ashura Hara’s run as IWE junior ace.

After Kokusai’s collapse in 1981, Teranishi joined Kimura and Animal Hamaguchi as one-third of the Kokusai Gundan heel stable. This would make Teranishi one of the most hated heels in the country for a time, but like Hamaguchi he would leave Kimura to join Riki Choshu’s Ishingun in 1983. This period gave him opportunities to show his skill as a junior-style wrestler, competing as an Ishingun junior alongside Kuniaki Kobayashi. Teranishi would even be the final opponent of Tiger Mask’s original run, challenging for his NWA International Junior Heavyweight title on August 4, 1983. In late 1984, he left the company in a splinter faction led by Choshu which would become Japan Pro Wrestling, and as a JPW member participated in the two-year feud against All Japan Pro-Wrestling. In the first phase of the JPW-AJPW period, Teranishi eked out a spot for himself in the All Asia Tag Team title scene, first winning the belts alongside Hamaguchi in July and winning them again that October when Hamaguchi became sick, wrestling with Norio Honaga.

After JPW’s collapse, Teranishi was among those who decided to fold into All Japan. He would remain with them until a 1992 cervical injury led him to retire. After this, he remained involved for a period as full-time staff, overseeing pamphlet sales at shows, but Teranishi made a handful of returns from 1994 through 1997. These were with Takashi Ishikawa’s Tokyo Pro Wrestling (making Teranishi the only wrestler to wrestle for “both” Tokyo Pros), Great Kojika’s Big Japan Pro Wrestling, and finally, New Japan, for whom he worked in 1995 on shows under the Heisei Ishingun branding. His last match would be at an independent show marking Masahiko Takasugi’s 20th anniversary. Outside of an appearance at New Japan’s 2002 30th Anniversary show, Teranishi has stayed out of the business since then.

Miscellaneous

  1. Teranishi would be nicknamed the Japanese Édouard Carpentier in his IWE years, although Teranishi admits that Carpentier did not make a particularly strong impression on him when he appeared for the company in the early seventies.
  2. His white trunks were suggested by Tadaharu Tanaka to make him look taller.
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