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Tamio Takeshita (竹下民夫)

R(19).jpg.382349e312a159e3836c58fc608a8424.jpgProfession: Wrestler, Referee, Announcer
Real name: Tamio Takeshita
Professional names: Iwao Takeshita, Tamio Takeshita
Life: 12/29/1938-unknown
Born: Fusamoto (now Otaki), Chiba, Japan
Career: 1960
-1961, 1966-1977

Height/Weight: 175cm/85kg (5’9”/187lbs.)
Promotions: Japan Wrestling Association, Tokyo Pro Wrestling
, International Wrestling Enterprise

Puroresu’s first pro-baseball transplant, Tamio Takeshita had a far humbler career than the man he encouraged to do the same.

Born in the Chiba village of Fusamoto—which became part of modern-day Otaki when he was fifteen—Tamio Takeshita played baseball in upper elementary and junior high. He intended to play at Otaki High, and passed the school’s entrance exam, but was scouted for sumo by a local horse trader. This bakuro introduced Tamio to the Nishonoseki stable. Takeshita wrestled for two years and earned the shikona Fusanoumi. In late 1957, though, he ran away with a senior who had just gotten a tryout with the Daiei Unions. Hattori-san (who wrestled as Takasakiyama) failed that tryout but made it onto the minor-league “second squad” of the Yomiuri Giants, where he played for two years. Takeshita passed a tryout for the JNR Swallows (now Yakult). The left-handed pitcher played on the second squad, but there was no hope of promotion: not when the A-team featured the greatest pitcher in NPB history, Masaichi Kaneda. Tamio himself later admitted that he was a better batter, but even the Swallows’ B-team was saturated with quality players. He was cut in spring 1959, and no other teams were interested.

That fall, Takeshita visited former sumo senior Junzo Yoshinosato at the JWA’s offices in Tokyo. When Rikidozan learned of Tamio’s baseball stint, he gave him “a simple test”, and brought him into pro wrestling. Takeshita debuted in February 1960, on the undercard of a TV taping at the Naniwacho Gymnasium. He lost to Kiyotaka Otsubo in just over five minutes. One day in March, former Yomiuri Giants pitcher Shohei Baba visited the Japan Pro Wrestling Center in Nihonbashi, hoping to meet Rikidozan (who was overseas in Brazil at the time). It was Takeshita who suggested that Baba follow his example and pivot into pro wrestling, and Shohei would meet with Rikidozan the following month with intent on doing just that.

Screenshot_20240524-140718.thumb.png.cb38fae98d3f528359259630de41a00b.pngTakeshita left the company around eighteen months later. He had suffered a head injury in a Tottori match against Mammoth Suzuki and had been on the bench for a month when his mother “collapsed”. He spent two years caring for her. Tamio rejoined the JWA in early 1964. However, the company had decided not to accept new wrestlers after Rikidozan's death, so Takeshita worked as a driver. His requests to return to the ring were brushed aside, and when Toyonobori left to form Tokyo Pro Wrestling in 1966, Tamio followed him. Tokyo Pro held its kickoff show at the Kuramae Kokugikan that October. With the new ring name Iwao Takeshita, Tamio won his first match in five years against the debuting Isamu Teranishi. When the company merged with the International Wrestling Enterprise, Takeshita reverted to his real name, and wrestled for Kokusai through late 1968, while pulling double duty as a referee. He became the company's announcer in 1970, but also worked in the sales department. (During one tour in autumn 1974, Takeshita was so busy with sales that, on some dates, the sales representative in charge of the show had to fill in as announcer.) Tamio got married in the spring of 1972, and as of 1979, he and Kyoko had two children. He retired in 1977, and was replaced by fellow salesman Toshio Suzuki, and then general employee Kazutoshi Iibachi.

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