Kazuo Sakurada

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Kazuo Sakurada
Born (1948-09-26) September 26, 1948 (age 68)
Professional wrestling career
Ring name(s) Chan Chung
The Dragonmaster
Kendo Nagasaki
Mr. Sakurada
Rambo Sakurada
Billed height 1.88 m (6 ft 2 in)
Billed weight 119 kg (262 lb)
Debut June 21, 1971
Retired 2001

Kazuo Sakurada (桜田 一男?, Sakurada Kazuo), better known as Mr. Sakurada and as the Japanese version of Kendo Nagasaki (ケンドー・ナガサキ?), is a retired Japanese professional wrestler. He is best known, under various monikers, for his work in Stampede Wrestling, National Wrestling Alliance, and World Championship Wrestling. Sakurada is also highly regarded by Bret Hart as one of his most significant trainers alongside Katsui Adachi (a.k.a. Mr. Hito), who he taught with extensively in Stu Hart's "Dungeon."

Professional wrestling career[edit]

Early years (1971-1976)[edit]

Kazuo Sakurada debuted on June 21, 1971, in the old Japan Pro Wrestling Alliance against Kim Duk. On March 8, 1973 he became involved in a shoot when his mid-card match against rookie Tsutomu Oshiro went horribly wrong and Sakurada began beating Oshiro severely, knocking him out of the ring. Oshiro was going to jump to New Japan Pro Wrestling along with his mentor Seiji Sakaguchi and friend Kengo Kimura,[1] and Sakurada took actions into his own hands, blaming them for jumping ship.

When the JPWA collapsed in April, Sakurada joined All Japan Pro Wrestling. In 1976 he made a North American tour, and his stock increased in earnest.

Stampede Wrestling (1976-1981)[edit]

Mr. Sakurada found his earliest success in Stampede Wrestling. He defeated two-time champion Leo Burke to win his first and only Stampede North American Heavyweight Championship on May 20, 1978 in Edmonton, Alberta. He held the title for a little over three months before losing to Paddy Ryan on September 1.

He then became highly regarded in Stampede's tag team division, defeating Keith and Bret Hart in early 1979 to win his first International Tag Team title with Mr. Hito. Their second win came later on the same year after the defeat of Dory Funk, Jr. and Larry Lane, only to be toppled once again by the Hart brothers. By 1980, Hito had moved on to singles competition, leaving Sakurada to form a team with Kasavudu. They, too, defeated the Harts, marking Sakurada's third and final Tag Team Championship victory in Stampede. This reign would be ended at the hands of the Harts' brother-in-law Jim Neidhart and Hercules Ayala that same year. Sakurada's feud with Ayala would become one of the most notable of his Stampede tenure.

Continental Wrestling Association (1981-1982)[edit]

In the early 1980s, Sakurada had started working in various southern American promotions, starting with the Continental Wrestling Association in Memphis. During this time, he began using the "Kendo Nagasaki" gimmick, a Japanese Samurai character previously made famous by British wrestler Peter Thornley dating back to 1964. This incarnation was vastly different however; rather than wearing a mask, Sakurada wore face paint and a highly alternate style altogether. His fierce character also made famous the Asian mist and frequently employed the Kendo stick as his signature weapon.

As Nagasaki, he found a most prominent win in his victory over Jerry Lawler for the NWA/AWA Southern Heavyweight Title in 1982. He would lose the title back to Lawler before pursuing new territory.

National Wrestling Alliance (1982-1990)[edit]

After the Memphis territory, Nagasaki worked for NWA territories World Wrestling Council, Florida Championship Wrestling and Southeastern Championship Wrestling. He faced some of the top competition in the Florida territory throughout 1983 and 1984, and on January 22, 1984, he captured the NWA Florida Heavyweight Championship from Mike Rotunda. This kicked off a rivalry with the reputable Billy Jack Haynes, resulting in his title victory over Nagasaki in March of the same year. During his time with CWF, Nagasaki would also tag team with White Ninja. Following his departure from CWF, Nagasaki briefly worked for Von Erich's World Class Championship Wrestling in the mid '80s as White Ninja, frequently partnering with Super Black Ninja (The Great Muta). During the 1980s, Nagasaki teamed with Mr. Pogo as the Ninja Express. The Ninja Express briefly returned to Japan to participate in New Japan Pro Wrestling's annual tag team tournament in late 1987, finishing in second-to-last place. In 1987 Sakurada had a son, Kazuhiro Sakurada.

In 1989, he performed on WCW television, using the stage names "The Dragonmaster," "The Kamikaze King" and "Mr J" (the latter a backward-walking bodyguard character). While there, he joined Gary Hart's J-Tex Corporation stable consisting of Terry Funk, Dick Slater, Buzz Sawyer, and The Great Muta (previously Super Black Ninja). This heel group, conceived in July 1989, feuded with the Four Horsemen until ultimately disbanding in February 1990 after a blow off steel cage match at the Clash of the Champions, a match largely overshadowed by the other Horsemen turning heel on Sting.

Return to Japan (1990-present)[edit]

In 1990, after so many years competing in North America, he returned to Japan as Kendo Nagasaki. He first joined Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling, but later joined Super World of Sports. Following SWS's collapse in 1992, he formed his own promotion, NOW (Network of Wrestling). In 1995, he closed NOW and with a new business partner, Great Kojika (who had retired from AJPW and wrestling in 1988), formed Big Japan Pro Wrestling. He stayed there until 1999, when he left. He attempted to promote again under the banner "New NOW" but the promotion only lasted a few shows.

On September 26, 1995 in Tokyo, Japan, he lost to kickboxer Zane Frazier via knockout punch at Shooto: Vale Tudo Perception in a mixed martial arts match held in the ring. At the time Sakurada, had the reputation by prowrestling insiders as being one of the toughest wrestlers in a street fight, this was probably one of the reasons why he was chosen to take this fight.

After leaving BJW in 1999, Nagasaki wrestled semi-actively until 2001. He would make a one-night return in 2009 for Real Japan Pro Wrestling.

Legacy[edit]

According to Bret Hart, Sakurada was one of Stu Hart’s most trusted foremen and reliable workers in the heyday of Stampede Wrestling; Bret's DVD set also features rare footage of Sakurada and Adachi demolishing him in a highly physical match.

Mixed martial arts record[edit]

Res. Record Opponent Method Event Date Round Time Location Notes
Loss 0-1 United States Zane Frazier KO (punch) Shooto: Vale Tudo Perception September 26, 1995 1 0:36 Tokyo, Japan

In wrestling[edit]

Championships and accomplishments[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Dynamic Series: 1973/02/16 - 03/08 Cards". Retrieved 29 November 2016. 
  2. ^ "Jimmy Hart profile". Online World of Wrestling. Retrieved 2009-09-04. 
  3. ^ "Stampede Wrestling Hall of Fame (1948-1990)". Puroresu Dojo. 2003. 
  4. ^ Royal Duncan & Gary Will (2000). Wrestling Title Histories (4th ed.). Archeus Communications. ISBN 0-9698161-5-4. 

External links[edit]