The Great Sasuke
|The Great Sasuke|
The Great Sasuke in 2014
|Birth name||Masanori Murakawa|
|Born||July 18, 1969|
Morioka, Tōhoku, Japan
|Professional wrestling career|
|Ring name(s)||The Great Sasuke|
Sasuke The Ram
|Billed height||1.73 m (5 ft 8 in)|
|Billed weight||82 kg (181 lb)|
|Trained by||Kotetsu Yamamoto|
|Debut||March 1, 1990|
Masanori Murakawa (村川 政徳 Murakawa Masanori), (born July 18, 1969), is a Japanese professional wrestler, promoter and politician, currently wrestling for Michinoku Pro Wrestling (MPW) under the ring name The Great Sasuke (グレート・サスケ Za Gurēto Sasuke). Aside from professional wrestling, he is also a former Iwate Prefectural Assembly legislator. He has wrestled in Japan and in the United States in various professional wrestling promotions. He is said to have an incredible tolerance for pain, mainly in reference to the injuries he has had including a cracked skull on two occasions.
Professional wrestling career
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Universal Lucha Libre (1990-1993)
After failing the entrance exams to New Japan Pro Wrestling, Murakawa joined Universal Lucha Libre and had his debut on March 1, 1990 against Monkey Magic Wakita. He later wrestled under the name Masa Michinoku, a folkloric character characterized by wearing a cape and a sandogasa hat in his ring entrance, which he traded for an ōendan gakuran every time he wrestled abroad. His name came from his given name, Masanori, and the alternate name for his Japanese home region of Tōhoku, Michinoku. Taka Michinoku adopted a similar gimmick to parody him.
Later, on a tour in Mexico for Universal Wrestling Association, Murakawa adopted the name Ninja Sasuke, a gimmick inspired by legendary ninja Sarutobi Sasuke, and completed it with a black uniform and mask and a wrestling style set between lucha libre and martial arts. Upon returning to Japan after a second Mexico tour, he tweaked his name to The Great Sasuke and adopted a red, black and white mask patterned after kumadori makeup, reminiscent of the one worn by fellow Japanese wrestler Mach Hayato.
Shortly after, Sasuke proclaimed he was going to found a professional wrestling promotion in Tohoku, initially thought as an ULL branch, and left the promotion with a large group of wrestlers. He would found Michinoku Pro Wrestling, the first Japanese independent promotion not to be based around the Tokyo area.
Michinoku Pro Wrestling (1993-present)
MPW kicked off in March 1993, when Sasuke and the rest of babyface wrestlers entered an intense feud against the villainous Super Delfín and his Delfín Corps. This rivalry would last many years.
In 1994, New Japan Pro Wrestling celebrated the first Super J Cup, a junior heavyweight tournament for wrestlers from all over the world. Sasuke was drafted and reached the finals after beating NJPW favourites Jushin Thunder Liger and El Samurai, but fell to Wild Pegasus at the end. Despite his loss, Sasuke represented Michinoku Pro excellently and allowed for it to receive national coverage, and he himself became one of the most popular junior wrestlers in Japan.
The same year, Sasuke competed in the similar NJPW Super Grade Jr. Heavyweight Tag League, where he teamed up with Black Tiger. As with the previous, Sasuke and Tiger amassed a high number of wins and came to the finals, but were eliminated there by Wild Pegasus and Shinjiro Otani. Sasuke also participated in the first Fukumen World League, hosted by Michinoku Pro Wrestling in 1995 and admitting only masked wrestlers. Sasuke was defeated in the final round by Dos Caras.
In April 1996, Sasuke returned to NJPW and defeated Liger for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship, which he defended five times at both NJPW and MPW. His reign, along with his next title win over NWA World Junior Heavyweight Champion Masayoshi Motegi and WWF Light Heavyweight and WWA World Junior Light Heavyweight double champion El Samurai, would lead to the creation of the J Crown title, with Sasuke winning it in the final of a tournament against Último Dragón on August. For two months, Sasuke was one of the most decorated wrestlers in history, until he lost all of it to Dragón in Wrestle Association R.
In February 1997, Sasuke and several of his MPW teammates made a pair of appearances for Extreme Championship Wrestling in United States. In July, he and Taka Michinoku also wrestled two matches for World Wrestling Federation, one of them at In Your House 16: Canadian Stampede. It was apparent that Sasuke would sign up with WWF, but it was Michinoku who ended up being signed on his place for unknown reasons.
Upon returning to Japan, Sasuke and Tiger Mask IV began feuding with two heel doppelgängers, Sasuke the Great and Masked Tiger (played respectively by Masao Orihara and Takeshi Ono), aside from usual villain Super Delfín. Around this time, however, Sasuke would take repeated hiatuses in order to have time to heal injuries, which led him to clash against other wrestlers, most particularly Delfín, who accused him of being unfit to lead the promotion. This dissension would end up switching their respective alignment, with Delfín joining the home army and turning into the promotion's ace while Sasuke turned heel for the first time on his career and became an egotistical overlord. He would even change his mask, replacing its red stripes for blue stripes, as well as his name, leaving it as just "Sasuke" written in all caps. Sasuke would create his personal villainous stable, Sasuke Group, by allying with resident heels and summoning Crazy Max (Shiima Nobunaga's punk faction) from Toryumon.
The battle between the Sasuke Group and the rest of Michinoku wrestlers would have the effect of fracturing the promotion, as Dick Togo and Super Delfin had their own feud about the latter's role in the babyface team. After Togo humiliated Delfín by forcing him to crawl between his legs and later caused a riot by abusing him further, Sasuke adopted the same approach against Delfín in their battles, which eventually led to his departure from MPW to form Osaka Pro Wrestling due to both kayfabe and real dissatisfaction with the angle. Sasuke continued his war on MPW until 1999, when he was forcefully turned face again after Jinsei Shinzaki "exorcized the evil out of him." Now devoid of talent due to the absence of wrestlers who had left with Delfín and other ventures, MPW was left in ruins, a situation the now heroic Sasuke vowed to mend.
In 1999 he won the NWA World Middleweight Championship vacated by old rival Ultimo Dragon. Although the tournament was promoted by Ultimo's Toryumon Japan promotion, Sasuke took the title to his base at Michinoku and styled himself a "traveling world champion" in the style of NWA World Heavyweight Champions from the 1960-80s.
In 2001, Sasuke had a feud in Michinoku Pro against a returning Dick Togo and his sable, Far East Connection.
Sasuke left the running of the promotion to Shinzaki in 2003 to focus on his political career, handing the president job to him. He lost the NWA title to Último Dragón, who then vacated it in preparation for his WWE career. The same year, Sasuke reconciled with Super Delfín for a special match on November 2 by mediation of Shinzaki.
In 2005, with MPW now populated by most of the fallen Toryumon X wrestlers, Sasuke formed a tag team with Togo. He also joined Kei and Shu Sato to reform Sailor Boys, the boy band stable they formed in Toryumon with Taiji Ishimori, but it was short lived as the Sato brothers turned heel the same year. Now as enemies, they and Sasuke initiated in 2006 the tradition of hosting a "Great Space War" (宇宙大戦争) every December, where they would face off under outrageous costumed identities and fantastic storylines.
On April 15, 2011, Sasuke returned to the United States to wrestle for Chikara in the 2011 King of Trios tournament, where he would represent Michinoku Pro with Dick Togo and Jinsei Shinzaki. In their first round match Team Michinoku Pro defeated Team Minnesota (1-2-3 Kid, Arik Cannon and Darin Corbin). The following day, Team Michinoku Pro defeated Jigsaw, Manami Toyota and Mike Quackenbush to advance to the semifinals of the tournament. On April 17, Team Michinoku Pro was eliminated from the tournament in the semifinal stage by F.I.S.T. (Chuck Taylor, Icarus and Johnny Gargano).
At the end of 2013, Sasuke took part in the classic "Great Space War" match, where he performed a striptease with Macho Pump parodying the film Magic Mike. However, for the first time, Kei and Shu Sato (now known as the Brahman Brothers) defeated Sasuke after the latter crashed in a dangerous stunt, which prompted him to reflex about the state of things. Sasuke then said he knew the Brahmans were attempting to protect the Earth from alien invaders, and asked them to join him to fight for the greater good. This led to the creation of Mu no Taiyo, a shinshūkyō cult-themed stable, with Sasuke posing as the messianic leader of the group under a new mask modified to resemble the Brahmans. It marked the first time Sasuke had turned heel in many years.
In 1999, Sasuke performed on Sasuke, the popular Japanese obstacle course competition. In the Third Competition, he got stuck at the Rolling Log and timed out on the Hill Climb. When the name SASUKE was translated into "Ninja Warrior" for the United States, the translators ignored his wrestling background and called him "The Great Ninja Warrior".
On February 19, 2009, Sasuke was arrested for assault after kicking a 36-year-old man and grabbing him by the shirt collar. Sasuke was reported to be angry because his picture was being taken with a cellphone camera. The incident happened on a JR Joban Line train at Minamisenju Station. However, all charges were dropped and was released from jail on February 21, after serving 40 hours in jail, after Sasuke apologized to the man. The man who took Sasuke's photograph was said to not have known who he was and thought he was just some crazy person wearing a mask in public.
On April 13, 2003, Sasuke won election to the Iwate Prefectural Assembly, making him the first actual masked legislator in history. He is the fourth Japanese wrestler to get elected to office. Antonio Inoki, Hiroshi Hase and Atsushi Onita preceded him, though all of them were elected to the Japanese Diet at the national level.
Sasuke lost in his bid to become governor of Iwate in the 2007 election.
Championships and accomplishments
- Active Advance Pro Wrestling
- Chiba Six Man Tag Team Championship (1 time) - with Brahman Shu and Brahman Kei
- Dramatic Dream Team
- Big China Nakahara Unified Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Ricky Fuji
- Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling
- Japan Indie Awards
- Michinoku Pro Wrestling
- British Commonwealth Junior Heavyweight Championship (2 times)
- Tohoku Junior Heavyweight Championship (3 times)
- Tohoku Tag Team Championship (3 times) – with Dick Togo (1), Yoshitsune (1) and Brahman Kei (1)
- Fukumen World League (2012)
- Futaritabi Tag Team League (1995) – with Kato Kung Lee
- Futaritabi Tag Team League (1997) – with Super Delfin
- Michinoku Trios League (2005) – with Jinsei Shinzaki and Kesen Numajiro
- New Japan Pro Wrestling
- IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Jushin Thunder Liger
- J-Crown (1 time)
- NWA World Junior Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- NWA World Middleweight Championship (1 time)1
- NWA World Welterweight Championship (1 time)
- UWA World Junior Light Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- WWA World Junior Light Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- WAR International Junior Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- One Night Eight Man Tag Team Tournament (1994) – with Gran Hamada, Shinjiro Otani and El Samurai
- Junior Heavyweight Super Grade Tag League (1996) – with Black Tiger II
- Osaka Pro Wrestling
- Osaka Pro Wrestling Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Asian Cooger
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- PWI ranked him # 23 of the best 500 singles wrestlers in the PWI 500 in 1996 and 1997
- PWI ranked him # 92 of the 500 best singles wrestlers during the "PWI Years" in 2003
- Tokyo Sports
- Topic Award (1993)
- Universal Wrestling Association / Universal Wrestling Federation
- World Wrestling Federation / Entertainment
- World Wrestling Association
- WWA World Middleweight Championship (1 time)
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter
1This championship is promoted by Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (CMLL), it was on loan to them from New Japan Pro Wrestling when he won it. Also, despite the title still using the NWA initials, it is no longer recognized or sanctioned as a world title by the National Wrestling Alliance. The same goes for the NWA World Middleweight Championship.
2Despite winning the title twice, neither of the reigns are recognized by World Wrestling Entertainment. No reigns with the title prior to December 1997 are recognized by the WWE.
- Masanori Murakawa on IMDb
- "The Great Sasuke profile". Online World of Wrestling. Retrieved 2014-09-21.
- "Profile at Puroresu Central". Puroresu Central. Retrieved 2013-11-26.
- Radican, Sean (2011-05-04). "Radican's Chikara KoT Night 1 DVD Review 4/15 - Team Michinoku Pro vs. Team 1-2-3 Kid, Quackenbush & Toyota & Jigsaw vs. SAT's". Pro Wrestling Torch. Retrieved 2011-05-14.
- Radican, Sean (2011-05-13). "Radican's Chikara DVD review series - "King of Trios 2011 Night 2" 4/16: F.I.S.T. vs. Osaka Pro, RDV tournament, Quackenbush & Toyota & Jigsaw vs. Michinoku Pro". Pro Wrestling Torch. Retrieved 2011-05-14.
- Radican, Sean (2011-06-05). "Radican's Chikara DVD review series: "KOT 2011: Night 3 4/17 - Kid vs. Generico, Toyota vs. Eagles, KOT tournament Finals". Pro Wrestling Torch. Retrieved 2011-06-05.
- Gerweck, Steve (February 27, 2009). "News on Kevin Nash, Booker T, Team 3D, and The Great Sasuke". Archived from the original on March 2, 2009. Retrieved August 15, 2011.
- The Japan Times Online Articles
- "【後楽園リポート】トーナメント決勝戦は宮本裕向&木高イサミvs火野裕士&岡林裕二!!／インディー大賞MVPはHarashima／Takaのパートナーは小鹿". Dramatic Dream Team (in Japanese). 2014-12-31. Retrieved 2014-12-31.
- ライガー、『ふく面ワールドリーグ戦』で大活躍!! 決勝進出もサスケの卍に敗れる!!. New Japan Pro Wrestling (in Japanese). 2012-09-03. Retrieved 2012-09-04.
- "Michinoku Pro-Wrestling - "MICHINOKU TRIOS LEAGUE 2005"" (in German). PuroLove.com. Retrieved 2014-05-07.
- WWE: Inside WWE > Title History > Light Heavyweight
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