Masa Saitō


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Masa Saitō
Ring name(s) Masa Saitō
Saitō Masanori
Mr. Saito
Real name Saitō Masanori
Nickname(s) Gokumonki
Billed height 180 cm (5 ft 11 in)
Billed weight 120 kg (260 lb; 19 st)
Born 1942/8/7 (1942-08-07) (age 71)
Nakano Ward, Tōkyō
Shishō Toyonobori
Hiro Matsuda
Debut 1965/6/3
Retired 1999/2/14

Masa Saitō (マサ 斉藤?) is a former Japanese professional wrestler. His real name is Saitō Masanori (斎藤 昌典?). In the United States, he is better known as Mr. Saito.

Contents

Amateur wrestling career

While in the Meiji University wrestling team, Saitō won the All Japan Championships in the heavyweight division in freestyle and greco-roman. He competed in freestyle wrestling for Japan in the 1964 Olympic Games, losing in the third round.[1]

Professional wrestling career

Early career in Japan

Saitō joiined the Japan Pro-Wrestling Association dōjō in 1965/4 as the first Japanese Olympic wrestler to turn pro[2]. He debuted on 1965/6/3 in Sapporo against Takasakiyama Sarukichi. In 1966/6, he followed his shishō Toyonobori to the newly-formed Tokyo Pro-Wrestling. Saitō was the third top star under Antonio Inoki and Toyonobori and also served as the company president temporarily. However, Tokyo Pro was closed the following year. Most of the roster joined another new organization International Wrestling Enterprise, but Saitō chose to leave for the United States.

In the United States

In the U.S., Saitō was nicknamed "Mr. Torture" for his punishing and sadistic style,[3]

Although Saitō's first American territory was Southern California, he soon moved to northern part of the state, where he was chosen as a tag team partner by Kinji Shibuya, with whom he would win his first title, the territory's version of the NWA World Tag Team Championship), on 1968/7/13.

He would in various titles throughout the West Coast. The then move to Florida and won the territory's heavyweight and tag team titles. He also won WWF Tag Team Championship with Mr. Fuji. He became one of the most successful Japanese wrestlers in the U.S.

New Japan Pro-Wrestling (1974 - 1985)

After 1974/4, he often to wrestler for New Japan Pro-Wrestling. In 1978, he turned heel in his home country, when he, Hiro Matsuda, Ueda Umanosuke, and others formed a heel stable. On 1979/4/5, Saitō won his first title in Japan, teaming with Matsuda to defeat Sakaguchi Seiji & Strong Kobayashi for the NWA North American Tag Team Championship. Through the working agreement between New Japan and the IWE, Saitō and Ueda also wrestled on IWE cards. He acted as a supervisor for New Japan's gaijin talents until around 1980.

Kakumeigun and Ishin Gundan

In 1982, Saitō was asked by Chōshū Riki to become his mentor. Together, they teamed a new stable, Kakumeigun (革命軍?), or "Revolution Army", with Killer Khan and Kobayashi Kuniaki. In the summer of 1983, Kakumeigun grew to become Ishin Gundan (維新軍団?) with more members, such as Animal Hamaguchi, Yatsu Yoshiaki, Teranishi Isamu, and Tiger Toguchi.

Ishin Gundan, with some mid-carders and rookies of New Japan, eventually formed a new promotion, Japan Pro Wrestling and started a working agreement with Giant Baba's All Japan Pro-Wrestling.

Saitō continued to wrestle in the United States for American Wrestling Association between the Japanese tours.

Arrest

On 1984/4/6, Saitō and Ken Patera were refused service at a McDonald's restaurant after the restaurant had closed. The two men threw a boulder through the restaurant's window in retaliation. When the police came, Saitō and Patera fought with them before being arrested. As a result of the incident, Saitō and Patera were convicted of battery of a peace officer and sentenced to serve two years in prison.[4]

He was released from the jail in late 1986 and mentored Takano Shunji, who was wrestling for AWA. Then, in 1987, he returned to Japan, this time to renew a feud with Antonio Inoki in New Japan.

New Japan Pro-Wrestling (1987 - 1999)

To settle the feud, Saitō and Inoki competed in an Island Death match on 1987/10/4. They were placed on Ganryūjima and wrestled a match that spread across the island. Ultimately, Inoki was victorious, defeating Saitō by technical knockout, after two hours five minutes and fourteen seconds.

The following year, Saitō won his first IWGP Tag Team Championship teaming with Riki Chōshū. He followed this with a second victory the following year, this time with Hashimoto Shin'ya.

Saitō's final major title, at the age of 47, came in the AWA, where he defeated Larry Zbyszko for the AWA World Heavyweight Championship in front of a hometown crowd of 63,900 fans at the Tōkyō Dome on 1990/2/10. He lost the title two months later in a rematch with Zbyszko in St. Paul, Minnesota.[5]

Saitō had a short spell in World Championship Wrestling (WCW) in 1995 and 1996, which included an appearance at Starrcade. Wrestling as part of a series of matches between New Japan Pro-Wrestling and World Championship Wrestling, Saitō lost his match to WCW representative Johnny B. Badd (Marc Mero).[6]

Retirement

On 1999/2/14, Saitō retired from wrestling at Nippon Budōkan. His last match was a loss to Scott Norton.

Saitō left New Japan in 2003 to join Chōshū's new promotion, Fighting of World Japan. The promotion lasted a little over a year, however.

Since 2005, Saitō has worked with Sasaki Kensuke's "Kensuke Office" as a supervisor and advisor to the promotion's younger talent.

References

  1. ^ "Biography and Olympic Results". Sports-Reference.com. 
  2. ^ The Wrestler Best 1000. Nippon Sports Publishing. 1996. 
  3. ^ Hauser, Tom (2002). Inside the Ropes With Jesse Ventura. University of Minnesota Press. p. 287. ISBN 0816641870. 
  4. ^ Williams, Steve; Tom Caiazzo (2007). How Dr. Death Became Dr. Life. Sports Publishing LLC. p. 143. ISBN 1596701803. 
  5. ^ "SuperClash IV". Pro Wrestling History. 
  6. ^ "Starrcade 1995". Pro Wrestling History. 

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