A 30-year veteran of the ring as a performer and trainer, Japan’s Kazuo Sakurada, best known as either Mr. Sakurada or the Japanese version of Kendo Nagasaki, has passed away at the age of 71. He died from a heart attack after his pacemaker failed.
Rest in Peace Kendo Nagasaki
Kazuo Sakurada (September 26, 1948 – January 11, 2020)
ケンドー・ナガサキこと桜田一男選手のご冥福をお祈りします。#ChanChung #KendoNagasaki #DragonMaster 🇯🇵🇨🇦🇺🇸🇵🇷 #NWA #Amarillo #Stampede #CWF #WorldClass #WWC #WCW #JWA #AJPW #NJPW #FMW #SWS #NOW #BJW pic.twitter.com/evWIbzzGUX
— Masa HORIE 🇯🇵 (@MasanoriHorie) January 12, 2020
Originally seeking to become a sumo wrestler, he was convinced to enter pro wrestling instead in 1971, joining Japan Pro Wrestling Alliance (JWA) until the promotion folded in 1973. He then went to All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW) before heading to North America in 1977.
In North America, he worked multiple NWA territories, including Mid South, NWA Central States, Texas’ Big Time Wrestling (which later became World Class Championship Wrestling), Championship Wrestling From Florida, and much more.
He also worked heavily in Calgary’s Stampede Wrestling, where he not only wrestled but worked as one of Stu Hart‘s trainers in the Dungeon. Alongside Tokyo Joe, the two were the principal trainers for future WWE World Champion Bret “Hitman” Hart.
He also headed to Continental Wrestling Association (CWA) to work in Memphis, and it was during this time that he began to use the Kendo Nagasaki gimmick, which had been made famous earlier in the UK wrestling scene with Peter Thornley in World of Sport. In 1985, he returned to Japan, working with New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW).
He briefly returned to North America to work for WCW (as The Dragon Master), but headed back to Japan, working for Big Japan Wrestling (BJW), WAR, and DDT Pro, before retiring from the ring in 2001.
Last Word on Pro Wrestling sends its condolences to the family, friends, and peers of Kazuo Sakurada.
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The CAC would like to pass along our condolences to the friends and family of Kazuo Sakurada, better known to the wrestling world as Kendo Nagasaki. Kazuo passed away last night at the age of 71. A legendary figure, especially around Florida, he will be deeply missed by all pic.twitter.com/xIR4MqCxoW
— CauliflowerAlleyClub (@CACReunion) January 12, 2020