Kazuo Sakurada debuted on June 21, 1971, in the old Japan Pro Wrestling Alliance against Kim Duk. When the JPWA collapsed in 1973, he joined All Japan Pro Wrestling. In 1976 he made a North American tour, and his stock increased in earnest.
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 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.
In the early 1980s, Sakurada had started working in various southern 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 all together. 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.