Sunday, August 2, 2009

Kendo Nagasaki

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.
After the Memphis territory, Nagasaki worked for 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 Rotundo. This kicked off a rivalry with the reputable Billy Jack Haynes, resulting in his title victory over Nagasaki in March of the same year. Later, he performed on WCW television, using the stage name "The Dragonmaster". While there, he joined Gary Hart's J-Tex Corporation stable consisting of Terry Funk, Dick Slater, Buzz Sawyer, and Keiji Mutoh (previously Super Black Ninja). This heel group, conceived in 1989, feuded with the Four Horsemen until ultimately disbanding the following year after a blow off steel cage match.

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