Remembering Master Kitozon: Cultural Icon
Dan Mardayl, Pro Wrestling Hits Magazine

Name Master Kitozon
Real Name Unknown
Height 6'1
Weight 254lbs
Birthday March 1927
Hometown Tokyo
Trademark Moves Kitozon Chop, High Angle Belly To Back Suplex
Major Titles Burning Hammer Of The Wrestling Gods Burning World Championship (3)
Major Promotions GCG (1962-1966), BHOTWG (1966-1981)

Remembering Master Kitozon
Nowadays it is hard to properly explain exactly how much of an impact Master Kitozon had on the sport of wrestling. While many modern day wrestlers are massively popular, and some like Dan or Jeremy Stone can even be said to be national heroes, nobody comes close to the level of support that BHOTWG's most famous son enjoyed. It is no exaggeration to say that he was genuinely a cultural icon, rising above the boundaries of pro wrestling.

As with many Japanese workers of that era, it is hard to find information on the origins of Master Kitozon. Indeed, not only is his upbringing shrouded in mystery, nobody even really knows what his real name was. What we do know is that he came from a poor family, and spent at least some time working in a travelling Japanese circus. The first time he really enters recorded history is in 1948, when he began sumo training in a small dojo in Tokyo. How he came to the dojo, why he was training, and who paid for him all remain unanswered questions. We do know that he spent the following decade in the world of sumo, where he was moderately successful.

The Master with his students at his "Kitozon Dojo" in 1980. Second from left in the back row is future BHOTWG star Eiji Hamacho.

With the formation of Golden Canvas Grappling in 1960, wrestling began to become popular again. This must have caught the attention of Kitozon, as records exist showing that he entered training to become a wrestler in the summer of 1961. Apparently showing a great natural talent, Master Kitozon (then known as "Jumbo Kitozon") was soon on the main roster, and by the end of 1965 was considered to be one of the finest young wrestlers in Japan. That reputation was clearly good enough to get him noticed by new promotion BHOTWG in 1966, and Kitozon made the switch. It proved to be a pivotal decision in his career, as just a few months later he became the very first BHOTWG world champion, awarded the title by a championship committee who had been overwhelmed by his performances during the first few shows.

What followed was the start of a phenomenal rise, fuelled by two factors. The first was that Kitozon (now using the familiar "Master Kitozon" name) was a fantastic wrestler in his own right, an equal of any of the big names of the days like Sadaharu Jimbo and Hanshiro Furusawa. The second was that BHOTWG used an exceptionally clever-yet-simple booking strategy; they would bring in the biggest foreign names they could find, have them defeat "lesser" Japanese workers, and then have Kitozon defeat them to defend the honour of Japan. This formula was a massive success, and not only transformed Master Kitozon into a hugely popular figure in the East, but also gave BHOTWG the momentum they needed to compete with GCG during the 1970s.

A rare smile from Master Kitozon. He's probably thinking about kicking someone's ass.

Two of these matches with foreign workers are particularly noteworthy. The first series was with Dan Stone, the Canadian star, and happened during the early 1970s. At this time, Stone was generally regarded as the finest worker in North America, and so it was considered a dream match. Over a two year period, the two engaged in several legendary hour-long bouts, all of them ending in a time limit draw. Although no footage remains, people who witnessed the matches still swear that the matches were so good that they could have been held today and still be considered masterpieces. The second series was far different. Wild Man Sullivan was a famous brawler in the USA, where his uncontrollable chaotic brawls were completely unique. He was brought to Japan to tour with BHOTWG, and proceeded to introduce his usual mayhem to a shocked Japanese public. Out-of-the-ring brawls of that nature had simply never been seen in the East before, and the result was that Sullivan became genuinely feared by the fans. As was the usual formula, eventually he stepped into the ring with Master Kitozon, defending Japan's honour, and was beaten cleanly by pinfall. However, it was their second match that is so legendary - it was held under "American Rules" (a term invented by BHOTWG purely so that they could eliminate disqualifications, hoping that this would draw a huge crowd through curiosity - their first experiment with "alternative" booking), and saw a wild brawl that ended with Sullivan managing to pin Kitozon following a big piledriver. This remains the only defeat that Master Kitozon ever suffered to a foreign worker in his entire career. The aftermath is what made the match so memorable though, as the defeat caused a full blown riot, with Sullivan having to use a steel chair to fight his way through an angry mob into the locker room, where other wrestlers had to help keep the fans back while he escaped by car. They had one rematch, a short match in which Kitozon dominated and won by pinfall in under ten minutes, although this was really a public relations exercise to try and calm their fan base, some of whom were so angry that they had sent death threats to the American.

Master Kitozon was a deeply religious man

Even with the loss to Sullivan, Master Kitozon's record during these years is simply amazing. His first title reign lasted over five years before he was defeated by talented grappler Dayu Ichihara. He regained the belt less than a year later, and went on to have a near four year reign with the belt before losing to his protege, Seison Yamanaka. Despite being much older and approaching retirement, Master Kitozon avenged that loss by regaining the title in 1977. This, his final reign, lasted for four years. He retired with the belt in a huge ceremony in 1981, having been one of the main reasons why BHOTWG had become the number one promotion in Japan. Sadly, it was only five years later that he passed away, at the age of 59. His death caused Japan to basically come to a standstill for one whole day due to the level of mourning.

Master Kitozon remains one of the most recognised faces in Japanese wrestling, even twenty years after his death, thanks to regular tributes and references in the media, especially in his home promotion of BHOTWG. Whether another wrestler could ever have the same impact as "The Father Of Japanese Wrestling" is doubtful.

Master Kitozon (1927 - 1986)