Returning Hero - Eisaku Kunomasu
by Dan Mardayl, Pro Wrestling Hits Magazine

Name Eisaku Kunomasu
Real Name Eisaku Kunomasu
Height 5'10
Weight 236lbs
Birthday 23rd November 1970
Hometown Tokyo
Trademark Moves Kunomasu Vice, Dive Bomber, Heat Seeker, Launching Knee Strike
Major Titles PGHW Historical Japan, DAVE Brass Knuckles (2)
Major Promotions PGHW (1996-1998, 2005-present), DAVE (1998-2005)

One of the true enigmas in pro wrestling, very little is known about the early years of Eisaku Kunomasu other than that he was born on the 23rd November 1970 in the heart of Tokyo, the son of a doctor. However, what makes his story remarkable is not his background, but the way he rose in meteoric fashion to the front of Japanese wrestling, shockingly threw it all away for the challenge of making a mark on the American scene, and then returned out of nowhere to where it had all begun. This is the Eisaku Kunomasu story.

July 1996 was a pivotal year for Japanese wrestling. It saw the formation of Pride Glory Honour Wrestling, a promotion that would go on to become one of the best loved wrestling companies on the planet. With all the hype of their first show, held on July 18th, placed entirely on the world title tournament that would take up most of the show, many overlooked the opening match. What they missed was a 25 year old rookie named Eisaku Kunomasu winning in his first pro match by defeating a 22 year old named Eisaku Hoshino following a powerbomb. Both youngsters would go on to fame with the promotion.

Over the following year, Kunomasu would go from strength to strength. With an all-business approach that was perfectly geared to PGHW, he swiftly rose up the rankings. At the time his trademark finisher was a Launching Knee Strike, performed by simply leaping forward into a standing opponent and driving his knee into their head, and it was this move that won him his first title, the PGHW Historical Japan, defeating Shuji Inukai. As well as his singles success, he was also part of a highly rated tag team, tagging with his former foe Hoshino. Just over one year after his debut, it would be Hoshino he would team with in the match that made him famous.

Taking place in August 1997, the match was a high profile affair, as the young studs Kunomasu and Hoshino took on the two biggest names in the promotion; former world champion Hito Ichihara, and reigning world champion Koryusai Kitoaji. The sixty minute classic may have ended in a draw, but it put the two youngsters firmly in the main event scene in the eyes of the fans. Seven months later, Hoshino defeated Kitoaji for the world title to make himself a legend, but that same card was also shockingly the last appearance Kunomasu would make for PGHW in seven years. After losing to Shuji Inukai, Kunomasu surprised everyone by revealing that he would be leaving to wrestling in America.

On many levels, this decision was baffling. Known for his Strong Style wrestling, Kunomasu seemed completely at odds with the US-style of grappling. Unable to speak the language, and at 236lbs quite small compared to most American wrestlers, it seemed he was committing career suicide, particularly as he was leaving a position as one of the major main eventers for a fast-rising outfit like PGHW. However, leave he did, and in April 1998 he made his US debut.

To say that Eisaku made an impact on his debut with DAVE would be an understatement. Now billed as the "Lord Of Strong Style", and using only his surname, he also debuted a new look, walking down the aisle in ceremonial robes and a shaved head. Over the next 10 minutes, he proceeded to dish out one of the stiffest beatings ever seen, completely taking apart JD Morgan, who was one of the big names in the promotion. After putting away the Brit with a savage Launching Knee Strike, the fans erupted in a massive ovation, and it was clear Kunomasu was going to be a big time player.

Over the seven years he was with DAVE, Kunomasu was the undoubted MVP of the promotion. It didn't seem to matter who he faced, the match of the night honours would be his. Over this time he also evolved as a worker. Dropping the Launching Knee Strike as a finisher, he debuted an entirely new focus to his attack, working relentlessly over his opponent's arm before sinking in the Kunomasu Vice, a devastatingly effective arm bar move. It was far from uncommon to see many of the DAVE workers sporting braces on their arms for weeks after facing the Japanese star. Despite his incredible performances, which were one of the key reasons for DAVE's rise in popularity during this period, Kunomasu's track record in winning titles was surprisingly weak. Other than two reigns as Brass Knuckles champion, neither of which lasted more than four months, he didn't manage a single other title victory.

As the summer of 2005 arrived, Kunomasu appeared to be in a comfortable position. A star for DAVE, and being courted by both SWF and TCW, he had unquestionably cracked the US. Which made it all the more surprising when, for the second time in his career, he walks away from success.

PGHW were holding their show called "COLLISION" in August. The semi-final match was between the monsterous Dread and former two-time champion Hoshino. After 22 minutes of action Dread hit a ring-rocking Dread Bomb, but Hoshino kicked out of the pinfall attempt. Unfortunately for Hoshino, a second Dread Bomb just a few moments later was enough to put him down for the three. Dread, however, was not finished, and proceeded to hit the deadly finisher a further three times, trying to end the career of the Japanese Superstar. In a historic moment, he was interrupted by the arrival of Eisaku Kunomasu, who simply walked down the aisle and into the ring, completely unannounced. As the fans went uncharacteristically crazy, Kunomasu stared down the giant American. One boot to the gut later, and Dread had him in position for a Dread Bomb. Kunomasu was raised up...and promptly slipped out the back of the move, gave Dread a legsweep, and proceeded to lock him in the Kunomasu Vice, instantly causing the big guy to tap out. Kunomasu released the hold, letting Dread escape back to the locker room, and helped his former partner Hoshino back up.

In a post-event press conference, Kunomasu revealed that he was returning to PGHW full-time, and after wrestling one more match for DAVE, his farewall appearance, he wanted to take on Dread. The following month was a good one for the Lord Of Strong Style, as after beating Acid in his final match in the US, he went on to defeat Dread by submission to officially put himself back in the PGHW title scene.

What's next for Eisaku Kunomasu? He has publically stated that he wants to win the PGHW Glory Crown before retirement, and a world title match against the man he has never faced, Mito Miwa (who ironically now teams on a semi-regular basis with Eisaki Hoshino), is perhaps the biggest dream match in Japan at the moment. On top of that, there are several other huge new matches on the horizon: young stars PRIDE Koiso and Kozue Kawashima have been compared to the Kunomasu and Hoshino of 1996; Buddy Garner is another master-submission artist; the Vessey Brothers have already said that they would like to face Kunomasu and Hoshino in a tag team encounter. With all these dream matches, especially the potential Miwa showdown, the future looks very bright indeed for Eisaku Kunomasu.