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Rusher Kimura

June 30th, 1941 – May 25th, 2010

Masao “Rusher” Kimura, for years a headliner against many of the top names in Japanese wrestling, passed away in his homeland on May 24, 2010.  Born in the northern city of Hokkaido on June 30, 1941, the veteran grappler was 68 years old.  His death was attributed to pneumonia, and complications of kidney failure.

Kimura made his ring debut on April 23, 1965, against Sarukichi Takasakiyama.  He spent his first year or so in his native country’s first pro promotion, JWA, the Japan Pro Wrestling Alliance founded by Rikidozan.  After a short stint in the original Tokyo Pro Wrestling in 1966-67, he moved on to IWE, International Wrestling Enterprise.  IWE would remain his home base until 1981, and it was there that he climbed the ladder to fame.

In 1970, Kimura and Dr. Death – Canadian veteran Stan “Moose” Morowski – clashed in the first-ever steel cage death match in Japan, held in Osaka.  The match became Rusher’s specialty, so much so that he gained the informal title Kanaami no Oni, Monster of the Steel Cage.  Another first took place two years earlier, when he was part of the first hair match in the island nation.  During his tenure in IWE, he had many matches against top-line Japanese and foreign stars, and became known for his signature offensive moves, the bulldog headlock and the Rusher lariat.  Kimura also became a master at the microphone during those years, one of the very first in Japan to develop that skill and apply it effectively, 

After IWE’s closure in 1981, Kimura moved to New Japan for three years, and had a lengthy feud with Antonio Inoki.  He did a short run with the original UWF in 1984, then transferred his loyalties to All Japan for a 16-year run.  After feuding with Giant Baba regularly through the early years, he later became Baba’s tag team partner.  As he aged, Kimura became a mid-card regular, often in comedic matches that finished with a promo in which he  focused his barbs on his old partner, Baba.  He moved to Pro Wrestling NOAH for the final four years of his career, and retired from the ring in 2004.

During his long career, Kimura held several titles, both tag team and single, and took part in a number of high-profile tournaments.  He made limited appearances in North America, under his own name, The Great Kimura, or Mr. Toyo.  He was an ideal opponent for the gaijin – American and Canadian wrestlers — in Japan, as he spoke English fairly well and could easily communicate with them

Thanks to the Cauliflower Alley Club for the above.