Kendo Nagasaki Passes Away

Posted By James Walsh on 01/12/20

Kazuo Sakurada, better known as the Japanese version of Kendo Nagasaki, has passed away. According to PWInsider, reports out of Japan are that Sakurada’s pacemaker stopped working which led to a cardiac issue. Sakurada was 71.

Sakurada is best known for his portrayal of the Kendo Nagasaki gimmick, being the second person to play that role (the first was now-retired British wrestler Peter Thornley, who is still alive). Sakurada began wrestling in Japan in 1971 and eventually came to North America where he became a trusted part of Stampede Wrestling. Sakurada was credited by Bret Hart as one of his trainers and held the Stampede North American Heavyweight Championship during his run there.

Eventually, Sakurada began using his own take on the Nagasaki character while working in the US in the 1980s, working in territories such as Florida Championship Wrestling, the World Wrestling Council and the Continental Wrestling Association. Sakurada worked a very different style to Thornley and while Thornley wore a mask, Sakurada wore face paint. As Nagasaki, Sakurada defeated Jerry Lawler for a brief run with the AWA Southern Heavyweight Championship, and would go on to hold titles in other territories including the NWA Florida Heavyweight Championship, the NWA Florida Tag Team Championship with Mr. Hito, the NWA Pacific Northwest Tag Team Championship with Col. DeBeers and three WWC World Tag Team Championship runs with Mr. Pogo.

Sakurada would return to Japan in 1990 and continued using the Nagasaki gimmick, working for companies like FMW and SWS before he eventially starting his own short-lived company, Network of Wrestling, in 1992. He closed up NOW in 1995 and formed formed Big Japan Pro Wrestling. After leaving Big Japan in 1999, he went semi-active. His last US appearance was last August at T-Mart The Gathering in Charlotte.