This edition of ‘This day... ‘ offers a tribute to one of the greatest figures in professional wrestling – the Japanese legend and founder of the nation’s first wrestling promotion, Rikidozan.
The man who set up the Japan Wrestling Association and beat the great Lou Thesz to become the NWA International Heavyweight Champion, Rikidozan would win a tournament on this day 61 years ago to become the All Asia Heavyweight Champion.
His success would inspire future Japanese stars like Antonio Inoki to try their hand at pro-wrestling, eventually making Japan a hotbed for the wrestling business.
In addition to Rikidozan’s exploits. November 22 would see Ric Flair square off against Dusty Rhodes and the WWE presenting Survivor Series 2009.
#1 Rikidozan becomes the All Asia Heavyweight Champion – 22nd November 1955
Rikidozan was a Korean – Japanese wrestler who is considered as the Father of Japanese Professional Wrestling. A former Sumo wrestler, Rikodozan would transition to professional wrestling in 1950 and became the idol of the Japanese who had just been ravaged by World War II.
Rikidozan would beat one American wrestler after another in front of packed crowds in Japan, always working as a face in the country standing up to the Americans, but acting as a heel during his matches in the US. Rikidozan would start the JWA, Japan’s first wrestling promotion and trained future legends like Antonio Inoki and Giant Baba.
Three years before pinning Lou Thesz to become NWA International Heavyweight Champion to international acclaim, Rikidozan would become the inaugural All Asia Heavyweight Champion in JWA by defeating the Hungary-born King Kong in the final of a tournament.
Rikidozan would hold on to the title till 1963 when it was vacated owing to the death of the legend, after he was stabbed at a night club by a member of the dreaded Yakuza.