Kim “Rikidozan” Sin-Nak

Kim “Rikidozan” Sin-Nak

Birth
South Korea
Death 15 Dec 1963 (aged 39)
Minato, Tokyo Metropolis, Japan
Burial Ōta-ku, Tokyo Metropolis, Japan
Memorial ID 15846516 · View Source
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Professional Wrestler. He is known as "The Father Of Puroresu" in Japan. His wrestling name, "Rikidozan," translates into "rugged mountain road." He was a native of North Korea. Due to a long history of discrimination against Koreans in Japan, he used the name "Mitsuhiro Momota" and claimed Nagasaki as his hometown. He kept his true identity a secret for his entire career, and his true nationality was not revealed until years after his death. After training as a sumo, he began his pro wrestling career on October 28, 1951 in Tokyo, wrestling to a 10 minute draw against Bobby Bruns. After their defeat in the Pacific War, the Japanese people had understandably been in a state of depression, and looking for heroes that could help ease the pain of their everyday lives. The emerging sport of professional wrestling captured their imagination with Rikidozan leading the way. By beating American wrestler after American wrestler (who were portrayed as evil villians), Rikidozan helped win back some respect for Japan in the eyes of the Japanese people. In the process, he became a national hero. Rikidozan often expressed his contempt for American wrestlers, whom he saw as overweight cheaters, and he often claimed that they were "soft" compared with their Japanese counterparts. While this approach did not make him popular with American fans, the Japanese admirerd him for "standing up to the Americans." When Rikodozan defeated Lou Thesz for the International Heavyweight title on August 27, 1958 it validated him in the eyes of the wrestling world. At that time, Thesz was the most revered wrestler in the world and virtually the only American wrestler Rikidozan would admit to having respect for. That respect was mutual and when Thesz "put him over" again by losing to Rikidozan in the final round of the 4th Annual World League Tournament on May 25, 1962, he knew he would be building Rikidozan's reputation at the expense of his own. It was a jesture Rikidozan would never forget, and a lesson he would pass on to his students, which included Giant Baba and Antonio Inoki. During his remarkable career, Rikidozan won numerous championships, including the Pacific Coast Tag Team title (with one of those "hated" Americans, Dennis Clary) in 1952, the Japanese Heavyweight title in 1954, the Hawaiian Tag Team championship, the All-Asian Heavyweight title in 1955, the N.W.A. World Tag Team title (with Koukichi Endo) in 1956, the N.W.A. Inernational Heavyweight title (from Thesz) in 1958, the All-Asian Tag Team title four times between 1960 and 1963, and the W.W.A. World Heavyweight title (Los Angeles) in 1962. He also won 5 prestigious tournaments in Japan, defeating the likes of Thesz, Killer Kowalski, and others. In addition to being Japan's top pro wrestler, Rikidozan was also a successful businessman and he acquired a vast empire which included his wrestling and boxing promotions, as well as hotels, golf courses, night clubs, and real estate holdings. Unfortunately, those business interests brought him into contact with members of the violent Japanese mafia. On December 8, 1963 he had an altercation with one of those "yakusa" in the restroom of a fashionable Tokyo hotspot and was stabbed in the abdomen. His attending physicians indicated that his wound did not appear to be life-threatening, but he died of internal hemorrhage and peritonitis one week later. Not long before this tragedy struck, a prominent Japanese sage noted a "darkened aura" about Rikidozan while watching him wrestle during a televised broadcast. Thousands of mourners attended his funeral on December 20, 1963. His death was so shattering that professional wrestling in Japan nearly died along with him. It took his two most successful students, Giant Baba and Antonio Inoki, to keep his legacy alive. Thanks to Rikidozan, wrestling was established in Japan. Professional wrestling is today viewed by tens of millions of Japanese every year.

Bio by: Warrick L. Barrett


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: Warrick L. Barrett
  • Added: 21 Sep 2006
  • Find A Grave Memorial 15846516
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Kim “Rikidozan” Sin-Nak (14 Nov 1924–15 Dec 1963), Find A Grave Memorial no. 15846516, citing Honmon-ji Temple Cemetery, Ōta-ku, Tokyo Metropolis, Japan ; Maintained by Find A Grave .