In the second ‘Superstars of Yesteryear’ post, following last week’s on Ludvig Borga, we look at Jinsei Shinzaki, better known to WWF fans by his ring name ‘Hakushi’.
In 1995, a mysterious Japanese performer debuted in the then WWF. As the picture to the side demonstrates, his look was completely different to anything seen before in the promotion.
The superstar was called Hakushi – meaning ‘White Messenger’ – began in traditional fashion by defeating various jobbers as he began to make more and more of a name for himself. His gimmick was very similar to the one he portrayed throughout his career in Japan, that of a Buddhist pilgim.
During his stint with the WWF he was accompanied to the ring by his manager Shinja, who was played by Akio Sato best known for his appearances in the WWF in the early 90s as Sato, one half of The Orient Express.
It was when Hakushi entered into a feud with Bret ‘the Hitman’ Hart that things really took off for him. Although an entertaining feud, it was short lived and he soon found himself drifting into mid card obscurity before leaving the WWF owing to the shame (kayfabe) after a defeat on Raw to Justin Hawk Bradshaw.
It wasn’t just Hakushi’s aesthetics that was different to what American wrestling fans had seen before. His style was also unique and different from what most fans were used to. High risk and high impact attacks formed much of his arsenal. His in-ring style was a precursor to the luchador style which would be a common place in virtually every wrestling promotion by the beginning of the 2000s.
He got off to a great start in the WWF and began feuding with Bret Hart shortly after his debut. However, once that feud was over it was downhill for Hakushi. A face turn at SummerSlam killed any momentum Hakushi had built and he would end up on the undercard until his departure in February 1996, which came after a loss to Justin Hawk Bradshaw.
Currently back in Japan, Shinzaki is the owner and President of Michinoku Pro Wrestling – home to Great Sasuke and Ultimo Dragon. Since leaving the WWF in 1996 his appearances wrestling on U.S. soil have been fleeting. A cup of coffee with ECW followed soon after leaving the WWF and in 2011 he wrestled in Chikara’s King of Trios representing Michinoku Pro with Dick Togo and the Great Sasuke. The trio made it to the semi finals before being defeated by F.I.S.T. (Chuck Taylor, Icarus and Johnny Gargano) who eventually lost to The Colony (Fire Ant, Green Ant and Soldier Ant).
A unique aesthetic quality with an equally stand-out appearance marked Hakushi out from the rest of what was going in on American wrestling at the time. His wrestling style helped him have a number of memorable matches in the WWF but his gimmick was never one that would lend itself to a main eventer and he duly fell down the card, particularly after his face turn. Certainly a very underrated performer and one of the stand-outs from 1995 – a year that perhaps hasn’t given all that much to WWF history.
One of his most memorable matches from his run with the WWF occurred at ‘In Your House 1’ against Bret ‘the Hitman’ Hart and is scheduled to appear on ‘The Best of In Your House’ DVD set for release this year. You can view the match, in its entirety, below.