The Land Of The Setting Sun: The WWE’s Misuse of Japanese Talent

Brian Damage

(Image courtesy of

(Image courtesy of

井の中の蛙大海を知らず Translation: A frog in a well does not know the great sea… Meaning: People are satisfied to judge things by their own narrow experience, never knowing of the wide world outside.

There is no question, some of the most talented and skilled workers in pro wrestling come from overseas in Japan. There is a laundry list of all time greats that have hailed from the “Land of the Rising Sun.” Starting with Rikidozan (The father of Puroresu) to Antonio Inoki, Giant Baba, Masahiro Chono, Keiji Mutoh (The Great Muta), Kenta Kobashi, Mitsuharu Misawa, Tiger Mask, Jushin “Thunder” Liger, KENTA, Tatsumi Fujinami, Hiroshi Tanahashi and so on and so forth….

Many have have become legends and icons in Japan, while still having continued success overseas….not many have had the same success within the WWE. With the exception of perhaps Masa Saito (Mr. Saito) a former 2 time co holder of the tag team titles with Mr. Fuji ( Hawaiian born ) and Yoshihiro Tajiri…not many Japanese born wrestlers have ever truly succeeded. Why?

In many cases in the past, the WWWF/WWF/WWE have always portrayed the Japanese wrestler as a stereotypical heel or villain. They would throw salt or spit a green mist into an opponents eyes. It took a San Francisco born wrestler with Samoan lineage, Yokozuna (Rodney Anoaʻi ) to break the barrier and become WWF champion.

Yet despite the overall success of Yokozuna….many real Japanese talents continue to be wasted in the WWE. Yoshi Tatsu is a proven talent in the ring, but is sparingly used as a jobber on WWE television and even more sparsely used on NXT. Kazma Sakamoto who accompanied Lord Tensai to the ring in the early days…was also a great talent….but he too was hardly ever used once demoted back to NXT and ultimately released. Yuki Takizawa ( Jiro ) another talented performer wasted in NXT and released.

Kensuke Shinzaki (Hakushi) had an awesome gimmick in the WWE. Dressed all in white with Yakuza style tattoos all over his body and face got a strong initial push. Within a few months however, his push disappeared and he became a glorified jobber to the stars. He was even relegated to a comedy act with Barry Horowitz dancing to the song “Hava Nagila” and eventually disappeared. Kaientai had a little push initially only to downgrade once the choppy choppy your pee pee angle happened. Great Sasuke looked to be pushed hard…only to falter for various reasons. The same thing happened with the Ultimo Dragon.

A part of the problem is most likely the language barrier. Vince McMahon likes his “Superstars” to cut promos. Something very difficult for the Japanese stars to do on their own. The other may be the stature of many of them…smaller frames….something McMahon was never a fan of. Of course there was Kenzo Suzuki who stood 6 ft 3 in….yet he was still de-pushed as well.

In a previous article entitled, “Blackballed,” I spoke of how there have been very few African Americans as WWE or World champions. The plight of the Japanese wrestler is much worse. That is a shame….because many of these wrestlers can work circles around guys that are considered “Superstars” but never get the proper chance to shine. I’ve said this in private and I’ll say it here….the day you see a Japanese born wrestler as WWE champion…is the day the McMahon family sells the WWE…It will never happen.


One thought on “The Land Of The Setting Sun: The WWE’s Misuse of Japanese Talent

  1. The first Japanese wrestler I saw in the WWWF was Professor Toru Tanaka and he yes was a heel who threw salt but was a multiple co-holder of the tag team title and did challenge for the heavyweight title a number of times. Lee Wong was always a jobber, Pak Song never appeared in the promotion, and I think Tor Kamata did wrestle but never got much of a push. Other federations pushed Japanese talent big time. It would have been a nice change.


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