Remember When…Earthquake vs. Kōji Kitao Turned into a Shoot?

Earthquake vs. Kōji Kitao

Craig Wilson

In this latest series of posts, titled ‘Remember When?‘, we take a look at famous, infamous or obscure moments in wrestling history. Today we take a look at the joint show between the WWF and Super World of Sports on 30 March 1991 and the match between Earthquake and Kōji Kitao.

On 30 March 1991, the World Wrestling Federation held a joint show in Japan with Genichiro Tenryu’s Super World of Sports at the Tokyo Dome.

It was announced that 65,000 attended but in reality it was nearer 42,000 with only 25,000 of those paid for.

Although low down on the card, Earthquake was one of the most over babyfaces on the show, despite his heel status in the states, in no small part down to his sumo roots in Japan before he became a star in the WWF.

Earthquake-WWFThe top story from the show was an incident, which is now infamous, which took place during the bout between Earthquake and Kobe Kitao. During the match, Kitao decided to stop selling and began shooting on Earthquake, kicked the referee and was disqualified. Post-match, he immediately grabbed a microphone and began telling the audience that wrestling is fake and that Tenta never could really beat him, as other Japanese wrestlers attempted to restrain him. he grabbed hold of a microphone, declaring that wrestling was fake.

Unsurprisingly, the whole thing turned into a huge story in Japan. After all, Kitao was the biggest sumo grand champion ever to become a professional wrestler and had a huge level of celebrity status in the country. As a result of his actions, Kitao was not only fired but pretty much blackballed from the wrestling business. At the time of the incident, there was a great deal of concern that Kitao may go public with the inner workings of the business, exposing it as fake. Remember kids, kayfabe was king back then.

By the end of April, Koji Kitao has given his side of the story of the Earthquake-match controversy that led to his firing and blackballing from wrestling. Kitao’s version is that Great Kabuki told Earthquake to “teach Kitao a lesson” and that Earthquake was trying to make him look bad in the match and trying to legitimately hurt him, so he defended himself. After the match, he confronted Kabuki backstage but was separated and of course, later fired.

So, who is Kobe Kitao? He is a former wrestling and mixed martial artist. His career began in sumo wrestling until the winter of 1987 when he became the first yokozuna ever to be expelled from the sport.

At 6 ft 7”, a move to the NFL was rumoured after his expulsion but instead he turned to professional wrestling. Ahead of his debut in Japan, he spent some time in the United States in Verne Gagne’s American Wrestling Association in late 1989. To hide his identity from the Japanese press, he wrestled under a mask as ‘Monster Machine’.

Trained at the New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) dojo, he made his Japanese debut on February 10, 1990, at the NJPW/AJPW Supershow in the Tokyo Dome, where he defeated Bam Bam Bigelow in a highly anticipated match. Unfortunately, his stay in NJPW didn’t last long, because later that July, he was fired for disrespectful conduct towards the Korean-born Riki Choshu.

Upon joining SWS in November 1990, he joined the Revolution stable and teamed with fellow former sumo Genichiro Tenryu. He would go on to make an appearance at WrestleMania VII, alongside Tenryu, in a victorious affair against Demolition. He eventually retired from the square circle in October 1998, marking his retirement with a ceremony in the PRIDE 4 event.

Full card, courtesy of

• Bret Hart & Jim Neidhart defeated Shawn Michaels & Marty Jannetty
• Earthquake pinned Koji Kitao
• Ted Dibiase & Haku defeated the Great Kabuki & Takashi Ishikawa
• Samson Fuyuki, Tatsumi Kitihara, Masao Orihara, & Apollo Sugawara defeated Goro Tsurumi, Don Arakawa, Kenichi Oya, & Fumihiro Niikura
• Kendo Nagasaki pinned Jim Duggan
• Demolition Smash & Crush defeated Shunji Takano & Shinichi Nakano
• The Ultimate Warrior pinned Sgt. Slaughter
• Masa Funaki defeated Naoki Sano
• Kerry Von Erich defeated WWF IC Champion Mr. Perfect via DQ
• Ishinriki & Yoshiaki Yatsu defeated Jimmy Snuka & the Barbarian
• Randy Savage pinned George Takano
• The Legion of Doom defeated WWF World Champion Hulk Hogan & Genichiro Tenryu via count-out

Were you there or have a story from that show? Leave it in the comments below. 

You can read all previous ‘Remembering When’ pieces here.

2 thoughts on “Remember When…Earthquake vs. Kōji Kitao Turned into a Shoot?

  1. Pingback: This Week in Wrestling 2016 week 36 | Ring the Damn Bell

  2. Pingback: Wrestling With Sin: 184 | Ring the Damn Bell

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