A Wrestling With Sin Special: The Tragedies of Ikki Kajiwara

JAPAN – OCTOBER 01: Author Ikki Kajiwara is seen in October 1970 in Japan. (Photo by Kyodo News Stills via Getty Images)

Brian Damage

This latest entry into the ‘Wrestling With Sin’ series is a bit different than most others. The subject is a man named Ikki Kajiwara and while he was not a wrestler, referee or promoter…he did have an influence in puroresu aka Japanese professional wrestling. This is the story of how his creativity helped move puroresu forward and how scandals and tragedies befell him.

He was born Asaki Takamori in Tokyo, Japan in 1936. Takamori grew up wanting to become a writer and he did just that. He became an extremely successful author and manga writer under the pen name of Ikki Kajiwara. Manga is a Japanese style of comic books and graphic novels. He created several classic sports manga including Star of the Giants, Sunset Bancho and Tomorrow Joe. Kajiwara also had an interest in professional wrestling and would write the 1962 manga Champion Futoshi. It was the story of a wrestler who joins the Japan Pro Wrestling Alliance under the tutelage of the great Rikidozan.

The manga series was abruptly canceled after the real life murder of Rikidozan. Kajiwara attempted to restart the series dating it after the wrestler’s death…but the series was not as popular and eventually canceled. Ikki Kajiwara did not stop there with creating pro wrestling themed Manga. In 1968, he went on to create one of his most successful graphic novel characters called ‘Tiger Mask.’ The story was about a villainous wrestler named Naoto Date who competed under the guise of Tiger Mask. The wrestler would ultimately have a change of heart and become good after meeting an orphaned child.

The fictionalized Tiger Mask character became a cultural phenomenon in Japan. It led to anime series, movies, songs and games. In 1980, Antonio Inoki and New Japan Pro Wrestling struck a deal with Kajiwara and licensed the popular character to become a real life pro wrestler played by Satoru Sayama. The Tiger Mask gimmick became just as popular with wrestling fans. No less than five different wrestlers donned the infamous Tiger Mask including the late, great Mitsuharu Misawa. Kajiwara cited his Tiger Mask series as one of his life’s great works.

Ikki Kajiwara also partnered with Inoki in booking some wrestling matches, with the most notable being a match between Inoki and Willie Williams for Inoki’s WWWF World Heavyweight Martial Arts Championship in Tokyo. Kajiwara also created a series called Pro Wrestling Superstar Retsuden aka Biographies of Pro Wrestling Superstars. They were fictionalized backstories to some of pro wrestling’s biggest names in Japan including The Funk Family, Stan Hansen, Bruiser Brody, Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, The Great Kabuki and Abdullah the Butcher. The series ran from 1980 until 1983…but was cut short after Kajiwara’s highly publicized arrest for an assault in 1983.

His arrest brought shame to him and his family and the very popular wrestling biography series was canceled and never returned. He was also embroiled in an alleged scandalous affair with a Japanese actress. The media was all over the story and Kajiwara, who was married at the time was outcast by Japanese media and society. He denied all the rumors and was quoted as saying, “Speaking of mistress relations, did you see me having sex with her?” He would continue, “Although there is no conclusive evidence of the mistress relationship, but it does not have any evidence that is not a mistress relationship.” All of his unpublished works were canceled and he was no longer viewed as a celebrity.

Kajiwara eventually divorced his wife and he would later remarry a Taiwanese television host named Pai Bing Bing. The couple had a daughter named Pai Hsiao-yen. Kajiwara began work on his autobiography detailing his childhood, the inspirations for all of his works and his relationships with various celebrities including a number of professional wrestlers. Sadly, Ikki Kajiwara died of pancreatitis before completion of the book in 1987. He was just 50 years old at the time of his death.

Approximately ten years after his death in 1997, Kajiwara’s family would experience an unimaginable tragedy. Their teenage daughter, Pai Hsiao-yen was walking to school in Taipei, Taiwan when she vanished without a trace. Not long after, her mother received a ransom note demanding 5 million dollars for Pai Hsiao-yen’s return. Included with the note was a severed pinky finger and a picture of a girl bond and gagged. Several attempts were made for her mother to make drop offs of money, but were aborted at the last minute due to the kidnappers spotting police and the media.

Taiwanese police were able to locate the hideout of the abductors and raided them. An intense gun fight ensued with one man arrested and two others escaping. The police discovered the mutilated body of Pai Hsiao-yen at the bottom of a drainage ditch. An autopsy revealed that she was dead for 10 days before she was discovered. That meant that the kidnappers had already killed her during negotiations with her mother. Twelve accessories to the kidnapping were arrested, but three of the main criminals were still on the loose.

An island wide manhunt followed with another gun fight that ultimately killed two of the criminals. Another, who was already arrested was executed by the Taiwanese government. Pai Hsiao-yen’s mother Pai Bing Bing started a foundation in her daughter’s name that spread anti-drug messages and provide help to marginalized children and the elderly.

3 thoughts on “A Wrestling With Sin Special: The Tragedies of Ikki Kajiwara

  1. Pingback: Grappling With Tragedy: Mitsuharu Misawa | Ring the Damn Bell

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