In the immediate aftermath of World War II, wrestler Rikidozan rose to immense fame through his ability to routinely defeat foreign opponents.
To mark the 50th anniversary of the grappler’s death, an event featuring his grandson will be held next month in Tokyo, reports Shukan Asahi (Dec. 6).
On December 16, a collection of 22 industry luminaries, including Tiger Mask creator Satoru Sayama and wrestler Kensuke Sasaki, will be on hand at Korakuen Hall for “Rikidozan’s 50th Memorial”, a tribute to honor the memory of the wrestler as his grandson, Chikara Momota, makes his debut in the ring.
The 32-year-old Momota will pair up with his father, Mitsuo, who himself debuted in 1970, in a tag-team bout against Masao Orihara and Kazushige Nosawa.
Momota tells the tabloid that he expects some bloodshed and bone fractures. “I want to live up to the name of my grandfather,” he says. “I want a strong performance.”
After graduating from college in 2004, Momota attempted to enter the Pro-Wrestling Noah organization, of which his father is a member, but was rejected.
“I did push-ups and abdominal training of 500 repetitions each,” he remembers of that time. “I did squats until I had nothing left. I was going to be a wrestler — that was my goal. But somewhere along the way I got a little naive.”
Feeling depressed, he started watching DVDs featuring of the glory days of Rikidozan. He became particularly enthralled with the karate chops and suplex moves of one of his grandfather’s opponents, world champion Lou Thesz.
Newly invigorated, Momota began training again during the week. On the weekends, he continued to study old films. He then joined the Tenryu Project organization in February of this year.
Two months later, his grandfather was in the news. On April 9, Katsuji Murata, the former member of the Sumiyoshi-kai organized crime group who stabbed wrestler Rikidozan during an altercation, died of natural causes after suffering from diabetes.
On the evening of December 8, 1963, Rikidoan was confronted by Murata inside the New Latin Quarter club in Tokyo’s Akasaka district. A fight erupted in the bathroom, and the wrestler was stabbed by Murata in the abdomen with a knife.
After the stabbing, Rikidozan returned home where he received treatment. One week later, however, he died in a Tokyo hospital as a result of complications from peritonitis. He was 39 years old.
For Momota, he is excited about his forthcoming debut. “I have trained thoroughly over the past six months,” he says, “and thanks to sparring with five elder wrestlers my stamina is where it should be.”
Rikidozan’s signature move was the karate chop. Momota is prepared for any fans who might hope to see if he can match his grandfather.
“The basis is arm movement,” he says, “and I’ve been training, with my arms getting stronger. Both horizontally and vertically, I feel my strength increasing.” (A.T.)
Source: “Rikidozan on mago ga 32sai de debyu karate choppu tokkunchu,” Shukan Asahi (Dec. 6, pages 142-143)
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