NEW YORK (TR) – Former American professional wrestler The Destroyer, who garnered tremendous popularity in Japan decades ago, received the esteemed Order of the Rising Sun at a ceremony in Buffalo on Saturday, reports Nippon News Network (Feb. 4).
At the ceremony, Reiichiro Takahashi, the Ambassador and Consul-General at the Consulate General of Japan in New York, handed Richard Beyer, who wrestled under the name The Destroyer, the Order of the Rising Sun under the Gold and Silver Rays class, which is the second-highest level.
After receiving the order, Beyer, 87, wearing his trademark white mask, said, “Honto ni arigatou gozaimasu [Thank you very much].”
The order is presented to persons who have made achievements in international relations, promoted Japanese culture or performed other altruistic activities.
The legend of the The Destroyer began in 1963, when he came to Japan to wrestle Rikidozan, who rose to immense fame by defeating foreign opponents in the immediate aftermath of World War II.
Over the next decade, the native of New York became a pop-culture icon who, in addition to squaring off against wrestling legends like Giant Baba in the ring, appeared on Japanese television variety programs.
Beyer said during an interview with a Nippon News Network reporter after the ceremony that he grew up hating the Japanese, but his attitude changed upon coming to Japan. “Don’t judge what happened before; judge what [is] happening now,” he said.
When asked by the reporter whether he would take off his mask to show his face to the Japanese people, Beyer laughed and said, “No, because it’s a secret.”