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Looking back at the death of Rikidozan

Shukan Asahi Geino May 2-9
Shukan Asahi Geino May 2-9

On April 9, Katsuji Murata, the former member of the Sumiyoshi-kai organized crime group who stabbed wrestler Rikidozan five decades ago, died of natural causes after suffering from diabetes.

Weekly tabloid Shukan Asahi Geino (May 2-9) looks back at the events that led to the premature end to the famed grappler, who rose to immense fame by defeating foreign opponents in the immediate aftermath of World War II.

The Great Kojika, a former professional wrestler who seven months before the stabbing got his start with Japan Pro Wrestling, the alliance started by Rikidozan in 1953, said that he was aware of the passing of Murata. “I do not wish to speak about the dead,” he tells the tabloid. “But I remember the shock, like a splash of cold water to the face, of what happened at that time. ”

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 finishing a bout earlier that evening, the Great Kojika went out drinking with a colleague. Upon his return to a boarding house near the Riki Mansion, Rikidozan’s luxurious apartment in Tokyo, an officer in a patrol car informed him of the stabbing. “I couldn’t believe it,” says the 71-year-old former wrestler. “As a means of revenge, my senior colleague purchased a sword at a pawn shop but the cops apprehended him.”

After the stabbing, Rikidozan returned home where he received treatment. Murata arrived at the apartment later and offered a profound apology, which Rikidozan accepted. One week later, however, Rikidozan died in a Tokyo hospital as a result of complications from peritonitis. He was 39 years old.

Several years before the incident, Murata was involved in an altercation with a foreign wrestler. “He knew that one should not underestimate the physical strength of a wrestler,” says author Eiji Ooshita, who interviewed Murata in 1991. “So he carried the knife with him, and if he felt there was a problem he would pull it out quickly.”

Murata was found guilty of manslaughter and served seven years in prison. Upon his release, he became a gang boss.

On each anniversary of the death of Rikidozan, Murata offered his apologies to the family of the wrestler and paid his respects at his grave. Shukan Asahi Geino wonders if there will be a chance meeting for the pair in the after world. (K.N.)

Source: “Rikidozan shisho otoko ‘jiken kara 50nenme no byoshi ni manadeshi ga gekido,'” Shukan Asahi Geino (May 2-9)