Beginning in December 2012, Legacyofwrestling.com will be featuring some of the
research of Japanese wrestling historian Haruo Yamaguchi. Please check back
often to review the results section of this website and enjoy Mr. Yamaguchi's
outstanding contributions to preserving professional wrestling history.
On August 15, 1891 in New York City, wrestler Matsada Sorakichi passed away at
32 years of age. He was buried at Woodlawn Cemetery. His reported birthplace
was Shinano, Japan. He was among the top wrestlers in the United States. Evan
Lewis, the famous "Strangler," was said to have broken his ankle in a match.
The New York Times reported on January 8, 1932 that 32 "leading wrestlers" went
on strike in Tokyo, just before the season was set to open, and requested many
changes to the way their were paid, how long they worked, and less expensive
seats for fans.
Al Karasick wrote a letter to Sam Muchnick dated March 3, 1954, telling him that "I
have opened Japan with American wrestlers with a big success. I have the Sharpe
Brothers over there and they drew $68,000 in three shows. It looks like wrestling is
there to stay." Karasick continued by explaining that "Japan is my territory because
I have spent many years and lots of money getting it started." He wanted Muchnick
to put that information out in an official NWA bulletin, and if any promoters wanted
their wrestlers featured in Japan, they had to arrange it through Karasick's
Karasick was not done crowing about the success in Japan, and followed up his
March 3 letter to Muchnick with another to the NWA President on March 15.
Karasick explained that the success did not happen overnight. He wrote: "I
originally invested my money, time., in 1951 to create the thing and sent Bobby
Bruns over to handle things for me." Karasick requested that Muchnick send a
letter to his contact in Japan "to assure him I am a member of the NWA and also
that he is to book thru this office." Karasick noted that "when things are successful
in any business, there aer always vultures on the outskirts trying to invade." He
wanted to use the Muchnick letter for "protection" and "as a preventative measure."
Muchnick agreed and sent a letter to Mr. H. Hyashi of Yoshimoto Kogyo Co., Lt'd in
Tokyo on March 15, 1954 explaining that Karasick "has agreed to supply you with
talent for wrestling at all future matches." Muchnick added: "No other booking
office has the authority or backing of the National Wrestling Alliance to book
matches in Japan at any future time."
Despite the efforts of Karasick to block the rotation of other American wrestlers into
Japan, other troupes pushed forward with their plans to stage shows there.
Karasick wasn't going to stand by and be silent about it. On November 27, 1954,
Karasick wrote a letter to Muchnick talking about a plot by Ted Thye and Jim
Londos to run programs in Japan, and another operation by Mildred Burke. He
wrote that he'd sent letters to three major newspapers in Japan (Mainichi Shimbun,
Yomiuri Shimbun, Sangyo Keizai Shimbun) and told "them that the wrestlers are
not sanctioned by the NWA. Also that Jim Londos is over 60 yrs. old and is not the
Worlds Champion as he claims, but that Lou Thesz is."
Karasick wanted Muchnick to follow up with letters to the Japanese press as well.
"A letter from you to these three papers might be of value," Karasick added.
"Guess I will have to get back in shape myself and shoot it out with Londos, we are
the same age after all, and the only thing is that he has more hair than I."
In a separate later to Muchnick on November 18, 1954, Karasick expressed his
belief that women's wrestlers "can only kill the game" in Japan because "they do
not go for freaks" and "know their wrestling as Judo and sumo are national sports."
For his planned tour, Londos talked about getting wrestlers from a few different
NWA booking agents, and Karasick found out that Hugh Nichols and Sam
Menacker discouraged a few wrestlers from taking Londos up on his offer. Then
Thye tried to get Frank Fozo and Ed Gardenia for a tour of Australia and both men
refused the deal when they found out that Karasick wasn't apart of it. Karasick
called Londos and Thye "rebels." He was also considering invading Australia to
challenge Thye for position there in retribution.
Karasick repeated many times in his correspondence that Japan was "registered"
under his booking office and that he'd explained that fact at every NWA convention
since 1951. At one point, in a return letter to Karasick, Muchnick indicated that he
always thought Karasick was a "good friend" of Thye, and was surprised by the
In December 1955, the Associated Press published a report citing wrestling on
television as being a contributing factor to a rash of injuries and even deaths to
Japanese boys trying to mimmick the maneuvers they watched. The "western style
pro roughhouse wrestling" was being blamed, and there was a new and forceful
effort to protect children from the influence that wrestling on TV was said to be
having. One of the most serious incidents occurred when an 11-year-old boy died
after he was knocked to the ground by a dropkick from one of his classmates.
Television managers wanted Rikidozan to do a public service announcement,
telling the youngsters to leave the wrestling to the professionals.
An American wrestler named John M. McFarland was sentenced to 8-years in
prison on May 26, 1956 for robbing the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo the January prior.
McFarland was 30 years of age and reportedly stole $13,000 from the hotel.
A UPI report in the November 23, 1966 edition of the Miami Herald stated that an
estimated 2,500 wrestling fans in Tokyo rioted at a wrestling show when a group of
promoted wrestlers failed to show. The fans broke lights, and destroyed the
wrestling ring. 300 police were called in to restore order.
Research by Tim Hornbaker, Haruo Yamaguchi
|Japanese Wrestling History