*In the July 23, 1951 edition of Pacific Stars and Stripes, it was revealed that the Torii Oasis
Shrine Club was sponsoring a $50,000 drive for crippled children, and wanted to bring American
style professional wrestling to Japan. Officials contacted promoters in the United States to import
the likes of Primo Carnera, Sandor Szabo, Oki Shikina, Andre Adoree, and Vincent Lopez to the
Far East for appearances. The newspaper stated that “it will be the first American grunt and
groan show in the history of this country.” Bernard Dimon, chairman of the fund raising campaign,
explained the plan on Friday afternoon. The shows would be promoted by Maurice Lipton with
assistance from Kenneth R. Pearson, Joe Miller, A.B. Shattuck, and Frank H. Scolinos, which
would make up the committee sponsoring the show.
*During the summer of 1951, amateur wrestlers from the United States were also venturing to
Japan for special exhibitions.
*The September 6, 1951 edition of the Pacific Stars and Stripes (Tokyo, Japan) stated that on
Tuesday, September 4, promoter Al Karasick announced that “American-style” wrestling would
make its debut in Japan later in the month. Karasick, the Honolulu wrestling promoter, speaking
from San Francisco, finalized an arrangement that would create a circuit in Japan for wrestlers to
tour. The cities involved in the “large scale” promotions would be Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe,
Yokohama, locations on Okinawa, and on military installations. In the deal, Karasick was going to
be associated with Tokyo and Honolulu businessman Maurice “Moe” Lipton and San Francisco
promoter Joe Malcewicz. Karasick made it known that leading wrestlers would be sent to Japan
and that the initial program was tentatively set for September 16. Six grapplers would be
departing San Francisco on September 7 by plane. The bouts would be sponsored by the Torri
Oasis Shrine Club of Tokyo, which was raising money for crippled children.
*Karasick would be operating a central booking agency out of Honolulu for the matches in Tokyo,
with affiliation back in the United States through fellow National Wrestling Alliance member
Malcewicz. Lipton was going to actually travel with the troupe in Japan, and oversee the
operations on the ground.
*Wrestlers Casey Berger, Andre Adoree, Leonard Hall, Harold Sakata, Ovila Asselin and Bobby
Bruns were expected to arrive at Haneda Airport on Saturday, September 15, and prepare for
their first show on September 28 at Korakuen Stadium. Matches were then to be held every other
Sunday beginning on October 7. Promoters announced that Gorgeous George and Primo
Carnera were going to wrestle on matches in October and that Japan was already being worked
into a regular circuit for a U.S.-Hawaii-Japan tour. Grapplers would also appear in Korea for Allied
Forces stationed there.
*Andre Adoree, Bobby Bruns, Ovila Asselin and Harold Sakata, four wrestlers, became the “first in
Japan when they arrived on Saturday at Haneda Airport. They were met by officials,
photographers and fans. Two more grapplers were expected to arrive the following Wednesday
on a Pan American flight.
*The dates for the debut show was rearranged again, and finally locked in for September 30 at the
Memorial Hall in Tokyo. The group would hold an exhibition of holds and maneuvers at the Tokyo
Army Hospital on September 28. Other events were planned, but nothing was defifinite as of yet.
There was still speculation, in Sgt. Clarkson Crume’s column in Pacific Stars and Stripes, that
Japan was going to become part of a circuit to include Australia, Hawaii, China, and the Phillipines.
Tokyo, Japan: Sunday, September 30, 1951
(Memorial Hall) … Dr. Len Hall b. Andre Adoree (2/3) (decision) (Adoree was unable to continue
after suffering an injured right leg) … Ovila Asselin and Bobby Bruns drew (30:00) … Harold “Hal”
Sakata b. Casey Berger (2/3) … (promoter: Moe Lipton) … (referee: Pete Demetros) … (benefit
for the Torii Oasis Shrine Club) … (“fine” crowd)
Notes: This was the first time American-style wrestling had shown for the public in Japan. The
event was to begin at 7:30 p.m. and were under the sponsorship of Shriner Chairman Bernie
Dimon. Bad weather kept some interested fans away. All the wrestlers donated their purses to
the crippled children fund.
Yokohama, Japan: Thursday, October 4, 1951
(Fryar Gym) … Dr. Len Hall b. Ovila Asselin (2/3) … Andre Adoree b. Harold Sakata (2/3) …
Bobby Bruns b. Casey Berger … (promoter: Moe Lipton) … (benefit for the Torii Oasis Shrine
Club) … (2,500+ fans, near capacity)
Notes: The audience was made up of Allied and Japanese fans. Another show was planned for
Yokohama next Thursday.
*On Monday, the six grapplers appeared at the 361st Station Hospital for demonstrations of
wrestling maneuvers. On Tuesday, they were at the Naval Hospital at Yokosuka and on
Wednesday at the Tokyo Army Hospital.
Yokohama, Japan: Thursday, October 11, 1951
(Fryar Gym) … Dr. Len Hall b. Ovila Asselin (2/3) (after the bout, Hall fought with Bobby Bruns
until officials broke it up) (Hall suffered a serious back injury) … Bobby Bruns and Harold Sakata
drew … Andre Adoree b. Casey Berger (2-0) … (promoter: Moe Lipton) … (benefit for the Torri
Oasis Shrine Club)
Tokyo, Japan: Sunday, October 14, 1951
(Memorial Hall) … Andre Adoree and Harold Sakata b. Ovila Asselin and Bobby Bruns (Sakata
took the only fall over Bruns) … Andre Adoree b. Casey Berger (11:10) … Ovila Asselin and
Harold Sakata drew (45:00) (1-1) … (promoter: Moe Lipton) … (referee: Pete Demetros) …
(benefit for the Torri Oasis Shrine Club)
Notes: Show to begin at 7:30 p.m. This marked the first tag team bout in the history of wrestling
in Japan. Dr. Len Hall was supposed to wrestle Bobby Bruns in the main event, but had to pull out
because of a back injury suffered on Thursday. Referee Demetros played a big part in the main
event. It was announced that more wrestlers were expected soon in Japan and Earl McCready
and Joe Dusek were named as possibilities.
*The October 18, 1951 edition of the Pacific Stars and Stripes stated that Gino “Red” Vagnone
was expected in Japan “this week” to replace Dr. Len Hall, who was injured. Hall was told to stay
off the mat for the “next six months.”
*The October 28, 1951 edition of the Pacific Stars and Stripes stated that an added attraction was
announced for the October 28 program at the Memorial Hall in Tokyo. “Riki Dozan” the “well
known Japanese sumo” was going to take on Bobby Bruns in a 10-minute exhibition prior to the
opening match. He had been learning the “international style and had taken six inches off his
waist line in the last month. Big things were expected of him.
Tokyo, Japan: Sunday, October 28, 1951
(Memorial Hall) … Ovila Asselin and Bobby Bruns b. Harold Sakata and Gino “Red” Vagnone (2/3)
(third fall by reverse decision, disqualification when Vagnone continued his attack after initially
winning) (Andre Adoree ran out to stop the fisticuffs along with the referee) … Andre Adoree and
Harold Sakata drew (30:00) … Ovila Asselin b. Casey Berger (2-0) … Bobby Bruns and Rikidozan
wrestled a 10-minute exhibition … (promoter: Moe Lipton) … (referee: Pete Demetros) …
(announcer: Moe Lipton)
Notes: Rikidozan had, reportedly been wrestling only “three weeks,” and was “surprisingly good,”
according to Sergeant Clarkson Crume of the Pacific Stars and Stripes newspaper. Lipton
announced that Joe Louis would appear in Japan soon to box exhibitions and referee wrestling
matches. This was Rikidozan’s first professional wrestling match.
Yokohama, Japan: Wednesday, November 14, 1951
(Fryar Gym) … Andre Adoree and Gino Vagnone wrestled Ovila Asselin and Bobby Bruns to a no
decision (match went two falls, but in the second fall, Vagnone accidently struck his partner,
leading to Adoree being pinned by Asselin) (Adoree then chased Vagnone into the audience,
ending the bout without a finish) … Harold Sakata b. Casey Berger (2-0) … Bobby Bruns and
Kokichi Endo drew (exhibition) … Ovila Asselin and Rikidozan wrestled a “demonstration match” …
(promoter: Moe Lipton) … (refereeL Howell Stephens)
Tokyo, Japan: Sunday, November 18, 1951
(Korakuen Stadium) … Joe Louis boxed six-rounds in exhibition fighting with Willie Polite, Lee
Giles, Jim Hickey, Buck Decordova, Nat Gray, and Allan Williams … Andre Adoree and Harold
Sakata drew (30:00) … Bobby Bruns b. Gino Vagnone (2/3) … Ovila Asselin and Rikidozan
wrestled an exhibition match … six other boxing exhibitions of three rounds opened the show …
(promoter: Moe Lipton) … (referees: Jack Dimon, Major Ralph Levine)
Notes: Polite was 6’1” and 200 pounds of the United States Navy. Giles was from the Navy, U.S.
S. Toledo, stood 6’4” and weighed 180 pounds. Hickey was of the Navy, stood 6’1” and weighed
200. Decordova was from GHQ. Gray was from the Navy and Williams was from the Marines,
standing 6’1” and weighing 185. The fighters that boxed Louis were handled by Chief Petty
Officer “Frenchy” Burelle, boxing coach of the Yokosuka squad. The show began at 1:00 p.m.
$250 was offered to any fighter who could knock Louis down.
Yokosuka, Japan: Tuesday, November 20, 1951
(Yokosuka Naval Base) … Bobby Bruns b. Harold Sakata (referee: Joe Louis) … Ovila Asselin and
Gino Vagnone drew … two preliminary exhibitions … (promoter: Moe Lipton) … (3,000 fans)
Osaka, Japan: Sunday, November 25, 1951
( ) … Rikidozan and Harold Sakata wrestled an exhibition match
Yokohama, Japan: Sunday, December 2, 1951
(Fryar Gym) … Joe Louis participated in a six-round exhibition against Ozie “KO” Hubbard (two
rounds), Allan Williams, Clarence Saunders, Willie Polite, and Buck Decordova … Bobby Bruns
wrestled Rikidozan in a 10-minute exhibition without a decision … Andre Adoree wrestled Kokichi
Endo in a 10-minute exhibition without a decision … Andre Adoree and Gino Vagnone b. Ovila
Asselin and Harold Sakata (2/3) (third fall by countout when Sakata injured his knee) … Harold
Gibbs and Don Walker boxed a three round no decision … (promoter: Moe Lipton) … (referees:
Jack Dimon, George Stevens – wrestling, Lt. Edward O’Brien – boxing)
Note: Gibbs and Walker were Air Force boxers.
Yokohama, Japan: Sunday, December 9, 1951
(Fryar Gym) … Ovila Asselin and Bobby Bruns vs. Andre Adoree and Gino Vagnone (2/3) …
Rikidozan vs. Harold Sakata (15:00) … Ovila Asselin vs. Kokichi Endo (10:00) … Andre Adoree
vs. Yasuyoki Sakabe … several amateur boxing matches … (promoter: Moe Lipton)
Note: Sakabe was called a “local Judo star.”
Tokyo, Japan: Tuesday, December 11, 1951
( ) … Bobby Bruns and Rikidozan wrestled an exhibition match
*Bad winter weather was blamed for halting the run of professional wrestling in Japan for the
remainder of 1951 and into ’52. The December 18, 1951 edition of Pacific Stars and Stripes
stated that Bobby Bruns felt that wrestling had a future in Japan and that he planned on returning
in the spring. He was the trainer of Rikidozan, who had some good showings, but “needs more
training to improve his stamina.” Rikidozan reportedly weighed 265 pounds now. Bruns was
leaving Haneda Airport on Tuesday. Ovila Asselin and Gino Vagnone left for Honolulu “last week,”
and Andre Adoree left on Sunday. Both Harold Sakata and Casey Berger planned to remain in
Japan to handle business. The newspaper indicated that the attendance for the shows was
“encouraging,” and that there was still talk of a circuit for Japan with Hawaii, the Phillipines,
Australia, and China. “Television is coming on in Japan and video and wrestling might grow
together,” Clarkson Crume wrote.
Research by Tim Hornbaker
December 7, 2010
|National Wrestling Alliance Expansion to Japan