Sumo Star And WWE WrestleMania VII Participant Has Died

Koji Kitao passes away aged 55.

Koji Kitao Wmvii
WWE Network

Legendary sumo star Koji Kitao, who had an eventful albeit futile pro-wrestling career, passed away on 10 February from chronic renal failure. His death had been kept quiet until being reported by Japan's Nikkan Sports yesterday.

The young rikishi Kitao, then known as Futuhaguro, in 1986 became only the sport's 60th man to be promoted to Yokozuna level. The promotion was based as much on the administration's desire to find a new sumo superstar as it was Kitao's proficiency, and at an alarming 6'7", he fit the bill.

Despite his lofty title, Kitao failed to win a tournament as Yokozuna, and his sumo career came crashing down after he struck the wife of his beya boss.

Though his exit ended in disgrace, Kitao remained a hugely popular sports star, and New Japan were soon knocking on the door for his services. Although the star attraction sold out the Tokyo Dome for the first time in the company's history, his fiery temper once more cut short his run; he was fired after a falling out with booker Rikki Choshu.

Kitao was promptly hired by Genichiro Tenryu for Super World of Sports. At the time, the promotion had a working arrangement with WWE, leading to the unusual spectacle of relative unknowns Kitao and Tenryu besting top tag team Demolition at WrestleMania VII.

Things ended in acrimony once more for Kitao in Super World of Sports, when he infamously refused to lose a second time to fellow ex-sumo John 'Earthquake' Tenta - a man whose record paled in comparison to his own. The match ended with Kitao booting the referee, and declaring the whole of pro-wrestling fake.

A 1992 spell in UWFi ended similarly; Kitao protested a scheduled defeat to Nobuhiko Takada, which resulted in his frustrated opponent kicking him in the head.

Kitao gradually migrated into MMA, where he competed in PRIDE's debut event opposite former WWE wrestler Nathan Jones. He eventually retired from the ring in 1998.

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Editorial Team
Editorial Team

Benjamin was born in 1987, and is still not dead. He variously enjoys classical music, old-school adventure games (they're not dead), and walks on the beach (albeit short - asthma, you know). He's currently trying to compile a comprehensive history of video game music, yet denies accusations that he purposefully targets niche audiences. He's often wrong about these things.