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Wrestling / Akebono

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Time to fight.
"Japan loves to put sumo wrestlers in non-sumo situations, and it has never gone well. Sumo skills translate to fighting about as well as they do to trampoline safety. Coming into his fifth fight, Akebono had never won a kickboxing match or even demonstrated that he'd seen a kickboxing match, so it should be safe to put him against the kickboxing champion of the world, right?"

Akebono was still a huge celebrity to the average wrestling fan, but hardcore fans saw a large man they were trying to make the next Tenryu, except Tenryu lost a lot of his sumo weight and could actually wrestle worth a damn."
J.K. McMillan on AJPW history.

Akebono Taro (born 8 May 1969 as Chadwick Rowan) is an American-born Japanese sumo wrestler, professional wrestler, Mixed Martial Arts fighter and kickboxer. Born in Hawaii, Rowan joined the sport of sumo after college and was put under renowned master and fellow Hawaii native Takamiyama from Azumazeki stable, adopting the name of Akebono ("daybreak"). He rose rapidly through the ranks, breaking records in wins, and ended reaching up the title of grand champion or yokozuna in 1993, being the 64th in the line. Akebono aspired to a tranquil retirement after it, but personal troubles and economic mismanagement caused him to go bankruptcy. It forced him to work a career in K-1 kickboxing and some MMA ventures, which only brought him a losing record and several heavily televised beatdowns. However, he would have infinitely more success in pro wrestling, first appearing for WWE as part of a special sumo match against The Big Show in Wrestlemania 21. He then joined All Japan Pro Wrestling under Keiji Mutoh, becoming a huge draw and one of its superheavyeight mainstays. Finally away from competitive sports, Akebono wrestled for all the major promotions in Japan, among them New Japan Pro-Wrestling, Pro Wrestling ZERO1, Fighting Opera HUSTLE and Dragon Gate, winning a string of championships. In 2015, after a long tenure in AJPW which got him touted as the next Giant Baba, he went to form his own promotion, Odo.

In 2017, Akebono suffered heart failure and was in a coma for several days. He lost the use of his legs and part of his memory, most likely ending his professional wrestling career.

"Daybreaking Tropes":

  • Acrofatic: Mostly not (though he used to do some nimble baseball slides and diving splashes), but he played with the trope in the old WRESTLE-1 when he threatened to do a suicide dive on Mitsuharu Misawa and Yoshinori Ogawa, scaring them away from the ringside.
  • Alternate Company Equivalent: He is treated as the Japanese version of The Big Show, but you can also compare him career-wise to Mark Henry - they both were great legit athletes before their jump to wrestling, both were involved with sexually bizarre storylines and humiliating losing streaks, and both managed to rise to main eventers and champions for a time.
  • The Apprentice: To Keiji Mutoh in AJPW, Riki Choshu in NJPW and Satoru Sayama in K-1 and MMA.
  • Arch-Enemy: They tend to be the only guys who are able to compete with him in terms of size and strength. Giant Bernard, Giant Silva and Bob Sapp are the main ones.
  • Arc Number: 64. He was the 64th yokozuna, and his waist was once measured as 164 centimeters.
  • Ass Kicks You: Uses hip attacks thanks to his big assets, and for a time adopted the Banzai Drop as a finishing move.
  • Bash Brothers: With Keiji Mutoh (as Muto Room), Ryota Hama (as SMOP), Taiyo Kea (both out and in Partisan Forces), Shinjiro Otani (as KAZAN), Takeshi Rikio and Yutaka Yoshie.
  • Berserk Button: Being called a gaijin.
  • Big Damn Heroes: He appeared in a non-televised WWE event in Japan saving Big Show from an attack by Carlito Colón and Matt Morgan. He also was the usual rescue person for babyface stables in AJPW.
  • Big Fun: In real life, he is mostly known as a incredibly polite, friendly guy.
  • The Big Guy: For all the factions he is part of, which comes with being the largest professional wrestler in Japan.
  • Boring, but Practical: His fighting style in sumo was neither technical nor complicated: he capitalized on his his large reach and strength to grab his opponents and simply push them out. In pro wrestling, he can get a bit more technical than most superheavyweights, but still uses the traditional 'slam and splash' strategy.
  • Broken Pedestal: He supposedly never got along too well again with Azumazeki, his oyakata or sumo stablemaster, after Akebono felt he looked snidely at him and didn't encourage him. He also thought of Azumazeki as The Svengali, as he would be a bit too eager to capitalize on the yokozuna fame of his disciple. At the end, Akebono usually cites his friend Konishiki and his partners as his closest figures in his career in sumo.
  • Canon Immigrant: Came to Dragon Gate as a freelancer mostly wrestling in All Japan Pro Wrestling and Pro Wrestling ZERO1.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: His usual color theme is orange, evoking the daybreak's light. He also added black.
  • Cool Old Guy: Was a member of the Dragon Gate faction Zetsurins, which was composed by over 40 years old wrestlers.
  • David Versus Goliath: As said, he is by default a Goliath against every opponent he faces, unless it is against one of his aforementioned archenemies.
  • Death from Above: Among his finishing moves there are the diving splash and the Banzai Drop.
  • Death Glare: Has a terrifying one.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Big Show and him became friends after their sumo match in Wrestlemania, and Akebono showed it by saving Big Show from Carlito and his bodyguard in a WWE event in Japan.
  • Determinator: Even if he wasn't a fighter and he knew it, Akebono never stepped back when pitted against the most dangerous of K-1.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: His first apparition in a pro wrestling venture was in a WWE Raw event in Japan, appearing sitting on the crowd and trading insults with Simon Dean. His very first match, which tends to be forgotten, was a victory in WWE against a jobber called Eddie Vegas.
  • Finishing Move:
    • Yokozuna Impact (a jumping piledriver), Yokozuna Press (a big splash, sometimes from the second or top rope), Yokozuna Drop/Japanese Drop (Samoan drop, also sometimes from the second ropes) and Muso (a waist-lift slam).
    • His first finishing moves aside from the splash were the Magnitude 64, a koshinage or sumo-style hip toss, and the Banzai Drop.
  • Gentle Giant: A honorable, polite big man who always does his best.
  • The Giant: An interesting subversion. While he is sometimes booked to be a conventional wrestling giant (albeit mostly as a babyface), he usually plays more a wrestler who simply happens to be a giant.
  • Giant Mook: One of Generalissimo Takada's long list in HUSTLE, until his Heel–Face Turn.
  • Homage: Used the Banzai Drop as one to the late Yokozuna and the Muso as another to Akebono's friend Takeshi Rikio, and once entered the arena with Milano Collection A.T.'s invisible dog, as Milano had just retired.
  • I Know Karate: A former yokozuna or grand champion of sumo.
  • Kevlard: His size seems to make him extremely sturdy. He required five Bakatare Sliding Kicks by Naruki Doi to be pinned, an eventuality notable even for Doi's well known Worf Barrage.
  • Mighty Glacier: He is naturally not very fast, and usually follows the fighting strategy of being immense and unmovable, but is pretty damn good at it.
  • Neck Lift: Uses the chokeslam as a signature move.
  • Odd Friendship: With Satoru Sayama, whom he met in a party. Sayama taught him proper kickboxing in an attempt to improve his K-1 career.
  • Oh, Crap!: A natural reaction when the average Japanese wrestler learns a 450-pound dude is going against him. None was as clear, however, as Simon Dean's when he saw Akebono rising up from his seat and giving him his Death Glare for insulting Japanese women.
  • One-Man Army: Quite literally, because when he wrestles in tag team matches for cruiserweight promotions like Dragon Gate or Mexico, he tends to weigh as much as the entire opposing team.
  • Overshadowed by Awesome: By Takanohana in his late sumo days. Also, according to rumors, Akebono also pushed to have AJPW stop booking Big Daddy Voodoo because he feared he might lose his spot as puroresu's top giant.
  • Power Stable: Sword Army, Takada Monster Army, Zetsurins and Partisan Forces.
  • Start My Own: The Ōdō promotion.
  • The Stoic: A requisite to gain hinkaku or sumo dignity, which is necessary to reach yokozuna level, is that of being focused and unflappable. Only when Akebono got into puroresu we got a look to his most emotional side, and even so he remains as a pretty serious wrestler.
  • Stout Strength: He is undoubtedly more big boned than muscled, but he is still the strongest guy around the Japanese rings.
  • Time to Unlock More True Potential: Unveiled a dangerous finishing move in 2015, the Yokozuna Final Impact, as he needed more power to climb up to main event level.
  • Tranquil Fury: Rarely changes his expression when angry, but you can see it in his eyes, and it is not pretty.
  • True Companions: He is very loyal to his allies and friends, even if they are controversial rascals like Minoru Suzuki.
  • Unskilled, but Strong: Did his professional wrestling debut without any professional wrestling training: he simply picked his smaller opponent up in a bearhug, ran towards the corner and smashed him against the turnbuckle with all his weight. It was enough to knock out the poor guy.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Ryota Hama and him have teamed up together as much as wrestled furiously each other.
  • Worthy Opponent: Big Show. Also, Akebono and Brock Lesnar treated each other as such, at least until Lesnar used his title belt to hit 'bono in the head and pin him.
  • Wrestling Monster: In HUSTLE.