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Wrestling / Koji Kitao

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Koji Kitao (b. 1963-2019) was a Japanese sumo wrestler and Professional Wrestler, as well as occasional Mixed Martial Arts fighter. He started in the sport of sumo and performed well enough to be considered a top rookie, eventually rising to the status of yokozuna or great sumo champion at only 23, under the name of Futahaguro. However, the decision was badly seen by some pundits, and it did backfire when Kitao got involved in a scandal with his master and his wife, in which Kitao supposedly attacked them. He was expelled from the rank and left sumo altogether, deciding to move into professional wrestling after some TV activity. Kitao trained in New Japan Pro-Wrestling and debuted as a dubious but nonetheless hot prospect, receiving an unusual push. Then again, Kitao's short-temper got him against famous backstage bully Riki Choshu and he was fired from the company. Koji then fell into the promotion of his friend Genichiro Tenryu, Super World of Sports, only to crash literally the entire company by causing a scandal with John Tenta in which Kitao shouted wrestling was fake. This finally had Kitao out of the radar for a time, until he returned to the public life repenting for his past wrong decisions and having became a martial artist. Kitao had a dip in shoot-style in UWF International and reunited with Tenryu in his next company, Wrestle Association R. He also founded a dojo competed in some MMA matches, and helped to draw for WAR until his retirement in 1998. Five years later, Kitao featured a shocking return to sumo when a fellow sumo investigated his case and concluded that Koji's master had exaggerated his misdeeds to get him fired for money affairs. Kitao then became a sumo trainer and stuck into the role until 2013, when his poor health forced him to retire.

On March 29, 2019, his wife announced that Kitao had died on February 10 from chronic renal failure at the age of 55. Kitao, who had lost his sight, part of his memory and the usage of his legs to diabetes years before, had attempted several times to commit suicide in order to not be a such a burden on his wife and daughter. The latter, as a curiosity, is stage actress Harune Yukishiro.

He also played the sumo fighter in Jean-Claude Van Damme's The Quest.


  • Acrofatic: In his best times, Kitao could fire decent jumping spin kicks despite being 300 pound.
  • All-Loving Hero: Odd as it may sound, this was his character in WAR after his Heel–Face Turn: a honorable martial artist who had the utmost respect for his opponents, hated foul play and often berated his own tag team partners if they didn't behave properly.
  • Anti-Hero: Was a part of NJPW home army against foreign heels like Big Van Vader and Bam Bam Bigelow, but he was often disdainful and mocking overall. In fact, even if the audience ended up turning on him for his bad in-ring work, the crowds initially loved the gimmick.
  • Arch-Enemy: John Tenta.
  • Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy: His character both in real life and NJPW was of the "I'm strong and I know it" kind, due to which he didn't feel like respecting anybody. Bonus points because he was a martial artist, as in a literal kung fu guy.
  • As Himself: As can be imagined, his NJPW gimmick was based on Kitao's actual reputation, which unfortunately leaked into his wrestling career anyways.
  • The Atoner: After his return to the ring as a martial artist (well, at least after the Takada match), atoning for his past behavior was Kitao's schtick both in kayfabe and real life, and reading some of his insight into it can be heartbreaking. He reportedly avoided all contact with his daughter's school, fearing she would be bullied if her classmates discovered her dad was the infamous disgraced yokozuna, and also banned her from doing martial arts like he did, as he believed upon his personal experience that they only caused trouble.
  • Badass Teacher: Trained Masaaki Mochizuki, TARU and other wrestlers. He later worked as a sumo trainer.
  • Bash Brothers: With Genichiro Tenryu.
  • Belly Flop Crushing: In Kitao's first MMA fight, he controlled Pedro Otavio by smothering him on the half guard with his 300 pounds. It actually worked for a time, but The Pedro ended up breaking free and took his back for a beatdown.
  • Big Fun: After Shinobu Kandori avenged her defeat against Svetlana Goundarenko, Kitao and his trainees got into the cage and he picked her up over his shoulder to parade her around, both laughing for the victory.
  • The Big Guy: What he was supposed to be to NJPW's Face army, antiheroic version. He also played often this role to Tenryu in WAR due to his Worthy Opponent status.
  • Boring, but Practical: He used simple middle kicks and judo throws in NJPW, and after he became an outright martial arts wrestler, he also resorted to multiple low kicks to destroy his opponent's legs. It was not the flashiest offense, but it got his opponent down more times than not.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Was said to have hated training practice in both sumo and pro wrestling and caused problems because of this.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Yellow and red in NJPW, gi white afterwards.
  • Composite Character: His gimmick in NJPW was a curious mix of Hulk Hogan and Kenshiro.
  • Cool Shades: Wore them as part of his entrance attire in NJPW.
  • Cool Teacher: Apparently tried his best to be after his return to sumo coaching in 2003, in comparison with his previous Sadist Teacher persona.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Before his pro wrestling debut, he was introduced at a Ryuma Go Pioneer Senshi show.
  • Fat Bastard: Quite his reputation, in-universe and out.
  • A Father to His Men: His apprentices Okamura and Mochizuki described him as such. Even back when Kitao was known as a Sadist Teacher in sumo, he confessed doing it because he really wanted his disciples to be as successful as he was.
  • Finishing Move: His first finisher was a running jumping leg drop a la Hulk Hogan. After returning from his hiatus, he replaced it with the Kitao Driller (a reverse piledriver) and stock martial arts techniques such as armbars and kicks.
  • The Giant: He was quite tall for a Japanese man and was still a super heavyweight, so he was the nearest to a native example.
  • Good Is Not Nice: In NJPW. He was supposed to be a babyface, yet he was still an unlikable prick.
  • Graceful Loser: After he was shot upon and knocked out cold by Nobuhiko Takada, Kitao bowed to the crowd and shook hands with Takada despite the betrayal, surprising everybody who expected him to rightfully snap and start up a brawl.
  • Hero Killer: Defeated The Dreaded Bam Bam Bigelow with ease in his debut match for NJPW, something that had been considered impossible at the time. He also beat Kazuo Yamazaki, UWF-i's second star, in his first match in the promotion.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: With Genichiro Tenryu, who was also a disgraced sumo (though not so spectacularly so). He was the only promotor who gave Kitao an opportunity to work, even after watching him screw every promotion he was, and pretty much played an instrumental role in Kitao's redemption.
  • I Know Karate: A grand champion of sumo. He also trained in Judo in his youth before switching to sumo wrestling, and gained a 3rd Dan black belt in Kokusai Kukendo Karate under Saburō Daimonji before returning to wrestling.
  • Jerkass: So very much. He even exploited his reputation to build himself as the Heel to Nobuhiko Takada's Face by saying that Kazuo Yamazaki was unremarkable as an opponent after Yamazaki challenged him to a rematch.
  • Heel–Face Turn: He seemed to go though one in real life after being fired from Super World Sports and training in karate. The incident with Yamazaki was even revealed to have been planned to build up interest for his match against Takada.
  • Major Injury Underreaction: A brutal one in his debut in Ultimate Fighting Championship, where he rushed to take down Mark Hall without realizing the latter had broken with nose with a punch in the process. Kitao only noticed when the referee pointed out the gallons of blood that covered Kitao's face and chest.
  • Masked Luchador: His first wrestling match was under a mask, as "Monster Machine", in the American AWA.
  • Mighty Glacier: Was a minor example in sumo. His great size and strength allowed him to force opponents out and/or throw them down, and although he was very tall, which is traditionally considered a weakness because it places your center of gravity high, he had a surprisingly good balance and was not so easy to take down.
  • Odd Friendship: With joshi wrestler Shinobu Kandori. They became friends when he trained and cornered her in her rematch against female judo champion Svetlana Goundarenko. (Not so odd when you learn that Kandori also shot on a wrestler and got blacklisted from pro wrestling for a time.)
  • Power Stable: Buko Dojo, in WAR.
  • Rank Scales with Asskicking: As the head of the Buko/Kitao Dojo, he was its most powerful (and largest) member.
  • Red Baron: "Thunderstorm", "Dangerous Shin Jinrui" ("The Dangerous New Humanity", in his NJPW times).
  • Sadist Teacher: He used to beat up his trainees in sumo, although to be fair to him, this is far from being rare in sumo, whose training culture is extremely (and controversially) harsh.
  • Shout-Out:
    • His leg drop, no selling and mannerisms in NJPW were references to Hulk Hogan.
    • His entrance jacket, on the other hand, was one to Kenshiro from Fist of the North Star.
  • Sleeves Are for Wimps: Had no sleeves on his karate gi. His Buko Dojo trainees also didn’t have sleeves on their gis.
  • Spectacular Spinning: One of his rarest signature moves, the Thunderstorm, saw him holding his opponent in a cloverleaf and spinning him around as in a giant swing.
  • Start My Own: Promoted his own Buko Dojo events, which briefly became a full blown promotion.
  • Unskilled, but Strong: According to sumo pundits, he was a raw diamond: a sumotori with insane talent who might have been great with more discipline and training.
  • Worked Shoot: He competed in shoot-style, and also wrestled worked shoots in WAR and the indies, even defeating Genichiro Tenryu in one of them.
  • Worthy Opponent: Tenryu and him had this relationship in WAR.