Wrestling legend Masa Saito has passed away at the age of 76 due to complications from Parkinson’s disease.
The Japanese star competed for Japan in freestyle wrestling during the Summer Olympics in 1964 and transitioned to professional wrestling the following year. His pro career spanned decades, lasting from 1965 until his retirement in 1999.
Saito won championships everywhere he went. He came to the States in 1968, winning the San Francisco NWA World Tag Team Championship with Kenji Shibuya. He’d go on to hold tag team gold throughout the National Wrestling Alliance with various partners including Shibuya, Gene Kiniski, Ivan Koloff, Mr. Sato and Hiro Matsuda. He was a heavyweight champion in NWA Florida and Alabama’s Southeastern Championship Wrestling. Saito also teamed with Jesse Ventura in the AWA as the Far East-West Connection.
Saito arrived in WWE in 1981, and before long captured the WWE Tag Team Championship with the legendary Mr. Fuji. They’d hold WWE gold twice before Saito left in 1982 to wrestle for the AWA.
Saito defeated Larry Zbyszko to win the AWA World Championship in front of 63,900 fans at the Tokyo Dome in his hometown in February 1990. He lost the title back to Zbyszko a couple of months later at SuperClash 4.
Masa Saito of course wrestled for both All Japan Pro Wrestling and New Japan Pro Wrestling throughout his career. He won the IWGP Tag Team Championship with Riki Choshu and Shinya Hashimoto.
Saito wrestled briefly in WCW a couple of times in the early and mid-1990’s. His most notable matches for the company both came in loses at Starrcade (1990 teaming with The Great Muta and losing to the Steiner Brothers in a tournament final, and 1995 losing via DQ to Johnny B. Badd in the WCW vs. NJPW series).
On behalf of everyone here at Vortainment, our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of the great Masa Saito.