Kazuo Sakurada Death – Heart Attack

Japanese wrestler Kazuo Sakurada stands in ring wearing face paint.

Kazuo Sakurada played several wrestling characters including Kendo Nagasaki and The Dragonmaster.

1945-2020 (Age 71)

Japanese star Kazuo Sakurada was a skilled sumo and professional wrestler who portrayed a number of personas during his pro wrestling career.

These personas included the Japanese version of Kendo Nagasaki, the Black Ninja, and the Dragonmaster. In addition to wrestling, Sakurada dabbled in mixed martial arts, losing a bout against kickboxer Zane Frasier in Japan.

Starting Off in Sumo

Sakurada was born on September 26, 1945, in Abashiri, Japan. Fans who don’t follow Japanese wrestling might be surprised at the number of sumo wrestlers who became professional wrestlers. For example, wrestling stars Earthquake and Koji Kitao were accomplished sumo wrestlers. Kazuo Sakurada competed in the sumo ranks for seven years before retiring and joining “The Sport of Kings.”

Wrestling World-Wide

Sakurada competed in Japan Pro Wrestling Alliance and All Japan Pro Wrestling before heading to Canada, where he worked in Stu Hart’s Calgary Stampede Wrestling. There, he helped a young Bret Hart learn the ropes.

According to his obituary at SLAM! Wrestling, Sakurada trained others as well:

Among the names he helped train along the way are Ryuji Yamakawa, Shuhei Taniguchi, and Abdullah Kobayashi.

The grappling game is well-known for wrestlers “borrowing” other wrestlers’ personas, something Sakurada did when he saw the success of British wrestler Peter Thornley’s Kendo Nagasaki character.

He made the character his own, using it in National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) territories such as Memphis and Eddie Graham’s Championship Wrestling from Florida.

He worked in WCW as the Dragon Master, aligning himself with Gary Hart’s J-Tex faction and feuding with the Four Horsemen.

Retirement and the Death of Kazuo Sakurada

Sakurada retired from the ring in 2000 and spent his final years in Japan until he passed away on January 12, 2020, at age 71.

According to the January 20, 2020, Wrestling Observer Newsletter, the former sumo’s “death was attributed to a malfunction from the pacemaker which led to a heart attack. …Sakurada had told friends recently that he needed a new pacemaker, but didn’t want to undergo another heart operation.”

What are your favorite memories of Kazuo Sakurada? Let us know in the comments below.

Other pro wrestlers who died in 2020 include Bob Armstrong, Brodie Lee, Danny Hodge, Hana Kimura, Howard Finkel, Kamala, Kevin Greene, La Parka, Pat Patterson, Road Warrior Animal, Rocky Johnson, Shad Gaspard, Tommy “Zeus” Lister, and Tracy Smothers.