Killer Khan Death – Undisclosed Causes

killer khan death

Wrestler Killer Khan was a fearsome monster heel.

1947-2023 (Age 76)

Killer Khan (aka Masashi Ozawa) epitomized the monster heel during the territory era. Standing 6’5,” he projected a fearsome look as a Mongolian warrior who was ready to destroy opponents in an instant.

Killer Khan’s size and dangerous look made him a credible opponent for some of wrestling’s biggest stars, including Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan.

A Terrifying Transformation

Masashi Ozawa was born on March 6, 1947 in Tsubame, Niigata, Japan. He trained as a sumo wrestler before switching to professional wrestling. Ozawa began competing in the Japan Wrestling Association before he jumped to Antonio Inoki’s New Japan Pro Wrestling.

Like many wrestlers, Ozawa finally found lasting success when he adopted a new gimmick. A New Japan Pro Wrestling tribute to Killer Khan notes:

In 1978 on excursion to Mexico he transformed himself into a Mongolian inspired persona that sparked a hugely successful campaign in America in 1979 as Killer Khan.

The Killer Khan character proved highly effective as he toured North America and also continued competing in Japan. Khan’s imposing figure made him a sensation wherever he worked.

While he was never known for working technical masterpieces in the ring, his wild brawling style made for some fondly remembered feuds against opponents such as Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, and Terry Gordy.

A Gigantic Feud

One of Killer Khan’s best-known feuds was his program against Andre the Giant. Andre had broken his ankle after competing with a sprained ankle for some time.

This being wrestling, Andre spun a tall tale nearly as big as himself, telling Sports Illustrated’s Terry Todd his leg had been broken during a match against Killer Khan. The biography The Eighth Wonder of the World: The True Story of André the Giant details how:

Todd wrote that André was injured by Killer Khan in a match on April 13, didn’t realize he had a fractured ankle, finished the match, wrestled the rest of the month until he was unable to walk anymore, and then went to see the doctor.

Regardless of the real reason for the injury, the claim that Khan had broken Andre’s leg led to a successful feud including Mongolian Stretcher Matches. The Wrestling Observer Newsletter awarded the Andre vs Killer Khan feud as its 1981 “Feud of the Year.”

Although Killer Khan was known for his feuds, he also had several championship runs. He held the NWA United States Tag Team Championship with Pak Song and several singles championships including Mid-South Wrestling’s Louisiana and Mississippi Championships, as well as World Class Championship Wrestling’s Television Championship.

These championship runs included battles with foes such as Steve Keirn, “Iron” Mike Sharpe, Mike Graham, and The Dynamite Kid.

Life After Wrestling

Killer Khan retired from the squared circle in 1987. However, he kept busy by operating several restaurants. He also appeared in the film Three Ninjas Kick Back.

In 2020, Khan was involved in an incident where he was accused of hit-and-run with a bicycle. In 2021, The Tokyo Reporter revealed:

On October 18, 2020, Killer Khan, whose name is Masashi Ozawa, struck the woman, aged in her 20s, while riding a bicycle in the Hyakunincho area. He then allegedly fled the scene. The woman suffered a broken tooth and other injuries that required one month to heal, police said previously.

The case was not prosecuted and no reason was given. Khan apologized and claimed he was in a hurry to get to his restaurant.

The Death of Killer Khan

Killer Khan died on December 29, 2023. New Japan Pro Wrestling announced his passing on December 30.
A Japanese newspaper reported:

According to sources, he lost consciousness at the counter of Kanchan’s Jinjo Sakaba in Nishi-Shinjuku, Tokyo, and was rushed to the hospital.

According to The Daily Mail:

…Killer Khan, passed away at around 10pm on Saturday after being rushed to hospital with a ruptured artery, according to reports in Japan.

Killer Khan was 76. He is survived by his wife Cindy and three children.

Other pro wrestlers who died in 2023 include Adrian Street, Bray Wyatt, “Superstar” Billy Graham, MantaurButch MillerJay BriscoeJerry Jarrett, “Leaping” Lanny Poffo, and Terry Funk.

Did you get to see Killer Khan wrestle? If so, what are your favorite memories of him? Let us know in the comments below.