Wrestler and announcer Masa Saito, who achieved success and legendary status in both America and Japan, and who had a decorated career in New Japan Pro Wrestling, died at 1:05 on Saturday, July 14 Japan time. He was 75. Saito had retired in 1999, and battled Parkinson’s Disease for the remainder of his life.
Saito represented Japan wrestling in the 1964 Olympics before joining the Japan Wrestling Association and turning pro in 1965. Over the next three decades, Saito was very active in America, and a feared villain in NWA, AWA, and the WWF (WWE).
New Japan fans may best remember Saito for his role as the staff officer of Riki Choshu’s Ishingun stable. Saito embroiled himself in a long and vicious rivalry with Antonio Inoki, culminating in the famous Ganryujima deathmatch. The two battled on the deserted island of Ganryujima for two hours and five minutes, the longest match in NJPW history.
The 1990s saw Saito transition into an announcing role on NJPW’s World Pro Wrestling show. His off the cuff candour and penchant for controversy made him a hugely likable and popular on air personality.
Masa Saito and his family are firmly in the thoughts of everyone at New Japan Pro Wrestling.
July 19’s G1 CLIMAX 28 Event in Korakuen Hall will see a ten bell salute and ceremony precede the matches.