After a career that spanned five decades, Riki Choshu wrestled his last match on June 26 in front of a packed Korakuen Hall, after a match that included familiar NJPW names.
Choshu began his career in New Japan on August 8, 1974. He would go on to wrestle for promotions across Japan, including events he promoted himself. Yet it is with NJPW he was most closely associated, and where he gained most success as a three time IWGP Heavyweight Champion and three time IWGP Tag Team Champion.
Choshu was originally set to call an end to his career in 1998. At Final Power Hall in the Tokyo Dome on January 4, Choshu wrestled five different opponents in his retirement bout. In 2000 though, he came out of retirement to wrestle Atsushi Onita in an electrified exploding barbed wire rope deathmatch. From this point, Choshu continued to wrestle until 2019, where he called an end to his career at age 67.
Choshu’s final match saw emotional reunions with significant figures in his career. He would team with Shiro Koshinaka, with whom he wrestled in NJPW and his own World Japan promotion, as well as Tomohiro Ishii, who he brought to the forefront in WJ, and helped establish in New Japan. In the opposite corner were Choshu’s near 40 year rival Tatsumi Fujinami, the legendary Keiji Muto returning after a year and three months of inaction due to injury, and Togi Makabe who was one of Choshu’s favourite Young Lions in the late 1990s. Veteran referee Tiger Hattori officiated.
In a match that started with a snug tie up between Choshu and Fujinami followed by a Fujinami Dragon Screw, fans in Korakuen saw the very greatest offensive hits from all six men. Not wanting to go out with a loss, Choshu kicked out of successive King Kong knee drops from Togi Makabe, and was only pinned by a fourth.
Post match, Choshu admitted he ‘hadn’t given much thought,’ as to what he’ll be doing next, but that ‘I have to do what I can while I can.’ Choshu went on to praise Fujinami and Antonio Inoki as a man who ‘lived and breathed pro wrestling 24 hours a day’. Choshui said he could never come near Inoki’s example either in or away from the ring.
New Japan Pro Wrestling would like to sincerely congratulate Riki Choshu for his phenomenal career, and wish him nothing but the best in his retirement.