Former Wrestler, MMA Fighter and Sumo Koji Kitao Dead At 55
Nikkan Sports reports that former wrestler, MMA fighter and sumo Koji Kitao passed away at the age of 55 back on February 10.
He was known as a sumo wrestler who gained the rank of Yokozuna, but after leaving that sport, he found his way into professional wrestling. He debuted in the US for Verne Gagne’s AWA in 1989, before going to New Japan Pro Wrestling in 1990. There he competed against Vader, Bam Bam Bigelow, and Scott Hall. He was eventually fired for disrespectful conduct after he used a ethnic slur against Riki Choshu. The two eventually reconciled in 1995 and he appeared for NJPW to team with Antonio Inoki against Choshu and Genichiro Tenryu.
He had an infamous bout for Super World of Sports in 1991 against John “Earthquake” Tenta, where he refused to sell for Earthquakes moves. The match then turned into a shoot and Kitao was eventually disqualified for kicking the referee. He then grabbed a microphone to tell the audience that wrestling is fake and Tenta could never actually beat him while Japanese wrestlers tried to restrain him. He was then fired from SWS.
He also had a brief appearance for the WWF at Wrestlemania VII, where he and Tenryu defeated Demolition. He’s also wrestled Glen Jacobs and Mabel during his career. In his MMA career, he competed at UFC 9 (losing via referee stoppage to Mark Hall) and defeated Nathan Jones at a PRIDE 1 via submission. Finally, Kitao also has a movie credit to his name, appearing in the 1996 Jean Claude Van Damme movie The Quest.