It was announced today in Japan that Sumo star turned pro wrestler, Koji Kitao, passed away back in February at the age of 55.
Kitao gained the rank of Yokozuna while still involved with Sumo wrestling but he ultimately turned to the world of professional wrestling in 1989 under the tutelage of Masa Saito. He wore a mask while competing in AWA and called himself “Monster Machine” so that Japanese media wouldn’t catch wind that he was competing in the States. When he returned to the New Japan Dojo, he competed in the promotion’s first Tokyo Dome event in February 1990. Kitao unfortunately had a falling out with Riki Choshu and it would result in his firing from the company.
Kitao worked with the SWS wrestling promotion after that, and their working partnership with WWE at the time allowed Kitao to be a part of WrestleMania 7. Even still, after lasting about a year with SWS, Kitao was fired when he began no-selling and shooting on his opponent at the time, John “Earthquake” Tenta. When the referee intervened in the match, Kitao kicked him and proceeded to tell the audience that wrestling was fake.
Kitao would be involved with various promotions after that, including one stint with UWFi. Ironically, Kitao was welcomed back in to the world of wrestling after he suffered a knockout kick to the head from one of his UWFi opponents, Takada. He would later transition to the world of MMA but officially retired in 1998 .
You can see a few matches from Kitao’s career below:
Source: Wrestling Inc.