Japanese Wrestlers of all sizes Invade New Zealand

You'd search long and far before you'd find a more startling physical comparison between two sportsmen who have recently competed in New Zealand. Both Giant Baba and Little Tokyo are Japanese and both are wrestlers but there the similarity ends, starkly.

Giant Baba
Giant Baba

Little Tokyo
Little Tokyo

Giant Baba, you see, towers 7ft tall and bangs the scales at 22st 12lb (320lb); Little Tokyo, on the other hand, is 4ft 3in and weighs just seven stone (98lb)!

Shoehi Baba is not quite the tallest wrestler in the world but he's not far from it. Jean the Giant, the French mammoth, is an incredible specimen of 7ft 4in!

Baba was the super powerhouse who, though only for a time, ended Jack Brisco's reign as world heavyweight champion, though the huge Japanese was not destined for longevity on the throne.

Baba won the world title at Kagoshini City, Japan, before his own people. He relied on his "flying neck-breaker", arm-twists, body slams, punishing leg holds and his celebrated "Giant Chop".

Brisco, the champ, was at a disadvantage from the first bell and repeatedly scampered out of near-pins. Baba pinned him after only five minutes though Brisco equalised when the Japanese gave up in face of a painful figure-four leg-lock.

Now regarded as the No. 1 wrestler in the Far East, Baba came back, however, to continue pressurising Brisco and finally set Jack up for the decisive fall with the "flying neck-breaker".

Baba was officially acknowledged as the National Wrestling Alliance's 49th world champion amidst ringside bedlam: when "Lord". Blears, acting NWA president, presented the title belt to Baba on behalf of president Sam Muchnik, you'd have thought every Japanese in the huge hall had a personal stake in it.

Giant Baba won a quick return bout only a day or two later in Tokyo but perhaps unwisely took on Brisco a third time, with 10,000 people jamming the Toyohashi Civic Auditorium.

This time, Brisco showed the stuff that had enabled him to clean up the American field and toppled the Japanese giant. "The title was strictly on loan," he said after he received the belt back from Blears.

It was the shortest reign in the long history of the NWA but at least Baba had had the satisfaction of knowing that he had defeated the world champion In two out of three bouts.

Giant Baha came on to New Zealand for a short campaign, thus making three world champions or recent ex-champions to show here since the beginning of last year, for the Punjabi "Tiger" Jeet Singh came over last year and Dory Funk Jnr was here this year as well as Baba. Funk appeared in a brilliant match in Auckland against New Zealand's John Da Silva before flying, on to Australia.

Baba has done most of his wrestling in Japan although he has made several campaigning trips to the U.S., but this was his first visit to New Zealand and Australia.

His huge hands have despatched many a cumbersome opponent in the ring, as he is renowned for the power of his chop, as Ahdullah the Butcher was in our rings a year or two ago.

The short tour here by the pair of midget wrestlers drew packed houses and the little guys produced more holds than most of the best big fellows. Cowboy Long. a familiar face from previous tours, a  seven-stoner, and Little Tokyo. a comparative newcomer to pro wrestling, overcame their physical handicaps as though they didn't exist.

As promoter-wrestler Steve Rickard points out. "Midget wrestling goes over in a very big way in the Far East. The little fellows attract crowds of 10,000 in Singapore, for example.

"They are in such heavy demand all over the world, in fact, that I could keep them here only for ten days before they flew on to Australia."

The Great TogoBesides the oddly assorted Giant Baba and Little Tokyo, Japan also has been represented in this country by the formidable 260lb (l8st 8lb) Great Togo, who, unlike Baba has done most of his wrestling in the United States.

With "Professor" Fliro, Togo won the Canadian tag team title and also the Northwest United States championship, then paired with another Japanese matman, Toro Tanaka, to win the world tag title.

The Great Togo holds a black belt third dan in judo and a similar award for karate. The older breed of New Zealand wrestling devoted whose memories go right hack to the mid-1930s will recall Oki Shikina and Shima Rygoro as the earliest Japanese wrestlers in New Zealand with similar skills in the other martial arts.

Article written by Dave Cameron

Dave has been hanging around the dressing rooms for 60 years.

Dave was an amateur wrestler and part time pro in U.K. He boxed in New Zealand Services Champ's 1954, Hobsonville, Auckland. He started writing for Magazines 1949.