Friday, March 4, 2016

Hayabusa 1968-2016

I have to be honest. Despite my love for so much of Japanese professional wrestling, I have only ever seen a handful of Hayabusa's matches. Most of his career fell into a period where I didn't view the sport. But his single ECW appearance, teaming with Jinsei Shinzaki against the perfect foes of Sabu and Rob Van Dam, is one of the highlights of that brand. As an in ring star, his career was synonymous with Frontier Martial Arts Wrestling, the hardcore promotion that inspired ECW. He would wrestle dozens of amazing matches, sometimes with ridiculously dangerous stipulations. Yet it wasn't the barb wire or explosions that ended his career in 2001.

Sadly, his  career would follow FMW's trajectory and be cut short just a few months before the company itself fell apart. In a match, he botched a springboard moonsault, one of his regular offensive maneuvers. American fans probably would know it as a Lionsault. He slipped as he hit the move and fell head first to the canvas. It left him paralyzed for over a decade and he never regained full movement.

The promotion that trained him and inspired him would crumble under the weight of bad financial decisions by the new owner a few months later. With millions owed to the Yakuza, FMW was dead and its biggest star was crippled.

But Eiji Ezaki, the man behind the mask never gave up on wrestling. He promoted his own brand, Wrestling's Marvelous Future, not inconspicuously abbreviated WMF. He also worked with the Dragon Gate promotion. Hayabusa's style owed much to Ultimo Dragon, and Dragon Gate in turn owes much to Hayabusa's innovations as a high flyer. In many ways, Hayabusa coined the Dragon Gate style of hard hitting, super fast action coupled with submission and technical skills.

In the last year, he finally realized a long time goal as he and several other former stars of the promotion presented the first shows of Chō Sentō Puroresu FMW, the true revival of his classic promotion. He walked into the ring on that first show, stepping publicly out of his wheelchair for the first time in nearly fifteen years. It was an impressive feat, one final great moment for a Japanese wrestling legend.

While Hayabusa did not live to see the first anniversary of the new FMW, one can only look at the many amazing flyers in Japan to recognize the importance of his contributions to the sport of kings.

Check out the match below against Masato Tanaka and revel in the life of a great innovator, one that will always live on through the legacy of Japanese junior wrestling.

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