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Jumbo Tsuruta

Jumbo Tsuruta

Tomomi Tsuruta (March 25, 1951 – May 13, 2000), better known by his ring name Jumbo Tsuruta, was a professional wrestler who wrestled for All Japan Pro Wrestling for most of his career.

Career

Tsuruta participated in many sports, such as swimming, basketball, and sumo while attending Hikawa Senior High School in Yamanashi-shi, Yamanashi Prefecture. While at Chuo University, he began an amateur wrestling career. He won the All Japan Amateur Wrestling Championship in freestyle and Greco-Roman as a superheavyweight (at the time, an unlimited class for those weighing over 100 kilograms) in the years 1971 and 1972. He also competed in the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, West Germany. Scouted by AJPW promoter Giant Baba, he was sent to the local Amarillo, Texas promotion in the U.S. to train as a pro under Dory Funk Jr. The name "Jumbo" was given to him by a fan contest in Japan to replace his given name, which was seen as too feminine. Tsuruta and Yoshiaki Yatsu became the first AJPW Unified World Tag Team Champions on June 10, 1988.

During his 26 year career, he fought in 3,329 matches. He fought Stan Hansen, The Destroyer, Bruiser Brody, Genichiro Tenryu, Terry Funk, Dory Funk Jr., and Mitsuharu Misawa. He also fought world-renowned champions such as Harley Race, Verne Gagne, Jack Brisco, Ric Flair, Nick Bockwinkel (from whom he won the AWA World Heavyweight Championship on April 24, 1983), and Rick Martel. Tsuruta was the first AJPW Triple Crown Champion (unifying the Pacific Wrestling Federation, All Japan United National, and All Japan International titles), defeating Stan Hansen on April 18, 1989 in Tokyo.

His level of work while still an active, full-time wrestler never declined and if anything, his highest rated work came in the last five years of his career, in his seminal feuds with Genichiro Tenryu and Mitsuharu Misawa. His skills allowed him to continue as a top line worker into his forties, well past his athletic prime. In the wake of his death, the press called him the strongest wrestler in the history of Japanese wrestling. Tsuruta was arguably the best wrestler in the world during the 1980s.

Illness, life after wrestling and death

In the summer of 1992, he was diagnosed with Hepatitis B and never fully recovered, completing the "October Giant Series" tour before disappearing from the company for almost a year. For the rest of his career, he participated mostly in comedic matches because his health prevented him from working a full physically-demanding schedule. He announced his retirement on February 20, 1999 and held a ceremony on March 6, 1999, after being forced out of his front-office position by Motoko Baba in the aftermath of her husband's death.

Four days later, he and his family moved to the United States so that he could take an Assistant Professor position at the University of Portland in Oregon. Tsuruta had degree in law and earned his teaching credential in 1994, later becoming a professor at his old University.

His health deteriorated, however, as he had been diagnosed with kidney cancer, which eventually spread to his liver, and by the end of the year he was back in Japan. In April he left for Australia, where he had an operation to remove the cancer, while there a kidney donor was found in Manila. Tsuruta died in the National Hospital in the Philippines on May 13, 2000, from complications of the kidney transplant.

He had 3 sons. Ken Tsuruta, Naoki Tsuruta and Yuji Tsuruta.

In wrestling

  • Finishing and signature moves

*Powerbomb
*Multiple suplex variations
*Bridging / Release belly to back
*Bridging / Release German
*Gutwrench
*Exploder
*Tiger
*Double underhook
*Running high knee strike
*Thesz press
*Diving knee drop
*Lariat
*Swinging neckbreaker
*Eastern stretch
*Big boot
*Piledriver
*Dropkick
*Spinning toe hold
*Front missile dropkick
*Kesagiri chop to the back of the opponent's neck

Championships and accomplishments

*AJPW Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship (3 times; First–ever champion)
*AJPW Unified World Tag Team Championship (7 times; First–ever champion) – Yoshiaki Yatsu (5), The Great Kabuki (1) and Akira Taue (1)
*AWA World Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
*NWA International Heavyweight Championship (3 times; Final champion)
*NWA International Tag Team Championship (9 times; Final champion) – Giant Baba (6), Genichiro Tenryu (2) and Yoshiaki Yatsu (1)
*NWA United National Championship (5 times; Final champion)
*PWF World Heavyweight Championship (1 time; Final champion)
*PWF World Tag Team Championship (2 times; Final champion) – Tiger Mask II (1) and Yoshiaki Yatsu (1)
*Champion's Carnival (1980, 1991)
*World's Strongest Tag Team League {1978, 1980) – with Giant Baba

*NWA United National Championship (1 time)

*NWA World Tag Team Championship (Detroit version) (1 time) – with Giant Baba (Last)

*PWI ranked him # 28 of the 500 best singles wrestlers during the PWI Years in 2003.

*5 Star Match (1989) vs. Genichiro Tenryu on June 5
*5 Star Match (1990) vs. Mitsuharu Misawa on June 8
*5 Star Match (1990) with Akira Taue and Masanobu Fuchi vs. Mitsuharu Misawa, Kenta Kobashi, and Toshiaki Kawada on October 19
*5 Star Match (1991) with Akira Taue and Masanobu Fuchi vs. Mitsuharu Misawa, Kenta Kobashi, and Toshiaki Kawada on April 20
*5 Star Match (1992) with Akira Taue and Masanobu Fuchi vs. Mitsuharu Misawa, Kenta Kobashi, and Toshiaki Kawada on May 22
*Feud of the Year (1990, 1991) – vs. Mitsuharu Misawa
*Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame (Class of 1996)
*Wrestler of the Year (1991)

References

May 22, 2000 issue of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter

Links

View from the Rising Sun, a detailed biography of Tsuruta, including a list of many of his matches.

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