Kōji Kitao

Kōji Kitao
Personal information
Born (1963-08-12)12 August 1963
Tsu, Mie, Japan
Died 10 February 2019(2019-02-10) (aged 55)
Height 2.01 m (6 ft 7 in)
Weight 160 kg (353 lb; 25 st 3 lb)
Stable Tatsunami
Record 348–184–24
Debut March, 1979
Highest rank Yokozuna (July, 1986)
Retired December, 1987
Championships 0 (Makuuchi)
1 (Jūryō)
1 (Jonokuchi)
Special Prizes Outstanding Performance (5)
Technique (2)
Gold Stars 3
* Up to date as of March 2007.

Kōji Kitao (Japanese: 北尾 光司, August 12, 1963 – February 10, 2019)[1] was a Japanese professional sumo wrestler and professional wrestler, born in Mie. As Futahaguro Kōji (双羽黒 光司) he was sumo's 60th yokozuna, and the only one in sumo history not to win a top division tournament championship.[2] He was forced to leave sumo at the end of 1987 after a falling-out with his stable master Tatsunami, and became a professional wrestler in 1990.

Sumo wrestling career

Early career

Born in Tsu, Kitao made his professional sumo debut in March 1979 at the age of 15, joining Tatsunami stable, and he reached the top makuuchi division in September 1984 after winning the championship in the jūryō division. In his second tournament in the top division he defeated yokozuna Kitanoumi and was awarded the Outstanding Performance prize and promotion to komusubi. He made his sekiwake debut in May 1985. In July 1985 he was back in the maegashira ranks but defeated two more yokozuna and was tournament runner-up with twelve wins. After finishing runner-up once more in November 1985 he was promoted to the second-highest rank of ōzeki. Kitao continued his rapid rise with his third runner-up performance in May 1986, followed by a 14–1 score in July, his only loss being to Hoshi. He defeated yokozuna Chiyonofuji on the final day to force a playoff with him, which Kitao lost.

Promotion to yokozuna

Futahaguro's handprint displayed on a sumo monument in Ryōgoku, Tokyo

After this result the Japan Sumo Association were faced with a difficult decision as there was only one yokozuna on the banzuke or rankings list, but five ōzeki, with a sixth wrestler – Hoshi (who would become yokozuna Hokutoumi), winner of the March 1986 tournament, already performing to ōzeki standards. The Association decided to promote Kitao to yokozuna and Hoshi to ōzeki. Kitao had won 36 bouts in the last three tournaments and been runner-up in the last two, so the de facto promotional standard of "two tournament championships or the equivalent" was interpreted rather loosely. He was just 22 years old and the first person to be promoted to yokozuna without any top division tournament titles since Terukuni in 1942.[3] The Sumo Association insisted that Kitao could no longer compete under his family name at such an exalted rank so he adopted the shikona of Futahaguro, the name being formed from those of two highly successful former yokozuna from his stable, Futabayama and Haguroyama.[3]

Downfall and expulsion

The decision to promote Futahaguro backfired and he proved to be a great embarrassment to the sumo establishment. His debut as a yokozuna in the September 1986 tournament saw him pull out on the seventh day with only three wins, and after two runner-up scores in November 1986 and January 1987 a series of mediocre performances followed. His best result as a yokozuna came in November 1987 when he was runner-up for the seventh time, with a 13–2 record (losing at the hands of maegashira and also future professional wrestler, Takanofuji). However, controversy was never far away from him. Several tsukebito (junior members) of his stable refused to serve under him following an incident on the 1987 winter tour in which he physically punished one of them[4] and as a result of this, in December 1987 he had a heated argument with his stable boss, Tatsunami, and stormed out, allegedly striking Tatsunami's wife on the way.[3] His stablemaster handed in Futahaguro's retirement papers without consulting him and the elders of the Sumo Association voted, without giving Futahaguro a hearing, to accept it. Futahaguro became the first yokozuna ever to be expelled from sumo this way.[3] He had lasted just eight tournaments at yokozuna rank and had proved unable to win a championship.[5]

Fighting style

Futahaguro preferred a migi-yotsu (left hand outside, right hand inside) grip on his opponent's mawashi. His favourite techniques were yori-kiri (force out) and sukui-nage (scoop throw).[6]

Sumo career record

Futahaguro Kōji [7]
Year in sumo January
Hatsu basho, Tokyo
Haru basho, Osaka
Natsu basho, Tokyo
Nagoya basho, Nagoya
Aki basho, Tokyo
Kyūshū basho, Fukuoka
1979 x (Maezumo) East Jonokuchi #5

East Jonidan #21
East Jonidan #2
East Sandanme #78
1980 West Sandanme #56
West Sandanme #40
West Sandanme #69
East Sandanme #55
East Sandanme #36
West Sandanme #9
1981 West Makushita #55
West Makushita #40
East Makushita #23
West Makushita #15
West Makushita #21
West Makushita #13
1982 East Makushita #9
East Makushita #15
East Makushita #50
East Makushita #22
West Makushita #11
East Makushita #9
1983 East Makushita #15
East Makushita #12
East Makushita #7
East Makushita #3
East Makushita #18
West Makushita #4
1984 East Jūryō #13
East Jūryō #9
East Jūryō #7
West Jūryō #1

East Maegashira #8
West Maegashira #3
1985 West Komusubi #1
East Komusubi #1
West Sekiwake #1
East Maegashira #1
West Sekiwake #1
East Sekiwake #1
1986 East Ōzeki #2
West Ōzeki #1
East Ōzeki #1
East Ōzeki #1
West Yokozuna #1
West Yokozuna #1
1987 West Yokozuna #1
West Yokozuna #1
West Yokozuna #1
West Yokozuna #1
East Yokozuna #2
West Yokozuna #2
1988 East Yokozuna #2
x x x x x
Record given as win-loss-absent    Top Division Champion Top Division Runner-up Retired Lower Divisions

Sanshō key: F=Fighting spirit; O=Outstanding performance; T=Technique     Also shown: =Kinboshi(s); P=Playoff(s)
Divisions: MakuuchiJūryōMakushitaSandanmeJonidanJonokuchi

Makuuchi ranks: YokozunaŌzekiSekiwakeKomusubiMaegashira

Professional wrestling career

Kōji Kitao
Born (1963-08-12)August 12, 1963
Mie, Japan
Died February 10, 2019(2019-02-10) (aged 55)
Professional wrestling career
Ring name(s) Kitao
Kōji Kitao
Mitsuharu Kitao
Monster Machine
Billed height 2.01 m (6 ft 7 in)
Billed weight 160 kg (353 lb)
Trained by NJPW Dojo
Brad Rheingans
Masa Saito
Debut November 18, 1989
Retired October 11, 1998

Upon being dismissed by the Sumo Association, Kitao was linked with a move to America's National Football League, but instead turned to professional wrestling. To mollify the association, he dropped the shikona and reverted to his real name.[8]

American Wrestling Association (1989)

To prepare for his debut in Japan, he debuted in the United States for Verne Gagne's American Wrestling Association on November 18, 1989, through Masa Saito's connections.[9] To keep his identity a secret to the Japanese press, he wrestled under the masked persona, Monster Machine. He defeated Frankie DeFalco in his singles debut and also teamed with Saito defeating Jim Evans & Randy Fox. [10]

New Japan Pro Wrestling (1990)

Trained at the New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) dojo, he made his Japanese debut on February 10, 1990, at the NJPW/AJPW Supershow in the Tokyo Dome, where he defeated Bam Bam Bigelow in a highly anticipated match. In the recurring weeks of that year, Kitao, alongside Masa Saito, Shinya Hashimoto and Riki Choshu, had many encounters with Bigelow, "Dr. Death" Steve Williams and Big Van Vader, feuding with the latter, in which Kitao lost most of their matches.[9] [11] However later that July, he was fired for disrespectful conduct and racism towards Korean-born wrestler Riki Choshu. His last match occurred on July 22, defeating Russian amateur wrestler Vladimir Berkovich in both men's last match.[9]

Super World of Sports (1990–1991)

Upon joining SWS in November 1990, he joined the Revolution stable and teamed with fellow former sumo Genichiro Tenryu. In an appearance at the World Wrestling Federation's WrestleMania VII, Tenryu and Kitao defeated Demolition. During his match with another former sumo-turned-pro wrestler in John "Earthquake" Tenta on April 1, 1991 at a show in Kobe, Kitao, who was booked to lose, broke kayfabe by refusing to sell Tenta's attacks, openly stalled the match, and legitimately attempted to gouge Tenta's eyes (which Tenta blocked). After being shouted at by Tenta and with the crowd chanting Tenta's name, Kitao kicked the referee and was disqualified. Afterwards he picked up a microphone and announced that wrestling was fake and Tenta could never really beat him, as other Japanese wrestlers attempted to restrain him.[9] Kitao was fired from SWS.[12] The Great Kabuki was also eventually fired as a SWS booker when officials discovered he had advised Tenta to stiff Kitao in an attempt to provoke his temper and get him expelled.[13]

Various promotions (1991–1998)

Kitao then wandered in martial arts and got a black belt in karate. In 1992 he returned to wrestling under his new martial arts persona by appearing in a UWF International event, defeating Kazuo Yamazaki. This enabled him to face UWF-i top star Nobuhiko Takada in a worked shoot wrestling match. Pre-match discussions over the outcome of the match led to an agreement being reached for a draw, but Takada saw an opportunity and double-crossed Kitao during the match, legitimately KO'ing him with a kick to the head. Takada had won, but the importance of the match was that Kitao was truly back in puroresu. Moreover, Kitao displayed a more respectful attitude than in the past, bowing to the crowd and shaking hands with Takada after the match.

In the following years he was recruited by Genichiro Tenryu for his Wrestle Association R promotion. Kitao also formed his own dojo and promotion called "Kitao Dojo", later changed to "Bukō Dōjō". Among the wrestlers that came out of the dojo were Masaaki Mochizuki, Yoshikazu Taru, and Takashi Okamura, who later became business partners of Último Dragón in his junior heavyweight ventures. In WAR, they competed as a stable led by Kitao, also called Bukō Dōjō.

On May 5, 1995, Kitao appeared in New Japan Pro Wrestling to reconcile with Riki Choshu, and wrestled a match alongside Antonio Inoki against Choshu and Tenryu. Kitao participated in some Martial Arts Festivals arranged by Inoki, beating foreign wrestlers like Crusher Kline, Glen Jacobs, and Mabel.

In 1997, he won his only title, the WAR World Six-Man Tag Team Championship, with Mochizuki and WAR rookie Nobukazu Hirai in October 1997. They retained it for a year, dropping it in 1998 against Koki Kitahara, Lance Storm and Nobutaka Araya. Koji retired from pro wrestling in October 1998, celebrating his retirement ceremony in the PRIDE 4 event.

Mixed martial arts career

From 1996 to 1997, Kitao would have three mixed martial arts bouts. The first of them was for the Brazilian company Universal Vale Tudo Fighting, where he faced luta livre veteran Pedro "The Pedro" Otavio. Kitao fought as a Bukō Dōjō representative, wearing his sleeveless karategi and being cornered by his apprentices. Started the fight, Kitao immediately rushed Pedro to the corner and took him down, gaining dominant position over him thanks to his much bigger size. The sumo champion spent most of the bout smothering Otavio from the half guard, but the Brazilian lutador eventually managed to get free and gain Kitao's back, from where he threw three vicious elbow strikes to the back of his head and neck. Kitao tapped out, but Otavio still threw four more elbows before the referee's intervention and also stepped on the back of his head after the stoppage.

Kitao's second MMA fight was at the Ultimate Fighting Championship event UFC 9, facing Mark Hall. The fight was fast, as though Kitao took him down in seconds, one of Hall's punches broke his nose and made him bleed profusely, forcing the referee to stop the match for Hall's win. Koji later was invited to PRIDE 1, where he faced future WWE employee Nathan Jones. The Australian fighter caught Kitao in a standing guillotine choke and hit some knee strikes to the gut, but Koji trapped his leg and took him down, landing in side control. Kitao then worked an americana and Jones immediately tapped.

Sumo coaching role

In the summer of 2003 he made a surprise return to the world of sumo when he was invited to oversee some practice sessions at his former Tatsunami stable.[4] His return was possible thanks to the retirement of Kitao's old stablemaster Haguroyama Sojō, who had been accused of illegally pocketing money from the stable fundings. Kitao was invited by the new stablemaster thanks to the makushita Haguroumi, who had served as a tsukebito to Kitao in the past. Though Kitao and Haguroumi were on bad terms, Haguroumi asked for a reappraisal of Kitao's case, and it was clear that most of what was alleged to have taken place between Kitao and Sojō was made up by the latter.[6] Kitao was keen to continue his work at Tatsunami, but was prevented from doing so by ill health.

Other media

Personal life and death

In 2013, Kitao was diagnosed with kidney disease.[14]

On March 29, 2019, his wife announced that Kitao had died on February 10 from chronic renal failure at the age of 55.[15] She said in a television interview in June 2019 that her husband had also suffered from diabetes and she refused doctor's advice that he have a double leg amputation, instead nursing him at home with their daughter.[16]

Championships and accomplishments

Mixed martial arts record

Professional record breakdown
3 matches 1 win 2 losses
By knockout 0 1
By submission 1 1
By decision 0 0
Res. Record Opponent Method Event Date Round Time Location Notes
Win 1–2 Nathan Jones Submission (keylock) PRIDE 1 October 11, 1997 1 2:14 Tokyo, Japan
Loss 0–2 Mark Hall TKO (doctor stoppage) UFC 9 May 17, 1996 1 0:40 Detroit, Michigan, United States
Loss 0–1 Pedro Otavio Submission (elbows) Universal Vale Tudo Fighting 1 April 5, 1996 1 5:49 Japan

See also


  1. ^ 北尾光司さん 早すぎる死 元横綱・双羽黒 [Mr. KITAO Koji, Too early death, Former Yokozuna FUTAHAGURO]. FNNPRIME (in Japanese). Fuji News Network. 29 March 2019. Retrieved 2019-03-29.
  2. ^ Haberman, Clive (1988-02-01). "Wrestler fails to keep hold on an honorable past". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-05-12.
  3. ^ a b c d Sharnoff, Lora (1993). Grand Sumo. Weatherhill. ISBN 0-8348-0283-X.
  4. ^ a b Chris Gould (August 2007). "The Curse of the Shiranui" (PDF). sumofanmag.com. Retrieved 2007-08-29.
  5. ^ Gunning, John (21 March 2019). "Sumo 101: Could have beens". Japan Times. Retrieved 29 March 2019.
  6. ^ a b Joe Kuroda. "Rikishi of Old – The 60th Yokozuna Futahaguro Koji (1963~) Part II" (PDF). Sumofanmag.com. Retrieved 9 April 2014.
  7. ^ "Futahaguro Koji Rikishi Information". Sumo Reference. Retrieved 2012-07-27.
  8. ^ D'Orso, Mike (12 February 1990). "Will Sumo Wrestling's Loss Be Pro Wrestling's Gain?". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 26 May 2009.
  9. ^ a b c d Gunier, Robert (29 March 2019). "Koji Kitao Passes Away At 55". wrestlinginc.com. Retrieved 29 March 2019.
  10. ^ http://sportsandwrestling.mywowbb.com/forum2/31198-4.html
  11. ^ "元横綱双羽黒の北尾光司さん死去 格闘家でも活躍 (Former yokozuna Futahaguro dies, also active in mixed martial arts)" (in Japanese). Nikkan Sports. 29 March 2019. Retrieved 29 March 2019.
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-05-28. Retrieved 2007-06-30.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  13. ^ Wrestling Observer Newsletter, 4-8-1991
  14. ^ "Ex-yokozuna Futahaguro died in February at age 55, wife announces". Japan Times. 30 March 2019. Retrieved 30 March 2019.
  15. ^ "元横綱双羽黒の北尾光司さん死去 プロレスでも活躍" (in Japanese). Asahi Shimbun. 29 March 2019. Retrieved 29 March 2019.
  16. ^ "元横綱北尾光司さん 両脚切断の危機、自殺未遂…知られざる闘病生活を妻が初告白". daily.co.jp (in Japanese). 28 June 2018. Retrieved 21 May 2020.
  17. ^ Kreikenbohm, Philip. "Koji Kitao « Wrestlers Database « CAGEMATCH – The Internet Wrestling Database". cagematch.net. Retrieved 23 May 2017.
  18. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-10-16. Retrieved 2012-03-04.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

External links

Preceded by
Takanosato Toshihide
60th Yokozuna
July 1986 – December 1987
Succeeded by
Hokutoumi Nobuyoshi
Yokozuna is not a successive rank, and more than one wrestler can hold the title at once