|Kensuke Sasaki |
|Born||August 4, 1966|
Fukuoka, Fukuoka, Japan
|Professional wrestling career|
|Ring name(s)||Benkei Sasaki|
|Billed height||1.80 m (5 ft 11 in)|
|Billed weight||115 kg (254 lb)|
|Trained by||Tokyo Joe|
|Debut||February 16, 1986|
|Retired||February 13, 2014|
Kensuke Sasaki (Japanese: 佐々木 健介, Sasaki Kensuke, born August 4, 1966) is a Japanese retired professional wrestler, mixed martial artist, and founder of the now-defunct wrestling promotion Diamond Ring.
Sasaki is the first of four men ever to hold all three of puroresu's major heavyweight titles (the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, the Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship, and the GHC Heavyweight Championship), the others being Yoshihiro Takayama, Keiji Muto, and Satoshi Kojima - totalling seven world championship reigns. Sasaki also competed in MMA and won both fights by submission, remaining undefeated in mixed martial arts competition.
Sasaki debuted in Riki Choshu's Japan Pro-Wrestling, a satellite of All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW), in February 1986. On February 16, 1986, he made his debut against Shinji Sasazaki in a losing effort. Shortly afterwards, Sasaki became a regular in AJPW for over a year.
He defected to rival promotion New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW), following Choshu, who returned to NJPW in 1987. During his time with NJPW, Sasaki teamed up with the likes of Osamu Matsuda and Kenichi Oya.
In January 1989, Sasaki embarked on an excursion to North America. He first started wrestling there in Puerto Rico in World Wrestling Council (WWC), where he held his very first championship, the WWC Caribbean Tag Team Championship, with Mr. Pogo twice between January 14, 1989 and April 1, 1989.
He also wrestled for Stu Hart's Stampede Wrestling promotion in Canada, where he wrestled under the name Benkei Sasaki and was trained by Hart in 'The Dungeon'. During his time in Canada, he won the Stampede International Tag Team Championship in August 1989, with All Japan loyalist Sumo Hara.
He also wrestled for Otto Wanz's Catch Wrestling Association (CWA) in tours of Austria and Germany under the name Kendo Sasaki.
In December 1989, Stampede Wrestling closed its doors, and Sasaki wrestled for the Canadian National Wrestling Alliance (CNWA), until March 1990 when he was fired by Ed Whalen for kicking Mike Lozanski too stiff.[clarification needed]
Sasaki returned to NJPW in March 1990, and formed a popular tag team with Hiroshi Hase, with whom he would have a long on-off tag team partnership. They quickly won the IWGP Tag Team Championships on November 11, 1990, defeating the team of Keiji Muto & Masahiro Chono. Holding the titles for only a month facing teams like Super Strong Machine & Tatsutoshi Goto, The Dragon Bombers (Shiro Koshinaka & Takayuki Iizuka) before eventually falling to Hiro Saito & Super Strong Machine on December 26 that same year. He would only win one more title with Hiroshi Hase a few months later, however that was very brief, lasting only 15 days. The pair would have two reigns as IWGP Tag Team Champions, and had memorable matches with The Steiner Brothers.
Two more tag title reigns followed when in late 1992, Sasaki assumed the name "Power Warrior" and teamed with Road Warrior Hawk. As The Hell Raisers, they dominated the tag team scene in New Japan. In October 1992, he also started wrestling periodically for World Championship Wrestling (WCW), and would wrestle there on and off until December 1996.
Sasaki dropped the Power Warrior persona in 1995 (as he only revives the persona on special occasions, such as teaming with Hawk and Animal in six-man tag team matches) and began climbing the ranks in singles competition. He won his first major title, the WCW United States Heavyweight Championship on November 13, 1995, defeating Sting at a NJPW Event. This was the title's first title change outside of the United States. He soon lost the title to dubious circumstances however, losing to One Man Gang which was later claimed to be an official title match.
August 1997 skyrocketed Sasaki's rise to superstardom. On August 3, he won the G1 Climax tournament by defeating Hiroyoshi Tenzan in the final. A week later, he captured the IWGP Tag Team Championship with Kazuo Yamazaki. Finally at the end of the month, he captured the IWGP Heavyweight Championship by defeating long reigning champion Shinya Hashimoto, winning three major honors in a one-month span. Sasaki solidified his dominance in the heavyweight division by defeating both Masahiro Chono and Keiji Mutoh in his first two title defenses, thus defeating The Three Musketeers in three straight title matches. In April 1998, he lost the title to Tatsumi Fujinami. In March 1999, he won another IWGP Tag Team Championship with Shiro Koshinaka.
Sasaki won his second IWGP Heavyweight Championship from Genichiro Tenryu while wrestling with a 39 °C (102.2 °F) fever. He won the G1 Climax for the second time in August 2000 with a victory over last year's winner Manabu Nakanishi in the final, now holding both of New Japan's two heavyweight singles crowns. On October 9, 2000, Sasaki surrendered the IWGP title after he lost to Toshiaki Kawada in a non-title match at an All Japan vs. New Japan event called Do Judge. In a tournament final, Sasaki regained the title, defeating Kawada, at the January 4, 2001, Tokyo Dome show. In March 2001, Sasaki lost the IWGP Heavyweight Title to Scott Norton and in late 2002 he resigned from the promotion after a falling out with company management.
In the beginning of 2003, Sasaki joined his mentor, Riki Choshu, in his new Fighting World of Japan Pro Wrestling (World Japan) promotion. He became the only WMG Heavyweight Champion; however, tensions between him and Choshu over financial issues caused Sasaki to withdraw and the company to die a slow death.
After leaving World Japan, Sasaki initially returned to NJPW in 2004 as a heel freelancer, with the New Japan roster, specifically Yuji Nagata unwelcoming of his return in kayfabe. In his return match, Sasaki lost to Nagata at Wrestling World 2004 by referee's decision in an extremely bloody contest. He later aligned himself with Manabu Nakanishi, who had recently begun his "lone wolf" character. The two formed a tag team known as Pirates Gundan (Pirates Army), and regularly teamed with the likes of Scott Norton and Genichiro Tenryu. On March 12, he won back the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, defeating Hiroyoshi Tenzan in Tokyo. Sasaki dropped the title to Bob Sapp a little over two weeks later. After introducing his student Katsuhiko Nakajima and forming the Kensuke Family group, Sasaki began a redemption storyline where he attempted to win back the support of both the wrestlers and fans in NJPW. In August, he entered his first G1 Climax since 2002, but was prevented from reaching the finals by losing to Tenryu on the final day. By October, Sasaki was once again a firm fan favourite, and regained the IWGP Heavyweight Championship in controversial fashion, beating Kazuyuki Fujita in just 2:29 after reversing a sleeper into a pinfall. This win was legitimately protested by Sasaki and his wife Akira Hokuto, who destroyed the trophy given to Sasaki backstage and criticised Fujita for purposely dropping the championship so he could focus on MMA. Nevertheless, Kensuke successfully defended the belt twice against Hiroshi Tanahashi and Minoru Suzuki, before dropping it to Tenzan in December. After dropping the IWGP Title again, ally turned enemy Riki Choshu returned to NJPW in a backstage role which led to Sasaki's appearances became more sporadic, and he stopped wrestling for NJPW once again in early 2005.
After returning to NJPW, Sasaki once again started wrestling for AJPW too as a freelancer, entering the 2004 Champion Carnival and making it to the final where he lost to Keiji Mutoh. After making occasional appearances throughout 2004, Sasaki went over to AJPW full-time in early 2005. On January 16, he unsuccessfully challenged Toshiaki Kawada for the Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship, but saw success throughout the year, first winning the Champion Carnival by beating Jamal in the final. On July 26, Sasaki and his student Katsuhiko Nakajima then beat the Voodoo Murders ("brother" Yasshi and Shuji Kondo) to win the All Asia Tag Team Championship. Kensuke (as his old "Power Warrior" character) and Road Warrior Animal teamed up on September 1 at the Differ Ariake to defeat Yasshi and Kondo. On November 19, Sasaki got another shot at the Triple Crown, this time losing to Satoshi Kojima. In July 2006, Sasaki suffered an injury and required time off, meaning he and Nakajima had to vacate the All Asia Tag Titles.
After 5 months away from the ring, Sasaki returned to All Japan in January 2007. In May, Sasaki and Nakajima teamed up with rookie Seiya Sanada to win the Samurai! TV Triple Arrow Six Man Tag Team Cup, beating the Voodoo Murders (Kondo, Yasshi and Taru) in the final. On August 26, 2007, Sasaki defeated Minoru Suzuki to become the Triple Crown Heavyweight Champion. Sasaki made his first defense against Toshiaki Kawada on October 18, 2007, and would go on to team with Kawada after Katsuhiko Nakajima suffered an injury on October 18 in the 2007 World's Strongest Tag Determination League. Sasaki and Kawada would lose a Finals Decision match against Satoshi Kojima and Suwama on December 9; both teams were tied, and opponents were needed for Keiji Muto and Joe Doering in the final of the League.
Sasaki successfully defended the Triple Crown Championship against Satoshi Kojima (on March 1, 2008). Sasaki participated in the 2008 Champion Carnival over five straight shows in the Korakuen Hall from April 5 to April 9, scoring 4 points after 1 win (over Joe Doering), 1 loss (to Minoru Suzuki) and 2 draws (with Suwama and Osamu Nishimura). Sasaki lost the Triple Crown Championship to Carnival Winner Suwama on April 29, 2008, and left the promotion in June.
Sasaki debuted for Pro Wrestling Noah in 2005, losing to Kenta Kobashi at Destiny 2005. After losing the Triple Crown titles in 2008, he jumped to Pro Wrestling Noah and announced he would make it his full-time home promotion, while still operating the Kensuke Office. On September 6, 2008, he defeated Takeshi Morishima for the GHC Heavyweight Title, becoming the first person to hold the Heavyweight title in all three major Japanese promotions. On March 1, 2009, he lost the GHC Heavyweight title to Jun Akiyama. On September 21, 2009, he teamed with Morishima to win the GHC Tag Team titles from Akitoshi Saito and Bison Smith. They lost the titles on December 6, 2009, to Takeshi Rikio and Muhammad Yone.
Sasaki teamed up with regular tag partner Takeshi Morishima to participate in the Global Tag League of 2010, which ran from January 9 to January 24. Sasaki and Morishima finished the league with a total of four points, losing out to A-Block winners Yoshihiro Takayama and Takuma Sano. Sasaki also participated in Pro-Wrestling NOAH's Global League of 2010 from March 28 to May 2. During the league, he defeated Jun Akiyama in a highly acclaimed contest. Sasaki finished with a total of seven points, losing out to eventual winner Yoshihiro Takayama.
Main article: Diamond Ring (professional wrestling)
In 2005, Sasaki established his own agency, Kensuke Office. The agency is run by Sasaki's wife (former joshi wrestler), Akira Hokuto. Under the Kensuke Office agency, Sasaki and pupil Katsuhiko Nakajima toured other promotions, particularly All Japan Pro Wrestling and Pro Wrestling Noah (PWN).
In September 2006, Kensuke Office was announced as a member of the Global Professional Wrestling Alliance (GPWA). Beginning in 2007, Kensuke Office has organised its own shows, and some of the talent featured on the shows include Minoru Suzuki, Jun Akiyama, Genichiro Tenryu, Yoshihiro Takayama, Kikutaro, Takeshi Morishima, KENTA and Catfish Man. In January 2012, Kensuke Office was renamed Diamond Ring. Currently, Diamond Ring serves as developmental territory of Pro Wrestling NOAH, featuring several of its superstars.
On February 11, 2014, Sasaki suffered his first loss to Katsuhiko Nakajima in the main event of a Diamond Ring event. Two days later, Sasaki held a press conference to announce his retirement from professional wrestling. Following Sasaki's retirement, Diamond Ring was left with only one remaining wrestler, Katsuhiko Nakajima, with Satoshi Kajiwara resigning and Mitsuhiro Kitamiya joining Pro Wrestling Noah.
|Years active||2001–2003 (MMA)|
|Mixed martial arts record|
Between 2001 and 2003, Sasaki took a couple hiatuses from pro-wrestling and focused on mixed martial arts. He has two fights under his belt, winning both by submission in the first round beating Dan Chase in 2001 and future UFC fighter Christian Wellisch in 2003. In November 2002, he was originally scheduled to fight Minoru Suzuki, but due to injury, he pulled out and was replaced by Jushin Thunder Liger.
During this period, he would alter his look, cutting his signature mullet (he would occasionally dye his hair different colors), wearing ring gear bearing the word, "Volcano", and adapting moves he learned in MMA training to expand his pro wrestling moveset.
|Professional record breakdown|
|2 matches||2 wins||0 losses|
|Win||2–0||Christian Wellisch||Submission (guillotine choke)||X-1||September 6, 2003||1||2:35||Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan|
|Win||1–0||Dan Chase||Submission (armbar)||GC5: Rumble in the Rockies||August 19, 2001||1||0:36||Denver, Colorado, United States|
Kensuke Sasaki married Akira Hokuto on October 1, 1995, after proposing to her on their first date. Together, they have two sons: Kennosuke (born November 1998) and Seinnosuke (born March 2003).
Also, Kensuke has a strong bond with his protégé Katsuhiko Nakajima, whom he considers to be a member of the family.
Upon Hawk's death in October 2003 and Animal's death in September 2020, Sasaki (as Power Warrior) is the last surviving Road Warrior (excluding manager Paul Ellering).