One of this generation’s true puroresu legends, Kensuke Sasaki is still going strong well into his 40s and after more than 20 years in the ring. If there is a major title to win or have been won in Japan over the last 20 years, he has probably held it at some point, and he also has won titles in the USA and Puerto Rico.
Sasaki debuted for Riki Choshu’s Japan Pro Wrestling in 1986, but soon followed Choshu to New Japan. In January 1989 a learning excursion took him to Stampede Wrestling in Canada and the tutelage of the legendary Stu Hart. His first career title, the Stampede International Tag Team Championship, soon followed. In 1990 he returned to New Japan and won 2 IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Titles with Hiroshi Hase, then in 1992 he became Power Warrior, the 3rd member of the Road Warriors (Legion Of Doom) and won the titles twice more and also began making periodic appearances in the US for WCW. A dark moment in his career came towards the end of this run…In an incident in the New Japan dojo in 1995, he was blamed for the death of a trainee. According to the book Ring of Hell, he suplexed and worked over the trainee, who he thought was not making enough effort. No charges were ever brought against him, however several sources have confirmed that Sasaki feels no remorse over the incident, regarding it as “just one of those things”.
Near the end of 1995 he dropped the Power Warrior persona and began climbing the singles ranks. He won the WCW US Heavyweight Championship and held it for a month, then won the IWGP Heavyweight Championship for the first time in 1997 after winning the G1 Climax Tournament to earn the shot. He again pulled off both in 2000 although he gave up the IWGP Title after losing a non-title match, but regained it back in 2001 at the annual January Tokyo Dome blowout show. But a falling-out with company management soon followed and later in the year he left the company.
After leaving New Japan he took a brief sabbatical from wrestling to try his luck at MMA. He fought twice between 2001 and 2003, winning both fights by 1st-round submission. While there, he would alter his look, cutting his signature mullet (occasionally dyeing his hair different colors), wearing ring gear bearing the word “Volcano” and adapting moves he learned in MMA to his pro wrestling repertoire. In 2003, Sasaki returned to wrestling via Choshu’s World Japan promotion, but the company failed soon after and Sasaki returned to New Japan as a “traitor” and heel in 2004. 3 more IWGP Title reigns followed, his second noteworthy because he won the title while working the match with a 102+ degree fever. Sasaki eventually won forgiveness from the fans for his prior turning on them and got it, and he soon left New Japan again but this time on good terms.
This second departure from New Japan led to his forming of Kensuke Office in 2005, a booking agency and new promotion run by Sasaki and his wife, joshi legend Akira Hokuto. Under the Kensuke Office banner, Sasaki and pupil (and adopted son) Katsuhiko Nakajima participated in other promotions, primarily All-Japan and NOAH. Kensuke Office joined Mitsuharu Misawa’s Global Professional Wrestling Alliance in 2006, then in early 2007 began promoting it’s own shows while continuing to work with other groups. In August 2007 Sasaki won the All-Japan Triple Crown and would reign as champion until losing the title to Suwama in April 2008. After this, Sasaki left All-Japan and announced he would compete for NOAH full-time as well as Kensuke Office, a partnership that has resulted in frequent talent exchanges between the promotions. Sasaki further cemented his legacy in September 2008, winning the GHC Heavyweight Championship and becoming the first person ever to hold the career triple crown-the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, All-Japan Triple Crown, and GHC Heavyweight Championship. Even though he would drop the title in March 2009, he is still going strong in NOAH to this date while continuing to carry the banner of Kensuke Office, which thanks in large part to Sasaki and Nakajima is enjoying a fair amount of success in NOAH while working to leave a lasting legacy in puroresu that Kensuke Office will hopefully continue well into the future. Sasaki further enhanced that legacy-and his own-by claiming one of the few major titles he hadn’t held yet in September ’09-the GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Championship.
Stats & info:
Weight: 254 pounds/115 kg
Experience: 23 years
Finishing move: Northern Lights Bomb, Lariat
Current affiliation: Kensuke Office, also appears full-time in NOAH
5-time IWGP Heavyweight Champion
7-time IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champion
1-time All-Japan Triple Crown Champion
1-time All-Japan All-Asia Tag Team Champion
1-time GHC Heavyweight Champion
1-time GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Champion
1-time World Japan World Magma the Greatest Champion
1-time Hawaii Championship Wrestling Kamehameha Heritage Champion
2-time Hawaii Championship Wrestling Kekaulike Heritage Tag Team Champion
1-time Michinoku Pro Tohoku Tag Team Championship
1-time WCW US Champion
1-time Stampede Wrestling International Tag Team Champion
2-time WWC Caribbean Tag Team Champion
1997 G1 Climax
2000 G1 Climax
2005 Champions Carnival
Ranked #23 in 1998 PWI 500
Ranked #27 in 2003 PWI Ranking Of Top 100 Tag Teams Of The PWI Years (w/Hiroshi Hase)
1991 Wrestling Observer Newsletter Match Of The Year
Official website (Japanese):