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Akebono Tarō (曙 太郎, Akebono Tarō, born 8 May 1969 as Chadwick Haheo Rowan)[1] is an American-born professional wrestler and former sumo wrestler from Waimānalo, Hawaii. Joining the professional sport in Japan in 1988, he was trained by pioneering Hawaiian sumo wrestler Takamiyama and rose swiftly up the rankings, reaching the top division in 1990. After two consecutive yusho or tournament championships in November 1992 and January 1993 he made history by becoming the first non-Japanese-born wrestler ever to reach yokozuna, the highest rank in sumo.

One of the tallest and heaviest wrestlers ever, Akebono's rivalry with the young Japanese hopefuls, Takanohana and Wakanohana, was a big factor in the increased popularity of sumo at tournament venues and on TV in the early 1990s.[2] During his eight years at the yokozuna rank, Akebono won a further eight tournament championships, for a career total of eleven, and was a runner-up on thirteen other occasions, despite suffering several serious injuries. Although his rival yokozuna Takanohana won more tournaments in this period, their individual head-to-heads remained very close.

Akebono became a Japanese citizen in 1996, and after retiring in 2001 he worked as a coach at Azumazeki stable before leaving the Sumo Association in 2003. After an unsuccessful period as a K-1 fighter, he is now a professional wrestler. In All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW) he has been a two-time Triple Crown Heavyweight Champion, two-time World Tag Team Champion, and two-time All Asia Tag Team Champion.

Professional wrestling[]

All Japan Pro Wrestling (2005)[]

On 4 August 2005, Akebono made his official wrestling debut in Japan, appearing at AJPW's WRESTLE-1 event against the Great Muta in the first match of the WRESTLE-1 Grand Prix Tournament, in a losing effort. the same month, it was announced that Akebono had been hired by AJPW and placed under the tutelage of Keiji Mutoh, the Great Muta's true identity. Akebono took on the role of Mutoh's enforcer and forming a tag team called "Mutoh Room" to combat the heel stable VOODOO-MURDERS. On November 19, Akebono defeated VOODOO-MURDERS member Giant Bernard in a singles match. The same night, Akebono appeared in a match between The Great Muta and the imposter The Great Ruta to defend Muta from VOODOO-MURDERS, showing his own Muta impersonation called The Great Bono.

Later, Akebono and Mutoh competed in the Real World Tag League 2005, during the tournament, making it all the way to the finals, but were defeated by Team 3D. At the end of the year, Akebono won the Tokyo Sports award for "Rookie of the Year" and "Team of the Year" with Mutoh, who then stated that Akebono had successfully graduated from his lessons, and was then released from his contract to move to other companies and gain experience.

New Japan Pro Wrestling (2006–2007)[]

On 4 January 2006, Akebono appeared in New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) alongside Yutaka Yoshie in a match against Black Strong Machine & Hiro Saito, coming out victorious. Later that month, Akebono competed for Pro Wrestling NOAH, teaming up with his old friend Takeshi Rikio to defeat Junji Izumida and Kenta Kobashi. After the match, Akebono announced that he had been hired by NJPW and was congratulated by Rikio, promising to team again future (Which never happened due to Rikio having to retire due to his injuries in 2010.)

In February, Akebono made his official debut in New Japan as an ally of Riki Choshu, defeating then IWGP Tag Team Champions Cho-Ten (Masahiro Chono and Hiroyoshi Tenzan). On March 19, he faced Brock Lesnar for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, but was defeated when Lesnar got the pinfall after hitting him with the title. Months later, after the championship had become vacant, Akebono participated in a tournament for it, defeating Hiroyoshi Tenzan in the first round, but being eliminated by Giant Bernard in the second.

In October, Akebono and Choshu participated in the 2006 G1 Tag League, advancing to the last round before losing to Takashi Iizuka and Yuji Nagata. In August 2007, Akebono participated in the G1 Climax tournament defeating the likes of Togi Makabe and Hiroyoshi Tenzan, but coming up short in the end. In October, Akebono and Masahiro Chono competed in the 2007 G1, beating Hirooki Goto and Milano Collection AT, Naofumi Yamamoto and Takashi Iizuka and Manabu Nakanishi and Yuji Nagata, but were eliminated in the final stage by Giant Bernard and Travis Tomko. During his stay at New Japan, Akebono began to show his comedic side and began imitating and parodying other fighters. On 13 September 2006, Akebono was presented with a tiger mask and the name of Bono Tiger to team with Tiger Mask IV. On 4 March 2007, he made a brief appearance in Michinoku Pro Wrestling as The Great Bonosuke, fighting on the side of The Great Sasuke wearing the same outfit. On 17 February 2007, Akebono briefly returned to All Japan Pro Wrestling to team with Toru Owashi against Johnny Dunn and SUMO Rikishi in an extravagant match between sumos, resulting in a win for his team. After training with Satoru Sayama (the original Tiger Mask) in MMA and pro wrestling, he returned to the New Japan ring to participate in the 2007 G1 Climax tournament. He defeated Togi Makabe and Hiroyoshi Tenzan but failed to progress to the semifinal stage.[3]

Hustle (2007–2009)[]

Akebono debuted in Hustle in 2007, being the storyline son of Yinling and The Great Muta. Under the name Monster Bono, Akebono was introduced being unrealistically born from a giant egg (a parody of the Gobbledy Gooker in the World Wrestling Federation) before easily defeating RG in his first bout. After that, Monster Bono (who had a simple, childlike personality), under the control of his mother, entered the service of Takada Monster Army and competed against several other wrestlers in a winning streak. However, due to the constant abuse from Yinling, and wanting to meet his father, Monster Bono rebelled against it and left the Monster Army, changing his name to Bono-chan and allying with A-chan and Yoshie-chan to form a sumo-style face stable. Soon after, Yinling faced Bono-chan and demanded that he return to the Monster Army, but the outcome of the battle was a victory for Bono-chan, and Yinling (kayfabe) died under his weight. In retaliation to this, Toshiaki Kawada and Mr. Kawada (Toshiaki's elder father) scheduled a match between them and Bono and his father, The Great Muta, at Hustlemania 2008. Bono and Muta came victorious, but were attacked by The Esperanza, leading Muta to sacrifice himself to drag Esperanza to the underworld. Without his parents, Bono-chan changed his name to Bono-kun as a sign of maturity and joined the HUSTLE Army, making a promo based on that of Barack Obama campaign slogan "Yes, We HUSTLE". Later in HUSTLE Aid, before his scheduled match with Genichiro Tenryu against Arma & Geddon, Bono had a strange dream and transformed into The Great Bono, his last stage of maturity. After The Great Bono defeated their opponents with forcefulness, HUSTLE announced he was leaving to search for his father.

Dragon Gate (2008–2010)[]

On 21 September 2008, Akebono appeared in the Battle Royal of Dragon Gate's (DG) Storm Gate 2008 event, which was won by Akira Tozawa. Akebono made some more appearances, defeating the likes of Stalker Ichikawa, Don Fujii and Masaaki Mochizuki.[4][5] That month, Akebono, Mochizuki and Fujii agreed to form a trio called Chou Zetsurins to face the team of WORLD-1 (BxB Hulk, Masato Yoshino and PAC) for the Open The Triangle Gate Championship, but were defeated. On 14 October 2009, however, Chou Zetsurins finally won the titles,[6] and defended them until May 2010, when they were defeated by Deep Drunkers (Kzy, Takuya Sugawara and Yasushi Kanda).

Pro Wrestling Zero1 (2009–2013)[]

In March 2009, Akebono appeared in Pro Wrestling Zero1 defeating Kohei Sato. Later, Akebono joined the Sword Army stable, led by Masato Tanaka. Akebono also participated in the Fire Festival 2009 defeating several other wrestlers, but failed to win in the end. After that, he formed an irregular team with Shinjiro Otani called KAZAN, which defeated Masaaki Mochizuki & Masato Tanaka in the final round of the Furinkazan tournament, as well winning the NWA Intercontinental Tag Team Championship on 24 January 2010 before vacating them on December of that year. On 3 February 2013, Akebono teamed with Daisuke Sekimoto to win the vacant titles by defeating Kohei Sato and Zeus.

Return to AJPW (2009–2015)[]

Akebono returned to AJPW, allying himself with Ryota Hama. On 23 September 2009, Akebono and Hama, known collectively as S.M.O.P. (Super Megaton Ohzumo Powers), won the All Asia Tag Team Championship, defeating Minoru Suzuki and Nosawa Rongai. S.M.O.P. also participated in the 2009 World's Strongest Tag Determination League, finishing 5th out of 9 teams with four victories and four defeats. S.M.O.P. would only defend the title once before losing them 7 months later to VOODOO-MURDERS membersBig Daddy Voodoo andTARU.[7] After that, Akebono split with Hama and became the enforcer for the group Partisan Forces (Minoru Suzuki, Masakatsu Funaki and Taiyo Kea) to continue his feud with the VOODOO-MURDERS. Partisan Forces broke up in June 2011, so Akebono reformed S.M.O.P. with Hama. After having an unsuccessful shot at KENSO and The Great Muta for the vacant World Tag Team Championship, Akebono and Hama entered a short feud with Big Daddy and MAZADA, whom they defeated on several occasions, and also competed in the 2011 Real World Tag League, receiving two more chances for the All Asia Tag Team Championship against Daisuke Sekimoto and Yuji Okabayashi, lost both times. S.M.O.P. finally regained the All Asia title by defeating Sekimoto and Okabayashi on 1 July 2012, but vacated them on 4 September 2012, due to Akebono being sidelined with pneumonia.[8] In November 2012, Akebono debuted his masked alter ego "Brazo de Bono", based on Brazo de Plata.[9] On 1 September 2013, Akebono signed a contract with All Japan, officially ending his freelancing days.[10] On September 11, Akebono entered the 2013 Ōdō Tournament and, in his first match under an All Japan contract, defeated former Triple Crown Heavyweight Champion Jun Akiyama, unveiling his new finishing maneuver, Yokozuna Impact, in the process.[11] After wins over Low Ki andBambi Killer,[12][13] Akebono reached the finals, where, on September 23, he defeated Go Shiozaki to win the tournament.[14] On October 27, Akebono defeated Suwama to win the Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship for the first time.[15] Akebono made his first successful title defense on November 24 against Joe Doering.[16] His second successful defense took place on 3 January 2014, against Takao Omori.[17] On February 23, Akebono made his third successful title defense against Go Shiozaki.[18] Akebono's fourth title defense took place on March 18, when he defeated Kento Miyahara.[19] In April, Akebono looked to enter a rare group of men who have won the Champion Carnival, while holding the Triple Crown Championship, but on April 22, after securing the top spot in his block, Akebono was forced to pull out of the tournament and forfeit his two remaining matches, after being hospitalized with poor health.[20][21] On May 30, Akebono officially relinquished the Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship due to his health issues.[22] On July 27, it was announced that Akebono had been appointed to All Japan's board of directors.[23] Akebono wrestled his return match on August 16.[24] On August 30, Akebono received his rematch for the Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship, but was defeated by the defending champion, Joe Doering.[25]

On March 22, 2015, Akebono won the World Tag Team Championship for the second time, when he and Yutaka Yoshie defeated Jun Akiyama and Takao Omori.[26] On April 25, Akebono defeated Suwama in the finals to win All Japan's premier tournament, the Champion Carnival.[27] In the build-up to Akebono's challenge for the Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship against Go Shiozaki, he and Yoshie lost the World Tag Team Championship to Shiozaki and Kento Miyahara on May 6.[28] On May 21, Akebono defeated Shiozaki to win the Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship for the second time.[29] Akebono eventually went on to lose the championship to Jun Akiyama in his third defense on November 1, 2015.[30] The following day, it was announced that Akebono was leaving All Japan and once again becoming a freelancer, looking to return to martial arts.[31] It was, however, also announced that he would continue working for All Japan as a freelancer.[32]

Ōdō (2015–present)[]

On December 4, 2015, Akebono announced he was forming a new company named Ōdō. He will serve as its president and has the backing of Motoko Baba, the widow of All Japan founder Giant Baba.[33] On March 13, 2016, Akebono made his debut for AJPW splinter promotion Wrestle-1, reuniting with SMOP partner Ryota Hama.[34] Ōdō held its first event on April 20 in Korakuen Hall. The main event of the show saw Akebono, Ryota Hama and Taiyo Kea defeat Daisuke Sekimoto, Masato Tanaka and Yuji Okabayashi.[35] In early June, Akebono took part in the Lucha Libre World Cup in Mexico.[36] On February 3 Akebono and Shogun Okamoto defeated Voodoo Murders (TARU and Hartley Jackson) to win the NWA Intercontinental Tag Team Championship.On April 18 Akebono and Okamoto were forced to vacate the title due to his skin infenction.

Personal life[]

Akebono was born to Randy, a taxi driver of Irish and Native Hawaiian descent and Janice, an office worker of Cuban and Native Hawaiian descent.[37] He became a Japanese citizen in 1996, giving up his American citizenship and changing his legal name from Chad Rowan to Akebono Tarō, as required by Japanese law.[38] At the end of 1996 he was engaged to Yu Aihara, a television tarento, but broke it off the following year.[38] In February 1998, Akebono announced his engagement to Christiane Reiko Kalina, a teacher who is of Japanese and American descent.[39] They married in September 1998 and have two sons and a daughter.[40]

In April 2017 he was hospitalized in southern Japan. Early reports indicated that he had been placed in a medically-induced coma after a suffering a cardiac condition,[41] but his family later released a statement on Akebono's website criticizing "misleading" articles and saying he was undergoing treatment "due to a right leg cellulitis and an infection."[42] A family spokesperson thanked Akebono's fans for their support, saying "The number of messages from around the world has been overwhelming."[43]

In wrestling[]

  • Finishing moves
    • Banzai Drop (Corner slingshot seated senton)[44] – 2006–2007; adopted from Rodney Anoa'i
    • M64[45] (Falling hip toss to an oncoming opponent)[46]
    • Muso (Waist-lift side slam)[47] – 2012–present; adopted from Takeshi Rikio
    • Yokozuna Drop[48] / Japanese Drop[45] (Samoan drop, sometimes from the second rope)[45]
    • Yokozuna Final Impact (Package piledriver)[49] – 2015
    • Yokozuna Impact (Jumping piledriver)[11][13][49] – 2013–present
    • Yokozuna Press[48] (Running splash)[46]
  • Signature moves
    • Asian mist[50] – adopted from The Great Muta
    • Baseball slide[51]
    • Bearhug[51]
    • Body avalanche[51]
    • Bono Bomber (Spinning side slam)[52]
    • Bono Lock (Over-rotated Delfin Clutch)[53] – 2007; parodied from Milano Collection A.T.
    • Chokeslam[45]
    • Flashing Elbow (Running twisting elbow drop)[50] – adopted from The Great Muta
    • Hip toss[51]
    • Lariat[45]
    • Leg drop[51]
    • Makai Otoshi[54] (Delayed brainbuster)
    • Running elbow drop[45]
    • Shoulder block[51]
  • With Taiyo Kea
    • Double team finishing moves
      • Volcano Splash (Akebono performs a diving splash with Kea on his back)[55]
  • With Takeshi Rikio
    • Double team finishing moves
      • Rikibono Splash 63 (Akebono performs a diving splash with Rikio on his back)[45]
  • With Shinjiro Otani
    • Double team finishing moves
      • Dai Funka (Missile dropkick by Otani followed by a Yokozuna Press by Akebono)[56]
      • Dai Kazan Press (Akebono performs a diving splash with Otani on his back)[57]
  • Entrance themes
    • "Time to Fight"[46]
    • "Between the Sky and You" by Miyuki Nakajima

Professional wrestling championships and accomplishments[]


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