Masanori Murakawa (村川 政徳 Murakawa Masanori), (born July 18, 1969), is a Japanese professional wrestler and politician who is best known by his stage name The Great Sasuke, as well as a former Iwate Prefectural Assembly legislator. He has wrestled in Japan and in the United States in various professional wrestling promotions. He is said to have an incredible tolerance for pain, mainly in reference to the injuries he has had including a cracked skull on two occasions.
Professional wrestling career
In his early career, Murakawa wrestled under the name Masa Michinoku. Masa, from his given name Masanori, and Michinoku, after the alternate name for his Japanese home region, Tōhoku. Taka Michinoku adopted a similar gimmick to parody him. Later, on a tour of México, Murakawa adopted the mask, uniform, and name Ninja Sasuke. This was the predecessor to the Great Sasuke gimmick he would adopt upon returning to Japan.
Murakawa is also the owner, and founder, of Michinoku Pro Wrestling, the first Japanese independent promotion not to be based around the Tokyo area. Instead, it was centered around the northern area of Honshu Island. The 2 prefectures in the northern area of Honshu are Iwate Prefecture and Aomori Prefecture.
As part of an agreement between Michinoku Pro Wrestling and the World Wrestling Federation, The Great Sasuke was part of the tournament to crown the first WWF Light Heavyweight Champion in 1997. Although Sasuke was heavily pushed to be the winner of the tournament, he would later brag to the Japanese media how he would only defend the title in Japan had he won the title and would refuse to drop the title on WWF television. When the WWF heard of Sasuke's comments, he was fired as well as his working agreement with them terminated, although a former member of Michinoku Pro Wrestling, Taka Michinoku, would end up winning the title.
In 1999 he won the NWA World Middleweight Championship vacated by old rival Último Drágon. Although the tournament was promoted by Ultimo's Toryumon Japan promotion, Sasuke took the title to his base at Michinoku and styled himself a "traveling world champion" in the style of NWA World Heavyweight Champions from the 1960-80s.
In 2002, Sasuke briefly turned heel and started using the name SASUKE, using blue stripes on his mask instead of the red stripes. However, he again turned face (fan favorite) when Jinsei Shinzaki "brought him back from the dark side" by "exorcising the evil out of him". Sasuke still currently wrestles in Michinoku Pro Wrestling, although he left the running of the promotion to Shinzaki in 2003 to focus on his political career. In 2003 he lost the NWA title to Ultimo Dragon, who then vacated it and returned the belt to CMLL in Mexico, in preparation for his WWE career.
On April 15, 2011, Sasuke returned to the United States to wrestle for Chikara in the 2011 King of Trios tournament, where he would represent Michinoku Pro with Dick Togo and Jinsei Shinzaki. In their first round match Team Michinoku Pro defeated Team Minnesota (1-2-3 Kid, Arik Cannon and Darin Corbin). The following day, Team Michinoku Pro defeated Jigsaw, Manami Toyota and Mike Quackenbush to advance to the semifinals of the tournament. On April 17, Team Michinoku Pro was eliminated from the tournament in the semifinal stage by F.I.S.T. (Chuck Taylor, Icarus and Johnny Gargano).
At the end of 2013, Sasuke took part in the classic "Great Space War" match, but his team lost the bout. He then called out the Brahman Brothers and said he knew they were attempting to protect the Earth like him, and asked them to join him to fight for the greater good. This led to the creation of Mu no Taiyo, a cult-like stable with Sasuke posing as the mystic leader of the group, turning [heel in the process.
In 1999, Sasuke performed on Sasuke, the popular Japanese obstacle course competition. In the Third Competition, he got stuck at the Rolling Log and timed out on the Hill Climb. When the name SASUKE was translated into "Ninja Warrior" for the United States, the translators ignored his wrestling background and called him "The Great Ninja Warrior".
On April 13, 2003, Sasuke won election to the Iwate Prefectural Assembly, making him the first actual masked legislator in history. He is the fourth Japanese wrestler to get elected to office. Antonio Inoki, Hiroshi Hase and Atsushi Onita preceded him, though all of them were elected to the Japanese Diet at the national level.
Sasuke lost in his bid to become governor of Iwate in the 2007 election.
On February 19, 2009, Sasuke was arrested for assault after kicking a 36-year-old man and grabbing him by the shirt collar. Sasuke was reported to be angry because his picture was being taken with a cellphone camera. The incident happened on a JR Joban Line train at Minamisenju Station. However, all charges were dropped and was released from jail on February 21, after serving 40 hours in jail, after Sasuke apologized to the man. The man who took Sasuke's photograph was said to not have known who he was and thought he was just some crazy person wearing a mask in public.
- Finishing moves
- Michinoku Driver (Double underhook brainbuster) – Innovated
- Octopus hold
- Ram Jam (Diving headbutt, with theatrics) – 2009–2010
- Sasuke Special X Version 10.2 Segway (Missile dropkick to the shoulder of a fallen opponent) – 2004–present
- Senton Atomico (High-angle senton bomb, sometimes from a ladder) – Innovated
- Thunder fire powerbomb
- Signature moves
- Rolling moonsault
- Asai moonsault
- Low-angle savate kick off the apron to an opponent on the floor
- Mule kick
- Multiple suplex variations
- Over the top rope suicide dive
- Phoenix Splash
- Running dropkick through the ropes to an opponent in the outside
- Ryder Kick (Diving front kick)
- Sasuke Special (Cartwheel over the top rope suicide moonsault)
- Sasuke Special II (Cartwheel over the top rope suicide corkscrew senton)
- Sasuke Special X (Diving DDT)
- XPW (Diving flip neckbreaker)
- Entrance themes
- "Jesus Built My Hotrod" (By Ministry) (ECW)
- "Integral Hard" (WWF/NJPW)
Championships and accomplishments
- Dramatic Dream Team
- Big China Nakahara Unified Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Ricky Fuji
- Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling
- Japan Indie Awards
- Michinoku Pro Wrestling
- British Commonwealth Junior Heavyweight Championship (2 times)
- Tohoku Junior Heavyweight Championship (3 times)
- Tohoku Tag Team Championship (4 times, current) – with Dick Togo (1), Yoshitsune (1), Brahman Kei (1) and Jinsei Shinzaki (1)
- UWA World Tag Team Championship (1 time, current) – with Jinsei Shinzaki
- Chiba Six Man Tag Team Championship (1 time) - with Brahman Kei and Brahman Shu
- Fukumen World League (2012)
- Futaritabi Tag Team League (1995) – with Kato Kung Lee
- Futaritabi Tag Team League (1997) – with Super Delfin
- Michinoku Trios League (2005) – with Jinsei Shinzaki and Kesen Numajiro
- New Japan Pro Wrestling
- IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Jushin Thunder Liger
- J-Crown (1 time)
- NWA World Junior Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- NWA World Middleweight Championship (1 time)1
- NWA World Welterweight Championship (1 time)
- UWA World Junior Light Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- WWA World Junior Light Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- WAR International Junior Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- One Night Eight Man Tag Team Tournament (1994) – with Gran Hamada, Shinjiro Otani and El Samurai
- Junior Heavyweight Super Grade Tag League (1996) – with Black Tiger II
- Osaka Pro Wrestling
- Osaka Pro Wrestling Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Asian Cooger
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- PWI ranked him # 23 of the best 500 singles wrestlers in the PWI 500 in 1996 and 1997
- PWI ranked him # 92 of the 500 best singles wrestlers during the "PWI Years" in 2003
- Universal Wrestling Association / Universal Wrestling Federation
- World Wrestling Association
- WWA World Middleweight Championship (1 time)
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter awards
1This championship is promoted by Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (CMLL), it was on loan to them from New Japan Pro Wrestling when he won it. Also, despite the title still using the NWA initials, it is no longer recognized or sanctioned as a world title by the National Wrestling Alliance. The same goes for the NWA World Middleweight Championship.
2Despite winning the title twice, neither of the reigns are recognized by World Wrestling Entertainment. No reigns with the title prior to December 1997 are recognized by the WWE.
- The Great Sasuke profile . Online World of Wrestling. Retrieved on 2014-09-21.
- Profile at Puroresu Central . Puroresu Central. Retrieved on 2013-11-26.
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- Radican, Sean 2011-05-04. Radican's Chikara KoT Night 1 DVD Review 4/15 - Team Michinoku Pro vs. Team 1-2-3 Kid, Quackenbush & Toyota & Jigsaw vs. SAT's . Pro Wrestling Torch. Retrieved on 2011-05-14.
- Radican, Sean 2011-05-13. Radican's Chikara DVD review series - "King of Trios 2011 Night 2" 4/16: F.I.S.T. vs. Osaka Pro, RDV tournament, Quackenbush & Toyota & Jigsaw vs. Michinoku Pro . Pro Wrestling Torch. Retrieved on 2011-05-14.
- Radican, Sean 2011-06-05. Radican's Chikara DVD review series: "KOT 2011: Night 3 4/17 - Kid vs. Generico, Toyota vs. Eagles, KOT tournament Finals . Pro Wrestling Torch. Retrieved on 2011-06-05.
- The Japan Times Online Articles
- Gerweck, Steve 2009-02-27. News on Kevin Nash, Booker T, Team 3D, and The Great Sasuke . Archived from the original on 2009-03-02. Retrieved on 2011-08-15.
- Michinoku Pro Wrestling Results: 2012 (in German). PuroLove.com. Retrieved on 2014-09-21.
- Michinoku Pro Wrestling Results: 2009 (in German). PuroLove.com. Retrieved on 2014-09-21.
- 【後楽園リポート】トーナメント決勝戦は宮本裕向&木高イサミvs火野裕士&岡林裕二!!／インディー大賞MVPはHarashima／Takaのパートナーは小鹿 (in Japanese). Dramatic Dream Team (2014-12-31). Retrieved on 2014-12-31.
- ja:ライガー、『ふく面ワールドリーグ戦』で大活躍!! 決勝進出もサスケの卍に敗れる!! (in Japanese). New Japan Pro Wrestling (2012-09-03). Retrieved on 2012-09-04.
- Michinoku Pro-Wrestling - "MICHINOKU TRIOS LEAGUE 2005" (in German). PuroLove.com. Retrieved on 2014-05-07.
- WWE: Inside WWE > Title History > Light Heavyweight