Osamu Kido, original member of NJPW roster, dies at 73

Osamu Kido, who was one of the original members of the New Japan Pro Wrestling roster, has died after reportedly battling cancer.

Kido was born on February 2, 1950, in Kawasaki in the Kanagawa Prefecture and made his debut wrestling for the JWA right after his nineteenth birthday in 1969.

When Antonio Inoki had his falling out with the JWA, Kido left with him with Kido part of the day one roster of NJPW, which launched on March 6, 1972, at Ota Ward Gymnasium. Inoki headlined the inaugural event with Kido’s mentor, Karl Gotch, while Kido lost to Ivan Kameroff on the undercard.

The precursor to today’s G1 Climax was the World League Tournament, which began in 1974 and featured Kido among the sixteen participants. Kido finished with two points in the Japanese block as the inaugural tournament was won by Inoki.

Kido participated in subsequent World Leagues through 1977 and earned as many as six points in 1976.

Along with Tatsumi Fujinami, the pair were sent to Europe in 1975 with Kido then moving to Florida and training under Karl Gotch before returning to NJPW the following year.

Following Gotch, Kido left NJPW to join the upstart UWF under the director of ousted NJPW executive Hisashi Shinma and top star Akira Maeda. Among those defecting from New Japan included Kido, Yoshiaki Fujiwara, and Nobuhiko Takada.

The promotion didn’t take off and it dissolved with many of the stars returned to NJPW including Maeda and Kido. It set the stage for a historically significant match in 1987, which was one of the ugliest scenes in the history of the company.

Prior to that, Kido & Maeda won the IWGP tag titles on August 5, 1986, beating Tatsumi Fujinami & Kengo Kimura but lost the titles back to the team on September 23.

On November 19, 1987, a six-man tag occurred at Korakuen Hall with Maeda, Takada & Kido taking on Riki Choshu, Hiro Saito & Masa Saito. Choshu applied the Sasori Gatame (Sharpshooter / Scorpion Death Lock) on Kido when Maeda entered and blasted Choshu with a boot to the defenseless Choshu, breaking his orbital bone and expediting Maeda’s exit from New Japan Pro Wrestling after he wouldn’t accept a punishment. While a horrible example, it added an added layer of legitimacy behind Maeda. It spurred on the resurrection of the UWF in 1988 with Maeda having a newfound rep based on the egregious attack on Choshu during a golden era of New Japan’s popularity.

This time, Kido didn’t follow Maeda out of the company and remained with New Japan.

In 1989, the future G1 tournament was now called the World Cup Tournament and saw four blocks of wrestlers spread out. In the quarterfinals, Kido lost to Choshu, who went on to win the tournament.

In 1993, Kido was in his first official G1 Climax, a single-elimination tournament. Kido beat Takashi Ishikawa in the first round and lost to tournament winner Tatsumi Fujinami in the round of eight.

He was part of the G1 Climax in 1994 and 2000.

In 1995, he teamed with Kazuo Yamasaki in the Super Grade Tag League (precursor to the World Tag League) and finished first in the round-robin stage and went to the final, losing to Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Masahiro Chono.

Kido retired on November 2, 2001, teaming with Choshu and going to a time-limit draw with Fujinami & Kengo Kimura.

Kido served as a trainer at the NJPW Dojo and had a hand in training many of the future stars of the company including Shinsuke Nakamura, who reflected on Kido in his book, King of Strong Style: 1980-2014:

I might have been a new trainee, but I feel a sort of closeness with Kido. I mean, even if training’s tough, you want to make it at least a little fun, right? But I really did like Kido’s wrestling. Like, from when I was a fan, I liked Kido more than [Yoshiaki] Fujiwara.

I guess maybe I liked Kido’s simplicity. Fujiwara put out too much sex appeal, compared with how Kido hid so much and came across as kind of, hmm, subdued. He had a bit of mystery to him, didn’t he? Like his hair was always perfect.

Nakamura also had the chance to bond with Kido a bit outside of the ring and described that side of his trainer:

Quiet man inside and out. He’s also a total clean freak. He used to wash his big Benz in front of the dojo all the time. And he’d wear Manabu Nakanishi’s big shoes over his own so they didn’t get dirty [laughs]. Well, still for us, Kido was our coach. We didn’t really talk about personal stuff, you know? We did do stuff like eat chanko stew and things together though. But toward the end of the time he was coaching us, I tried to close the gap between us a little. Like, I don’t care about golf at all, but Kido loves it, so I’d squeeze out some little comment or whatever about it, you know? Heh heh heh.

Kido was among those in Nakamura’s corner for his debut match on August 29, 2002, losing to Tadao Yasuda at Budokan Hall.

Kido came out of retirement for an alumni battle royal at the Tokyo Dome in May 2003 and continued to wrestle matches over the next eight years for Big Mouth Loud, RIKI Office, Inoki Genome Federation, and a one-off with AJPW in June 2008 teaming with Osamu Matsuda & Osamu Nishimura against MAZADA, NOSAWA Rongai & TAKEMURA. His final match was on April 24, 2011, for RIKI Office in a six-man tag team with Gran Hamada & Reiki Senshu (a Riki Choshu tribute wrestler).

Nikkan Sports reported that Kido had been suffering from cancer for several years.

His daughter, Ai Kido (a professional golfer), stated that the family will hold a funeral for immediate family only.

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Born on a Friday, John Pollock is a reporter, editor & podcaster at POST Wrestling. He runs and owns POST Wrestling alongside Wai Ting.