Report: Prolific sumo wrestler and professional wrestler Akebono dead at 54

Image Credit: AJPW

Former sumo Yokozuna and two-time AJPW Triple Crown Champion Akebono has passed away, per reports from Japanese media. He was 54.

Akebono reportedly passed away due to heart failure after years of illness. Reports initially surfaced in 2017 that he had suffered a medical issue, with his family later confirming that acute heart failure put him into a medically induced coma.

Akebono Taro, also known by Chadwick Haheo Rowan, was born in 1969 in Hawaii. He gained popularity for competing in sumo wrestling, debuting in 1988. He found high levels of success in the sport, advancing to a Yokozuna rank in 1993 and holding onto the title for eight years. He decided to retire from the sport in 2000 after an injury.

On New Year’s Eve 2003, Akebono and Bob Sapp fought on the K-1 Premium Dynamite card in Nagoya, Japan, and drew an astounding figure of 54 million viewers for their fight.

In 2005, he participated in a “Sumo contest” with Big Show at WrestleMania 21 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

After a three-year run in kickboxing and MMA, Akebono turned to professional wrestling. He started to perform in 2005, making appearances in AJPW. He switched to NJPW in 2006 for a brief two-year stint, challenging Brock Lesnar for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship and earning a win over Masahiro Chono and Hiroyoshi Tenzan along the way.

He appeared in Zero-1, Dragon Gate, and other promotions in Japan, but had his lengthiest stint back in AJPW from 2008 to 2015. During this time he had two title reigns with the Triple Crown Championship, holding the title for a combined 379 days. His last appearance was a 2017 tag match in DDT.

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Jack Wannan is a journalist from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He writes and reports on professional wrestling, along with other topics like MMA, boxing, music, local news, and more. He graduated from Toronto Metropolitan University in 2023 with a bachelor's degree in journalism. He can be reached at [email protected]