Update 6/11/2003: Added sections on Sasuke's foray into politics, page down for more

The Great Sasuke is a Japanese professional wrestler who owns and wrestles in the Michinoku Pro promotion. His work with Jushin Thunder Liger and Ultimo Dragon (amongst others) in the early to mid 1990's helped to pave the way for the popular junior heavyweight style which drew upon the Mexican lucha libre and Japanese puroresu styles of professional wrestling. Once refined in Sasuke's own Michinoku Pro and Ultimo Dragon's Toryumon promotion, it ended up getting the name lucharesu in fandom.

Sasuke's given name is Masanori Murakawa. In Gran Hamada's UWF in the early 90's, he wrestled as MASA Michinoku, but he adopted the Great Sasuke persona when he started Michinoku Pro in 1992. Sasuke's name derives from legendary ninja Sarutobi Sasuke, a famous ninja of the Sengoku period. Sasuke wears a black outfit with a red sash, like the clothing of a ninja. His mask has open eyes, as well as an open mouth/chin area. The mask itself is predominantly black, but the face is white with red and blue highlights. Most notable about his mask is the signature bunch of tassels hanging from the back of it. His outfit is very similar to that of Mexican lucha libre's Octagon, who wrestles a style based loosely upon martial arts.

Sasuke wrestles the quintessential high flying wrestling style, specializing in taking insane risks and frequently putting his health on the line. His signature moves include the senton atomico, also known as the Swanton bomb, the Thunderfire Powerbomb, the Rider Kick, the Sasuke Special 1, and the Sasuke Special 2. The Sasuke Special 2 is somewhat more famously known as the Space Flying Tiger Drop, a move whose difficulty is matched only by the silliness of its name. In the Space Flying Tiger Drop, the victim is positioned standing outside the ring, dazed. The attacker runs to the ropes on the opposite side, does a handspring, and backflips blind over the ropes into a body press on the victim outside. The Sasuke Special 1 is the same except that the attacker faces forward when flipping over the ropes.

Sasuke's history is largely bound up with that of Michinoku Pro, and he did very little wrestling before its formation, outside of training in Mexico and his work in Gran Hamada's UWF. He has had significant performances outside of MPro, however, such as at the Super J Cup and the J-Crown. At the Super J Cup, he impressed the audience with his high flying antics as well as his remarkable stamina, competing in two grueling 20 minute matches back to back, against Jushin Liger and Chris Benoit, respectively. His match with Benoit was so good that it was voted best non North American match of 1994 by the denizens of rec.sports.pro-wrestling.

At the J-Crown in 1996, Sasuke fractured his skull in his match against Ultimo Dragon, and continued the match for several minutes more. His style is so dangerous that when watching the match, it's sometimes not entirely clear where the injury actually occurs. (It's when he does a somersault plancha over the ringpost and lands on the floor). Despite this injury, he actually ended up winning the tournament, because professional wrestling is scripted. (shh, don't tell) This puts him into the same school of badassary as Toshiaki Kawada, who broke his forearm 15 minutes into a half hour match against Mitsuharu Misawa, in which, coincidentally, he also won a title.

Sasuke has been a favorite of many professional wrestling fans because of the grace with which he soars through the air, performing death-defying maneuvers. Whereas some high flyers simply focus on height or adding half a twist or another rotation, Sasuke is able to perform the same difficult moves while maintaining a sense of style and flair. The WWE wrestler who most closely resembles Sasuke is Jeff Hardy, who also uses Sasuke's senton atomico as his finisher.

Update 6/11/2003

On April 13th, 2003, the Great Sasuke joined the esteemed ranks of such former wrestlers as Tony Halme and Jesse Ventura, running in a local election in the Morioka district of the Iwate Prefecture and subsequently winning a seat in the Iwate Prefectual Assembly. The concept of wrestlers becoming politicians is more common in Japan, where famed wrestler Antonio Inoki was an Upper House member for a number of years. Additionally, in recent years, Atsushi Onita and Hiroshi Hase have both been elected to political positions, in the Upper and Lower Houses respectively. A few months ago, Hase even insulted Onita, claiming that the Upper House members could not be taken seriously as politicians. Onita responded by bleeding profusely.

While campaigning, Sasuke shrewdly used his mask to court publicity as well as controversy, insisting upon wearing his wrestling mask even in the assembly hall once elected. He has been insistent on this point, promising during his campaign that he will never remove his mask until he retires from the wrestling ring. This caused quite a stir with some other members of the assembly, who believe that wearing the mask is undignified. Still, those offended by his mask are greatly outnumbered by those who support Sasuke's sartorial flair. Assembly members from the Liberal Party, the party with the largest contingent in the assembly as well as the party which backed Sasuke's election, along with members of Komeito, the Japanese Communist Party, and the Social Democrat Party have voiced support for Sasuke. One amusing practical upshot of this is that Sasuke has to provide a certificate to prove his identity upon entering the assembly hall.

His unusual garb aside, Sasuke has taken flak on a variety of other issues as well, in particular his inexperience in politics and lack of a clear agenda, as well as the fact that he still owns and runs Michinoku Pro Wrestling and has stated that he will continue wrestling while serving as an assemblyman. Political pundits have leveled criticism at Sasuke for his continued involvement in wrestling while holding public office. Commentator Terry Ito even accused Sasuke of becoming a politician primarily to generate publicity for his wrestling promotion.

I have heard second-hand accounts of news articles about scandals surrounding Sasuke injuring a school teacher and being involved in extramarital affairs, but unfortunately the only information I could find on the subject was in Japanese, so be aware that it is possible such scandals exist, but I don't have the certainty to assert them as facts.

Rev Ray's Big Big Book of Wrestling Moves. http://www.deathvalleydriver.com/bbbowm/bbbowm.htm
"The North Eastern Hero" by Sasuke. http://www.dooyoo.co.uk/review/323479.html
Japanese dictionary of history and traditions #35. http://www.hikyaku.com/dico/histxtg34.html
MDN: Politics. http://mdn.mainichi.co.jp/politics/0304/16sasuke.html
The Japan Times Online. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/getarticle.pl5?fd20030504pb.htm
411's International News Report #150 (Bart Gunn & Dr. Death To WWE, Sasuke In Scandal & More) http://www.411mania.com/wrestling/news/newsboard.php?news_id=6695

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