January 23rd would have been All Japan Pro Wrestling Co-Founder and three time NWA World Heavyweight Champion Giant Baba’s 80th birthday.
To celebrate the Japanese legend and to wash the taste of an extremely disappointing 25th Anniversary Raw out of our collective mouths, we thought we’d take a few moments to remember the man they first called Giant.
1. He Has An Origin Story Like A Superhero
Shohei Baba was born on January 23rd, 1938 in Sanjo, Japan; the second son of a severely ill fruit and vegetable trader. Following the death of his older brother in WWII at Guadalcanal, Shohei’s mother was forced to take over the family business, and young Baba was pressed into service as a delivery man when he was in the 5th grade. For seven years, weighted down with an overstuffed backpack, he rode 12 kilometers (nearly seven and a half miles) to the Nagaoka Market before dawn so he could still attend school.
Reports are iffy on whether or not he rode both ways uphill and in several feet in snow, but wrestling has never trucked with embellishment so let’s go ahead and assume it is true and not kayfabe. Frankly, Giant Baba’s story really doesn’t need it anyway.
Quick side note: That same Nagaoka Market was turned into a burning field by a sh*t ton of American B29s in 1945 and the Baba family watched the whole thing happen from a rice hut about 500 yards away from their home. If that isn’t a superhero origin story, I don’t know what is. Jeez, at the age of seven, I was still trying to figure out why Skeletor couldn’t find any better henchmen.