Kazuo Sakurada, best known for his time competing in the NWA and WWC as Kendo Nagasaki, has died at the age of 71. PWInsider is reporting that the cause of death was a pacemaker failure, which led to a cardiac arrest.
Sakurada was the second man to perform the Kendo Nagasaki gimmick, following British wrestler Peter Thornley. Sakurada worked a different style as the character, and competed in face paint instead of a mask. Credited by Bret Hart as one of his trainers, Sakurada’s career included notable runs in Stampede Wrestling, World Wrestling Council, Frontier Martial Arts, the National Alliance, Continental Wrestling Association, and World Championship Wrestling. He returned to Japan in 1990, and remained there until his retirement in 2001.
In addition to Nagasaki, WCW fans may remember Sakurada as a member of Gary Hart’s J-Tex Corporation, aka Gary Hart International. Known as the mysterious DRAGONMASTER, he competed in the six-man tag team main event at Clash of the Champions X.
On Sunday, Sakurada’s friends and peers shared their memories on social media.
Rest in Peace Kendo Nagasaki
Kazuo Sakurada (September 26, 1948 – January 11, 2020)
ケンドー・ナガサキこと桜田一男選手のご冥福をお祈りします。#ChanChung #KendoNagasaki #DragonMaster 🇯🇵🇨🇦🇺🇸🇵🇷 #NWA #Amarillo #Stampede #CWF #WorldClass #WWC #WCW #JWA #AJPW #NJPW #FMW #SWS #NOW #BJW pic.twitter.com/evWIbzzGUX
— Masa HORIE 🇯🇵 (@MasanoriHorie) January 12, 2020
The CAC would like to pass along our condolences to the friends and family of Kazuo Sakurada, better known to the wrestling world as Kendo Nagasaki. Kazuo passed away last night at the age of 71. A legendary figure, especially around Florida, he will be deeply missed by all pic.twitter.com/xIR4MqCxoW
— CauliflowerAlleyClub (@CACReunion) January 12, 2020
If you aren’t familiar Kendo Nagasaki, we’ve included a few videos below to help you out. Rest in peace to Sakurada, as our love and condolences go out to his friends, family, and fans.