Tiger Mask is one of the coolest enduring gimmicks in wrestling history. Based on the anime hero of the same name, the Tiger Mask character has been played by five wrestlers since his creation in 1981. Wrestling legends like Mitsuhara Misawa and Koji Kanemoto have worn the mask, and the current Tiger Mask is a light heavyweight mainstay in New Japan Pro Wrestling, where he currently holds the NWA World Junior Heavyweight title. But if we’re going all the way back, we have to talk about Satoru Sayama, the original man in the mask.
Before leaving pro wrestling to focus more on mixed martial arts, Sayama put the character on the map, even after Japanese audiences originally rejected the idea of a children’s superhero being a pro wrestler. It was Sayama’s classic series of matches with Dynamite Kid that finally clicked with fans, but I have to imagine that going on Japanese TV to sing “Can’t Help Falling in Love” probably helped his case.
The PuroWorld Twitter account tipped me off to this gem, and Lord help me, I wish I knew more. Usually when I’m doing something like Dark Match Dungeon, I make it a point to bring a lot of research, but I’ve got very little to work with here. All I know is that this would have taken place between April 1981 and August 1983, during Sayama’s short tenure as Tiger Mask. Other than that, I don’t know the name of the TV program or anything. If you have knowledge of Japanese TV schedules in the 80’s, please leave a comment and help us fill in the blanks here. In the meantime, I’m just imagining gaijin rival Black Tiger waiting in the wings, ready to do “Clambake” or something.