Ōki Kintarō

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Ōki Kintarō
Ring name(s) Kim Il
Ōki Kintarō
Billed height 185 cm (6 ft 1 in)
Billed weight 120 kg (260 lb; 19 st)
Born 1929/2/24(1929-02-24)
Jeollanam-do, Korea
Died 2006/10/26 (aged 77)
Seoul, South Korea
Shishō Rikidōzan
Mr. Moto
Debut 1959/11
Retired Early 1980s
ceremony on 1996/4/2

Kim Il (Korean: 김일, kanji: 金一), better known in Japan as Ōki Kintarō (大木金太郎?) (1929/2/24 - 2006/10/26), was the greatest South Korean professional wrestler of all time.

Kim entered Japan illegally in 1958, hoping to be a deshi of his home country hero Rikidōzan but was arrested in the following year. After being released with Rikidōzan as his surety, he joined Japan Pro-Wrestling Association (JWA) and had his first match in 1959/11 under a Japanese name of "Ōki Kintarō". He was one of the rookie trio along with Inoki Kanji and Baba Shōhei, who joined JWA in 1960. Inoki was defeated by Ōki in his debut match.

After the death of Rikidōzan in 1963/12, Kim returned to Korea and raised the popularity of the sport in his home country. Though he was brought back to JWA when Toyonobori and Inoki left the organization to start Tokyo Pro-Wrestling in 1966, Ōki was once again in the shadow of the Big 2 after Inoki returned to the company in 1967.

He won WWA World Heavyweight Championship from Mark Lewin in 1967 and became the true top star in South Korea. Prior to that, JWA was said to have "verbally promised" to Ōki to name him "Rikidōzan" if Ōki would win a world title. He never received the honor of inheriting his shishō's name, however.

He became the top star of JWA after Inoki and Baba left in 1972 and won the prestigeous NWA International Heavyweight Championship. However, JWA closed and was absorbed into All Japan Pro-Wrestling in 1973/4. Though he wrestled for All Japan for a short while, he basically became a freelancer in Japan while keeping the status as the top wrestler in South Korea. He had a famous match against Inoki in 1974 and Baba in 1975 (after Inoki had a historic famous match against Ōki, of course, Baba had to squash him in less than 7 minutes, just like he did with Billy Robinson in the following year). Ōki continued to defend the International Title in International Wrestling Enterprise (IWE) and South Korea until he was "ordered by NWA" to vacate it in 1981/4 (Baba wanted the title for All Japan). While in All Japan, Ōki teamed with his student Kim Duk (Tiger Toguchi/Tiger Chung Lee) and feuded with the team of Baba & Jumbo Tsuruta over NWA International Tag Team Championship.

He had not been active as a wrestler since early 1980s, and the ceremony for his retirement was held during the Weekly Puroresu magazine's all-star card at Tokyo Dome in 1996/4. Both Baba and Kim Duk were at backstage, and Lou Thesz helped Kim, who had his last public appearance in Japan on a wheelchair, to the ring for the ceremony.

While spending most of the time in the hospital, Ōki kept attending to the WWA cards promoted by Lee Wang-pyou, who is one of the top deshi of Ōki's. Also, Inoki had visited him in the hospital right before his death.

On 2006/10/26, Kim passed away due to heart failure at a hospital in Seoul.

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