|Ring name(s)||Hiro Matsuda|
|Real name||Kojima Yasuhiro|
|Nickname(s)||"Nippon no Tora"|
(Tiger of Japan)
|Billed height||180 cm (5 ft 11 in)|
|Billed weight||105 kg (230 lb; 16.5 st)|
|Died||1999/11/27 (aged 62)|
Hiro Matsuda was a Japanese professional wrestler who mainly wrestled in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s. His real name was Kojima Yasuhiro (小島 泰弘).
Kojima was an ace in the baseball team during his high school years. After graduation, he joined the Japan Pro-Wrestling Association in 1957. However, he had several disagreements with his shishō Rikidōzan's philosphy, which was mainly based on the sumō world. Kojima left Japan on 1960/4/12 for Peru, where he was known as Ernesto Kojima. Later he wrestled in Mexico for a short period of time, and in 1961, Kojima went to the United States, where a promoter named him Hiro Matsuda after Matsuda Sorakichi (the first Japanese pro-wrestler who wrestled in the U.S. in 1880s) and Matty Matsuda (another Japanese legend in the U.S. from 1920s).
In the United States
Unlike other stereotypical salt-throwing Japanese heels, Matsuda was a good technical wrestler with his famous german suplex which he learned from the legendary Karl Gotch. On 1964/7/11, Matsuda defeated Danny Hodge, of whom he was one of the biggest rivals, to become the first Japanese to win the World Junior Heavyweight Championship. He would have another reign as the champion in the mid-1970s. Matsuda was also a tag team partner of Inoki Kanji during Inoki's American excursion as a rookie. The team held various versions of the NWA World Tag Team Championship.
Returning to Japan
In 1967, Matsuda, along with Yoshiwara Isao, left the JWA and started the International Wrestling Enterprise as the top star and booker. However, the IWE would be forced by its television network, Tōkyō Broadcasting System, to assign Great Tōgō as the booker. Matsuda resisted the change and left the IWE that year.
Matsuda would again wrestle mainly in the U.S. though he made several apperances for the JWA, and between 1973 and 1976, he also wrestled for All Japan Pro-Wrestling occasionally.
In 1978/11, Matsuda participated in the Pre-Japanese Championship, organized by New Japan Pro-Wrestling. Along with other freelancers such as Ueda Umanosuke, Masa Saitō, and Thunder Sugiyama, he formed a stable of "lone wolves". Matsuda lost to Inoki in the final. In 1979/4, Matsuda teamed with Saitō to win NWA North American Tag Team Championship.
After the retirement, he started a training camp in Tampa, Florida. Some of his deshi include Hulk Hogan, Steve Keirn, Mike Graham, Brian Blair, Lex Luger, Scott Hall, Ron Simmons, Paul Orndorff, and Mutō Keiji. He also helped the Japanese wrestlers in the U.S., including Takachiho Akihisa, Gō Ryūma, and Nishimura Osamu. Matsuda was famous for being very stiff with his trainees to toughen them up and teach them to respect the business. His most famous story involved him being very tough on a young Hulk Hogan in his first day of training and breaking his leg. After Hogan healed, he came right back to Matsuda's school, looking to continue his training. Matsuda was so impressed by his display of "guts" that he trained him properly from that day on.
In 1985/1, Florida promoter Eddie Graham committed suicide, and Matsuda partnered with Duke Keomuka to take over the promotion. The Florida territory was merged into Jim Crockett Promotions, for which Matsuda would work as a heel manager.
His last bout was an exhibition match against Kido Osamu on 1990/12/26 in Hamamatsu.
Hiro Matsuda, who was one of the most famous Japanese wrestlers in the U.S., passed away of cancer on 1999/11/27 in his second hometown Tampa.
- puroresu.com: Hiro Matsuda
- Nikkan Sports obituary (in Japanese)
- The Archives of Championship Wrestling from Florida