|Ring name(s)||Jumbo Tsuruta|
|Real name||Tsuruta Tomomi|
|Billed height||196 cm (6 ft 5 in)|
|Billed weight||127 kg (280 lb; 20.0 st)|
|Died||2000/5/13 (aged 49)|
Dory Funk Jr.
Jumbo Tsuruta (ジャンボ鶴田) was a Japanese professional wrestler. His real name is Tsuruta Tomomi (鶴田友美). Many consider Tsuruta as one of the best wrestlers ever.
Tsuruta was born to the parents who owned a large vineyard in Yamanashi Prefecture.
He was a basketball player until the first year at Chūō University but left the team when he realized that Japan was not good enough to compete in the Olympics. He then joined the wrestling team, believing that it would be easier to participate in the Olympics. Less than a year and half, Tsuruta won the All Japan Amateur Wrestling Championship in both free-style and greco-roman divisions in 1971 and 1972 and represented Japan in the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany for the 100kg greco-roman division.
Soon after, Tsuruta was scouted by Giant Baba of All Japan Pro-Wrestling and was sent to Amarillo to be trained by the Funk family. He was so talented that he was chosen as a challenger for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, then held by Dory Funk Jr., on 1973/05/02 in Albaquerque, New Mexico, just less than three months after his debut. Tsuruta was the first Japanese wrestler to be cheered by an American crowd, due to his wrestling ability and hard work ethic.
He returned to Japan later in the year and became the Number 2 guy of the promotion under Baba. On 1973/10/27, he was given "Jumbo" as his ring name. He would later win NWA United National Heavyweight Championship, which was previously held by the legendary wresters such as Antonio Inoki and Sakaguchi Seiji during the JWA days. Also, Baba selected Tsuruta as his partner to win NWA International Tag Team Championship in 1975 and held six times until 1984.
After Baba stepped down from main stream in early 1980s, Tsuruta took over as the top star of the promotion. On 1983/8/31, he defeated Bruiser Brody to win NWA International Heavyweight Championship, which was known as the "Treasure of Japan". He was also the first Japanese to win AWA World Heavyweight Championship, defeating Nick Bockwinkel in 1984. He was the one who unified the three prestigeous heavyweight titles of All Japan and became the first unified Triple Crown heavyweight champion. Besides Brody and Bockwinkel, he also had the legendary feuds against the great gaijin stars including Mil Mascaras, Stan Hansen, Harley Race, Ric Flair, and Ric Martel as well as the Japanese natives such as Tenryū Gen'ichirō, Riki Chōshū, and Tsuruta's own deshi, Misawa Mitsuharu. And along with Yatsu Yoshiaki, he unified two tag team titles in All Japan (the NWA International Tag Team Championship and the PWF Tag Team Championship).
In 1992, he suffered the Hepatitis B and was hospitalized for a lengthy period of time. When he returned to the ring, he was no longer allowed by the doctor to be active as a top star and mainly wrestled in mid-card tag team matches.
Just about a month after the death of his teacher Giant Baba, Jumbo Tsuruta officially retired from professional wrestling on March 6th, 1999. After his great wrestling career, he became an assisstant professor of the University of Portland; however, due to excessive bleeding during a liver transplant operation in Phillippines, Tsuruta passed away on May 13, 2000. He will always be remembered as one of the toughest and strongest men in the history of puroresu.