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Akebono Tarō is a retired sumo wrestler. Joining the professional sport in Japan in 1988, he was trained by pioneering Hawaiian sumo wrestler Takamiyama and rose swiftly up the rankings, reaching the top division in 1990. After two consecutive yusho or tournament championships in November 1992 and January 1993 he made history by becoming the first foreign born wrestler ever to reach yokozuna, the highest rank in sumo.

One of the tallest and heaviest wrestlers ever, Akebono's rivalry with the young Japanese hopes, Takanohana and Wakanohana, was a big factor in the increased popularity of sumo at tournament venues and on TV in the early 1990s.[1] During his eight years at the yokozuna rank, Akebono won a further eight tournament championships, for a career total of eleven, and was a runner-up on thirteen other occasions, despite suffering several serious injury problems. Although his rival yokozuna Takanohana won more tournaments in this period, their individual head-to-heads remained very close.

Akebono became a Japanese citizen in 1996 and after retiring in 2001, he worked as a coach at Azumazeki stable before leaving the Sumo Association in 2003. After an unsuccessful period as a K-1 fighter, he is now a freelance professional wrestler, and is one half of the AJPW All Asia Tag Team Champions with Ryota Hama, at the All Japan Pro Wrestling promotion.

Early lifeEdit

Rowan was born on May 8, 1969 to Randolph and Janice Rowan.[2] He grew up with two younger brothers,[2] one of whom, Ola, also became a sumo wrestler for a brief period after Chad. He attended Kaiser High School, where he played basketball and became an All-Star center.[2] He went to Hawaii Pacific University on a basketball scholarship, but sat out his freshman season.[2]

Early careerEdit

Rowan was planning to study for a career in hotel management,[3] but he had always been interested in sumo from watching television broadcasts, and a family friend introduced him to Azumazeki Oyakata, the former Takamiyama, who also originally hailed from HawaiTemplate:Okinai.[3] Azumazeki overcame his initial concerns that Rowan might be too tall and his legs too long for sumo, and agreed to let him join his Azumazeki stable, founded in 1986. Rowan flew to Japan in early 1988. Adopting the shikona of Akebono, meaning "new dawn" in Japanese,[4], he made his professional debut in March 1988.[5] This entry cohort was one of the most successful ever, producing two other yokozuna, Takanohana and Wakanohana (sons of the popular champion from the 1970s, Takanohana Kenshi), as well as a great ozeki, Kaio.[6]

Akebono rose rapidly through the ranks, equaling the record for the most consecutive kachikoshi (majority of wins in a sumo championship) from debut, reaching sekiwake before suffering his first makekoshi losing record. He was promoted to juryo in March 1990, the first sekitori from his stable, and to makuuchi in September of the same year.[7] He made his top division debut in the same tournament as Wakanohana, as well as Takatoriki and Daishoyama. In the November 1990 tournament he was awarded his first special prize, for Fighting Spirit, and in January 1991 he earned his first gold star for defeating yokozuna Asahifuji. In March 1991 he defeated ozeki Konishiki in the first ever match between two non-Japanese wrestlers in the top division.[3]

PromotionEdit

In 1992, after a year of 8-7 or 7-8 records near the top of the makuuchi division, Akebono suddenly came alive with a 13-2 record in January of that year, narrowly losing the top division championship to Takanohana.[8] A second 13-2 record two tournaments later, in May, saw him win the top division championship for the first time, and with it promotion to ozeki.[8] After an injury during the summer, he went on to win consecutive championships in November 1992 and January 1993 to win promotion to Yokozuna.[8] At the time of his promotion, the rank of yokozuna had been vacant for 8 months (an exceedingly rare occurrence) and his promotion, despite the fact that he was the first foreign yokozuna, was welcomed by many. He had met the stipulation of winning two consecutive tournaments that had been mentioned by the Yokozuna Deliberation Council when turning down Konishiki the previous year, and was also seen as having conducted himself with the dignity and humility necessary for such an exalted rank.[9] One commentator remarked, "He makes me forget he is a foreigner because of his earnest attitude towards sumo."[9]

Yokozuna eraEdit

Akebono was a long standing and strong Yokozuna, lasting nearly eight years in the rank and winning the top division championship on a further eight occasions. His career highlights include the rare achievement of winning the top division championship in three consecutive tournaments, in 1993. In July 1993 he beat Takanohana and Wakanohana in consecutive matches to win the honbasho when all three ended up tied at the end of the 15 day tournament,[2] and in May 1997 he defeated Takanohana twice on the final day, once in their regular match and once in a playoff, to win his first title in over two years. The competition between Akebono and Takanohana, who reached yokozuna himself in 1995, was said to be one of the great defining rivalries of postwar sumo.[10] The two finished their careers with a 20-20 tie in bouts against one another.[11] At the opening ceremony of the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, a professional sumo wrestler was chosen to represent each of the competing countries and lead them into the stadium. After Takanohana fell ill, Akebono was given the honor of representing Japan in the opening ceremony.[12] Akebono also led other sumo wrestlers in a ring cleansing ceremony at the Opening Ceremony (also meant to cleanse the stadium itself).

Akebono was quite susceptible to injury because of his height and weight.[13] He suffered his first serious knee injury in May 1994 when, after winning his first ten matches, he lost a bout to Takatoriki and fell awkwardly. He flew to Los Angeles and underwent career-saving surgery.[14] From November 1998 to March 1999 he missed three successive tournaments due to a herniated disc in his lower back and faced calls for his retirement.[14] However, after receiving the personal backing of the Chairman of the Japan Sumo Association,[14] he scored a respectable 11-4 record in his comeback tournament in May 1999. In 2000 he enjoyed his first completely injury-free year since 1993 and won two tournaments, finishing as runner-up in three others. He won 76 bouts out of a possible 90, the best record of any wrestler that year.

Fighting styleEdit

Akebono was one of the tallest sumo wrestlers ever, at 203 cm (6 ft 8 in) tall, and also one of the heaviest with a fighting weight around 235 kg (517 lb).[5] Despite having long legs, considered a disadvantage in sumo as it tends to make one top heavy and susceptible to throws, he covered for this by training exceptionally hard, and using his long reach to thrust his opponents out of the dohyo (ring).[14] In his prime, he had incredible thrusting strength and on many occasions would blast lesser wrestlers out of the ring in one or two strokes.[14] His most common winning kimarite or technique was oshi-dashi, a simple push out, and he also regularly won by tsuki-dashi, the thrust out. In later years he also used his reach to more often grab his opponent's mawashi, or belt, and then use his weight and power to force the opponent from the ring by yori-kiri. He liked a migi-yotsu, or left hand outside, right hand inside grip, and was fond of using his left hand to employ uwatenage, or overarm throw.

Sumo top division recordEdit

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Post-retirement careerEdit

File:SumoAkebono.jpg
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After winning his eleventh top division title in November 2000,[15] he suffered another injury and, after sitting out the tournament in January 2001, he decided to retire rather than face a daunting struggle back to fighting fitness. After his retirement, he became a member (or elder) of the Japan Sumo Association as a coach, or oyakata, and worked with his former mentor in the Azumazeki stable.[13] He helped train the Mongolian wrestler Asashoryu who also became a yokozuna, and Akebono instructed him on how to perform the dohyo-iri, or yokozuna ring-entering ceremony.[14]

While an oyakata, Akebono also appeared in TV commercials and opened a restaurant called ZUNA.[16][17]

Akebono left the Sumo Association in November 2003 to join K-1.[18] The decision was influenced by financial problems due to the failure of his restaurant, among other financial difficulties. His koenkai, or supporters network, had dissolved after his marriage in 1998, depriving him of a valuable source of income.[14] In addition, he earned far less as an oyakata than he had as a yokozuna.[14] K-1 offered him a chance to clear his debts by fighting for them.[19]

He has managed only one win in 12 bouts in K-1 and mixed martial arts career. Because of this, he has been referred to as Makebono (make meaning "lose" in Japanese) by some fight fans and magazines in Japan.[20]

He has also wrestled professionally in Japan for All Japan Pro Wrestling and New Japan Pro Wrestling[20] and made an appearance at World Wrestling Entertainment's (WWE) WrestleMania 21 in a sumo match against the Big Show.[21]

After training with Satoru Sayama (the original Tiger Mask), he returned to the New Japan ring in the prestigious G1 Tournament which ran from August 5 to August 12, 2007. He defeated Togi Makabe and Hiroyoshi Tenzan but failed to progress to the semifinal stage.[22] He also joined the HUSTLE promotion as the character "Monster Bono", the offspring of The Great Muta and Yinling.

Kickboxing and mixed martial arts recordEdit

Template:Start box |- |December 31, 2003 |style="background: #ffdddd; color: black; vertical-align: middle; text-align: center; " class="table-no2" |Loss |0-1 |United States flag Bob Sapp |K-1 Premium 2003 Dynamite!! |KO |Round 1, 2:55 |- |March 27, 2004 |style="background: #ffdddd; color: black; vertical-align: middle; text-align: center; " class="table-no2" |Loss |0-2 |Japan flag Musashi |K-1 World Grand Prix 2004 in Saitama |Decision 0-3 |3 Rounds |- |July 17, 2004 |style="background: #ffdddd; color: black; vertical-align: middle; text-align: center; " class="table-no2" |Loss |0-3 |China flag Zhang Qing Jun |K-1 World Grand Prix 2004 in Seoul |Decision 0-3 |3 Rounds + Extra Round |- |August 7, 2004 |style="background: #ffdddd; color: black; vertical-align: middle; text-align: center; " class="table-no2" |Loss |0-4 |United States flag Rick Roufus |K-1 World Grand Prix 2004 in Las Vegas II |Decision 0-3 |3 Rounds |- |September 25, 2004 |style="background: #ffdddd; color: black; vertical-align: middle; text-align: center; " class="table-no2" |Loss |0-5 |Netherlands flag Remy Bonjasky |K-1 World Grand Prix 2004 Final Elimination |KO (High Kick) |Round 3, 0:33 |- |December 31, 2004 |style="background: #ffdddd; color: black; vertical-align: middle; text-align: center; " class="table-no2" |Loss |0-6 |Brazil flag Royce Gracie |K-1 Premium 2004 Dynamite!! |Submission (omoplata) |Round 1, 2:13 (MMA) |- |- |March 19, 2005 |style="background: #ddffdd; color: black; vertical-align: middle; text-align: center; " class="table-yes2" |Win |1-6 |Japan flag Nobuaki Kakuda |K-1 World Grand Prix 2005 in Seoul |Decision 3-0 |3 Rounds |- |March 19, 2005 |style="background: #ffdddd; color: black; vertical-align: middle; text-align: center; " class="table-no2" |Loss |1-7 |South Korea flag Choi Hong-man |K-1 World Grand Prix 2005 in Seoul |TKO |Round 1, 0:42 |- |July 29, 2005 |style="background: #ffdddd; color: black; vertical-align: middle; text-align: center; " class="table-no2" |Loss |1-8 |South Korea flag Choi Hong-man |K-1 World Grand Prix 2005 in Hawaii |TKO |Round 1, 2:52 |- |December 31, 2005 |style="background: #ffdddd; color: black; vertical-align: middle; text-align: center; " class="table-no2" |Loss |1-9 |Nigeria flag Bobby Ologun |K-1 Premium 2005 Dynamite!! |Decision 0-3 |3 Rounds (MMA) |- |July 30, 2006 |style="background: #ffdddd; color: black; vertical-align: middle; text-align: center; " class="table-no2" |Loss |1-10 |South Korea flag Choi Hong-man |K-1 World Grand Prix 2006 in Sapporo |KO |Round 2, 0:57 |- |March 3, 2006 |style="background: #ffdddd; color: black; vertical-align: middle; text-align: center; " class="table-no2" |Loss |1-11 |United States flag Don Frye |HERO'S 2006 |Submission (Front choke sleeper hold) |Round 2, 3:50 (MMA) |- |December 31, 2006 |style="background: #ffdddd; color: black; vertical-align: middle; text-align: center; " class="table-no2" |Loss |1-12 |Brazil flag Giant Silva |K-1 Premium 2006 Dynamite!! |Submission (Armlock) |Round 1, 1:02 (MMA) Template:End box

Professional wrestling championships and accomplishmentsEdit

Personal lifeEdit

He became a Japanese citizen in 1996, giving up his American nationality and changing his legal name from Chad Rowan to Akebono Tarō, as required by Japanese law.[14] At the end of 1996 he was engaged to Yu Aihara, a television tarento, but broke it off the following year.[14] In February 1998, Akebono announced his engagement to Christiane Reiko Kalina, a teacher who is of Japanese and American descent.[23] They married in September 1998 and have one son and a daughter.[24]

See alsoEdit

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ReferencesEdit

  1. Template:Cite news
  2. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named greatath
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Template:Cite book
  4. Template:Cite book
  5. 5.0 5.1 Akebono. Japan Sumo Association. Retrieved on 2007-06-02.
  6. Kaio. Japan Sumo Association. Retrieved on 2007-06-02.
  7. Akebono Taro Rikishi Information. Sumo Reference. Retrieved on 20 April 2009.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Rikishi In Makunouchi and Juryo. szumo.hu. Retrieved on 2007-06-02.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Pollack ,Andrew (1993-01-26). Sumo Bows and Opens Sacred Door to U.S. Star. New York Times. Retrieved on 2008-04-17.
  10. http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/sports/20070530TDY24001.htm
  11. Lewin, Brian (August 2005). What will become of the dynasty?. Sumo Fan Magazine. Retrieved on 2008-06-05.
  12. "Winter Olympics: Akebono to lead sumo's debut on Olympic stage". The London Independent (1998-01-29). Retrieved on 2007-06-02.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Sumo great Akebono retires. BBC News (2001-01-22). Retrieved on 2007-06-02.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4 14.5 14.6 14.7 14.8 14.9 Template:Cite book
  15. Akebono claims 11th title. BBC News (2000-11-19). Retrieved on 2007-06-02.
  16. New TV Commercial for BOSS On-Air. Suntory (2003-08-26). Retrieved on 2007-06-02.
  17. Akebono lives life to the full. Japan Times (2003-05-23). Archived from the original on 2012-07-13. Retrieved on 2007-06-02.
  18. Making a big move. Time Magazine online (2003-11-18). Retrieved on 2007-06-02.
  19. Akebono dumps sumo to roll in K1 pay dirt. Mainichi Daily News (2003-11-11). Retrieved on 2007-06-02.
  20. 20.0 20.1 After K-1 KO, 'Makebono' bounces back from the dead. Mainichi Daily News (2006-02-28). Archived from the original on 2007-05-14. Retrieved on 2007-06-13.
  21. Jon Waldman (2005-04-06). WrestleMania 21 Breaking down the numbers. SLAM! Sports. Retrieved on 2007-07-07.
  22. G1 Climax 2007. Puroresufan.com. Retrieved on 2007-08-22.
  23. Joji Sakurai (1998-02-10). Love story spans across the pacific. Honolulu Star Bulletin. Retrieved on 2007-07-23.
  24. Gordon, Mike (2001-02-05). Aching knees at rest, Akebono rides again. Honolulu Advertiser. Retrieved on 2008-03-17.

External linksEdit

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