Hello, my friends! It’s great to be back after these last 3+ months of being a sideline player in the puroresu scene, and let me tell ya it’s been a pretty bumpy ride, but there was no way I wasn’t gonna come back with my friends on the site and those who take the time and enjoy it. Now with that said, I wish I could sit here and say I was inspired by recent tragic events of the last few days, the truth is this was always the planned return date, as I thought doing a week on Nakamura right during his NXT debut would be a great idea for both a return point as well as good publicity for the site to have something on such a timely topic as him, however there’s more important things than match buildup so that will have to wait until next week, and as soon as I found out about the tragic passing of Hayabusa I knew this was going to be done in his honor. However, I will say right off the bat that hopefully I can help provide a unique perspective and it’s something that makes this by far most challenging article to write and it’s something where I differ on many…I was not a fan of FMW at all. I always disliked Onita for many reasons, and deathmatches were something that while there were some that caught me and I thought were excellent (Megumi Kudo/Combat Toyota would likely rank in my top 25 matches of any kind of the 90s) it wasn’t something that grabbed me and it isn’t something I have a great knowledge base of as many others do, including my partner in crime, head honcho of Puroresu Spirit, and good buddy, BushidoRX. That said Hayabusa, beyond his wrestling is someone I’ve always respected as a legend and inspirational figure. And really just one look at him as Hayabusa showed he had a great mystique and aura about him, everything about his presentation is just so cool that you couldn’t help but be a fan of him. Every time he walked out to that great theme song, you just knew something spectacular was going to happen, so I couldn’t wait to revisit some of things I’ve seen and in particular one famous and legendary match I never even attempted to watch before and I couldn’t to wait to see it. I truly hope you all enjoy journeying through this wrestling hero’s career arc with me and help celebrate the great impact he had on so many people.
Before Hayabusa was born though, there was the man behind the mask. Eiji Ezaki grew up watching his childhood favorites Mil Máscaras and Tiger Mask with his grandpa, who bonded with his grandson by watching the wrestling they loved and going to New Japan shows together when they would tour the Kyushu region of Japan. Now unlike where many wrestlers came from, Kyushu is a separate island from the mainland and the southernmost part of Japan’s main islands. Ezaki came from a wealthy family and was able to go to Kumamoto Gakuen University, a privately funded College, where he met a fellow wrestling enthusiast named Masashi Honda. After wrestling in the training promotion in College together, Honda suggested the two friends join FMW’s training dojo to become true wrestlers. Ezaki’s parents were not very amused by their son’s choice of not graduating College to become a wrestler, and renounced any financial support to help him fly to the mainland, as well as took away the cushy office job they’d lined up for their son at the hotel they owned if he did. Still, Ezaki chased his dream and with the help of his SWA friends who helped pay for his plane ticket he was able to make it to FMW’s dojo with Honda and 38 other men trying out, though sadly only two passed that tryout to officially become young boys…Eiji Ezaki & Masashi Honda.
From that point on Ezaki lived the life of a young boy in puroresu, getting beat up and losing a lot, putting rings together and paying dues, as well as trying to learn and make a name for himself. Here’s a rare look at Eiji Ezaki, not Hayabusa, wrestling a match in his very first year vs his longtime pal Honda. A very different look at both men with the bigger Honda controlling the early going with a rolling Kimura, before switching to assaulting Ezaki’s leg, including a sweet bridging leglock that got the crowd applauding, but Ezaki one upped him, in just 3 simple moves, including his patented Spinning Heel Kick, Missle Dropkick, and Cross Armbar, the crowd was fully on the top student Ezaki’s side and he earned the submission win. A basic affair, but even then it was clear these two had bright futures and is well worth taking 3 minutes to check out and see.
As a young boy Ezaki was FMW’s prized pupil, having much more athleticism and impact to his moves than a typical trainee, Onita was said to have picked Ezaki as his personal favorites, and in arguably the biggest match of his career under his real name, won against his buddy Honda. Still, although his skills may have been favored, Honda had the size advantage, and when it was time for moving someone up the card, Honda would get to alter his gimmick to Mr. Gannosuke and move up the card. By 1993 he had begun doing more high flying moves in his matches and seemed ready to take hold of his destiny, with Onita sending his favorite student to the home of the greatest flyers in the world, México. Ezaki, being a longtime fan of Mil Máscaras jumped headfirst into the Lucha Libre style, deciding to come up with his own masked character, Hayabusa (“Falcon”) as the bird that never dies, utilizing his Falcon and Phoenix motifs for his memorable character look eventually, though that look sometimes didn’t translate in other countries like México and the United States at first, he pushed forward and did well, meeting Méxican legends like Mil Máscaras, his brother Dos Caras, his main trainer in México Rey Misterio Sr., and the future Rey Misterio Jr, wrestling in WWA & AAA for around half a year until something happened that would change the career of Hayabusa, as well as many other wrestlers…
In 1994, a tournament was set up with the intention of putting on a showcase for Junior Heavyweight Wrestlers from all different promotions and put on a great show. They succeeded, with NJPW hosting the tournament running head to head against All Japan’s Champion Carnival Final that saw Toshiaki Kawada take on “Dr. Death” Steve Williams, the Super J Cup sold out Sumo Hall, bringing in a rabid crowd. For FMW’s representative, the company wanted to send a wrestler that would prove that FMW wasn’t just a garbage federation, they had great wrestlers too. So FMW promoter and announcer Shoichi Arai put in the call to their secret weapon in México, telling him of the big plans for the tournament and that Hayabusa was the one to represent FMW. Ezaki of course when being handed this huge opportunity said no, saying it’d only been months and he wasn’t ready yet. Arai was flabbergasted but, after later explaining that Jushin “Thunder” Liger handpicked him to be his opponent, somehow in those few days Hayabusa progressed enough to be ready. So here we are, Hayabusa’s very first match as Hayabusa in Japan, taking on the legendary Jushin Liger in his first round matchup.
Now, this in a lot of ways is the perfect match for its’ card placement. This was not a great match in a traditional sense, but told a story, helped put both men over and built anticipation for later better and more important matches on the show. Liger is asserting his dominance throughout and keeping things under control while Hayabusa, this mysterious newcomer is a wildman, attacking Liger from jump street and pulling out all the stops, though truthfully Hayabusa was probably right about him not being truly ready yet, as he was still a bit green and he messed up his moves at times. But in the context of it being him, and his aura, it didn’t really do any harm (outside of probably hurting himself a bit on a not well done Shooting Star Press miss), if it didn’t help him outright for looking daring, creative, and reckless, he impressed the crowd and showed his great potential. After a very spirited and fun match, Liger put his young opponent away after a Fisherman’s Buster, with Liger shaking Hayabusa’s hand after the match and making him look great. A great start to the Phoenix’s career in Japan, and the start of a legitimate friendship between the two masked legend. The feelings are good. Very good.
After his match with Liger in the Super J Cup the mysterious Hayabusa would gain newfound popularity, surpassing anything he had done as a young boy for FMW, but Hayabusa didn’t really get to be aware of it or take it in as true to his word of not being ready, despite his successful performance against Liger, Hayabusa traveled back to México just 3 days later, though due to a Visa issue ended up this time going to México’s top promotion, CMLL. During this time CMLL was going through a rebuilding phase as they were still in the wake of the AAA-split, to those unfamiliar with Lucha Libre a loose comp could be made to AJPW & NOAH, though not as bad as that thankfully. What was bad was also one of their greatest young stars and most spectacular flyers, Oro, tragically died after taking a bump on his neck on the apron wrong, allegedly in imitation of Kenta Kobashi’s famous bump. Ultímo Dragon, impressed by the young flyer helped Hayabusa with his visa issues and got him a job with CMLL, with the intention to help fill the gap that Oro’s death left months prior. Hayabusa was very successful and has a very strong legacy in México to this day, with many Luchadores influenced by him. In CMLL he formed a regular team with Ultímo and learned the Asai Moonsault from the legend, only returning once more to FMW in 1994, defeating his idol and greatest influence in Sabu in August. After wrapping up 1994 in CMLL he wrestled in Florida working for Horace Hogan and helping Mike Awesome along, preparing for a feud in FMW upon return.
At the time FMW was going through a myriad of changes as FMW founder and longtime top star Atsushi Onita was “retiring” and he was preparing for a much publicized retirement match vs. Tarzan Goto. However due to Onita being an egomaniac and needing to win, Goto felt angry and that he couldn’t succeed as an ace like that, so he decided to take his ball and his guys (including Mr. Gannosuke) to rival promotion IWA Japan. So, knowing FMW would need to rebuild with Onita leaving, Hayabusa’s time was going to come much sooner than expected, in fact only in his second match in FMW as Hayabusa and his first being 9 months prior. In hindsight again he wasn’t ready for this level of push and was going to have to shoulder the brunt of others’ bad decision making and step up. During a press conference set to announce Sumo Champ, AJPW tag team stalwart and future Big Japan founder Takashi Ishikawa as Onita’s final opponent, Hayabusa showed up out of the blue to wreak havoc and demand Onita face him for his retirement and just two weeks out, it was set.
So in the biggest match of his career and his full time return to his home promotion Hayabusa was thrust into the spotlight, main eventing the promotion’s biggest star’s retirement match in front of nearly 60,000 fans in the biggest match in the history of the company in Kawasaki Stadium in the Exploding Ring Barbed Wire Cage Deathmatch.
Now as mentioned at the start of all this I have a dislike of Deathmatch wrestling and Onita so I had never seen this legendary match before now, and was immediately taken aback by the handshake to start off this display of brutality between the two competitors. It’s very hard to really describe this as a match other than it being a complete spectacle, even the referee decked out in a special protective suit as when the time ran out as many of you know, the cage would “explode”. A large portion of the earlygoing was both men trying to avoid the the electrified barbed wire, at one point Onita locking Hayabusa into a Half Crab right next to the wire, a great spot and use of psychology in this kind of match. With just 3 minutes left in the match sirens go off and Hayabusa has a great bit of selling looking around as if in fear. Everything from the figure four was absolutely enthralling, and then Hayabusa running right into the cage as it exploded really showed how far the youngster was willing to go to prove his toughness and the ensuing kickout of the Thunder Fire Bomb has to be one of the better nearfalls and use of that trope I can ever remember, and I’ve seen a lot of wrestling. Anyway to wrap this up, I thought this was an outstanding performance, and not just because Hayabusa is recently departed, but both men put on a surprisingly smart and obviously tough effort, particularly Hayabusa after being put in a near impossible position fully succeeded and it’s very easy to see why these matches made him so beloved. Sadly, there’s one major flaw in this match that I simply can’t overlook. Onita’s selfishness of putting himself over, despite Hayabusa’s performance and stunts such as the Exploding Cage or even the Moonsault from the Cage hurt Hayabusa’s ability to be accepted as an ace and in effect set the wheels in motion of the FMW ship sinking. I think this match’s legacy looking back on it is a great “What if?” and how Hayabusa, Onita, Goto, Gannosuke, and FMW would have turned out differently and likely better had Onita done the right thing. However this is about Hayabusa, and regardless of that question, he gave his heart to the FMW fanbase on 5/5/95 and produced a great match and show of spirit.
As I said, Onita’s selfishness set Hayabusa’s ability to be a successful ace and therefore FMW as a whole back years. Hayabusa suffered nearly 70 stitches after his death defying match, the drop in attendance was felt immediately, at one point so bad the remaining fans would leave after Megumi Kudo’s match, not bothering to give the newcomer who lost a chance. Part of the problem being Hayabusa promising that the new generation would be just as good as Onita, Ricky Fuji put together his new Lethal Weapon faction, with Hisakatsu Oya pinning the ace right away. He defeated Oya in the rematch in a FMW Brass Knuckles Championship decision match, which he then declined, setting up a tournament to truly earn the Brass Knuckles Title and crown a worthy champion. He made it to the Final and of course lost again, to one of his more famous rivals in The Gladiator, the two hugging and showing respect afterwards. Going into ’96 Hayabusa was a central figure in the FMW vs W*ING feud, which featured many many gruesome matches, including the first time he’d see Atsushi Onita in a year, and he’d show his mettle by losing again, getting pinned by Terry Funk in a tag team match featuring Mr. Pogo teaming with Funk and Masato Tanaka teaming with Hayabusa in a 1 million Yen deathmatch. Onita afterwards yelled at Hayabusa to man up to lead FMW. At this point he took a few months off after getting butchered by Mr. Pogo and suffering 110 stitches. He decided to do what anyone would when they wanted to go on vacation in 1996, go see WCW in America. At this time his old buddy Jushin Liger caught up with him, and asked Hayabusa to join up with his company in NJPW. He promised Hayabusa would be a top Jr. Heavyweight star and make lots more money. Still, again Ezaki would show his loyalty for better or worse, he was an FMW man through and through. His decision hurt their friendship, with Liger angry and the falling out would last nearly a decade before they reconciled. At the turn of 1997, he’d see the start of arguably his greatest rivalry…
His longtime friend Mr. Gannosuke made his return in January, years after leaving with Tarzan Goto originally, taunting Hayabusa and joining Terry Funk’s Funk Masters of Wrestling as “The REAL FMW”. This built to a well remembered match and even more well remembered angle where Hayabusa beat Gannosuke in a mask vs. hair match, afterwards Hayabusa would say he didn’t have to cut his hair if he’d apologize for leaving FMW and leave the Funk Masters of Wrestling for good. Also in 1997 saw Hayabusa wrestle for All Japan Pro wrestling with a series of tag matches with Jinsei Shinzaki including participating in the Real World Tag Tournament League. Although they didn’t win much Hayabusa wrestled with the greatest wrestlers alive like Kobashi, Misawa, Kawada, & Akiyama and really grew as a pure wrestler. Back in FMW by the end of the year Gannosuke had joined the fully returned Atsushi Onita’s ZEN group, though by the end of the year Onita’s egomaniacal ways had spilled over to actual shows instead of just behind the scenes, with Gannosuke and his partners Yukihiro Kanemura & Hido angry that Onita kept putting himself in the main events all the time. Things would come to a head just two days after Hayabusa won the 6 Man Street Fight Tag Team Titles teaming with Hisakatsu Oya & Masato Tanaka, beating the ZEN team of Onita, Hido, & Tetsuhiro Kuroda. The climax of the ZEN group in a lot of ways is today’s match. From December 22nd, 1997, it’s another cage match! “War Games” seeing ZEN of Atsushi Onita teaming with Mr. Gannosuke and W*ING Kanemura vs. Hayabusa, Jinsei Shinzaki, & Masato Tanaka.
Now first of all, this starts off with negative points right away for having my pet peeve of being billed as a War Games with only 1 ring. Hayabusa could have done some awesome stuff with two rings. Anyway, various handcuffs were attached to the cage as well as a barbed wire bat hanging over the ring. Things start off with Hayabusa & W*ING, fighting with the ladder and trying to get the bat, which W*ING does but Hayabusa immediately nabs it and beats on W*ING with it until Gannosuke and Tanaka come out, Tanaka looking ridiculous in black jeans and a yellow tank top, whenever someone, particularly Hayabusa would attack Gannosuke the crowd would pop huge, showing his greatness. Suddenly to my surprise Onita runs out in a Bret Hart tribute. Now, I never liked him as a wrestler but the difference in star presence between the Onita in the exploding cage and here was miles different. This whole match was just a fun brawl, the violence never came close to reaching the absurd levels seen in ’95. One of my problems was a lot of usage of the handcuffs on Shinzaki and stuff really broke up a lot of the flow here when things were really hot. But this match is relevant to this bio on Hayabusa entirely because of it’s finish which even 18+ years later I was stunned by. As a beautiful callback to 5/5/95, Hayabusa scaled the cage, this time successfully hitting the Moonsault from the top, getting the only direct win over Onita of his career. This win felt special and came through as such even now, Hayabusa truly felt like a made man at this point. Of course because it’s Onita, the post match is entirely about him and his group, allowing no time for Hayabusa’s team to celebrate as Gannosuke & W*ING dispatched them and turned on ZEN & Onita fully. (Gannosuke & W*ING were too focused on beating up Shinzaki to break up Hayabusa’s pin at the end of the match and all this built up to a surprise return of Koji Nakagawa joining ZEN after quitting FMW a month prior.) Regardless of all that, Hayabusa got arguably the biggest win of his career in a great moment. Hayabusa, Tanaka, & Gannosuke all really shined in this. Check it out and get ready to be through with Hayabusa cage matches up next is what is felt by many to be one of the highlight matches of The Phoenix.
Now Hayabusa had finally overcame Onita, and he was set to really shine as the ace of FMW. Well, not right away though as when 1998 rolled around he was still primarily teaming with Jinsei Shinzaki to kick off the year, while the top story of the promotion revolved around Mr. Gannosuke and his newly formed faction Team No Respect, at one point Gannosuke holding the main Singles, Tag, and Trios titles of FMW all at once. At that point a tournament was announced to determine Gannosuke’s next challenger. Before the tournament started, Hayabusa, the most popular wrestler in the promotion, lost to veteran Kodo Fuyuki. During the month of March, Hayabusa would run through the tournament, defeating Masato Tanaka, Jado, & finally The Gladiator, earning his first match against longtime friend and rival Mr. Gannosuke in one year and one day after the Mask vs Hair match, and his first challenge for FMW’s top prize since 1995. Here it is, Hayabusa challenging Mr. Gannosuke for the FMW Double Titles from April 30th, 1998.
This is already a significant departure from the hardcore wrestling seen in the style of the cage matches and battles against Onita, this was much more similar to watching one of their young boy matches from 1991 and thinking of the best evolution of those two over 7 years and character evolution. I wonder how the FMW crowd of this era took to this style of traditional world title match over the bloodbaths FMW made it’s reputation on or even the wild and reckless high flying Hayabusa was known for. Much of the earlygoing of this match is hold trading and Hayabusa working on Gannosuke’s leg, including a figure four and I was very impressed how the earlygoing that you may at first glance is simply filler limbwork as we’ve seen so many times in modern day NJPW world title matches, but this very much played into who gets what advantage later on. These two had amazing chemistry and the match clearly reaches a next level of “big moves” and a traditional big match style once Gannosuke gets the Gannosuke Clutch, the pacing and sense of urgency was very strong and one of my favorite parts of the match was the sense of wear and tear by Gannosuke, after hitting Fire Thunder, only managing to pin Hayabusa with his legs which is something not seen often in wrestling. Really cool counters to Hayabusa’s flying and even a couple of countout teases, by the end the crowd is rallying around the masked hero, and at times the reckless and sloppy Phoenix, on this night hit a great Phoenix Splash, finally truly reaching the pinnacle of the company and achieving his place as the World Champion. For those who want a look at Hayabusa and dislike hardcore wrestling, this is the match for you, in arguably the greatest victory of his in-ring career.
Hayabusa, finally booked as the star of the company and it was great for him that he finally got his due, but the reality is FMW wasn’t at it’s highest point in terms of popularity and in a lot of ways was a last ditch effort by letting the company’s most popular star have his big win. With that said, he performed well as the champion, fighting with the heart and effort that was his trademark at this time and solidifying himself as the heart and soul of FMW. He had a near 7 month reign with defenses against Masato Tanaka, W*ING Kanemura, Hisakatsu Oya, Jado, & Koji Nakagawa before finally losing the title to old man Kodo Fuyuki, ending his record setting Double Titles reign. Highlights of this time period for Hayabusa as well is the match that many American fans were first introduced to the Phoenix, his tag team match in ECW at Heatwave 1998 with Jinsei Shinzaki, losing to the team of Rob Van Dam and Hayabusa’s idol Sabu. Just two weeks later we saw the Darkside of Hayabusa come out, taking on rival and Team No Respect member Koji Nakagawa, complete with a new look, a sinister remix to his theme, and a dirty wrestling style, we began to see Eiji Ezaki’s creativity show through on that night. After losing the title we saw Hayabusa split between feuding with Gannosuke in FMW, winning and defending the All Asia Tag Titles in AJPW with Jinsei Shinzaki, and having all of his friends in FMW turn on him. (including a brief alliance with Kodo Fuyuki that didn’t work out and ended up leading to Fuyuki becoming the FMW Commissioner) Afterwards Fuyuki adopted an isolationist policy which meant after losing the titles to AJPW team NO FEAR Hayabusa would stay in FMW. Then Fuyuki would decide that masked men were losers and that it was time for Eiji Ezaki to return, which Hayabusa thoroughly rejected. His last match was against Gannosuke that he would win, taking the gimmick out on a high note as the FMW Brass Knuckles Champion. (The Double Titles had been split by August 1999) It was then that we would see a new side of Eiji Ezaki, under neither his birth name nor Hayabusa, but…H.
H was a maskless character, with a more charismatic side of his attitude and adopting a new more grounded finishing move similar to a Uranage called the H Edge. The feud with Gannosuke took another turn when shortly after H’s debut Mr. Gannosuke ran down to the ring dressed as Hayabusa, calling himself Hayabusa, attacking H and announcing Hayabusa would be doing a porno. Then, things got even more bizarre, as H would challenge Hayabusa to the first, and hopefully last ever Anus Explosion match, with the winner setting a bottle rocket off in the loser’s anus, as a tribute to when both Ezaki & Honda did it after their first ever match at the behest of Onita. H would lose that match in a performance that was not in either man’s best ever catalogue. At this point Gannosuke complained to Fuyuki about wrestling as Hayabusa and how he didn’t want to anymore. H would rush the ring and eventually the police got involved after a violent brawl between the two. The rivalry gone out of control, FMW brought in the only man they felt could contain a match between the two. Today’s match is from FMW’s 10th Anniversary Show, H vs. Hayabusa, with Special Referee…the Heartbreak Kid, Shawn Michaels.
FMW in 1999 was a strange place, and Shawn was looking for a deal to help get the top students of his wrestling academy, Lance Cade and Brian Danielson booking in Japan in return for his appearance here.
I love Gannosuke but he just couldn’t pull off Hayabusa’s entrance with that music. On the flipside H has a pretty cool entrance with snow, but the music was a significant step down. Mouth on commentary rightly wonders why such a strange choice to ref this match and then points out that anything goes in FMW, which leads to “Hayabusa” (I’m referring to Gannosuke by Hayabusa and H as H) giving HBK a low blow, and with those shorts I immediately want Hayabusa to win. They start off brawling on the outside and into the crowd, but Hayabusa takes control and in the middle of this blood feud Hayabusa locks in a scissored headlock, before going after HBK again to which Michaels hilarious says “One more time and I’ll knock your ass out!”. He does do it one more time, to which HBK responds by hitting him with Sweet Chin Music and stupidly crotch chopping, which gets a surprisingly large reaction from the crowd. H backs off Michaels from attacking more until Hayabusa takes off his mask willingly. He’s Gannosuke again. Thankfully the action picks up and H looks really great on offense and things look to be trending upward when Gannosuke hits a very safe looking Air Raid Crash off the apron to the outside. There was a lot of good action and cool moves between the two and these two will always have strong chemistry. But some of H’s strikes were less than crisp and at the end of the day this was a step down from their April ’98 match, and at the end of the match H hit an awful looking Phoenix Splash that turned into a kind of cool Phoenix Splash Double Foot Stomp for the 3. After the match HBK tells Gannosuke to be a man and shake H’s hand, and unlike their famous 1997 match Gannosuke shakes hands, renewing the college buddies friendship and giving this story a happy ending. HBK gives props to both men and claims FMW is the #1 promotion in Japan. Err…
Anyway, there was too much Michaels involvement and it was hardly the greatest match ever, but I was happy to give a look at an H match as it shows that Ezaki was willing to try different things and be versatile. Now this gimmick and time period for FMW as a whole in hindsight wasn’t overly successful but unlike other promotions in Japan in the late 90’s tried to evolve rather than stay stagnant, which although it certainly could have been done better, deserves some credit. Plus the post-match and the emotions shown between the real life friends was great great stuff.
(Match stuff starts at 1:11:28)
The fallout to H and Mr. Gannosuke’s reunion was H’s other friends like Masato Tanaka was disgusted at H accepting Gannosuke and reuniting despite all of the dirty tactics used by Gannosuke since he returned against the FMW heroes, as H and Gannosuke won the WEW Tag Titles, with Tanaka saying FMW’s become a promotion full of pussies, which led to an ECW Japan faction led by Kodo Fuyuki and led to women’s wrestler Kyoko Inoue getting a pinfall victory over H in a tag match. Now, I love Kyoko Inoue. Actually probably better than Hayabusa quite frankly as a pure wrestler. But I wouldn’t at all be surprised if this was a moment that turned away fans in quick fashion and I’m unsure why something like this would be done, but we’ve seen FMW do crazy things. As the year went on, we saw H revert to his Hayabusa gimmick multiple times in one off fashion, presumably to pop a few houses here and there. Including the last match I will review today, a one of a kind performance, at the biggest video games convention in North America, E3. This was set up by the company TOKYOPOP who had a booth that year promoting their English language FMW DVDs in addition to their anime & manga products including one of my favorite shows, Sailor Moon!
So immediately we see the setup here with fans ringside, “Straight Up” John Watanabe from the English language DVDs joins us as the ring announcer, and shill master here. Now, a sidebar story just to set the record straight a bit, I’ve known people who’ve talked to Mr. Watanabe before on this as the insane and strange commentary on early TOKYOPOP releases are infamous among FMW fans. As it turns out that commentary was scripted out, and once his original partner was replaced with Dan “The Mouth” Lovranski, as in the H/Hayabusa match things were much less offensive. Here at E3 though John is more of a hypeman promising that FMW has lots of blood and is much better on home video. Here we have the team of Mr. Gannosuke, & Yoshihito Sasaki vs. Hayabusa, Hisakatsu Oya, & Tetsuhiro Kuroda. Hayabusa was the only person that got a reaction and that was by like 4 or 5 fans. I wonder how they even knew him because nobody else was known. And while this match is kind of cool to see and obviously they couldn’t bring anything to crazy to E3, but it makes one wonder if bringing these 6 guys to just have a regular match. Things are completely dead until Hayabusa gets in and he impresses this crowd of random nerds. Kuroda also manages to impress with some cool stuff and Gannosuke as well. Things break down in the last minute when someone random yells for Gannosuke which was fun. Hayabusa nails the Firebird Splash for the win. This was interesting to watch just for the setting and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if these guys didn’t have a total blast there in America.
Now back in Japan he continued on as H as his high flying style had become something he disliked personally, particularly the pain it caused him, but he was also smart enough to know the fans wanted to see Hayabusa and his dangerously high flying style, so in July 2000, just a couple of months after his E3 appearance, the H gimmick was retired for good. Despite publicly disparaging the style and how it evolved years later, he would continue to give the fans what they wanted and he did, until…that day.
Now, just 3 days beforehand, he had set up a match against Genichiro Tenryu at the rebuilding AJPW show, a match we all wish we could have seen, as attempting an Asai Moonsault his foot slipped, he cracked his 4 and 5 Vertebrae, giving him the possibility of being paralyzed from the neck down for the rest of his life. Thankfully after heart surgery he regained feeling in his fingers, and eventually he would be able to walk again with assistance of a cane years later. After the loss of it’s top star FMW was doomed, and just 5 months later the company he gave his body for and loved his whole career closed for good. He made his first public steps in 2002, a year after his accident and was heavily involved with FMW offshoot WMF before starting a career in music. Sadly in 2004 his personal life took another hit as his wife divorced him, not due to foul play but the stress caused by his paralysis. He loved his family and kept in touch continually, showing his honor and big heart outside the ring as well as inside it. His singing career was overall more successful than you might think, with 5 albums and once playing a Budokan Hall show in front of nearly 8000 people. He never gave up hope and preparation to return to the ring, all the way to his last day, Shin-FMW and Onita hoping for one last return of the Phoenix. At one point writing that he is very grateful for his life he had, even needing a cane, as even though he went through great struggles, he also appreciated life more after his accident.
Hayabusa was an inspirational wrestler and man, and I have to admit I feel sad writing this as this week of has truly been an eye opening experience for me, I very much feel for the fans who followed his whole career. Hayabusa was truly one of the most innovative and influential high flyers around, and outside of the ring even if you aren’t a high flying wrestler, there’s much to take after in his outlook on life and great heart. Most of all, I feel for Hayabusa’s two kids, who struggled with their dad all this time as well as Mr. Gannosuke, who has to be heartbroken after the loss of his college friend who convinced to tag along with him all those years ago. Finally, I’d ask all the good folks that read this to check out some of Hayabusa’s matches and have fun, but like current standout wrestler Isami Kodaka said on twitter, pray for Eiji Ezaki’s soul. Thank you.
R.I.P. Eiji “Hayabusa” Ezaki – 1968-2016