Masa Saito dead aged 76: WWE legend and former tag team champion passes away after long fight with Parkinson’s disease

The Japanese wrestler had been suffering from Parkinson’s disease for the past 18 years.

WWE hall of famer Bubba Ray Dudley was among the first to pay tribute to the late star after news of his death broke this morning.

He wrote on Twitter: “RIP Masa Saito. One of the first wrestling matches I ever saw was Fuji/Saito vs The Strongbows…and from that day, I knew I wanted to be a tag team wrestler. Thank you for the inspiration. Ganbatte Kudasai.”

Current SmackDown Live star Shinsuke Nakamura commented: “Rest in Peace the legendary Japanese wrestler Masa Saito #goforbroke.”

While NXT’s Kassius Ohno wrote: “Do yourself a favor and watch a few Masa Saito matches today. Man… he was awesome. Go For Broke. RIP.”

Saito, who represented his country at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo as a freestyle wrestler, began his professional career in the US and claimed NWA tag gold with Kenji Shibuya.

He spent over a decade touring the States and winning numerous championships teaming with Gene Kiniski and Ivan Koloff before joining WWE (then named WWE) in 1981.

Saito former an infamous partnership with fellow legend Mr Fuji and won the company’s tag belts.

He left WWE in 1982 and was jailed two years later along with Ken Patera for assaulting a police officer.

The latter hurled a boulder through a McDonald’s window after being refused service, and when cops arrived, the two got involved in a physical fight with the law leading to them serving time behind bars.

He returned to Japan after his release and resumed his career in the AJPW promotion, where he had a memorable showdown with fellow legend Antonio Inoki.

They concluded their rivalry with an infamous two hour long “Island Death Match” on Ganryujima Island in 1987.

Arguably his most notable moment came when he defeated Larry Zbyszko for the AWA world championship in front of 63,000 people at the Tokyo Dome in 1990.

He retired from wrestling following a loss to Scott Norton a year prior to being diagnosed with Parkinson’s.

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