World Wrestling Entertainment announced Aug. 28 that WWE Hall of Famer Harry Fujiwara, known to fans as Mr. Fuji, passed away that morning at the age of 82.
“Fuji spent more than 30 years entertaining fans worldwide as both an in-ring competitor and one of WWE’s greatest managers,” WWE said in a statement. “A five-time WWE world tag team champion, Fuji was infamous for keeping small bags of salt in his tights, which he would throw into his opponents’ eyes.
“After retiring from the ring, Fuji managed a litany of WWE’s most feared superstars, such as George ‘The Animal’ Steele, Kamala, Killer Khan, Demolition, The Powers of Pain, Yokozuna, and most notably, ‘Magnificent’ Don Muraco.
“With Muraco, Fuji treated WWE fans to the classic ‘Fuji Vice,’ ‘Fuji General,’ ‘Fuji Bandito’ and ‘Fuji Chan’ series. These series were ahead of their time because spoofing successful television shows as they tried to break into Hollywood was the epitome of sports-entertainment.
“His career will be remembered by different generations for different reasons, but Mr. Fuji, whether as a superstar or manager, is one of the most entertaining performers in the history of WWE.
“WWE extends its condolences to Fujiwara’s family, friends and fans.”
A native of Hawaii, Mr. Fuji has been called many things: tough, physical, Fuj the Stooge, Manager of Champions and most importantly, WWE Hall of Famer. During his in-ring days, Fuji established himself as one of the great rule-breakers in WWE.
Alongside partner Professor Toru Tanaka, Mr. Fuji was a world tag team champion three times, as he and Tanaka reigned supreme in the tag division in the early ‘70s. On one occasion, Fuji and Tanaka held the titles for nearly a year, and during their second run as champions they held the gold for almost six months. After his partnership with Tanaka ended, Mr. Fuji partnered with Mr. Saito and captured the World Tag Team Championship two more times.
Mr. Fuji was considered one of the toughest competitors throughout his career within the ring, and when he made the transition to managing other wrestlers, his toughness was seen in those he represented.
Fuji himself had been managed by three of the greatest WWE managers during his career — The Grand Wizard, Classy Freddie Blassie and Captain Lou Albano — and he looked to make his own mark in WWE. After moving from in-ring action to the outside, Fuji turned to another Hall of Famer to begin his managerial career — George “The Animal” Steele. The two had different ideals, however, and Fuji would move on to more “magnificent” pastures.
Signing Don Muraco as his next client was magic for Mr. Fuji, as the popularity of the two men skyrocketed, even if it was a love-to-hate relationship with WWE fans. During this partnership, fans were treated to the classic “Fuji Vice,” “Fuji General,” “Fuji Bandito” and “Fuji Chan” videos, with Fuji and Muraco spoofing successful shows as they tried to break into Hollywood stardom. For a brief time, Kamala, Sika, and Killer Khan would also be managed by Mr. Fuji.
It was his success as a tag team wrestler that brought Mr. Fuji back full circle as a manager to the tag ranks. He first tried his hand with Muraco and Cowboy Bob Orton, who teamed together at WrestleMania III in a losing effort. It was then that Fuji took control of the contracts of Demolition. At WrestleMania IV, Ax and Smash defeated Strike Force to win the World Tag Team Championships.
Demolition held the titles for a record 478 days, before losing to The Brain Busters. After turning on Demolition and aligning with The Powers of Pain, Fuji became known to WWE fans as “Fuj the Stooge.” Breaking the rules seemed to suit Mr. Fuji as a manager, and few can forget his amazing “victory” at WrestleMania V in the 5K marathon on the boardwalk in Atlantic City.
Not long after, Fuji managed The Orient Express and The Berserker before he landed his biggest success, literally and figuratively, with Yokozuna. He led Yokozuna to victory at the 1993 Royal Rumble, guaranteeing Yokozuna would face Bret Hart at WrestleMania IX for the WWE Championship. Mr. Fuji interfered in the match at WrestleMania IX, throwing his trademark salt into Hart’s eyes, allowing Yokozuna to win the WWE Championship.
Moments later, an ecstatic Fuji, with years of revenge on his mind, brazenly challenged Hulk Hogan to enter the ring and fight “my Yokozuma.” He called Hogan a “yellow belly,” to which Hulkster responded by winning the title. Fuji later managed Yokozuna to another title run, as well as a World Tag Team Championship with Owen Hart.
Mr. Fuji, who settled in Knoxville, Tenn. in 1996, slowly faded out of the spotlight and retired from the squared circle, but not before making one last appearance at WrestleMania XII to accompany Yokozuna to the ring. A decade later, on the eve of WrestleMania 23, it was long-time charge Muraco who put Fuji into the pantheon of the elite when he inducted his former manager into the WWE Hall of Fame.
His career will be remembered by different generations for different reasons, but one constant will be an indelible mark — Mr. Fuji, whether as a wrestler or manager, is one of the most successful performers ever to set foot in a WWE ring.