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In this Japanese name, the family name is Akebono.
Akebono Tarō
曙太郎
SumoAkebono.jpg
Yokozuna Akebono is fitted with a tsuna
for the last time at his retirement ceremony.
Personal information
Birth name Chad Rowan
Date of birth May 8, 1969 (1969-05-08) (age 40)
Place of birth Waimānalo, Hawai'i
Height 2.03 m (6 ft 8 in)
Weight 225 kg (500 lb; 35.4 st)
Web presence website
Career*
Heya Azumazeki
Record 654-232-181
Debut March, 1988
Highest rank Yokozuna (January 1993)
Retired January, 2001
Yūshō 11 (Makuuchi)
Sanshō Outstanding Performance (4)
Fighting Spirit (2)
Kinboshi 4 (Asahifuji (2), Onokuni,
Hokutoumi)

* Career information is correct as of August 2007.

Akebono Tarō (曙 太郎 Akebono Tarō?, born May 8, 1969 as Chad Haakeo Rowan[1]) is a retired sumo wrestler from Waimānalo, Hawaiʻi. 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.[2] 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.

Contents

Early life

Rowan was born on May 8, 1969 to Randolph and Janice Rowan.[1] He grew up with two younger brothers,[1] 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.[1] He went to Hawaii Pacific University on a basketball scholarship, but sat out his freshman season.[1]

Early career

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 Hawaiʻi.[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]

Promotion

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 era

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,[1] 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 style

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 record

Akebono Tarō [15]


year in sumo January
Hatsu basho, Tokyo
March
Haru basho, Osaka
May
Natsu basho, Tokyo
July
Nagoya basho, Nagoya
September
Aki basho, Tokyo
November
Kyūshū basho, Fukuoka
1990 x x x x East Maegashira #14
9–6
 
West Maegashira #7
9–6
F
1991 West Maegashira #1
8–7
O
East Komusubi
8–7
O
West Sekiwake
7–8
 
West Maegashira #1
8–7
West Komusubi
7–8
 
West Maegashira #1
8–7
1992 West Komusubi
13–2
OF
East Sekiwake
8–7
 
West Sekiwake
13–2
O
Sat out due to injury East Ōzeki
9–6
 
West Ōzeki
14–1
 
1993 East Ōzeki
13–2
 
East Yokozuna
10–5
 
East Yokozuna
13–2
 
East Yokozuna
13–2–PP
 
East Yokozuna
14–1
 
East Yokozuna
13–2–P
 
1994 East Yokozuna
11–4
 
East Yokozuna
12–3–PP
 
East Yokozuna
10–2–3
 
Sat out due to injury Sat out due to injury East Yokozuna
10–5
 
1995 West Yokozuna
12–3
 
West Yokozuna
14–1
 
East Yokozuna
13–2
 
West Yokozuna
11–4
 
West Yokozuna
12–3
 
West Yokozuna
7–3–5
 
1996 West Yokozuna
0–3–12
 
Sat out due to injury West Yokozuna
10–5
 
West Yokozuna
12–3
 
West Yokozuna
10–5
 
West Yokozuna
11–4–P
 
1997 East Yokozuna
12–3
 
West Yokozuna
12–3–PP
 
West Yokozuna
13–2–P
 
West Yokozuna
12–3
 
West Yokozuna
9–6
 
Sat out due to injury
1998 West Yokozuna
10–5
 
East Yokozuna
13–2
 
East Yokozuna
10–5
 
East Yokozuna
11–4
 
West Yokozuna
10–5
 
Sat out due to injury
1999 Sat out due to injury Sat out due to injury East Yokozuna
11–4
 
West Yokozuna
13–2–P
 
East Yokozuna
2–2–11
 
Sat out due to injury
2000 West Yokozuna
11–4
 
West Yokozuna
12–3
 
East Yokozuna
13–2
 
East Yokozuna
13–2
 
East Yokozuna
13–2
 
West Yokozuna
14–1
 
2001 East Yokozuna
Retired
0–0–15
x x x x x
Record given as win-loss-absent    Championship Retired Demoted from makuuchi

Sanshō key: F=Fighting spirit; O=Outstanding performance; T=Technique     Also shown: =Kinboshi(s) P=Playoff(s)
Divisions: MakuuchiJūryōMakushitaSandanmeJonidanJonokuchi

Makuuchi ranks: YokozunaŌzekiSekiwakeKomusubiMaegashira

Post-retirement career

After winning his eleventh top division title in November 2000,[16] 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.[17][18]

Akebono left the Sumo Association in November 2003 to join K-1.[19] 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 because of his behavior by not inviting them to his hurried marriage, 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.[20] It is speculated that he was earning $1 million U.S. for every bout[21]

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.[22]

He has also wrestled professionally in Japan for All Japan Pro Wrestling and New Japan Pro Wrestling[22] and made an appearance at World Wrestling Entertainment's (WWE) WrestleMania 21 in a sumo match against the Big Show.[23]

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.[24] He also joined the HUSTLE promotion as the character "Monster Bono", the offspring of The Great Muta and Yinling.

Kickboxing and mixed martial arts record

December 31, 2003 Loss 0-1 United States Bob Sapp K-1 Premium 2003 Dynamite!! KO Round 1, 2:55
March 27, 2004 Loss 0-2 Japan Musashi K-1 World Grand Prix 2004 in Saitama Decision 0-3 3 Rounds
July 17, 2004 Loss 0-3 People's Republic of China Zhang Qing Jun K-1 World Grand Prix 2004 in Seoul Decision 0-3 3 Rounds + Extra Round
August 7, 2004 Loss 0-4 United States Rick Roufus K-1 World Grand Prix 2004 in Las Vegas II Decision 0-3 3 Rounds
September 25, 2004 Loss 0-5 Netherlands Remy Bonjasky K-1 World Grand Prix 2004 Final Elimination KO (High Kick) Round 3, 0:33
December 31, 2004 Loss 0-6 Brazil Royce Gracie K-1 Premium 2004 Dynamite!! Submission (omoplata) Round 1, 2:13 (MMA)
March 19, 2005 Win 1-6 Japan Nobuaki Kakuda K-1 World Grand Prix 2005 in Seoul Decision 3-0 3 Rounds
March 19, 2005 Loss 1-7 South Korea Choi Hong-man K-1 World Grand Prix 2005 in Seoul TKO Round 1, 0:42
July 29, 2005 Loss 1-8 South Korea Choi Hong-man K-1 World Grand Prix 2005 in Hawaii TKO Round 1, 2:52
December 31, 2005 Loss 1-9 Nigeria Bobby Ologun K-1 Premium 2005 Dynamite!! Decision 0-3 3 Rounds (MMA)
July 30, 2006 Loss 1-10 South Korea Choi Hong-man K-1 World Grand Prix 2006 in Sapporo KO Round 2, 0:57
March 3, 2006 Loss 1-11 United States Don Frye HERO'S 2006 Submission (Front choke sleeper hold Round 2, 3:50 (MMA)
December 31, 2006 Loss 1-12 Brazil Giant Silva K-1 Premium 2006 Dynamite!! Submission (Armlock) Round 1, 1:02 (MMA)

Professional wrestling championships and accomplishments

Personal life

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.[25] They married in September 1998 and have one son and a daughter.[26]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f Ardolino, Frank (2002) [1992]. Dawson, Dawn P. ed. Great Athletes. 1 (Revised ed.). Salem Press. pp. 23–25. ISBN 1-58765-008-8. 
  2. ^ Lewis, Ferd (2006-07-02). "Akebono". Honolulu Advertiser. http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/150/sesq5akebono. Retrieved 2007-05-25. 
  3. ^ a b c Sharnoff, Lora (1993). Grand Sumo. Weatherhill. ISBN 0-8348-0283-x. 
  4. ^ Hall, Mina (1997) (Paperback). The Big Book of Sumo. Berkeley, CA, USA: Stone Bridge Press. pp. 89. ISBN 1-880656-28-0. 
  5. ^ a b "Akebono". Japan Sumo Association. http://sumo.goo.ne.jp/eng/ozumo_meikan/rikishi_joho/rikishi.php?A=35. Retrieved 2007-06-02. 
  6. ^ "Kaio". Japan Sumo Association. http://sumo.goo.ne.jp/eng/ozumo_meikan/rikishi_joho/rikishi_6.html. Retrieved 2007-06-02. 
  7. ^ "Akebono Taro Rikishi Information". Sumo Reference. http://sumodb.sumogames.com/Rikishi.aspx?r=1. Retrieved 20 April 2009. 
  8. ^ a b c "Rikishi In Makunouchi and Juryo". szumo.hu. http://www.szumo.hu/sekitori/Akebono.html. Retrieved 2007-06-02. 
  9. ^ a b Pollack ,Andrew (1993-01-26). "Sumo Bows and Opens Sacred Door to U.S. Star". New York Times. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F0CEEDE1338F935A15752C0A965958260&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all. Retrieved 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. http://www.sumofanmag.com/content/Issue_2/Hanada4.htm. Retrieved 2008-06-05. 
  12. ^ ""Winter Olympics: Akebono to lead sumo's debut on Olympic stage"". The London Independent. 1998-01-29. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4158/is_19980129/ai_n9651719. Retrieved 2007-06-02. 
  13. ^ a b "Sumo great Akebono retires". BBC News. 2001-01-22. http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/other_sports/1130668.stm. Retrieved 2007-06-02. 
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Panek, Mark (2006). Gaijin Yokozuna. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 0-8248-3043-1. 
  15. ^ "Rikishi in Juryo and Makunouchi". szumo.hu. http://www.szumo.hu/sekitori/Akebono.html. Retrieved 2007-08-06. 
  16. ^ "Akebono claims 11th title". BBC News. 2000-11-19. http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/other_sports/1030992.stm. Retrieved 2007-06-02. 
  17. ^ "New TV Commercial for BOSS On-Air". Suntory. 2003-08-26. http://www.suntory.com/about/news/2003-08.html. Retrieved 2007-06-02. 
  18. ^ "Akebono lives life to the full". Japan Times. 2003-05-23. http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fg20030523a1.html. Retrieved 2007-06-02. 
  19. ^ "Making a big move". Time Magazine online. 2003-11-18. http://www.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,544736,00.html. Retrieved 2007-06-02. 
  20. ^ "Akebono dumps sumo to roll in K1 pay dirt". Mainichi Daily News. 2003-11-11. http://mdn.mainichi-msn.co.jp/waiwai/archive/news/2003/11/20031111p2g00m0dm999000c.html. Retrieved 2007-06-02. 
  21. ^ The Oyakata Gallery
  22. ^ a b "After K-1 KO, 'Makebono' bounces back from the dead". Mainichi Daily News. 2006-02-28. http://mdn.mainichi.jp/culture/waiwai/archive/news/2006/02/20060228p2g00m0dm002000c.html. Retrieved 2007-06-13. 
  23. ^ Jon Waldman (2005-04-06). "WrestleMania 21 Breaking down the numbers". SLAM! Sports. http://slam.canoe.ca/Slam/Wrestling/2005/04/06/985171.html. Retrieved 2007-07-07. 
  24. ^ "G1 Climax 2007". Puroresufan.com. http://www.puroresufan.com/njpw/results/g107.php. Retrieved 2007-08-22. 
  25. ^ Joji Sakurai (1998-02-10). "Love story spans across the pacific". Honolulu Star Bulletin. http://starbulletin.com/98/02/10/features/story1.html. Retrieved 2007-07-23. 
  26. ^ Gordon, Mike (2001-02-05). "Aching knees at rest, Akebono rides again". Honolulu Advertiser. http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/2001/Feb/05/25localnews12.html. Retrieved 2008-03-17. 

External links

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