Birthdate: March 25th, 1951
From the late 70s to the early 90s, few heavyweights had more of an influence not only in Japan but worldwide then puroresu great Jumbo Tsuruta. One of the best workers of his time, Tsuruta wrestled many great stars and won every major championship that he had a shot at (except the NWA Heavyweight Championship). Whether it was as a tag team or wrestling as a singles wrestler, Tsuruta dominated wherever he went. Even though his career was cut short, Tsuruta left his mark on the business by joining together the Triple Crown and putting on wrestling classics with wrestlers such as Ric Flair, Genichiro Tenryu, Harley Race, and many more.
A great amateur wrestler, Tsuruta was highly recruited for professional wrestling in Japan but he signed with Giant Baba's All Japan in 1972. After training in Texas with Dory Funk Jr., Tsuruta returned to Japan and was immediately paired with Giant Baba, a huge deal considering that he had only been professionally wrestling for less then a year. As a tag team, Tsuruta and Giant Baba would face off against the best (including the Funk brothers) and would win many world championships. Besides having the victories while wrestling alongside Giant Baba, it also made Tsuruta an instant star in the eyes of the fans, something that would help him greatly once Giant Baba faded from the main event picture years later.
Jumbo Tsuruta was about more then tag team wrestling though, and by the late 70s he was beginning to be recognized world wide as a title contender to almost any championship. Tsuruta defeated Jack Brisco in 1976 for the NWA United National Championship, a belt that Tsuruta would almost exclusively hold over the next several years. As Giant Baba slowly stepped out of the spotlight, Tsuruta stepped into it and proved that he could be as much of a draw as Giant Baba himself. After proving that he was more then capable of the pressure put on a champion, in 1983 Tsuruta would win the NWA International Championship (which would later lead to a feud against Kerry Von Erich) and the AWA World Heavyweight Championship. Tsuruta was the first (and last) Japanese star to hold the AWA World Heavyweight Championship and held it for several months, including having defenses in America against such AWA stars as Rick Martel.
In the mid-80s, Tsuruta's tag team partner Genichiro Tenryu turned on him and the two had one of the hottest feuds in All Japan that lasted several years. Even though Tenryu seemed to usually get the better of him, Tsuruta still impressed with his grit and determination to win and his popularity continued to grow. On April 18th, 1989, an epic match occurred when Tsuruta (as the International Champion) faced off against Stan Hansen (the PWF Heavyweight Championship and the United National Championship) at the Ota Ward Gym. Tsuruta would come out the victor, and thus created the All Japan Triple Crown by joining the three titles together. Tsuruta would lose the title only a few months later though to his old rival Tenryu. In 1990, Tsuruta would turn heel to help pave the way for Mitsuharu Misawa (who Tsuruta wrestled when Misawa was known as Tiger Mask). An International superstar, Tsuruta would also participate in the All Japan/US Wrestling Summit, as he pinned his old rival Rick Martel. Now wrestling as one of the top heels in All Japan, Tsuruta continued being extremely popular up through 1992.
Unfortunately, in 1992 it was found that Jumbo Tsuruta had been stricken with Hepatitis B, which had many negative effects on his body and affected his wrestling ability. Through the rest of the 90s, Tsuruta still wrestled, but he mainly participated in six man tags or towards the middle of the wrestling card. Realizing that his time in the ring was coming to an end, Tsuruta officially retired on 1999. After moving to America to teach, Tsuruta returned to Japan after becoming more ill. Tsuruta would die on May 14th, 2000 after complications from receiving a kidney transplant. He was 49 years old. Known for his great abilities in the ring and recognized worldwide as a champion, Tsuruta laid the foundation in All Japan for Misawa, Kobashi, and Kawada to follow.