Wrestling Then and Now

by Evan Ginzburg

I never met the man.

But I felt a little choked up when I found out Prof. Toru Tanaka had died.

Maybe it was the fact that as a skinny kid, I marveled at this powerhouse. Seeing him live at arenas like Madison Square Garden, Nassau Coliseum, and Sunnyside Gardens, he always appeared larger than life to me.

Or maybe it was just the way I found out. E-mail from martial arts historian Joseph Svinth arrived with the obit. Tanaka had been dead for several weeks and nobody in the wrestling media had even known. Nobody. This was the man who closed down the old Madison Square Garden in a match with Bruno. This was the man who was one half of one of the all-time great tag teams. This was the man who parlayed his wrestling fame into a film career.

But that was then and this is now, and for the most part, the mainstream media didn't feel he rated a mention.

When Gorilla Monsoon died, Geoff Brown of Australia told me how painful it was to him that wrestlers who sold out huge arenas rarely got their obituaries written up in his country. Well, it's no different here. Geoff took it upon himself to acknowledge their greatness and wrote his own obits for newspaper publication. If only others felt as strongly.

A nagging thought always hits me when a man of Tanaka's stature leaves the planet with such little fanfare. If someone who sold out huge buildings everywhere isn't acknowledged for their contributions, what hope is there for any of us "regular Joes"?

So in this issue I honor one of our greats. It's another tribute in an unfortunate series that's coming way too often. Solie. Parisi. And now Tanaka. Three issues. Three legends.

But at least we care enough to give them their due.

If only the rest of the world did as such.

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