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Akio Sato

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Akio Sato (February 13, 1953) is a retired professional wrestler, best known for his appearances in the World Wrestling Federation as Sato, a member of The Orient Express.

Career

Akio Sato made his professional wrestling debut in 1970 in the old Japan Pro Wrestling Alliance but left that promotion in 1972 to co-found (with Giant Baba) All Japan Pro Wrestling. During the middle of the 70s Sato went to the US and competed in various territories. He first attracts the attention of the US fans when he competes for the NWA Central States territory run by Bob Geigel as a face teaming with people like Jerry Oates and the Viking. On February 19, 1976 Sato teams up with promoter Bob Geigel to win the “Central States" version of the NWA World Tag-Team Titles. The team vacated the titles by July most likely so that Geigel could focus on booking the territory. Sato and new partner Pat O’Connor were unable to win the vacant titles.

Sato next attracts the spotlight in the NWA Western States territory booked by Dick Murdoch and Blackjack Mulligan in Amarillo, Texas. Working as the heel Mr. Sato along with fellow Japanese wrestler Mr. Pogo the duo would win the Western States tag-team titles twice while feuding with Mulligan, Ted DiBiase, Merced Solis and Akihisa Takachiho (the future Great Kabuki). Sato would go on to win the title twice more, first with John Tolos and then towards the end of 1979 with Mr. Kiyomoto.

All Japan Pro Wrestling

After gaining experience in the United States Sato returned to Japan and started working for All Japan Pro Wrestling a company he would regularly tour with throughout the 80s. On June 11, 1981 Sato and Takashi Ishikawa beat Kerry and David Von Erich for the AJPW All Asia Tag Team Championship in Tokyo, Japan. The team would hold the titles for 18 months until they were forced to vacate the titles when Sato was injured. Sato and Ishikawa won the titles once more when they defeated Animal Hamaguchi and Masanobu Kurisu for the vacant titles on April 15, 1985. The team held the gold for 3 months before being upended by Isamu Teranishi & Animal Hamaguchi.

Over the years Sato would compete on AJPW's "Budokan Hall" shows which are considered the highlight of the tours. During these tours Sato would face off against such varied competition as Nick Bockwinkel, Austin Idol and Curtis Hughes. Because Sato only toured with the AJPW and wasn’t a regular he mainly worked with the foreign talent between 1986 and 1989.

Return to the United States

In 1986 Sato returned to the US and his old stomping grounds of the NWA Central States territory. Here he won a 14-man battle royal on March 13, 1986 to win the NWA Central States Television title, eliminating Tommy Wright last to win the title. Three months later he would lose the title to Mike George before moving to a new territory. Sato found himself working in Memphis for Jerry Jarrett & Jerry Lawler’s Continental Wrestling Association. In the CWA Akio Sato and Tarzan Goto formed a formidable team that managed to win the CWA/AWA International Tag Team Championship no less than five times. The duo beat future superstar Jeff Jarrett tag-team legends the Sheepherders. Sato’s future partner Pat Tanaka as well as future partner Paul Diamond both on separate occasions and when they joined up to form Badd Company.

Sato made one last run with the Central States territory in its dying days. Sato became the last ever Central States heavyweight champion holding the belt when the promotion closes it’s doors in 1989. After the CWA / AWA partnership was dissolved Sato went to the AWA to compete.

In the AWA Sato was nicknamed the "Asian Assassin" and pushed as a cold-hearted heel. On February 7, 1989 Sato participated in a very well known battle royal for the vacant AWA World Heavyweight Championship. Larry Zbyszko won the title denying Sato his biggest opportunity ever. Later on Sato would unsuccessfully challenge Greg Gagne for the AWA International Television Championship. Near the end of his time in the AWA he participated in a feud between Pat Tanaka and Paul Diamond following the breakup of Badd Company.

World Wrestling Federation

Sato's next move is the one that got him the most media attention as he signed with the World Wrestling Federation for the first time in his career. In early 1990 Sato along with former rival Pat Tanaka were introduced to the WWF as The Orient Express by manager Mr. Fuji. During this run, Sato introduced the Sitout Powerbomb to mainstream American wrestling for the first time. The Orient Express kicked off a prolonged feud with The Rockers that started at WrestleMania VI and continued off and on for well over a year. The Orient Express got involved in the Legion of Doom / Demolition because Mr. Fuji managed both teams. Demolition was being phased out and the Orient Express took on the Legion of Doom instead. The Legion of Doom / Orient Express feud was extremely onesided due to the Legion of Doom’s massive size advantage.

After WrestleMania VI Tanaka and Sato only made two Pay Per View appearances while in the WWF. Firstly at SummerSlam 1990 where the team were defeated by ”Hacksaw” Jim Duggan and Nikolai Volkoff. Secondly as part of the Sgt. Slaughter led team “The Mercenaries” (that also included Boris Zhukov. Sato was pinned by Butch Miller 1:46 into the match and Tanaka was pinned by Tito Santana only moments later, 2:13 into the match.

When Akio Sato decided to leave the US wrestling scene in the latter days of 1990 the WWF decided to reunite the team known as Badd Company only this time with Paul Diamond wearing a mask to hide the fact that he’s not Asian and using the name of Kato. Sato would return in 1991 to team with Tanaka and “Kato" for a series of 6-man tag-team matches on various WWF house show, but Sato left the WWF after only a handful of matches together.

Retirement

Sato retired from in ring competition around 1992/1993 but did return to the WWF in late 1994 as the white faced manager Shinja who advised Hakushi during his heel run with the company. When Hakushi was turned face Shinja was quietly written out of the storyline and Sato retired to focus on non-wrestling ventures. His last TV appearance was on the July 24, 1995 edition of Raw, when he was piledriven by Bret Hart. Sato now resides in Kansas City, Missouri.

Personal life

In 1976, Sato married Betty Niccoli, whom he met in Bob Geigel's promotion in the United States. The couple had two daughters.

In wrestling

  • Signature moves

Championships and accomplishments

External links

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