WRESTLING HERITAGE

British wrestling history 

M: Matsuda

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Matsuda

The Streak of Lightning from The East
Albeit a much derided sport in the 1930s professional wrestling certainly attracted some genuinely combative figures, and none more so than Matsuda.

Wrestling between 1933 and 1935 being barefooted was sufficient to cause interest and amusement. We can add to that the loud cry he let out each time he threw his opponent. Questions may have been raised about the legitimate credentials of professional wrestling but no such questions could be raised regarding the legitimacy of Matsuda.

Admittedly his accomplishments and legitimacy lay not in wrestling but in in another sphere, that of Ju Jutsu.

Born Mikinosuke Kawaishi on 13th August, 1889 he was a Japanese master who eventually achieved the rank of 7th Dan. He came to Britain in 1928, opening a judo school in Liverpool. In 1931 he made a short return to Japan where he attained  third Dan. On his return to Britain he settled in  London where he worked as a judo instructor and  founded the Anglo-Japanese Judo Club. Others better qualified than us have expounded his accomplishments in the Judo  and Ju Jutsu world, just search the internet. We are a wrestling heritage site and that is where we  will concentrate our efforts.

We are under no delusion. Mikinosuke Kawaishi  turned to professional wrestling  for one reason only. He wanted the money. Professional wrestling was a growth business in 1933. Growing rapidly in popularity there was a huge demand for colourful characters and the legitimacy of  being a real sportsman was an added bonus. With his Oriental background and judo credentials Matsuda was something of a novelty with opponents carefully chosen to preserve his near invincibility. Jack Pye was a regular opponent; a man with a ferocious reputation but a true professional who could be relied upon to cause Matsuda no harm. Sam Rabin, another frequent adversary was very different, more disciplined and a credible opponent who also wrestled as a means to supplement his other interests.
We find Matsuda on the wrestling bills for the first time in April 1933, the opponent of the aforementioned Sam Rabin, a professional artist and sculpturist also capitalising on the wrestling boom. Only two months later  the Liverpool Echo described Matsuda going from wrestling obscurity to  “The famous Japanese wrestler….He can defeat men stones heavier than himself with holds of his own.”  The Nottingham Post told us of his extraordinary use of his feet for attacking  and that every time he threw his opponent he “would give a peculiar war-cry – a mannerism which highly amused the crowd.”

The Portsmouth Evening News also observed “Matsuda had a vocal technique that sounded pretty formidable. Every now and then he would let out a dreadful ejaculation that sounded  good for a fall every time.”  We might be short of any evidence he was a great wrestler, but this man knew how to work a crowd.

Announced as undefeated, and maybe he was, Matsuda certainly had an impressive record.   As always we remind readers that no official records were kept but our extensive  unofficial records reveal an impressive record against a limited number of opponents over a two year period, Jack Pye, Sam Rabin, Jack Wentworth and Tony Baer.

On one occasion he was reported to have “made mincemeat” of Jack Pye, twice forcing the Doncaster Panther into submission. In professional wrestling, where it always took two to tango, the Doncaster Panther was his most frequent opponent and we can only assume they had a well rehearsed routine that entertained the fans. This must have been a distant world from that of an accomplished Ju Jutsu exponent.  We read in  The Portsmouth Evening News that “His real business  is to take with him to Japan  all that is best in the art of physical training, as the Japanese are to acquire all the best of Western ideas.” Even as devoted enthusiasts of wrestling we find it hard to believe just how much he would learn from Jack Pye.

The unbeaten run came to an end in March, 1935 when Scotland’s George Clark came from one fall down to beat the Japanese wrestler by two falls to one in the fifth round. When the much anticipated return contest was arranged  Clark took a first fall in the first round and went on to win once again within just 16 minutes. Professional wrestling might not have been all it seemed but it never failed to surprise.

Following such a touch of realism we were surprised to find that two months later Matsuda defeated world champion Billy Riley by two falls to one at Liverpool Stadium. The Liverpool Echo said that Matsuda “Handed out a cruel blow” to fans who believed he was  invincible  when he lost again to  Frenchman Paul Lortie. Another defeat, against Gaston Gheveart , is recorded in August, 1935.

On 11th September, 1935 we find a victory over Bert Mansfield in Plymouth, with a failure  to show (and replaced by Otani) two days later he was not to be seen again. We believe he moved to Paris shortly afterwards, where he continued to teach Ju Jutsu. and judo and was appointed Technical Director of the French Federation of Judo.

Matsuda died on 30th January, 1969, and is buried in Paris.

Page added: 18/07/2020