Wrestling in the 1980s was about larger than life characters in the WWF. One guy who definitely stood out from the crowd was a manager named Mr Fuji. Known as “The Devious One” Fuji led more than a few superstars to the gold. Born Harry Fujiwara in 1934 the man most of you know as a manager began is inside the ring traveling to various territories.
Fujiwara broke in the business in 1965 wrestling in Hawaii as Mr Fujiwara. He would be wrestling for the local Hawaii NWA territory and later move on to work for Don Owens on the Pacific coast of the United States. In 1971 Fuji made to the WWWF and worked for Vince McMahon Sr. While working there he teamed up Professor Tora Tanaka and they were managed by the legendary Grand Wizard.
Tanaka provided the muscle for the team while Fuji was more of the tactician. During this time while doing anything to win he started his patented throwing salt in the opponents face to win a match. The team would go on to win the WWWF Tag Team Titles 2 times. Their first reign would last for 11 months and elevated them to main event status. Fuji and Tanaka would feud with WWWF Champ Pedro Morales and Bruno Sammartino over the coveted titles. The duo then left the WWWF and toured various territories and racking up title wins in many of them for the rest of the 1970s.
In 1981 Fuji returned what was now the WWF and teamed with the great Mr. Saito and they were managed by Hall of Famer Captain Lou Albano. This team also went on to win multiple tag team titles leaving Fuji with a total of five reigns in the New York territory. After the a split with Saito and a short single run the “devious one” retired from in ring work in 1985 and began his managerial career.
Fuji started off his career managing George the Animal Steele. George would turn face and Fuji would them move on to manage of his most famous clients Don Muraco. The partnership was very successful for both as it saw Muraco main event with champ Hulk Hogan on 3 straight Madison Square Garden crowds. Don also won the 1985 King of the Ring with Fuji in his corner. The duo is probably most known for their skit “Fuji Vice” which aired on WWF’s Tuesday Night Titans.
After the Muraco partnership ended Fuji went on to the run he is most known for by managing the team Demolition. He guided Ax and Smash to the WWF tag team titles. He would later turn on his painted warriors and go on to manage their rivals the Powers of Pain. Fuji would later split up the team by selling each wrestlers individual contracts to other managers. He would relink up with Demolition and also start leading a new team billed from Japan known as the Orient Express. The Orient Express highlight as a team was defeating the Rockers at Wrestlemania 6 via count out.
After a brief time away from the spotlight Fuji remerged with the mammoth Yokozuna. Billed a champion sumo wrestler from Japan, he was brought under the learning of experienced Fuji to take him to the top. At this time Fuji underwent a style change dropping the tuxedo suit and wearing a kimono. As a heel Yokozuna was constantly booed as fans chanted USA in support of his opponents. Yoko brought Fuji something he never had before in a world champion. He defeated Bret Hart for his first of two title reigns at Wrestlemania IX.
After 1996 Fuji was officially retired from professional wrestling and settled in Knoxville, TN. He opened a training dojo for a brief time while in Tennessee. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2007 by his former client Don Muraco. Fuji’s career is met with mixed reviews by historians. A lot of them don’t give him credit for his managerial career because he was not one of the best talkers. My opinion is that he was an excellent manager that relied on other things to facilitate his talent. His quiet demeanor only enhanced his sneaky and devious reputation. Wrestling is about perception and one thing Fuji had was believability. The wrestling business could use more Harry Fujiwara’s and this one will be missed.
Keith B. Holt
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