Masanori Saito (February 1, 1942 - July 14, 2018) was a Japanese professional wrestler better known as Mr. Saito or Masa Saito. He wrestled for several years in various promotions operated by the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA). He later joined the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), where he teamed with Mr. Fuji to hold the World Tag Team Championship twice. He also won the AWA World Heavyweight Championship in 1990. In Japan, Saito wrestled for both All Japan Pro Wrestling and New Japan Pro Wrestling. Saito gained notoriety for his arrest after throwing a boulder through the window of a McDonald's restaurant in Waukesha Wisconsin and for a match wrestled against Antonio Inoki on a deserted island in Japan.
Amateur wrestling career
1964 Summer Olympics
Saito competed in freestyle wrestling for Japan in the 1964 Olympic Games, placing seventh, making him one of the Top 10 Olympic wrestlers that year.
Professional wrestling career
He began his pro wrestling career in 1965 and quickly established himself in both Japan and the United States. Nicknamed "Mr. Torture" for his punishing and sadistic style, Saito held numerous titles while wrestling in North America and Japan.
National Wrestling Alliance
On July 13, 1968, Saito won his first title, teaming with Kenji Shibuya to win the San Francisco version of the World Tag Team Championship. The following year, he defeated Dale Lewis to win the NWA Florida Heavyweight Championship. After losing the title to Jack Brisco on February 10, 1970, he continued to team with Shibuya in the Los Angeles-based NWA Hollywood Wrestling, winning the NWA Americas Tag Team Championship three times in 1971 and 1972. While wrestling in Los Angeles, he also won the NWA Beat the Champ Television Championship twice in 1972.
Saito's next championship came in Vancouver, British Columbia, where he teamed with Gene Kiniski to win the Vancouver version of the Canadian Tag Team Championship. They held the belts for almost four months before dropping them to Ormand Malumba and Guy Mitchell on March 3, 1975. Saito regained the championship later in the year, however, teaming with Dale Lewis.
Saito next wrestled in NWA Florida, where he teamed with Ivan Koloff to defeat Rocky Johnson and Pedro Morales for the NWA Florida Tag Team Championship in 1977. After losing the belts, Saito and Koloff won them twice more. Their final loss, on January 25, 1978 was to Jack and Jerry Brisco. Saito regained the title, however, teaming with Mr. Sato to defeat the Brisco Brothers. They lost the belts back to the Brisco Brothers three months later but succeeded in regaining them from Mike Graham and Steve Keirn later in the year. While wrestling in Florida, Saito also teamed with Sato to win the NWA Florida United States Tag Team Championship on two occasions in 1978 and 1979. In 1979, he also won the Japan version of the North American Tag Team Championship, teaming with Hiro Matsuda to win the belts on April 5.
Wrestling in the United States again in 1981, Saito won the Alabama Heavyweight Championship twice, defeating Bob Armstrong and Ray Candy. That year, he was also involved in a controversy regarding the Florida version of the North American Tag Team Championship. The Assassins were stripped of the title when it was discovered that Saito was wrestling under a mask as a third member of the team.
World Wrestling Federation
Later in the year, Saito signed with the World Wrestling Federation. He formed a tag team with Mr. Fuji, which was managed by Captain Lou Albano. They began a feud with tag champions Tony Garea and Rick Martel, whom they defeated on October 17, 1981 edition of Championship Wrestling to win their first WWF Tag Team Championship, though it was Fuji's fourth individual reign. They began feuding with The Strongbows (Chief Jay and Jules) in the fall of 1981. This culminated in a title match on June 28, 1982 at Madison Square Garden (MSG) where Strongbows won the titles. On July 13 edition of Championship Wrestling, they defeated Strongbows in a two out of three falls match for Fuji's fifth and Saito's second WWF Tag Team Championship. The feud of these two teams ended after Fuji and Saito lost the titles to Strongbows on October 30 edition of Championship Wrestling.
On April 6, 1984, Saito and Ken Patera were refused service at a McDonald's restaurant after the restaurant had closed. The two men threw a boulder through the restaurant's window in retaliation. When the police came, Saito and Patera fought with them before being arrested. As a result of the incident, Saito and Patera were convicted of battery of a peace officer and sentenced to serve two years in prison.
Following his release, Saito wrestled mainly in Japan, where he became involved in a feud with Antonio Inoki. To settle the feud, the two competed in an Island Death match on October 4, 1987. They were placed on Ganryujima Island and wrestled a match that lasted two hours and spread across the island. Ultimately, Inoki was victorious, defeating Saito by technical knockout. The following year, after leaving All Japan Pro Wrestling to return to New Japan Pro Wrestling, Saito won his first IWGP Tag Team Championship while teaming with Riki Chōshū. He followed this with a second victory the following year, this time with Shinya Hashimoto.
Saito's final major title came in the American Wrestling Association (AWA), where he defeated Larry Zbyszko for the AWA World Heavyweight Championship in front of a hometown crowd of 63,900 fans at the Tokyo Dome on February 10, 1990. He lost the title two months later in a rematch with Zbyszko at AWA SuperClash IV. While wrestling in the AWA, Saito also formed a tag team with Jesse Ventura known as the Far East-West Connection.
Saito had a short spell in World Championship Wrestling (WCW) in 1995 and 1996, which included an appearance at Starrcade. Wrestling as part of a series of matches between New Japan Pro Wrestling and World Championship Wrestling, Saito lost his match to WCW representative Johnny B. Badd. On February 14, 1999, Saito retired from wrestling. His last match was a loss to Scott Norton. Since 2006 Saito worked with the Kensuke Office promotion as a supervisor and manager/advisor to the promotion's younger talent.
In 2000, Saito was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. He died from complications of the disease on 14 July 2018 at the age of 76.
Championships and accomplishments
- NWA Canadian Tag Team Championship (Vancouver version) (2 times) – with Gene Kiniski (1) and Dale Lewis (1)
- NWA World Tag Team Championship (San Francisco version) (2 times) – with Kenji Shibuya
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- PWI ranked him #89 of the top 500 singles wrestlers of the "PWI Years" in 2003