Kendo Nagasaki has gone down as one of the biggest legends in British Wrestling, although his unmasking in 1977 almost killed a career he had worked so hard to establish in his year’s in the ring.
As a huge feature on the weekly Saturday World of Sport TV Show, he became one of the most recognisable wrestlers in the country, only behind Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks.
However, his unmasking will go down as one of the most controversial moments in British wrestling history.
It put a dent in a fantastic career of one of the most the UK’s most exotic and mysterious wrestlers – even if he was just some guy from Stoke.
The Unmasking Of Kendo Nagasaki
In the Wolverhampton Civic Hall on December 20, 1977, one of the most famous moments in British Wrestling history took place.
Many legendary bouts had taken place in the years prior, but in a very rare in-ring segment, no wrestling would take place.
Instead, the mysterious masked wrestler, Kendo Nagasaki, entered the ring alongside his manage Gorgeous George and two druid-like figures.
George then announced that a ceremony would take place, with the unmasking of the legendary Kendo Nagasaki.
He slammed a Samurai Sword into the ground and knelt down, as his manager threw salt over his head in some kind of ritualistic way (as you would expect by his name, Kendo leaned heavily in the Japanese imagery).
George then began to speak, and addressed the crowd with a chilling speech.
“Kendo has been in a secret retreat where he has been learning to build up his powers – his powers not only in wrestling, but his powers to help heal other people and to do many other things. Tonight is the ultimate fulfilment of all those dreams, the unveiling and unmasking of Kendo Nagasaki”.
The speech was interrupted by some women shouting from the crowd, clearly not fans of the Samurai-turned -grappler.
As Nagasaki hung his head and the two druids lay face down either side of him (rather comically), Gorgeous George slowly removed the mask, before placing it in a bowl to the side of him and setting it alight.
This concluded the ceremony and fans got a look at the man who famously kept his face to himself.
The chilling, lifeless eyes stared back into the camera, shocking the millions watching at home. Seeing Nagasaki without his mask on was a bizarre sight, and not at all what anybody was expecting.
A star of David, of sorts, was tattooed on top his head, and he was shaved bald apart from a long braid than rand down the back of his head. What was more surprising that he was white – no longer did Nagasaki have the mysticism of being a supernatural samurai from the Orient, and was just Pete from Stoke with a funny haircut.
For a man who had once been a huge draw in British wrestling, he seemed to have lost his lustre in an instant. No longer did he have the mystery and intrigue, with fans wondering what creature could be lurking below that iconic mask. Instead, he was just a weird man from Stoke called Peter Thornley.
While I’m sure he had his reasons to remove it, (Thornley is a notorious private person, and for years refused to admit he was the famous wrestler) promoter Max Crabtree implored Kendo to keep his mask on.
Sadly, he could not be swayed, so Crabtree (brother of the legendary Big Daddy) decided to do it at the biggest venue possible and make the best out of a clearly doomed situation.
“He didn’t have a very unusual face. He was just a nice-looking sort of guy, but nothing significant. But he was so determined to unmask that we decided to do it properly, at the Wolverhampton Civic Hall where he was hottest.”Max Crabtree on the Unmasking of Kendo Nagasaki
He would later re-don the mask and wrestle for years to come (according to Cagematch.net, he last wrestled in 2008), but his mystique was already gone.
While his face been shown a few times before, like when he was unmasked by Big Daddy in 1975, this ceremony killed most people’s interest in the mystery of Kendo Nagasaki in one fell swoop.