Hiroshi Wajima (輪島大士) (born January 11, 1948) is a former sumo wrestler and professional wrestler from Nanao, Ishikawa, Japan. He was sumo’s 54th yokozuna. He won a total of 14 tournament championships or yūshō during his career and retired in March 1981. He was later head coach of Hanakago stable, but was forced to leave the sumo world and turned to professional wrestling.
After graduating from Nihon University where he was an amateur sumo champion he made his professional debut in January 1970 at the age of 22, joining Hanakago stable which was just a short distance from his university sumo club. He was given makushita tsukedashi status, meaning he could begin in the third highest makushita division. He was undefeated in his first 14 matches and reached the jūryō division after just two tournaments. He was promoted to the top makuuchi division in January 1971.
After finishing as runner-up in the November 1971 and January 1972 tournaments he was promoted to sekiwake and took his first top division championship or yūshō in May 1972. He was promoted to ōzeki shortly afterwards and after winning his second championship with a perfect 15-0 score in May 1973 he was promoted to yokozuna. He took his first yūshō as a yokozuna in September, and in November 1973 he became the first wrestler ever to withdraw from a tournament while still managing to win it. Wajima won three championships in 1974 but then went into a slump, and did not take another title until March 1976. In the late 1970s he was somewhat overshadowed by fellow yokozuna Kitanoumi, five years his junior. While Wajima had had a good personal record against him, holding a 19-10 advantage up to the end of 1977, Kitanoumi began to win their later encounters and overtook him in terms of championships won. Wajima took his fourteenth and final championship in November 1980, and retired in March 1981.
Wajima was an unconventional wrestler in many ways. He was the only man ever to go as far as yokozuna without adopting a traditional shikona, instead fighting under his own surname of Wajima throughout his entire career. He was the first and to date only former collegiate competitor to be promoted to yokozuna (he was nicknamed the “Sumo Genius” because of his college background). His other departures from sumo norms included having his hair permed before growing a topknot, staying in luxury hotels and driving a Lincoln Continental whilst on regional sumo tours (jungyo), and associating himself with outsiders such as the yakuza and going out on late night drinking sessions.
He was a great friend of Takanohana, whom he had known since his university days. The two were promoted to ōzeki simultaneously in November 1972.
Wajima was not a particularly large wrestler but he had superb technique. His preferred grip on the mawashi was hidari yotsu (right hand outside, left hand inside), and he was famed for the power of his so-called “golden left arm” which he would use to down his opponents by shitatenage or inner-arm throw. His other favourite kimarite included yori-kiri (force out) and tsuri-dashi (lift out).
Retirement from sumo
Following his retirement Wajima took over as oyakata, or head coach, of Hanakago stable in 1981, having married the eldest daughter of the previous stablemaster. However, his time there as oyakata was controversial. He lacked leadership qualities and most unusually did not even live in the stable, preferring to commute. Hanakago declined to the point when it did not have any top division wrestlers left. In 1982 his wife attempted suicide and he was demoted from his position as a shimpan or judge as a result. The marriage eventually ended in divorce. In 1985 he was pressured by fellow oyakata to resign from the Sumo Association after it emerged that he was heavily in debt due to the failure of his chankonabe restaurant and had put up his shares in the Association as collateral on a loan, a practice strictly forbidden. The stable folded completely with all its wrestlers transferring to the affiliated Hanaregoma stable.
Professional wrestling career
To pay off his debts, Wajima turned to pro wrestling. Shohei Baba, owner of All Japan Pro Wrestling, convinced him to join his promotion and train at their dojo. He debuted in 1986. Because of his status as a former Yokozuna (the first since Kinichi Azumafuji to turn to pro wrestling), Wajima was pushed as a superstar, feuding with Stan Hansen over the PWF Heavyweight Championship. In the long run, however, accumulated injuries from his sumo years limited his potential as a professional wrestler, and he ended up retiring from the game altogether in December 1988; his last recorded match was held December 16, as he and The Great Kabuki defeated Jerry Blackwell and Phil Hickerson.
After quitting as a wrestler Wajima coached the X-League American football team ROCBULL and also worked with the Cuban national sumo team. He was also Ishikawa Prefecture’s tourist ambassador. In January 2009 he returned to the Ryōgoku Kokugikan for the first time since leaving the Sumo Association in 1985, and was a guest of NHK, commentating on the day’s bouts with Demon Kogure.