Harry Fujiwara, best known as the professional wrestler Mr. Fuji, whose 31-year career spanned sports entertainment’s growth from regional niche attraction to cultural mainstream, died this morning, World Wrestling Entertainment has announced. He was 82.
“WWE is saddened to learn that WWE Hall of Famer Harry Fujiwara, known to WWE fans as Mr. Fuji, passed away this morning at the age of 82,” the organization said in a statement. “His career will be remembered by different generations for different reasons but Mr. Fuji, whether as a Superstar or manager, is one of the most entertaining performers in the history of WWE.”
Born in Honolulu in 1935, Fujiwara began his career in 1965 in his native Hawaii using the ring name Mr. Fujiwara. Quickly becoming a breakout in the field, Fujiwara shortened his ring name to Mr. Fuji and began performing in various regional wrestling companies along the West Coast. In 1972, he joined Vince McMahon’s World Wide Wrestling Federation, precursor to today’s WWE, as a heel, forming a tag team with Professor Toru Tanaka. During this era, Fujiwara became known for his signature move, throwing salt in the eyes of his opponents and earning the nickname “the devious one.”
Fujiwara briefly left WWF twice during the ’70s but returned for good in 1981 just after the company rebranded itself as World Wrestling Federation (WWF). A popular mainstay during WWF’s period of immense popularity in the 1980s, he transitioned away from ring competition to performing as a manager in 1985. He retired for good in 1996, and was commemorated as one of the greatest managers in WWE history.
After retiring, Fujiwara resided in Tennessee, where he operated a training dojo until 2001. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2007.