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Finding The Way: From Young Lion to Grand Master

4 years ago

Finding The Way: From Young Lion to Grand Master

By: Richard Edwards

So who is this fleet-footed phenomenon planning to overtake the squared circles of Japan? When he left the scene a couple years back, the blue haired upstart was just a young lion. But in Mexico, he honed his technique to such an extent that he’s now a Grand Master! If you haven’t heard of this controversial personality before, his birth name is Hirai Kawato. However, he has changed his name to the sacrosanct Master Wato to reflect his new disposition and status as a fighter.

Judging from comments made after feuding with Douki at Osaka Jo Hall in his homecoming bout on July 11 (“I want everybody to recognise me truly as the Grand Master I’ve been calling myself / And I want to become a junior heavyweight that’s capable of competing at the heavyweight level”), he appears ready for a shot at the title of King of Pro Wrestling. For all intents and purposes, he looks set to complete his comeuppance and command the same respect as locker room lifetimers such as Hiroshi Tanahashi and Hiroyoshi Tenzan, with whom he teamed up during Summer Struggle. Master Wato’s erratic style and fierce approach in the ring are already turning heads. At Dominion, Suzuki-gun singled out the junior heavyweight to welcome him to the big leagues—a challenge he accepted with guile. Of course “The Way to the Grand Master” wasn’t an easy mentality to achieve; but fraught with barriers and breakthroughs in a long journey to becoming NJPW’s fastest-rising star.

The Road Less Traveled

He was born in the small town of Ikeda in Osaka, Japan, on March 13th, 1997. He was introduced to wrestling in 2016 when he started training with NJPW at the local dojo. His debut in the ring came on January 3rd, 2016, against Yohei Komatsu (which he lost). But it wasn’t long before Kawato found himself tagging with Jyushin Thunder Liger and Yuji Nagata. The trio went on to defeat Tomoyuki Oka, Yoshitatsu, and Toa Henare for his first-ever win in the sport—not bad for a first taste of victory!

Kawato continued his progress in a big test versus Shota Umino on April 22nd, 2016, scoring a major singles win to boost his confidence. The marvels that added to his growing popularity in 2017 included his showing in the Young Lion Cup, a ter notching four wins and taking second overall. From there it was clear, as it was with Umino: Time was short before he journeyed overseas to discover a new edge.

Two years have passed since Kawato left for excursion. He moved to Mexico in 2018, signing to compete in Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (CMLL). At first, he wanted local spectators to know him simply as Kawato San.

He wrestled several individual and tag-team matches over the next two years, eventually winning the CMLL World Super Light Weight Championship in 2019. At the time, it was Kawato San’s most significant achievement.

Fans didn’t hear much about him after that, because an unfortunate knee injury forced the company to strip away his championship. Indeed, Kawato San was no stranger to controversy in Mexico; he once had to cut off all his hair after losing to Dulce Gardenia in the Sin Piedad (No Mercy) in front of a rowdy crowd.

Kawato is fresh back in Japan as of this writing, now a Grand Master. His in-ring transformation is matched by a completely new look; blue hair and matching blue gear for a babyface-but-blockbusting bad boy look. Immediately upon returning, he’s had some scores to settle with wrestlers from the Suzuki-gun stable, most notably a former Mexican indie veteran himself, DOUKI. The back-and-forth began at this year’s New Japan Cup, where Master Wato and Douki went head to head in the final night of the tournament.

” I want EVERYBODY to recognize me truly as the GRAND MASTER I’ve been calling myself ”

This was one of the most publicized match-ups in recent Japanese Wrestling history, and Master Wato was victorious. With this victory, he was back in the hearts of Japanese fans, with some members in the audience even attending with blue hair. With so much adoration, the Grand Master looks more motivated than ever!

Master Wato definitely learned some new moves from Mexico, as reflected in his win-loss record. The only question le t is whether or not his opponents will start to figure the secrets to his new combat style …or if this is truly The Way. And if so, audiences will be waiting to see which championship Master Wato captures first.

This article first appeared in Monthly Puroresu Issue #1

Written by:

Freelance sportswriter based out of Jamaica, mostly known for my NBA coverage. I contribute to a wide variety of digital publications, take pride in my research abilities and am honored to have been with Monthly Puroresu since Issue #1 in Summer 2020.