Monday, June 15, 2009

R.I.P. Ted Tanabe

I was deeply saddened to hear that Japanese pro wrestling referee, Ted Tanabe, died suddenly yesterday from a heart attack suffered during a show for Osaka Pro Wrestling. Tanabe was just 46 years old.

Tanabe may be best known to American fans as the referee for Michinoku Pro Wrestling who officiated the great 6 man tag match at ECW's first pay per view, Barely Legal in April 1997. I was closely involved in Michinoku appearing at that pay per view and had the chance to get to know Tanabe a little bit during that period of time.

My first time meeting Ted Tanabe was in February 1997, when Michinoku Pro Wrestling owner and star, The Great Sasuke, brought a group of wrestlers to Boston to appear on an ECW TV Taping and a Century Wrestling Alliance show (the late Tony Rumble's company and the pre-cursor of NWA New England) headlined by then WCW booker, Kevin Sullivan. A deal was going to be made on this trip for the Michinoku stars to appear on the Barley Legal PPV for ECW with myself playing middle man.

Tanabe was more than just a referee for Michinoku at that time. He was clearly the guy who kept track of the boys, most of whom were young stars equivalent to the upper end of their American counterparts on the independent scene.

Ted Tanabe looked something like a Japanese version of Lou Costello - jovial, and obviously a huge wrestling fan. When I met him, I was told he had promoted independent shows in Japan and was also a referee for FMW and Battlearts, as well as Michinoku.

When they were in Boston before, Tanabe expressed an interest in American wrestling magazines, buying up whatever he could find on the newsstands. I brought him a number of magazines I had, as well as some old programs.

When I saw him again in Phildadelphia just prior to the Barely Legal PPV, he produced a whole pile of things for me, including old Japanese magazines, posters, trading cards and other assorted goodies. I reciprocated with bag full of things I’d brought to give to him.

My favorite memory of Ted Tanabe would be at Boston's Logan Airport when the Michinoku crew were going back to Japan after the February trip. It was time to say goodbye and the young boys did not know whether to bow, shake hands or what. Ted looked at them, looked back at me and then threw his arms around mem gave me a hug and thanked me. All the others lined up and follwed suit, including the great veteran Gran Hamada.

My deepest sympathies to his family and friends. Ted Tanabe was a good man and a person who made an impact on the business he truly loved.

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