Olympian wrestler and former IWGP Heavyweight Champion Manabu Nakanishi, 52, has announced that he will retire from professional wrestling on February 22nd, with a special ceremony scheduled at Korakuen Hall.
Nakanishi got his start as a freestyle amateur wrestler, entering tournaments all around the world in the late 80s and early 90s. He took part in the 1992 Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain taking 11th place overall in the same pool as UFC legend Mark Coleman.
He made the transition to pro-wrestling shortly after the Olympics, entering the NJPW Dojo but debuting immediately as the tag team partner of Tatsumi Fujinami for the ’92 Super Grade Tag League. He went on to win the ’95 Young Lion Cup with wins over future champions including Shinjiro Otani, Tatsuhito Takaiwa, defeating Yuji Nagata in the finals.
As is tradition, Nakanishi was sent overseas on an excursion and joined up with WCW in the mid 90s, working under the name Kurasawa. While his run there wasn’t exactly notable, he did get to work with several of America’s top names at the time including Sting, Randy Savage, Road Warrior Hawk and Arn Anderson.
He came back from the U.S. and continued to rise up the card throughout the mid-to-late 90, including an IWGP Tag Team Championship reign with Yuji Nagata, and a shocking upset over Keiji Mutoh to win the ’99 G1 Climax tournament. In 2009, he won the IWGP Heavyweight title, but only held the belt for one month before dropping it to Hiroshi Tanahashi.
Nakanishi has since been working on the undercards of select New Japan tours, with his world load slowing down considerably in recent years. In what will stand as his last appearance at the Tokyo Dome, he and Nagata teamed up one more time during the night one pre-show, losing to Satoshi Kojima and Hiroyoshi Tenzan.