I had every intention of writing a short piece in memory of Mr. Fuji today, but then I was hit with the news of Gene Wilder's passing. Man, where do I start? When I was 12 (or maybe 13), I was gifted Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory on VHS while I was in the hospital recovering from major hip surgery. I've had several invasive operations, but I consider that to be the worst for a directory of reasons I won't recite here. Gene Wilder's magical performance was one of the aspects of Willy Wonka that pulled me through the morass. Upon being sent home, I watched it damn near every day. It wouldn't be long before I discovered Young Frankenstein.
Holy shit. What a fucking movie. Again, I was in tune with Wilder, and I almost have all of his dialogue committed to memory (that's a big deal for me; I never recall dialogue or lyrics). He is pitch-perfect as "Dr. Fronkensteen." He was basically great in everything. His timing, his voice...dude, his voice! A friend and I have around a half-dozen Wilder in-jokes, but they require a superb impersonation. It nettles me that I don't possess his voice box. His frenzied screams are legendary. "Destiny! Destiny! No escaping that for me!" You couldn't escape your fate, but you won't escape your place in the annals of Hollywood history either. Your fans won't let that happen.
Most wrestling adherents know Mr. Fuji as an evil manager with a voracity for table salt (I wonder if they thought he was just really, really superstitious). I can't blame them. I loved it when Demolition turned heel and took on Mr. Fuji as their guidance counselor of sorts. He also did fantastic work - perhaps the best of his career as a manager - with Yokozuna, acting as his proxy and polyglot. Oh, and evil "advocate." I won't pretend to have seen the bulk of his matches as a wrestler, but Mr. Fuji (a.k.a. Harry Fujiwara, his birth name) spent an ample percentage of his ring-active career under the employ of Vince McMahon Sr. and three years under Vince Jr.
He tended to stick to the tag team division where he found tremendous success. Mr. Fuji was significant, as he was one of the first Asian-Americans to get over in the states and have a durable, scopious career. Name any other Japanese star from the early 70's who managed to stay on American television into the mid-90's. Aside from Hulk Hogan. Sorry, this eulogy (?) needed a fleck of levity. Hoping to see a respectful tribute to Mr. Fuji tonight on Raw.
Posted by Dom Coccaro at 7:04 PM