Bret Hart and Hakushi | Their Exceptional Forgotten Technical Classic

In 1993, Bret Hart became a triple crown winner in the WWE. He won the WWF Championship, Intercontinental, and Tag Title. Shortly after winning the 1993 King of The Ring, The Hitman entered a feud with Jerry “The King” Lawler.

Lawler insinuated that Bret Hart was a “pretender to the throne.” For Bret, it was never about being King; it was more about respect. When Lawler failed to defeat Hart, he bought in several of his associates to do his bidding.

One of those was the Modern Day Kamikaze, Hakushi.

Hakushi: photos | WWE
[Photo: WWE]

Japan’s Greatest Import

Hakushi was a standout in Japan before arriving in the WWF.  He wrestled under the name Jinsei Shinzaki in Michinoku Pro Wrestling. He was a silent heel, similar to Iceman Dean Malenko in WCW.

He wrestled very methodically. No moves were wasted in his matches. He would dress in a white robe and carry a staff. During matches, he would pray for the soul of his opponent before starting a deadly attack.

His manager was Mr. Yamaguchi, the leader of a Japanese heel faction determined to take down the Japanese hero, The Great Sasuke. Eventually, Shinzaki saw the light and turned face helping Sasuke in his fight against Yamaguchis mercenaries.

Debut of Modern-Day Kamikaze

In 1994, during a tour of Japan, Shinzaki wrestled a dark match for the World Wrestling Federation. After seeing what the Fallen Angel could do, Vince McMahon signed him to a contract. Hakushi debuted in November of 1994.

He kept the white robes and the methodical style but was covered in Buddhist writing all over his body. He also had a manager by the name of Shinja. Hakushi would wrestle several WWE midcarders, such as 1-2-3 Kid, Barry Horowitz, and Bob Holly.

He also briefly was aligned with Kwang in the team called Shogun. After losing a match on WWF Superstars to the Body Donnas, Hakushi turned on Kwang. Hakushi went on to have a 6-month undefeated streak.

New WWF Generation on X: "Hakushi holding Bret Harts “head” @BretHart #NewWWFGeneration #WWE #WWF #RAW #Smackdown #AEW #NXT #BretHart #Hakushi" / X
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Lying King Jerry Lawler

It was during this time that Jerry Lawler was looking for some hired help in his feud with Bret Hart. Hart was given the Award of People on a February 20, 1995, episode of RAW. Lawler made up a lie, saying that Japanese fans were not included in the vote.

The lying king also accused Bret Hart of being a racist. No one was buying this at all. However, The King did manage to convince Hakushi, which was the plan from the beginning. On March 25, 1995, on Superstars of Wrestling, Hakushi attacked the Hitman.

Hakushi began to bring a mannequin head to the ring with Bret Harts’s trademark sunglasses on it. Bret had enough of Hakushi. A match was signed for the first-ever In Your House PPV.

Not only would Bret Hart wrestle Hakushi, but later that night, he agreed to face Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler and shut his mouth once and for all. Bret dedicated the match to his mother, Helen Hart, which was appropriate as the PPV was held on Mother’s Day. As a side note, Lawler also claimed his “mother” would be at ringside as well.

Bret Hart and Hakushi
[Photo: WWE]

Bret Hart and Hakushi – Their Technical Classic

The first match that night was Hitman vs. Hakushi. Hakushi walked to the ring slowly and methodically, knowing this match would be his highest-profile match since joining the WWF. He was accompanied by Shinja, aka Akio Sato.

The Hitman was arguably the most popular star of the 90s, and a win would catapult Hakushi to the title. Bret walked to the ring like a warrior. He was ready to defeat Hakushi and avenge his family against the “Burger King ” Jerry Lawler later in the night.

Jerry Lawler was nervously watching on the monitor in the back, if Bret won, he would meet the Hitman later in the night.  The match started with Hakushi doing a cartwheel to avoid Hart.

Bret appeared to have appreciated the Japanese sensation’s athleticism. The two then locked up, with Hakushi getting a hairpill on Bret. The two superstars started exchanging armbars, with Bret getting the upper hand.

After three arm drags, Hakushi bailed out to confer with Shinja. After the Modern Day Kamikaze got back in the ring, he whipped Bret sternum first into the buckle. Then he worked on Bret’s chest with a splash and a bronco buster.

Bret Hart vs. Hakushi: Raw, July 24, 1995 | WWE
[Photo: WWE]
Hakushi appeared to follow through with his promise to defeat Bret Hart. To add to this Shinja would choke the hitman when the ref wasn’t looking. Hakushi whipped Hart into the buckle and connected with a backhand spring elbow.

After a backbreaker, the kamikaze went to the top rope for a flying headbutt. Bret moved just in time. The Excellence of Execution began to wear away Hakushi with a Russian leg sweep, bulldog, and a backbreaker.

This set Hakushi up for Brets’ elbow off the second rope. Nothing looks smoother than a Hitman’s elbow. Bret still could not get the win. At this point, The Hitman went for his finisher, the sharpshooter, but decided it was too soon.

As Bret went to take down Hakushi, Shinja grabbed the Hitman’s foot, attempting to trip him. Hitman dived on top of Shinja. Bret rolled back in the ring but was caught by a vicious dropkick. Hakushi only got a two-count. Bret fought back and went to suplex Hakushi.

Both stars tumbled to the floor. Shinja attempted to grab the Hitman again. Bret gave him a headbutt for his interference. Hakushi hit a springboard moonsault onto Bret, throwing all caution to the wind. Hakushi truly was the modern-day kamikaze.

He did not care how he hurt himself just as long as he defeated Bret Hart. Hakushi then suplexed Hart back into the ring. However, Bret held on and rolled up Hakushi for the win. Just like that, Hakushi’s’ undefeated streak was over.

The Kamikaze crashed and burned. As Bret left the ring it looked like he injured his knee. Lawler looked on as if seeing a bullseye on the Hitman.

The Fishbulb Suplex | Professional wrestling, Wrestling superstars, Pro wrestling
[Photo: Pinterest]
Bret wrestled twice that night. He was now ready to shut Jerry Lawler’s mouth once and for all. Lawler was in the ring first with a woman in her 20s whom he claimed was his mother. The Hitman was interviewed backstage before he made his entrance.

When asked about his knee, he said, “It is just fine.” The Hitman had been playing the King for a fool. He even hopped around on it to show he was faking it. Bret, still limping, hobbled to the ring.

After he entered the ring, he showed The King that he was just fine. Lawler was now scared for his life. He knew he would have to pay for antagonizing the Hart family, especially Bret’s mother, Helen Hart. Bret knocked Lawler so hard that he fell out of the ring.

Bret then whipped the Burger King into the steel steps. Back in the ring, Lawler got the advantage with an eye gouge. He then piledrove the Hitman. Bret fired up and caught Lawler with his piledriver and an elbow drop.

Hitman was enjoying every minute of this. Lawler resorted back to the eye poke, followed by bodyslam. The King then went to the second rope for his fist drop, but Bret landed a fist in his gut. Shinja made another appearance.

Bret whipped Lawler into a buckle, but referee Earl Hebner got his foot caught in the ropes. Bret was not aware Hebner was down. He hit another hard elbow on the King. At that point, Hakushi returned, wanting to get even with Bret.

WWF In Your House 1
[Photo: Classic Wrestling Review]
He gave an axehandle to Bret’s back. As Lawler set Hart in position, the modern-day kamikaze went to the top to deliver a devastating headbutt to the chest. He knocked the wind out of the Hitman. Then, just to be sure, he went for another diving headbutt.

Lawler pinned the Hitman. After the match, Hakushi went to clothesline Hart but missed and hit Lawler instead. The two ran away as the Hitman recovered. Even though this night was to advance the story between Bret and Lawler, It gave us a rare opening match.

Many people forget that The Hitman did spend some time in Japan, and part of this match was to introduce this style to American fans.

Years later, In his autobiography My Real Life In the Cartoon World of Wrestling, the Hitman said he saw something in Hakushi.

“Our Match wasn’t meant to mean much, but we completely blew them away with unexpected aerial moves that had only been seen in Japan. At the end of the night, Vince told me that my matches saved the show.

I liked Hakushi enough to have established him as a serious heel, but unfortunately, because of his kindly nature, everyone who worked with him ate him up.”

Monday Night Raw Rematch

The two met again on a Monday Night Raw episode in July 1995. Hakushi bought the replica Hitman head in a bag and set it at ringside. Shinja distracted Bret so Hakushi could get the advantage. Bret was slingshot into the ring post, grabbing his lower back.

Repeatedly, Hakushi punished Bret’s back. Bret tries to build momentum with a few pin attempts, but Hakushi keeps returning. At one point, Bret attempts a rollup and is instead knocked outside the ring to the floor.

Hakushi takes to the air with an unbelievable back handspring summer sault over the top rope, spinning onto Bret. It was unbelievable. This was the first space-flying tiger drop ever done in the United States.

As the Hitman got back to his feet he used the ring rope to launch himself on Hakushi. Hitman was now fighting back. He threw Hakushi in the ring. Beginning to set up for the sharpshooter, Bret went for a backbreaker followed by an elbow drop.

As he went for the pin, Shinja attempted to get in the ring, causing Bret to go after Shinja. Hitman went back for the attack but was caught with a backdrop. Seeing this was his opportunity, the kamikaze went for his headbutt off the top but missed.

Hitman grabbed Hakushi and set him on the top rope for a superplex. Hakushi was done. Bret locked in the Sharpshooter, ending the rivalry.

Hakushi Gets Americanized | The Worst of WWF
[Photo: WrestleCrap]

Hakushi – the Unlikely Ally

After that, Hakushi became a fan favorite by helping Barry Horowitz. He teamed with the Hitman in tag matches against Jerry Lawler and his dentist Issac Yankeem DDS. Hakushi, unfortunately, did not last long after that.

After Hakushi lost to JBL, the Texan used a branding iron on him.  He parted ways with the WWF. Jim Ross claimed on air that Hakushi was so embarrassed by the branding he left. If you listen closely, you can hear the uncertainty in JR’s voice about WWF losing another potential star.

Life after WWF

After Leaving WWF, he returned to Japan with his original name, Shinzaki. Most notably, he started a rivalry with the Great Muta. This is another Japanese Star who had a classic rivalry with another American wrestler, Sting.

Again, looking at what their matches were like, one can’t help to wonder if a few months down the road, Hitman vs Hakushi would have headlined several PPVs. Here’s an interesting fact in 1997, Hakushi did have a one-on-one match with The Undertaker.

Watching this match and the contrast between the supernatural characters, one can not help to imagine another rivalry for Hakushi that WWF missed out on. He also had a few Matches against ECW stars RVD and Sabu. Without a doubt, WWF did not know what they had with Hakushi.

Jinsei Shinzaki - Simple English Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
[Photo: Wikipedia]
In 1998, Shinzaki competed in All Japan Pro Wrestling. Teaming with Hayabusa, he won the All-Asia Tag Team title. In 2003, he became president of Michinoku Pro Wrestling. On April 15, 2011, he competed in the King of Trios match in Chikara.

Shinzaki is also a true humanitarian. After the Earthquake and Tsunami of 2011, He helped victims by providing them with food and drinks.

Bret tended to have a string of rivalries throughout 1995. He was challenged by Issac Yankeem DDS, aka Kane, John Pierre Laffeite, aka PCO, and Lawler himself. This rivalry, in particular, looks like it definitely could have been explored more.

Hakushi was an amazing athlete capable of incredible aerial feats and complimented Hart’s technical ability. One can’t help to wonder if the rivalry between The Hitman and Hakushi would have changed the direction of a struggling WWF in 1995.