As I made it in to work today, I saw that former wrestler and wrestling manager Harry Fujiwara, best known to generations of WWF Fans as Mr. Fuji, had died at the age of 82.
Fuji’s run as a wrestler was dying down as I started watching in the early days of Hulkamania and Rock ‘n’ Wrestling, but he made some appearances in tag team matches here and there. But I’ll always remember him as a manager. Nicknamed “The Devious One” for his penchant for cheating, Fuji always had his trademark cane ready to whack his man’s opponent or a packet of ceremonial salt to throw in someone’s eyes.
Mr. Fuji made a splash in the WWF as the manager of Hawaiian “Magnificent” Don Muraco and the skits the pair did for the company’s Tuesday Night Titans show. Muraco and Fuji would parody popular shows of the era to create classic bits of television like “Fuji Vice.”
The sheer ridiculousness of these parody skits just put Fuji on another level with a lot of people, and with the advent of social media and the WWE Network, a whole new generation of fans are discovering the wacky stuff that Fuji did.
As a manager, Fuji was probably best known for his turn as the manager of WWF Champion Yokozuna, but he was mostly pushed to the background in favor of Jim Cornette. To me, his most memorable role was as the manager of World Tag Team Champions Demolition – Ax and Smash – who he famously and confusingly turned on during the 1988 Survivor Series, in favor of new rivals The Powers of pain.
In the age of shoot interviews and the backstage curtain being opened, Fuji gained more notoriety as guys like Muraco would tell stories of the pranks that Fuji pulled on his fellow wrestlers, both amusing and horrifying those who listened to the tales.
But I’ll always remember Fuji in his managerial role. Adorned in his tuxedo and top hat, and always walking with a cane, Fuji was one of the most established characters in the late-1980s WWF. Managing well into the 1990s, he was one of the last of the managers to stick around before the company phased them out. For all that he did in and around the ring, he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2007.