Tag Team Appreciation Month

MR. FUJI & MR. SAITO

 

1981-1984

WWF World Tag Team Champions

 

Written by Mike Rickard

While fans often associate tag team technicians with teams like The British Bulldogs, The Rock & Roll Express, The Killer Bees and The Midnight Express, tag teams could be formidable opponents regardless of fast tags. One very brutal team was that of Mr. Fuji and Mr. Saito, two sadistic individuals who terrorized the WWF tag team ranks in the early 1980s, winning the WWF Tag Team Championship on two occasions.

 

Mr. Fuji was a veteran tag team wrestler, having held the WWWF Tag Team Championship three times with partner Professor Toru Tanaka (Both men were billed from Japan but both were actually a Hawaiian natives). If you haven’t done so already, check out our profile on Mr. Fuji and Professor Tanaka. When the not-so-good professor parted ways with Fuji, “The Devious One” (as Fuji was known for his cheating ways) found a formidable partner by the name of Mr. Saito.

 

Mr. Saito (a/k/a Masanori Saito) enjoyed success in his homeland Japan and the United States, working in a number of territories in the National Wrestling Alliance. In 1981, Saito entered the WWF, under the guidance of the notorious heel manager, Captain Lou Albano. Albano, the self-proclaimed “Guiding Light” of professional wrestling was known for guiding a number of tag teams to the top of the mountain in the WWF and he did so again when he paired Fuji and Saito.

On October 13, 1981, Mr. Fuji and Mr. Saito struck gold when they defeated Tony Garea and Rick Martel on an episode of Championship Wrestling, capturing the WWF Tag Team Championship. With Albano’s willingness to interfere as needed, and Fuji’s habit of throwing salt into opponents’ eyes, Fuji and Saito held the belts for 258 days. On June 28, 1982, kayfabe brothers Jay and Jules Strongbow defeated Fuji and Saito for the belts; that is, until it was determined Fuji’s foot was on the bottom rope, resulting in the belts being vacated.

 

With the belts vacated, the two teams met on the July 24, 1982 episode of Championship Wrestling in a 2-out- of-3 falls match. Fuji and Saito scored an early pin thanks to a handful of salt to the eyes of both Strongbow brothers. The Strongbows bounced back with a submission win when Jules knocked out Fuji with the sleeper hold. However, the third fall saw Fuji and Saito steal the fall and the belts when Captain Lou Albano nailed Jay Strongbow with a foreign object. After the match, the Strongbows held a sit-in inside the ring to protest this travesty of justice, yet another instance of man’s inhumanity to man, particularly the Native American people (although Jules was the only authentic Native American).

 

Meanwhile, Fuji and Saito defended the WWF Tag Team Championship, dismissing the Strongbows’ protests. Still, the Strongbows were not going to be denied and they persisted in their goal of winning the tag team titles. Finally, on the November 6, 1982 episode of Championship Wrestling, the Strongbows triumphed as Jay Strongbow hit a Lou Thesz Press on Mr. Fuji to get the 1-2- 3 win and the titles.

After Fuji and Saito went their separate ways, “The Devious One” competed in singles action and occasionally teamed with Tiger Chung Lee. In 1985, Fuji hung up the tights and put on a tuxedo, managing his own stable of heels and using his trusty cane to interfere whenever needed. Fuji guided the careers of various wrestlers including Demolition, The Powers of Pain and Yokozuna. Mr. Fuji passed away in 2016 at age 82.

 

Mr. Saito continued wrestling, experiencing a short hiatus when he and wrestler Ken Patera were imprisoned after a brawl with police officers (although the validity of the officers’ claims has been called into question). Saito would go on to win the AWA World Heavyweight Championship and New Japan Pro Wrestling’s IWGP Tag Team Championship.

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