Tarzan Goto, best known for his stint in the Japanese hardcore promotion Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling, passed away this Sunday in the evening, according to Tokyo Sports. Though no cause of death was given, Greg Oliver of Slam Wrestling later stated Goto was suffering from liver cancer. He was 58 years old.

“I still can’t believe it, and I can’t really feel it,” Mr. Gannosuke, a long-time colleague of Goto’s at FMW, told Tokyo Sports. “It is an asset that I have been able to do for many years thanks to Mr. Goto’s strict teaching. I have nothing but gratitude. I pray for his soul to rest in peace.”

Born Seiji Goto on August 16, 1961, Goto was initially a sumo wrestler before he joined Giant Baba’s All Japan Pro Wrestling in 1981, as the protege of Japanese wrestling legend Jumbo Tsuruta. Wrestling as Masaji Goto, he worked for All Japan for the next several years as a lower-tier wrestler, with his most notable match coming against a young Toshiaki Kawada, one of the future four pillars of All Japan, in November of 1984.

After leaving All Japan in 1985, Goto toured North America, working for NWA promotions such as Jim Crockett Promotions, Central States Wrestling, and the Continental Wrestling Association in Memphis, Tennessee. It was in CWA he achieved his biggest success stateside, winning the CWA/AEW International Tag Team Championships five times with Akio Sato. Sato would go on to join WWE as a member of The Orient Express, and later managed Hakushi (Jinsei Shinzaki) under the name Shinja.

Goto achieved his greatest success however when he returned to Japan in 1989, being lured back by Atsushi Onita, who Goto knew from their All Japan days. Around this time Onita launched FMW, with himself and Goto as one of the two premiere stars; for the next several years, FMW went on to become one of the most successful independent promotions in history, drawing comparable crowds to both All Japan and New Japan Pro Wrestling.

Among Goto’s many highlights in FMW were winning the promotion’s top title, the FMW Bare Knuckles Heavyweight Championship, from Big Titan (who’d eventually gain fame as the second Razor Ramon) in January of 1992. Goto and Onita also formed a successful tag team, becoming the first-ever FMW Bare Knuckles Tag Team Champions in December of 1991.

Goto later regained the titles with his new partner, former Russian Olympian Grigory Verichev, in May of 1992. He was also part of FMW’s only five-star match from Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s Dave Meltzer, when he, Onita, and lucha libre legend El Hijo del Santo defeated Tim Patterson, Horace Boulder (WCW’s Horace Hogan), and long time CMLL star Negro Casas on May 16, 1992, in Los Angeles.

The biggest moment of Goto’s career however came on August 4, 1990, when he took on Onita in the first-ever Exploding Barbed Wire Deathmatch at FMW’s Summer Spectacular. The bout would become FMW’s staple match, and helped grow the promotion’s popularity. Goto ultimately competed in two additional Exploding Barbed Wire deathmatches, including a rematch with Onita in an Exploding Barbed Wire cage match in 1991.

Goto left FMW shortly before Onita’s first retirement in 1995, joining rival hardcore promotion IWA-Japan (International Wrestling Association of Japan). There he and Gannosuke won the NWA World Tag Team Championships, though they’d quickly vacate them. Goto worked on and off for the promotion until leaving for good in 1999.

In addition to IWA-Japan and FMW, Goto worked with other organizations in Japan, such as WAR (Wrestling Association-R), Michinoku Pro Wrestling, and Big Japan Pro Wrestling. He also returned to the states briefly in 1996, making two appearances in ECW. He defeated Ian Rotten in both appearances, including at ECW Heat Wave on July 13.

Starting in 1999, Goto slowed his total number of matches a year to a handful, never wrestling more than six times in a given year. His most notable matches during this time would be in All Japan, returning for the first time in nearly 20 years. He took part in the Jumbo Tsuruta Memorial Battle Royal in 2001, and a tag match in 2002, where he teamed with future New Japan star Tomoaki Honma to take on Abdullah the Butcher and Terry Funk in a losing effort.

Goto also tried his hand at promoting, launching Super FMW in 1995 after he left FMW; the promotion folded after three years, though Goto again launched it in 2008. His last recorded match was under the Super FMW banner in 2010, where he, Nobuhiro Tsurumaki, Reina Ayukawa, and Shark Tsuchiya defeated Basara, long-time FMW star Mr. Pogo, Tomonobu Matsumoto, and Yuta Nakata in a Barbed Wire Board Thumbtacks Death Match. Following his career, Goto was noted by Tokyo Sports for working at a ramen restaurant before his illness.

Goto is survived by his wife, Greek wrestler Despina Montagas, and their three sons. The couple met while both were working in the United States, and later took part in the first-ever mixed tag team match in the history of Japan, when they defeated Ricky Fuji and Megumi Kudo at an FMW event on October 26, 1990.

Wrestling Inc. would like to offer our condolences to Goto’s family and friends during this difficult time.

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