In response to our recent post about Japanese tackle football, a commenter asked a salient question:
I’ve always wondered if some of the high-ranking sumo wrestlers could make it in the NFL as blitzing specialists. There’s been a long history of association between football and wrestling in the US, with a lot of highschool wrestling teams serving as off-season training programs for the football team. I wonder if the Japanese national Football team is stocked with washed out sumo wrestlers?
Microkhan did a little digging, and it turns out that a former yokozuna once got pretty close to making it in the NFL. Masaru Hanada (above), who wrestled under the name Wakanohana, tried out for a couple of teams back in 2001. He was considered a good candidate to make the transition because, as far as sumos go, he was pretty light—he usually wrestled at a mere 285 pounds, and relied on his natural athleticism to defeat far heavier opponents.
But things just didn’t work out, largely because he was so far behind on technique. We reckon that those blitzing maneuvers that look so facile on TV are actually a lot trickier than they seem. And if you don’t grow up playing the sport, your nose for the ball probably isn’t to sharp.
Hanada ended up on the Arizona Rattlers for a brief time, but he washed out (though his agent claimed that visa and insurance problems were to blame). He had a chance to start a rung lower, in Arena Football’s second-tier league, but he wisely passed. Why get pounded in the American sticks when you can own a successful chain of hot-pot restaurants back home?