Choshu in January 2006
|Birth name||Mitsuo Yoshida|
|Born||December 3, 1951|
Tokuyama, Yamaguchi, Japan
|Professional wrestling career|
|Billed height||1.84 m (6 ft 0 in)|
|Billed weight||120 kg (265 lb)|
|Trained by||Masa Saito|
|Debut||August 8, 1974|
|Retired||June 26, 2019|
Mitsuo Yoshida ( Yoshida Mitsuo, born December 3, 1951), better known by his ring name Riki Choshu ( ? Ch?sh? Riki) is a Korean-Japanese retired professional wrestler who is best known for his longtime work in New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW) as both a wrestler and a booker. He is considered one of Japan's most influential wrestlers for his work in the 1980s and 1990s and is known as the first wrestler to popularize the Sasori-Gatame, better known in English as the Scorpion Deathlock or Sharpshooter. After leaving NJPW in 2002, he formed Fighting World of Japan Pro Wrestling (WJ), but eventually returned to New Japan in October 2005 as a site foreman, booker, and part-time wrestler. Choshu once again left NJPW in 2010 and primarily worked in Tatsumi Fujinami's Dradition, as well as his own self-produced Power Hall events as a freelancer.
Choshu was born Kwak Gwang-ung (Hangul: ???), the youngest of four children in Tokuyama, Yamaguchi Prefecture to a Korean father and Japanese mother. His father left Korea's Chungcheongbuk-do for Japan in 1939, and worked as a garbage man for much of his life. Choshu has said that he faced discrimination from teachers in elementary school due to his Korean heritage. He took part in baseball and judo as a teenager, and after training in the judo department at Giyang Junior High School, he moved to the wrestling department of Yamaguchi prefecture's Sakurakaoka High School as a special student. He eventually came in second place in the 73kg class of the Nagasaki National Freestyle wrestling tournament, which attracted attention from university wrestling officials and he later enrolled at Senshu University School of Commerce on a wrestling scholarship.
Kwak joined the amateur wrestling team at Senshu University shortly after enrolling and was teammates with Mitsushi Hirasawa, the father of future NJPW wrestler Mitsuhide Hirasawa. In 1971, he won the All Japan Student Wrestling Championship in the 90kg class. Thanks to his victory in the tournament, Kwak was selected to represent Japan in the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany. Officials however refused to let him compete for Japan on account of him being part Korean. Nevertheless, South Korea instead invited him to join their freestyle team and he represented South Korea as a wrestler. Gwang-ung ended the tournament with a record of 1 win and 2 losses, and was disqualified due to the penalty points system.
When he returned to Japan, Kwak became captain of the Senshu wrestling team in his fourth year at university and won the Freestyle and Greco-Roman 100 kg class tournaments at the All Japan Championship in 1973.
He debuted in New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW) in August 1974 against El Greco. In the mid-1970s, Choshu was sent to North America to gain experience. Wrestling under his real name (Mitsuo Yoshida, sometimes referred as "Mitsu"), he appeared in George Cannon's "Superstars of Wrestling" promotion as a heel, managed by Superstar (or Supermouth) Dave Drasen. Choshu had a brief feud with the top fan favorite of Cannon's promotion, Luis Martinez. After returning to Japan in April 1977, he adopted his famously known Riki Choshu ring name.
Choshu was the first "traitor heel" in a Japanese promotion. In 1983, upset at not being selected for the inaugural tournament for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, he turned on Tatsumi Fujinami during a match and formed his own stable, Ishin Gundan (Revolutionary Army), which was the core for the later Japan Pro-Wrestling (JPW) promotion that "invaded" All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW).
Upon returning to NJPW in 1987, Choshu was a part of the Takeshi Puroresu Gundan. After NJPW split ties with Takeshi Kitano over the December 27 Sumo Hall riot, Choshu slowly climbed back up into the main event picture. In June 1988, he won his first IWGP Tag Team Championship with Masa Saito, with whom he had also partnered during a brief stint in the American Wrestling Association (AWA). At the same time, he feuded with Tatsumi Fujinami over the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. On May 27, the match ended in a no contest, in which the title was held up. Fujinami won the rematch on June 24.
In July 1989, he won his first IWGP Heavyweight Championship against Salman Hashimikov of the Soviet Union. The same month, he would also win his second IWGP Tag Team title with young up-and-comer Takayuki Iizuka. Two more IWGP Heavyweight title reigns would follow between August 19, 1990 and January 4, 1992.
In August 1996, he won the G1 Climax, winning every single match in the tournament. In 1997, he won his third IWGP Tag Team title with Kensuke Sasaki. In January 1998, he retired from the ring; for his retirement match, he wrestled five matches in one night, winning four out of five matches, defeating Tatsuhito Takaiwa, Yutaka Yoshie, Jushin Thunder Liger and Kazuyuki Fujita, only to fall to his former tag team partner with whom he hold the championships with, Takashi Iizuka. He would focus on booking matches for NJPW after that.
Retirement did not last long, as Atsushi Onita challenged Choshu to a barbed wire deathmatch in 2000. Choshu accepted and wrestled Onita in a deadly squash, where Choshu ended up winning. He then balanced wrestling and booking for NJPW, until his departure in 2002, stemming from the departures of Keiji Mutoh and Satoshi Kojima, among others, to AJPW, which caused his position of head booker taken away.
After leaving NJPW, he formed Fighting World of Japan Pro Wrestling in 2003, which would later be changed to Riki Pro, after the failure of some of their big shows. He ran Riki Pro until 2005 when he returned to NJPW as a site foreman, booker, and wrestler. In 2007, Choshu joined the Legend stable with Masahiro Chono, Jyushin Thunder Liger, and AKIRA.
Choshu also promotes an occasional series of events called "LOCK UP", which feature talent from New Japan and other promotions. New Japan supported this financially until 2008 before withdrawing.
In 2012, Choshu was booked in a series of matches for LEGEND The Pro Wrestling and Dradition.
On June 26, 2019, Choshu teamed with Tomohiro Ishii and Shiro Koshinaka in a 6-man tag against Tatsumi Fujinami, Keiji Mutoh, and Togi Makabe. Fujinami's team won when Makabe pinned Choshu. In the post-match, Choshu officially announced his retirement from pro-wrestling.