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Mr. Moto (1915-1991)

Real NameMasaru “Charlie” Iwamoto

Lifespan - 8/11/15 - 6/7/91

??? - Hilo, HI

Athletic BackgroundSumo

Teacher(s) - n/a

AliasesCharlie Shiranuhi, The Great Moto, Young Shiranuhi, Youni Shiranuhi

Peak Years`56-`64

Place in HistoryTo a generation of people, the name “Mr. Moto” was synonymous with the Japanese detective played by Peter Lorre in the 1930s.  However, World War II came and went, making a Japanese hero impossible to market to American audiences.  A new Mr. Moto was born in the pro-wrestling world capitalizing on the lingering anti-Japanese sentiment in the US.  Rather than being clever and affable and wearing stylish suits, this new Mr. Moto was sneaky and sinister and adorned himself in traditional Japanese attire.  The man behind this role was Charlie Iwamoto, a Hawaiian of Japanese descent, who soon realized the marketability in this villainous persona.  Charlie developed many of the standards of the Japanese heel - throwing salt, using illegal karate chops, wearing kimonos and wooden sandals, “Pearl Harbor” attacks on opponents, excessive bowing and smiling and so on.  He also had some that were not adopted like wearing General Tojo glasses, painting his fingernails black and being accompanied by a man-servant - Suji Fuji.  Mr. Moto always had a talent for crafting a detestable character and his eye for detail was undeniable.  Many of his partners borrowed from his innovations - Duke Keomuka, Kenji Shibuya, Tor Kamata, Mitsu Arakawa and the Great Togo - all were able to carve out a place in pro-wrestling world after learning under Charlie Moto.  He emerged as a top heel in the late 1950s, working on top throughout the South and inspiring tremendous heat all along the way. He settled in Southern California where he filled two significant roles.  The first and most unheralded was as the booker of foreign talent for Rikidozan’s JWA promotion.  It is difficult to calculate the weight of his influence in the growth and development of pro-wrestling in Japan.  Lou Thesz spoke highly of his influence on the product.  It is suffice to say that puroresu legends like the Destroyer and Freddie Blassie were brought over through Moto as well as some strong supporting characters like Buddy Austin, Dan Miller and others that were proven commodities in Los Angeles.  Conversely, Moto booked the Japanese wrestlers in the US.  Many like Antonio Inoki and Yoshinosato were just over for the exposure, some like Kintaro Oki and Toyonobori had some genuine success and worked on top, however Giant Baba had a successful countrywide tour with Charlie Moto at his side that was truly groundbreaking.  This became the template for generations of Japanese wrestlers who would return home a hero; this was particularly true for Baba whose triumphant return was pivotal in reviving the JWA from its nadir following the death of Rikidozan.  Charlie Moto’s other and perhaps more famous role was as a booker in Los Angeles.  Moto, along with Sandor Szabo and Jules Strongbow, steered the ship for Mike LeBell in the 1960s and into the 1970s.  He had a great reputation amongst the wrestlers and the company was successful at building a number of stars over the years.  Perhaps most significantly, Charlie Moto has been credited as a key architect behind the rivalry between Freddie Blassie and John Tolos that culminated in match at the Los Angeles Coliseum in front of over 25,000 fans, which was an incredible accomplishment for a territorial promotion.  Not long after that triumph, LeBell began working with Vincent McMahon and the WWWF, which led to a creative rift between Moto and LeBell.  Mr. Moto left and Los Angeles began its steady decline without him.  There are few more deserving of Hall of Fame recognition that receive little than Charlie Moto.  During his prime years as an in-ring talent, the Mr. Moto character was perhaps the hottest in the world behind only Gorgeous George.  That character, not unlike George, was hugely innovative, but Moto himself worked with and mentored many of the best known practitioners of the the Japanese heel character that he mastered.  Those accomplishments are impressive, but his role in both the JWA and the Los Angeles promotion might be even more significant in the larger scheme of things.