This was written by Dave Meltzer as the leading story for his May 1, 1995 Wrestling Observer Newsletter.  

Wrestling retirements are a funny thing. Over the past 15 years, many of wrestling's biggest legends have been presented with much ballyhooed sendoffs. The only problem is, how many have really retired? 
Of course Ric Glair comes to mind as a retirement angle was such a farce that the company was already planning his return before he had even lost the match. But his situation is the rule rather than the exception. Remember the list of those with major retirement shows or retirement angles such Verne Gagne, Fritz Von Erich, Rick Steamboat (in early 1984), Terry Funk (in 1983), Randy Savage, Chigusa Nagayo, Dump Matsumoto, Lioness Asuka, Devil Masami, Animal Hamaguchi, Akira Hokuto, Jaguar Yokota, Tommy Rich, Konnan and even mid-card junior heavyweight with bad knees who in December of 1984 cried after losing a match saying he had to retire--Atsushi Onita. 
    Of that group, the only wrestler who stuck to their retirement vow was Dump Matsumoto. Fritz Von Erich can probably be credited with barely breaking his vow, since he only came back for one match, although he participated in numerous angles after his 1982 match in Texas Stadium. Some, like Steamboat, were back in no time at all. Savage and Flair were both working angles from the start even though both insisted at the time that they weren't. Funk stayed out of action for about 16 months. Gagne came back so many times that even his most ardent fans never wanted to see him again and it didn't even pop a crowd. In the case of Nagayo, Asuka, and Yokota, they all retired young when that was the tradition of the company and certainly had no plans at the time of coming back. In all cases, it was several years, after tradition had changed, (more than nine years for Yokota) before they returned.
But who would have thought out of that entire list, it was the mid-card junior heavyweight with the bad knees that would not only come back, but become the biggest drawing card of them all. 
    And less than two weeks before the most climatic show of his career, Atsushi Onita is faced with a far bigger challenge than surviving the fireballs and machetes that are sure to add to his Gusiness Book of World Records number of largely self-inflicted stitches. One day after a new world-record gate is set for the version of this sport/entertainment called "garbage wrestling," promoter Atsushi Onita is faced with keeping a company alive that was built on, literally, the blood of Atsushi Onita. 
    As of the weekend, reportedly only 50 tickets of the 41,000 put on sale (several thousand SRO tickets will be put on sale the day of the event) remained for Onita's last stand on 5/5 at the Kawasaki Baseball Stadium. It's the same stadium he's already sold out twice before for legendary matches against Terry Funk and Genichiro Tenryu on that date the two previous years. It's an advance sale that rivals the best in wrestling history, for a show that on paper defies logic that it could be such a major event. And at press time, nobody even knows the card.
Masaji "Tarzan" Goto, Onita's scheduled opponent for the 5/5 show, along with Akihito "Onita Jr." Ichihara and Mr. Gannosuke no-showed the 4/21 Korakuen Hall date. Two days later they held a press conference and announced they were quitting the promotion. Behind the scenes rumblings from insiders were that nobody was surprised they quit. Most were surprised they didn't at least wait until after the stadium show to do so. Reports are everywhere that there is a list of others who will follow suit after they get their stadium show payoff.
Goto was both Onita's No. 2 babyface and at other times his leading rival during the five-plus year history of the Frontier Martial Arts Wrestling promotion.
    Reports of wrestlers and others being unable to deal with Onita's ego are nothing new. The original W*ING office stemmed from a business split between Onita and Mickey Ibaragi. Terry Funk kept it no secret that Onita didn't deliver on the promises that caused him to put Onita over and work in Japan for someone other than Shohei Baba. Goto, at the press conference said that he himself had wanted to work the WAR Sumo Hall show on 3/26) that he was originally booked on but the booking fell through which led to Tenryu publicly decrying Onita's character in wasn't an angle) but that Onita put a nix on it because his ego couldn't handle not being part of the deal. Onita then publicly after nixing the deal pointed the blame at Goto for backing out of the deal trying to make it out like it was Goto that wasn't a man of his word. Goto said he had no plans as far as which company he would join and just wanted to take it easy for a while before making the decision. Both Gannosuke and Ichihara were at the press conference with Goto but neither spoke. Onita at press time hadn't announced who would be replacing Goto in the main event, Onita Jr. for his match with Damian, and Gannosuke for his scheduled match teaming with Katsutoshi Niiyama as a challenger for the group's World Brass Knux title of Mr. Pogo & Yukihiro Kanemura. There was talk of having to cancel the show, but with such a huge advance, nobody took that seriously. There was talk of Onita needing to not retire simply to keep the promotion but that would leaving a bitter taste in everyone's mouth since they've spent a year building to the retirement and sold so many tickets in so many arenas for his farewell tour. There was talk of yet another Onita vs. Pogo match or possibly Onita putting over Hayabusa (Eiji Ezaki) in his final match and trying to build the company around Hayabusa, which had been the plan all along.
    Onita spoke to reporters at his house show on 4/23 in Kofu saying that the three should work the 5/5 show because people had already purchased tickets to see them, but admitted they weren't going to be there. Others found that statement ironic since it was Onita who pulled Goto from the WAR show after WAR was selling tickets with Goto's name on the line-up for several weeks. Onita suggested the idea that he'd being in Takashi Ishikawa as his opponent, but nearly everyone felt that would be a poor choice as an opponent for such a big show. Other suggested Pogo, but Pogo said he didn't want to because he seemingly felt slighted he wasn't given the nod to begin with and didn't want to be put in a position to be a replacement. 
The story just adds another footnote in the history of one of the most influential personalities in pro wrestling of this generation. Onita's popularity spawned a new style of wrestling. Many would not consider this new style, short on skill and long on gore and gimmicks like barbed wire, explosions, and axes, as a positive, but it's something new nonetheless. And its influence on the business as a whole can't be ignored. Ignoring Onita as a drawing card would be every bit as silly as ignoring Hulk Hogan when trying to capsulize the recent history of pro wrestling. The two are equally influential. When it comes to a wrestler who developed a new style, popularized it, drew big money from it and became a cult hero in the process, Onita ranks right with Akira Maeda, Hogan and Satoru Sayama as those who shaped the future of their craft. 
    Maeda shaped it with submission holds, Hogan with kids appeal and the steroid needle, Sayama with the wrestling moves of the future and opening a world up for those who would have been considered too small, and Onita with blood, sweat, and of course, a multitude of tears. Onita did it in a country that few would have believed would have supported wrestling so short on skill and high on gore.
    Onita, 37, presumably enters the ring for the final time at Kawasaki Stadium. Given the track record of wrestlers that have retirement matches, presumably may be too strong of a word even though those close to the situation claim it is the real thing and not an angle. 
He was a man with two distinctly different wrestling careers. Career No. 1 was of a young man who showed up at the All Japan Pro Wrestling training school just after his 16th birthday in November 1973. Five months later he had his first pro match as something of a protégé of Terry Funk, a man who he copied most of his routine that would make him famous from. After a few years in prelims, he was sent away to gain experience and to return as something of a "name," however limited his potential seemed to be in a business world where size was still king and he was only a junior heavyweight. He went with Masa Fuchi as a Japanese stereotypical heel tag team to Texas, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Tennessee and other circuits. Before returning to Japan he learned both the flying style that made and prematurely ended his first career, and the bloody brawling style that made him an unlikely trend setter in his second career.
    A funny thing happened while he was in the United States. It can be summed up in two words--Tiger Mask. Wrestling for the rival New Japan office, Tiger Mask (Satoru Sayama) became such a hit that even the traditional All Japan had to reinvent a flying junior heavyweight division as opposed to occasionally using NWA junior heavyweight champions of the past like Danny Hodge and Ken Mantell who simply worked like smaller heavyweights. The fresh-faced Onita got the nod to be the flagship performer in the division. 
His first break came on March 7, 1982, when All Japan did a television taping at the old Charlotte Coliseum (now Independent Arena) in conjunction with Jim Crockett Promotions. On that show, Onita, managed by Funk, captured the NWA International junior heavyweight title from Chavo Guerrero in a great match by the standards of that time. After losing and regaining the belt in a pair of matches in Mexico with Sangre Chicana, Onita came to Japan to be pushed as a new star. The IJH belt had some history in Japan with New Japan Pro Wrestling, where Guerrero, who had won the title from Kengo Kimura within that promotion, was originally the top foreign rival of Tatsumi Fujinami. Guerrero jumped to All Japan to be Onita's top rival, but Onita blew out his knee landing wrong doing a tope in a match on April 14, 1983 with Hector Guerrero. At the time there was concern it was a career-ending injury. Onita did return one year later, but his knee was never the same. In December 1984, he finally challenged Mighty Inoue for the title, although behind-the-scenes it was known that his knee was so bad his career would be over. Onita vowed to retire if he couldn't regain the title, lost the match, and disappeared from wrestling for several years.
    The reborn Onita returned in late 1988 doing some bloodbaths in mixed wrestler vs. karate matches against a karate star who wanted to become a pro wrestler named Masashi Aoyagi in Aoyagi's home town of Nagoya. The show was such a success, combining the mixed match gimmick with heavy juice that made for great magazine photos, that they built up rematches. This spawned Frontier Martial Arts & Wrestling with Onita and Aoyagi as the original two stars. This new office combined using no-name wrestlers with students of Aoyagi doing karate gimmicks, fake boxers, and even one real one, a Korean martial arts actor, and eventually brought back retired legends like Dick Murdoch, Tiger Jeet Singh and The Sheik back to Japan. The latter paved the way for the introduction of Sabu to the major league wrestling scene. 
    The FMW formula was simple. A few Japanese veterans that the major promotions didn't want like Kendo Nagasaki, Masanobu Kurisu and Goto became chair swinging brutality dishing out wild men to inexperienced youngsters. Lots of blood was spilled. And on top, Onita worked, usually in barbed wire and cut himself and his opponents to ribbons. After the match, he'd grab the house mic, and symbolically cry as he had seen Funk do before him, with the song "Wild Thing" playing in the background. Later that was expanded to him pouring water all over his head and shaking some of it and spitting more of it on his adoring fans in a bizarre imitation of Hogan's crowd ending routine. Soon Korakuen Hall couldn't hold the crowds that wanted to see him and he moved to bigger buildings and eventually packed baseball stadiums for his biggest grudge matches.
    The magazine photos of Onita covered in blood from the forehead, to the arm to the back, created a cult hero. Onita's own skill at self promotion, appearing on television game shows and talk shows sometimes on what seemed like a daily basis made him a household word in Japan to the point there is considerable talk of him following in the footsteps of Antonio Inoki and running for public office. Probably the biggest irony of all was when the government made the world record holder in personally inflicted wounds as the national spokesman for AIDS awareness. 
    Searching for new things for shock value and trying to stay one step above the imitators, which sprung up not only in Japan but in the United States, saw fire introduced almost to a ridiculous degree. His matches with his biggest rival Mr. Pogo, got more sublime toward the end, but there was no denying the two continued to pack houses for the same basic grudge matches even though there was less and less wrestling each time out. From the excessive blood came the electrified explosive barbed wire which would explode when Onita would hit it during outdoor stadium shows. Later that expanded to land mines at ringside that would blow up when one would hit the floor. They added barbed wire to the floor which the wrestlers would take bumps outside the ring on. They once did a match in a swimming pool with them gimmicking explosions to take place when someone would take a fall into the drink. The one idea they didn't do was to do a cage match with the ring made of a cage match of glass. At one point Onita was loved to the point where the crowd screamed as Pogo would mutilate a new body part with a new gimmick. But even though they continued to come, it almost became a sublime spectacle of a play rather than an intense wrestling match. 
    In 1993, with several open wounds from a bloody match that night in Osaka in February, Onita, in front of his fans, jumped into a polluted freezing cold river. That stunt nearly killed him. Between the pneumonia and infections, he was out of action for a few months. He return for his match with Funk which drew a whopping $1.8 million. To build up his stadium show in 1994, Onita announced that if Tenryu could beat him in his specialty match, he'd retire. That was done to put some question into the result of the match as the Japanese fans all expected Tenryu to win since Tenryu did the job for Onita in a tag match on the previous show and with the two top guys from different promotions, at the end everything had to be evened out. That drew his company's record house of 52,000 fans, turning thousands more away. Tenryu did beat him that night, but Onita explained he would wrestle one more year, retiring in the same building on the same date in 1995. But will he really? And if he does, then what happens to his company?

Atsushi Onita's Title History

AWA Southern Tag Team Championship w/ Masa Fuchi

Defeated: Bill Dundee & The Dream Machine 3/23/81
Lost to: Bill Dundee & The Dream Machine 4/6/81

NWA World Junior Heavyweight Championship

Defeated: Chavo Guerrero 3/7/82
Lost to: Sangre Chicana 4/11/82

NWA World Junior Heavyweight Championship

Defeated: Sangre Chicana 4/30/82
Vacated on 7/30/82

NWA International Junior Heavyweight Championship

Defeated: Chavo Guerrero 11/4/82
Vacated on 4/15/83 after breaking leg

WWA Brass Knuckles Heavyweight Championship

Defeated: Beast the Barbarian 1/17/90
Lost to: Gregory Veritchev 2/27/91

WWA Martial Arts Heavyweight Championship

Defeated: Gregory Veritchev 5/29/91
Lost to: Big Titan 1/15/92

WWA Martial Arts Tag Team Championship w/ Tarzan Goto

Defeated: Gregory Veritchev & Koba Krutanize 12/9/91
Lost to: Sabu & Horace Boulder 5/7/92

WWA Martial Arts Heavyweight Championship

Defeated: Leon Spinks 5/24/92
Lost to: The Sheik 6/25/92

WWA Martial Arts Heavyweight Championship

Defeated: Tiger Jeet Singh 9/19/92
Vacated in 1993

FMW Brass Knuckles Heavyweight Championship

Defeated: Mr. Pogo 8/22/93
Lost to: Mr. Pogo 1/6/94

FMW Brass Knuckles Tag Team Championship w/ Mitsuhiro Matsunaga

Defeated: Mr. Pogo & Hisakatsu Oya 7/31/94
Vacated in 9/94

FMW Brass Knuckles Heavyweight Championship

Defeated: Mr. Pogo 9/7/94
Lost to: Mr. Pogo 1/21/95

FMW Brass Knuckles Tag Team Championship w/ Mr. Gannosuke

Defeated: Mr. Pogo & The Gladiator 2/24/95
Lost to: Mr. Pogo & Yukihiro Kanemura 3/7/95

FMW Brass Knuckles Heavyweight Championship

Defeated: Mr. Pogo 5/4/95
Vacated on 5/5/95 after retiring

FMW 6 Man Street Fight Tag Team Championship w/ Tetsuhiro Kuroda & Hido

Defeated: Hayabusa & Masato Tanaka & Koji Nakagawa 10/14/97
Lost to: Hayabusa & Masato Tanaka & Hisakatsu Oya 12/20/97

FMW Brass Knuckles Tag Team Championship w/ Yukihiro Kanemura

Defeated: Hisakatsu Oya & Mr. Gannosuke 10/19/97
Vacated in 11/97

FMW 6 Man Street Fight Tag Team Championship w/ Koji Nakagawa & Tetsuhiro Kuroda

Defeated: Mr. Gannosuke & Yukihiro Kanemura & Jado 2/13/98
Lost to: Kodo Fuyuki & Yukihiro Kanemura & Hido 5/5/98