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January 20, 2003 Observer Newsletter: Death of Naoto Morishita, year-end awards

What is officially being labeled a suicide, the death of Dream Stage Entertainment (Pride) president Naoto Morishita is just the latest in a string of events that is changing the face of the industry at record speed.

Morishita’s death at the age of 42 comes just two weeks after K-1 President Kazuyoshi Ishii was forced to resign his post after being indicted on tax evasion charges. This leaves the future cloudy of the two companies that, from an appearance and business standpoint, appeared to go into 2003 as the strongest entities in this rapidly changing industry. The circumstances and speculation surrounding Morishita’s death combined with Ishii’s arrest have left this aspect of the industry in Japan, which was at an all-time popularity peak this past month, reeling with an image problem and there is fear that a lot of sponsors will pull out. The traditional pro wrestling industry in Japan went through a similar problem in 1964 after the gangland style slaying of Rikidozan.

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