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Johnny Lezcano/Kato Kung Lee passes away at 69

Johnny Lezcano, a Panamanian who played a Far Eastern martial arts expert as Kato Kung Lee in Mexico, has passed away at the age of 69 due to a heart attack.

Kato Kung Lee was part of Los Fantasticos, a trio with Kung Fu and Blackman -- tremendous workers in the 80s and particularly in the early part of the decade. Because they were small, they usually worked lower on the cards, but did hold the UWA World Trios championships at one point when the UWA was one of the strongest companies in the world.

The trio became popular coming off the “Kung Fu” television show which was big in the 70s, but they were actually Lee's second major trio. He, Kung Fu, and Satoru Sayama, who later became the most influential junior heavyweight of the modern era in Japan as the original Tiger Mask, were the original team, although they didn't the Fantasticos name.

Kato Kung Lee

Lezcano started wrestling in 1965, but was not a major star until adopting the gimmick. Even after his mask came off and it was revealed that he wasn’t Japanese, he remained a major star for years, although it did hurt the gimmick and it wasn’t the right gimmick for a guy who looked old.

When Lucha Libre was brought to Japan in 1990 as a stand-alone promotion, Kendo, who also did a masked Japanese gimmick although he was actually from the Dominican Republic, were the first group of babyfaces along with Yoshihiro Asai (who later became Ultimo Dragon) and Gran Hamada, who were among the first group of babyfaces.

Lezcano was already in his mid-40s by that point, but became a popular favorite. He later had a rivalry with Kung Fu which built to a major hair match in 1991 at Arena Mexico, but both were past their primes, particularly Kung Fu, by that point.