Legendary UK wrestler Kendo Nagasaki stepping back into the ring at Gravesend show for Lee Rigby Foundation
PUBLISHED: 12:53 16 October 2018 | UPDATED: 12:53 16 October 2018
One of Britain's most iconic wrestlers of all time steps in to the ring again to raise money for a worthy cause.
Kendo Nagasaki grappled his way to the top in the 70s as a flamboyant masked villain, alongside favourites like Big Daddy, Mick McManus, and Giant Haystacks.
Now 76, the man behind the mask is coming to Gravesend to help raise £1m for the Lee Rigby Foundation, set up by Lyn Rigby after her 25-year-old Fusilier son was murdered in 2013 by terrorists Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale near his Woolwich barracks.
Kendo, real name Peter Thornley, has produced a hard-hitting book in which he reveals his 50-year bi-sexual torment.
While being married to wife Yvette, who died in 1993 aged 80, there were flings with men since the 60s, a secret that could alienate his fans.
Peter said: “By the time I became a TV star back in 1972 I’d had a flings with other men.
“There was no way Kendo Nagasaki, the macho bad boy of wrestling could tell his story back then.
“People would never have accepted it but thank goodness we live in different times and I just hope my story helps others be the best they can be - like I have always tried to be - and that my fans understand and stick by me because they mean the world to me.”
In the autobiography ‘Kendo Nagasaki and the man behind the Mask’, Peter explains how his alter-ego was created.
It was at a time when David Carradine was Grasshopper in Kung Fu. And cinemas were alive to the sound of bones being broken by Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan.
Someone needed to exploit this interest and as a mysterious Samurai Peter made it work spectacularly winning 14 million fans.
Being dyslexic school was tough, but he discovered judo at 17 and his life changed.
He said: “At school I was good at fighting, boxing and swimming and I was strong, very strong.”
Japanese instructor Kenshiro Abbe took him to a black belt with aspirations to compete in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, but a lost left index finger and septicaemia in hospital that almost killed him killed that off.
A car dealer pal Geoff Condliffe turned him around. Geoff was wrestling champion Count Bartelli.
Peter said: “When I lost my finger it felt like the end of the world but Geoff picked me up.
“He used his contacts to get me into wrestling and by then I had been taught to meditate by my judo master Kenshiro.
“He had a profound influence on me. I saw that combat sport was more than fighting.
“The was a spiritualism which gave me peace and continues to do so today.
“Kenshiro gave me a path through life through meditation. After a difficult start in life it has given me great strength and purpose. The ability to step outside oneself and find peace has always been my secret.
“Millions practice it today as mindfulness. It is the secret to life in many ways. It was Kendo’s secret too.
“I knew when I turned to wrestling I needed a gimmick and I combined Kenshiro’s teachings about the Samurai with the showmanship of Count Bartelli.
“But the spiritual side was always real. That wasn’t a show. I owe so much to Kenshiro. Without him there would have been no Kendo.”
The multi-millionaire became a Zen Buddhist and enjoys teaching Zen spiritualism and mindfulness through his own Kendo Nagasaki Foundation.
The successful entrepreneur owns the Trades hotel and gay bar Kaos in Blackpool. Peter is a keen advocate of the gay pride movement.
He used his Staffordshire estate Moor Court Hall as a new home for Lee Rigby’s parents, Lyn, 51, and Peter, 59 and two of their four daughters, Courtney, 16, and Amy, 13.
The £9.99 paperback is at https://amzn.to/2yeADT2
Kendo appears at The Woodville on October 24 at 7pm in All Star Wrestling.