Katsuya Kitamura, the winner of the 2017 New Japan Young Lion Cup, has died.
The 36-year-old passed away on October 12th with Tokyo Sports reporting that the former wrestler felt “unwell” and called an ambulance and was transferred to a hospital, although the cause of death has not been disclosed.
Kitamura was a promising star in the New Japan system based on his incredible physique along with his background in amateur wrestling.
Kitamura wrestled at Senshu University and competed as a heavyweight for Japan at the World Championships in 2006. He became a three-time champion in Greco-Roman wrestling and won the All-Japan Wrestling Championship.
In 2011, he tested positive for anabolic steroids, which he claimed he took by accident after buying supplements outside of Japan. Kitamura was banned for two years due to the positive test, which he did not appeal.
Kitamura moved to professional wrestling, came up in the New Japan system, and first wrestled a pair of dark exhibition matches in 2016 against Tomoyuki Oka a.k.a. Great O-Khan on Lion’s Gate Project shows. His first official match was on March 13, 2017, teaming with Oka against The Guerrillas of Destiny.
The high point of his career came in the summer of 2017 when he won the Young Lion’s Cup and included Hirai Kawato (Master Wato), Oka, Shota Umino, Ren Narita, and Tetsuhiro Yagi.
Kitamura went 5-0 and was poised to become a star in New Japan and was voted the Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s Rookie of the Year.
At Wrestle Kingdom 12 in 2018, he was part of the New Japan Rumble and started the match with BUSHI, and was eliminated by Chase Owens.
Beginning at New Year’s Dash after the Wrestle Kingdom show in 2018, Kitamura began a Seven Match Trial Series against established stars and lost to Jay White, Michael Elgin, Juice Robinson, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Manabu Nakanishi, and Yuji Nagata but could not complete the trial series due to sustaining an injury.
New Japan announced that Kitamura suffered a concussion during a tag match in March 2018, and Kitamura never wrestled for the company again.
In January 2019, it was announced he was leaving the company. The Wrestling Observer Newsletter reported that week:
Katsuya Kitamura, age 33, declined to sign a new contract with NJPW. He hasn’t wrestled since March of last year due to shattering his leg in a scooter accident. He believes he is ready to return to action, but the New Japan doctors wouldn’t clear him. NJPW offered him full pay until he was cleared but he wanted to start wrestling now and is expected to sign with another company. He had good matches with Yuji Nagata & Michael Elgin last year before he was injured.
Kitamura fought for RIZIN in November 2021 where he lost by rear-naked choke to Bobby Ologun, who was a television personality that had fought on previous K-1 Dynamite cards on New Year’s Eve.