The Great Kabooki
One of the most overlooked men during the 1970's era of Big Time Wrestling in the Detroit territory was Rey Urbano, The Great Kabooki. He gave fans more excitement than they could want. His chops on the chests of foes left huge black and blue imprints on them. The salt he carried for his ceremonies often blinded opponents. His white-painted face, highlighted by black paint around the eyes and mouth, was an identifiable part of his image. He was a very feared man.
The authentic Oriental robes he wore were from Japan, as were the Kabooki masks he wore going to the ring. He was an awesome sight to behold, as no one had done this kind of character in the wrestling profession to that date in North America. He was one of a kind and openly was a frequent target by fans and opponents.
Rey began his wrestling career in the mid 40's following a stint in the service, wrestling under his own name. He soon found out that being a crowd favorite was not paying the bills. Being originally from the Philippines, he was a perfect man for the character he was about to change into. The Oriental look gave him an advantage of putting fear into the eyes of his peers.
We had just come out of the Second World War, and the Japanese were not well thought of because of the things that they did during wartime. Rey chose a name of Tokyo Tom to begin with and later used the name of Taro Sakuro in Tennessee.
Almost instantly, he became an overnight success and began to make more money than he could have ever imagined. Fans were very upset at his actions in the ring, and he was stabbed a few times. He was shot at and physically accosted while going to the ring and returning to the dressing rooms more than once and often asked promoters for extra security to handle problems.
When Rey began to use the Kabooki character, he became more of an indelible image sought by fans. Things got so rough for Kabooki that he was given Big Jess Ortega as a manager for a while. If you have ever seen Ortega, you would know not to mess with him. He was nearly 6'4" tall and weighed in around 450 pounds.
Kabooki referred to him as Ortega-san and often pointed up to his size to let opponents know that he was not playing any games with them. Jess spoke Spanish, English and Japanese, which made him very versatile as a manager. Watching Rey's back was another plus that made him well worth the extra money that he was making.
Kabooki had many vicious bouts with guys like Bobo Brazil, Flying Fred Curry, The Stomper and Ben Justice, The Mighty Igor and a lot of other guys that were fan favorites. Kabooki even crossed the road every once in a while when promoters thought it would be good to see how good Kabooki would fare against one of the rougher competitors.
In a small town in Ohio promoted by Robert Willer, Kabooki faced Hans Schmidt. Neither man wanted to back out of the contracts, as they had an image in the ring to contain. That brawl between Kabooki and Schmidt cost promoter Willer nearly $2000 in busted up chairs and furniture as the match fell out into the crowd and could not be contained, even though they had hired extra police. There was no winner that night, and World Wide Sports out of Detroit never booked the two against each other again.
Rey retired from the business in the early 70's and returned to California, where he was employed by the city of Port Hueneme as a parks director. He wrestled on days he was not working and continued into the 80's before retiring permanently.
Rey was well liked by all the people that saw him at the Cauliflower Alley Club get togethers. He very seldom wore glasses and, often times, would have to have people come real close to him before getting a visual on them.
I had the privilege of wrestling against Kabooki a few times during my early years in the profession. He was very adept at catch as catch can style as well as Greco Roman and Sumo style. I had also been a referee in many matches he was involved in. Many times, I feared for my life just being the third man in the ring.
Slam Sports did a super story with pictures of Kabooki on their site .
Rey had been in a nursing home in Las Vegas for some time prior to his death on October 16, 2007. His funeral and graveside service will be on October 22. I, for one, wish that I could be there in the desert of Las Vegas to say goodbye to my friend Rey, but my schedule won't permit me to do so.
I would like to leave this column by quoting a phrase that Rey used a lot of times at the CAC events. "Have fun ... enjoy the company ... reunite with old friends and foes ... take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but good memories when you go."
Rest in Peace, Reynaldo Urbano, The Original Kabooki.
Percival A. Friend,
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