Japanese wrestling legend Hayabusa (Eiji Ezaki) passed away Thursday at the age of 47 from a brain haemorrhage.
The former FMW standout has been incapacitated since 2001 when he infamously slipped doing a lionsault in a match against Mammoth Sasaki, landing on his head, breaking his neck and suffering paralysis. He’d been confined to a wheelchair ever since, but was able to walk a few steps every now and then.
Hayabusa was considered a pioneer of both the high-flying and hardcore/death match styles of the 90s, and eventually made his way to ECW in 1998 where he worked the Heatwave event, teaming with Jinsei Shinzaki against RVD and Sabu.
He also worked some American indys outside of ECW.
In more recent years he has been an ambassador for the Dragon Gate promotion and was also on board as an executive producer for the FMW revival promotion.
Somewhat of an enigma to western wrestling fans, his violent matches and botches were a staple of tape trading and early internet sharing communities.
Our thoughts are with his family and friends.
WWE issued the following statement:
WWE is saddened to learn of the passing of Eiji Ezaki, better known to fans around the world as Hayabusa, at the age of 47.
An innovative high-flyer who helped inspire a generation of Superstars, the mysterious, masked Hayabusa was known for throwing caution to the wind. Ezaki created daring moves like the Phoenix Splash, which to this day can be seen in the repertoire of daredevil competitors, including former WWE World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins. A major star in Japan in the mid to late ’90s, Hayabusa competed in one major American match, teaming with Jinsei Shinzaki (known as Hakushi in WWE) in a losing effort against Sabu & Rob Van Dam at ECW’s Heat Wave 1998 event. Although his career was cut short by injury in 2001, Ezaki never strayed far from the industry, where he continued to impart his knowledge.
WWE extends its condolences to Ezaki’s family, friends and fans.