Ryan “Keiji’ Sakoda, who wrestled in Southern California from the late 1990s until 2007 and had a brief run in WWE, died on September 2, 2021. Mike Johnson of PWInsider.com first reported Sakoda’s death, and no cause of death has been announced.
A Southern California native, Sakoda attended Glen A. Wilson High School in Hacienda Heights and was an All-League linebacker in football. He began training to be a pro-wrestler with Jesse Hernandez and Bill Anderson at EWF’s School of Hard Knocks in 1997 and made his pro-wrestling debut for EWF in 1998.
In March 2000, Sakoda defeated Frankie Kazarian to become the 11th EWF Heavyweight Champion. He held the title until May 2000, when it was vacated due to half the EWF roster quitting the promotion and joining the IWC.
In 2000, Sakoda began wrestling for Rick Bassman’s UPW, which was a WWF developmental territory at the time. While in UPW, Sakoda started to get booked in WWF dark matches, teaming with Kazarian in a loss to Kai En Tai in his WWF debut.
Sakoda made his Zero-One debut in 2001, teaming with Samoa Joe to win the NWA International Tag Team titles from Katsumi Usuda and Yuki Ishikawa.
In 2003, Sakoda (along with Chris Masters) signed to WWE and was made the tag team partner for Akio (Jimmy Yang). Sakoda’s run in WWE was brief, as he was released in August 2004.
After his WWE run, Sakoda returned to Zero One and the independent wrestling scene. He also wrestled on the only season of MTV’s Wrestling Society X.
Sakoda stopped wrestling in 2007, and in 2009 he was named head trainer at Mach 1’s pro-wrestling school along with Joey Ryan. After the wrestling school closed its doors, Sakoda was done with wrestling.
In 2015, Sakoda joined a lawsuit with other former WWE talent claiming that they were seriously injured during their time in WWE. Sakoda claimed that he was suffering from severe headaches, memory loss, and depression as a result of injuries sustained while in the company. The case made it all the way to the United States Supreme Court before being dismissed earlier this year.
Born on December 31, 1972, Sakoda was 48 years old at the time of his death.