Ryan Sakoda (Image: Vincent Sandoval/WireImage/Getty Images)
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Tributes are being paid after the former WWE star Ryan Sakoda has died aged just 48.
Sakoda was a star on Smackdown during the Ruthless Aggression-era in the early 2000s.
Before the WWE, Sakoda found success in the NWA Zero-One promotion in Japan after several fruitful appearances for Ultimate Pro Wrestling. He often filled in as an instructor at UPW's Ultimate University while wrestling as a member of the faction Team Emblem, reports the Mirror.
In January 2003, Sakoda made his first onscreen appearance – under the name Charlie Chan – on WWE's flagship show Raw as a judge for world heavyweight champion Triple H and Scott Steiner's pose down.
He burst onto the scene at WWE later in the year when, soon after signing his developmental contract, Sakoda debuted at No Mercy in October alongside Akio.
Ryan Sakoda (R) formed a tag team with Akio in which the two acted as the Yakuza-style henchmen of Tajiri
The duo formed a heel tag team named Kyo Dai, and they gained notoriety as the Yakuza-style henchmen of Tajiri.
The pair fought in a number of bouts, wrestling against the likes of The Dudley Boyz and the FBI.
Sakoda was released in August 2004 after over a year with the company, and he was a regular on the independent scene in California between 2005 and 2010.
Since the tragic news broke, many are taking to social media to pay tribute to the popular star, including former wrestlers.
“This one really hits hard,” Sakoda’s former colleague Chris Masters said.
“Shocked to find out Ryan Sakoda passed away on Sep 2nd. How are we just finding this out now???”
As reported by Fightful.com, it is not yet known how the ex-wrestler died.
Sakoda worked for wrestling promotions UPW and XWF throughout his lengthy in-ring career.
He was also part of MTV series Wrestling Society X for a single season, and had recently been working for Disney at their Grand California Hotel.
The Tokyo-born star filed a class action lawsuit against WWE, alleging wrestlers suffered traumatic brain injuries while contracted to the promotion and the company was attempting to conceal that information, but the suit was dismissed as frivolous in March 2016.
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