Ryan Sakoda, a former WWE Superstar who signed with the company in 2003, died on Sept. 2, according to a report from PW Insider (per Wreslting Inc.) and his obituary. He was 48 years old. The cause of death has not been revealed. It was reported that Sakoda had recently been working for Disney at their Grand California Hotel. He signed with WWE after spending several years with various promotions such as UPW and XWF.
Sakoda was brought in as an enhancement talent at the time and had a brief run on SmackDown being paired up with Akio (James Yun aka Jimmy Yang) and Yoshihiro Taji. Sakoda and Akio would team up and work with the likes of The Dudley Boyz, Rikishi & Scotty 2 Hotty, and Paul London & Spanky.
Sakoda was released from his WWE contract in 2004. He was also part of the MTV show Wrestling Society X for one season and would continue to wrestle on the California independent scene until Sept. 2007. London went to social media to send an emotional message to Sakoda.
"Heart is hurting by the sudden passing of Ryan Sakoda," London wrote. "From our time in OVW to Smackdown he was always able to make me laugh like none other. His impressions hysterical & his smile contagious. Met Ryan in 2001 at UPW & he was always a friend. Grateful for the moments. R.I.P." Another pro wrestler, Anthony Idol, also paid tribute to Sakoda.
"Very sad to learn about the passing of Ryan Sakoda," Idol said. "We weren't close or anything, but he was a helpful, nice guy who actually spared a moment for a doofus like me back then. I rooted for the dudes I knew from UPW & was happy when he made WWE TV. Too many from UPW gone too soon."
As his obituary states: "Ryan attended Glen A. Wilson High School and was an All-League linebacker. He fulfilled his childhood dream of becoming a professional wrestler with WWE under the name "Keiji." He also wrestled for NWA Zero One in Japan. He attended Cal State Long Beach and was a member of the Alpha Chi Phi fraternity." In 2015, Sakoda filed a lawsuit against WWE, alleging that professional wrestlers suffered brain injuries while wrestling for WWE and the company tied to conceal that information. The case was dismissed by the Supreme Court in 2020.