One of the most celebrated careers in wrestling is about to come to an end.

Stan Hansen, the most successful and popular foreign wrestler ever to compete in Japan, will retire following All Japan Pro Wrestling’s Tokyo Dome show on January 28, 20001.

All Japan owner Motoko Baba made the announcement to the Japanese media at Midnight EST, prior to the promotion’s annual Real World Tag League tournament kicking off today at Tokyo’s Korakuen Hall.

Hansen had been suffering from lumbago, a painful affliction that affects the lower back. He had been in tremendous pain as of late, having to pull out of several shows he was booked on last month. Serious questions in the media were raised about his health when he was not scheduled to be a part of this year’s Real World Tag League tournament, the first time he would not be a part of the event since his first appearance in 1982.

Hansen, a former four-time Triple Crown Heavyweight champion, is the most decorated foreign wrestler ever to compete in Japan. He won All Japan’s prestigious Carnival Championship tournament in 1992 and 1993 and the Real World Tag League tournament on four occasions with four different partners (1983 with Bruiser Brody, 1985 with Ted DiBiase, 1988 with Terry Gordy and 1989 with Genichiro Tenryu).

A 27-year veteran who once held the AWA World Heavyweight title, Hansen is best remembered by North American fans for his 1976 feud with Bruno Sammartino when he broke Sammartino’s neck and hospitalized him following their April 26th match at New York’s Madison Square Gardens.

Considered a ‘god’ by wrestling fans in Japan, Hansen recently published his best-selling autobiography in Japan. Copies of the book sold out quickly, forcing the publisher to schedule a second printing.

Hansen had been a regular in Japan since debuting there 1975, competing on close to 130 tours.