Nobuhiko Takada (Japanese: 高田延彦, born April 12, 1962) is a former Japanese mixed martial arts fighter and professional wrestler. He was an executive of PRIDE Fighting Championships and founder of the Hustle Wrestling Organization.

He is best known for helping to popularize shoot-style professional wrestling, as one of the biggest stars of the Universal Wrestling Federation and Union of Wrestling Force International in the '80s and '90s. Despite his irregular fight record and kayfabe politics, Takada is credited with the existence of PRIDE and the Japanese MMA boom.

Professional wrestling career[edit | edit source]

New Japan Pro Wrestling (1981-1984)[edit | edit source]

After training in the New Japan Pro Wrestling dojo under Yoshiaki Fujiwara, Takada made his professional wrestling debut in 1981 against Norio Honaga. As accustomed to puroresu neophites, Takada spent his first year as a jobber, though scoring occasional victories against other rookies. Among them, he feuded with Kazuo Yamazaki, and their matches were so well received that TV Asahi included one of them as part of the NJPW show, something unheard at the time. Takada was appointed Antonio Inoki's personal assistant.

In August 1983, Takada accompanied Inoki to Canada for a special apparition in Stampede Wrestling, and he ended replacing the retiring Tiger Mask in the event, having his first worldwide match, defeating Athol Foley. It granted an ascension in the rankings for Takada, and he was made part of the 1984 WWF Junior Heavyweight Championship league, facing Bret Hart, Dynamite Kid and Davey Boy Smith, among others. His staying in NJPW lasted until April 1984, when started working in Universal Wrestling Federation by Fujiwara's invitation, and in June he was officially part of the new promotion.

Universal Wrestling Federation (1985-1986)[edit | edit source]

Takada's first matches in Universal Wrestling Federation were as a NJPW representative, but he soon joined full-time. He started with a successful singles run, defeating foreign wrestlers and having higher matches with Yoshiaki Fujiwara and Akira Maeda. On 20 January 1985 he would get an important victory over Super Tiger by referee stoppage, in which already the beginning of the shoot-style practised in the promotion. The tenure was short, however, as UWF folded shortly after, and Takada and other wrestlers returned to NJPW.

Return to New Japan Pro Wrestling (1986-1988)[edit | edit source]

Upon their return, the former UWF wrestlers formed an stable with the storyline of invading the promotion, with Takada and Maeda as the twin leaders. As a singles wrestler, Takada was involved in a heated feud with IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion Shiro Koshinaka, who had been Giant Baba's assistant just like Takada had been Inoki's. Nobuhiko defeated Koshinaka in their first match, on May 19, to win the title, and he retained it in a two more matches against him, as well as challengers like Keiichi Yamada, Black Tiger and Takada's own ally Kazuo Yamazaki. Now in the peak of his popularity, Takada received the nickname of "Wagamamana Hikazoku" ("Egoist Kneecap") for his hard, stiff kicking ability. He finally lost it to Koshinaka in a rubber match on February 5.

In March 1987, Nobuhiko amplied the feud to a tag team one when Maeda and him defeated Koshinaka and Keiji Mutoh to capture the vacant IWGP Tag Team Championship. They retained it for months, until they lost it to colleagues Yoshiaki Fujiwara and Kazuo Yamazaki. Takada spent the rest of the year in tag team fights, excepting a tenure in the Top Of The Super Junior I and two challenges for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight title before Kuniaki Kobayashi and Hiroshi Hase. In March 1988, Takada left NJPW along with Maeda and most of the original UWF wrestlers to form the second incarnation of the Universal Wrestling Federation called Newborn UWF.

UWF Newborn (1989-1990)[edit | edit source]

Takada debuted in UWF Newborn in an exhibition match with rookie Shigeo Nakano, but he soon ascended the ranking to become the promotion's top wrestler second only to Akira Maeda, who he nonetheless defeated by TKO in their very second match. The promotion's run was highly successful, and they broke records on the professional wrestling/shootfighting event U-COSMOS, where he defeated Greco-Roman wrestling champion Duane Koslowski, twin brother of Olympic medalist Dennis Koslowski, in a worked different style fight. After the event, Takada was almost unbeaten in singles matches until the promotion's closure in December 1990.

UWF International (1991-1996)[edit | edit source]

After UWF Newborn closed doors, Takada formed the Union of Wrestling Force International, using former UWF wrestlers, while Maeda formed Fighting Network RINGS, and Fujiwara formed Pro Wrestling Fujiwara Gumi. Nobuhiko opened his run as the top star of the company beating Tatsuo Nakano, Kazuo Yamazaki and American wrestler Bob Backlund, whom he fought in a pair of publicited matches. The first of them was controversial, as Takada ended the bout in just 1:15 when Backlund fell to a body kick, and it almost caused a riot in the stadium; it's believed that it was an accidental KO instead of the pre-planned match. They rematched after two months, with Takada coming over by submission after fifteen minutes.

Immediately after his affair with Backlund, Takada was put in a different style fight against boxing champion Trevor Berbick, in a reminiscence of Antonio Inoki's match with Muhammad Ali in 1976. The nature of the bout as a worked match or a shoot fight is unknown, but what transpired in the bout was again not the planned course. Early in the match, after receiving some low kicks from Takada to his left leg, Berbick immediately protested, apparently believing that kicking under the waist was illegal. Though the referee seemed to clear the situation, it happened again and Berbick protested every time Takada landed a low kick; at the end, when Takada scored a head kick, the boxer abandoned the ring and walked out of the arena. According to UWF-i trainer Pat McCarthy, "no rules were ever changed. [Berbick] just never wanted to listen." Anyways, the win increased Takada's popularity.

Takada had also feuds with Gary Albright and Super Vader. In 1992, Takada was awarded an old NWA World Heavyweight Title belt by Lou Thesz, after defeating Albright, and was proclaimed the "Real Pro-Wrestling World Heavyweight Champion". He defended the title until Thesz withdrew the belt in 1995, losing the Title once, to Super Vader. The high point of his reign came on December 5, 1993, when he defeated Super Vader before 46,168 fans at Tokyo's Meiji-Jingu Stadium.

Now with the title in his waist, Takada was involved in another different style fight with Koji Kitao, a karate stylist and former grand sumo champion known for his career scandals. Having defeated Yamazaki, Kitao was pitted against Takada at the October 23, 1992 UWF-i event. However, discussions over the outcome of the match were difficult, leading to an agreement of a draw. During the match, however, Takada shot on Kitao, throwing a roundhouse kick which legitimately knocked him out. Like the Berbick situation, it served as a boost for Takada in the eyes of the audience.

In 1995, Takada returned to NJPW as the key figure in the landmark New Japan vs UWFI program. On October 9, 1995, Takada's match against IWGP Champion, Keiji Mutoh, drew 67,000 fans to the Tokyo Dome, drawing the largest crowd and gate in Japanese Wrestling history, at the time. Three months later, Takada defeated Mutoh in a rematch, before 64,000 fans, to capture the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, becoming the only wrestler to hold all three major New Japan Titles. Takada dropped the Title to Shinya Hashimoto on April 29, 1996, drawing a crowd of 65,000 and a gate of $5.7 million. When it was all said and done, the New Japan vs UWFI was the biggest moneymaking feud in Japanese pro-wrestling history.

HUSTLE[edit | edit source]

In 2004, Takada was made the president of the Hustle promotion in Japan, created by a coproduction between Dream Stage Entertainment and Pro Wrestling ZERO-ONE. He firstly appeared in a press conference previous to the first HUSTLE event along with fellow DSE directive Nobuyuki Sakakibara, who badmouthed the professional wrestling on behalf of the mixed martial arts. This caused the fury of Naoya Ogawa, who flipped the table and confronted them. To solve things, the event featured a battle between Ogawa's pro wrestling loyalists and Takada's MMA allies, who were called "Takada Monster Army". The night ended with Ogawa being pinned by Monster Army member Bill Goldberg thanks to a foreign interference, giving the first victory to Takada. The next event, Takada expanded his army and showed himself as Generalissimo Takada, a Yasunori Kato-esque character dressed in military outfit and gifted with supernatural powers. Generalissimo Takada presented himself not as Nobuhiko Takada, but an old friend of his, and proceeded to send his enforcers to beat up Naoya before his match against Matt Ghaffari. This marked the new view of HUSTLE, in which Takada and his evil forces battled Ogawa and his "HUSTLE Army" stable.

Takada returned to the ring in 2006 as The Esperanza, a supernatural wrestling cyborg created by Generalissimo Takada. The Esperanza made short work of his opponent TAJIRI and pinned him with Nobuhiko's trademark kick to the head. At HustleMania 2006, he defeated Razor Ramon HG in what was billed as (kayfabe) HG's retirement match, pinning him and giving him his own finisher, the 69 Driver, which caused "erectile dysfunction" to HG. The Esperanza was outlined as invincible until Hustlemania 2007, when he was surprisingly defeated by Wataru Sakata thanks to the magical aid of Sakata's wife Eiko Koike. The Esperanza's last match was at HUSTLE Aid 2009, when he was finally beaten by Magnum Tokyo. The same night, Generalissimo Takada shockingly announced his retirement, revealing that his true goal was leaving an eternal mark in the pro wrestling, which he had accomplished thanks to HUSTLE. He appointed the reluctant TOKYO as the new director and shook hands with the HUSTLE Army members. However, a character named King RIKI intruded and challenged him, which led to a supernatural duel in which RIKI reflected Takada's attacks and mortally wounded the Generalissimo. The dying Takada then disappeared, declaring that HUSTLE would live forever. After that, the Monster Army was disbanded.

Mixed martial arts career[edit | edit source]

PRIDE[edit | edit source]

In December 1996, the UWFI folded after the failure of the UWFI-WAR feud. Takada entered the world of mixed martial arts by joining the recently founded KRS PRIDE, an event created to host a fight between Takada and Brazilian jiu-jitsu master Rickson Gracie, who had beat down Takada's companion Yoji Anjo in 1994. Though Takada's skills were never doubted either by the Japanese public or the matchmakers, it was his conditioning and experience that would make the essential difference. Takada, being in his 30s at the time of his debut, in less than perfect conditioning due to the grueling Japanese pro wrestling circuit, and having no real fighting training, posed little challenge for the experienced, well conditioned mixed martial artists.

As many had foreseen, Takada's fight Rickson Gracie ended with Gracie taking Nobuhiko down and executing an armbar from the mount with ease in under three minutes. The wrestler's remarkedly poor performance drew very negative comments from the Japanese media and was the beginning of the end of Takada as main eventer, but he carried on and continued fighting to sustent PRIDE, which had been greatly successful. Nobuhiko would go on to finish kickboxer Kyle Sturgeon by a heel hook at PRIDE 3 in Sturgeon's first and last MMA match, and then requested a rematch with Rickson Gracie, to which Gracie agreed, claiming "I feel Takada is a warrior and deserves the chance to try and redeem himself".

The rematch was held at Pride 4, and saw Takada giving a much better impression. Nobuhiko effectively wrestled Rickson to nullify the jiu-jitsu master's ground advantage and he traded strikes with him, eventually getting on his guard after a knee strike to the midsection. However, Takada made a mistake trying to perform a standing leglock on Gracie, getting swept and mounted by his opponent. Although Takada dismounted him and transitioned into a heel hook attempt at one point, Rickson blocked it and applied an armbar, submitting him again in a fight lasting 9 minutes and 30 seconds.

Takada fought his next match at Pride 5, against Mark Coleman. Though thought to be the much better fighter, Coleman was caught by a heel hook from Takada and submitted. This fight is frequently accused of being fixed by MMA analysts. Regarding his performance against Takada, Coleman said in an interview, "It was what it was. I needed to support my family. They guaranteed me another fight after that and I needed that security. It was what it was. I'm going to leave it at that."

Takada was then pitted against Mark Kerr, a freestyle wrestler with similar ground and pound fighting style as Mark Coleman, at Pride 6. The Japanese got out from a takedown and threw some leg kicks, but Kerr was able to take him down again and slip on an americana, making Takada tap. Then at PRIDE 7 he beat Alexander Otsuka by a TKO when he put him in a rear naked choke and the referee stopped the fight. This match is widely believed to have been a professional wrestling bout, and is not included in Takada's fight record on the Sherdog mixed martial arts website, but it is in his PRIDE official record.

Takada competed in the PRIDE Grand Prix 2000 Opening Round. He was pitted against Royce Gracie, and the match went the distance and to a decision. The Brazilian master could neither control nor submit Takada in the assigned 15-minute time limit, but Nobuhiko's lack of offensive made the judges rule in favor of Gracie and he advanced to the next round. It was revealed that the Japanese had fought the match with a heel injury. Takada's next MMA event participation was in PRIDE 11, where he faced feared striker Igor Vovchanchyn. Nobuhiko showed great improvement, surviving to Igor's punch flurries and actually taking him down, and later throwing effective leg kicks and holding on the kickboxer's attempts to utilize ground and pound. However, at the second round Vovchancyn overpowered him and made him tap out to more strikes on the ground.

At PRIDE 17, Takada faced another master kickboxer in the form of Mirko Filipović. He avoided Mirko's striking by using superior footwork and tried single and double leg takedowns, only to Filipović successfully sprawl them. Takada then went to suffer a fractured foot and stayed in the mat for the rest of the fight in an attempt to lure Mirko to the ground, but the striker did not compromised and the bout went to a draw. His next fight was again a draw against a kickboxer, this time Mike Bernardo, as part of Antonio Inoki's team in the Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye event. The fight saw virtually no offensive as each of the fighters acted with excessive caution to the other's skills. Takada's final match was against former student, Kiyoshi Tamura, which Tamura won by a KO.

After his MMA career, Takada manages his mixed martial arts association, Takada Dojo, where he has helped train such fighters as Kazushi Sakuraba. He was also the figurehead of PRIDE and Dream Stage Entertainment.

Rizin Fighting Federation[edit | edit source]

In 2015, Takada returned to mainstream MMA becoming a spokesperson and matchmaker for Rizin Fighting Federation, along with Nobuyuki Sakakibara and other former Pride employees.

In wrestling[edit | edit source]

  • Finishing moves
    • Cross armbreaker
    • Crossface chickenwing
    • High-speed roundhouse kick to the opponent's head
  • Signature moves
    • Ankle lock
    • Camel clutch
    • Cross kneelock
    • Guillotine choke
    • High knee
    • Kimura lock
    • Multiple kick variations
      • Jumping sole
      • Missile drop
      • Repeated stiff shoot to the opponent's chest and legs
      • Roundhouse
      • Soccer to the opponent's face
      • Spin
    • Multiple suplex variations
      • Belly-to-back
      • Belly-to-belly
      • Bridging full nelson
      • German
      • Palm strike
    • Rear naked choke
  • Nicknames
    • "Saikyou" ("The Strongest")
    • "Wagamama na Hikazoko" ("Egoist Kneecap")
  • Entrance themes
    • "Shippu no Rider" (NJPW)
    • "Still I'm Sad" by Rainbow (UWF)
    • "Mao Gaisen" by Seikima-II (NJPW; 1986)
    • "War" by Vince DiCola (NJPW; 1986-1988)
    • "Last Hero" by Hound Dog (UWF Newborn)
    • "Cross Fire" by Toshiki Fukawa (UWF Newborn)
    • "Training Montage" by Vince DiCola (UWF-i)
    • "Spirit Higher" by Koji Kikkawa (PRIDE)
    • "Pomp and Circumstance" by Edward Elgar (HUSTLE)

Championships and accomplishments[edit | edit source]

Mixed martial arts record[edit | edit source]

Res. Record Opponent Method Event Date Round Time Location Notes
Loss 2-6-2 Kiyoshi Tamura KO (punch) PRIDE 23 November 24, 2002 2 1:00 Tokyo, Japan
Draw 2-5-2 Mike Bernardo Draw Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye 2001 December 31, 2001 3 3:00 Saitama, Japan
Draw 2-5-1 Mirko Filipović Draw PRIDE 17 November 3, 2001 4 5:00 Tokyo, Japan
Loss 2-5 Igor Vovchanchyn Submission (punches) Pride 11 - Battle of the Rising Sun October 31, 2000 2 3:18 Osaka, Japan
Loss 2-4 Royce Gracie Decision (unanimous) PRIDE Grand Prix 2000 Opening Round January 30, 2000 1 15:00 Tokyo, Japan
Loss 2-3 Mark Kerr Submission (kimura) Pride 6 July 4, 1999 1 3:05 Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan
Win 2-2 Mark Coleman Submission (heel hook) Pride 5 April 29, 1999 2 1:44 Nagoya, Japan
Loss 1-2 Rickson Gracie Submission (armbar) Pride 4 October 11, 1998 1 9:28 Tokyo, Japan
Win 1-1 Kyle Sturgeon Submission (heel hook) PRIDE 3 June 24, 1998 1 2:17 Tokyo, Japan
Loss 0-1 Rickson Gracie Submission (armbar) PRIDE 1 October 11, 1997 1 2:32 Tokyo, Japan

Filmography[edit | edit source]

Year Title Role
1989 Yawara! A Fashionable Judo Girl! Himself
2006 Simsons Noriyuki Motoyima
2007 [Calling You Mr. Yamaguchi
2010 Watashi no Yasashiku nai Senpai Makoto Iriomote
2010 Bokutachi no Play Ball Himself
2012 Mou Yuukai Nante Shinai Quick service delivery man
2014 Idai Naru, Shurarabon Nami Natsume
2015 Super Hero Taisen GP: Kamen Rider 3 General Black

Video games[edit | edit source]

  • Saikyō: Takada Nobuhiko - Super Famicom 1995
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.