Yoshihiro Takayama (高山 善廣 Takayama Yoshihiro, born September 19, 1966) was a Japanese professional wrestler and mixed martial artist. Takayama is well known for his ability to endure massive amounts of punishment, especially after his fight at PRIDE 21 against Don Frye. He is one of two men to hold all three of puroresu's major heavyweight titles (the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, the Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship, and the GHC Heavyweight Championship), the other being Kensuke Sasaki.
Career[edit | edit source]
Union of Wrestling Forces International (1992-1996)[edit | edit source]
A former rugby player, kendoka and lifeguard, Takayama started his professional wrestling careers for shoot-style promotion Union of Wrestling Forces International (UWFI). Put under the tutelage of top star Nobuhiko Takada, Takayama debuted against Hiromitsu Kanehara and became a usual competitor of the Junior League Tournaments through the years. In 1995, with the interpromotional feuds with New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) and WAR, he allied himself with Yoji Anjo and Kenichi Yamamoto to form the semi-serious "Golden Cups" stable. They competed extensively against NJPW representatives, specially against Masahiro Chono's Ookami Gundan. The trio was famous for their involvement in comedic and parodic skits, like assuming masks in NJPW as the "200% Machines" to mock "Super Strong Machine" Junji Hirata, and playing a pop band gimmick to the point of releasing a CD album in July 1996. In WAR, they feuded with Gedo, Jado and Hiromichi Fuyuki, having several important garbage wrestling matches against them.
All Japan Pro Wrestling (1997-2000)[edit | edit source]
After UWFI's subsequent collapse, he joined Kingdom, but after it also collapsed, he joined All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW) as a free agent along with former UWFi comrade Masahito Kakihara. In the beginning, Takayama was put in a feud with Toshiaki Kawada (against whom he had lost once in an interpromotional match before the UWFI's collapse), but as he lost matches often, he was back in the undercard. He joined former UWFI foreigner Gary Albright and native Takao Omori in a new version of the "Triangle of Power" stable Albright had formed with Steve Williams before he briefly went back to the United States.
In 1999, upon Shohei Baba's death, Mitsuharu Misawa made him and Kakihara full-time members of All Japan. Pushed as the NO FEAR team with Omori, Takayama found instant success, first winning the Asian tag team title from Hayabusa and Jinsei Shinzaki and then the Double Cup from Johnny Ace and Bart Gunn. However, they were eventually defeated by the combination of Misawa and Yoshinari Ogawa. In 2000, when Misawa announced plans for his new promotion, Pro Wrestling NOAH (Noah), Takayama followed him.
Pro Wrestling Noah, freelance and retirement (2000-2017)[edit | edit source]
During the first few months of Noah's existence, Takayama competed in the first ever GHC Heavyweight Championship tournament, but lost to Mitsuharu Misawa in the final match. He found continued success in Noah, winning the new GHC Tag Team Championship with Takao Omori, too. It was around 2001 that, spurred by his old UWFI comrades' success in the PRIDE fighting circuit, Takayama decided to try his hand at mixed martial arts competition. He also competed in memorable Noah matches during 2002, winning the GHC Heavyweight Championship from Yoshinari Ogawa on September 7 before losing it to Mitsuharu Misawa later that month.
Takayama declared free agency from Noah so he could pursue MMA, as well as matches in New Japan Pro Wrestling, where he began challenging the top stars, such as Yuji Nagata, Masahiro Chono, and Hiroyoshi Tenzan. In 2003 and 2004 he participated in New Japan's annual G1 Climax tournament. In mid-2004 he affiliated himself with former Pancrase wrestler Minoru Suzuki, and they won the IWGP Tag Team Championship, but he suffered a stroke later in the year following a brutal match with Kensuke Sasaki. During his time away from the ring, Takayama provided occasional colour commentary for Pro Wrestling Noah, famously saying, "I hope this never ends" during a chop exchange between Kenta Kobashi and Kensuke Sasaki on the July 18, 2005 "Destiny" show. In June 2006, Pro Wrestling Noah announced that Takayama would return at the July 16 Nippon Budokan show, and would team with Kenta Kobashi to take on Jun Akiyama and Mitsuharu Misawa. The match was later changed due to Kobashi needing surgery to remove a cancerous tumor, leading to Takayama teaming with Kensuke Sasaki against Akiyama and Misawa. However, when Kenta Kobashi returned, it would be in the same match, teaming with Yoshihiro Takayama to take on Jun Akiyama and Mitsuharu Misawa.
Takayama then started teaming with old UWFI comrade Takuma Sano in a tournament for the GHC Tag Team Championship vacated by Kenta Kobashi and Tamon Honda due to Kobashi's kidney tumor (Takayama and Sano would reach the final where they would lose to Muhammad Yone and Takeshi Morishima). On December 27, he showed up at a Pro Wrestling ZERO1-MAX show, attacked former partner Takao Omori, and promised to return at the next show.
Takayama defeated Great Muta on March 14, 2009 at Pro-Wrestling Love in Ryogoku Vol. 7 to win the Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship. With this victory, Takayama became the second wrestler (the other being Kensuke Sasaki) to win the three major heavyweight titles in Japan: NOAH's GHC Heavyweight Championship, New Japan's IWGP Heavyweight Championship, and All Japan's Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship. Takayama held the Triple Crown for almost seven months, losing the title to Satoshi Kojima on September 26.
On January 4, 2010 at Wrestle Kingdom IV in Tokyo Dome, Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Takayama to retain his IWGP Heavyweight Championship. In 2010, Takayama and Sano competed in NOAH's "Global Tag League" tournament and emerged the victors, however they were subsequently unable to dethrone the GHC Tag Team Champions Takeshi Rikio and Muhammad Yone.
From March 28 to May 2, 2010, Takayama competed in (and eventually won) Pro-Wrestling Noah's 1st ever Global League. He defeated Jun Akiyama in the final match of the tournament, finishing up with a total of 7 points. It was then announced that due to his victory, Takayama had earned a GHC Heavyweight Championship match versus Takashi Sugiura on July 10. On September 18, 2010, Takayama and Takuma Sano defeated Akitoshi Saito and Bison Smith to win the vacant GHC Tag Team Championship. On January 4, 2011, at New Japan's Wrestle Kingdom V in Tokyo Dome, Takayama and Sugiura defeated Hirooki Goto and Kazuchika Okada in a tag team match. Takayama and Sano would lose the GHC Tag Team Championship to New Japan's Giant Bernard and Karl Anderson on June 18, 2011, at Dominion 6.18 in a match contested also for the IWGP Tag Team Championship. After months of KENTA trying to persuade hm to join No Mercy, on June 26 Takayama turned on his partner Takuma Sano during a tag match against KENTA and Kanemaru and became the fourth member of No Mercy. In late 2011, Takayama began making appearances for New Japan Pro Wrestling as a member of Minoru Suzuki's Suzuki-gun, which built to a match on January 4, 2012, at Wrestle Kingdom VI in Tokyo Dome, where he was defeated by Togi Makabe in a singles match. On March 18, Takayama and his Suzuki-gun stablemate, Lance Archer, unsuccessfully challenged Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Satoshi Kojima for the IWGP Tag Team Championship.
In 2014 Takayama began working primarily for Wrestle-1 and NOAH and later in mid 2015 Pro Wrestling Zero1 deathmatch sub-brand Cho Hanabi, where he won the Bakuha-ō Championship defeating Atsushi Onita, before losing the title back to him on March 21. Back in NOAH Takayama confronted GHC Heavyweight Champion Minoru Suzuki and ending his alliance with Suzuki-gun after proceding to attack Suzuki and challenging him for his title. On July 18 Takayama unssuccesfully challenged Suzuki for the GHC Heavyweight Championship. He would then make appearances for the promotion until January 2016, working mostly six-man tag team matches before stopping making appearances.
In 2016, Takayama began working primarily for DDT Pro-Wrestling, and in April 2017 won both the KO-D Tag Team Championship with Danshoku Dino and the Right to Challenge Anytime, Anywhere contract for the KO-D Openweight Championship. He lost the contract to Yasu Urano on May 4, after suffering a spinal cord injury. Because of the injury, Takayama and Dino were stripped of the KO-D Tag Team Championship on May 9. On August 6, 2017, it was reported that the injury had left Takayama paralyzed from the neck down, reportedly ending his pro wrestling career.
In wrestling[edit | edit source]
- Finishing moves
- Everest German Suplex (Bridging high-angle German suplex)
- Running high knee
- Signature moves
- Cross armbreaker
- Multiple kick variations
- Big boot
- Multiple suplex variations
- Double underhook
Championships and accomplishments[edit | edit source]
- All Japan Pro Wrestling
- Cho Hanabi
- Bakuha-ō Championship (1 time)
- DDT Pro-Wrestling
- New Japan Pro Wrestling
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- PWI ranked him #27 of the top 500 singles wrestlers in the PWI 500 in 2002
- Pro Wrestling NOAH
- GHC Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- GHC Tag Team Championship (2 times) – with Takao Omori (1) and Takuma Sano (1)
- 2 Days Tag Tournament (2011) with KENTA
- Global League (2010)
- Global Tag League (2010) - with Takuma Sano
- Global Tag League (2013) - with KENTA
- Global Tag League Fighting Spirit Award (2014) - with KENTA
- Pro Wrestling Zero1
- Tenryu Project
- Tokyo Sports
- Wrestle Association "R"
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter
- Best Brawler (2002)
- Fight of the Year (2002) vs. Don Frye