Nobuhiko Takada (Japanese: 高田延彦, born April 12, 1962) is a Japanese former mixed martial artist, retired professional wrestler and actor. He competed in New Japan Pro-Wrestling, Universal Wrestling Federation and Union of Wrestling Forces International in the 1980s and 1990s, becoming one of the highest figures of the "shoot-style" movement. He later turned to mixed martial arts where despite his controversial match fixing ventures and lack of competitive success he was credited with the existence and development of global MMA promotion PRIDE Fighting Championships in which he worked as an executive after his retirement from active competition until its closure. He also founded and starred at the sports entertainment professional wrestling promotion HUSTLE from 2004 to 2008 and currently works as an executive for Rizin Fighting Federation.
Takada dressed as Generalissimo Takada in HUSTLE
|Ring name(s)||The Esperanza|
|Billed height||1.85 m (6 ft 1 in)|
|Billed weight||100 kg (220 lb; 16 st)|
|Trained by||Antonio Inoki|
|Debut||May 9, 1981|
|Retired||July 26, 2009|
|Mixed martial arts career|
|Height||1.83 m (6 ft 0 in)|
|Weight||95 kg (209 lb; 15.0 st)|
|Mixed martial arts record|
|Mixed martial arts record from Sherdog|
Professional wrestling careerEdit
New Japan Pro-Wrestling (1981–1984)Edit
After training in the New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW) 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 appearance 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 (UWF) by Fujiwara's invitation, and in June he was officially part of the new promotion.
Universal Wrestling Federation (1985–1986)Edit
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 NJPW (1986–1988)Edit
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, before losing the title back to Koshinaka on September 19. Now in the peak of his popularity, Takada received the nickname of Wagamamana Hikazoku (Egoist Kneecap) for his hard, stiff kicking ability.
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
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.
Union of Wrestling Forces International (1991–1996)Edit
After UWF Newborn closed doors, Takada formed the Union of Wrestling Forces International (UWFi), 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 UWFi trainer Pat McCarthy, "no rules were ever changed. [Berbick] just never wanted to listen." Anyway, 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 "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.
As champion, 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 UWFi event. However, discussions over the outcome of the match were difficult, leading to an agreement of a draw. During the match, 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 at the time (the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship was not created until 1998, and since then other wrestlers who came close to winning all four titles were Wataru Inoue, who never held the Heavyweight Championship; Kenny Omega, who never held the Tag Team Championship, and Tetsuya Naito, who never held the Junior Heavyweight Championship). 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 professional wrestling history.
In December 1996, the UWFI folded after the UWFI-WAR feud. It gave birth to Kingdom Pro Wrestling, but Takada only participated in one of its events, in an exhibition against Ryushi Kimiyama. He soon left pro wrestling for mixed martial arts.
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 careerEdit
Takada entered the world of mixed martial arts when he joined the recently founded KRS PRIDE, an event created to host a fight between him and Brazilian jiu-jitsu master Rickson Gracie. The bout had been highly anticiped since Gracie had defeated the UWF-i wrestler Yoji Anjo in 1994, as Takada was still expected to face Rickson in order to restore his late promotion's reputation. However, although he had been believed to be a strong legitimate wrestler by the Japanese audiences for most of his career, Takada was actually not a trained fighter. He had no experience or background in combat sports or martial arts, and after a grueling 17 years professional wrestling career he was already too away from his physical prime to hone his fighting skills. According to Bas Rutten, Takada had been submitted by Brazilian jiu-jitsu white belt practitioners while in a training trip to the Beverly Hills Jiu-Jitsu Club, which deemed him unfit to compete.
Despite these considerations, Takada was able to hold a limited amount of in-ring competence late on his career. As described by Jack Slack from Fightland: "It would be easy to remember Nobuhiko Takada as some kind of bum. [...] But this might be doing a disservice to what Takada was able to accomplish in the ring despite inexperience, age and a lack of athletic prowess. For one thing, in legitimate fights Takada was able to scramble up from beneath Mark Kerr, take down Igor Vovchanchyn, and indeed take the latter's notoriously powerful punches." He is acknowledged to have faced several of the greatest fighters of his generation, adding Royce Gracie and Mirko Filipović to the aforementioned, and is also credited with the existence of PRIDE Fighting Championships by having lent his own popularity to carry the first events of the promotion until it had established its place. In his book The MMA Encyclopedia, Jonathan Snowden wrote: "Pride was built to showcase Takada."
Challenge on GracieEdit
Takada's debut against Gracie happened as stipulated on October 11, 1997 at PRIDE 1. After circling around Gracie for some time, a wary Takada was able to stop the first takedown attempt by grabbing the ring ropes, but after the restart, Rickson scored a double leg takedown and moved to mount position over him. Although the Japanese tried to hold him down from the bottom, Gracie eventually captured his arm and executed an armbar for the win at the 2:32 mark. While the matchup was a huge economic success, which ensured new PRIDE events in the future, Takada's remarkedly poor performance resulted in a comparable disappointment for Japanese audiences, drawing very negative comments and marking the beginning of the end of Takada as a main eventer. He was likened to a war criminal to Japan by specialized press.
Nobuhiko would go on to face kickboxer Kyle Sturgeon at PRIDE 3, a match that was acknowledged as a fight fixed in order to attempt to rebuild Takada's status for a rematch. As planned, Takada submitted Sturgeon by heel hook and requested another fight against Rickson Gracie. The latter agreed, claiming "I feel Takada is a warrior and deserves the chance to try and redeem himself" in a subsequent interview. Thus, the rematch was held at PRIDE 4.
Rickson opened the fight shooting for a takedown, but a substantially improved Takada blocked it and held Gracie away from the ground, the Brazilian's field of expertise, by way of a tight clinch. After exchanging short knees and stomps with Gracie for some minutes, Takada landed a hard knee strike to the midsection and blocked a guard pulling attempt by Gracie. Some more minutes into the round, Rickson eventually managed to pull Takada down, where the bout looked to slow down, but the Japanese wrestler stood up in order to initiate a leglock. Capitalizing on the instance, Gracie executed a sweep and got on top of Takada in mount position. Takada worked from the bottom, dismounting Gracie several times and even transitioning into a heel hook attempt at one point, but the jiu-jitsu specialist avoided it and applied an armbar for the win. Although the fight didn't restore Takada's reputation, it was unanimously considered a much better performance, with some calling it Takada's best showing.
Matches against wrestlersEdit
Takada fought his next match at Pride 5 against Ultimate Fighting Championship tournament winner Mark Coleman. This was the second instance of a worked fight in Takada's career given in an attempt to increase his fleeting popularity. Despite outweighting Takada by 40 pounds, Coleman was chosen as his opponent because his previous losses to low-ranked fighters would make the result more credible. He described the treat as "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." It was being argued Takada did not know of this fixing and ignored Coleman's intentions to throw the fight.
Despite these considerations, the match was noted to fail at working seamlessly. Takada opened it earning a yellow card when he grabbed the ropes to avoid being taken down, while Coleman had to abstain visibly from land strikes on the ground when he scored another takedown. After some scrambling, Coleman achieved dominant position and pursued a neck crank and a keylock, but the first round ended right after. At the second, Coleman took Takada down again, but he gave up his position into Takada's guard and the Japanese locked a heel hook, making him tap out theatrically.
Takada was then pitted against Mark Kerr, Mark Coleman's teammate, at Pride 6. Unlike the previous, this match is generally acknowledged as a non-fixed fight, although it was reported Kerr was offered a bonus payment in exchange for fighting a technical bout instead of using ground and pound. As such, Kerr went to claim he would defeat Takada by a submission move in less time than Rickson Gracie had done in Takada's debut. The fight was also promoted as Kerr taking revenge for Coleman.
Started the match, Takada came out with punches, driving Kerr to clinch. The American executed a single leg takedown, but Takada escaped and returned to standing, where he started scoring quick low kicks. Kerr took him down again, though, and achieved side control. From there, he locked an americana, forcing Takada to tap out. The fight ended at 3:05, two minutes less than the first fight between Takada and Gracie, as Kerr had meant.
At PRIDE 7, Takada faced fellow profesional wrestler Alexander Otsuka. The match, another worked venture, is controversial about whether it was billed as a mixed martial arts fight or a professional wrestling match. It is not included in Takada's fight record on the Sherdog website, though is in his PRIDE official record. The match saw Otsuka landing a fisherman suplex before Takada locked a rear naked choke for the tap out.
PRIDE Grand Prix and competition against strikersEdit
Takada competed in the PRIDE Grand Prix 2000 Opening Round, where he was pitted against his second opponent in the Gracie family, Rickson's brother Royce, who returned from a hiatus after his career in Ultimate Fighting Championship. Initiated the match, the gi-clad Royce immediately clinched Takada and pulled guard, but action stopped right there, as none of the fighters followed with any action. For the rest of the 15 minute match, Takada lied on Gracie's guard, keeping a lo posture and controlling his collar grips, while Royce held him there, occasionally hitting heel kicks to the kidneys and trying gi chokes. After the end of the bout, decision was given to Royce. Takada visibly limped to his corner, which was later explained as Takada having fought the bout with a heel injury.
The fight was negatively received by the crowd, who had even uncharacteristically booeed Takada in its course. It drew comparisons to Ken Shamrock's "The Dance in Detroit" bout against Dan Severn in April 1995 UFC and particularly to Shamrock's own bout against Royce Gracie at the same year.
Takada's next MMA event participation was in PRIDE 11, where he was pitted against feared striker Igor Vovchanchyn. Having trained especially for the match with his own trainee Kazushi Sakuraba and K-1 veteran Masaaki Satake, Takada was acknowledged to have improved his performance. Takada avoided Vovchanchyn's punches and scored a Sakuraba-inspired single leg takedown to the crowd's cheers, and even after returning to their feet, he landed effective low kicks, visibly bruising Vovchanchyn's leg. Eventually, the Ukrainian threw Takada to the ground and threatened with ground and pound, but Takada survived until the end of the round. Igor finally overpowered him at the second, when he caught the Japanese with a counterpunch and gained full mount after a restart. Takada worked again to avoid the punishmentm, but Vovchanchyn started landing hard strikes, making him tap out.
At PRIDE 17, Takada faced another master kickboxer in the form of Mirko Cro Cop, who was debuting in mixed martial arts. Due to this, the fight would have six shorter rounds and no judges. Takada avoided his opponent's striking through highly mobile footwork and scored a takedown, but nothing came from it. He then survived until the next round by lying on the mat and making little advances towards Cro Cop. Started the next round, the Japanese tried both single and double leg takedowns in an attempt to repeat the score, but this time Cro Cop successfully blocked them all. The situation changed when Takada broke his foot shortly after, forcing him to depend solely of his defensive tactic. He spent the rest of the rounds sitting on the mat, goading fruitlessly Cro Cop to engage him on the ground, until the end of the bout. Again, reception to this strategy was negative.
His next fight was again 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 offense, ad both fighters acted with excessive caution to the other's skills and never engaged in the entire fight.
Takada's final match was against his former student Kiyoshi Tamura. There was both story and controversy between them, as Tamura had challenged Takada several times without an answer, and then walked out of UWF International in 1995 to work for rival RINGS. Tamura was also reluctant to fight at the event due to sharing card with Kenichi Yamamoto, another Takada understudy he had a personal enmity with. However, the match took place without more troubles.
Master and apprentice exchanged kicks and punches at the start of the fight. Tamura dropped Takada with a leg kick, but action had to be stopped when he landed an accidental heavy low blow. After recovering, Takada took Tamura down and worked a few strikes through his guard, but his former trainee escaped to his feet. At the second round, Tamura suddenly connected with a combination and knocked Takada out.
The bout was followed by a reconciliation between Takada and Tamura, the latter of which cried and stated: "Thank you for giving the people their dream and hope for twenty-two years." Takada's proper retirement ceremony was hosted after the main event between his other student Kazushi Sakuraba and Gilles Arsene. Former UWF wrestlers like Tamura, Yamamoto, Yoshihiro Takayama and Yoji Anjo attended the ceremony, along with PRIDE fighters like Fedor Emelianenko, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Wanderlei Silva and Gary Goodridge, and Takada's own former master Antonio Inoki came as well to send off his career.
After retiring, Takada ran his mixed martial arts training facility, Takada Dojo, where he helped train fighters. He also stayed on in a management role at PRIDE and its parents company Dream Stage Entertainment until PRIDE's purchase by Zuffa in 2007.
Rizin Fighting Federation (2015–present)Edit
In 2015, Takada returned to mainstream MMA when he signed on as a spokesperson and matchmaker for the Rizin Fighting Federation, Takada works alongside with Nobuyuki Sakakibara and other former Pride employees.
Championships and accomplishmentsEdit
- New Japan Pro-Wrestling
- Nikkan Sports
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- Tokyo Sports
- Union of Wrestling Forces International
- Pro-Wrestling World Heavyweight Championship (2 times)
- Wrestle Association R
- WAR World Six-Man Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Naoki Sano and Masahito Kakihara
- WAR World Six-Man Tag Team Championship Tournament (1996) – with Naoki Sano and Masahito Kakihara
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter
Mixed martial arts recordEdit
|Professional record breakdown|
|10 matches||2 wins||6 losses|
|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 Cro Cop||Draw||PRIDE 17||November 3, 2001||4||5:00||Tokyo, Japan|
|Loss||2–5||Igor Vovchanchyn||Submission (punches)||PRIDE 11||October 31, 2000||2||3:17||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||3:04||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||9:30||Tokyo, Japan|
|Win||1–1||Kyle Sturgeon||Submission (heel hook)||PRIDE 3||June 24, 1998||1||2:18||Tokyo, Japan|
|Loss||0–1||Rickson Gracie||Submission (armbar)||PRIDE 1||October 11, 1997||1||4:47||Tokyo, Japan|
|1989||Yawara! A Fashionable Judo Girl!||Himself||Cameo|
|2007||Calling You||Mr. Yamaguchi|
|2010||Watashi no Yasashiku nai Senpai||Makoto Iriomote|
|2010||Bokutachi no Play Ball||Himself|
|2014||The Great Shu Ra Ra Boom||Nami Natsume|
|2015||Super Hero Taisen GP: Kamen Rider 3||General Black|
|2015||Mr. Maxman||Ryo Jindaiji|
|2006||Kōmyō ga Tsuji||Honda Tadakatsu||Taiga drama|
|2007||Fūrin Kazan||Kojima Gorozaemon||Taiga drama|
|2012||Mou Yuukai Nante Shinai||Quick service delivery man|
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-  Archived May 15, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
-  Archived January 3, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
-  Archived July 15, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
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