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Yoshihiro Takayama (高山 善廣, Takayama Yoshihiro, born September 19, 1966)[1] is a Japanese professional wrestler and mixed martial artist. Debuting for UWF International (UWFI) in the 1990s, Takayama joined All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW) in 1997 after UWF-i folded. In 2000, he joined Pro Wrestling Noah (Noah), and later became a mainstay in New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) where he arguably achieved his greatest success, holding the IWGP Heavyweight Championship and NWF Heavyweight Championship simultaneously in 2003. He is one of only two men to hold all three of puroresus major heavyweight titles (New Japan Pro Wrestling's IWGP Heavyweight Championship, All Japan Pro Wrestling's Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship, and Pro Wrestling Noah's GHC Heavyweight Championship), the other being Kensuke Sasaki.

Yoshihiro Takayama
Yoshihiro Takayama 2011.JPG
Takayama in November 2011
Born (1966-09-19) September 19, 1966 (age 53)[1]
Sumida, Tokyo[1]
Professional wrestling career
Ring name(s)Takan Hansen[2]
Takayama[3]
Yoshihiro Takayama
Billed height1.96 m (6 ft 5 in)[1]
Billed weight125 kg (276 lb)[1]
Trained byGiant Baba
Nobuhiko Takada
DebutJune 28, 1992[1]
RetiredMay 4, 2017 (last match to date)

Takayama is well known for his ability to endure massive amounts of punishment, and is regarded as one of the toughest professional wrestlers of all time. Takayama first became widely known for his toughness after he began competing in mixed martial arts, when he took part in one of the most famous fights in Pride FC history at PRIDE 21 against Don Frye. He has suffered numerous career threatening injuries, including a stroke after a match against Kensuke Sasaki in 2004. Takayama's career ended with a spinal cord injury in May 2017, which left him paralyzed from the shoulders down.

Professional wrestling careerEdit

Union of Wrestling Forces International (1992–1996)Edit

A former rugby player, kendoka and lifeguard, Takayama started his professional wrestling career 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. 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, most notably against Masahiro Chono's Ookami Gundan unit. 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.[4] In WAR, they feuded with Gedo, Jado and Hiromichi Fuyuki, having several important matches against them.

All Japan Pro Wrestling (1997–2000)Edit

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 and Kakihara joined former UWFI foreigner Gary Albright 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 Giant 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, Takayama followed him.

Pro Wrestling Noah and freelance (2000–2017)Edit

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.

In 2001, Takayama declared free agency from Noah so he could pursue MMA,[1] 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.

 
Takayama with Suzuki-gun in February 2012

On January 4, 2010, at Wrestle Kingdom IV in Tokyo Dome, Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Takayama to retain his IWGP Heavyweight Championship.[5] 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.[6][7] 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.[8] 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.[9] On March 18, Takayama and his Suzuki-gun stablemate, Lance Archer, unsuccessfully challenged Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Satoshi Kojima for the IWGP Tag Team Championship.[10]

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.[11][12] He lost the contract to Yasu Urano on May 4,[13] after suffering a spinal cord injury.[14] Because of the injury, Takayama and Dino were stripped of the KO-D Tag Team Championship on May 9.[15]

Paralysis (2017)Edit

Takayama was injured at a DDT show on May 4, 2017, when he landed on his head when attempting a sunset flip on Yasu Urano. The match was ended immediately and Takayama was rushed to a hospital, where he was diagnosed with a "cervical spinal cord injury due to degenerative cervical spondylosis". For the following months, Takayama remained bedridden and was being taken care of by his wife and son, while the public was left unaware of the extent of his injury.[16] On August 6, it was reported that the injury had left Takayama paralyzed from the neck down, reportedly ending his pro wrestling career.[17] Takayama's situation was made public on September 4, when it was announced that he could now breathe on his own, but was still paralyzed from the shoulders down and was not expected to recover. DDT and Takayama's close friend Minoru Suzuki announced the creation of a foundation named "Takayamania", set to help Takayama and his family with his medical costs. Promotions across Japan came together to set up donation boxes for the foundation at their events.[18][19][20]

Mixed martial arts careerEdit

Yoshihiro Takayama
 
Years active2001–2002
Mixed martial arts record
Total5
Wins1
By knockout1
Losses4
By knockout2
By submission2
Mixed martial arts record from Sherdog

PrideEdit

Takayama had his anticipated debut in MMA at the event PRIDE 14 against fellow professional wrestler Kazuyuki Fujita. His performance would impress pundits by keeping the fight competitive despite the experience gap, as he escaped repeatedly from underneath the heavier Fujita and exchanged hard strikes in the muay thai clinch with him in the early minutes. Even though his stamina faltered later, which allowed Fujita to deliver multiple knee strikes to the head from a grounded position, Takayama survived to the second round, where he was finally put down by an arm triangle choke.[21]

At PRIDE 18, he faced superheavweight kickboxing champion Semmy Schilt in a valiant effort, but he was knocked out in short by his large opponent. However, Takayama would confirm the critics right at PRIDE 21 as a last time replacement. Although the event initially featured a hoped rematch between Ultimate Fighting Championship veterans Mark Coleman and Don Frye, the former was forced to pull out due to a serious neck injury, driving Takayama to accept to fill in two weeks before the bout.[22]

Frye and Takayama faced off in what many PRIDE fans consider to be a classic. As soon as the fight started, both contenders assumed an identical, aggressive hockey punching-like strategy and turned the match into a brutal slugfest, each one holding the other's head with the left hand and unloading savage unblocked punches to the face with the right. Takayama actually got the upper hand some minutes into this routine, landing several knees to the body and a belly to belly suplex, but Frye got up and both continued striking as previously. At the second round, after two minutes more of punching, the American finally overpowered Takayama and pounded him with hammerfists from the mount, leading the referee to stop the match.

Despite its untechnical nature, the fight was critically acclaimed and become one of the most talked about MMA matches ever. It appeared at number one on Fox Sports Network's "Best Damn 50 Beatdowns[23] and was considered by critics "one of the greatest fights of all-time",[24] "one of the finest moments in MMA history,"[25] and "the fiercest brawl in the history of the sport".[26] After Takayama's retirement by paralysis in 2018, Frye published a message for him referring the fight, stating: "Takayama-san, God gave me the greatest opponent anybody could ever ask for, you. You made the greatest fight the world has ever seen. [...] You are the warrior we all look to be."[27]

At Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye 2002, Takayama had his last MMA fight as part of Antonio Inoki's team, facing an opponent even heavier than Schilt, the 350-pound Bob Sapp. The fight was one-sided, with Sapp using his superior strength and size to mount Takayama and perform an armbar for the tap out.

Other mediaEdit

Aside from professional wrestling, Takayama featured a sporadic music career. In summer 1996, as part of Golden Cups stable, Takayama participated in the group's official music debut with the CD album "Golden Cups Present... Oh Taco," containing the three wrestlers's entrance themes along with some covers and original songs.[4] In 2009, Takayama appeared with Riki Choshu in the music video of King RIKI's tenth anniversary version of "Love Machine", posing as HUSTLE wrestlers flanking RIKI.

Takayama has acted in small parts in several films, beginning with Muscle Heat in 2002, and continuing with Cromartie High - The Movie and Nagurimono in 2005. He also appeared in 2004's The Calamari Wrestler, playing himself in a cameo role. He also voiced the character Canis Major Sirious in the Saint Seiya OVA trilogy The Hades Chapter. He is credited as "Large Man" in Martin Scorsese's 2016 film Silence.[28]

Championships and accomplishmentsEdit

Mixed martial arts recordEdit

Professional record breakdown
5 matches 1 win 4 losses
By knockout 1 2
By submission 0 2
By decision 0 0
Draws 0
Res. Record Opponent Method Event Date Round Time Location Notes
Win 1-4 Hikaru Sato KO (suplex) U-Spirits: Again March 9, 2013 1 4:26 Tokyo, Japan Disputed. Has been reported as a professional wrestling match.[35]
Loss 0-4 Bob Sapp Submission (armbar) Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye 2002 December 31, 2002 1 2:16 Saitama, Saitama, Japan
Loss 0-3 Don Frye TKO (punches) Pride 21 June 23, 2002 1 6:10 Saitama, Saitama, Japan Fight of the Year (2002)
Loss 0-2 Semmy Schilt KO (punches) Pride 18 December 23, 2001 1 3:09 Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan
Loss 0-1 Kazuyuki Fujita Submission (arm triangle choke) Pride 14 May 27, 2001 2 3:10 Yokohama, Japan

FilmographyEdit

Year Title Role Notes
2002 Muscle Heat Muscle Dome Wrestler
2002 Saint Seiya: The Hades Chapter Canis Major Sirius Voice
2004 The Calamari Wrestler Himself Cameo
2005 Nagurimono Tetsufu
2005 Cromartie High – The Movie Yutaka Takenouchi
2005 Crusher Kazuyoshi Himself/Takayama
2014 Tokyo Tribe Bodyguard
2016 Silence Large Man

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o 高山 善廣. Pro Wrestling Noah (in Japanese). Retrieved 2017-05-06.
  2. ^ マスカラスが飛んだ!圧倒的な存在感で論外に完勝。ミノディ&タカンの超獣コンビが暴走戦士相手に大暴れ!. Battle News (in Japanese). 2013-04-11. Retrieved 2013-04-12.
  3. ^ "Independent Wrestling Results: 2009~". Purolove (in German). Retrieved 2013-12-15.
  4. ^ a b Oh Taco
  5. ^ "January 4 New Japan Tokyo Dome report - legends, promotional wars". Wrestling Observer. 2010-01-04. Retrieved 2010-01-04.
  6. ^ レッスルキングダムⅤ in 東京ドーム. New Japan Pro Wrestling (in Japanese). Retrieved 2011-01-05.
  7. ^ Gerweck, Steve (2011-01-04). "1/4 TNA-NJPW Results: Tokyo, Japan". WrestleView. Archived from the original on January 7, 2011. Retrieved 2011-01-05.
  8. ^ "Dominion 6.18". New Japan Pro Wrestling (in Japanese). Retrieved 2011-06-18.
  9. ^ "NJPW 40th anniversary Tour. レッスルキングダムⅥ in 東京ドーム". New Japan Pro Wrestling (in Japanese). Archived from the original on 2012-01-08. Retrieved 2012-01-04.
  10. ^ "NJPW 40th anniversary Tour New Japan Glory 2012". New Japan Pro Wrestling (in Japanese). Retrieved 2012-03-18.
  11. ^ a b "Max Bump 2017". DDT Pro-Wrestling (in Japanese). Retrieved 2017-04-29.
  12. ^ "僕たち成増初進出になります!2017". DDT Pro-Wrestling (in Japanese). Retrieved 2017-05-06.
  13. ^ "【豊中ラブストーリー2017のまとめ】彰人が男色殺法を完封、竹下がディーノをジャーマン葬!/高山にアクシデント…いつどこがウラノに移動/佐々木がアントンを2タテ!「挑戦者を松井に代えろ!」/高木が大石に勝利していつどこをゲット!/ヒラコレ、大阪初上陸で今日もヒラタロックが冴え渡る!". DDT Pro-Wrestling (in Japanese). 2017-05-05. Retrieved 2017-05-06.
  14. ^ Meltzer, Dave (2017-05-05). "Daily Update: GSP vs. Bisping, Reigns and Strowman, Dave Bautista". Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Retrieved 2017-05-06.
  15. ^ "新生ノーフィアーのKO-Dタッグ王座返上に伴う第61代王者チーム決定戦開催について". DDT Pro-Wrestling (in Japanese). 2017-05-09. Retrieved 2017-05-09.
  16. ^ Meltzer, Dave (August 14, 2017). "August 14, 2017 Wrestling Observer Newsletter: Takayama paralyzed, WWE financials examined, tons more". Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Campbell, California: 1–2. ISSN 1083-9593.
  17. ^ Meltzer, Dave (2017-08-06). "Daily Update: Takayama, G1 standings, Onita works CZW". Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Retrieved 2017-08-07.
  18. ^ "高山善廣は頸髄完全損傷「回復の見込みなし」、親友の鈴木みのる涙". Yahoo! Japan (in Japanese). 2017-09-04. Retrieved 2017-09-04.
  19. ^ "リハビリ中の高山を支援する団体設立 鈴木みのる涙の訴え「力を貸してください」". Tokyo Sports (in Japanese). 2017-09-04. Retrieved 2017-09-04.
  20. ^ Fernandes, Steven; Johnson, Mike (2017-09-04). "Foundation launched to assist Yoshihiro Takayama". Pro Wrestling Insider. Retrieved 2017-09-04.
  21. ^ Stephen Quadros, Vovchanchyn, Henderson and Liddell Victorious in Pride 14, Black Belt magazine, October 2001
  22. ^ Black elt magazine, November 2002
  23. ^ Kirik Jenness, The #1 Best Damn Beatdown in MMA history
  24. ^ David L. Hudson Jr., Combat Sports: An Encyclopedia of Wrestling, Fighting, and Mixed Martial Arts, ABC-Clio
  25. ^ Great Moments in MMA History: Frye vs Takayama
  26. ^ Jonathan Snowden, Kendall Shields, The MMA Encyclopedia, ECW Press
  27. ^ Eric Kowal, Don Frye sends last wishes to Takayama, former opponent paralyzed from neck down
  28. ^ "Yoshihiro Takayama". IMDb. Retrieved 2018-10-22.
  29. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p "Yoshihiro Takayama". Puroresu Central. Retrieved 2013-09-25.
  30. ^ 高山が大仁田破り、初代爆破王に. Daily Sports Online (in Japanese). Kobe Shimbun. 2015-01-23. Retrieved 2015-01-23.
  31. ^ "Nikkan Sports Awards - 2007". wrestlingscout. February 26, 2016.
  32. ^ "Nikkan Sports Awards - 2003". wrestlingscout. February 19, 2016.
  33. ^ 2013年4月28日(日). Pro Wrestling Noah (in Japanese). Retrieved 2013-04-28.
  34. ^ 「グローバル・タッグリーグ戦2014」各賞発表. Pro Wrestling Noah (in Japanese). 2014-04-28. Retrieved 2014-04-28.
  35. ^ Meltzer, Dave (May 8, 2017). "May 8, 2017 Wrestling Observer Newsletter: WWE Payback review, WWE financials, plus tons of news". Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Campbell, California: 60. ISSN 1083-9593. Hikaru Sato, who is still an MMA fighter with 17years in that sport and does All Japan at the same time (he most recently beat Jonathan Ivey on the 2/5 Pancrase show and is listed as having a 24-23-4 record although one loss, to Yoshihiro Takayama, listed as an MMA fight in 2013, was a pro wrestling match), captured their world jr. title beating DDT's Keisuke Ishii.

External linksEdit