There are performers in the world of professional wrestling who transcend just being “wrestlers” and become legends in the business. Names like Mitsuharu Misawa, Kenta Kobashi, Shawn Michaels and more than I could ever hope to name in this article. As much as I love these legends I also find myself enamoured with the complete opposite. If you have followed my Twitter account for any length of time you know that I love a lot of wrestlers that the general wrestling community tends to ridicule, maybe none more so then my first defended the Tokyo Pimp Yujiro Takahashi.
Yujiro started out in the New Japan Dojo in November of 2003 before making his debut on July 26, 2004 losing to the future Bullet Club Hunter Yoshitatsu. Yujiro remained for the most part an undercard guy until 2008 when he started to team up with fellow youngster and New Japan Dojo graduate Tetsuya Naito as No Limit. They would go on to capture both the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Titles and the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Titles over the next few years. It would be remiss of me not to mention Takahashi’s challenge for the IWGP Heavyweight Title at Power Struggle in 2012, this was Takahashi’s first shot at the title in a losing effort to Hiroshi Tanahashi. It wasn’t until March 17, 2013 in the second round of the New Japan Cup that we saw the Takahashi that we know and love today debuting his “ladies man” gimmick in a match against Togi Makabe. 2014 was the year that I remember most fondly in regards to Yujiro Takahashi, more specifically his NEVER Openweight Title matches against Tomohiro Ishii, when I think about Takahashi’s best matches these are the matches that come to my mind. To be honest the last two years of Takahashi’s run in NJPW have been forgettable, but I don’t think he has been completely at fault, Yujiro Takahashi as a character has become stale and his positioning on the card is responsible for that. For the most part in recent memory Takahashi has been an opening match wrestler or the fall guy in the G-1 Climax, he is left with no motivation, nothing to sink his teeth into and I think that is a real shame for a man who I believe could be a solid upper midcard contender. Is he ever going to win the IWGP Heavyweight Title or even the IWGP Intercontinental Title? No way! But could he be a legitimate contender? I believe that: YES, he can. When Takahashi is motivated he puts on great performances that I think the wrestling community sometimes forgets about while they are stuck watching him in the opening match trapped in a tag team with BONE SOLDIER.
Best of the Worst:
NJPW Power Struggle 2012: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Yujiro Takahashi****
This was a NJPW main event in every sense. We got a great opening segment with fast technical back and forth, the veteran Tanahashi always being one step ahead and that was how this match went, Takahashi would try to use his speed and his power to overcome Tanahashi but whatever he did it felt like Tanahashi had already found a way out often by targeting Takahashi’s leg. Takahashi sold the leg magnificently throughout the match. The crowd was quiet for the first half of the match but it all picked up when Takahashi hit his dominator for a two count that had people jumping out of their seats. Like all big NJPW main events the final stretch was the highlight of the match with Tanahashi fighting his way out of all of Takahashi’s big moves and managing to hit two High Fly Flows in secession to end the match. This match proved to me that Takahashi can deliver in these big spots, a perfectly worked main event with no glaring issues. It’s clear Takahashi wasn’t as over as he should’ve been before he was put in this spot, but both Tanahashi and Takahashi managed to pull the crowd into the match anyway.
NJPW Invasion Attack 2013: Masato Tanaka & Yujiro Takahashi vs. Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma***3/4
My word! What a fun heavyweight tag match; something that 2016 NJPW fans would love to see on their shows. The roles in this match were clear: Takahashi was the young whipping boy whose job was to take all the big bumps, Makabe was the big angry brawler who wanted to rip Takahashi’s head clean off, and Tanaka and Honma where the two veterans who wanted to beat the crap out of each other. I can safely say that this match was more fun than any IWGP Tag Title defense so far this year! (Editor’s note: this was written before Power Struggle, hold off the pitchforks.) If you can spare the 12 minutes to go out and watch this match, do it.
NJPW King of Pro-Wrestling 2014: Tomohiro Ishii vs. Yujiro Takahashi ****1/4
This match was awesome, and no, it wasn’t just Ishii who made this awesome. Yujiro Takahashi held his own in this match, watching this reminded me of why I have my love for Takahashi. It was clear from the beginning that Takahashi didn’t want to take Ishii head on with strikes or power moves so he was using his mind to get the advantage, which was good in theory but when you have a raging bull of a man named Tomohiro Ishii after you; outsmarting him can only work for so long. Takahashi had the advantage over Ishii for the majority of the match and busted out some moves I haven’t seen Takahashi use since, such as a top rope belly-to-belly that I audibly squealed at, and a really cool pop-up German suplex that I haven’t seen done since by anyone. All it took was for Takahashi to let up for a second and we learnt why he did not want to get into a strike battle with Ishii who dropped him with repeated forearms, headbutts and lariats. Takahashi’s cheating ways would eventually become his undoing as Ishii caught an attempted low blow and hit him with two lariats which Takahashi managed to kick out off to the crowd’s surprise. Then Ishii hit the brainbuster for the three. This is what Takahashi should be doing, he should be the sneaky cheating heel of the NEVER division whose goal is to outsmart the strikers in the division. Great match!
That’ll do it for the first edition.