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Fundraising begins for paralyzed Japanese MMA & professional wrestling legend Yoshihiro Takayama

By Zach Arnold | September 5, 2017

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Japanese icon Yoshihiro Takayama is paralyzed from the neck-down and is unlikely to regain full body movement for the rest of his life. He suffered injury four months ago during an in-ring accident in a professional wrestling match.

Takayama’s top wrestling rival, Kenta Kobashi, has established a donation section on his FortuneKK store for fans to make donations via credit card. The donations will be used for all expenses occurred as a result of Takayama’s accident.

The legend of Yoshihiro Takayama

I can’t write the modern history of Japanese MMA without mentioning the name of four famous professional wrestlers: Kazushi Sakuraba, Yoshihiro Takayama, Shinya Hashimoto, and Naoya Ogawa.

Sakuraba and Takayama both came out of the UWF-International system in the mid-90s. If you had put a gun to my head and made me pick which two UWF-International wrestlers I would have picked to become the Japanese icons of MMA’s golden era, I wouldn’t have picked either man. Sakuraba was a promising talent but languished in the middle of the fight cards. Takayama was the goofy comedic sidekick to matchmaker Yoji Anjoh. Anjoh & Takayama were known as The Golden Cups and feuded in both WAR (Gen’ichiro Tenryu’s promotion) and New Japan. Anjoh, it should be noted, was the emissary sent to confront Rickson Gracie with Japanese photographers on stand-by. Rickson beat Anjoh up so badly that Japanese fans and media pressured UWF-International ace Nobuhiko Takada to fight Rickson to avenge Anjoh’s loss of face. That’s how PRIDE started.

Takada would lose twice to Rickson. Sakuraba, coming off of the infamous UFC Japan situation with Conan Silviera at Yokohama Arena, would become the ace of PRIDE and obtain legendary status with his feud against Royce Gracie.

The road for Yoshihiro Takayama was much different. He formed a very promising tag team with Takao Omori in All Japan Pro-Wrestling called No Fear. Omori was an unusual character with a swimming eye and mannerisms but he had great athletic skill and worked really well in tag scenarios. Takayama was the Japanese giant.

The tag team would get derailed under mysterious circumstances when Omori lost face after he was humiliated by former New Japan Pro-Wrestling heavyweight ace Shinya Hashimoto in the NOAH ring in December of 2000. A wrestling match turned into a bizarre fight. Hashimoto, under the new wrestling umbrella promotion called ZERO-ONE, was coming off of his own loss of face to the Japanese public after Olympic judoka Naoya Ogawa had humbled him on national television in several fights. Ogawa was Inoki’s top ace in wrestling and MMA. Hashimoto was trying to rebuild his reputation and Takao Omori paid the price. NOAH tried to rebuild Omori over the next couple of years, including foreign trips to America, but the potential was shattered. No Fear was No More.

Around this same time period, major advances were being made by Antonio Inoki to work with PRIDE and K-1 to produce major league fighting events on New Year’s Eve. The first mega event, before the major broadcast television partners got into the bidding wars, happened on December 31st, 2000 at the Osaka Dome. Inoki was busy blending the worlds of wrestling and MMA together. Results that happened in MMA would impact status in the professional ring. (See: Tadao Yasuda.)

Winning by losing

Yoshihiro Takayama got into the MMA game and endured two incredible beatings in 2002. His fight with Don Frye is still the most legendary slobberknocker in the history of Mixed Martial Arts. Takayama’s fight with Frye made the giant a household name in Japan. He was able to earn a substantial amount of bookings.

Three months after the Frye fight, Takayama would wrestle Japanese professional wrestling super boss Mitsuharu Misawa at Nippon Budokan in Tokyo for the GHC Heavyweight title in a brutal match that resulted in Takayama taking another trip to the hospital. This was the re-match from their first encounter in April of 2001.

And three months after that fight, Takayama would get pummeled by Bob Sapp on New Year’s Eve.

Takayama absorbed and delivered three incredibly vicious, ruthless beatings that no human should ever possibly be involved in. Every beating he dished out and took, the myth of Takayama grew and gave him an incredible aura.

The beatings added up very quickly, however. Fight opponents took liberties with violence because of how tolerant Takayama was of accepting as many beatings as he delivered. He suffered a stroke in a famously violent G-1 tournament match against Kensuke Sasaki in 2004. Despite the health scares, Takayama continued to wrestle in some high-profile fights — including the January 2010 Tokyo Dome match against current WWE ace Shinsuke Nakamura.

Without question, Takayama was and remains one of the most respected Japanese professional wrestlers ever — both behind the scenes and in the ring. In numerous conversations I’ve had with American wrestlers who shared locker rooms with Takayama, they all remarked at what a genuinely nice guy he was. Takayama has a famous love for classic cars, American culture and traveling, and music. He has quite a few memorabilia items of KISS and The Rolling Stones. One wrestler in particular told me that Takayama had a dream to visit all 50 American states but that he wasn’t sure if he could do it.

In professional wrestling, you never know when your next bump will be your last bump. Ask the MMA legends who made the cross-over to professional wrestling. Don Frye endured significant punishment in his wrestling encounters. Both Frye and Takayama are in very difficult life situations but their names will be forever married in fight culture.

Donations for Yoshihiro Takayama

Takayama’s top wrestling rival, Kenta Kobashi, has established a donation section on his FortuneKK store for fans to make donations via credit card. The donations will be used for all expenses occurred as a result of Takayama’s accident.

Topics: Japan, PRIDE, Pro-Wrestling, Zach Arnold | 5 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

5 Responses to “Fundraising begins for paralyzed Japanese MMA & professional wrestling legend Yoshihiro Takayama”

  1. Diaz's packed bowl says:

    He was the big Japanese Rod Stewart of wrestling.
    Look at reebok creating more division among the independent contractors by “letting” the higher paid fighters use exclusive colors and prestaining of their garb. And as usual Paige monkey face Vz is shilling the s#!t.
    And look at the cookie cutter graphics on the walk out shirts…they changed some nicknames again too
    Demetrious “MIGHTY” Johnson
    Just glad they didn’t have an image of… MIGHTY JOHNSON on the shirt.

    • Diaz's packed bowl says:

      Whats the estimated ppv# for 215? It was a weak weak card even with the 2 cancelled fights, Ill go with 80,000 buys.
      Ngano is a joke for refusing to fight anyone else on the card. I predict post usada he fizzles like that other large black frenchman who lays around in bellator now.
      Speaking of bellator, their next show looks a lot better than ufc 215, and its free. But it looks like Pico will lose again going down to feather weight against a vet with a winning record. Poor kid got ruined by his “team”.
      Funny that gsp is back, but in NY NOT Canada. Way to spit in Canadas face, give them one of the 3 worst shows ever, no Canadian fighters in the main card, 5 canadian fighters total all in the undercard. At least the japan show has Shogun, Gomi etc…
      Looks like frattatas have left for good.
      The ufc now is just a garbage can for the the networks to tip over towards viewers when they have no other programing promoting violence and Fascism.

  2. Diaz's packed bowl says:

    Should mma refs be fined as well as fired for refusing to stop fights that cause serious damage? Can the fighters sue? You can try and blame the corner, but thats not where the blame lies. The refs job is to protect the fighter, not allow him to be beat pillar to post. He was so negligent that he should be sued. I guess thats why they make fighters sign that liability waiver in edmonton, because they are a bunch of imbeciles.

    I was horrified by one of the worst if not THE worst reffing in the Tucker Glenn fight. I seriously would beat down that shitty ref if I were in attendance, or at least thrown a drink or shoe.

    I was going to watch a few more fights but I don’t know, that was pretty sickening. Its getting obvious with the recent terrible reffing that there should be another ref to take over when the main ref’s brain craps out.

    • Diaz's packed bowl says:

      Gils corner sucked big time for ignoring their fighters plea to stop the fight.
      Tucker Glenn should have been stopped after the 2nd. Both of Tuckers eye sockets were broken as well as his jaw and nose. A broken eye socket can cause eye damage… mmmkay?

  3. Diaz's packed bowl says:

    message from Don Frye to takayama… If things are looking bad, commit hari kiri


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