Wrestling: Nobuhiko Takada

"Takada was still a hero [...]. There was no shame in losing to a man largely regarded as the greatest jujutsu fighter alive. What's more, Takada continued fighting and took on the top heavyweights that are conspicuously absent from Gracie's fight record, like Mark Coleman, Mark Kerr and Igor Vovchanchyn. Sure, Japanese fans were disappointed when he lost, but they still loved and respected him because he took up the challenge instead of protecting his reputation. He was showing the courage and daring they expected from a hero."
Black Belt magazine, April 2003

"Men among men, stand up!"
Nobuhiko Takada

Nobuhiko Takada (b. 1962) is a Japanese Professional Wrestler and Mixed Martial Arts fighter, best known for his role in the existence of PRIDE and the Japanese MMA boom. He debuted in 1981 for New Japan Pro Wrestling and competed as a promising rookie, acting as Antonio Inoki's assistant and replacing Tiger Mask in a high-level event in Canada. Eventually he left with Akira Maeda, Sayama and other wrestlers to form Universal Wrestling Federation, pioneering the realistic shoot-style wrestling. Upon his return to New Japan, he and Maeda figured as the young leaders of the shoot movement, gaining the IWGP Tag Team Championship with him and the IWGP Junior Heavyweight and later IGWP Heavyweight Championship himself. They left again to form the second UWF, in which he was a main star until the promotion's demise. Then Takada founded the Union of Wrestling Forces International and made himself Japan's top Badass, giving legendary matches against Gary Albright and Super Vader. His star began to fade when he was obliged to take part in a hopeless MMA feud against Rickson Gracie, which killed UWF International, but it gave birth to PRIDE Fighting Championship and the rest of MMA ventures in Japan. After an ill-fated fighting career, he was appointed as PRIDE general manager and became its main executive figure along Nobuyuki Sakakibara. He also founded the over-the-top promotion Fighting Opera HUSTLE, where he portraited the promotion's villain Generalissimo Takada until 2009.

As usual, you can find the basics at The Other Wiki.

"Tropesperanza":

  • The Ace: Absolutely, at least in pro wrestling.
  • Affably Evil: Generalissimo Takada talked mostly in a soft-spoken way, when not Chewing the Scenery.
  • The Alcoholic: Downplayed, but nonetheless a self-confessed hard drinker.
  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: After he just bought HUSTLE.
  • Alternate Company Equivalent: To Shiro Koshinaka during the UWF-NJPW invasion, as Takada had been Antonio Inoki's assistant while Koshinaka had been Giant Baba's. In his late role as UWF ace, Nobuhiko would became the UWF-i equivalent to RINGS's Akira Maeda and Pancrase's Masakatsu Funaki.
  • The Apprentice: Was the tsukibito or assitant for Antonio Inoki.
  • Arch-Enemy: Naoya Ogawa (and slightly less to Shinya Hashimoto) in HUSTLE.
  • Arrogant Shoot Wrestling Guy: His persona during the invasion of New Japan and later in UWF International.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Generalissimo Takada did not rule over HUSTLE for nothing.
  • Backyard Wrestling: Nobuhiko was a huge fan of wrestling as a highschooler, and he used to work out and train moves from wrestling magazines. Also, he used to come earlier to the events and watch the wrestlers train (in Japan, pro wrestling sparring sessions in the arenas are usually public, as the rehearsals of the matches are done much earlier in their private dojos) to learn their moves.
  • Badass
  • Badass Cape: As Generalissimo Takada.
  • Badass Teacher: The founder of the Takada Dojo, a mixed martial arts academy responsible for training fellow UWF International wrestler, Kazushi Sakuraba. He also trained Kiyoshi Tamura, Daijiro Matsui and other wrestlers.
  • Bar Brawl: An anecdote says how Takada and boxing champion Hidekazu Akai got drunk and brawled each other to extenuation. Amusingly enough, there is an identical story with Keiji Muto.
  • Big Bad: In HUSTLE.
  • Boring but Practical:
    • In pro wrestling, he used simple but powerful kicks to soften his opponent before submitting them or directly knock them out.
    • In MMA, most infamously against Mirko Cro Cop, he resolved to buttscoot to avoid being hit when he broke his foot.
  • Brainwashing: Generalissimo Takada had brainwashing powers, and he used them to expand the ranks of the Monster Army.
  • Broken Pedestal: Milder example. As a child, Nobuhiko was a fan of baseball player Shigeo Nagashima, and he actually wanted to pursue a career in baseball, but after Nagashima retired, he felt disillusioned and turned to pro wrestling.
  • Catch Phrase: "Otoko da!" ("You are a man!").
  • The Chessmaster: In HUSTLE, and arguably as GM of PRIDE.
    • After negotiations with Naoya Ogawa to fight Takada fell off, PRIDE management thought of making Takada publicitly challenge Ogawa while doing commentary for the second fight between Sakuraba and Wanderlei Silva, hoping it would lead Naoya to accept. However, being Genre Savvy enough to see it would be useless again again the stubborn Ogawa, Takada took over the decision, and instead challenging the judoka, he proclaimed Ogawa was nothing and that he wanted to fight a real opponent in form of Mirko Filipovic. This secured another big bout for PRIDE and damaged Ogawa's reputation.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Purple, reflected in his trademark tights and boots.
  • Commissar Cap: Wore one as Generalissimo Takada.
  • Cool Car: Takada collects cars, and owns over 11 models.
  • Cultured Badass: Takada can play the piano, and he used to do it during PRIDE opening ceremonies.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle:
    • Won his match against Bob Backlund with a single kick.
    • Most of his MMA fights, especially the first Rickson match and the Kerr match, were one-sided losses.
  • Determinator: One of the biggest in MMA. Despite facing hopeless opponents, and especially despite being incresingly bashed for his losses by the crowd which had always loved him, Takada did not give up fighting, knowing that PRIDE and the blossoming mixed martial arts needed him to stay afloat.
    • A more specific example. During the second fight against Rickson, Takada tried his heart off while mounted by Gracie, managing to dismount the Brazilian master thrice and even sharply trying a heel hook. Not even his comrade Masakatsu Funaki, who was light years way better grappler, did that well against Rickson in the ground.
  • Face: As shoot wrestlers didn't use to be gimmicky, Takada wasn't a picture perfect hero, but was massively popular thanks to his badassery and poise.
  • Fake Ultimate Hero: UWF International was claimed to be a shootfighting company, so when Takada debuted in MMA, Japanese people expected him to being the best in the world like he had been in pro wrestling. Unfortunately, he couldn't live it up.
  • Finger Gun: Generalissimo Takada's hand sign to use his powers, especially his deadly bitan laser.
  • Finishing Move: Cross armbar, crossface chickenwing and kick to the head.
  • Frickin' Laser Beams: One of the Generalissimo's powers, and they had many effects, including healing injured wrestlers or boosting up their strenght.
  • Freudian Trio: The Ego to Akira Maeda's Id and Satoru Sayama's Superego.
  • Game-Breaking Injury: In kayfabe, he broke Big Van Vader's arm with a cross armbar. In reality, he almost broke his legs. (Joke explained: Vader himself said he could barely walk the week after their match due to Takada's brutal stiff kicks.)
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: In the videogame Saikyou: Takada Nobuhiko, Takada's character is a Jack of All Stats, while Akira Maeda's one is mainly striking-based. However, reality is almost the opposite: in the ring, Maeda was the best rounded of the two, while Takada was the most kick-centric.
  • Heroic BSOD: Had one in real life after being submitted by Rickson Gracie in front of his people. He needed one year to get over it.
  • Hero Killer: As The Esperanza, who destroyed Hard Gay and TAJIRI and killed Yinling.
  • Hero of Another Story: During the deal between UWF International and New Japan Pro Wrestling, he was technically this - a hero of another promotion who came to dispute the native ones.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Takada was closed friends with Akira Maeda, who became a Big Brother Mentor-like figure for him in the NJPW dojo. The duo became distanced after the fall of UWF Newborn, as they took separate and frequently opposing ways, but they were not against doing press conferences together once in a while.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: When King RIKI reflected one of the Generalissimo's lasers back at him.
  • Hopeless War: Takada had got his body broken in pro wrestling rings and had zero real fighting experience when he was forced to venture in top level MMA. Not that he didn't try it, however.
  • I Have the High Ground: His signature move as a NJPW rookie was a missile dropkick. Funnily enough, he can be considered the Ur-Example, as the technique eventually became the signature move of all the puroresu rookies, and it's typically the only aerial move they are allowed to do as Jobbers.
  • Incompletely Trained: He was one of the few shoot wrestlers who had no real martial arts background, and this handicapped his shootfighting career. In fact, he rarely sparred for real as his partners (especially Sakuraba and Kanehara) did.
  • Kick Dude: Takada's kicks were defined as stronger than baseball bat swings, and were probably his most legit talent. His opponents in pro wrestling got giant bruises after one or two of his kicks, and even in MMA you can see him kicking Mark Kerr once and making his thigh turn purple and red.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch:
    • During his famous match against the no less famous Jerkass Koji Kitao, Takada broke the kayfabe and knocked him out with a kick to the head. This increased enormously his popularity and helped Kitao to reconcile with the crowd, as he bowed before them and shook Takada's hand despite the betrayal.
    • He featured a literal moment in a shootfight against boxing champion Trevor Berbick. Supposedly, before the fight Berbick had been too busy demanding more money from the UWF-i management and behaving obnoxiously to properly learn its rules, and he thought leg kicks were forbidden. Unsurprisingly, Takada shoot kicked his legs off and Trevor ended running away from the ring.
  • The Lancer: To Akira Maeda during their common career. Even well after the UWF Newborn breakup and the foundation of UWF International, Maeda was always the most popular of the two. It took years for Takada to surpass him.
  • Laser-Guided Karma/Redemption Equals Death: After his Heel-Face Turn, Generalissimo Takada didn't lived to tell it.
  • Lethal Joke Character: As a wink to his infamous tend in the MMA ring, Takada's character from the videogame PRIDE FC: Fighting Championship has a special skill which allows him to recover fastly his stamina while buttscooting.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Was very popular with the female crowd, to the extent he received chocolate at St. Valentin Day from fans. Commentator Ichiro Furutachi even compared him to James Dean.
  • Passing the Torch: Kazushi Sakuraba was the main torchbearer for Takada, although Kiyoshi Tamura also held it after reconciling with Takada in PRIDE.
  • Power Stable: The Takada Monster Army.
  • Religious Bruiser: Was sometimes seen praying in backstage vignettes, and it was rumored than he placed pieces of paper with Buddhist prayers written on them on his trunks.
  • Real Song Theme Tune: "Training Montage" from Rocky IV.
  • Red Baron: Actually many. "Saikyo" ("The Best in the World"), "Heisei no Kakuto O" ("The Fighting King from Heisei"), "Wagamama na Hikazoku" ("Egoist Kneecap") and "Seishun no Esperanza" ("The Hope of the Youth").
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: The blue to Akira Maeda's red. They even wore robes Colour-Coded for Your Convenience while in NJPW.
  • Self-Parody/Shout-Out/Homage: His Generalissimo Takada persona was a parody of his own career, out to rid the world of professional wrestling for shootfighting's sake (in fact, Nobuhiko is part of the reason why MMA are treated with almost equal respect to pro wrestling in Japan). The Generalissimo was also a blend of anime villains, as he had Yasunori Kato's powers, General Washikazi's mannerisms and Dessler's attire.
  • Shocking Defeat Legacy: His loss before Rickson Gracie.
  • Sinister Shades: As Generalissimo Takada.
  • Start My Own: Co-founded UWF-i and founded HUSTLE and the MMA promotion, PRIDE. Despite the three promotions having a wild amount of success, all of them are currently defunct.
  • Strong as They Need to Be: His style never focused in strenght, but during a match in WAR, he bodyslammed Earthquake as if nothing.
  • Superpowered Evil Side: The Esperanza, a wrestling android with supernatural powers.
    • In promo for the Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye 2000 (in which Takada was supposed to face Keiji Mutoh, but he ended teaming up with him instead), he parodied Muta as "The Great Nobu", spitting purple mist.
  • Take Over the Pro Wrestling: And replace it with MMA. HUSTLE being the last defense against Takada's ambition.
  • The Tyson Zone: Due mostly to the deep Values Dissonance between Japanese and international MMA, Takada is quite impopular to many Western fans, who consider him a phony with no ability who cheated his way through his career, and it has originated a Tyson Zone of outlandish anecdotes which exaggerate his little in-ring skills to ridiculous degrees. Thereby it's said that he Girly Runned away from fistfights (which Keiji Muto could testify absolutely not), that he was tapped by BJJ white belts in schools (which does not explain how Royce Gracie could not tap him) and that Marco Ruas and Kazushi Sakuraba of all people badmouthed him for being such a wuss (which is untrue, although Ruas did show himself pessimist about Takada in a interview), among others.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: In real life with Keiji Muto. They settled their differences in Inoki Bom-Ba-ye 2000.
  • Worked Shoot: His pro wrestling career was based around this, competing in bouts which were claimed to be real fights. Also, the PRIDE management gave him worked wins to keep his popularity.
  • Wrestling Monster: As The Esperanza.