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Wrestling / Nobuhiko Takada

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The Esperanza of Pride.
"Takada was still a hero to his countrymen. 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."
Keith Vargo, Black Belt magazine writer, April 2003

"Men among men, COME OUT!"
Nobuhiko Takada

Nobuhiko Takada (born April 12, 1962) is a retired 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 forced 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 global MMA ventures in Japan. After an ill-fated fighting career, he was appointed as PRIDE general manager and became its main executive figure along with Nobuyuki Sakakibara up to PRIDE's closure. Around this time, he also helped to found the over-the-top promotion Fighting Opera HUSTLE, where he portrayed the promotion's villain Generalissimo Takada until the character's death in 2009. Currently, Takada works as a matchmaker and spokesperson for Rizin Fighting Federation.


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


  • The Ace: As a pro wrestler, that Takada climbed to the top of some major promotion was merely a matter of time since he debuted. He was insanely athletic and handsome, had a ton of charisma both in and out of the ring, and although not a matwork technician, he could work great matches regardless of his opponent. Even if his career was quite impressive for its short length, some believe he was ultimately a huge waste of talent for not sticking to traditional pro wrestling.
  • The Alcoholic: Downplayed, but nonetheless a self-confessed hard drinker. He was also famous for his drunk fights in bars against quite varied people (see Bar Brawl below).
  • 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 become the UWF-i equivalent to RINGS's Akira Maeda and Pancrase's Masakatsu Funaki.
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  • The Apprentice: Was the tsukibito or assistant for Antonio Inoki.
  • Arch-Enemy:
    • In NJPW, Shiro Koshinaka and Keiji Mutoh. In UWF-i, Gary Albright, Vader and Kazuo Yamazaki. In HUSTLE, Shinya Hashimoto, Naoya Ogawa and pretty much all the HUSTLE Army, which would make Takada the arch-enemy of half of the puroresu world.
    • In real life, if you are reading an interview with Enson Inoue in which he doesn't diss out Takada at all, it is probably apocryphal.
  • Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy: His persona during the invasion of New Japan.
  • Author Appeal: Seemed to have a thing for booking himself against legit amateur wrestlers, as in UWF Newborn and UWFI he faced Bob Backlund, Gary Albright, Dan Severn, Salman Hashimikov, Victor Zangiev, Dennis and Duane Koslowski, among others. Coincidentally, although he did not book it, he faced Mark Kerr and Mark Coleman in MMA. It's sure to state that, either in works or shoots, Takada has shared rings with some of the freaking best amateur wrestlers of his time.
  • 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 planning of the matches is done much earlier in their private dojos) to learn their moves.
  • Badass Boast: The generalissimo launched one of those at the ending of every HUSTLE event, but his introduction was especially memorable.
    "Japanese pro wrestlers! Ladies and gentlemen! I am Takada, the generalissimo of the Takada Monster Army. In a near future, I promise, we will crush puroresu by the roots. Ogawa, I can see you there down, and you are no less insignificant than an insect. You should have silenced your impudent mouth in HUSTLE-1. You said you didn't care about how many opponents you would have to face, and your desire has been fulfilled. Come out, my Monster Army!"
  • 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, Hiromitsu Kanehara, Daijiro Matsui and other wrestlers.
  • Bar Brawl: An anecdote tells how Takada and boxing champion Hidekazu Akai got drunk in a bar and brawled with each other to extenuation. The two woke up next morning covered in bruises and with no knowledge they did the previous night, and when they were told about the quarrel, they both found it incredibly funny. There is also a similar story with Keiji Mutoh, whose enmity with Takada was known in the entire NJPW Dojo, and another telling has an immensely wasted Takada getting knocked out by some famous Kyokushin karateka.
  • Big Bad: In the UWFí invasion of NJPW and later in HUSTLE.
  • Blatant Lies: Generalissimo Takada claimed not to be the same person as Nobuhiko Takada, but a long time friend of his who shared his last name. Of course, nobody actually bought it, not even in-universe. Ogawa rarely mentioned it, as he was the kind of opponent who didn't care about such things, but Kawada joked about it more than once.
  • Boring, but Practical:
    • In pro wrestling, he used simple but powerful kicks to soften his opponent before submitting them or directly knock them out. He also put a lot of trust on the cross armbar.
    • In mixed martial arts, he resorted to the Gracie-trademark buttscoot in order to avoid being damaged by superior strikers.
  • Brainwashing: Generalissimo Takada had brainwashing powers, and he used them to expand the ranks of the Monster Army.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Takada's possible talent for MMA is always a difficult topic, but it's clear that, aside from his lack of a combat sports background, he never bothered to cultivate his shooting skills anyways. Interviews from insiders show that Takada rarely sparred for real, unlike younger people like Sakuraba or Kanehara, so if he had some familiarity with shooting at some point (which is actually the most likely - you just didn't thrive on the shoot-style circuit being a complete fake), it was forgotten or wasn't enough for the time he had to train for his fight with Rickson Gracie.
  • 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.
    • A more major example is himself to fight fans who believed he was the best fighter in the world after his first fight with Rickson.
  • Bullying a Dragon: In 1991, before the scheduled fight between Takada and boxing champion Trevor Berbick, the latter held on the event demanding more money if they wanted him to face Nobuhiko, infuriating the UWF-i staff. From here, history becomes unclear about if Berbick had been too busy behaving obnoxiously to properly learn the ruleset or if they changed it on the fly to punish him, but anyway, kicks below the waist were legal. Unsurprisingly, when they got into the ring, Takada brutalized Trevor's legs with kicks and made him literally run away from the ring for the trouble he had caused.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Invoked and exploited. 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, knowing it would be useless again against 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.
  • Catchphrase:
    • During his active MMA career, he used to state "I am a pro wrestler" or some variation at least once in every interview, often to make a point.
    • As a PRIDE executive, he proclaimed "Otoko no nakano otoko tachi, detekoi yatsu!" ("Men among men, come out!") to open events, and used "Otoko da!" ("You are a man!") when complimenting someone. This was born from his words to Tamura after his retirement fight.
    • In HUSTLE, "Bad luck!" in Gratuitous English, generally when finishing a speech against the HUSTLE Army.
    • As RIZIN features women's mixed martial arts, he will call a variation of his PRIDE opening line like "Tsuwamono-tachi yo, detekoi!" ("Strong ones, come out!").
  • Charles Atlas Superpower: With independence from his grappling skills, Takada had certifiedly some of the strongest kicks seen in Japan at the time. He once got his kicks checked in a Japanese TV science show and it gave crazy lectures, supposedly stronger than baseball bat swings. 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 only once and making his thigh turn purple and red. One wonders how would have he done had he pursued a career in kickboxing.
  • The Chessmaster: In HUSTLE, and also as GM of PRIDE and Rizin.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: Purple, reflected in his trademark tights and boots. Even today, purple is still strongly associated to Takada in the puroresu world.
  • Combat Pragmatist: His wrestling matwork, while scarce and simpler than other shooters's, was based around smart moves, looking for the opening, and taking what he could see rather than attacking and trusting on improbable counters just to keep the match moving along. The cross armbar was the hold he handled the best, so it was logically the only submission move he actively pursued when it was not safe.
  • Commissar Cap: Wore one as Generalissimo Takada.
  • Cool Car: Takada collects cars, and owns over 11 models.
  • Cool Teacher: Unlike most of the trainers from the U-system, Takada has always been regarded as a gentle, reasonable teacher, completely unrelated to the sadistic Sayama or the brutal Suzuki. He has been praised both by teammates and patrons of the Takada Dojo.
  • Cowardly Lion: He was visibly scared for real when he fought Rickson Gracie for the first time, but as the first page quote notes, the fact he fought him tells a lot.
  • 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, so fastly that there is debate about whether it was planned or it was an accidental KO.
    • Most of his MMA fights, especially the first Rickson match and the Kerr match, were one-sided losses.
  • Dance Battler: Sometimes did the Muhammad Ali dance circling before setting up his kicks.
  • Determinator: Despite facing hopelessly superior opponents, and especially despite being increasingly 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. He only retired when he was sure PRIDE would live after without him.
  • Dissonant Serenity: He always kept a calm face while countering and reversing holds in pro wrestling, as opposed to the frantic grappling which was more common.
  • Evil Is Hammy: His Generalissimo Takada character was pretty bombastic, in contrast with Takada's own soft-spoken persona.
  • Evil Is Not Well-Lit: Generalissimo Takada's headquarters were always dimly lit with a Sickly Green Glow.
  • 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 mixed martial arts, 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 utilized the hand sign to perform his supernatural powers, which was called bitan. The Esperanza's version was basically Yusuke Urameshi's Reigan: a deadly spiritual laser which secured an One-Hit Kill upon impact.
  • 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 strength.
  • Freudian Trio: The Ego to Akira Maeda's Id and Satoru Sayama's Superego.
  • Game-Breaking Injury: In kayfabe, he broke Super 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.
  • Henpecked Husband: Funnily enough, he has this reputation in Japanese pop culture towards his wife Aki Mukai. It's said she got incredibly angry on him when she discovered Takada's shoot-style matches were actually worked, and it took a lot of effort for him to appease her.
  • 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.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: It's sure to say that, had not Takada sacrified his own career and popularity to build PRIDE, the MMA landscape would be vastly different and possibly much smaller today than it is.
  • 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 close 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.
  • High Hopes, Zero Talent: The synopsis of his MMA career. Takada had his body broken by the pro wrestling rings and sported zero real fighting experience when was forced to venture in top level cagefighting. Do the math.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: When King RIKI reflected one of the Generalissimo's lasers back at him.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Done by Takada during the HUSTLE Army's introduction, in which Ogawa and co. came out in their signature HUSTLE outfits. Toshiaki Kawada was fast in pointing it out.
    Takada: Ogawa, Hashimoto, you bunch of Hikikomori, what do these looks mean? Do you all come from a Cosplay party?
    Kawada: You talk a lot, Takada, but you don't look precisely better than us. Isn't that general wannabe uniform of yours a cosplay too?
  • I Have the High Ground: Generalissimo Takada often talked from his balcony, which was lampshaded by Naoya Ogawa himself in HUSTLE House Vol.1.
    Ogawa: Takada, you won't stop looking people down from high places, will you?
  • Incompletely Trained: He was one of the few shoot wrestlers who had no real martial arts background (literally nothing of it, not even Judo or amaresu, which are the typical school sport choices for the men who become pro wrestlers in Japan), and this handicapped his shootfighting career.
  • The Juggernaut: The Esperanza was so powerful that, for a long time, a Heroic Sacrifice by someone with strong supernatural powers was the only viable way to take him out.
  • Kick Them While They Are Down: Sometimes had his opponents down before finishing them with his signature head kick.
  • 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.
    • His mixed match with Trevor Brebick ended with Takada kicking Brebick's legs until he literally ran away from the ring.
  • Killer Robot: The Esperanza, who was a superpowered wrestling android.
  • 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.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!:
    • His MMA career may have been a disaster, but he once had a mixed match against boxing champion Trevor Brebick (one of the few guys to beat Muhammad Ali), who ran out of the ring without throwing a single punch after Takada kept kicking his legs and one kick to his head.
    • Even in MMA, he wasn't devoid of significantly good points in his performances. He not only survived the onslaught of a prime Igor Vovchanchyn for a round, he dismounted Rickson Gracie thrice and even tried a heel hook from the bottom - a shocking feat because, on his own admission, Rickson was specifically focusing on keeping mount, as he wanted the end of the round to be near before dropping for the armbar to avoid risks.
  • Mechanical Abomination: Esperanza was an android, but he also had explicit supernatural powers and had been created by magical methods, so it definitely qualifies.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Was very popular with the female crowd, to the extent he received chocolate on Valentine's Day from fans. Commentator Ichiro Furutachi even compared him to James Dean.
  • The Nicknamer: He was fond of insulting nicknames when trash-talking, at least since his UWF days, in which he called Kazuo Yamazaki "Yama-chan." His tenure in HUSTLE only increased it, as Naoya "Chicken" Ogawa and Shinya "Pork" Hashimoto can testify.
  • Not in the Face!: Not asked by him, but by PRIDE promoters, who proposed Mark Kerr a bonus if he could tap out Takada cleanly with his famed grappling instead of beating him to a pulp with his similarly famed ground and pound. Kerr obligued.
  • Odd Friendship: With Kazuyuki Fujita, who stubbornly believed in Takada's guts and even cornered him in his fight with Mirko Cro Cop.
  • Paper Tiger: Few would argue that, even being a poor shooter, Takada looked really badass both in his wrestling matches and in the way he conduced himself in public. It's no wonder the Japanese audiences believed to the root that he could face any fighter in the world.
  • 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.
  • Real Men Love Jesus: He was sometimes seen saying Buddhist prayers in backstage vignettes, and it was rumored than he placed pieces of paper with prayers written on them on his trunks before important matches.
  • Red Baron: Actually many. "Saikyo" ("The Best in the World"/"The Strongest"), "Heisei no Kakuto O" ("The Fighting King of the Heisei era"), "Wagamamana 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.
  • Ridiculously Human Robots: The Esperanza just looked like Nobuhiko Takada in a really weird silver and purple suit. If anything, however, it only made him even creepier when compared to visually richer characters like The Great Muta.
  • Robot Me: Esperanza was based on Generalissimo Takada's own image.
  • Self-Parody: His Generalissimo Takada persona was a spectacular parody of his own career: a resourceful leader, always clad in purple, obssessed with destroying traditional professional wrestling on behalf of mixed martial arts/shoot-style. His posterior abandonment of MMA mooks for traditional pro wrestlers also reflects that Takada himself had stopped fighting in MMA and returned to pro wrestling in HUSTLE to fight fire with fire.
  • Shout-Out:
    • His Generalissimo persona was primarily based on Yasunori Kato from Teito Monogatari, in attire (they both wore a military uniform with a cap), character arcs (Kato was a former Japanese Imperial sorcerer bent on destroying Japan on behalf of dead indigenous people, while Takada was a former pro wrestler bent on destroy pro wrestling on behalf of MMA), allies (both had weird yet powerful henchmen and a Perky Female Minion, Yinling in Takada's case and Hong Feng in Kato's) and powers (Takada had a few of Kato's magical powers, like throwing energy blasts, creating and manipulating lifeforms, and a limited brainwashing/hypnotic ability).
    • The military uniform he wore as Generalissimo Takada, though, was a departure from Kato, as it was actually identical to the one worn by Leader Dessler from Space Battleship Yamato.
    • His bitan laser was likely a reference to Yusuke Urameshi's reigan from popular martial arts manga Yu Yu Hakusho.
  • Shocking Defeat Legacy: His loss to Rickson Gracie.
  • Sinister Shades: As Generalissimo Takada.
  • Smoking Is Cool: The Monster Army general liked to smoke big cigars. It was brought as a funny point when Generalissimo Arida, a Takada copycat, choked every time he tried to smoke one of those.
  • Sophisticated as Hell: A trademark of the Generalissimo's speeches.
  • Start My Own: Co-founded UWF-i and Fighting Opera HUSTLE, and helped to found 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 on strength, but during a match in WAR he bodyslammed Earthquake as if nothing.
  • Sunglasses at Night: The Generalissimo tended towards this, as wrestling events are usually at night (and his headquarters were always dimly lit).
  • Superpowered Evil Side:
  • Take Over Pro Wrestling: And replace it with MMA. HUSTLE being the last defense against Takada's ambition.
  • Unskilled, but Strong: Even if he wasn't the most technical wrestler, he was a very athletic guy and a gifted hard-hitter.
  • Ur-Example: His signature move as a NJPW rookie was a missile dropkick, the technique that eventually became the signature move of all the puroresu rookies.
  • Versus Title: UWFi Pro Wrestling World Championship: Takada vs. Super Vader.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: In real life with Keiji Mutoh. 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.

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