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Wrestling / Yoshihiro Takayama

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"The other wrestler in No Fear was Yoshihiro Takayama. Takayama, known for his toughness and willingness to get near-killed in shoots, became a huge star in Japan - and his Pride fight with Don Frye made him a legend."
— Mike Sempervive and Keith Lipinsky, PW Torch contributors.

Yoshihiro Takayama (b. 1966) is a Japanese Professional Wrestler and Mixed Martial Arts fighter. Coming from a unusual background in Kendo and rugby, he started at Union of Wrestling Forces International under the tutelage of Nobuhiko Takada. He gained notoriety from the low card by joining Yoji Anjo and Kenichi Yamamoto in their multifaceted villainous stable Golden Cups, but the promotion fell shortly after, so Takayama found himself working to reinvent himself again in All Japan Pro Wrestling. His big break came by the hand of Mitsuharu Misawa, who put him and Takao Omori into the powerhouse tag team NO FEAR, and they both thanked him by following him to his company Pro Wrestling NOAH, where Takayama's shoot-style talents were best used. However, Takayama's true breakout came not from pro wrestling, but from a short and seemingly unsuccessful MMA career for PRIDE Fighting Championships. Although barely trained for the sport and never pitted against somebody he could aspire to beat, Takayama carved his place on the MMA history by giving a timelessly legendary brawl against Don Frye that profiled him as one of the toughest men on the Japanese rings. From there, his career turned into a meteoric freelancing between the nation's top wrestling companies, becoming one of the two ever wrestlers to win all three of puroresu's major heavyweight titles in NOAH, AJPW and New Japan Pro-Wrestling. His career ended tragically in 2017, when a botched sunset flip in a Dramatic Dream Team event aggravated a neck injury that paralyzed Takayama from the neck down, just like the late Eiji Ezaki/Hayabusa.

"No Fear Tropes":

  • Anti-Hero: Had few heroic qualities even when he played babyface, if anything because being a humongous brawler with a scary face is not the best recipe to be a sympathetic underdog, but the crowd was still behind him.
  • The Artifact:
    • He was one of the last U-system wrestlers to keep almost completely intact his wrestling style, with plenty of stiff strikes and deadlift suplexes.
    • Takayama's famous Catchphrase "ikuzo, No Fear!" was created as the motto of his team with Takao Omori, but he kept using it even after they broke up. He also kept using himself the entrance theme of the team, "DESTRUCTIVE POWER".
  • Bash Brothers: With Yoji Anjo and Kenichi Yamamoto (as the Golden Cups), Masahito Kakihara and Gary Albright (as Triangle of Power), Takao Omori and Satoru Asako (as NO FEAR), Minoru Suzuki (as Gaiteki Tag, although also in bigger stables like GURENTAI and Suzuki-gun), Takuma Sano, and KENTA.
  • Boring, but Practical: His moveset was a throwback to the UWF-i shoot-style, based mostly around kicking very hard and suplexing people on their head. There was some commentary that "he could only kick" back when he returned to traditional pro wrestling, but he was capable to adapt vert nicely.
  • Bratty Half-Pint: Inverted, as he debuted at the age of 27, which is quite old for a pro wrestling trainee, especially in a shoot-style promotion like UWF-i. Though as stated below in Early-Bird Cameo, he did try to break in earlier.
  • The Brute: Being so strong and mean, he tended to serve as hired muscle for higher-ranked wrestlers, like Anjo, Generalissimo Takada and Suzuki.
  • Catchphrase: "Ikuzo, No Fear!" ("let's go, No Fear!").
  • Collegiate American Football: Played it before his wrestling debut.
  • Dangerous Forbidden Technique: When the situation called for it, he used a variation of his suplex finisher called Dharma-style Everest German Suplex, which involved Takayama bearhugging the opponent's arms against his body. He also had the Everest Backdrop, a really high belly-to-back suplex.
  • Delinquent Hair: Being an Asian, he naturally has black hair, but keeps it dyed blond.
  • Determinator: He made a point against Don Frye in their legendary Pummel Duel.
  • Dreadlock Warrior: Came sportimg those his match with Kimo Leopoldo.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: He was a trainee at the UWF Dojo for the original UWF, but a shoulder injury from rugby prevented him from training and left after a month. He got into UWF-i thanks to a chance encounter with Yuko Miyato in the Newborn days.
  • Finishing Move:
    • Everest German Suplex (a big German suplex, Exactly What It Says on the Tin, although with several variations), running jumping knee lift, and cross armbar.
    • He also used briefly a Judo-style kata-ha-jime back when he debuted in AJPW.
  • Foreign Wrestling Heel: The name of his trusty team with Suzuki, Gaiteki Tag, invokes this trope ("gaiteki" means "foreign enemy"), even although they are both Japanese natives. That said, Takayama dyes his hair blond, and back in The '90s he was sometimes billed as having Sioux blood.
  • Game-Breaking Injury: His career ended tragically in 2017, when a botched sunset flip in a Dramatic Dream Team event aggravated a neck injury that paralyzed Takayama from the neck down.
  • The Giant: Being 1.98 meters, he's incredibly tall and burly for Japanese standards. He's even taller than Seiji Sakaguchi and Kohei Sato, who are billed literally as Japanese giants, and arguably qualifies much more than them in terms of ring character: instead of being a traditional native star who happens to be gigantic, Takayama has always played the tough, ugly bruiser who hits hard and sometimes serves as muscle for other wrestlers.
  • Gonk: Has been in-universe referred by other wrestlers as such due to his odd-looking face. He was actually pretty good looking in his early UWF-i days; it was years of pro wrestling and MMA fights that made his face what it is now.
  • Good Is Not Soft: Takayama was expected to knee people in the face and suplex them head-first even if he was a babyface.
  • Handicapped Badass: He is a lifelong sufferer of asthma, and started doing sports because it helped him with his condition.
  • Hidden Depths: Was a former lifeguard.
  • Hope Spot: In his fight with Don Frye, at one point it looked like he had the upper hand when he started delivering knees to Frye's body, then the situation returned to the slugfest and Frye eventually overpowered him for the TKO.
  • I Know Shoot-Style: Comes from the UWF International, where he was trained by Nobuhiko Takada and Makoto Oe. He also knew Kendo.
  • It's All About Me: He once got enraged, trashed the press hall and went to directive Fumihiko Uei to threaten with no-showing in the G1. Why? Because his face was not in an official poster. He ended making Uei allow him to book the tour.
  • Kick Them While They Are Down: Used the PK or Penalty Kick (a soccer kick to a downed opponent) as part of his moveset, and could be very stiff with it. He once did it to Mitsuharu Misawa, and the impact was such that Misawa had to get his chin stitched.
  • Made of Iron: One of the biggest examples. Demonstrated through both his wrestling tenures and his MMA career. His MMA fights were rather hard, but he simply didn't care.
  • Magnetic Hero: Though not the most personable wrestler ever, nor the most heroic (he could be better considered an Anti-Hero), Takayama has attracted the friendship of a lot of wrestlers through his career, both in and out of kayfabe, helped by the great diversity of promotions he has worked in.
  • Red Baron: "Puroresu Kai no Teioh" ("The Emperor of the Pro Wrestling World"), "Wasei Bruiser Brody" ("The Japanese-made Bruiser Brody").
  • Rugby Is Slaughter: Played in high school.
  • Stout Strength: When he debuted he was actually quite slim. He developed a big gut later in life, apparently due in part as a side effect of his medication for his asthma.
  • Suplex Finisher: A very high German, with some variations.
  • Unskilled, but Strong: Though never a wrestling technician, he was enormously strong.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: According to himself, he gets absolutely terrified every time he has to go to the dentist.