NJPW: Hiromu Takahashi, a shining star in the New Japan ring

OSAKA, JAPAN - FEBRUARY 09: Hiromu Takahashi enters the ring during the New Japan Pro-Wrestling 'The New Beginning in Osaka' at Osaka-Jo Hall on February 09, 2020 in Osaka, Japan. (Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images)
OSAKA, JAPAN - FEBRUARY 09: Hiromu Takahashi enters the ring during the New Japan Pro-Wrestling 'The New Beginning in Osaka' at Osaka-Jo Hall on February 09, 2020 in Osaka, Japan. (Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images) /

Hiromu Takahashi has firmly established himself as a fan favorite in NJPW with breath-taking performance after performance.

After winning his second consecutive Best of Super Jr tournament in NJPW, it seems as if there is nothing Hiromu Takahashi cannot do. From the minute he first stepped into the ring, there was something different about him that made fans take notice. 10 years after his debut as a Young Lion, Hiromu is now one of the most popular members of the roster with his unpredictable wrestling style and flamboyant personality.

However, this popularity was not overnight and this once in a lifetime talent almost fell at the first hurdle. Here is how a young Hiromu Takahashi went from a young wrestling star to the star of New Japan’s Jr division.

Like many New Japan wrestlers, Hiromu’s love for the business started very early and, at the age of 12, he had become a fan. With inspiration from Masahiro Chono, a young Takahashi spent his teenage years building up strength and athleticism.

At the age of 20 in 2009, Hiromu attended the annual NJPW try-out which is a vigorous series of activities. He eventually passed these tests and was accepted into the New Japan Dojo in the same class as wrestlers who are now better known as Bad Luck Fale and El Desperado. However, this was only the first of many hurdles. Unlike many New Japan wrestlers, he did not take to the training like a duck to water.

According to Hiromu, he struggled in the system and was not advancing as fast as his classmates. In such a grueling environment, there was no time for people to be unable to pick up the basics. He was even deemed ‘terrible’. This meant that, on more than a few occasions, Hiromu was on the edge of being dropped from the Dojo. However, when everything seemed to be going wrong, help came at the best possible time.

An angel came in the form of a future IWGP Double Champion

While Hiromu was struggling day in and day out, this had not gone unnoticed. While Hiromu got angrier and more frustrated, someone came up to Hiromu in the dojo and said, “If it’s okay with you, I’m going to teach you to wrestle”.

That person was Tetsuya Naito.

In a sense, Naito took a young Hiromu under his wing. Whether it was out of pity or that he saw something in this rookie, it was a moment that changed New Japan. Hiromu has said in an interview that it was those words that helped him to debut. If it was not for Naito’s willingness to invest time and faith into Hiromu, then who knows if Hiromu would have ever become a wrestler.

With this help and a lot of time, Hiromu finally started to get the hang of things and was slowly improving. Despite being the last in his class, he finally debuted in August 2010 at the NEVER 1 show. As per tradition, during this time, Hiromu did not pick up many wins.

He also had the chance to participate in the 2012 and 2013 Best of Super Jr tournament. As expected, he did not pick up any points but it gave him some vital experience. It was his performance during these matches that led to Hiromu’s ‘rite of passage’ as a young lion when he went on his excursion. It is the time that makes a Young Lion into a proper wrester and helps them find their identity.

There seemed to be a light at the end of the tunnel

Initially, Hiromu traveled to the UK and worked with several independent promotions across the country. However, like many other young lions, he went to Mexico to work with New Japan’s partner promotion Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (CMLL). Under a new, masked heel persona Kamaitachi, Hiromu started to work their shows and build up a following.

It was also during this time in 2015 when Hiromu’s legendary rivalry with Dragon Lee began. There were a number of tag and singles matches, but the first stage of their longstanding feud culminated in March. Lee defeated Kamaitachi in a Mask v Mask match and revealed himself as Hiromu Takahashi. During this time, he also made an appearance in New Japan during the Fantastica Mania tour and from there, went onto the United States and made his Ring of Honor debut where he gained even more experience.

It was now time for the world to see the real Hiromu.

In August 2016, a teaser video was released with a time bomb counting down to November 5th which was the Power Struggle Tour. These videos are precursors to someone either making their New Japan debut or, in this case, their return. Under his real name, Hiromu made a surprise appearance on the night challenging KUSHIDA for his Jr Heavyweight title at Wrestle Kingdom 11.

However, Hiromu knew he could not conquer New Japan alone. Luckily, once again, someone was there to make the newly dubbed ‘Ticking Time Bomb’ an offer he could not refuse. When Tetsuya Naito offered Hiromu a space in Los Ingobernables de Japon, it seemed like the perfect mix. It also looked as if Naito did not forget the person he helped to train all those years before.

After joining LIJ, Hiromu just seemed to go from strength to strength and defeated KUSHIDA at the Tokyo Dome to win his first Jr Heavyweight. From there, he went through an impressive four successful defenses against the likes of Ricochet, Ryusuke Taguchi, and his familiar foe Dragon Lee. Although losing the title to KUSHIDA at Dominion, Hiromu was becoming a firm fan favorite.

Throughout the next few years, Hiromu would keep climbing the New Japan ranks. Whether it was teaming with fellow LIJ member BUSHI for the Jr tag titles, winning the Best of Super Jr 2018 and yet another title reign, he was captivating the audience each time. From his unruly and unforgiving style in the ring to this over the top character that exuded personality.

When everything seemed perfect, one moment put that all at risk

However, that momentum all seemed to come to a scary halt in July 2018. During a title match with Lee, Hiromu suffered a broken neck due to an extremely dangerous move. Although the prognosis was not clear initially, many believed that Hiromu would be out for at least 9-12 months minimum. It led him to relinquish his title on August 20th due to being unable to defend the title.

This injury was not only seen as life-threatening but career-ending. However, as expected, Hiromu did not let this stop him and worked extremely hard. In the end, Hiromu made a spectacular return to New Japan during the 2019 Power Struggle Show and challenged Will Ospreay for a title match at Wrestle Kingdom 14. It was a fairy tale come true for LIJ fans who thought they would never see Hiromu in the ring again.

That fairy tale ended perfectly as Hiromu went to beat Ospreay on the first night of Wrestle Kingdom for his third title reign. On the second night, teaming with Ryu Lee (formerly Dragon Lee), it was the past v present in Jushin Thunder Liger’s retirement match. After pinning the legend, Hiromu promised that he would continue the Jr Heavyweight legacy started by Liger.

Since then, he has done that. Despite losing the title to Ishimori at Jingu Stadium, Hiromu continues to be the standard-bearer for Jr Heavyweight wrestling. His priority is to lift up the division and bring it to an equal footing to the Heavyweight division. With his second BoSJ win in the main event at the Nippon Budokan, he continued that dream. Along with his match with El Desperado, he has continuously put on matches combining wrestling, storytelling, and personality.

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The possibilities and opportunities for Hiromu seem endless

Despite one of the most successful and star-studded careers, Hiromu still has years in New Japan left because he still has years of wrestling left. One thing that Hiromu says that he wants to achieve is being the first person to simultaneously hold the IWGP Jr and Heavyweight title at the same time. With his determination and heart, no doubt this will happen. He will follow in the path of his old guardian angel Tetsuya Naito and make history.

Until then, Hiromu will continue to put on some breath-taking matches and putting smiles on fans’ faces with his positivity. With all of his skills and talent, there is no way that this wrestler is not going to reach even higher heights in the next few years.