Hiromu Takahashi dicusses his IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship challenge on January 4
On January 4, Hiromu Takahashi faces El Desperado for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship. yet his competition is not just with a career rival that always brings the insane best out of the Time Bomb. It isn’t just with the man he went to two time limit draws with in a one month span this December. It isn’t just with Desperado, but with the heavyweights in the main event, as Takahashi has vowed to steal the show and ensure that junior heavyweights get to main event in the Tokyo Dome sooner rather than later. We spoke to Hiromu to get his thoughts on January 4 matchup and what it means for 2022.
It’s good to keep records and better to break them
–So first of all, congratulations once again on the Best of the Super Jr. win.
Hiromu: Thanks a bunch!
–You’re the first since Tiger Mask in 2004 and 2005 to win back to back. Is that significant to you?
Hiromu: Hmm, I was aware of it on a subconscious level I think. I never really wanted to have it in mind the whole time.
–You’re now alongside Jyushin Thunder Liger and Koji Kanemoto as three time winners. You’re really in the history books as we celebrate 50 years.
Hiromu: Records are important; I think it’s good to keep them, and better to break them.
–YOH tends to keep that fighting spirit to himself, and there was some criticism of that. But he really put all he had in the ring in that final.
Hiromu: That’s a good way of putting it, but I always ask why doesn’t he put all of himself out there? Does he not show all that fire because he doesn’t want to? Or because he doesn’t have any? Because if you don’t wear your heart on your sleeve around here, the assumption will be you haven’t got any heart to show.
–You’ve long said you never understand what he’s thinking.
Hiromu: Well, we’re complete opposites. You’ll know that if you watch us in the ring.
–You certainly do wear your heart on your sleeve as you put it.
Hiromu: That’s not everything. But it’s not something I do consciously either. It just comes out of me. Happiness, sadness, frustration, anger, what is it all really? It’s chemicals and synapses firing in your brain. It’s physiological, so it makes sense for me to show that physically. There’s no thought to it.
–Is it possible YOH just has a different approach to expressing himself through wrestling?
Hiromu: Yeah. Sure. Like I said, he just thinks different. I guess having all different types is what makes wrestling so enjoyable. It’s just a question of whether his style has a place.
Desperado has everything I want
–Nobody expected SHO to make an appearance during the match and lay you both out.
Hiromu: He wanted it to be a no contest, to have no winner if he couldn’t win it. At least until Takagi and Naito, and the CHAOS guys came.
–Quite an unusual situation.
Hiromu: I didn’t expect those guys to come down. But it says something about that final. Everybody watches that match. Everybody sees that on the monitors, and there was no forgiving what SHO did. They couldn’t let it slide.
–But it was a key point int he match itself. After that run-in, things really escalated between you and YOH.
Hiromu: At first I thought I was done. That he’d come down and ruined this whole final. But then I look up and see Naito and Takagi there, telling me I can still go. There was a bit of me thinking that everything was ruined, but then there was a fire lit in me, like I have to do this for NJPW, and for the juniors. I won’t give SHO any credit at all though.
–Even in those unique circumstances, you persevered to your back to back BOSJ trophies. That means your long rival story with El Desperado continues January 4.
Hiromu: I have to tip my hat to him. Yeah, I won this trophy. But if you were to ask who was the face of junior heavyweights in 2021, or who the best junior heavyweight is in wrestling, the answer would be El Desperado. If you have the belt, that means you’re the best. I want to be the best. It’s that simple.
–Desperado really stepped up when you got injured in February.
Hiromu: No doubt. He is the center of this division. That hurts me. He did everything I wanted to do and more.
–He was a double singles and tag champion.
Hiromu: Yeah. He did everything i want to do. And he has everything I want to have. That hurts, and the more I do, and the more he does, the more it hurts me. But I’m happy about it at the same time.
–A strong rival is a big motivator.
Hiromu: Something between me and him changed when he started talking about the junior division. He said he would be the one to change the division. That wasn’t like him.
–That was after your tie in Nagoya. He had been a step behind the front lines while you were feuding with the likes of KUSHIDA.
Hiromu: He’d say stuff like ‘I’ll star on the stage that you created’. He said he wasn’t about building things up, but that he would take over on what we had created. I hated that, but that was his way of doing things at the time. Somewhere along the line he started thinking about the whole division. He’s a different guy now.
It’s not just an X factor. I need Y and Z and whatever else if I want to beat him
–In a weird way, you’re almost of a like mind.
Hiromu: I think we have some pretty different ways of thinking, but the same end goal. Just different ways of getting there.
–Different ways to the same mountaintop.
Hiromu: Yeah. We both definitely want to elevate the juniors. We both feel the same way about the heavyweights. We say what we say even though we know some people might think that being in the ring is the only thing that matters, or there’s no need for all that talk. On that level, Desperado’s really gotten a ton tougher. Not just physically, but in terms of his heart, his own mental strength, everything. There’s nothing to separate us in this match. So I have to create that gap, and then widen it. It’s not just an X factor, but a Y and Z and beyond that I need to beat him.
–You couldn’t beat one another in 30 minutes.
Hiromu: But that isn’t to say we’re going to go past 30 minutes this time. It could be ten, could be twenty. Or it could go 40, 50. I really don’t know, until we do it. Everything changes when we actually tie up. Until then, I can’t say.
–Are you glad to see Desperado rise to this status now, or does it make you more jealous of him than happy for him?
Hiromu: The more everyone in the junior division grows, the more jealous I get and the more happy I am. The more rivals I have, the more pressured I feel, and the happier I am. But if I had to pick, I’d say I was more happy than anything negative. The more rivals there are, the more fun I have in the end.
–And the more motivated you are.
Hiromu: Right. The more people that come up, the better. But that’s easier said than done. It isn’t even as simple as winning the championship.
–With the career paths you’ve had and journeys through the junior division, you and Desperado are always going to be tied together it seems.
Hiromu: Hmmm. But one thing is for sure for me- I’ve never planned on being a heavyweight, and don’t plan to now. With him, I’m not sure what he’s thinking. So maybe our fates might change somewhere along the line.
One day, I need to be in that Tokyo Dome main event.
–Your thoughts on being in the semi main event January 4?
Hiromu: The main event in the Tokyo Dome is the best place you can possibly be. One day, no doubt, I need to be in that spot. But I had a lot going through my head when I saw the card. My first thought was just, how can we get that decision reversed? How can we get in the main event. Only me, Desperado, right now, it seemed like the best possible time to put us in the main event.
–You’ve got a fair point.
Hiromu: Best possible timing, but we’re in the semi. So that’s why I thought of doing something, anything. A poll or something.
–You thought about having the fans vote to choose between the juniors and heavyweights?
Hiromu: But that isn’t the way to do it. Even if we voted and they put us last, it wouldn’t be a true main event unless all the fans, and the office recognised it. Even if we had won a vote, the fans would have said their piece, but the company would have thought different. The only way to truly be the main event is if the company and the fans are in line with the same direction.
–You want to do things the right way.
Hiromu: Honestly, that vote idea was on the tip of my tongue during that press conference, after I won BOSJ. I was honestly about to put it out there, and then stopped myself, and decided to have fun with it instead. It sucked we couldn’t be in the main. But at the same time, better to enjoy the spot I’m in, right? Maybe there’s no right answer.
–What do you think is missing for you and the juniors to be in the main evernt?
Hiromu: I don’t know, honestly. I’m confident we can be in that spot. I think really it’s just down to us showing the company, showing the top brass the vaue that we have.
–It isn’t a question of match quality.
Hiromu: Like, I know the world is where it is still, and there are reasons for it, but BOSJ and World Tag League happening together again this year really didn’t sit right with me. Both are good, right? Both have their own merits. Why do we have to compete for a main event spot? I think if you look at older junior matches, and cards. There’s always been the sense the juniors are held back. Heavyweights are great. And wrestlers should be big guys. I really do think that. But thinking that, knowing that, I still want the juniors to be better.
–You need another X factor.
Hiromu: The talent is here. The matches are great. I think there just needs to be one, visible push from the company. That’s what we need, I feel.
–So whatever happens you’re convinced you’ll be in that main event.
Hiromu: Wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t!
Hiromu: I will get that belt back, and be the focal point of the juniors again. And since this is the 50th Anniversary, I’ll be the focal point of the whole party!