Hiromu Takahashi talks about his biggest Wrestle Kingdom yet
While his faction leader Tetsuya Naito scooped the Tokyo Sports’ MVP award in 2020, there is no question that Hiromu Takahashi had an MVP level year. From winning the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship on January 4 and retiring Jyushin Thunder Liger the very next night, Hiromu competed with heavyweights in the New Japan Cup, headlined a live primetime broadcast against Kazuchika Okada, challenged for the double IWGP Championships and won Best of the Super Jr.
Now he is on the verge of an even bigger 2021, as he looks to take on Super J-Cup 2020 winner El Phantasmo on January 4, with the winner facing Taiji Ishimori on January 5 in the semi-main event spot at the Tokyo Dome. We spoke to Hiromu to get his thoughts on Wrestle Kingdom 15.
I’m glad the final was with Desperado
–So we have a whole bunch of magazines lined up in front of us here…
Hiromu: ‘Magazines’. Pff. This is only the latest Weekly Pro-Wrestling with me as the cover star, and my latest fashion book ‘Hiromu Bomb’.
–Oh, wow! How does it feel to have your first fashion book out on store shelves?
Hiromu: Awesome! I mean, there isn’t a person alive who doesn’t want this book, right? We’ll have to make, like, eight billion of them. I hope the printers can keep up.
–And the Weekly Pro cover comes, of course, with the Best of the Super Jr. trophy and your match being set for Wrestle Kingdom.
Hiromu: Well, don’t get mixed up here. The BOSJ win and the Tokyo Dome, they’re two separate things. I know everyone’s talking about there being less than a week to go ’till Wrestle Kingdom, but the thought never entered my mind during Best of the Super Jr.
–You were focused on what was in front of you.
Hiromu: Everything came up because of BOSJ. Without that, I didn’t have a backup plan. So I couldn’t think about the Tokyo Dome until after I won.
–How was it, your first BoSJ after two years?
Hiromu: What can I say?
–It was a big deal.
Hiromu: No, really, what can I say? Is there a better word than delighted? If there is, let me know, if there isn’t, I’ll make it up and get it in the dictionary. The whole situation was amazing. I’m glad it was Desperado with me in the final, I’m glad it was the ten of us in the tournament. It was a tournament that really only this set of ten could have shown off, and we did it.
–Every match in the tournament was a very physical one for you, and Desperado certainly targeted your knee throughout the final. How are you doing physically heading into the Tokyo Dome?
Hiromu: Absolutely perfect! But I do think it’s rough to be constantly running on adrenaline. In our case, BoSJ finished and then we were right back on the road four days later…
–It was a tight turnaround.
Hiromu: It’s like, ‘don’t rush me here’, right? But it’s that tight schedule that makes Hiromu Takahashi who he is. The tough spot is that break from the last match of the year. You turn that switch off, and then ‘pop’ next time it’s on, it’s really on, at the Tokyo Dome. That’s scary.
Hiromu: It’s the same for all of us. We have a tight schedule, we’re in pain, we’re tired, but in a way, it’s the schedule that keeps us in shape, and it’s the adrenaline that wards off the pain. It’s in these few days after the last match of the year that the pain comes creeping back.
–So it’s important to find your motivation and stay in top shape right now.
Hiromu: Exactly, yeah.
He’s unpredictable, and that’s scary.
–You won Best of the Super Jr at the Budokan on December 11, but your first action wasn’t to challenge the IWGP Jr. heavyweight Champion Taiji Ishimori, instead targeting the winner of the Super J-Cup.
Hiromu: Well, at the same time as BoSJ was announced, they announced this whole Super J-Cup thing. ‘Over here in America, we’re deciding who the top junior heavyweight is’. Huh? How many people can say they are the top junior heavyweight? You have the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion, for one. The Best of the Super Jr. that’s two, and Super J-Cup, that makes….
Hiromu: Thank you. So before we even got started, I wanted to make it clear who the top junior really was. The question of who to challenge was bouncing around my head the whole time, but of course, if you don’t win the tournament you don’t have a right to speak in the first place.
Hiromu: So I didn’t think about what I was going to actually say until I won the tournament, and when I did, the words ‘Super J-Cup’ came out.
–I’ll assume you watched the Super J-Cup; El Phantasmo was victorious for the second year in a row.
Hiromu: Of course I watched it. It was a one night tournament; that’s a tough situation to be in. I would have gone in trying to rush through the first few rounds as quickly as possible, but Phantasmo took his time in each match, and that was very impressive.
–It’s a very challenging environment, to be sure.
Hiromu: We had a long league, and they had up to three matches on the same night. We each had a demanding time of it, for sure. Plus you lose and you’re out; that’s a really tough scenario.
–And what did you think about ELP himself, from your perspective?
Hiromu: Obviously, you have to be tough to win, that’s a given. But what’s scary about him is that I never know what he’s thinking. I never know what he’s going to do next.
Hiromu: Exactly! You’ll see him going to use the Styles Clash, or One Winged Angel, like he’s drawing from AJ Styles or Kenny Omega. That says his idea of what his type of pro-wrestling is isn’t set in stone. That’s what makes him dangerous.
It’s SJC vs BoSJ. That simple.
–ELP certainly used a lot of different tactics at his disposal to get the job done in Super J-Cup.
Hiromu: That’s it. He really didn’t seem to care about whether he won normally or if he cheated, or what moves he used to get the result. That unpredictability is so dangerous. But then again, unpredictability is one of my weapons too, so we have that in common at least.
–You aren’t all that different.
Hiromu: Maybe this is how people feel when they’re about to go into a match with me. I’ve gone through that conversation with myself; how do I deal with him? But then again, he’s the type where overthinking things gets you nowhere. So I think it’s best to just take the match as it comes and deal with it in the ring.
–It is your first singles match with him.
Hiromu: And when we did meet up, in that four way tag match at New Year Dash this year, we barely touched.
–You’d had your eyes on ELP’s first round opponent Lio Rush.
Hiromu: Oh yeah, that was something I was looking forward to. It really shocked me that was a first round match. Knowing one of them was going home after one match, there isn’t a tournament on Earth as harsh as that.
–You rate Rush quite highly.
Hiromu: He’s amazing. he isn’t unlike Taiji Ishimori, actually. Small, but with so much power and so much speed. He might be the fastest guy I’ve ever wrestled.
–When did you wrestle him?
Hiromu: About four, five years ago, when I was on excursion in ROH. I don’t think you can really use that match as reference for what he’s like now, he’s changed a lot since, but the speed definitely stays with me.
–Hiromu Takahashi vs Lio Rush would be quite a match to have again some day.
Hiromu: Absolutely. For me, I was really looking forward to that Rush vs ELP match, and TJP vs ACH. Both of those matches could easily have been the final.
–So let’s get back to ELP.
Hiromu: Well, I want to make it nice and clear, nice and simple. It’s as simple as SJC vs BOSJ, which wins. But it’s also awesome to see the junior heavyweights tear it up in America and Japan at the same time.
–It certainly feels like a golden period for the juniors.
Hiromu: But in that age, I’m the top junior! That’s what I want to show. So let’s see who wins between BoSJ and SJC, and then after that, Ishimori is waiting on January 5.
Ishimori is flawless
–So if you beat ELP on January 4, it’s Taiji Ishimori on January 5. Your thoughts?
Hiromu: He’s perfect. He’s too perfect. Because of that it’s hard to figure out just how to approach him, but I kinda think going full speed head to head is the best way. That’s how I approached things November 15 in Aichi.
–He’s a tough opponent.
Hiromu: The toughest. There’s really no flaws there. I’ve watched a lot of video on him, and he’s amazing. Power, speed, he’s flawless.
–But that’s a motivator in a way.
Hiromu: Oh yeah. He’s a lot of fun to wrestle.
–So finally, tell us about your plans for 2021.
Hiromu: Well, I’m not the type to lay out grand plans. I just want to enjoy pro-wrestling with all my heart, and I want the fans to do the same. I will say, I’d really like to hear the fans’ voices again soon.
–You’re missing those chants.
Hiromu: Oh yeah. Every match during BoSJ, I was imagining what everything would be like if the fans were able to yell again. That’s what I want most of all in 2021, to hear those cheers again.
–Not naming names, but another wrestler has told me that cheers are like your gasoline.
Hiromu: They’d be right, heh. I’m excited to see just how far I’ll be able to go with a little of that gasoline. But like I said at the end of BoSJ, we fight with all we have to bring joy and energy to all of you. So even if you can just clap right now, that gives us the strength to keep going in return. Whatever happens, I love NJPW and junior heavyweight wrestling with all my heart. So let’s get through all of this so you can yell your support at me again!
–We’re all in this together.
Hiromu: Yeah. So it isn’t about what I’ll do in 2021, because I’ll always give it my all and get results whatever happens. But when I get those cheers in my system again, that’s when you’ll see Hiromu’s ultimate form!