Since reemerging on the Japanese scene late last year, Hiromu Takahashi has set New Japan Pro Wrestling’s recently hollowed-out Junior Heavyweight division ablaze. Between his unorthodox offense, alignment with one of the company’s hottest stables, and awesome out-of-the-box look, the “Time Bomb” has officially exploded in New Japan! What led to such a rattling detonation? Who is this maniac really? It is high time the world found out further about Hiromu Takahashi!
By now, it is common knowledge that this former New Japan young boy has broken through his trials as a struggle talent in Mexico to become one of the most popular Junior Heavyweight competitors in New Japan’s most recent history. However, there is plenty more to the story than that. As a matter of fact, one could easily believe that keeping Takahashi out of the spotlight for the first couple of years of his career was one big ploy on the part of NJPW since the beginning…
Since early in his junior high school days, Hiromu Takahashi aspired to be a professional wrestler. According to Takahashi himself, in 2002 at the age of twelve, while watching that year’s G1 Climax tournament finals match between Masahiro Chono and Yoshihiro Takayama was the moment when he first said to himself “I want to try this”. Masahiro Chono became the star who he admired most, after Chono pummeled Takayama with an endless array of Yakuza kicks en route to winning the 2002 G1. Chono’s deadly smooth demeanor, hard work ethic, and success in both the United States and across Japan truly inspired Hiromu to strive and work hard during high school to become strong as part of the track and field team. As soon as he graduated from school, he attended a New Japan tryout and passed in May of 2009. He was accepted into the famed New Japan dojo, where he trained along such classmates as King Fale and Kyosuke Mikami, who all made their in ring debut around the same time in 2010. Although he admired Chono the most as a child, through his experience in training and due to his height, he aimed to craft a style like Jushin “Thunder” Liger and Koji Kanemoto. With thoughts of running away from the difficult life in New Japan’s dojo crossing his mind hundreds of times, Hiromu was able to stick it out and graduate from the famed-yet-grueling dojo.
Takahashi graduated from New Japan’s esteemed dojo on August 25, 2010 and quickly debuted against Mikami at the NEVER.1 show in Tokyo. Takahashi was the smallest of the three men that graduated, standing only five-foot, seven inches and weighing one hundred and eighty pounds. Consequently, the New Japan office as well as the company’s fans felt that it was less likely Takahashi would follow such a path to success and that he’d have a hard road ahead of him if he was going to break through. And what a hard road it was! Takahashi would go without making any significant career waves until 2012. He would be featured on Wrestle Kingdom 7, his first Tokyo Dome show, in a six-man tag team match, teaming up with Jushin “Thunder” Liger and Tiger Mask IV in a losing effort against the team of Bushi, Kushida and Ryusuke Taguchi. He also fell into an opportunity later on that year to compete in the Best of the Super Juniors tournament as a replacement after Black Tiger IV was forced to withdraw. Unfortunately, Takahashi would only manage to win one of his tournament matches which would leave him in the bottom of the bracket. This would become a trend for Hiromu, as he would get opportunities but be unable to keep his footing and capitalize. He, Kyosuke Mikami, and Takaaki Watanabe would enter the 2012 J Sports Crown Openweight 6-Man Tag Tournament as the “Young Lions” team, but would lose in the first round. 2013 would be much of the same, as he competed in the Best of the Super Juniors tournament once again, and would lose, once again. Hiromu Takahashi then found himself at a crossroads. New Japan Pro Wrestling often decides to send young lions in need of further development to learn in a foreign wrestling market, and it now seemed it was Hiromu’s time to go. Ready for a fresh start in front of a new audience, Takahashi initially left for the United Kingdom where he would wrestle for several independent wrestling shows before being shipped off to Mexico as promised.
In early 2014, Hiromu Takahashi arrived in Mexico to wrestle for New Japan Pro Wrestling’s partner promotion, Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre. Classically in Mexico, most young, foreign wrestlers looking to further develop their in-ring character are asked to don a mask. It would be no different for Hiromu Takahashi. With a mask style and name developed after a supernatural Japanese monster, Hiromu became the evil Kamaitachi! Shortly after the mask was adopted, Hiromu would take the place of his old classmate Mikami and find himself teamed up with CMLL’s resident Japanese star Shigeo Okumura as part of the famed heel stable of La Ola Amarilla. To close out 2014, Kamaitachi and Okumura challenge Delta and Guerrero Maya Jr. for the CMLL Arena Coliseo Tag Team Championship. Though La Ola Amarilla would come up short, Kamaitachi’s stock in CMLL would be on the rise heading into 2015. One of the biggest moments of 2015 for Kamaitachi would come early on in the year. He’d focus more on his singles career and begin a program with fellow light heavyweight competitor Dragon Lee. This program would run off and on for the full year of 2015, as things on screen became more and more personal between the two young stars. By March, a Lucha de Apuestas match would be scheduled by CMLL, where both Kamaitachi and Dragon Lee pledged to put their masks on the line. Taking place at CMLL’s Homenaje a Dos Leyendas 2015 show, Kamaitachi would lose the mask vs. mask match and as per stipulation, Kamaitachi unmasked following the loss. This loss would not be the end, though. Now unmasked, Kamaitachi kept the name and over the course of the next couple of months, he and Lee would continue to clash and cause each other grief. By July, a championship match would take place. Takahashi challenged Dragon Lee for the CMLL World Lightweight Championship on July 13, 2015, but would be unsuccessful in becoming the champion.
On January 23, 2016, Kamaitachi made a surprise return to NJPW during the CMLL/NJPW co-produced Fantastica Mania 2016 event, when he attacked Dragon Lee and challenged him to a title match. This marked Takahashi’s first New Japan appearance since May 2013! At the following day’s event, Kamaitachi defeated Dragon Lee to finally win his first professional wrestling title and the same one he’d been chasing for a year, the CMLL World Lightweight Championship! To clarify his position following Fantastica Mania 2016, Kamaitachi publicly stated that he was not yet returning to New Japan, he still had unfinished business to take care of in CMLL. The next month in March, Kamaitachi lost the CMLL World Lightweight Championship back to Dragon Lee in Mexico City. By May, Kamaitachi would disappear from CMLL in favor for a brief run across the United States. By April, Kamaitachi surprisingly made his debut for Ring of Honor, marking his official finishing with CMLL. Just a month later, Kamaitachi made his debut for Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, another well-respected American promotion. On September 3, while working with both promotions off and on, Kamaitachi entered PWG’s 2016 Battle of Los Angeles tournament. He would go on to be eliminated in his first round match by Trevor Lee. Kamaitachi made his American pay-per-view debut with Ring of Honor at Best In The World, losing to Kyle O’Reilly by submission and in September, at ROH’s All Star Extravaganza VIII, Kamaitachi lost to his old rival in CMLL, Dragon Lee!
After a quiet month or two, Hiromu Takahashi would shock the world of pro wrestling in November of 2016. For several months prior, New Japan Pro Wrestling aired small snippets teasing that a ‘ticking time bomb will blow up soon’ in the company. Rumors swirled about who this time bomb would be, but nearly no one suspected the former New Japan young boy. Finally, after a very interesting build up in New Japan, the time bomb was revealed to be the returning Hiromu Takahashi at NJPW’s Power Struggle event. Dumping the Kamaitachi name and look, Takahashi would arrive as himself returning to the company that started him in the sport. Takahashi strolled to the ring and confronted the then IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion, Kushida. It became apparent that Takahashi would be challenging Kushida for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship in the very near future! Before then, Takahashi would only further cement himself in the current New Japan product with a huge power move. In December, at the NJPW World Tag League finals, Takahashi accepted Tetsuya Naito’s offer to join the Los Ingobernables de Japon stable, the company’s most powerful and interesting collection of bad guys. A week later, Hiromu Takahashi pinned Kushida in a tag team main event, where he and Naito defeated the team of Kushida and Hiroshi Tanahashi. “Time Bomb” Takahashi truly changed the dynamic between he and Kushida with his alliance with Los Ingobernables. At this point, Kushida represented all that was classically good and clean-cut with the junior division and oppositely, Takahashi now represented the bad excess that comes with being a successful junior with significant fame.
On January 4, 2017 in the Tokyo Dome for New Japan’s eleventh-annual Wrestle Kingdom event, Hiromu Takahashi defeated Kushida for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship, marking the most important win of his career to date. In an electric match that legitimized Takahashi return to the company, Hiromu would wrestle with new life and a new purpose. Following Kenny Omega’s departure from the juniors division to the heavyweight ranks, the state of the juniors division was at a little bit of a standstill. As dominating as Kushida was, he was without a real challenger for the second half of his reign before Takahashi’s return. So, when “Time Bomb” beat him, it was a shot in the arm and a shift in the balance for the company. Takahashi had truly arrived and put his debut in the company seven years earlier to bed with his first IWGP win. Things would continue to look up for Hiromu in 2017, as in February he again stood across the ring from his bitter ally, Dragon Lee. The New Beginning in Osaka marked his first successful title defense against Lee, again putting a past doubt to rest.
As the current IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion (as of the writing of this article), the ticking time bomb continues to bring much-needed fresh eyes to the division and company. Takahashi wrestles a very unique, hybrid style and has developed himself a very bizarre character style as an unpredictable kamikaze! He has undoubtably filled the void left behind by Kenny Omega for New Japan Pro Wrestling and has rose as one of the most important members of Los Ingobernables de Japon, perhaps only behind Naito in popularity within the stable. Personally, I feel the emergence of “Time Bomb” Takahashi has been almost poetic. The young boy goes off to a foreign land a nobody only to return home years later to conquer the kingdom as something far more than what he began as. Keep on one eye on Hiromu and one eye on the future, as the “Time Bomb” has only just exploded. You now have the story of the detonation, so beware the aftermath may be just as chaotic!