Takao Yoshida (October 26, 1973), better known by his ring name TAKA Michinoku (Taka is written in all caps in Japanese script), is a professional wrestler who has wrestled all over the world as well he was a former Mixed Martial Artist. Michinoku is known in North America for his work for the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) where he had the first ever WWF Light Heavyweight Championship reign recognized by the North-American promotion.
Having held championship titles in Japan, North America, Mexico and Europe, Yoshida is known for his long title reigns. He held the FMW Independent World Junior Heavyweight Title for a combined duration of more than 15 months, the WWF Light Heavyweight Title for a then record-setting 10 months and the WEW Six-Man Tag Team Title for almost a year. Yoshida has held the AJPW World Junior Heavyweight Title, Michinoku Pro Tohoku Junior Heavyweight Title and Kaientai Dojo Strongest-K Title simultaneously for almost 10 months. During his reign, he has defended his titles against both AJPW and independent circuit talent to increase his base of opponents, and thus has increased the reach of the AJPW World Junior Heavyweight Title which was closed off to outside competition in the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s.
Professional wrestling career
Taka Michinoku took his name as a sign of respect for his mentor The Great Sasuke, who was the owner of Michinoku Pro Wrestling and had been the first to use Michinoku as part of his ring name. He debuted in North America with Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) in a six-man tag team match at ECW's debut pay-per-view Barely Legal.
First WWF Light Heavyweight Champion
He made his World Wrestling Federation (WWF) debut on July 6, 1997 at a WWF pay-per-view entitled "Canadian Stampede." losing to The Great Sasuke but getting a huge reaction from the crowd. He lost a rematch to Sasuke the following night on Raw. On December 7, 1997, Michinoku defeated Brian Christopher at D-Generation X: In Your House to become the first WWF Light Heavyweight Champion recognized by the WWF. Taka successfully defended the WWF Light Heavyweight Title at WrestleMania XIV against Aguila. After holding the title for more than 10 months, Michinoku lost the title to Christian on October 18, 1998.
Kai En Tai
Taka began a feud with Kai En Tai, a faction he was once a part of during his Michinoku Pro days. He remained at odds with his former colleagues by defending their rival Val Venis until turning against Venis in a tag team match. Taka joined Kai En Tai and remained with the group until Teioh, Togo, and their managers, The Yamaguchis, left the WWF and returned to Japan. Taka and Funaki, the two remaining members in WWF, continued as a team under the Kai En Tai name in mostly jobber matches with a comedy gimmick.
Taka's biggest venture in WWF came when he challenged Triple H for the WWF Championship on the April 10, 2000 edition of Raw, coming up short despite interference on his behalf from Funaki and the Acolytes Protection Agency.
Return to Japan, Kainentai Dojo
After departing from the WWF (by now renamed World Wrestling Entertainment) in early 2002, Michinoku returned to Japan to rehabilitate a serious shoulder injury. He then began promoting his own promotion, Kaientai Dojo (often shortened to K-DOJO) in small venues around the Tokyo area and often appears in All Japan Pro Wrestling cards, where he and Taiyō Kea lead the foreign-oriented faction Roughly Obsess & Destroy.
Michinoku made his Hawaii debut in 2004 when he appeared for Hawai'i Championship Wrestling defeating Nightmare.
AJPW: Mexico Amigos stable
Pepe Michinoku (Taka Michinoku), El Nosawa Mendoza (Nosawa-Rongai), and Miguel Hayashi Jr (Kaz Hayashi) formed a team during the AJPW Champion's Carnival called Mexico Amigos. El Hijo del Araya Segundo (Nobutaka Araya) joined the team after Six-Man Action between Mexico Amigos and Araya/Fuchi/Hirai at the Carnival's final show. After multiple bouts against Minoru Suzuki, Nosawa (NOSAWA Rongai) offered Suzuki an invitation into Mexico Amigos, to which he declined. This resulted in the group changing multiple assets. Their name was changed to Mexico Amigos Black, the previous worn Mexican Flag attire became Black and Gold attire, and Nobutaka Araya was kicked out of the group. The groups is currently in a heated rivalry with Mazada's Samurai New Japan group, Minoru Suzuki, and Voodoo Murders.
At the AJPW's December 16, 2007 "Fan Appreciation Day" show, The Mexico Amigos teamed with "Ray Suzuki" and defeated Ryuji Hijikata, Kikutaro, T28 and Ryuji Yamaguchi. After the match, Ray Suzuki reveled himself as Minoru Suzuki and stated the starting next year he would throw his Amigos tights away and return to Nosawa Rongai, then kidnapped him to start early training. This led to Pepe and Miguel stating they would return to Mexico, but Kaz and Taka would return come the new year. After one last "Viva Mexico" Mexico Amigos disbanded.
TAKA, renamed Piza Michinoku, joined with Antonio Honda to form The Italian Four Horsemen in the Japan-based DDT promotion, competing in several comedic matches against opponents such as "The Gay Wrestler" Danshoku Dino and an inflatable "love doll" impersonating various iconic wrestlers named YOSHIHIKO.
TAKA returned to Michinoku Pro and reformed Kai En Tai with Funaki. Their most recent match as a team was against Great Sasuke and Dick Togo on the 20th anniversary of Michinoku Pro. Kai En Tai would lose the match with Funaki taking the pin.
- Finishing and signature moves
- Michinoku Driver
- Michinoku Driver II-B
- Just Facelock
- Super Pump Kick
- Tag teams and stables
- Theme music
Championships and accomplishments
- All Japan Pro Wrestling
- Kaientai Dojo
- Chiba 6 Man Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Isami Kodaka and Kengo Mashimo
- FMW/WEW Hardcore Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with TOMO Michinoku
- Independent World Junior Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- Strongest-K Championship (2 times)
- Strongest-K Tag Team Championship (6 times) – with Handsome Joe (2), Kengo Mashimo (1), Kaji Tomato (2), and Men's Teioh (1)
- UWA/UWF Intercontinental Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Ryota Chikuzen
- UWA World Middleweight Championship (1 time)
- Strongest-K Tournament (2007)
- Tag Team Match of the Year (2013)
- New Japan Pro Wrestling
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- PWI ranked him #191 of the 500 best singles wrestlers during the "PWI Years" in 2003
- Tokyo Sports
- Technique Award (2005)
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter
- 5 Star Match (1996) with Shoichi Funaki, Dick Togo, Men's Teioh and Shiryu vs Tiger Mask IV, Gran Hamada, Gran Naniwa, Super Delfin and Masato Yakushiji
- World Entertainment Wrestling
- World Wrestling Federation