Yoshihiro Takayama (September 19, 1966) is a Japanese professional wrestler and mixed martial artist. Takayama is well known for his ability to endure massive amounts of punishment, especially after his fight at PRIDE 21 against Don Frye. He has since retired from MMA.
Takayama started in UWF International, but due to the focus of the promotion on star Nobuhiko Takada, he wasn't able to go past the mid-card level. In 1995-96, with the interpromotional feuds with New Japan Pro Wrestling and WAR, he formed the "Golden Cups" stable with Yoji Anjo and Kenichi Yamamoto to compete in tag team and six-man matches. In New Japan he and Anjo assumed masks as the "200% Machines" to mock "Super Strong Machine" Junji Hirata. In WAR, they feuded with Gedo, Jado and Hiromichi Fuyuki.
After UWFI's subsequent collapse, he joined Kingdom, but after it also collapsed, he joined All Japan Pro Wrestling as a free agent along with former UWFi comrade Masahito Kakihara. In the beginning, Takayama was put in a feud with Toshiaki Kawada (against whom he had lost once in an interpromotional match before the UWFI's collapse), but as he lost matches often, he was back in the undercard. He joined former UWFI foreigner Gary Albright and native Takao Ōmori in a new version of the "Triangle of Power" stable Albright had formed with Steve Williams before he briefly went back to the United States.
In 1999, upon Shohei Baba's death, Mitsuharu Misawa made him and Kakihara full-time members of All Japan. Pushed as the NO FEARteam with Ōmori, Takayama found instant success, first winning the Asian tag team title from Hayabusa and Jinsei Shinzaki and then the Double Cup from Johnny Ace and Bart Gunn. However, they were eventually defeated by the combination of Misawa and Yoshinari Ogawa. In 2000, when Misawa announced plans for his new promotion, Pro Wrestling Noah, Takayama followed him. During the first few months of Noah's existence, Takayama competed in the first ever GHC Heavyweight Championship tournament, but lost to Mitsuharu Misawa in the final match. He found continued success in Noah, winning the new GHC Tag Team Championship with Takao Ōmori, too. It was around 2001 that, spurred by his old UWFI comrades' success in the PRIDE fighting circuit, decided to try his hand at mixed martial arts competition. Although defeated by Kazuyuki Fujita, he impressed "real-fight" pundits enough to warrant more fight offers. In what many PRIDE fans consider to be one of the organizations most exciting matches ever, Takayama faced Don Frye in a slugfest at PRIDE 21, and although he lost the match, Takayama solidified his reputation as one of the toughest Japanese fighters in PRIDE. Also, his battle with Frye appeared at number one on Fox Sports Network's "Best Damn 50 Beatdowns". Takayama also competed in memorable Noah matches during 2002, winning the GHC Heavyweight Championship from Yoshinari Ogawa on September 7 before losing it to Mitsuharu Misawa later that month.
Takayama declared free agency from Noah so he could pursue mixed martial arts, as well as matches in New Japan Pro Wrestling, where he began challenging the top stars, such as Yuji Nagata, Masahiro Chono, and Hiroyoshi Tenzan. In 2003 and 2004 he participated in New Japan's annual G-1 Climax tournament. In mid-2004 he affiliated himself with former Pancrase wrestler Minoru Suzuki, and they won the IWGP tag team title, but he suffered a stroke later in the year following a brutal match with Kensuke Sasaki. During his time away from the ring, Takayama provided occasional colour commentary for Pro Wrestling Noah, famously saying, "I hope this never ends" during a chop exchange between Kenta Kobashi and Kensuke Sasaki on the July 18, 2005 "Destiny" show. In June 2006, Pro Wrestling Noah announced that Takayama would return at the July 16 Nippon Budokan show, and would team with Kenta Kobashi to take on Jun Akiyama and Mitsuharu Misawa. The match was later changed due to Kobashi needing surgery to remove a cancerous tumor, leading to Takayama teaming with Kensuke Sasaki against Akiyama and Misawa. However, when Kenta Kobashi returned, it would be in the same match, teaming with Yoshihiro Takayama to take on Jun Akiyama and Mitsuharu Misawa.
Takayama then started teaming with old UWFI comrade Takuma Sano in a tournament for the GHC Tag Team Championship vacated by Kenta Kobashi and Tamon Honda due to Kobashi's kidney tumor (Takayama and Sano woud reach the final where they would lose to Mohammed Yone and Takeshi Morishima). On December 27, he showed up at a Pro Wrestling ZERO1-MAX show, attacked former partner Takao Ōmori, and promised to return at the next show.
Takayama defeated Great Muta on March 14, 2009 at Pro-Wrestling Love in Ryogoku Vol. 7 to win the AJPW Triple Crown Championship. With this victory, Takayama became the second wrestler (the other being Kensuke Sasaki) to win the three major heavyweight titles in Japan: NOAH's GHC Championship, New Japan's IWGP Championship, and All Japan's Triple Crown Championship. Takayama held the Triple Crown for almost seven months, losing the title to Satoshi Kojima on September 26.
On January 4, 2010, at Wrestle Kingdom IV in Tokyo Dome Shinsuke Nakamura defeated Takayama to retain his IWGP Heavyweight Championship. In 2010 Takayama and Sano competed in NOAH's "Global Tag League" tournament and emerged the victors, however they were subsequently unable to dethrone the GHC Tag Team Champions Takeshi Rikio and Mohammed Yone.
From March 28 to May 2, 2010, Takayama competed in (and eventually won) Pro-Wrestling Noah's 1st ever Global League Tournament. He defeated Jun Akiyama in the final match of the tournament, finishing up with a total of 7 points. It was then announced that due to his victory, Takayama had earned a GHC Heavyweight Championship match versus Takashi Sugiura on July 10. On September 18, 2010, Takayama and Takuma Sano defeated Akitoshi Saito and Bison Smith to win the vacant GHC Tag Team Championship. On January 4, 2011, at New Japan's Wrestle Kingdom V in Tokyo Dome Takayama and Sugiura defeated Hirooki Goto and Kazuchika Okada in a tag team match.
- Signature moves
Championships and accomplishments
- All Japan Pro Wrestling
- New Japan Pro Wrestling
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- PWI ranked him #40 of the top 500 singles wrestlers in the PWI 500 in 2010
- Pro Wrestling Noah
- Wrestle Association-R
Takayama has acted in small parts in several films, beginning with Muscle Heat in 2002, and continuing with Cromartie High - The Movie and Nagurimono in 2005. He also appeared in 2004's The Calamari Wrestler, playing himself in a cameo role.