TAKA Michinoku

qvga_taka01TAKA (Taka) Michinoku is the founder and owner/operator of K-DOJO and an 18-year veteran well-known around the world for his appearances in many promotions, including WWF/E. He is best known for his long title reigns, having several which ran for 10-15 months, as well as his still-regular appearances in other promotions, especially DDT.
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 competed in a variety of promotions early on, mainly Michinoku and FMW. In the mid-1990s 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. He then debuted in WWF in summer 1997 and, at the end of the year, would become the first WWF Light Heavyweight Champion. His reign lasted 10 months before losing the title in October 1998. After he dropped the title a period of misuse/bad gimmicks began in WWF that, while bad for his in-ring career, ultimately gained him more of a fan following in the US. It began with his feuding with a faction called Kaientai, a group he was part of in Japan with Kaz Hayashi, Men’s Teioh, and Dick Togo. Soon he would join them and, when the rest left WWF, he continued under the Kaientai banner with Sho Funaki. They then were used primarily in a comedy role through promos they cut before their matches, when they would speak but playing off their being and primarily speaking Japanese, the audio in these segments would appear to be dubbed horribly off-sync, so they would speak but nothing would be heard for a few seconds. The segments started with Taka talking until he shouted they were “EEEEVIL!”, then Funaki took the mic and said something, then a few seconds later we would hear “INDEED!” While they were booed at first ultimately fans warmed up to the act and they became more over. Taka left WWF in early 2002.
After returning to Japan at that time to rehab a serious injury, he founded Kaientai DOJO, often called just K-DOJO. He often promoted events in small arenas around Tokyo while also making frequent appearances in All-Japan when he returned from injury. Along the way he created a new gimmick, Pepe Michinoku, as part of a team called Mexican Amigos with Hayashi & NOSAWA Rongai. Nobutaka Araya joined the team later. They disbanded in December 2007.  Since then TAKA has primarily split his time between K-DOJO, where not surprisingly he’s the promotion’s top star, maintaining freelancer status and appearing semi-regularly in other promotions like Michinoku Pro, and also maintaining a regular schedule in DDT, where he appears as PIZA Michinoku, an Italian-themed gimmick as part of an Italian-themed faction with Dick Togo (Francesco Togo), Antonio Honda & Sasaki And Gabbana. Taka no longer appears in DDT though, as he retired PIZA at the end of 2009.
Taka also tried his hand at MMA in the late 1990s, making one appearance in Pancrase in 1997. He lost his only fight to Keiichiro Yamamiya by submission in just over 7 1/2 minutes.
Michinoku is also well-known as the inventor of the Michinoku Driver 2, technically known as a sitout scoop slam piledriver. Facing their opponent, the wrestler reaches between his opponent’s legs with their right arm and reaches around the opponent’s neck from the same side with their left arm. They then lift the opponent up and turn them around so that they are held upside down, as in a scoop slam before dropping down into a sitout position, driving the opponent down to the mat neck and shoulder first. Many people usually call it Michinoku Driver because it is more often used than the original Michinoku Driver, but that was not invented by Taka. The move is very popular and is still frequently used and imitated today by wrestlers around the world.
Taka may be inactive as of late January 2011 due to a dislocated shoulder suffered in a January 26, 2011 match. It’s not known if he’ll miss any time, but due to this he is now giving serious thought to either taking an extended hiatus later in the year or cutting back his schedule to improve his health-this may be the 5th time in his career this injury has happened.

Stats & Info:
Real name: Takao Yoshida
Age: 36
Height: 5’8″
Weight: 187 pounds/85 kg
Experience: 18 years
Finishing move: Michinoku Driver, Michinoku Driver 2, Just Facelock
Current affiliation: K-DOJO

Titles won:
1-time All-Japan World Jr. Heavyweight champion
2-time FMW Independent Jr. Heavyweight Champion
1-time IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champion
1-time IWW Jr. Heavyweight Champion
1-time DDT KO-D Tag Team Champion
2-time Champion Of STRONGEST-K
2-time STRONGEST-K Tag Team Champion
1-time Tohoku Jr. Heavyweight Champion
1-time TWF Women’s Tag Team Champion
1-time UWA/UWF Intercontinental Tag Team Champion
1-time UWA Trios Champion
1-time WEW 6 Man Tag Team Champion
1-time WEW Hardcore Tag Team Champion
1-time WWF Light Heavyweight Champion (recognized as the first champion)

Tournaments won:
1997 WWF Light Heavyweight Title Tournament
2004 Champion Of STRONGEST-K Title Contendership Tournament
2007 STRONGEST-K Tournament
2008 UWA 6 Man Tag Team Title Tournament
2009 Champion Of STRONGEST-K Title Next Challenger Tournament

Other accolades:
Ranked #191 In 2003 PWI 500
2005 Tokyo Sports Grand Prix Best Technical Wrestler Award

MMA career record: 0-1

Official websites (Japanese):
(Note: Both sites are active and updated regularly)

PIZA Michinoku

Ring entrance theme: