Taka Michinoku's real name is Takeo Yoshida. He was born October 26, 1973 in Morioka, Japan. He was trained by the Great Sasuke and made his wrestling debut in 1991 for Sasuke's promotion, Michinoku Pro. Most people recognize TAKA from his days in the World Wrestling Federation when he was brought in 1997 to bring Lightheavyweight wrestling to prominence in the WWF, where it had never been displayed. But, this gifted young performer was a crowd favorite in Japan and a hell of a hand, as J.R. may say. Now, to analyze:
1) Innovation- 5/10- Taka as an innovator in this business ranks fairly well. In the mid 90's, he and his Michinoku Pro cohorts were designing a break neck pace match with many nearfalls in giant tag matches, such would be the blueprint for exciting cruiserweight action in WCW. Now, Mexico has the patent on this style, but in Japan they showed their amigos that the match didn't have to be all slop; there could be finesse and hard hitting action, plus time for comedy, which Mich. Pro thrived on. Also, I would be remised for not mentioning that Taka is given credit for inventing the Michinoku Driver, which is a version of a upside down piledriver that you sit out with and throw your opponent down on his head. It is a widely used move all over the world and will continue to be so due to it's effectiveness.
2) Conditioning- 10/10- Taka was small in stature and height, but there was no questioning his condition. His compact body actually provided him much strength, especially in his legs. His springboard dropkick is one of the best ever seen, and without powerful legs and good balance, that move is next to impossible. Taka had great stamina as well, many times going to the 20 or 30 minute mark in Michinoku Pro wars.
3) Ring Skill- 8/10- Taka at this point in his career is a ring veteran and it shows. When he first entered the WWF, he was the leader of their new Light Heavyweight movement, and at that time he was barely 5 years into the sport, but now Taka is seasoned. His high flying was on par or better than anything else seen around the world at that time, and he could bump. In his time in ECW, he put together good matches with most of his opponents there and carried them. His time in Mich. Pro during the beginning of his career and after he left the WWF in 2001 was main event matches and was considered one of the two best in the promotion, bar none next to Sasuke. Now, his time is spent in All Japan Wrestling, where he was recruited by Keiji Muto once he took over. He works Main Event Japanese wrestlers on a regular basis now, and holds his own.
4) Character/ Psychology- 5/10- Taka never really had a character. When he started out in Mich. Pro, he teamed up with another young rookie, Shoichi Funaki, now known as Smackdown's No.1 announcer as Yume Karudo, which translates as Dream Hunters, a blue chip tag team gimmick. After the popularity of the NWO took off in the states, Taka decided to form a similar group in Japan called Kaientai Deluxe, with Funaki, Dick Togo, and Men's Teioh. Just like in the US, they were heels, but played out to the crowd doing the things they wanted to see which garnered them cheers. In the WWF, Taka was simply a basic babyface and then became a comedy character, which he did mediocre in. In-ring psychology for light heavyweights is sometimes a little light, or none-exsistent, but Taka was pretty consistent. Overall, not his biggest strength, but not every wrestler is great at everything.
5) American Appeal- 6/10 Taka had a fantastic run as fun babyface in early WWE lightheavy division, along with many stereotypical jokes made at his expense and of the Japanese people. But, he was largely over. His fun heel antics got some display also as the evil Kaientai, where he largely made his name in Japan. He also thrilled audiences with his high flying tactics in ECW , making his American run quite positive.
6) Face/Heel- 6/10- Taka's face work was just as many other workers: straight laced, baby in peril. He excelled in being a heel, which he worked for a little of his WWF career, and uses to perfection in Japan and in ECW. He is the snide, better than you Japanese star who gets a little dirty in the ring just because he can and he would love to rub it in the face of any American star that he can. His mannerisms played well to the crowd, and had a good heel face. He gets a six for being pretty good, but never took his character to the extreme like all great wrestling heels have gotten to at one time or another.
7) Basics- 7/10- Taka was trained by the Great Sasuke, who is an excellent performer and during all of Taka's matches, he does still utilize the basic tools which this profession is founded upon. Taka must have really practiced and honed his skills because he even tried his hand at shoot-fighting in such promotions as Pancrase and Battlarts.
8) Fans- 6/10- The fans, whether in Japan or America, can pick up and identify with certain wrestlers, depending on what they do or how they are being pushed. Taka definitely had a spark that fans could identify with. His smirk is one of his most defining features which he used often as a face, and then later as a heel, which works better. The fans also appreciate athleticism and Taka certainly gave that in his matches.
9) Match/Opp.- 5/10- Taka has wrestled a varying degree of talent, having the opportunity to wrestle in Japan in several organizations and here in the States, but not many different matches. I can't really remember any stipulation bouts he's been in, which doesn't necessarily make you a bad wrestler; it just indicates lack of storyline for you or a feud you were involved in. In the WWF, Taka's most notable feud was with Brian Christopher over the Light Heavy weight belt, which Taka never lost to him. But, in Japan, he has had a long running competitive feud with the man that trained him and put him to work, The Great Sasuke. Taka actually chose his name to mock Sasuke, the name he gave his promotion. From the beginning of Taka's career, he was choosing to put himself at odds with one of Japan's most loved characters. And it paid off. That feud help fuel the financial stability of Michinoku Pro and build a loyal fan base that still exsists today. Even the WWF itself brought this rivalry to the States at an In Your House event in July of 1997.
10) Gutcheck- 5/10- Of all of Taka's work, his best lies in his home promotion, Michinoku Pro. That's where the heart and soul of his work resides and where he will best be known to wrestling fans for. His time in the WWF was relatively mediocre after his debut, and whether due to not given the opportunity or lack of motivation, his work stands as being good, but not great. The same can be said for ECW. This category is not meant to be an insult, but I don't believe Taka ever peaked in his career, and I would like to have seen him go that extra mile in becoming a huge star for people to remember for years to come.
Final Score- 6
PO: Thumbs Middle
PS. I would like to give credit to obsessedwithwrestling.com for information needed for this article.