In April 2022, Konosuke Takeshita arrived on the American pro-wrestling scene and was an instant breakout star. A 6’2 superhero of a man sprinting between the ropes like he’s saving the world. A wrestler who can fly through the air, hit power moves, and captivate an audience the first time they see him.
His long-term excursion in the West has made him a highly demanded talent as seen on national TV for AEW or having must-see matches every weekend for whatever promotion can book him. Of course, this one of a kind talent didn’t just appear from nowhere. To celebrate the 10th Anniversary of his debut, let’s take a look at the origin story of your new favorite wrestler.
Konosuke Takeshita: My Wrestling Academia
Born on May 29, 1995, in Osaka, Japan, Konosuke Takeshita grew up as a prodigious wrestling fan. He idolized Shawn Michaels, appreciating his days as a Rocker to his early 2000s renaissance. Takeshita’s tastes ranged from the Four Horsemen to WWF to DDT. Entering his teenage years, his desire to become a pro wrestler began to take shape. With a background as a 6-foot track and field athlete participating in shot put, he began training at 16 years old.
On August 18, 2012, at the historic Nippon Budokan, DDT Pro Wrestling held its biggest show of the year, Peter Pan, in celebration of its 15th Anniversary. In the main event, Kota Ibushi was defending his KO-D Openweight Championship against his partner and rival Kenny Omega. The feud was so hot that DDT’s cult status as a comedy promotion grew into drawing a massive 10,000+ crowd.
The third match on the card saw El Generico, one of the best indie workers at the time, go against a 17-year-old high school student named Konosuke Takeshita. The match was ten minutes long, and Generico won with the Brainbustah, but the hype around the debut was notable enough. The future looked bright for both wrestlers as Generico was about to win the KO-D title next month, and Takeshita was ringside for the 40-minute classic between Omega and Ibushi.
For the rest of the year, Takeshita continued to balance school life with only wrestling once or twice a month. He began tagging with Ibushi while also being associated with fellow rookie Tetsuya Endo. The learning process didn’t come easy as he was put in the ring wrestling long matches against DDT mainstays like Sanshiro Takagi, Harashima, and Kenny Omega.
Takeshita’s biggest victory would be his first personal pinfall when he defeated the veteran Poison Sawada JULIE in a six-man tag, for what was JULIE’s retirement at the time.
Konosuke Takeshita: Rookie of the Year
In 2013, Takeshita entered his senior year of high school, which continued to disrupt his scant wrestling schedule, even missing the months of February and April. He lost to his mentor Kota Ibushi at the beginning of the year and received the opportunity to face the legendary Tatsumi Fujinami at a big Korakuen Hall show in March. Though the match was only 5 minutes, the rookie looked good in grappling, throwing a couple of dropkicks, and showing his fighting spirit.
Konosuke Takeshita’s losing ways would change by the summer. He entered the annual King of DDT tournament to crown a number 1 contender and surprised the field by winning two matches against notable opponents before losing in the semifinal to the eventual winner, Harashima. His success led him to another massive stage, Ryogoku Kokugikan, where on consecutive days he lost to Kenny Omega and NOAH’s prodigy Katsuhiko Nakajima.
Konosuke Takeshita vs Kenny Omega (August 17, 2013) #wrestleUNIVERSE pic.twitter.com/XeiYJORez6— Alex (@AncientMinority) July 26, 2022
A pair of good showings against experienced rivals would mark his 1 Year Anniversary as a pro wrestler. Though he seemed to fall back down to earth, more often than not looking up at the lights, Takeshita forged a more consistent tag team with his contemporary rival Tetsuya Endo. By the end of the year, they were regular partners, though the 18-year-old appeared to be a more successful wrestler than the 22-year-old.
For the year 2013, the Tokyo Sports Award for best newcomer went to Konosuke Takeshita, making him the first high schooler to join a lineage of puroresu legends. He was also recognized by the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Awards, coming in 2nd for Rookie of the Year.
Though he only lost to NJPW’s Yohei Komatsu (currently known as Yoh) by 4 overall points, he received more than double the amount of 1st place votes. WON’s Dave Meltzer suggested Takeshita would have won had DDT had more exposure.
Konosuke Takeshita – Training Arc Pays Off
In January 2014, Takeshita and Endo faced the Golden Lovers, Omega, and Ibushi, to determine the number 1 contenders to the tag team titles. Omega and Takeshita started off-chain wrestling on even footing. However, when Endo tagged in he was soon on the defensive, being worked over by the former champions. Takeshita made a fiery comeback, but he too was soon taken down by the experienced duo.
As the Golden Lovers worked over his left arm for well over 10 minutes, Takeshita displayed a masterclass portrait of emotion. Watch his face in any of his matches, back then and right now, and see the pain in every attack. The anguish, surprise, and joy of pro wrestling storytelling. You will believe he wants to win.
Tetsuya Endo shifted the battle in their favor, but by the third act, everyone was hitting their big moves. Takeshita was gaining near falls on Ibushi and Omega until the last second, when the 30-minute time limit expired, and the match was ruled a draw.
Konosuke Takeshita and Tetsuya Endo vs Kenny Omega and Kota Ibushi (January 13, 2014) #wrestleUNIVERSE pic.twitter.com/FfCF9X6ZiX— Alex (@AncientMinority) July 26, 2022
After the match, in front of a raucous ovation from the crowd, it was announced that both teams would be challenging Isami Kodaka and Yuko Miyamoto for the tag titles in two weeks’ time. In their first chance at gold together, Takeshita and Endo started off by attacking the other teams before the bell.
Filled with plenty of triple threat and multiple-man spots, the contest showcased Tetsuya Endo as a worthy partner. The young kids had their chances once again, but the Golden Lovers double team was too much for Endo as they pinned him to win the KO-D Tag Team Championship.
In February, Takeshita added to his accomplishments by passing his college entrance exam into Nippon Sports Science University. He graduated high school in March and moved to Tokyo in April. While his tag team racked up wins every so often, Kota Ibushi defeated him once more in a battle between future star versus current star.
Konosuke Takeshita: Graduation
As he turned 19 years old on May 29th, Takeshita was in for a big summer. In the King of DDT tournament, he scored a first-round victory over Daisuke Sasaki. However, he would lose to Isami Kodoka in a 20-minute main event with a Brainbustah. At the end of June, it was announced that the young phenom would face New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Hiroshi Tanahashi at the annual Peter Pan event.
In July, Takeshita and Endo formed a stable alongside veteran comedy wrestler Antonio Honda called Happy Motel. The unit soon won the KO-D 6-man titles. They lost them a week later. Following another singles victory over Endo, Takeshita headed into the biggest match of his career to celebrate his 2 Year Anniversary.
August 17 at Ryogoku Kokugikan, Konosuke Takeshita stood across the ring from the Ace of the Universe. The Once in a Century talent, fresh off a 7-3 run in the G1 Climax, just short of making the finals. At the sound of the bell, Tanahashi basked in the moment as the DDT crowd chanted for their homegrown star.
Konosuke Takeshita vs Hiroshi Tanahashi (August 17, 2014) #wrestleUNIVERSE pic.twitter.com/BrQGhV7Hix— Alex (@AncientMinority) July 26, 2022
While Takeshita had the strength and speed advantage, Tanahashi outsmarted the kid and went to work on crucial body parts. But as always, Takeshita made up for his youth with pure fighting spirit.
He invoked shades of two years ago by using El Generico’s Blue Thunder Bomb, Yakuza Kick, and attempting a Brainbustah. And though he came close with some near falls, Tanahashi still defeated him with a Slingblade and High Fly Flow.
Konosuke Takeshita: To Be Continued
Part of the learning process must be the teachers as much as it is the student. Konosuke Takeshita started his career wrestling all-time greats like El Generico, Kenny Omega, Kota Ibushi, and Hiroshi Tanahashi. His ability to improve may well be some uncanny ability to absorb some of that fire from facing veterans of the sport.
On September 28, Happy Motel defeated the Golden Lovers to win the KO-D Tag Team titles. Takeshita pinned Omega, earning the respect of Omega before he left for his legendary NJPW run and left DDT’s future in the hands of the next generation.
Konosuke Takeshita’s story is an ongoing saga filled many more adventures. His chase for the KO-D Openweight Championship. His forever rivalry with Tetsuya Endo. Becoming the Ace of DDT. Forming a stable of sauna-loving young men. And yes, as the legend goes, he wrote his college thesis on the german suplex and claims to have received an A.
This 27-year-old Japanese phenom is a marvel to behold: a hard-hitting, fast as lightning, strong, agile, charismatic pro wrestler. Perhaps his love of Cinnabon can convince him to make America a regular destination. But if you happen to catch him on a show while you still can, and you hear those heavy guitar riffs herald his entrance, know that you are seeing someone uniquely special and who’s only getting better.