Shingo Takagi | The Warrior Who Would Be Champion

After debuting for New Japan Pro Wrestling in October 2018, many people didn’t really know of the enigma that Shingo Takagi was. For many, it was their first exposure to the Dragon. It was then that he became the newest member of Los Ingobernables de Japon.

Takagi has been a staple of Japanese wrestling with a career that is over 15 years. His career has taken him across the world, from a Dragon Gate trainee to current NEVER Openweight and 6-man champion.

The Dragon’s career is something fans should know about. Just to appreciate the work Takagi has put in for way over a decade.

Shingo Takagi – NEVER

And it’s working. You’re seeing there’s just so much more interest in all of these potential matches. NEVER’s got its own special something. Its own psychology…

I can’t think of a single NEVER Championship match that I didn’t like watching. In fact, Togi Makabe and Tomohiro Ishii at Wrestle Kingdom 9 was the first-ever live NJPW match I saw.

– Toa Henare on Shingo Takagi’s elevating of the NEVER Championship.

It is nearly impossible to put into words the enormity and importance of Takagi’s career in a single spotlight piece. However, it should help solve the mystery behind the Dragon.

Shingo Takagi made his pro wrestling debut in October 2004. After he became the first graduate of the Dragon Gate dojo. During his time as a trainee, he had many influences, and one that would impact his later career was the training he had under Animal Hamaguchi, one of the pillars of Japanese wrestling with a strong amateur background.

In his first few years in the business, Takagi also won the 2005 Wrestling Observer Rookie of the Year award which showed that the Dragon always had the potential to be this amazing wrestler even then.

Shingo Takagi –
In Ring of Honor

During his early years, he also began wrestling for Ring of Honor (ROH) in America. Although not in the long run, he managed to beat the Briscoe Brothers in Liverpool, England with Nauki Doi in Match 2007 to become ROH World Tag Team Champions. He also had huge matches against the likes of Tyler Black, Kevin Steen, and El Generico.

The first major run for Takagi in Dragon Gate came on May 10th, 2007. This happened after forming a stable New Hazard. They defeated the Typhoon team of Cima, Susumu Yokosuka, and Ryo Saito for the Triangle Gate Championship with BxB Hulk and Cyber Kong.

The trio held the belts for just over two months but had to vacate the titles after BxB Hulk had a jaw injury.

This was the first of many accomplishments for Shingo Takagi

Throughout his career in Dragon Gate, Shingo’s list of titles seemed endless. He won the Open the Dream Gate Championship 4 times; a 6 time Open the Triangle Gate Champion and a 5 time Open the twin Gate Champion just to name a few.

Alongside these amazing title reigns, he also had some amazing storylines and matches from the hour draw match with former faction member BxB Hulk, his rivalry with CIMA, and the creation of VerserK.

For so many Dragon Gate fans, Shingo became one of the promotion’s very best dominating his opponents with his Japanese strong style. This meant that Takagi’s announcement in September 2018 that he was graduating from the company to become a freelancer.

A Freelancer No More

After rumors started, Tetsuya Naito announced that there was going to be a new LIJ member. Shingo Takagi was among the rumored names.

During King of Pro Wrestling, those who thought Takagi was the newest member were proved correct. At the time, many saw Takagi’s arrival as a replacement for Hiromu but that was far from the truth. Although many who were unaware of Takagi might have seen this as an odd choice. It made perfect sense if you looked at the history between Shingo and Tetsuya Naito.

Shingo Takagi:
A Match Made in Heaven

In several interviews, both Takagi and Naito have always stated that it was always the plan for Takagi to join LIJ.

I got asked this same question when I first came to NJPW. I said Kota Ibushi then, and that hasn’t changed. I’ve wrestled Naito, I’ve wrestled Ishimori now.

I’m definitely interested in the guys that are the same age as me, and I’m definitely interested in doing it sooner rather than later. I don’t want to wait until we’re in our 40s, after saying ‘we need to do this’ for over a decade.

– Takagi on the one person he wanted to face in Kota Ibushi

Shingo quickly made waves in the New Japan Jr division by winning the Jr Tag titles. He did so after defeating fellow LIJ member Bushi at Wrestle Kingdom 13. Takagi had an 8-month period, where he wasn’t pinned or submitted.

Although this ended after losing to Will Ospreay in the Best of Super Junior 29 final. He still finished the tournament with an almost perfect record. This was whilst putting on some amazing matches combining the speed and agility of a Junior. This included the strength of a heavyweight wrestler.

The Next Challenge

After this, Takagi knew that he needed a new challenge. Alongside Ospreay, he entered the G1 Climax 29 as a Junior Heavyweight. Despite being in the Jr division, Takagi had an extremely effective first tournament beating 4 heavyweight wrestlers.

This included Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii, Taichi, and the seemingly unbeatable Toru Yano. At the end of the tournament, unsurprisingly, Takagi announced his move to the heavyweight division.

It seemed natural because although he’d always classed himself as an ‘openweight wrester’. His build and style were more suited to the New Japan heavyweight division.

However, Takagi never got rid of his ‘Openweight’ moniker. This is what probably defines him as the best at this moment.

After winning the Openweight 6-Man Tag Team titles at Wrestle Kingdom 14, Takagi then went on to beat Goto for the NEVER Openweight title. Shingo was then called the King of the Openweight division by holding both belts.

You’re seeing there’s just so much more interest in all of these potential matches. NEVER’s got its own special something. Its own psychology. – Toa Henare on what Shingo winning the NEVER title has done for the division

Championship Pursuits

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t, but I really don’t think there’s any need for disruption within Los Ingobernables De Japon at the moment.

LIJ has seven belts right now; the IWGP Intercontinental and Heavyweight, the NEVER Openweight, IWGP Junior Heavy, and three NEVER 6-Man Tag belts. I don’t recall another faction ever being able to pull that off.

I wrestle for myself and for my team and I have a lot of personal pride, and I want what I want, but there’s no reason to wreck a good thing right now. But yeah, I’m not uninterested.

– Takagi on his future championship pursuits

For Shingo, he wants to really raise the standards of the NEVER division. The division has had a history of title changes. The Dragon wants to keep those titles. It represents the ‘hard-hitting, anything-goes NEVER spirit and mentality.’