Yesterday, we took a look at one of the worst Cruiserweight Champions of all time. Today, our eyes our on the future, as we profile an up-and-coming junior who’s blazing through the international wrestling scene, Hiromu Takahashi, better known as Kamaitachi. In Japanese folklore, a Kamaitachi is a yokai (supernatural being) that flies through the air and assaults people with limbs like razors. In wrestling, Kamaitachi translates to roughly the same thing.
At just 26 years old, the 181 lb. Takahashi began his career in the spring of 2009 when he was accepted into the illustrious New Japan Pro Wrestling Dojo. The dojo has historically turned out some of the top international names in professional wrestling, ranging from current grapplers like Shinsuke Nakamura, Finn Balor, and Samoa Joe to legendary technicians like Chris Benoit, Jushin “Thunder” Liger, and Daniel Bryan. Generally considered an invitation-only establishment, the NJPW Dojo accepted the impressive then-19-year-old Takahashi during a round of open tryouts. A year later, he’d made his debut for the promotion, serving as a “young lion,” an unassuming enhancement talent for more established stars. As is customary in NJPW, Takahashi put in his time losing matches on the undercard while he picked up experience. He competed in the 2012 Super Juniors cup, replacing Black Tiger, but he lost almost all of his matches. He entered the tournament again the following year, and was met with even less success.
And then, in 2014, things changed. Hiromu Takahashi was sent to Mexico to further hone his craft in CMLL, with whom NJPW has a working talent exchange relationship. He donned a mask, acquired a mean streak, and adopted a heel (or rudo) persona. Thus, Kamaitachi was born.
Takahashi did not find immediate success in CMLL in terms of wins and loses, but the exposure and recognition he was gaining as Kamaitachi was impossible to ignore. He almost immediately entered a rivalry with Dragon Lee, an ultra-popular 20-year-old Lucha star. In March of 2015, the two had a mask vs mask match, of which Kamaitachi was the loser. Unmasked but undeterred, Kamaitachi continued his feud with Lee, challenging him for the CMLL World Lightweight Championship in July. Suffering another loss, Kamaitachi’s hopes were on the ropes. His relentlessness would finally pay off months later, across continents, in an exciting turn of events.
In January 2016, Japan played host to a 4-day series of shows called Fantastica Mania, co-promoted by NJPW and CMLL. It was at this event that Kamaitachi made his first Japanese appearance since leaving for Mexico two years earlier. Upon his return, Kamaitachi delivered a big-time German Suplex to Dragon Lee that made his intentions clear – he was here for Lee’s CMLL World Lightweight Championship. The following night, Kamaitachi finally claimed success, winning his first professional title. His glory was short-lived as he exchanged the title back to Dragon Lee two months later, but Kamaitachi had accomplished what he’d set out to do, and he did so in dramatic fashion.
The rivalry between Kamaitachi and Dragon Lee is lauded as one of the best of 2015. The Wrestling Observer placed it 4th in their feud of the year rankings, ahead of such vendettas as Undertaker vs Brock Lesnar and Kevin Owens vs Sami Zayn. After the feud wrapped up, with little left to learn in Japan or Mexico, Kamaitachi set his sights on the United States. Making his Ring of Honor debut in a match against ACH in April of this year, Kamaitachi has since shown his chops in Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, competing in the company’s Battle of Los Angeles event just two weeks ago.
Having trained in both Japan and Mexico, Kamaitachi’s style combines the heavy strikes of the NJPW Dojo with the high-flying artistry of Lucha Libre tradition. He’s a true master of the drop kick, and relies heavily on leg attacks in general as he employs superkicks and knee strikes to wear down his opponents. He has a beautiful series of rolling German suplexes in his arsenal, and often leans on a variety of drivers, hurricanranas, and top rope maneuvers to inflict damage before putting opponents away with the Canadian Destroyer.
Having just gotten to the United States, Kamaitachi is probably still a couple of years away from making a huge stateside impact. His already lethal blend of styles is serving him well though, and with a little more seasoning, he’ll be a force to be reckoned with. With kicks like his, unsuspecting opponents may soon be left wondering if they’d just fought a man, or the Kamaitachi monster of Japanese folkloric tradition.