On New Japan Pro-Wrestling‘s website, Hiromu Takahashi discussed coming back from a career-threatening neck injury, why he doesn’t watch any of his matches back, and why he wanted his return to be a surprise.
Check out highlights below:
On waiting to make his return a surprise:
The one thought I had was ‘I’m glad I stayed hidden for a year and a half.’ Once I decided on a goal, I didn’t want to just go out there early and blow it. So I did my best to bide my time.
That frustration is always going to build. But a key point of spending time away was thinking about how best to come back rather than be concerned with showing the world ‘this is how I feel now, this is the color of my hair right now, this is the tan I have right now,’ all that.
On not watching his matches but re-watching his injury:
I’ve watched that moment so many times now. Over and over, where I get dumped on my head. In slow motion.
The thing is I don’t actually like watching myself. I don’t watch my matches back. We’ll be on the LIJ bus and Naito will be saying ‘did you watch the match back last night? If you did this instead of that it’d be better’. And I’ll go, ‘yeah, you’re right, for sure…’ but I never watch the matches back. I don’t want to look back on my matches, don’t want to reflect. If I do that, I’ll just be hung up on thinking where things weren’t any good. I’ll rarely watch anything back.
[I watch the injury because] I feel like I shouldn’t ever forget it. Some part of me shouldn’t move on from that. The moment it happened, I thought, ‘Oh, man, I’m done wrestling.’ For a moment I was paralyzed there and I was thinking ‘Well, that’s it.’
On continuing to rescue despite the injury:
Asami came over and I told him to stop the match. But I had so many thoughts going through my head. That this can’t be the end, that I can’t end my career like this. I think all in about a second. And just that stubbornness kicked in, not wanting to lose to Lee, or lose the (IWGP Junior Heavyweight) title… And right as I’m thinking that I can’t end my career like this, I tried to move my hands and feet and I had feeling back. So I told Asami to keep going. I think my actual words were ‘just kidding!’ Asami had a really worried look on his face, like ‘are you sure?’ And I was thinking, this is what strength is.
Like you’re OK just throwing everything away. I can’t describe what it’s like, but the feeling someone has when they’ve decided they can retire, that it can end. It’s like I was high. I felt invincible. I took moves from him after that and didn’t feel a thing. Just kept going. That invincibility, it was something else. And then, all of a sudden ‘Hey! I won!’
I think that’s why I pulled through in the end. Anyhow, I won, and thought ‘OK, now’s the time to look cool and tough.’ Right that instant is when all the pain came and I realized I wasn’t going to play to the crowd. I just thought ‘OK, at the very least, walk out on your own two feet and hold the belt up at the end.’ And that, I thought, was the end of my career.
The reaction when he reached backstage:
Naito goes ‘are you OK?’ and I just reply ‘no.’ That’s when I couldn’t move anymore. The trainers were right there, I was taken care of right away. I was just really calm, it was strange. Adrenaline is a scary thing. That ring is a strange place. A strange source of power. You get a surge of strength in there, do what shouldn’t be possible.
Before that in the trainer’s room just before I went to the hospital, a lot of thoughts were going through my head. I couldn’t move, but I was thinking, hey, I’m still alive, right? I can probably still wrestle. I even asked the trainer when the next tour started, but he told me, ‘Don’t even think about it!’
… So much was going through my head, and a big thing was thinking that I had my last match, in San Francisco, against Ryu Lee. I was that convinced about it, that you could say that I did retire then. December 21 isn’t so much Hiromu Takahashi’s comeback as it is my second debut.
Check out even more from Takahashi in the full interview.