Shingo Takagi has the opportunity to claim the top spot in New Japan Pro Wrestling.
On June 7th at the promotion's Dominion event, Takagi will take on Kazuchika Okada for the vacant IWGP World Heavyweight Championship. The previous Champion, Will Ospreay sustained a neck injury at NJPW Wrestling Dontaku and was forced to relinquish the title as a result. He had successfully defended the belt against Takagi at NJPW Wrestling Dontaku and was scheduled to defend it against Okada at NJPW Wrestle Grand Slam before the event was postponed.
Okada is a five-time IWGP Heavyweight Champion and also possesses the lengthiest reign at 720 days. Shingo, on the other hand, has yet to hold the belt and since his arrival to NJPW in 2018, but is a two-time NEVER Openweight Champion. Winning this match could prove to be a legacy-altering moment in the 17-year veterans' career, a fact that is not lost on him. He said as much while speaking with Sports Illustrated's Justin Barrasso:
“I have worked very hard, physically and mentally, to get to this match,” said Takagi, speaking through a translator. “This is the opportunity of my career, my chance to make this moment real and win the championship.”
“I am focused on being champion,” added Takagi. “Honestly, I have a bit of an inferiority complex. I’m smaller as a heavyweight, so I need to be different than other heavyweights. I am thick and fit, but I can also move faster. I need to be mobile. For this upcoming match, I thought about how I felt after the Ospreay match. I was genuinely sad to come so close but not win. I have worked a long time to reach this point, and this is now my chance.”
That inferiority complex even resulted in Takagi adopting his signature hair-do, a way of reaching the height he felt was necessary to become a professional wrestler.
“I was trying to get taller, but my growth stopped,” said Takagi. “If I wanted to be a pro wrestler, I thought I needed to be 6’0”. That’s why I have a Mohawk, and that’s why I make it so big."
Shingo has been praying for a victory and concedes that he may need some luck, but is hopeful he will emerge victoriously at Dominion. If he is unsuccessful, he's not yet sure what that will mean for him.
“My fingers are clinging onto the cliff, but I can climb to the top only if I defeat Okada,” said Takagi. “This is must-win. I don’t know what will happen to me if I lose. Maybe no more title matches, maybe it prevents from competing in the G1 later this year."
Takagi spent the first 14 years of his career in Dragon Gate. His brief time in NJPW has also seen him capture the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship and the NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship.
Stay tuned to Fightful for news and results from Dominion as they become available on June 7th.