Sanshiro Takagi pays out of pocket for the wild genius of Gake no Fuchi Pro

(This article, written by Norihiro Hashimoto, originally appeared in Japanese on Abema Fight Times.)

Sanshiro Takagi, president and “big boss” of Dramatic Dream Team (DDT), has taken up a new business venture with an unexpected wrestling promotion.

On November 11, Takagi held an event to commemorate the recent publication of his book, Growing a Small-Fry Five-Million-Yen-a-Year Wrestling Promotion into a Subsidiary of a Major Publicly-Listed Company. Part of the festivities included a press conference with a surprise announcement.

Attendees were told beforehand that the announcement “might shake the pro-wrestling world to the core” – and nothing else. Amid the ensuing atmosphere of intrigue, Takagi called on freelance wrestler Miyako Matsumoto to join him.

Takagi and Matsumoto then announced that ownership of Matsumoto’s Gake no Fuchi (“Cliff’s Edge”) Pro Wrestling had been handed over to Takagi. Takagi purchased the promotion – since renamed to Gake no Fuchi Joshi Pro Wrestling – with his own personal funds. Thus, Gake no Fuchi Joshi will remain unaffiliated with DDT. Fundamentally, all decision-making and steering for the promotion will be handled by Matsumoto; hardly new, considering she has been Gake no Fuchi’s sole operator since its founding in 2011.

Several members of the general press, attending to cover the launch of Takagi’s book, were bemused by the announcement. While a contingent of hardcore fans welcomed the news, there’s little wonder that the announcement threw most attendees into confusion.

Miyako Matsumoto retired from her spot on the Ice Ribbon roster in July of this year to continue wrestling as a freelancer. Though widely regarded as a “complete underachiever,” Matsumoto has held the ICE x Infinity championship, Ice Ribbon’s top belt; produced an idol group starring two of her junior wrestlers, as well as debuting as an idol herself; and organized events of her own, both in and out of the world of professional wrestling. For an “underachiever,” Matsumoto’s achievements are considerable.

Gake no Fuchi Pro Wrestling could be her finest work. Originally founded while Matsumoto was temporarily exiled from Ice Ribbon, Gake no Fuchi has only ever had one full-time member on the roster: Matsumoto herself. Truly standing on the metaphorical cliff’s edge, the promotion became known for irregularly-scheduled and bizarre events that nonetheless gathered a fervent audience of fans.

Most Gake no Fuchi events consist of a single one-on-one match. Many are for three falls out of five, with several possible variations. Some stipulations force wrestlers to stump each other with riddles; others follow “you laugh, you lose” rules. One match awarded victory to the first wrestler to defeat a notoriously-difficult Red Arremer in the video game Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins. Gake no Fuchi events stretch the boundaries of professional wrestling, if not shatter them entirely, yet they’ve still attracted such wrestling luminaries as Minoru Suzuki. It’s fair to say that Miyako Matsumoto’s unusual genius is directly reflected in Gake no Fuchi. Though staff and audience alike both often felt completely lost during events, Gake no Fuchi always left them glad to have been there.

Though nearly four years have passed since Gake no Fuchi’s most recent show, Takagi is eager for the promotion to resume activity as Gake no Fuchi Joshi. Many of Gake no Fuchi’s past events were held as send-offs for wrestlers as they retired or departed from their home promotions, but Takagi expressed hope that Gake no Fuchi Joshi will enjoy an even greater degree of freedom as it puts on new events, rather than sticking to past patterns. Despite the addition of “joshi” to the name, participation won’t be limited to female wrestlers.

“[Gake no Fuchi] has something to tell the world, as a subcultural phenomenon,” says Takagi. “This is extremely cultured women’s wrestling. I hope it broadcasts a new history for women’s wrestling to the whole world.”

From his comments, Takagi is clearly passionate about the project. Now that her own considerable talents have been purchased, Matsumoto adds, “You could say I’ve been headhunted. So I want to keep that up, and start buying up fresh talent as soon as possible. I think we’ll be able to snatch up a lot.”

This ominous proclamation drew criticism from Takagi: “That’s a very Showa-era way of thinking, but we’re living in the Reiwa era now.” [Takagi’s rejoinder is a direct reference to comments made by Bushiroad president Takaaki Kidani to Stardom president Rossy Ogawa, regarding Ogawa’s wrestler recruitment practices.] Takagi clearly considered this announcement important, stating that he’d “preferred to have held it somewhere near Meiji Kinenkan.” [The event site where Bushiroad announced their purchase of Stardom.]

At any rate, Miyako Matsumoto – a top-class source for unprecedented behavior both in and out of the ring – now has the full backing of Sanshiro Takagi, the most childish man in wrestling, with Gake no Fuchi Joshi. Expectations are sky-high among a certain type of wrestling fan.

Gake no Fuchi Joshi will hold its inaugural show on December 24, 2019, at the Warabi Wrestling Arena (better known to some as the Ice Ribbon dojo). What messages will Gake no Fuchi transmit to the world from this, one of the smallest arenas the metropolitan area has to offer? This reporter can’t help but wait with a wry smile.

Lastly, Takagi reiterates that Gake no Fuchi Joshi is not a DDT sub-brand and has no plans to interact with DDT’s existing women’s sub-brand, Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling. When pressed for comment as to whether Matsumoto was now an affiliate of DDT’s parent company CyberAgent, Takagi stressed, “absolutely not.”