Unlike in North America, in Japan retirements are treated as a very big deal and it is usual for a wrestler to announce their retirement and then have a retirement tour. These retirement tours are a highly emotional affair, especially when they are beloved like Dick Togo, who earlier this year said that he will be retiring from the squared circle at the end of the year.
“There were several moments before turning 40 that I was considering retiring,” Togo, 42 told SLAM! Wrestling through an interpreter during the United Kingdom leg of his retirement tour. “But this year is my 20th anniversary since starting in the wrestling business, so I thought this was a good and fitting period to finish my career.”
“I have a lot of injuries, suffered in my 20 years; these are from the many bumps that I have taken.”
On June 30th, Togo wrestled his final match in Japan for promotion Dramatic Dream Team on the Dick Togo Japanese Retirement Show from the world-renowned Korakuen Hall in Tokyo.
It was believed by many to be a surprising choice for tag team specialist Gedo to have Togo’s final match on Japanese soil, but Togo explains why he handpicked Gedo and why it turned out to be the best match in his career.
“Gedo was my teacher when I started professional wrestling, I always wanted to wrestle him. This was my first single match against my teacher and ultimately will be my last with him and last ever match in Japan. I wanted to show Gedo everything I had ever learnt from him, it was very special,” Togo said.
“There are so many matches in my career that I look fondly back on but one match that will always stand out will be my last against Gedo. That was so special and by far my greatest match.”
Throughout his legendary career which has seen him wrestle all over the world, he has claimed many championships including the NWA International Lightweight Tag Team championship with Ikuto Hidaka, the British Commonwealth Junior Heavyweight Championship and, most significantly, the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team championships with Taka Michinoku, this being the title win he is most proud of.
“Teaming with Taka and winning the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Titles was a great accomplishment because New Japan Pro Wrestling is such a big company with so many great men in the past holding those belts. I was so proud of me and Taka,” he said.
Irish star Prince Devitt got a chance to work the shows with Togo in the UK, and reflected on a career that intersected in the ring. “The first title I won in Japan was IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Titles and it was me and Minoru who beat Taka and Dick Togo so that was such a huge honour to me that they dropped the belts,” said Devitt. “So to be wrestling on the same card, sharing this moment with him makes me very proud. Before he came on this tour I had spoken with him previously saying I would like to be on the same show. Everyone in England is sad to see him go, but what a way to go out doing a world tour.”
Togo states this one of his most proudest moments in his career though was getting the chance to wrestle in Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment, as part of the group Kaientai.
“First Taka Michinoku went to WWE, which opened doors for others like myself to have a chance there. Then the WWE had a big show in the Ryogoku Kokugikan arena in Tokyo, which is a big hall in Japan where sumo wrestling and New Japan Pro Wrestling events are held. The Undertaker and one of the talent scouts of WWE saw my match and were interested in doing something with me and the rest of Kaientai,” Togo explained.
“I enjoyed the feud that Kaientai had against Taka, then he joined us and we went against Val Venis. With Venis, he was a porn star and Kaientai looked down on this and I enjoyed the feud and trying to make him impotent. I enjoyed the story and was just happy to be involved in WWE and a major storyline.
“I didn’t have any worries about settling in the company as WWE at that time were looking for something different. I was always a big fan of them and the company.”
Twenty years on from starting his wrestling training, at Universal Pro Wrestling, a Japanese lucha promotion, which forced him to squat 3,000 times a day, Togo understands that retirement is something that the industry should strive to rebuild. Once a career is over, it is over and that retirement is not something a wrestler should decide to do lightly.
Devitt praised Togo’s contributions to pro wrestling. “You just have to look at his work to see how much he’s influenced, I think, everybody in wrestling. His movement, his bumps, his selling everything is top class and as a person he’s a great guy with a happy-go-lucky personality. I’ve been a big fan all my life, will always be and that will still continue.”
Looking back at his career, Togo said he has no regrets at all and wouldn’t change a thing.
“I am completely happy with my 20 years in the business. I have done everything I ever wanted to do and more. I am happy that fans are letting me share my retirement all over the world. It’s been great to showcase the Japanese style of wrestling in countries such as Australia, Finland, Germany, Belgium and England.
“I will end my tour in the United States, where I hope to educate the U.S. fans on the Japanese style of wrestling.”
During the U.S. leg of his tour, Togo will be wrestling on the “The Indie Summit 2011” show which takes place on December 3, 2011 at the Asylum Arena in Philadelphia, PA and he will also be appearing on Pro Wrestling Guerrilla’s “The Fear” show when he takes on El Generico. This takes place on December 10th from the American Legion Post #308, California, USA.
Darren Wood was highly emotional when witnessing Togo’s last ever match on British soil.