Takeshi Morishima was arrested on November 4th in Kabukichō, Tokyo for punching a taxi driver and breaking his cheekbones, in a row over fare.
Fare he didn’t have by the way, which came to about 18,000 yen. It wasn’t just a case of him leaving his wallet at home, he had deliberately gotten a cab without it.
Details later emerged about Morishima’s disturbing state of mind and sequence of behavior leading up to the event, but we need to look further back to see the roots of the problem.
The majority of wrestlers enter the dojo system very young; usually about seventeen or eighteen. The rules are they must be healthy in body and mind, and have a High School Diploma. They usually go from the closed world of High School sports, into the cloistered world of the dojo. They go straight from their parents houses too. In the dojo they devote themselves to training, and they are only allowed out perhaps for an hour or so on a Saturday, and then perhaps only to a local convenience store, and if there are enough people to wait in the dojo on the seniors, they may even be allowed out to the cinema.
Nightlife, drinking, women, socializing, are all forbidden, and in many ways they are like Geisha, they wait on their elders and the people of their own age they do meet, they find they have little in common with, unless they too are in wrestling.
In the dojo their days are regimented, and even when they make their debuts and are allowed a little more freedom, their lives are still controlled and although they don’t have the cooking\cleaning\waiting on senior in the dojo schedule anymore or knocking on doors in the morning in hotels to get hungover, bruised, battered, and exhausted wrestlers out of bed, they have tours and promotional duties, and people are on hand to tell them where they should be. The same thing happens with touring bands, some people get so used to it, they wind up taking their families shopping at 4am; some people go from tour to tour, never going home.
The lucky ones (and this is most of them) adjust well to their freedom, some marry and have a support network of partners and children or else family, others leave and still stay in the wrestling business in some way, they become trainers, start their own promotions, promote events, open restaurants, write books.
Others do not adjust (although it is rare), and very sadly Takeshi Morishima seems to have been one of these people, who did not, although he did try to get some experience for life after wrestling, it doesn’t seem to have lasted long (and the company no longer exists).
It also didn’t help that he seemed to be pathologically lonely, and came from a small fragmented family, who he didn’t seem particularly close to, which is why in later years he clung to Kenoh, whom he used to call at midnight to chat. Kenoh always said that Morishima was a generous person, who never let him pay for anything. Morishima’s kindness was such that when he made his debut, he bought young Hitoshi Kumano a steak dinner.
Kenoh credits him with teaching him how to live as a wrestler, and it is a shame that Morishima could not ultimately take his own advice.
In 2016, Takeshi Morishima started his downward spiral, probably caused by a depressive condition and burnout (he was an active wrestler and had corporate duties as well following the shake up after Misawa’s death), but maybe there was an underlying condition as well that emerged at that time. His diagnosis of diabetes hit him hard its true (and Kenoh said he cried bitterly, both in the ring and outside of it), and his mental health deteriorated under the shock of being advised to retire, but at the same time he was posting odd things on social media, like rambling crazy statements about things which made no sense. Wrestling was all he had ever known, aside from High School Judo.
He left NOAH under a cloud, and vanished for three years. In the three years he was missing he bounced from job to job, concert security, bouncer, bartender, pizza maker, deliveryman for fast food, luggage porter, flower-shop employee, the list goes on.
In July 2018 he announced out of the blue that he was returning to wrestling, and he would hold his comeback event at Korakuen Hall in October on his 40th birthday, which he would call “GENESIS”. It was later announced that the main event would be himself versus Takashi Sugiura (NOAH’s GHC Heavyweight Champion). He didn’t look comfortable being there, his body language showed how nervous he was, he spoke with his eyes shut and brushed hair out of his face, he mumbled. Afterwards he practically fled the arena and got into a waiting car and collapsed against the seats. A feature with BATTLEMEN served to highlight how fragile he was.
“GENESIS” was never going to happen, and maybe that was for the best.
On the 10th September, Morishima was rushed to hospital after suffering severe pain in his feet, which was later diagnosed as “septic arthritis” (a condition diabetics are susceptible to) and he underwent emergency surgery. The event was called off and it was announced it would be rescheduled at a later date.
No replacement date was ever announced, as it seemed Morishima’s behavior was becoming not just erratic, but dangerous. When he appeared at “Flight” a few weeks before his hospitalization, fans expressed concern at his behavior, Kenoh (it seemed) was also worried by it, but Takashi Sugiura was angered by it and blasted him for being rude as to go so far to plug his own event, make a challenge to him and then leave.
It’s sadly true. Morishima, didn’t stay around for the aftershow party (although Kenoh had hoped he would), but left to drink with Takeshi Rikio and post comments like “I am not interested in Uchida’s NOAH, I am only interested in Misawa’s NOAH”.
An odd comment to make for a man who had been invited to a 20th anniversary for someone he had a rocky relationship with about a promotion he had arranged to fight the champion of.
After the cancellation of the event, everything went quiet on Morishima, and people assumed that aside from the “naked drinking with DDT” (usual wrestler antics that no one takes much notice of), that he had gone back to training for his eventual return and rehabbing from surgery.
His odd behavior of turning up at Puro Weekly unannounced and in a Halloween Mask, and then posing with an issue, raised eyebrows, but the people of Kabukichō told a different story.
After his arrest it was discovered that Morishima had spent the days, not training, but drunk and wandering around the district, telling everyone he was “a star”. It was later revealed that he would take a taxi to the district, and then ask people in the bars and any wrestlers he recognized who where there, for money for the taxi. This led to several establishments banning him due to the harassment of their patrons, and, as his behavior was less than exemplary, he soon gained a reputation as a mean drunk.
Housing also appeared to be an issue for him at this time (he used to have a beautiful apartment during his NOAH days and he kept a box of candy when he settled down to watch films), but now it seemed he was virtually homeless, sleeping at the homes of people he had known for a few hours, one time even as a live in employee in a restaurant he worked in. He also used to go and visit indie promotions and beg money from the younger wrestlers, at one time making them collectively cough up 500 yen for his taxi, whom he had left waiting outside while he sat and watched the show.
There were days when he couldn’t even change his clothes.
On the night in question, he came into “The Stanley Bar” which is run by professional wrestler, Naoshi Sano, and tried to borrow money from him. The store manager told him that Mr. Sano wasn’t there, and as he cleaned the store, Morishima made strange comments to him like “I’m a pro wrestler, and your sweeping the floor”, playing with his phone, playing with the mail that had come to the store and eating sweets. In the past he had begged for drinks, only having what amounted to £10.00 or $12.00 in his pocket.
He left saying something like he had a few sweets left, and would be back with friends. During his visit, he apparently grabbed the managers arm, and left a huge bruise.
It is proposed that Morishima took a taxi, and drove around looking for people who he could beg fare off. The driver, realizing that the fare was already very high, stopped the cab and told him to pay, and that is when the row broke out.
Morishima claims he was not drinking; but his reputation is against him, and the manager of “The Stanley Bar” says he has never seen him sober.
News on Morishima has gone very quiet since his arrest, but I don’t think that prison would be the right choice, and neither would giving him his freedom. Morishima needs to be court ordered somewhere to deal with his issues. NOAH offered to help him once, and he wouldn’t take it.
He is only going to get help if he has no other choice, left to his own devices, he is like Takashi Sugiura says, “a child”.
The reaction from the puro world has been one of disappointment, on NOAH’s side, Naomichi Marufuji has said that for his own sake and that of society, Morishima needs to sort himself out. Old friend, Makoto Hashi (long retired and making a good living as a physiotherapist), said that Morishima needs to make a choice as to what he wants to do, he needs to grow as a person, and not as a wrestler.
And that has been Morishima’s problem; he has never managed to escape his own celebrity. It would have been far better for him that when he came back, he announced that he was returning as a trainer, any number of promotions would have snapped him up immediately, who wouldn’t want to say that they had been trained by Takeshi Morishima, who was once known as “NOAH’s Monster” and was one of the greatest and most memorable Ring of Honor champions, who holds the distinction of being the only Japanese one? It would have given him an income, he could have lived at the dojo, his food would have been prepared for him by the trainees, he would have eaten healthily (another bonus as the trainees are fed on dishes high in protein) and he would have had a support network in place of old friends, and people to talk to and importantly, look out for and after him.
But now sadly with this assault charge and odd behavior, who is going to want to be in the ring with him, let alone be trained by him, if he is capable of bouts of temper which seriously injure members of the public?