Dick Togo: Bullet Club’s Newest Brawler

Credit: NJPW

The world of New Japan has been forever darkened. Winning the New Japan Cup with the startling assistance of Bullet Club put an exclamation mark on the devilish actions EVIL had been showing throughout the tournament. He chose victory and joined Bullet Club, thus alienating himself from his brothers in Los Ingobernables de Japon. The next day at Dominion, EVIL unequivocally shocked the world by defeating Naito for the double IWGP Heavyweight and IWGP Intercontinental Championships.

However EVIL didn’t triumph on his own, Bullet Club were waiting in the shadows to help. Oddly, a bulky looking BUSHI came to the ring to seemingly help Naito, before sharply turning and attacking Naito to aid EVIL. Post-match the mysterious looking BUSHI revealed himself to be Dick Togo!

The newest member to the New Japan roster and the ever strengthening Bullet Club, Dick Togo is a veteran in every possible sense of the word. For over 29 years he has been stepping into the squared circle across the globe, from the WWF attitude era to DDT, from ECW to Pro Wrestling NOAH and most notably Michinoku Pro Wrestling. He hasn’t been given the spotlight on a big stage that he perhaps has deserved in the past but now he finds himself on the biggest stage he has had in decades.

Ironically, EVIL and Dick fit in with Bullet Club based on their names alone. Throughout his career he has rarely been the star man, the main event player, but Dick is as solid as they come, a proven stalwart. The Bullet Club roots run deep for Togo; in 2001 he teamed with Gedo to win the UWA/UWF Intercontinental Tag Team Championship in Michinoku Pro Wrestling; in 2002 he teamed with both Gedo and Jado at the annual NJPW Tokyo Dome show (now Wrestle Kingdom).

Undoubtedly the most famous of Dick Togo’s time in wrestling came during his short stint with WWF in 1998 as part of Kai En Tai, a Japanese stable that included Taka Michinoku and Funaki. Kai En Tai are infamous in wrestling lore for their feud with Val Venis, a feud that saw the group try to “choppy choppy” Venis’ “pee pee”. Indeed, the newest member of Bullet Club tried to chop Val Venis’ “pee pee” with a sword. Other than that his time with WWF was entirely forgettable, mostly competing in tag matches. He did challenge Christian for the WWF Light Heavyweight Championship, although the match lasted less than 4 minutes.

Away from the shenanigans of WWF, Togo made an impact one year prior in ECW. In 1997, Togo was part of ECW’s first ever PPV event, Barely Legal. Teaming with Taka Michinoku and Terry Boy as part of Blue World Order Japan they took on The Great Sasuke, Gran Hamada and Masato Yakushiji. It was an exhibition in a wrestling style that Western audiences were mostly unaware of at the time, with the six Japanese men putting on a showcase that wowed. Lightning let out of a bottle for 17 wild minutes.

Credit: WWE

Michinoku Pro Wrestling is synomous with Togo and it is where he has spent the vast majority of his career. He has wrestled under the promotion’s banner since 1993 and he was still active with them a week before helping EVIL win at Dominion. With Michinoku Pro he has held four different championships and won two tag tournaments. He was the inaugural Tohoku Junior Heavyweight Champion, winning a tournament that included Curry Man (Christopher Daniels), Tomohiro Ishii and Tiger Mask to earn the title.

He notably held the British Commonwealth Junior Heavyweight Championship, a title that he lost to Jushin Thunder Liger and, in turn, Liger took the title to NJPW where it was combined with seven other junior heavyweight belts to form the J-Crown. Other greats to hold the same championship include Último Dragón, El Samurai and The Great Sasuke.

Togo has a 5 star match on his resume too, a 10 man tag match in 1996 for Michinoku Pro. We might call this match a spot fest, but it is a hallmark for what we often seen in the ring today. 24 years ago this group of 10 men were performing moves that still amaze us now, pulling out feats of scary ability that are rarely imitated.

On four occasions he has held DDT’s KO-D Openweight Championship (2005, 2008, 2010 and 2011). Other names to have held the same championship include Kenny Omega, Kota Ibushi and El Generico (Sami Zayn).

Unlike the high flying junior heavyweights Togo has been surrounded by throughout his career, he is far more of a technician and brawler. The flying ability is assuredly there, however the bulky Togo adopted a different style. Truly a hoss heavyweight in spirit.

When it comes to New Japan, Togo already has experience within the cerulean blue ring. Most recently, in 2017 Togo defeated Young Lion Hirai Kawato (now Master Wato) during Lion’s Gate Project7, and practically knocked Kawato’s head off with a vicious lariat to his forehead in the process. Before then Togo competed sporadically for the company from 1994 – 2011, with the height of his success coming in May 2007 when he won the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship alongside Taka Michinoku.

In 2012 Togo retired, having completed a retirement world tour. The retirement lasted less than four years and Togo has been active on the Japanese wrestling scene ever since, primarily back in the ring with Michinoku Pro.

At 50 years old a prevalent question might be what he has to offer to a stacked New Japan roster. To that point, watch his Global Junior Heavyweight League tournament final match against Daisuke Harada from 30th January 2020 in Pro Wrestling NOAH. Togo had even wrestled earlier that same night, winning his semi-final match before going facing Harada in the final. It’s a match that sees the wily maestro Togo come in with a wise game plan. He takes away Harada’s lethal kicks and is often one step ahead, until Harada unleashes a flurry of ferocious German suplexes that overwhelm Togo. Aware that he isn’t as young as he used to be, Togo ensures he can still tell a compelling story.

Credit: NJPW

New Japan provides Togo with a worldwide stage that he hasn’t had since the late 1990s. A stage that he shares with one of the most lucrative factions of all time in Bullet Club. Togo has always put on performances on the stage he has been given, although the spotlight has often not shined on him. EVIL stole that spotlight from Naito, giving Togo time in the light as well.

This is a chance to rekindle the flame that gets weaker with age. Fans will be looking at Togo’s past so they can understand the man standing in the present and gain an appreciation for his body of work. An entire new generation of fans are getting the luxury of discovering a revered wrestler.

Time is an enemy that cannot be defeated so Dick may be looking to take his final rise. As proven earlier this year, he is still a titan when he steps into the ring. Dick can penetrate an entirely new landscape with New Japan, it would be a profound waste to simply have him be second to EVIL.

Togo should be challenging for Hiromu Takahashi’s IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship, adding the next page to EVIL’s LIJ betrayal. Togo should be teaming up with fellow Bullet Club juniors Taiji Ishimori and El Phantasmo to vie for tag gold. If the Best of the Super Juniors is rescheduled it will be the prime chance for Togo to show himself like he has never been afforded before.

Dick Togo may not be at his peak, but he can easily throw hands with the upper echelon of New Japan, his diving senton finish crushes his opponents for the three count. As an expert with decades of experience, there is no concern that he will fit in comfortably. For many this will be their first time seeing Dick; to those lucky fans, you have a lot of Dick to look forward to.