Veteran wrestler Naoki Sano (also known as Takuma Sano during part of his career) has announced his retirement at age 54. Sano confirmed through his personal Facebook account that he officially leaves the quadrilaterals to fully focus on his restaurant, “Takuma Yakiniku”, a business that opened in Kyoto in 2018.
In his message on Facebook, Sano thanks Jushin “Thunder” Liger for his 31-year career and for allowing him to be present in his latest struggles. It should be remembered that Sano participated in Wrestle Kingdom 14 in the last two matches in Liger’s career, preparing for it for months. On January 4 he fought alongside Shinjiro Otani, Tatsuhito Takaiwa and Ryusuke Taguchi against Liger’s team, Tatsumi Fujinami, The Great Sasuke and Tiger Mask IV. On the second night, he competed with Liger against the special team of Hiromu Takahashi and Ryu Lee.
Sano began his pro-wrestling career as soon as he finished high school, joining the New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) dojo in 1984 to debut a few months later. In 1987 he traveled to Mexico to continue developing while working for the Universal Wrestling Association (UWA).
In 1989 he returned to Japan, competing in the first NJPW event at Tokyo Dome, Super Powers Clash. In the first match of the show, Sano won the Young Tokyo Dome Cup. Throughout the year he starred in a rivalry with Jushin “Thunder” Liger, winning the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship.
Sano took part in the flight of talents of several companies towards the Super World of Sports (SWS) in 1990. After the closing of SWS, he decided to join other former costumes in the Union of Wrestling Force International (UWF International), adapting his style. The wrestler came to have outstanding matches during the rivalry between UWF and NJPW. After the closure of UWF, Sano continued working in other pro-wrestling and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) companies such as Kingdom, WAR, PRIDE, and Battlarts.
In 2001 he signed with Pro Wrestling NOAH, becoming known as Takuma Sano. The wrestler began to work in the Heavyweight category, having a role with some relevance in the company. Sano spent more than 10 years at NOAH, highlighting his victory for the Global Honored Crown (GHC) Tag Team Championship alongside Yoshihiro Takayama in 2010. His contract ended two years later, but he continued to make sporadic appearances both in NOAH and in the independent Japanese scene.