Tokyo Sports has reported that former one-time ROH World Champion and three-time GHC Heavyweight Champion Takeshi Morishima has decided to retire from pro wrestling immediately at the age of 36, after a blood test revealed he had abnormally high levels of glycated hemoglobin in his blood, which is usually a sign of diabetes.
Morishima made his debut for All Japan Pro Wrestling in early 1998 and was one of many wrestlers, including WWE's Hideo Itami, who broke away from AJPW with Mitsuharu Misawa to form Pro Wrestling NOAH in the summer of 2000. With tremendous speed and agility for a man of his size, he was soon compared favourably to the late Terry Gordy and groomed to be one of the top heavyweight stars to carry NOAH's business long into the future.
As part of that grooming process, he was sent to work in the United States for Ring Of Honor for a year in 2007. Booker Gabe Sapolsky gave him a huge push instantly that saw him defeat Homicide for the ROH World Championship on Feb. 17th, 2007 and successfully retain the title 20 times before dropping the strap to Nigel McGuinness almost eight months later. The reign was a reasonably successful one as his hard hitting matches with McGuinness and Bryan Danielson (aka Daniel Bryan) amongst others got over with the ROH fanbase, although the lack of charisma he demonstrated in the role was a harbinger of things to come.
Misawa passed the torch to Morishima by dropping the GHC Heavyweight title to him in an explosive bout on Mar. 2nd, 2008, at Tokyo's Budokan Hall. Even though he had good quality matches as champion and received the rub of beating Misawa cleanly, he didn't draw well in the position and he lost the belt to Kensuke Sasaki just six months later.
Towards the end of his run as GHC champion, he actually had a tryout with WWE, a deal put together by then Head of Talent Relations John Laurinaitis, with the idea that a successful WWE run would make him a bigger drawing card in Japan upon his return. However, Vince McMahon opted against signing him, after he showed up with a flabby physique and the gut feeling that "the kid can’t connect with the audience" from seeing him perform for the first time.
Although Morishima was always pushed as an upper-tier star and even won NOAH's top belt two more times, he never fully lived up to his potential or the hopes management originally had for him. Nevertheless, his retirement is still a blow to the company, as he was expected to continue playing a key role in the NOAH vs. Suzuki-gun feud (think WCW vs. nWo) that had just been kicked off at the start of the year.