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Sunday, October 19, 2014

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All Eyes On...Hiroshi Tanahashi

Nathan (@Headliner5) here once again with another All Eyes On Profile, I wanted to do this piece because of what occurred this past Monday at NJPW’s King Of Pro Wrestling event (I’ll get to that later).  So here we go with the latest All Eyes On Profile: Hiroshi Tanahashi.

Hiroshi Tanahashi
Height: 1.81 m (5’11’’)
Weight: 103 kg (227LBS)
From: Ogaki, Gifu, Japan
Debut: October 10, 1999

After graduating from the New Japan Pro Wrestling dojo, Tanahashi made his debut in October, 1999 in a match against Shinya Makabe.  He was viewed as a big prospect and would earn big wins over Lucha Libre legend Negro Casas in July, 2000 and American wrestling Scott Hall in September 2001. He would continue his rise in popularity at 2002’s G1 Climax (New Japan Pro Wrestling’s most important annual tournament) when he would pin Kensuke Sasaki in just under two minutes. After this development, Tanahashi was paired with Kenzo Suzuki in a tag team named the Kings Of The Hills. This was a short-lived pairing, as it came to an abrupt end after Tanahashi was stabbed in the back, literally, by Hitomi Hara in November 2002.  Hara was a TV news reporter he had dated for a brief amount of time during that year.

Tanahashi was hospitalized, but would make a full recovery. This incident, however, would be perhaps the best thing to happen to his pro career. The stabbing was widely reported across Japan by Japanese Media and it created both a strong interest in Tanahashi and seeing him return to a pro wrestling ring.  He would make his return on February 16, 2003 in a match against Manabu Nakanishi in Tokyo in front of a sold out crowd.

In August 2004, he made it to the finals of the G1 Climax and on January 4, 2005, he headlined the Tokyo Dome show in a match where he would drop the U-30 Openweight Championship to Shinsuke Nakamura. 

On June 7, 2006 Tanahashi vacated the U-30 Openweight Championship in order to put full focus on his next opponent--Brock Lesnar.  He was supposed to face Lesnar, at the time the IWGP Heavyweight Champion. However, Lesnar failed to show up for the match. Thus, he was stripped of the belt and Tanahashi was placed in a tournament for the vacant title.  On July 17, 2006 Tanahashi won his first IWGP Heavyweight Championship when he defeated Giant Bernard (Lord Tensai, Tensai, Jason Albert, etc.) in the finals of the tournament for the vacant title.

Tanahashi would hold on to the belt for almost 9 months (270) days, and defending the title against the likes of Shinsuke Nakamura and others, Tanahashi would go on to lose the title to Yuji Nagata who had won the 2007 New Japan Cup to become the number one contender.  Tanahashi managed to come back from the loss by winning the 2007 G1 Climax, where he defeated Yuji Nagata in the finals, he then successfully challenged his rival to a rematch on October 8, 2007 where he pinned Nagata to regain the title.

On January 4, 2008 Tanahashi was defeated by Shinsuke Nakamura for the IWGP Heavyweight Title in the night’s main event at Wrestle Kingdom II at the Tokyo Dome.  In February’s New Japan ISM Tour, Tanahashi successfully defeated AJ Styles in a highly anticipated rematch of their 2006 bout in TNA. After this, Tanahashi was entered into the coveted New Japan Cup Tournament in which the winner would face off against then IWGP Heavyweight Champion Shinsuke Nakamura as the number one contender. Tanahashi would become the first two-time winner of the New Japan Cup with a win over Giant Bernard.

In mid-February, he was the subject of a contract dispute with New Japan. While negotiations were ongoing, Tanahashi took advantage of his free agent status to compete in All Japan Pro Wrestling’s Champion Carnival. A newly-minted heel, Tanahasi received the “Block from Hell,” as he had to face nearly all of All Japan’s top talent. This list included the likes of Satoshi Kojima, Toshiaki Kawada, and even his mentor Keiji Mutoh.  He went undefeated but would come up short in the finals losing to Suwama.

On January 4, at Wrestle Kingdom III in Tokyo Dome, Tanahashi defeated his mentor Keiji Mutoh to become the 50th IWGP Heavyweight Champion. This win began his third reign with the belt.  

Later, in a press conference, when asked who he would like his next opponent to be, Tanahashi without hesitation called out Shinsuke Nakamura. Nakamura accepted and on February 15, Tanahashi defeated Nakamura with a High Fly Elbow in his first title defense. After the match he was challenged by Kurt Angle. Tanahashi would defeat Angle on April 5 at New Japan’s Resolution 09 with two High Fly Flows. He would lose the title to Manabu Nakanishi on May 6 at Dissidence 09.  He would regain the title from Nakanishi on June 20 at Dominion 6.20 for his fourth reign. 
He successfully defended the title against Pro Wrestling NOAH’s Takahashi Sugiura on July 20, the first ever NJPW vs. NOAH match for the IWGP Heavyweight Title.

During a post match interview, Tanahashi was interrupted by Tajiri who sprayed Tanahashi with his signature Green Mist. Tanahashi was forced to vacate the IWGP Heavyweight Title on August 17, due to an eye fracture injury he suffered in a match with Shinsuke Nakamura in the semi-finals of the 2009 G1 Climax Tournament.

On November 8 at Destruction 09, Tanahashi returned to challenge for the belt he was forced to vacate. However, he came up short against the reigning champion Nakamura.  On December 5, Tanahashi would avenge his loss he suffered during the G1 Climax Tournament and end his feud with Tajiri by pinning him in a singles match with a High Fly Flow.  Afterwards, Tanahashi made a challenge to Pro Wrestling Noah and on January 4, 2010 at Wrestle Kingdom IV in Tokyo Dome he defeated Noah’s Go Shiozaki in a match that was promoted as “Ace vs. Ace.”

In August of 2010 Tanahashi would enter the G1 Climax Tournament and made it all the way to the finals, after four wins and a draw in the round robin stage of the tournament.  However, in the finals Tanahashi was defeated by freelancer Satoshi Kojima.  In October and November 2010, Tanahashi teamed with Tajiri in New Japan’s 2010 G1 Tag League. After a strong start, Tanahashi and Tajiri were defeated by the IWGP Tag Team Champions Bad Intentions (Giant Bernard and Karl Anderson).

After scoring back-to-back pinfall victories over top contender Hirooki Goto and Tetsuya Naito on December 11 and 12, Tanahashi was awarded a shot at the IWGP Heavyweight Title and it’s champion Satoshi Kojima.  The match would take place on January 4, 2011, at Wrestle Kingdom V.  At the event Tanahashi defeated Kojima to win the IWGP Heavyweight Title for the fifth time.  He then went on to defeat Kojima in a Championship rematch on February 20 at The New Beginning.  He then would go on to successfully defeat New Japan Cup winner Yuji Nagata and Shinsuke Nakamura on May 3 to retain the title. 

In May 2011, Tanahashi took part in the Invasion Tour 2011 which was New Japan’s first ever tour of the United States.  During the tour he successfully defended the IWGP Heavyweight Title against Charlie Haas on May 14 in New York City.  On September 19, Tanahashi made his seventh successful IWGP Heavyweight Championship defense against G1 Climax Winner Shinsuke Nakamura.  On December 4, Tanahashi defeated Yuji Nagata to make his tenth successful defense of the IWGP Heavyweight Title.  In doing this, he would tie a record previously set by Yuji Nagata
ON January 4, 2012 at Wrestle Kingdom VI in Tokyo Dome, Tanahashi broke the record by successfully defending the title against Minoru Suzuki.  On February 12 at The New Beginning Tanahashi would lose the IWGP Heavyweight Title to Kazuchika Okada ending his reign at 404 days.

On June 16 at Dominion 6.16, Tanahashi defeated Okada in a rematch to win the IWGP Heavyweight Championship for the sixth time, tying Tatsumi Fujinami’s record for most reigns with the title.  On September 23 at Destruction Tanahashi successfully defended the IWGP Heavyweight Title against Pro Wrestling Noah’s Naomichi Marufuji avenging a loss he picked up at the hands of Marufuji during the 2012 G1 Climax.

On October 8, at King Of Pro Wrestling Tanahashi defeated Minoru Suzuki for the fourth successful defense of his sixth IWGP Heavyweight Title reign.  The match received rave reviews, including a five star rating from Dave Meltzer. On January 4, 2013 at Wrestle Kingdom 7, Tanahashi made his sixth successful defense of the IWGP Heavyweight Title against the previous years G1 Climax Winner Kazuchika Okada.  On April 7 at Invasion Attack, Tanahashi lost the IWGP Heavyweight Championship back to Kazuchika Okada. Tanahashi would attempt to earn another title shot but came up short against Prince Devitt on June 22 at Dominion.  From August 1 to 11, Tanahashi took part in the 2013 G1 Climax where he opened by losing three of his first four matches.  He would bounce back however to wrestle IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada to a time limit draw and winning his other four matches to win his block and advance to the finals of the tournament.

On August 11, Tanahashi was defeated by Tetsuya Naito, Tanahashi’s rivalry with Bullet Club leader Prince Devitt built to a lumberjack death match onSeptember 29 at Destruction where Tanahashi was victorious.  After putting Devitt far from his sights Tanahashi would re focus on the IWGP Heavyweight Title and the current holder of the belt Kazuchika Okada at the end of Destruction.  Tanahashi would fail in his title challenge at King of Pro Wrestling in October of that year.  After the match and losing to Okada Tanahashi bid farewell to the IWGP Heavyweight Title as he vowed never to challenge for it again after losing to Okada.

From there Tanahashi then entered the IWGP Intercontinental Championship picture after being nominated as the next challenger by the champion Shinsuke Nakamura.  This would set up the first title match between the two long time rivals in over two years.  ON January 4, 2014 Tanahashi defeated Nakamura in the main event of Wrestle Kingdom 8 to win the Intercontinental Championship for the very first time.  In May Tanahashi took part in NJPW’s North American tour, defeating Ring Of Honor’s Michael Bennett in an interpromotional match at War Of The Worlds on May 17.

After defeating Katsuyori Shibata on September 21 at Destruction in Kobe, Tanahashi announced he was re-entering the IWGP Heavyweight Title picture and looking to challenge the reigning champion Bullet Club’s AJ Styles.  He would receive his shot at AJ Styles on October 13th after defeating Styles on August 10th to claim third place in the G1 Climax.  He defeated Styles to win the IWGP Heavyweight Championship for the record seventh time.

A lot of fans of New Japan Pro Wrestling tend to compare Tanahashi to John Cena, in that he’s always at the forefront of the promotion just like Cena is always in the forefront of WWE.  However there are a few differences. Tanahashi, unlike Cena, doesn’t get forced down your throats (I don’t speak Japanese so this is just an assumption). Also, Tanahashi is a far better wrestler than Cena is...but that’s just one mans opinion.

Tanahashi now has the record for the most IWGP World Title reigns as well as the record for the most number of combined days as champion at 1,241 and counting and his combined defenses are at a staggering 27 and counting.

There you have it, readers--anything and everything you ever wanted to know about current New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Hiroshi Tanahashi.  Sorry for the long-winded article, but I wanted to give everyone a full perspective of the history surrounding this unique performer. Until next time Eyes On The Ring faithful this has been Nathan with the latest entry to the All Eyes On Series. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it and until then keep your Eyes On The Ring and be sure to keep your eyes on Hiroshi Tanahashi.


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