Hiroshi Tanahashi has been the Ace of New Japan for a long time now. Often credited as being a part of the New Japan resurgence in the mid-2000s, Tanahashi now has to deal with the changing times in NJPW.
Recently, Hiroshi Tanahashi spoke to the official global website of New Japan Pro-Wrestling about a multitude of topics including his return to the ring against Jay White on June 5th, his opinion on the changing era in New Japan, and his thoughts on the IWGP Heavyweight Championship scene. Below are some highlights.
Hiroshi Tanahashi on the change from the Heisei era to Reiwa:
“Hm, I am the Ace of Heisei! But I think even in the new era, my role of Ace isn’t going to change any. It’s just a perception thing. I spent Heisei telling everybody that I was the Ace. Now in Reiwa, I think it’ll be the people around me going ‘ah, yeah, he’s still the Ace’.
“I think it’s fantastic that we’re entering new markets overseas, but there are a lot of things that we still need to do in Japan. I’ll give you an example; I was in Sendai recently to throw out the opening pitch at the (Rakuten Eagles) baseball game. While I was there, I wanted to stop in at Sunplaza Hall for the Best of the Super Junior card, you know? I was in the convenience store nearby and this kid and their parents called out to me. I talked to them, and they asked me ‘what are you doing here?’
“I told them I was there for the opening pitch. But these people had no idea that New Japan was running in Sunplaza. Had they known that there was an NJPW event around the corner, they would probably have been going. So it told me that there is a lot we still need to do when it comes to promotion.”
Tanahashi on Jay White:
“He’s a different person than the one I wrestled in his return match in 2018 (at Wrestle Kingdom 12). He has had experience on the biggest stage, he’s wrestled a lot of different opponents. He’s been in the main event at Madison Square Garden. That will do wonders for your self-confidence.
“To tell you the truth, he’s a high hurdle to clear. To that kid who came back from his excursion to face me, I was a big hurdle to him at the time. Now I’m coming back and he’s the hurdle. It’s almost a role reversal in that regard. I need revenge for him taking the IWGP Championship away from me in February in Osaka for a start.”
Tanahashi on the current IWGP Championship scene:
“Well, we saw SANADA come up during the New Japan Cup and emerge as someone on that level. I think that there are a lot of people that are challenging, or about to challenge for the IWGP Championship that haven’t done so before. Of course, you can include Jay White in that list. Times are changing, NJPW is constantly moving forward.
“Right. Not long ago, there would be this unseen pressure on a champion, that they had to work a lot harder to further the business. Now that business is strong and growing, there is a little bit more stability, and that brings with it more possibilities I think.”
Tanahashi on his own goals concerning the IWGP title: