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Wrestling / Hiroshi Tanahashi

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Hiroshi Tanahashi (born November 13, 1976 in Etajima, Hiroshima) is a Japanese backyard wrestler turned professional wrestler after training in the New Japan Pro-Wrestling dojo. One of the most popular wrestlers of New Japan who has gained a following worldwide for his excellent matches, Tanahashi has become the leader of the initial generation of 21st century stars from the Far East. He is a multiple-time IWGP Heavyweight Champion, with his fifth reign breaking the record for the most successful title defensesnote  and his seventh reign breaking the record for number of times it has been won. He also formerly held the longest combined days as champ of all time, before being surpassed by long-time rival Kazuchika Okada.

However his career almost didn't happen. Tanahashi began his training in 1999, and during his years as a Young Lion and company rookie, being viewed as a young prospect and gaining impressive wins over Lucha Libre legend Negro Casas and 90s WWF/WCW star Scott Hall, his career almost came to an end in 2002 when, after ending a relationship with his girlfriend she snapped and stabbed him with a knife. Tanahashi was hospitalized with some wondering if he would ever return, but thankfully did recover and soon returned to the ring. The story gained widespread media coverage all over Japan and tons of fan support came to Hiroshi with some claiming the stabbing was the best thing to happen to him.

Tanahashi would rocket up the rankings in New Japan and become its biggest star, labeled by some as the one who carried the then-floundering promotion on his back and brought it to its most popular stage not only in Japan, where he has also competed in Dramatic Dream Team, All Japan Pro Wrestling and Pro Wrestling NOAH among others, but in the Western part of the world, having also competed in Germany's westside Extreme wrestling, Canada's Border City Wrestling, USA's CZW, Mexico's CMLL and more. He was inducted into the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame in 2013.

Aside from his multiple world title reigns, Tanahashi is also a multi-time IWGP Intercontinental Champion. In addition, his reigns with both the NEVER Openweight Championship and the IWGP US Heavyweight Championship in 2021 have made him only the second Grand Slam Champion in New Japan history, just coming behind Jay White, who ironically defeated Tanahashi to claim it earlier in the year.

On December 23, 2023, whilst still an active member of the roster, Tanahashi was appointed the President of New Japan Pro Wrestling.

Not to be confused with Hiromu Takahashi.

"Once in a Century Tropes":

  • The Ace
    • Tokyo Sports gave him the "fighting spirit award" in 2003 and 2006 and the "performance" award in 2007, which are no small accomplishments but it was 2009, 11 and 14 when he got "Most Valuable Player".
    • Nicknamed as such by New Japan. Called The Ace of The Universe. When Kazuchika Okada was named the MVP of New Japan by Tokyo Sports and the IWGP Heavyweight Champion, Hiroshi Tanahashi still ended up in the main event above him because fans voted him ace of the promotion.
    • In 2013, he won CMLL's Universal Heavyweight Championship belt, a title that requires you to first win at least one belt and then defeat every other champion that CMLL recognizes and is willing to fight for it (usually involves a sixteen man tournament, so Tanahashi didn't literally have to beat everyone, but still)
    • When a New Japan referee and Jushin Thunder Liger were experimenting to see if pro wrestlers would kick out in their sleep, Tanahashi kicked out at the count of one while wrapped in a blanket.
  • Acquired Situational Narcissism: When he first became New Japan's ace, or rather, came to the realization he was, Tanashi started to become an asshole, though not quite enough to lose his face standing and he sort of grew out of it.
  • The Apprentice: To Tatsumi Fujinami.
  • Arch-Enemy
    • Shinsuke Nakamura, who has been his arch-rival throughout Tanahashi's career dating to their rookie days. (Ironically they were a tag team early on, even Tag Champs. Also, Nakamura would have you believe that Tanahashi is little more than a pesky thorn in his side, but take that with a grain of salt.) They have headlined no fewer than three Wrestle Kingdom shows together.
    • Kazuchika Okada and AJ Styles, as the young returning star (Okada) and ace of Bullet Club (Styles) respectively, both aiming to take Tanahashi's spot as top star of NJPW. Since Tanahashi's victory over Satoshi Kojima at Wrestle Kingdom V on January 4, 2011, the championship was continuously held by one of these three men for over five years.
    • Katsuyori Shibata, stemming from old bitterness when Tanahashi and Shibata (along with Shinsuke Nakamura) were rookies and positioned as NJPW's next top stars, only for Shibata to leave to go into MMA when NJPW needed new stars. After his return years later, Tanahashi retained bitterness at his perceived lack of loyalty and respect. note 
    • Tetsuya Naito, whose IWGP Heavyweight Championship match with Okada was voted down by fans to allow one of Nakamura and Tanahashi's Wrestle Kingdom main event matches and has subsequently never forgiven any of the men involved for it. With his newfound ungovernable apathetic bitterness, Naito was the man who broke the Tanahashi-Okada-Styles deadlock over the IWGP Heavyweight title as well as the Tokyo Sports Wrestler of the Year award (excluding Styles), firmly replacing the WWE-bound Phenomenal One as the third man in their heated feud.
  • Air Guitar: Does this on his way to the ring. And after winning a match he is known to perform a concert with it and at the end smash it just like a real rockstar would. More recently, it's been his ritual to hold out his arms and wait for someone (either his Young Lion attendant or an obliging fan) to toss him an invisible guitar from outside the ring, play his solo, then toss it back. In addition, he will on occasion use his current title belt as an air guitar, or pick up an unconscious opponent (Adam Cole, for example) and perform air guitar on their body.
  • Alternate Company Equivalent: He's basically NJPW's John Cena, the top babyface that's booked to be super strong and has been the top of the company longer than anybody else.
  • Big Damn Heroes: He and Jushin Thunder Liger chased away Adam Cole after he attacked IWGP Champion AJ Styles, Kazuchika Okada and Michael Elgin at the conclusion of their title match at War Of The Worlds. Yes, he deemed Cole lower than the heads of Bullet Club and Chaos.
  • Big Good: Serves as this for The New Japan Faces, especially as represented by Taguchi Japan.
  • Broken Win/Loss Streak: Prior to his victory against Kenny Omega at Wrestle Kingdom 13, none of the G1 Climax winners since the briefcase rule was implemented successfully won their challenges.
  • Captain Ersatz: They showed up in Fire Pro Wrestling fairly quick.
  • Celebrity Endorsement: New Japan X McDonalds
  • Combat Commentator: For New Japan, mostly during Best Of The Super Junior XVIII ~ Bring It On~.
  • Costume Porn: His coat he wears that showcases his abs and also the title belt if he is a champion at the time, complete with a jacket that even zipped has an opening for his abs.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: When Yoshihiro Tajiri invaded New Japan from Fighting Opera HUSTLE, most of the focus was on Tanahashi, whose defeat was one of the few successes Tajiri could claim and who kept coming after Tanahashi even when he wasn't IWGP Heavyweight Champion. But after Tanahashi beat Tajiri, he left him alone and then became his tag team partner.
  • Dented Iron: Age and injuries have slowed the Ace considerably over the years, a fact noted and acknowledged even by commentary... before then going on to clarify that Tanahashi is still near the top of the mountain and all this means is that the playing field has now been leveled for everyone else, where before he was so far above all other competitors that they were merely competing for second place.
  • Distaff Counterpart: Io Shirai lives up more to the high flying part but was promoted as a long haired pretty girl in World Wonder Ring ST★RDOM and started to become an asshole when the promotion was in need of new stars and she realized she was the ace.
  • Fat and Skinny: The skinny when compared to tag team partner Yutaka Yoshie
  • Face: The whitemeat kind and just like Ricky Steamboat has never played a Heel throughout his entire career, excepting CMLL, and even that was mostly by association with Shigeo Okumura.
  • Finishing Move: The High Fly Flow is his favorite but he's known to also bust out Dragon Suplexes and The Dragon Sleeper on occasion.
  • Foe-Tossing Charge: At the three way World Tag Team Title match at the 2016 Death Before Dishonor Tanahashi was isolated in the ring by EVIL and Tetsuya Naito, but then he made a comeback so intense he ended sending all four of his opponents into retreat and basically herded them together for a tope from Mike Elgin. Kamaitachi had to run interference for defending champs The Addiction to even slow Tanahashi's momentum, although he did slow it long enough for Christoper Daniels to hit a blind tag and steal Tanahashi's pin on EVIL.
  • Foreign Wrestling Heel
    • As part of La Ola Amarilla in CMLL
    • During his brief time in TNA
    • Averted whenever he's appeared for ROH
  • Freudian Trio: The Ego to Shinsuke Nakamura's Id and Katsuyori Shibata's Superego.
  • Game-Breaking Injury: Nearly suffered this at the hands of his ex as mentioned above. Luckily he managed to recover.
    • Suffered one in-storyline in his loss of the IWGP Intercontinental championship to Minoru Suzuki at the start of 2018, taking time off to heal.
  • He's Back!: Tanahashi's storyline in 2018 turned out to be a Reconstruction of the Ace. After resorting to heelish tactics to try and defeat Okada in their encounters prior to his passing the torch moment at Wrestle Kingdom 10, Tanahashi's Intercontinental Title reign was cut short by Suzuki delivering a Game-Breaking Injury. With Okada falling into his Balloonmaker gimmick after his title loss to Kenny Omega and Naito feuding with Suzuki-gun and Chris Jericho, Tanahashi stepped up to the plate, won the G1 Climax, and became the first person in eight years to defeat the defending champion at Wrestle Kingdom.
  • I Can Still Fight!: After being shelved by a shoulder injury in 2016, Tanahashi admitted this was a problem of his in an interview, saying people had been telling him to take time off before something like this would happen but he kept pushing his break back, believing he didn't need it yet.
    • The same can be said of him in 2017-18. He's needed time off for an arm injury since before G1, but he considers himself too important to the company to lose, and didn't even take the easy out of losing the Intercontinental Championship at Wrestle Kingdom 12 to Jay White.
  • I Gave My Word: When he failed to defeat Kazuchika Okada at King of Pro Wrestling 2013 for The IWGP Heavyweight Championship, he lived up to his promise that he would not challenge for the belt anymore so long as Okada held it. He challenged for and won the title again much later, but from AJ Styles who had defeated Okada for the championship.
  • I Shall Return: Since he got the last word in at War Of The Worlds, this was the last thing he had to say. He in fact did the next year to face Michael Elgin, who was trying to prove himself worthy of New Japan, at Global Wars.
  • Idiot Ball: Tetsuya Naito, feeling lazy one day, managed to beat Tanahashi by stalling him out and keeping the pace as slow as possible. Tanahashi was not an idiot for being taken by surprise, but the commentators said he was for admitting it where Naito could hear him, thus encouraging him to actually work on perfecting the strategy. Come 2016, IWGP Heavyweight Champion Naito, it's your fault Tanahashi!
  • Imaginary Friend
    “The AIR-GUITAR is my precious SPIRIT” the AIR-GUITAR has been with me and part of me. It was with me at all times as rainy days, when I lost the title, being boo-ed by the fans. Taught me how to live and strive for the best!
    • Given this interview took place on April first however, it was likely Tanahashi trolling the reporter.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: He's just as much of a babyface out of the ring as he is in the ring, even to the point of catching an interviewer completely off-guard by stating he ended up marrying his first ever crush from junior high.
  • It's Personal: With Bullet Club ever since AJ Styles broke Yoshi Tatsu's neck. Tanahashi called Elgin to his side and the two constantly brainstormed ways to eliminate the group, even after Styles was gone and even more so after Kenny Omega put Tanahashi on the shelf with a shoulder injury. Even after Bullet Club essentially split in two because of Omega reforming, Tanahashi never trusted his intentions, rising to the occasion and defeating Omega for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship just in time for The Elite's departure.
  • Jack of All Stats: Tanahashi may not be the best brawler in pro wrestling, nor the most spectacular acrobat, nor the pinnacle of mat wrestling. But make no mistake, he excels in all three areas and more, plus he is charismatic both physically and on the mic.
  • Leitmotif: The appropriately titled "High Energy", since it is close enough to "Strong Energy", the show where he won his first singles title belt. Since Wrestle Kingdom 11, he has adopted a new theme named "Love & Energy".
  • Lightning Bruiser: Tanahashi can just about do it all. Not only is he agile, he can go toe to toe with heavy hitters as well. He took a turn buckle bomb from Elgin and came back with a sling blade, for example.
  • Living Legend: Any physically strenuous activity he does in public is likely to result in said public swarming Tanahashi with towels in an effort to collect some of his sweat. They've even covered the ring with a barrage of them.
  • Long-Haired Pretty Boy: New Japan has shamelessly pushed him as such, not that anyone is really complaining.
  • Major Injury Underreaction: In real life. After his girlfriend stabbed him in the back with a knife, he drove to the hospital himself, with the knife still stuck in him.
  • Masked Luchador: or Masked Devilock.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Has his fair share of female fans, which promoters have not been deaf to nor afraid to cater to.
  • Playing Against Type: Played a vicious heel in a family movie in Japan.
  • Permastubble: Originally had close to a literal baby face, he's always had a slight hint of facial hair since the turn of the millennium.
  • Power Stable
    • Team 2000 with Masahiro Chono, AKIRA, Big Titan, Gedo, Jim Steele, Giant Silva, Giant Singh, Hiro Saito, Koji Kanemoto, Michiyoshi Ohara, Mike Barton, Mike Rotunda, Satoshi Kojima, Scott Hall, Scott Norton and Super J.
    • Swing-lows with Blue Wolf, Kensuke Sasaki and Kenzo Suzuki.
    • La Ola Amarilla with Taichi Ishikari, Tetsuya Naito, Jushin Thunder Liger, Nobuo Yoshihashi, Shigeo Okumura, Namajague and Yujiro Takahashi (and loads of others who have been members over the years).
  • Pride: While generally a clean cut heroic baby face, he does have a streak of arrogance that can lead him to being very cocky in the ring.
  • Red Baron: "The Once in a Century Talent", also "High Flying Star", which is Non-Indicative Name since he is not a high-flyer, but a Jack of All Stats with a few aerial moves. Or maybe it's just Gratuitous English? As listed above, there's also "The Ace of the Universe".
  • Tag Team
    • As mentioned, the New Japan Dragons with Yoshi Tatsu.
    • Billion Powers with Hirooki Goto.
    • Kings of the Hill with Kenzo Suzuki.
    • Captain Ace with Captain New Japan.
    • Golden☆Ace with Kota Ibushi.
  • Tournament Arc
    • Won the then vacant U-30 Openweight Title by defeating Shinya Makabe in the finals of 2003 G2 Climax on day five of NJPW Strong Energy.
    • His second successful tournament was tag team based but he another U-30, which he won with Taiji Ishimori NJPW Tsuyoku-Are ~ Toukon Series 2004
    • Was still under 30 and still find success with them in 2005, winning the 12 day IWGP U-30 Openweight Title League at Best Of The Super Junior XII by beating Blue Wolf. That same year he also beat Manabu Nakanishi in the finals of the New Japan Cup.
    • Had to defeat the noticeably larger Yuji Nagata and Giant Bernard back to back on the same night to win the tournament for the vacant IWGP Heavyweight Title on day twelve of NJPW Circuit 2006 Turbulence.
    • Defeated Yuji Nagata again next year to win his first G-1 Climax, having beaten Togi Makabe earlier that day.
    • On the eight day of NJPW Circuit 2008 New Japan Cup ~Who Is The Highest he'd go over Makabe and Bernard again.
    • There was a drought from his tournament hot streak before he struck gold again in Mexico by winning Campeon Universal Del CMLL 2013 Tournament, entering as one half of the world tag team champions with Jushin Liger.
    • Defeated Shinsuke Nakamura on the last day of the G-1 Climax 25 in 2015.
    • Defeated Kota Ibushi to win the G1 Climax 28 in 2018
  • Traumatic Haircut: After beating Toru Yano in what was supposed to be their 2010 rubber match Masato Tanaka jumped Tanahashi and held him while Yano cut his hair, though he ended up not cutting very much of it. This lead to a later hair versus hair match which Tanahashi won but Toru Yano decided to have CHAOS stable mate Takashi Iizuka beat up Tanahashi so Yano could finish shaving Tanahashi instead. Yoshihiro Tajiri then came to beat up both CHAOS members to ensure the stipulation was followed and Yano was shaved.
  • Unknown Rival: He is Shinsuke Nakamura's self-proclaimed biggest rival, but Nakamura sees him as just annoying.
  • Warrior Poet: From his podcasts, it's clear that Tanahashi knows a lot about the art and philosophy of Pro Wrestling.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Him and Nakamura from their days as Young Lions, they even formed a tag team together and won The IWGP Tag Belts.
  • Worthy Opponent: Karl Anderson, he requested him at The New Beginning 2013.
  • Would Hit a Girl
    • Seemed to be going for the opposite with Maria Kanellis at his first War Of The Worlds but as she continued to interfere in his and Mike Bennett's match including several attempts at directly striking him, he put her in a Texas cloverleaf.
    • He ran into a moral dilemma when New Japan decided to "make dreams come true" during the 2020 and one such endevor involved training a woman whose dream was to have a match with Tanahashi.
  • Wrestling Psychology
    • Part of what adds to Tanahashi's legendary reputation is that he is brilliant at doing the little things right. If one were to watch the years-long progression in a feud between him and, say, Kazuchika Okada, one would find a litany of little details that add to the overall story he tells in the ring.
    • In his autobiography, Tanahashi is also somewhat leery of "strong style" wrestling, especially that which is popularized by Katsuyori Shibata. In Tana's mind, in the moment it might be awesome to watch two guys legitimately headbutt each other unconscious as a show of dominance, but as Tanahashi wonders…