Hiroshi Tanahashi is considered to be the current “ace” of New Japan, and is in his 11th year in the sport. Debuting in October 1999 after graduating from the New Japan dojo, his first match was against Makabe and he soon earned big wins over Negro Casas and Scott Hall. His rise continued into 2002 when in the annual G1 Climax tournament he beat Kensuke Sasaki in just 2 minutes. His rise stalled soon after…In November 2002 Tanahashi was stabbed in the back by Hitomi Hara (a TV Asahi news reporter he had dated for a brief amount of time). He would be hospitalized but recover, and in fact it may have been a positive turning point in his career. Reports of the stabbing generated strong interest to see him return and he would come back just 4 months later. Things took off from there-from 2003 to 2005 he would win the now-inactive U-30 Openweight Championship, reach the G1 Climax Final, and headline (main event) the annual January Tokyo Dome blowout show, New Japan’s version of WrestleMania and the biggest event on the puroresu calendar. He also crossed over into TV, making one of two appearances to date on the popular Japanese game show “Sasuke”, which continues to air in repeats around the world (in the US the show airs as “Ninja Warrior”). In 2006 he finally reached the top, winning the G1 Climax and, in the process, his first IWGP Heavyweight Championship. His second Sasuke appearance followed, this time he appeared as champion and took the title belt with him (he lost in the first round both times). His reign lasted 270 days before Yuji Nagata beat him for the title. A contract dispute soon followed that temporarily saw him become a free agent, during which time he headed to All-Japan and competed in the annual Champion’s Carnival. He had to face Taiyō Kea, Satoshi Kojima, Toshiaki Kawada, & his mentor Keiji Muto and, amazingly, beat them all. He would only lose in the finals of the tournament to Suwama. Soon after he headlined Tokyo Dome again and defeated Muto to become the 50th IWGP Heavyweight Champion and win the title for the 3rd time. He would defend against Shinsuke Nakamura, Kurt Angle and Hirooki Goto before losing 3 days after the Goto defense to Manabu Nakanishi, but Tanahashi won the title back just over a month later and as of August ’09 is the current champion, in his 4th reign, including a successful defense in July against Takashi Sugiura in the first-ever New Japan vs. NOAH IWGP Title match. He clearly is the current ace of New Japan and seems poised to lead the promotion into the future. He is also considered to be the most popular wrestler in all of puroresu, thanks in large part to the ladies that make up a large part of his fanbase, but it doesn’t hurt that he’s one of the more attractive and most charismatic male wrestlers either and connects very well with the fans and has provided a lot of moral support to the victims of the 3/11/2011 Japan earthquake & tsunami.
Despite dealing with injuries for a decent part of 2009 he was named the Most Valuable Player of 2009 in the annual Tokyo Sports Awards.
Tanahashi made what appears to be his first appearance in Mexico in May 2010, winning the CMLL World 6 Man Tag Team Titles with fellow New Japan stablemate Taichi and OKUMURA.
After an entire 2010 and then some without the gold, Tanahashi began 2011 on top by defeating Satoshi Kojima at the annual Tokyo Dome blowout event on January 4 to win his 5th IWGP Heavyweight Championship.
Tanahashi will return to Mexico for 3 weeks in late August & September 2011, appearing in CMLL as part of the working partnership between New Japan & CMLL. He is expected to depart on 8/28/2011 and return in time for the 9/19/2011 event.
Stats & Info:
Weight: 222 pounds/101 kg
Experience: 11 years
Finishing Move: High Fly Flow
Current affiliation: New Japan
Ring Entrance Theme: “HIGH ENERGY”
5-time IWGP Heavyweight Champion
2-time IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champion
2-time IWGP U-30 Champion
1-time GHC Tag Team Champion
1-time CMLL World 6 Man Tag Team Champion
2007 G1 Climax
2005 & 2008 New Japan Cup
Ranked #20 in the 2008 PWI 500
Ranked #7 in the 2009 PWI 500
Ranked #39 in 2010 PWI 500
2009 Tokyo Sports Grand Prix Most Valuable Player Award
Official website (Japanese):