Hiroshi Tanahashi (棚橋 弘至 Tanahashi Hiroshi, born November 13, 1976) is a Japanese professional wrestler and actor, who works currently works for New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW), where he is a former record breaking eight-time IWGP Heavyweight Champion, a former two-times IWGP Intercontinental Champion, a former NEVER Openweight Champion, while a former three-times IWGP Tag Team Champion and a former three-times NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Champion with several other partners and the winner of the 2007, 2015 and 2018 G1 Climax and the winner of the 2005, 2008 New Japan Cup.
Born in Gifu, Japan, Tanahashi was trained in the NJPW dojo, making his debut as a "young lion" in October 1999, being viewed as a big prospect alongside fellow rookies Katsuyori Shibata and Shinsuke Nakamura, who became known as the "new Three Musketeers", with the latter becoming his career rival. Since 2003, the start of their rivalry coincided with Tanahashi's rise of popularity, who became a clean-cut "Superman-like" hero, being dubbed as "the ace of the universe". He then led the company as its franchise player and its public face for the next decade, leading Dave Meltzer stating in 2013, when Tanahashi was inducted into the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame that "you could make a strong case for him as the best in-ring performer in the business today", adding that he was "the leading star in New Japan Pro Wrestling's comeback from being in terrible shape a few years back to being the No. 2 pro wrestling company in the world".
Tanahashi is holds the record for most reigns as the IWGP Heavyweight Champion with eight reigns, while his fifth reign held the record for most successful defenses, with eleven until May 5, 2018. He is also a former two-time IWGP Intercontinental Champion, three-time IWGP Tag Team Champion, one time NEVER Openweight Champion, and three-time NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Champion. Upon winning the NEVER Openweight Championship, he became the fourth Triple Crown Champion. He has also won NJPW's premier tournament, the G1 Climax, on three occasions (2007, 2015 and 2018) and the New Japan Cup, on two occasions (2005 and 2008), making him one of the most decorated wrestlers in NJPW's history. Through NJPW's working agreements with Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (CMLL) and Pro Wrestling Noah and Revolution Pro Wrestling (RPW), Tanahashi has also held the CMLL World Tag Team Championship, the CMLL World Trios Championship, the CMLL Universal Championship, GHC Tag Team Championship and the British Heavyweight Championship.
Tanahashi as been namedTokyo Sports wrestler of the year on four occasions (2009, 2011, 2014, 2018), the Nikkan Sports wrestler of the year on three occasions (2011, 2014, 2018). Tanahashi has since headlined numerous NJPW pay-per-view events, and NJPW's biggest annual event – the January 4 Tokyo Dome Show – ten times (2005, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2019), including a record of nine cosecutive events, the most of any wrestler at the event's history.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Professional wrestling career
- 2.1 New Japan Pro Wrestling (1999–present)
- 2.1.1 Early years (1999–2003)
- 2.1.2 Rise to stardom (2003–2010)
- 2.1.3 Record-breaking IWGP Heavyweight Champion and rivalry with Kazuchika Okada (2010–2014)
- 2.1.4 IWGP Intercontinental Champion (2015–2018)
- 2.1.5 Record breaking eight reign as IWGP Heavyweight Champion (2018–2019)
- 2.1.6 Various feuds and championship reigns (2019–Present)
- 2.1 New Japan Pro Wrestling (1999–present)
- 3 Professional wrestling style and persona
- 4 Personal life
- 5 Other media
- 6 In wrestling
- 7 Championships and accomplishments
- 8 References
Before entering the world of professional wrestling, Hiroshi Tanahashi was a baseball player in high school and dreamed of becoming a professional baseball player. However, after attending college, Tanahashi gave up his dream, and instead he wanted to become a newspaper reporter. Afterwards, Tanahashi attended the Faculty of Law Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto and was fairly successful, during which he started wrestling. Tanahashi began being interested in professional wrestling, after being watching Kenta Kobashi and the The Three Musketeers (Keiji Mutoh, Masahiro Chono, and Shinya Hashimoto). During this time he was noticed by New Japan Pro Wrestling talent scouts and was invited to try out for the NJPW Dojo. His tryout was successful and he was accepted as a trainee. Tanahashi has cited Shawn Michaels as his favorite wrestler. He also admired Tatsumi Fujinami, and considered using the ring name "Dragon Hiroshi" in honor of him.
Professional wrestling career
New Japan Pro Wrestling (1999–present)
Early years (1999–2003)
After graduating from the NJPW Dojo, Tanahashi made his debut in October 1999, in a match against Shinya Makabe. Alongside fellow rookies Katsuyori Shibata and Shinsuke Nakamura, Tanahashi became known as one of the "new Three Musketeers". He became viewed as a big prospect and was given big wins over lucha libre legend Negro Casas in July 2000 and American Scott Hall in September 2001. His star continued to rise and in the 2002 G1 Climax (one of New Japan Pro Wrestling's most important annual tournaments) Tanahashi pinned Kensuke Sasaki in under two minutes. After this, Tanahashi was paired with Kenzo Suzuki in a tag team named the Kings of the Hills. This pairing was popular, but came to an end after a real life incident; 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). Tanahashi was hospitalized but would recover. Ironically, this incident may have been the best thing to happen to his career. The stabbing was widely reported across Japan and a strong interest to see Tanahashi return was created. On February 16, 2003, Tanahashi returned as a singles wrestler to a sold-out crowd in Tokyo in a match against Manabu Nakanishi.
Rise to stardom (2003–2010)
His career began to rapidly climb from this point. In the later half of 2003 Tanahashi captured the IWGP U-30 Openweight Championship and the IWGP Tag Team Championship, the latter on two separate occasions. In August 2004 he made it to the finals of the G1 Climax and on January 4, 2005 he headlined the Toukon Festival: Wrestling World 2005 show in Tokyo Dome in a match, where he dropped the U-30 Openweight Championship to Shinsuke Nakamura. In 2005, Tanahashi also made an appearance in the 15th SASUKE competition on July 20. He was eliminated in the first round. On June 18 Tanahashi defeated Toru Yano in a tournament final to regain the U-30 Openweight Championship. He would go on to defeat Masahiro Chono by Sling Blade in the first round of the New Japan Cup (determining a No. 1 contender against IWGP Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar) on April 16, 2006 in Korakuen Hall, and Hiroyoshi Tenzan by Dragon suplex hold in the second round on April 25 in Omuta Citizen Gymnasium before falling to Yuji Nagata's wrist-clutch Exploder in the semifinal on April 29 in the Tottori Industrial Gymnasium. Tanahashi also defeated Tiger Mask on May 13, 2006 in the first ever main event of the new WRESTLE LAND brand (a promotional experiment by New Japan with "sports entertainment"), debuting a modified side buster finish.
On June 7, 2006, Tanahashi vacated the U-30 Openweight Championship in order to fully focus on his upcoming match against Brock Lesnar for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. When Lesnar failed to show up for the match, he was stripped of the title 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 in the finals of the tournament for the vacant title. He showed the belt on his second appearance on SASUKE, during the 17th competition, where he was again eliminated in the first round. After holding the belt for almost 9 months (270 days), and defending the title against the likes of Taiyō Kea, Shinsuke Nakamura and others, Tanahashi lost the title to Yuji Nagata, who had won the 2007 New Japan Cup to become the #1 contender. Tanahashi managed to come back from this by winning the 2007 G1 Climax, where he defeated Nagata in the finals, and 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 at New Japan's annual Tokyo Dome show, titled Wrestle Kingdom II in Tokyo Dome, by Shinsuke Nakamura for the IWGP Heavyweight title in the night's main event. In February's New Japan ISM Tour, Tanahashi successfully defeated AJ Styles in a highly anticipated rematch of their 2006 bout in TNA. Following this, Hiroshi Tanahashi was entered into the coveted New Japan Cup tournament in which the winner would face off against the then-IWGP Heavyweight Champion, Shinsuke Nakamura, as the number one contender. With a win over Giant Bernard, Tanahashi became the first two-time winner of the New Japan Cup. Mid-February, he was embroiled in 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. He came in as a heel and was given the "Block from Hell" as he had to face nearly all of All Japan's top talent including Taiyō Kea, Satoshi Kojima, Toshiaki Kawada, and his mentor Keiji Mutoh. He went undefeated and advanced to the finals where he was finally subdued by Suwama.
On January 4, at Wrestle Kingdom III in Tokyo Dome, Tanahashi defeated his mentor Keiji Mutoh to become the 50th IWGP Heavyweight Champion, beginning his third reign. Following his victory, when asked who he would like his next challenger to be, Tanahashi called out generation rival Shinsuke Nakamura, who accepted. At New Japan's ISM tour on February 15, Tanahashi defeated Nakamura with the High Fly Flow in his first title defense. After the match he declared himself "the ace of the universe" and was challenged by Kurt Angle. Tanahashi defeated Angle April 5 at New Japan's "Resolution 09" with two High Fly Flows. His next opponent was Hirooki Goto, whom he defeated on May 3 at Wrestling Dontaku 2009 with a High Fly Flow. Just days later, Tanahashi was defeated by Manabu Nakanishi on May 6 at "Dissidence 2009". He regained 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 Takashi 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 then sprayed Tanahashi with Green Mist. Tanahashi would 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, but came up short against the reigning champion Nakamura. On December 5 Tanahashi would avenge the loss he suffered during the G1 Climax Tournament and end his feud with TAJIRI by pinning him in a singles match with the 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 billed as "Ace vs. Ace". Since then, Tanahashi would begin a feud with Toru Yano, starting with Yano upsetting Tanahashi in a tag team match on January 30, where he teamed with Manabu Nakanishi and Yano with Shinsuke Nakamura. On February 14 Tanahashi avenged his loss in a singles match with Yano, but was jumped after the match by Masato Tanaka, after which Yano proceeded to cut off some of his hair. After Yano defeated Tanahashi in a singles match at Wrestling Dontaku 2010, New Japan booked the two men in a Hair vs. Hair match for June 19. On June 19 at Dominion 6.19, Tanahashi defeated Yano and was afterwards assisted by former rival TAJIRI and KUSHIDA in taking care of Yano's ally Takashi Iizuka and shave his opponent's hair. In August, Tanahashi entered the 2010 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 in the tournament, Tanahashi and TAJIRI were defeated by the IWGP Tag Team Champions Bad Intentions (Giant Bernard and Karl Anderson) on November 6, the last day of group stages, and slipped to third place in their block, narrowly missing the semifinals of the tournament.
Record-breaking IWGP Heavyweight Champion and rivalry with Kazuchika Okada (2010–2014)
After scoring back–to–back pinfall victories over top contender Hirooki Goto and Tetsuya Naito on December 11 and 12, Tanahashi was granted a shot at the IWGP Heavyweight Champion Satoshi Kojima on January 4, 2011, at Wrestle Kingdom V in Tokyo Dome. At the event Tanahashi defeated Kojima to win the IWGP Heavyweight Championship for the fifth time. On February 20 at The New Beginning, Tanahashi made his first successful defense of the title, defeating Kojima in a rematch. Tanahashi went on to successfully defended the title against New Japan Cup winner Yuji Nagata on April 3 and Shinsuke Nakamura on May 3. In May 2011, Tanahashi took part in the Invasion Tour 2011, New Japan's first ever tour of the United States, during which he successfully defended the IWGP Heavyweight Championship against Charlie Haas on May 14 in New York City. After another title defense on June 18 against rival Hirooki Goto, Tanahashi was challenged by IWGP Tag Team Champion Giant Bernard. However, Tanahashi answered this with a challenge of his own, suggesting a match for the IWGP Tag Team Championship between Bad Intentions and himself and Goto. On July 3 Tanahashi and Goto failed in their attempt to capture the IWGP Tag Team Championship from Bad Intentions. On July 18 Tanahashi made his sixth successful defense of the IWGP Heavyweight Championship against Giant Bernard. In the following month's 2011 G1 Climax, Tanahashi led his block for the majority of the tournament, but an upset loss on the final day of the tournament against Tetsuya Naito, caused him to narrowly miss advancing to the finals. On September 19, Tanahashi made his seventh successful IWGP Heavyweight Championship defense against G1 Climax winner Shinsuke Nakamura, despite losing a tooth during the match. On October 10 at Destruction '11, Tanahashi avenged his loss from the final day of the 2011 G1 Climax by defeating Tetsuya Naito to make his eighth successful IWGP Heavyweight Championship defense. With Tanahashi now edging closer to Yuji Nagata's record of ten successful defenses, Nagata came out after the match to challenge him for the title. However, after Tanahashi had accepted the challenge, he was attacked by Toru Yano, who proceeded to steal his championship belt. In the 2011 G1 Tag League, Tanahashi teamed with Hirooki Goto as "The Billion Powers". After picking up two wins and two losses in their first four matches in the group stage of the tournament, Tanahashi and Goto defeated the Beast Combination (Satoshi Kojima and Togi Makabe) on November 4 to advance to the semifinals of the tournament. On November 6, Tanahashi and Goto were eliminated from the tournament in the semifinals by Bad Intentions. On November 12 at Power Struggle, Tanahashi regained the IWGP Heavyweight Championship belt from Toru Yano by successfully defending the title against him, after which he was again challenged by Yuji Nagata. On December 4, Tanahashi defeated Nagata to make his tenth successful IWGP Heavyweight Championship defense, tying Nagata's record in the process. On January 4, 2012, at Wrestle Kingdom VI in Tokyo Dome, Tanahashi broke the record by successfully defending the IWGP Heavyweight Championship against Minoru Suzuki. On February 12 at The New Beginning, Tanahashi lost the IWGP Heavyweight Championship 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. Tanahashi made his first title defense on July 1, defeating Togi Makabe at an event co-promoted by New Japan and All Japan. All reigns combined, this was Tanahashi's twenty-first successful defense of the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, which was another New Japan record. Tanahashi made his second successful title defense on July 22 against Masato Tanaka. The following month, Tanahashi took part in the 2012 G1 Climax tournament, where he won five out of his first seven matches, but a loss to Karl Anderson on the final day of the tournament caused him to narrowly miss advancing to the finals. On September 23 at Destruction, Tanahashi successfully defended the IWGP Heavyweight Championship against Pro Wrestling Noah's Naomichi Marufuji, avenging a loss suffered 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 Championship reign. The match received rave reviews, including a five star rating from Wrestling Observer Newsletter's Dave Meltzer. On November 11 at Power Struggle, Tanahashi made his fifth successful title defense against Yujiro Takahashi. Later in the month, Tanahashi took part in the 2012 World Tag League, teaming with Captain New Japan under the team name "Captain Ace". The team lost all six of their matches with Captain New Japan being pinned in each match. On January 4, 2013, at Wrestle Kingdom 7 in Tokyo Dome, Tanahashi made his sixth successful defense of the IWGP Heavyweight Championship against the previous year's G1 Climax winner, Kazuchika Okada. At the following pay-per-view, The New Beginning on February 10, Tanahashi made another successful title defense against Karl Anderson, avenging his loss from the 2012 G1 Climax. On March 3 at New Japan's 41st anniversary event, Tanahashi defeated IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion Prince Devitt in a special non-title main event. On April 7 at Invasion Attack, Tanahashi lost the IWGP Heavyweight Championship back to Kazuchika Okada. On June 22 at Dominion 6.22, Tanahashi attempted to earn another shot at the title, but was defeated in a number one contender's match by Prince Devitt, following interference from Devitt's new Bullet Club stable. On July 5, Tanahashi teamed with Jushin Thunder Liger to defeat Bullet Club member Tama Tonga and El Terrible for the CMLL World Tag Team Championship. 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, however, bounced back 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. In the finals on August 11, Tanahashi was defeated by Tetsuya Naito. After returning from a tour of CMLL, Tanahashi and Liger lost the CMLL World Tag Team Championship on September 14 to Bullet Club members Rey Bucanero and Tama Tonga, following outside interference from the rest of the group. Tanahashi's rivalry with Bullet Club leader Prince Devitt built to a Lumberjack Deathmatch on September 29 at Destruction, where Tanahashi was victorious. With the Devitt rivalry behind him, Tanahashi once again set his sights on the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, challenging Kazuchika Okada at the end of the event. Tanahashi failed in his title challenge on October 14 at King of Pro-Wrestling. In a post-match interview, Tanahashi bid farewell to the IWGP Heavyweight Championship as he had proclaimed that he would not challenge for the title again, should he lose to Okada.
Tanahashi then entered the IWGP Intercontinental Championship picture, after being nominated as the next challenger by champion Shinsuke Nakamura, setting up the first title match between the two longtime rivals in over two years. In November, Captain Ace reunited for the 2013 World Tag League. Much like the previous year, the team lost their first five matches, but on the final day they finally picked up a win over Bad Luck Fale and Prince Devitt, costing the Bullet Club team a spot in the semifinals. On January 4, 2014, Tanahashi defeated Nakamura in the main event of Wrestle Kingdom 8 in Tokyo Dome to win the IWGP Intercontinental Championship for the first time. A rematch between the two took place on February 9 at The New Beginning in Hiroshima and saw Tanahashi make his first successful title defense. After Nakamura had won the 2014 New Japan Cup, another title match was booked between him and Tanahashi for the April 6 Invasion Attack 2014 event, where Tanahashi was defeated in his second title defense. Afterwards, Tanahashi formed a tag team named "Ace to King" (Japanese for "Ace and King") with Togi Makabe to go after the IWGP Tag Team Championship. 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. On May 25 at Back to the Yokohama Arena, Tanahashi and Makabe defeated Hirooki Goto and Katsuyori Shibata to earn a shot at the IWGP Tag Team Championship. Tanahashi and Makabe received their title shot on June 21 at Dominion 6.21, but were defeated by Bullet Club's Doc Gallows and Karl Anderson. In the 2014 G1 Climax, Tanahashi finished with a record of seven wins and three losses, with a loss against Davey Boy Smith Jr. on the final day costing him a spot in the finals.
After defeating Katsuyori Shibata on September 21 at Destruction in Kobe, Tanahashi announced he was re-entering the IWGP Heavyweight Championship picture and looking to challenge the reigning champion, Bullet Club's A.J. Styles. He received his title shot on October 13 at King of Pro-Wrestling, where he defeated Styles to win the IWGP Heavyweight Championship for the record-breaking seventh time. On November 14, Tanahashi and Yoshitatsu announced they were forming a new tag team named "The World". The World was scheduled to take part in the 2014 World Tag League, but after their opening match on November 22, Yoshitatsu was forced to pull out of the tournament with a neck injury. On January 4, 2015, at Wrestle Kingdom 9 in Tokyo Dome, Tanahashi made his first successful defense of the IWGP Heavyweight Championship against Kazuchika Okada. On February 11 at The New Beginning in Osaka, Tanahashi lost the title back to A.J. Styles.
IWGP Intercontinental Champion (2015–2018)
In March, Tanahashi was eliminated from the 2015 New Japan Cup by Toru Yano in less than three minutes, re-igniting the old feud between the two. The rivalry culminated on July 5 at Dominion 7.5 in Osaka-jo Hall, where Tanahashi defeated Yano. From July 20 to August 14, Tanahashi took part in the round-robin stage of the 2015 G1 Climax. He won his block with a record of seven wins and two losses, advancing to the finals. On August 16, Tanahashi defeated Shinsuke Nakamura in the finals to win his second G1 Climax. The following day, Tanahashi was handed a contract, which gave him the right to challenge for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship at Wrestle Kingdom 10 in Tokyo Dome, that he would have to defend for the rest of the year. During September and October, Tanahashi successfully defended the contract against Bad Luck Fale and Tetsuya Naito, avenging his two losses suffered during the 2015 G1 Climax. On January 4, 2016, at Wrestle Kingdom 10 in Tokyo Dome, Tanahashi unsuccessfully challenged Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. The loss ended Tanahashi's Tokyo Dome main event win streak at five. On February 14 at The New Beginning in Niigata, Tanahashi was defeated by Kenny Omega in a match to determine the new IWGP Intercontinental Champion. On March 20, Tanahashi teamed with Juice Robinson and Michael Elgin to unsuccessfully challenge Omega and The Young Bucks (Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson) for the NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship. On April 10 at Invasion Attack 2016, Tanahashi, Elgin and Yoshitatsu defeated Omega and The Young Bucks to become the new NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Champions. They made their first successful defense on April 23 against Omega, Bad Luck Fale and Yujiro Takahashi. On May 3 at Wrestling Dontaku 2016, they lost the title back to Omega and The Young Bucks. Tanahashi was set to challenge Omega for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship in NJPW's first ladder match at Dominion 6.19 in Osaka-jo Hall, but was forced to pull out of the match due to a shoulder injury. From July 18 to August 12, Tanahashi took part in the 2016 G1 Climax, where he finished tied second in his block with a record of five wins, one draw and three losses. A 30-minute time limit draw against Kazuchika Okada on the final day eliminated both men from advancing to the finals.
On January 4, 2017, at Wrestle Kingdom 11 Tanahashi unsuccessfully challenged Tetsuya Naito for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship. The next day, Tanahashi, Manabu Nakanishi and Ryusuke Taguchi defeated Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, EVIL and SANADA) for the NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship at New Year Dash!!. They lost the title back to L.I.J. on February 11 at The New Beginning in Osaka. Tanahashi and Taguchi regained the title from L.I.J. with new partner Ricochet on April 4. After defeating L.I.J. member Evil on April 29, Tanahashi confronted the stable's leader Tetsuya Naito and challenged him to a match for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship. On May 3 at Wrestling Dontaku 2017, Tanahashi, Ricochet and Taguchi lost the NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship back to L.I.J. members Bushi, Evil and Sanada. Shortly afterwards, Tanahashi was sidelined with a ruptured biceps tendon. Though Tanahashi later admitted that a surgery would have been the best option for him, he stated that he could not take time off. Tanahashi returned to the ring on June 11 at Dominion 6.11 in Osaka-jo Hall, where he defeated Tetsuya Naito to win the IWGP Intercontinental Championship for the second time. Tanahashi then entered the 2017 G1 Climax, where he finished with a record of six wins and three losses, failing to make it to the finals due to losing to Naito in their final round-robin match on August 11. Tanahashi then successfully defended the Intercontinental Championship against Zack Sabre Jr. on September 16 at Destruction in Hiroshima and Kota Ibushi on November 5 at Power Struggle, avenging two losses he had suffered during the 2017 G1 Climax. Following the Ibushi match, Tanahashi was attacked by the returning Jay White, who challenged him to a title match on January 4, 2018, at Wrestle Kingdom 12 in Tokyo Dome. After being sidelined with a legitimate knee injury, Tanahashi returned on December 18 to assure he would be wrestling at Wrestle Kingdom 12, at which point he was again attacked by White. On January 4, 2018, Tanahashi defeated White to retain his title. On January 27 at The New Beginning in Sapporo, Tanahashi lost the title to Minoru Suzuki, after the referee was forced to stop the match due to Tanahashi's leg injury, ending his reign at 230 days.
Record breaking eight reign as IWGP Heavyweight Champion (2018–2019)
Tanahashi returned from his injury on March 3 teaming with David Finlay and Toa Henare in a winning effort against Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Taichi and Takashi Iizuka). Later that month, Tanahashi made it to the finals of the New Japan Cup, but was defeated by Zack Sabre Jr. On April 1 at Sakura Genesis, after Kazuchika Okada made his eleventh successful title defense against Sabre, Tanahashi came to the ring and challenged Okada to a title match for IWGP Heavyweight Championship, after Gedo dare anyone to challenge Okada to a title match. Tanahashi vowed to stop Okada from breaking his record of most successful title defenses of the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. On May 4 at Wrestling Dontaku, Tanahashi receive his shot at the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, but was defeated by Okada, in the process breaking Tanahashi's record of most successful title defenses as IWGP Heavyweight Champion. From July 14 until August 10, Tanahashi took part in the 2018 G1 Climax, where he opened the tournament with a victory over Minoru Suzuki. Tanahashi suffered his first and only in the tournament against Jay White. Despite losing to White, Tanahashi won six more matches in his block and faced Kazuchika Okada in a time limit draw to advance to the finals of the tournament. On August 12 Tanahashi defeated Kota Ibushi in the finals to win his third G1 Climax. The following day, Tanahashi was handed a contract, which gave him the right to challenge for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship at Wrestle Kingdom 13 in Tokyo Dome, that he would have to defend for the rest of the year. During September and October, Tanahashi successfully defended the contract against Kazuchika Okada and Jay White, avenging his draw and loss suffered during the 2018 G1 Climax. On December 10, Tanahashi received the NJPW's MVP Award and three days later Tokyo Sports magazine awarded Tanahashi the 2018 MVP Award for the fourth time in four years, citting his comeback and winning the 2018 G1 Climax as the factor for receiving the award. On September 28, Tanahashi signed a contract extension with NJPW. On January 4, 2019, Tanahashi defeated Kenny Omega to win the IWGP Heavyweight Championship for the record breaking eight-time, becoming the first wrestler to successfully cash-in the Tokyo Dome IWGP Heavyweight Championship challenge rights certificate. Following the match, Tanahashi was challenged by Jay White to a match for his title. Tanahashi lost the title to White on February 11, 2019 at The New Beginning in Osaka.
Various feuds and championship reigns (2019–Present)
On April 6 at G1 Supercard, Tanahashi unsuccessfully challenged Zack Sabre Jr. for the British Heavyweight Champion, at the end of the match Tanahashi would get injured. He returned on May 5, announcing that he was going to return on June 5, while he made his intentions for the IWGP Heavyweight Champion, only to Jay White interrupt him and having a brawl. On June 5 at Tanahashi's return match, he was defeated by White. On June 9, at Dominion 6.9 in Osaka-jo Hall, after Kazuchika Okada defeated Chris Jericho to retain the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, Jericho attacked Okada leading to Tanahashi leave the commentary table to make the save. From July 6 until August 10, Tanahashi took part in the 2019 G1 Climax, where he finished the tournament with a record of four wins and five losses, failing to advance to the finals of the tournament. On August 31 at Royal Quest, Tanahashi defeated Zack Sabre Jr. to win the British Heavyweight Championship. He lost the title back to Sabre on September 15 at Destruction in Beppu. On November 3 at Power Struggle, Chris Jericho made his return to NJPW, appearing in a video where he challenged Tanahashi to a match at Wrestle Kingdom 14 in Tokyo Dome. The challenge was quickly accepted by Tanahashi, leading the match to be officially announced on the following day. From November 16 until December 8, Tanahashi and Toa Henare took part in the 2019 World Tag League, failing to win the tournament with a record of three wins and twelve losses. On January 5, 2020, at Wrestle Kingdom 14 in Tokyo Dome, Tanahashi was defeated by Chris Jericho.
The following day at New Years Dash, Tanahashi and Kota Ibushi announced their intentions of challenging for the IWGP Tag Team Championship. On February 21, Tanahashi and Ibushi defeated the Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga and Tanga Roa) to win the IWGP Tag Team Championship. In June, Tanahashi took part in the 2020 New Japan Cup, being eliminated from the tournament by Taichi in the first round. On July 12 at Dominion in Osaka-jo Hall, Tanahashi and Ibushi lost the IWGP Tag Team Championship to Dangerous Tekkers (Taichi and Zack Sabre Jr). Afterwards, Tanahashi entered a storyline where the loss of the IWGP Tag Team Championship had broken his confidence, causing him to enter a slump and feeling he couldn't compete with NJPW's up and coming roster. From September 19 until October 17, Tanahashi took part in the 2020 G1 Climax, finishing the tournament with a record of four wins and five losses, failling to advance to the finals of the tournament. From November 15 until December 6, Tanahashi and Toa Henare took part in the 2020 World Tag League, finishing the tournament with a record of one win and eight losses, failling to advance to the finals of the tournament. Tanahashi's slump led to a rivalry with Great-O-Khan after he returned from his excursion, culminating in a match on January 4, 2021, on the first night of Wrestle Kingdom 15 in Tokyo Dome, where Tanahashi was victorious.
Following the event, Tanahashi set his sights on the NEVER Openweight Championship, as a way to return to the top of the card. This culminated in a match on January 30 at The New Beginning in Nagoya, where Tanahashi defeated Shingo Takagi to become the new NEVER Openweight Champion, becoming NJPW's fourth Triple Crown Champion. Afterwards, Tanahashi was attacked by Great-O-Khan and challenged to a title match. On February 28, at Castle Attack, Tanahashi made his first successful title defense against O-Khan. Following the match, Tanahashi announced that he was seeking to replicate the Shinsuke Nakamura legacy with the IWGP Intercontinental Championship, on the NEVER Openweight Championship to the point of elevating it to the level into a first tier belt. In March, Tanahashi took part in the 2021 New Japan Cup. Due to Tanahashi holding the NEVER Openweight Championship, he progressed to the second round. Tanahashi was defeated by Jay White in the second round on March 15. Following the tournament, Tanahashi was challenged by White to a title match for the NEVER Openweight Championship. Afterwards, White claimed he would force Tanahashi to submit with the TTO-Tanahashi Tap Out, leading Tanahashi to refuse his challenge. However, on April 4 at Sakura Genisis, Tanahashi accepted his challenge, after forcing White to submit with the Texas Cloverleaf or the JTO-Jay Tap Out. On May 3 on the first night of Wrestling Dontaku, Tanahashi lost the NEVER Openweight Championship to White.
Due to Kota Ibushi suffering from an aspiration pneumonia, on July 24, after defeating KENTA in a match, Tanahashi stated he was ready to take the main event spot of the Wrestle Grand Slam in Tokyo in a match against Shingo Takagi for the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship, if Ibushi couldn't take part in the match. The following day, NJPW confirmed that Ibushi would be unable to compete at Wrestle Grand Slam, therefore, Tanahashi was announced as Ibushi's replacement for the match. At the event, Tanahashi unsucessfully challenged Takagi for the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship. On July 29, Tanahashi appeared in a pre-taped vignette challenging Lance Archer to a title match for the IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship at Resurgence.
Professional wrestling style and persona
Being trained by the NJPW Dojo, Tanahashi learned shoot techniques, catch and boxing moves to include in his moveset. During his career, he has used several moves as finishing holds, like the High Fly Flow (a frog splash), the Sling blade, the Dragon suplex and the Texas clover hold.
After his first title defense against Shinsuke Nakamura, Tanahashi dubbed himself as "the ace of the universe", a nickname that used during his career. When he debuted, he was seen as an innovator because he said "I love you" to his fans after the match and played an air-guitar, something very unusual in NJPW.
Tanahashi married his wife in 2003 and has two children, a son named Shiryu and a daughter named Koharu.
In 2016, Tanahashi, along with fellow wrestler Togi Makabe, appeared in Garo: Ashura, the 10th anniversary special of the Japanese tokusatsu series Garo, with Tanahashi starring as the eponymous Golden Knight. The Garo Project production team collaborated with New Japan Pro Wrestling for the special.
Tanahashi, along with fellow NJPW wrestlers Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Kazuchika Okada, Satoshi Kojima, Tetsuya Naito and Toru Yano, appears as a member of the gang Justis in the 2016 video game Ryū ga Gotoku 6. He is also a fan of the Kamen Rider series, working poses from Kamen Rider Kabuto and Kamen Rider W into his ring entrance as well as appearing in the music video for Kamen Rider Wizard's opening theme, and in 2016 got promoted to portray one of the main villains, Sōji Kuruse/Robol Bugster, in Kamen Rider Heisei Generations: Dr. Pac-Man vs. Ex-Aid & Ghost with Legend Rider. He also appears as a character in the anime series Tiger Mask W, voiced by Kenichi Suzumura, along with other NJPW wrestlers and plays a prominent role in the story as well as an occasional opponent for Tiger Mask. As part of a collaboration with Namco's 2017 fighting game Tekken 7, the video game character Lars Alexandersson was given many traits from Tanahashi, including his outfit, a theme song and a wrestling technique. Tanahashi made his acting debut in the film My Dad Is a Heel Wrestler, which was released in September 2018.
- Finishing moves
- High Fly Flow (Frog splash)
- Texas cloverleaf
- Signature moves
- All Out (Spinning side slam) - 2006
- Dragon screw leg whip, sometimes done to a grounded opponent - Adopted from Tatsumi Fujinami
- Dragon-shiki Harite (Left-handed open-palm face slap) - Adopted from Tatsumi Fujinami
- Dragon sleeper
- Dragon Swing (Swinging dragon sleeper dropped into a mat slam)
- Dragon Rocket (Suicide dive) - Adopted from Tatsumi Fujinami
- Multiple suplex variations:
- Bridging dragon - Used as a finisher from 2002-2004
- Bridging half-hatch - Used as a finisher from 2000-2001
- Daruma-shiki German Suplex (Bridging straightjacket German, used as a counter to opponents escaping from a dragon suplex)
- Kinkasan Suplex (Bridging high-angle German)
- Twelve-Six (Sitout fisherman slam)
- Uranage - Adopted from Hiroshi Hase
- Multiple pinning variations:
- Denkou Sekka (Running inside cradle), sometimes done following a standing enzuigiri
- Fall In Love (Victory roll)
- Grounded cobra twist - Adopted from Tatsumi Fujinami
- Sling Blade (Spinning sitout sleeper slam) - Innovated
- Somersault senton bomb, from the second rope
- Skytwister Press (Corkscrew moonsault) - used from 2002-2004 while wrestling as Masked Devilock
- Styles Clash (Belly to back inverted mat slam) 2013-Present, Adopted from AJ Styles
- Twist and Shout (Snap swinging neckbreaker)
- "High Flying Star"
- "Ace of the Universe"
- "100 Nen ni 1-ri no Itsuzai" (Japanese for "Once in a Century Talent")
- "Mr. Tokyo Dome"
- Entrance themes
- "High Energy" by Julia Claris (2004–2016)
- "Love & Energy" by Yonosuke Kitamura (2017–present)
Championships and accomplishments
- Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre
- New Japan Pro Wrestling
- IWGP Heavyweight Championship (8 times)
- IWGP Intercontinental Championship (2 times)
- IWGP Tag Team Championship (3 times) – with Yutaka Yoshie (1), Shinsuke Nakamura (1) and Kota Ibushi (1)
- IWGP U-30 Openweight Championship (2 times)
- NEVER Openweight Championship (1 time)
- NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship (3 times) – with Michael Elgin and Yoshitatsu (1), Manabu Nakanishi and Ryusuke Taguchi (1) and Ricochet and Ryusuke Taguchi (1)
- Tokyo Dome IWGP Heavyweight Championship challenge rights certificate (2015, 2018)
- G1 Climax (2007, 2015, 2018)
- G2 U-30 Climax (2003)
- New Japan Cup (2005, 2008)
- Fourth Triple Crown Champion
- IWGP Heavyweight Title Tournament (2007)
- IWGP U-30 Openweight Championship League (2005)
- U-30 One Night Tag Tournament (2004) – with Taiji Ishimori
- Heavyweight Tag MVP Award (2005) with Shinsuke Nakamura
- Fighting Spirit Award (2003)
- MVP Award (2018)
- New Wave Award (2002)
- Outstanding Performance Award (2003, 2004)
- Singles Best Bout (2004) vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan on August 15
- Young Lion Award (2001)
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- PWI ranked him #3 of the top 500 singles wrestlers in the PWI 500 in 2013
- PWI ranked him #27 of the top 500 singles wrestlers in the PWI 500 in 2016
- PWI ranked him #39 of the top 500 singles wrestlers in the PWI 500 in 2017
- Pro Wrestling NOAH
- Revolution Pro Wrestling
- British Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- Tokyo Sports
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter
- 5 Star Match (2012) vs. Minoru Suzuki on October 8
- 5 Star Match (2013) vs. Kazuchika Okada on April 7
- 5 Star Match (2013) vs. Kazuchika Okada on October 14
- 5 Star Match (2014) vs. Katsuyori Shibata on September 21
- 5 Star Match (2015) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura on August 16
- 5 Star Match (2016) vs. Kazuchika Okada on January 4
- Feud of the Year (2012, 2013) vs. Kazuchika Okada
- Match of the Year (2012) vs. Minoru Suzuki on October 8
- Match of the Year (2013) vs. Kazuchika Okada on April 7
- Most Charismatic (2013)
- Most Outstanding Wrestler (2012, 2013)
- Wrestler of the Year (2011–2013)
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame (Class of 2013)
Luchas de Apuestas record
|Winner (wager)||Loser (wager)||Location||Event||Date||Notes|
|Hiroshi Tanahashi (hair)||Makai #2 (mask)||Osaka, Japan||Osaka Dream Night||August 28, 2003|
|Hiroshi Tanahashi (hair)||Toru Yano (hair)||Osaka, Japan||Dominion 6.19||June 19, 2010|
- Puroresu Central profile . Puroresu Central. Retrieved on 2009-12-09.
- Cite error: Invalid
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- Rose, Bryan 2017-05-02. NJPW Wrestling Dontaku live results: Okada faces Bad Luck Fale . Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Retrieved on 2017-05-03.
- ja:【新日】棚橋が右上腕二頭筋腱遠位断裂で今シリーズ欠場 ６・１１インターコンチ戦へ治療専念 (in Japanese). Tokyo Sports (2017-05-18). Retrieved on 2017-06-24.
- Currier, Joseph 2017-06-24. Daily Update: Mae Young Classic additions, Ranallo, Tanahashi . Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Retrieved on 2017-06-24.
- Rose, Bryan 2017-06-10. NJPW Dominion live results: Kazuchika Okada vs. Kenny Omega . Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Retrieved on 2017-06-11.
- ja:ローソンチケット Presents G1 Climax 27 (in Japanese). New Japan Pro-Wrestling. Retrieved on 2017-08-11.