Hiroshi Tanahashi’s life story can now be told in this series of autobiographical interviews, available for the first time in English!
–Last time we talked about the 2010 G1 final and your defeat to Satoshi Kojima. After that, October 11 in Ryogoku saw you wrestle Tetsuya Naito for the third time that year.
Tanahashi: This came up after we went to a thirty minute draw in the G1.
–Right, August 8 in Aichi, just as you were going up for the High Fly Flow the time limit expired.
Tanahashi: We wrestled a ton that year. First was March in the New Japan Cup, right?
–His win with the Stardust Press instantly established him as a singles guy. In Ryogoku though you tapped him out with the Texas Cloverleaf. That hold really was the ‘Naito Killer’
Tanahashi: ‘Naito Killer’, I like that, heh. It’s a good point; I used it to beat him in his sendoff match, and to beat him for the IWGP Intercontinental title in 2017. That wasn’t really uppermost in my mind for this match, it just came together naturally; payback for him after he worked over my knee.
–He countered Slingblade with a knee crusher- was this the first time you hit a High Fly Flow to the knee to set up the Texas?
Tanahashi: Ah, could be. I think with Naito trying to really go all guns blazing on his return from overseas, there was something in me that wanted him to give up rather than just get pinned. Of all the times we wrestled that year, this was the match that sticks with me most I think. One year later in the same place it was with the IWGP Heavyweight Championship on the line, and this was a big factor in that match.
–After Ryogoku, October saw you in the G1 Tag League, teaming with SMASH’s TAJIRI.
Tanahashi: Ah, man, that was a ton of fun! I’ve always respected TAJIRI, so it was good to come through full circle and team with him after our issues in 2009, getting misted, and all the insults he hurled at me.
–In the end of the league, you were tied with No Limit and Bad Intentions on six points, but didn’t make it through to the finals on direct falls.
Tanahashi: So near yet so far. One thing I remember from this tour was TAJIRI really put me over one time. In Kyoto, we had Terrible and Texano Jr. TAJIRI had spent time in Mexico, and I had my time with lucha in CMLL with Nakamura…
–You took part in the lucha classes there.
Tanahashi: I was a terrible student (laughs). But TAJIRI said after the match that I had blended lucha with my own wrestling style, and that I had a ‘global view of wrestling’.
–From an international star like TAJIRI, that must have made you happy to hear.
Tanahashi: Well, I wouldn’t have a hope in hell dealing with their lucha with, well lucha. So the lucha style was a way in, and then I would change the flow and the pace to suit me better. I think TAJIRI saw that and it I was so proud that night. Over ten years ago and I’m still pleased with myself, heh.
–Was it easy, teaming with TAJIRI?
Tanahashi: Yeah, he was. I always had in mind that he would be the major leaguer, that I would set the pace of the match, get everything in the right rhythm and then bring him in. I think we had a nice balance going. We’d be a good team even today, I think. Let’s at least put it in the mix of possibilities, with Golden Ace, TanaCozy and, well, Toru Yano (laughs).