Hiroshi Tanahashi’s life story can now be told in this series of autobiographical interviews, available for the first time in English!
–On January 4 2011, you captured the IWGP Heavyweight Championship from Satoshi Kojima, to start your fifth reign. Your first defence was in a rematch in Sendai, the first time the title had been defended there since Hashimoto vs Fujiwara in 1994.
Tanahashi: I think we saw toward the end of the 00’s that we were moving further out of just catering toward Tokyo. Dontaku came back to Fukuoka, and we established Dominion in Osaka as a tentpole event. Here we were in Sendai, which was another step. This match was a huge deal for me.
–You were moved to tears at being able to sell out in Sendai, and said you’d never forget the moment.
Tanahashi: Back in the day, we’d run in the Miyagi Prefectural Gym, which was a big building, but that got torn down in the early 2000s. Through the middle of the decade, we were in such a rough state that we’d be in the little music hall, Zepp Sendai. 1000 capacity and we couldn’t even draw that.
–So those emotions made sense.
Tanahashi: The thing is, promotion isn’t a quick fix thing. It’s a three, five year plan, and that’s what was finally paying off here. It was this near impossible hurdle to get non fans interested enough in wrestling to get them to buy a ticket, but with local media, social media and whatever else, we were slowly getting there.
–You’re known for being one of the hardest workers when it comes to promotion.
Tanahashi: I started blogging in 2009, and started Twitter in 2012. I’ve managed to keep the blog up for 12 years now! But I think that Twitter and Instagram are the main tools now.
–You have your podcast as well- how and why have you kept up blogging all these years?
Tanahashi: I mean, if you pressed me, it’s really just routine, but it all comes from promotion. I think when I started it was me putting my hand up to the world ‘hey, look at me, I’m a wrestler!’ And then more recently it’s been everything but wrestling, heh. What I’ve written has changed with the times as well, but looking back at my old posts from this point in time, it was a lot of talk about the towns I made doing promotion, and where I went to eat after.
–Those blog posts tend to stay around longer, while everything goes by very quickly with Twitter.
Tanahashi: Right, it’s nice to have that archive there for my sake as well.
–To go back to the Sendai match with Kojima, you ended up stealing his lariat in that match.
Tanahashi: I like lifting moves from my opponent (laughs). I think from 2011, you’ll see me at least preparing myself to steal one of my opponent’s moves in every match. I prepare myself for the heat I’d get anyway, heheh. It instantly grabs the people’s attention, instantly shocks the crowd.
–It’s certainly an impactful visual.
Tanahashi: And it says something about my opponent’s moves as well. It’s the whole ‘windmill theory’.
Tanahashi: The harder the wind blows, the better the windmill moves. So you draw the most that you can in order to put in even more power yourself. When I think of lariats, I go back in my mind to (Riki) Choshu and (Tatsumi) Fujinami. Choshu with that straight ahead take your head off style, and Fujinami trying to counter that with his technical skills. I’ve always been fascinated by what Fujinami did, and that really meant I hardly ever threw a lariat.
–Lariats are almost the ultimate show of strength for arm guys. With you being a body guy, it’s a little surprising you didn’t go for lariats more.
Tanahashi: It’s all pretty deliberate. I mean, for one thing, lariats are much, much harder to hit right than they look. The timing, positioning of your weight. Bad lariats just look brutal. Look at how Choshu used to his the ropes, put his foot forward and then throw from his shoulder. That really is something that’s near impossible to just mimic from watching. I really liked Stan Hansen’s lariat as well, that big guy shooting from the hip.
–There are a ton of variations with the same move. Shingo Takagai’s Pumping Bomber has to be up with the best as well.
Tanahashi: With Shingo it’s all about speed. That speed and power balance is where you see that variation. Like, Ishii puts a lot into his speed as well. Kojima’s is still the best out of current guys though. He learned from the best in Hansen, and he has the biggest arms too.