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 your 2011 G1 campaign. After the G1, on August 27, a special event saw promotions join up in the Nippon Budokan for All Together, a charity event to benefit the relief efforts after the big earthquake that hit eastern Japan in March. This was first announced in April in a joint press conference with New and All Japan, as well as Pro-Wrestling NOAH- how did it feel to finally have that event go ahead?
Tanahashi: After the earthquake happened, I think there were a lot of people who wanted to use pro-wrestling for good and try to help out in some way, but it was Tokyo Sports that helped take the lead, and they sponsored the whole deal. It was a really big thing to happen, that these rival promotions can reach over the fence and work together t help out people who were truly in need. It was really special.
–Obviously the fans wanted to help out themselves, and this was a fantastic motivation for them, with ticket sales going to relief efforts. Seeing some matches never usually possible gave that incentive, and the Budokan was sold out.
Tanahashi: The wrestlers, the fans, the staff, they really were all of one mind for one night. The card was well put together as well; you had that competitive aspect highlighted, but you had this nice balance with exhibition tags as well.
–Between the three companies, there were 82 wrestlers on the card. You were in the main event, teaming with Suwama from All Japan and Go Shiozaki of NOAH against Shinsuke Nakamura, KENSO for All Japan and Takashi Sugiura for NOAH.
Tanahashi: The King of the Hills colliding! It was the first time for me and KENSO to share the ring since he left New Japan. I think that made the two of us the center of that match with him the main heel.
–KENSO didn’t exactly play well with others, including his own teammates. In the end, all five of you turned on him, leading to a High Fly Flow for the finish.
Tanahashi: Well, in a way it made sure he had the most impact. He had the starring role in that match I guess, heh.
–KENSO was quite a unique character at the time, very different to the man you tagged with. What were your thoughts on him here?
Tanahashi: I wasn’t all that surprised to see him take that turn. I think I picked up on it long before (laughs). He always had a wild take on something, always had different ideas. He was the one who thought of us tagging, and went direct to Riki Choshu with the idea. It takes balls for a guy not one year in the business to go to the booker and tell them ‘OK, here’s what we’re doing’.
–More guts than brains, maybe.
Tanahashi: Choshu was mad, called us both jokes. You have to earn that right to speak your mind, but KENSO was someone who would just speak first. He was just so completely sure that he had the right idea about everything. In a way, I learned from him, how to be aggressive, how to be assertive.
–It was that conviction that brought him to WWE and AAA as well as the Japanese majors.
Tanahashi: As a wrestler, he had this ability to really change the atmosphere in the room, create a different energy. He definitely wasn’t well tuned with the NJPW way of doing things, but after he left he really came into his own, I feel.
–So did this main event mean a lot to you, with all your history?
Tanahashi: Oh, yeah, definitely. This was the first chance for us to meet in such a long time. We were able to link up quite a few times after that; I always appreciated the ‘Tanaken’ reunions, heheh.
–You spent so much time together back in the day after all. Kenzo Suzuki actually works in TV right now, as a producer.
Tanahashi: We chat a lot about his work now, and the times back then. He’s an interesting cat, for sure.
–Looking back there’s a lot of history tied to All Together. It was the first time Tetsuya Naito and (then Seiya) SANADA shared a ring, for one.
Tanahashi: SANADA hadn’t made his break yet, but I did think that he had something. Great look, good movement. I know he has that stoic thing going on, but I would really like to see him go full babyface. He’s the same age as Okada, but I think he still has more to offer that we haven’t seen yet, and I see him being a key guy for us.
–A lot of the foundations of modern NJPW were on that card. A younger KENTA, Zack Sabre Jr. as well, all in New Japan now.
Tanahashi: It really was special. With COVID and everything it’s still unpredictable and difficult to plan anything out, but I would like to have a lot of companies on one card again. Get that all-star feel.
–You closed out the night with a big call of ‘aishitemasu!’
Tanahashi: That was a real honour. It felt than like ‘OK, I really represent all of pro-wrestling now’.
–When you closed the night, everyone raised their right arms with you- except Tetsuya Naito.
Tanahashi: Just like Inoki in February 2001, when I didn’t join in the ‘1,2,3 daa!’. That was definitely the seeds of the modern Tetsuya Naito there.