— In Kagoshima you face the returning Kota Ibushi. Your thoughts on the Golden Star?
Tanahashi ‘Well I’m really glad this match is coming in the middle of the tournament. Why… we’ll, can I be honest?’
Tanahashi ‘Well, I think Ibushi’s form is kind of inconsistent. I think meeting him in the middle like this, he should be in a slump, he’ll be easier to beat. But that depends on Ibushi’s mentality coming into this.’
–Naito had some very harsh words to say about Ibushi. Do you have the same message, that the G1 isn’t to be taken lightly?
Tanahashi ‘But Ibushi is still a top flight wrestler. And that match being in Kagoshima, it’s a tough one.’
— Ibushi’s hometown.
Tanahashi ‘It’s definitely an away game for me. That’s for sure.’
— Next in Ehime you have Makabe. He’s doing the G1 while also appearing on major TV dramas, and all the other TV work he does, what are your thoughts?
Tanahashi ‘Makabe is not someone who just wants to be famous. He’s a guy that’s thinking constantly about how to balance TV with his time in the ring, and he’s a guy that’s always using TV to get exposure and attention on wrestling. During the G1 he’s able to put all the other stuff aside and really focus.’
–Does this feel like a fresh match to you?
Tanahashi ‘Yes, and this is actually the first time I’ve been in a G1 match in Shikoku, so I really want to tear it up.’
–In Hamamatsu next, you face Ishii for the first time in a while.
Tanahashi ‘It’s a scary match to have right as things approach the end. But I can take a plus from this. Ishii is a guy that will take you to your limits. All his matches are great. I don’t want people to say his Tanahashi match was the only letdown.’
— If you can weather Ishii, you’d have a lot of momentum heading into Ryogoku.
Tanahashi ‘Right, but Ishii has beaten me in the past in the G1.’
–Yes, in 2013, Korakuen.
Tanahashi ‘He beat me with an Ishii Driller. He hasn’t used that move since, not even in a title match.’
–He had to pull out something special against you.
Tanahashi ‘He might feel comfortable since he has that move. But I definitely don’t plan on taking it again.’
–Finally on August 11 you face Naito. You only recently beat him for the Intercontinental Championship- how do you feel about facing him again so soon?
Tanahashi ‘Well, this time I’m a champion. It’s a different situation to the Tokyo Dome and Osaka Jo.’
— You feel more comfortable going in than your last two matches perhaps?
Tanahashi ‘But I think this being the third time this year, there’s an element of “how can I bring something g extra to this one?”’
–It’s become a tradition of late to close the G1 with three shows in Ryogoku. Do you feel the expectation of the fans?
Tanahashi ‘I do. I liken it to the summer high school baseball tournament. The last group days are like the quarterfinals. I always think those are the most fun matches.’
–B block has Okada and Omega headlining that last day.
Tanahashi ‘At this point, we know who’s representing block A in the final. So the speculation is “just who will face Tanahashi?”’
–And? Who do you think will win B block?
Tanahashi ‘Can I keep that a secret? I’m uncanny when it comes to my predictions. But I will say that I’m most interested in EVIL and SANADA.’
— Two LIJ members?
Tanahashi ‘Having wrestled with them this year, I really feel they’ve improved. But with Naito leading that group, they’re always going to feel behind. This is a chance to cast that aside, and I really want them to do well. I don’t know why I’m wishing LIJ well though (laughs).’