10. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Katsuyori Shibata – Destruction In Kobe 2014
Hiroshi Tanahashi is one of the greatest talents in wrestling history. He is a modern-day Bret Hart in terms of wrestling psychology with the athleticism and grace of Shawn Michaels at his peak. With his career never short on great moments, here are the ten Hiroshi Tanahashi matches you need to see.
The first on this list is his match with Katsuyori Shibata in 2014. Shibata had deserted New Japan Pro Wrestling during their dark years and only returned when business began to pick up. In addition to personal animosity, Tanahashi and Shibata clashed over their vision of pro wrestling. Shibata is as Strong Style as they come, while Tanahashi was part of the new wave of wrestling. Focusing on storytelling as an art.
This resulted in a brilliant match with Tanahashi having to rise to Shibata’s level of intensity to beat him. The story of matches like this shows that there isn’t just one philosophy of wrestling that works.
9. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Minoru Suzuki – King of Pro Wrestling 2012
Minoru Suzuki and Hiroshi Tanahashi are perfect opponents for each other. While Shibata fights valiantly with his intense offense, Suzuki fights sadistically. Together, they had the match of the year for 2012 and the first five-star match in New Japan Pro Wrestling in 15 years. For what it’s worth, every match on this list received at least five stars from Dave Meltzer. At the very least that should tell you these are ten must-see matches.
Suzuki is a perfect villain for the heroic Tanahashi. While Tanahashi fights to keep his title, Suzuki is wickedly yelling to bring the pain. Good vs. evil is the oldest story known to man and when done in a wrestling ring you can still create something magical.
8. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada – Invasion Attack 2013
I’ll tell you right now, Kazuchika Okada is going to come up a few times on this list. He is Tanahashi’s greatest opponent and at Invasion Attack 2013 they took their rivalry to the next level. After failing to defeat Tanahashi at Wrestle Kingdom 7, Okada got his chance again in April.
This is where the balance of power shifted in their rivalry. With the exception of the Rainmaker Shock of 2012, Tanahashi had been in control of their feud. At Invasion Attack, Okada surpassed Tanahashi. Tanahashi was cocky from the outlook, yet Okada was cold and focused. In a straight wrestling match, no tricks, Okada topped his rival.
This was the match of the year for 2013 and a truly incredible piece of storytelling.