7. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Tetsuya Naito – G1 Climax 27 Day 17
Hiroshi Tanahashi and Tetsuya Naito were feuding for much of 2017 with both men winning one match each. In the G1 Climax, they had their rubber match. What a match it was. Slightly overshadowed by the bonkers Kazuchika Okada vs. Kenny Omega and Omega vs. Naito matches that followed it, this match should be looked at as one of the best of 2017.
Naito hated Tanahashi and he let it show in this one. Tanahashi was battling injuries during this time, having suffered a torn bicep earlier in the year. Naito was sure to target it leading to a decisive victory and a thrilling end to the A Block. This was two guys at their peak having a classic match to settle one storyline and move on to their next. Very fun. I would like more.
6. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada – King of Pro Wrestling 2013
While their match at Invasion Attack may have been better from a purely in-ring standpoint, this one may have told a better story. The defeat at Invasion Attack took its toll on Hiroshi Tanahashi. During their G1 Climax match that Summer, Tanahashi stooped to nefarious tactics to try and get his win back, only to wrestle a draw. At King of Pro Wrestling, Tanahashi had one last chance.
This was a tragic match. Tanahashi had always been a pure babyface with a good heart. However, after losing to Okada earlier in the year, he knew it wasn’t enough. Tanahashi stooped low for this match. He feigned a knee injury and brutally attacked Okada in the ropes. What is worse is it wasn’t enough. Tanahashi betrayed the fans and his morals and in the end still lost. It is a tragic tale but one that must be watched to appreciate Tanahashi’s overall character arc.
5. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Shinsuke Nakamura – G1 Climax 25 Final
Hiroshi Tanahashi and Shinsuke Nakamura were rivals dating back to their time as young lions. At the G1 Climax in 2015, they had their last singles match. Tanahashi was hellbent on facing Okada at Wrestle Kingdom 10 and would do anything to win the tournament.
What resulted was another wonderful clash between the two. Nakamura had almost always been a step behind Tanahashi once Tanahashi reached his peak, this was the final example of that. The 2015 G1 Climax had some great moments but it peaked with this match. Tanahashi could not be stopped and he successfully topped his old rival once again. With Nakamura leaving for WWE months later, this was likely their final match together.
4. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada – Wrestle Kingdom 10
There was always one thing Hiroshi Tanahashi had over Kazuchika Okada. That one thing was Wrestle Kingdom. On New Japan’s biggest stage, Tanahashi was unmatched. Twice Okada had tried to top The Ace in the Tokyo Dome and twice he failed. In one final test for both men, Okada and Tanahashi culminated their rivalry at Wrestle Kingdom 10.
After four years of feuding, there was no feeling-out process here. They knew each other better than anyone and it worked well to create incredible counters. It is possible these were the two best wrestlers in the world at the time. If not they were certainly in the conversation and they managed to make their climactic match their best one yet. This also won match of the year in the Wrestling Observer for 2016, the third time Tanahashi would have that honour.