Hiroshi Tanahashi is one of the most important figures in New Japan Pro Wrestling history. He is largely responsible for saving the promotion from near bankruptcy in the mid-2000s, helping the company climb back to popularity. However, it could have just as easily not happened.
In a recent interview with njpw1972.com, Tanahashi revealed he was offered a spot in rival promotion All Japan Pro Wrestling by Keiji Muto. With Muto being his hero, it was something for Tanahashi to consider. Here is the quote:
“Yeah. But instead we wound up going to the Denny’s near the Dojo. He got us some coffees and as we’re sitting there drinking those he explains that he’s leaving for AJPW. And then he says ‘Hey, Tana, I want you to come with me’.
I think he was just done. He’d had enough of NJPW, and this was a chance to try something different, reset and find his passion again.
I didn’t give him an answer right away. But he was very into the idea. He asked me how much I was making, said he could match my deal with NJPW.
…here was my teenage idol literally looking me in the face and saying ‘I want you’. That’s just surreal. But I told him I needed some time to think, and then it was the New Year’s holiday.
I went home to Gifu for a bit, and Muto called me there, asking if I was in or out. To be honest I was thinking ‘oh shit, I forgot to talk to him’ and just said ‘well, I think I’ll stay’. He said ‘ah, ok. Sorry for puttng you on the spot like that’.”
Fortunately for New Japan, Tanahashi decided to stay. In 2006, he won the IWGP Heavyweight Championship for the first time and has gone on to become one of the greatest wrestlers of all time.
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