Hiroshi Tanahashi's pro wrestling debut was perhaps not something that went exactly as he hoped it would.
The Ace and future multi-time IWGP Heavyweight Champion made his debut for the promotion in October 1999 when he took on Togi Makabe, then known as Shinya Makabe. Speaking with NJPW as part of its "Ace's High" autobiographical interview series, Tanahashi spoke about getting tired, or blown up, just minutes into his pro wrestling debut.
"I was young and had to have been in better shape than I am now, but the nerves meant I was blown up about two or three minutes in. That being of a six minute match before I lost. It was definitely a baptism of fire," Tanahashi said.
Although some would consider that debut a failure, it wasn't a total loss for him. Tanahashi said many in the audience were captivated by his physique when he walked towards the ring. Having so many people be amazed by his physical prowess did help him out at least.
"That really helped me. When I walked out, everybody was surprised to see just how big I was and that really gave me a lot of confidence. A lot of those fans were thinking something huge was about to happen… It didn’t then at least… (laughs)," Tanahashi said.
Tanahashi was able to remain with the company more than 20 years later and has won a number of titles with NJPW and headlined several Wrestle Kingdom shows at the Tokyo Dome. You can check out the full interview at this link.