In 2004, a 23-year-old Daniel Bryan battled a 27-year-old Hiroshi Tanahashi for the U-30 Openweight Championship.
It was the only time the two men stepped in the ring against each other and neither man had hit the status and success that they enjoy today. Even then, Hiroshi Tanahashi knew he was in the ring with a special talent.
"I remember that match, in Kobe World Hall! Danielson was just such a wrestler’s wrestler. To the very model; an orthodox opening, moving onto rope work, progressively bringing in bigger moves. He’s younger than me, but I was able to learn so much by wrestling him," Tanahashi said in the latest Ace's High interview. "He’s great. A smaller guy, but so strong, put together, and an expert on the mat. He wholly deserved to be a top guy."
Tanahashi was victorious in the bout, successfully defending the U-30 Openweight Championship.
Both men would go on to reach legendary status in the eyes of fans and their peers. Tanahashi remains with NJPW while Bryan is a featured superstar on WWE SmackDown.