To many, Hiroshi Tanahashi has been the epitome of NJPW for the past two decades, but there was a time where he could have left for AJPW many years ago.
In the latest edition of "Ace's High," Tanahashi spoke about the time he was recruited by Keiji Muto at a Denny's to come follow him to the rival promotion in 2002. At the time, Tanahashi was still relatively new to the NJPW scene and working as Muto's assistant.
"It was all business as usual, I was doing my chores, and he went ‘hey Tana, let’s go eat’. So I thought ‘Yes, off we go to Ginza!' 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,'" Tanahashi said.
Despite Muto's strong recruitment pitch, Tanahashi wasn't so sure about leaving the promotion quite yet. Muto said AJPW would match whatever Tanahashi was making at the time with NJPW. In the end, Tanahashi didn't want to leave NJPW having achieved so little at the time and kindly declined Muto's offer.
"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. To me, it was never about money. I was still green, I hadn’t achieved anything here yet. I mean, 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 putting you on the spot like that,'" Tanahashi said.
Throughout his career with NJPW, he captured the IWGP Heavyweight Title multiple times and headlined several Wrestle Kingdom shows at the Tokyo Dome.
Now, Tanahashi is focusing on capturing another G1 Climax, competing in this year's tournament and for a look at the updated standings, click here.