What Is Hiroshi Tanahashi’s Path To NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 15?

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The biggest event in the NJPW year is quickly approaching, as we’re just over a month out from Wrestle Kingdom 15. A few matches are already set, with Kota Ibushi facing Tetsuya Naito on Night One, and the winner facing Jay White the next night, and Kazchuka Okada will face Will Ospreay. The winners of BOSJ & World Tag League have title matches in their futures, but HenarACE won’t be winning World Tag League. This leaves Hiroshi Tanahashi without a path to Wrestle Kingdom, for the first time ever.

Hiroshi Tanahashi Has Fallen Hard Since 2019

Last year, Hiroshi Tanahashi faced Chris Jericho on night two of Wrestle Kingdom 14. This was the first time since 2007 that he didn’t have a match on January 4th, but this year almost looks like the first time he’ll miss the event. Considering in just 2019, he would main event against Kenny Omega, this is a bit of a shock.

Tanahashi has started to move down the card as he enters his mid-40’s, with a career of wear and tear starting to pile up. While once upon a time, he was almost a guarantee for the main event spot of the event, doing so nine times over the years, and always having a major singles match otherwise, this year feels different.

Right now in the World Tag League, Tanahashi & Henare have a pathetic record of 1 win to 6 losses, being completely eliminated from the running. While Henare has taken every pinfall, Tanahashi has been taken out time and time again with a simple attack to his leg. This has often been the root cause of losses, with Henare getting overwhelmed afterwards.

One More Chance For A Championship Match At Wrestle Kingdom

With the IWGP Heavyweight & Intercontinental Championship combined since Wrestle Kingdom 14, and the IWGP United States Championship absent, the NEVER Openweight Championship has risen in importance. It’s currently held by Shingo Takagi, in his second reign. Right now, Takagi & faction mate SANADA remain at the front of the pack in World Tag League, but have two more matches before the finals are an option.

One of these matches is against HenarACE, and that gives Tanahashi a chance. In NJPW, if you pin a champion, you jump the line for a title shot, therefore if he could manage to pin Shingo Takagi in their upcoming matchup? That could be his ticket.

Tanahashi has never challenged for the NEVER Openweight Championship before, nor has he faced Shingo Takagi in singles action, meaning it’d be a thrilling first in multiple ways. Takagi is a name on the rise, and stepping into the ring at Wrestle Kingdom with Tanahashi would only boost him higher.

This could be the only path for Hiroshi Tanahashi to an event he helped popularize and dominated for years. A chance for him to show he still belongs in the championship picture, and not alongside Yuji Nagata, Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan just yet.

What do you hope to see Hiroshi Tanahashi doing at Wrestle Kingdom 15? Let us know what you think in the comment section down below.

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